This week I was back on the river and quite surprised to see how quickly the temperatures had picked up - a mild 7C when I left home just before 7am. Earlier in the week the forecast on my phone was suggesting it might be as low as -2C for Friday night. I love the cold crisp winter days and I was really looking forward to it, but it was a totally different prospect come the day - not that I'm moaning though!
The starting peg was a little restricted for space both on the bank and in the water, so it's a single rod job. I had the usual mix of deadbaits to hand - smelt, lamprey, roach and sardine. First cast brought a jack and another followed within half an hour. Things were looking promising.
Two fish is usually enough to signal a move for me, so I hopped across to my second peg which I drew a blank from on my previous visit. I didn't suffer the same fate this time though and my first encounter was something I'll probably never do again as long as I live.
Another jack had taken the bait and was routinely on its way into the net when all hell broke loose. As I went to net it, a larger pike with eyes bigger than belly lunged towards it and just swam into the back of the net. It all happened in a split second and I was left gobsmacked.
I put the bonus fish on the scales and it went 14lb 6oz.
The thrashing around in the net caused by the fish had left my trace in a right mess and I had to retackle. I put the other rod out while I was retackling but I wasn't expecting much to happen. I was totally wrong though and it took barely a minute for the float to dip away again. This time it was a big and all too familiar fish - the same twenty I had from a different peg a couple of weeks ago.
This time it weighed in over half a pound heavier at 21lb 15oz, so it's clearly doing well for itself. Despite being a pb, it's not a capture that fills me with joy though, as I'd rather not get a repeat in such a reasonably short space of time. I'll move my pike fishing on to other areas from now on.
Five pike in a session was a record for me and it was still only 10-30am. I started to wonder how many I could get, given that I still had my banker swim still to go. I thought 10 could be in with a chance. Things slowed down, but I managed a further jack before moving off to my final swim.
I only had one sardine with me - a big old bait that had been marinated with an enhancer before freezing. This was meant for a big fish in my own mind, but as I've often found with pike, the size of the bait is no guarantee. And it was the case again. I don't think the sardine even touched bottom before it was intercepted by one of the smallest fish of the day.
Two other fish took me up to 9 and I still had an hour to go. Bait was running out though and I was down to my last proper deadbait - a lamprey section and just a few old scraps that I was using on a single hook rig. Nothing was happening and with 15 minutes to go I tried one other peg for a last gasp attempt. It failed so I returned to pack up but gave it one last fling. I cast out to a part of the swim I hadn't tried yet with the lamprey and within seconds the float was away. One last jack graced my net to take me up to the magic 10, although I'm being slightly cheeky by counting the flukey bonus fish in that.
I can't be certain if the groundbait approach is anything to do with the improved results, but I'm liking the idea right now. There's a huge amount of silver fish in the area at this time of year so if I can help to pull some of them into small areas close to the margins where the pike will sit, then it's worth a go. Maybe the weather was the key though, or was it the bait enhancer, or just total luck? We'll never know, but for now I'm confident in my approach and that goes a long way.
One thing that did bring a few extra takes was twitching the bait from time to time. All fish were caught on floatfished deadbait, but quite often the static bait didn't appear to work. Just twitching the bait back a bit from time to time, helped to induce some of the takes with pretty quick results. It's something I'm learning more and more. Don't just sit on a static bait if nothing is happening - make something happen.
With a mild week forecast I think I'll put the pike gear away and go back to other species next time. I still have to catch a bream from the river this season and the big perch might get some attention again. Could be a bad week for worms!