Sunday 31 December 2023


I don’t mention the tackle I use much because as long as it’s able to put the bait where you want it and strong enough to comfortably land the fish you are after then what does it matter?  Most of the rods I use were relatively cheap but this includes some good kit that were second hand bargains and I still have some top quality Tricasts from the late 80's that I still use from time to time.  All do what I need them too, though I have to say, although they don’t catch me any more fish, Mr Lumb’s Loch Tamers do it all a little bit better.  With kids and a mortgage, reels over the years have mostly been medium priced Shimano but the best Pike reel I’ve used was made by Okuma.  I did consider 'upgrading' to some 'better' baitrunners but I've got eight or nine DL's or ST's and loads of spools that fit both so it made more sense to stick.  Sometime in the eighties, while carp fishing at the infamous Layer pit I lost a fish because the top of a Mitchell 300 spool suddenly popped off sending line flying everywhere.  I tried pulling on the line like a fly fisher but the hook soon fell out…  Apart from that I can’t remember a rod or reel failing at the crucial moment in all the years I’ve been fishing and that’s all you need from the items of tackle that we stare at the most.

Obviously the most important thing when fishing is location because you can’t catch what ain’t there.  But then comes bait and I suppose to start with I use whatever I have most confidence in then switch things about if necessary.  Over time we build up experience of what works and when, or at least we think we do…  But back to tackle we’re left with hooks and line, both need to be strong enough and the former needs to be sharp.  When I worked in tackle shops I broke this down to “good bait on a sharp hook in the right place.”  Fishing really is as simple as that.

I got side tracked, the reason I was waffling about tackle is because, well the braid I'd been using just wasn't up to scratch.  I've had braid on all my Pike and Lure rods for over twenty years and it's almost exclusively been Power Pro.  I have used ET’s Grand Slam braid and I can’t tell it apart from Power Pro to be honest.  Anyway at the beginning of this season I needed new braid on an Abu I use for lure fishing and there was no Power Pro available in a hurry, so after a bit of hesitation I spooled up with another brand that has a good reputation.  Just three months later I’ve stripped the stuff off again and binned it because  compared to PP it is just not good enough.  First of all on a multiplier it beds in leading to far more frequent over-runs and far more nasty tangles.  The act of unpicking these balls-ups actually damages the strands and weakens the bloody stuff, for the first time in years I found myself cracking off a lure on the cast.  Also there is virtually no abrasion resistance and even dragging a lure through reeds damages the braid enough for me to lose confidence.  I still have about two hundred metres of the stuff unused, perhaps there’s a place for it on one or two of the rods I use for bank fishing with baits but I’m not sure I dare use it.

So today I re-spooled with Power Pro and as it was the brightest day in over a week, a period when I’ve been mostly housebound and stuffing my cake hole, I decided on a walk in the country beside a piece of water, but where?  After a bit of thought I remembered a place I’ve had my eye of for a while so a little recon would be the order of the day, by casting and moving with a lure rod you can learn a lot fast.  I had no idea if Pike were even present but all things considered it was odds on. Getting to the water side involved negotiating an unfriendly fence but once over I was pretty well screened and so relaxed.  I worked my way round slowly, casting as I went finding mostly shallow, weedy water but there was depth in places.  The water itself was gin clear giving me confidence that any fish would see my shad easily.  One spot in particular really looked the part, If Pike are present then surely this would be the place?  Maybe, but not today.  It was back to normal with the braid though, it came off the spool nice, no bedding in and no over-runs despite the reel creaking like a grumpy Heron at times.  I left the place fishless but in doing so found a more convenient access point, should I decide to revisit some day.

And that, as it turned out was my last trip of 2023 which has been another really bloody good year all round, some photo highlights are included.  I’m enjoying it as much as ever and catching enough fish to make me think I might be doing something right?  Chub from home and away including a couple of my biggest to date, a PB Barbel and a new river best from the place out west.  Loads of fish off the beaches including lure caught Bass and several good sized Rays.  Then the Pike fishing which as ever dominates my year, this time around I had new success on an old method in a now familiar place.  I was lucky enough to catch a few big ones too but not the one below which was caught in 2020 and weighed 31-12.

I expect 2024 won't see much change in terms of where I fish and my only hope is that I continue to enjoy this silly pastime of ours as much as i did in 2023.

Tuesday 26 December 2023

December days

On a dull Thursday in mid December I made my way to Norfolk in the pre dawn dark and after a struggle got the boat afloat and ready.  Today, for the first time in a very long time, I had a guest, someone I first met around seventeen years ago when he was already a Pike angling legend.  Nowadays we might even describe him as angling royalty but then again he’s not everyone’s cup of tea…

So out in to the swamp we soaked deadbaits in likely places and even managed to bring a couple of Pike to the boat but mostly spent the day chatting and taking the piss.  We would certainly sit on opposite sides of the house which was the source of much mutual ribbing but we also have a great deal in common.  My guest had spent time on this system in the past but this was his first visit for a over a decade and he enjoyed being back.  The day was mild and grey with a light westerly and it passed in a flash, we stayed on into darkness but tonight this didn’t pay off.  In fishing terms a modest day but in very many ways a memorable one.

