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The vagaries of fishing

Whenever we recall the red-letter days it pays to reflect on the less exciting ones



Behind the stories of red-letter days, where the capture of a specimen pike or an impressive bumper haul has occurred, there is an oft unreported aspect. Namely, an account is not given of how many fishless hours, sessions, or even days have preceded the big event.

As a serious pike fly fisher, I have come to realise that just dropping onto a water for a single, isolated session, is a bit like Russian roulette.

Why? Well, all of the pike in a lake or river system seem to switch on and off the feed at the same time and, once they have had a good nosh, it could be many days before they are ready to look at food again. And don’t forget that, unlike trout and salmon, pike can rarely (almost never) be induced to to bite a fly/lure when not feeding.

I have, therefore, tended to approach pike fishing in three-day sessions. That said, I have had many three-day blanks!

Last August, I took my wife out for a picnic on a 60-acre Midlands lake (this lake was new to me, as I had only just taken up membership). It was more of an afterthought that I threw a nine-weight pike rod into the rowing boat, as it was hot and sunny – hardly ideal weather for pike! 

After we had enjoyed our picnic and being out on the water, I tongue-in-cheek, suggested that there was probably a big pike living by an old boat house. I lazily rowed towards some reed beds adjacent to the boathouse. The bank was dense with trees, whose branches reached over and drooped onto the water. Also rows of saplings were reaching up out of the shallows (we had experienced a lot of rain and the lake was as high as it could get).

I made a 20-yard cast along the bank, but it was further out than I had intended. The second cast landed the fly with a useful plop, just by the boathouse. On the second pull a bow-wave surged towards my fly. Fish on! Maybe because her momentum kept her coming towards me I was initially lead to believe I had hooked a jack. However, the rod suddenly took on a serious horseshoe configuration. Then, as she glided sideways the sun caught the pikes flanks. Oh my God, this is a big one!

An epic battle ensued. You cannot stop the powerful surges of a big pike, you have to give line and hang on. She kept hammering into the saplings and disappearing under the overhanging tree branches. Each time I was able to coax her out into open water. Once more as she lunged into the saplings. I thought there was no way I was going to catch this fish. I have lost a couple of huge pike before, but that was in open water! I mobilised my wife and got her on the oars. Finally, back out in open water we brought the big girl to the boat. A 30-pounder, my biggest ever.

The irony, such a fantastic pike hooked within two minutes of starting to fish! I stopped fishing after I had revived and released her. It felt disrespectful to carry on.

To put this session, if you can even call it that, into perspective I took a friend to the same lake a few weeks later. We fished all day long and went around the whole lake fishing with great purpose, intensity and expectation. I will leave the reader to guess how we did!

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