A couple of days later Giles and I had a lazy afternoon by a stretch of flowing water, we approached it the same way we usually do when sea fishing but this time we were after Pike.  This afternoon the main priority was to get out and relax for a few hours, any fish would be a bonus.  But there was a method to our madness, this stretch of water does receive a bit of pressure so would fishing after everyone else had gone home give us an edge? We started around 1400 fishing side by side with two rods each, static deadbaits of various types.  The afternoon was cloudy but mild with a fresh westerly wind but on this piece of water it meant we’d be sheltered and comfortable.

We started off at the upstream end of the stretch and it all looked good but after a couple of hours nothing had happened so even in our state of laziness we had to get moving.  A short while later we were settled again in a treelined area downstream, each of us had a nice looking overhanging tree to which we dropped a bait and deeper water midstream.  Fishing side by side was cramped but manageable but we had a plan should a fish be hooked.  By the time we were settled the light was fading but we had planned to fish into darkness and were prepared.

It got dark and nothing happened but sheltered by a thick bramble bush we were content and comfortable just sitting in the dark, chatting and chilling out.  Then out of nowhere a Micron beeped, my blue light lit up and a few seconds later two more beeps had me on my feet.  Nothing appeared to be moving but something had to be happening so I wound down and felt the welcome weight of a fish.  It’s always a little weird playing fish in the dark but this one wasn’t a monster and was easily controlled.  Giles soon scooped it up in the net and the blank was avoided.  With a fresh bait out we sat back again with fresh confidence, hopeful of another Pike.  We gave it an hour then as we were enjoying ourselves, gave it another but no more fish put in an appearance.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Dropped on or switched on?

After that cold night on the beach the east endured the first week of winter with mostly clear skies and frosty nights leaving me with no urge to wet a line.  Then it got a bit milder again, days of dull December grey, the sun was rarely to be seen and there was barely a breath of wind.  After seven straight shifts came a midweek day off and with it came the urge to sit by the water, I wasn’t feeling the pull northwards so settled for a lazy day on a local venue.  I wasn’t out of the house early and hit the road when in theory the morning rush hour should have been winding down but I should have known better, to be held up by queueing traffic was almost inevitable.  Off the A road then miles of single track before I reached a remote strip of water cutting through thousands of acres of arable.

The day started off as another gloomy one but at least today there was a wind from the north west shifting the clouds to make the sky go through many shades of grey.  I was fishing by 0945 with three deadbaits soaking a little bit further down the stretch than where I’d stopped a couple of weeks ago.  A bit of drizzle blew in so up went the oval and beneath it I spread out, content of comfortable.  I occasionally got up to recast a bait or twitch one back but mostly I just chilled.  I hadn’t realised how much I’d needed to cool off in the countryside but now I needed to catch something.  The morning had been and gone without a pull so a move was called for.

I loaded up and stomped back upstream to a “between the cars” area that doesn’t get so much attention.  Out went the rods again and then the brolly which I didn’t really need but what the hell, I’d carried it this far so why not enjoy a bit of comfort?  So it was chill out time again, half an hour passed and the doubts began to form, was it going to be one of those days?  Hang on, is that float moving?  Fuck yes!  I like the old Drennan Pike wagglers and mine was sliding away into deeper water as something moved off with half a bluey which had been under-armed to the right.  The fish had no fight in it and I soon had a Pike of about seven pounds in the net.  With this fish quickly returned I swung the same piece of bluey back out then settled once more.  A few minutes later the same float slid off again and I found myself attached to another Pike that didn’t want to fight but this one was a little bit bigger.  The bait was gone this time so on went the other half of the bluey and within a few minutes this too was on the move.  I set the hooks and the rod thumped a couple of times, I was just beginning to wonder if this was a bit bigger when the hooks pulled out, never mind.

Three takes in half an hour, had I dropped onto some fish or had they just switched on?  A question impossible to answer when you’re fishing on your own but one that often occupies the mind.  After that, things calmed down a bit but I wasn’t tempted to move, for some reason I felt the Pike would find my baits.  Half an hour later this was the case, the same float slid away again and another Pike of a similar size which did have a bit of energy and actually threw itself clear of the water twice before swimming into the net.

Then followed a quiet hour, the wind increased in strength scattering the clods to reveal a blue sky, something I’ve not seen for a few days.  But with the clear sky so the temperature was dropping noticeably and the freshening wind had a bit of a bite to it.  I decided enough was enough and started tidying up the non-essentials including the oval and then onto the rods.  With one wound in I was unclipping the trace when the shriek of a Micron alerted me, it was the bluey on the near margin for the fifth time and this time the fish felt a bit bigger.  This one pulled back a bit, maybe the water had warmed through the day?  Whatever, a nicely marked fish that would have probably been a double had I bothered to get the scales out.  By now the light was fading and it all felt pikey as hell, good for another fish or two?  Nah fuck it, I’d had enough for one day, I can always come back.