Not Just Teeth: March
Mark Barrett finishes his pike season off...and the big girls finally come out to play!
Well that’s another season done and dusted and duly consigned to the history books or at least to the pages of a dog-eared angling diary. How was it for you? I know many anglers who have had a great one but many, many more struggled along, especially through the winter.
For me it’s been a fairly average year; I have had some nice fish along the way but various factors, not least trying to make my way as an angling freelancer, impinged upon my angling in various ways, not the least my inability to put my boat on the river (as my truck needed work doing to be roadworthy) and my need to stay fishing locally to cut down on my fuel costs. This latter factor will, I think, be one that many anglers will experience as the ‘fat cats’ milk fuel prices for all they can get whilst the rest of us suffer a biting recession.
However all was not doom and gloom and the need to cut travelling costs made me look again, or harder, at waters closer to home. For much of the winter this didn’t really pay off, though I did lose a big fish early doors on the River Lark, but this was followed by a string of blanks that made me look elsewhere.
Meanwhile one of my recent apprentices, and good mate Jamie Martin or ‘Jamo’, was having a blinder and managed to notch up a number of double figure zander and then added cream to the cake by banking two twenties from the Great Ouse. To put that last catch into perspective I don’t know that many anglers who have had two twenties from the lower Ouse in their life, let alone in a season! He also added a new pb of 25lb 4oz from a land drain and finished it off by beating me three fish to zero the last time we fished for pike together; completely unforgiveable behaviour!
However as the winter progressed so the season got better and I regaled you last time around with stirring tales of derring-do from the younger members of our little team but sadly they came crashing down the following weekend. I was booked to take part in a lure match on the Ten Mile Bank section of the Ouse between UK and Eastern European anglers.
My personal opinion is that whilst there are good and bad in both camps, the EE’s are getting a worse name than a lot of them deserve and if there is going to be a way forward in all of this then it is only going to come from education and building bridges and contacts between the two communities. Therefore when I was approached to give my backing to the event I said yes unreservedly.
My two male apprentices decided to join me for the day; Adam working out how much he could pocket should he win – and as it turned out he had a better than evens chance of winning the junior section as he was the only junior taking part!
Anyway, after all of the preliminaries at the pub car park we were set off to roam the banks, there being no set pegs in a roving lure match. Our first choice of peg proved to be disastrous in so much as the strong wind kept blowing Adam’s braid into the near bank reeds when he cast, leaving me to have to keep untangling it. After this happened for the tenth time my patience was beginning to wear thin and after rather enthusiastically whipping the rod up to free the braid, I felt that sickening crunch as a two piece rod was turned into a three piece one!
Our match never really picked up from that point and in common with over two thirds of the field of 33 we blanked, however Adam’s day was made by not only being presented with a brand new unhooking mat at the trophy presentation and being interviewed by Nigel Botherway for Sky Sports, both nice touches, as was the after match BBQ which was an even bigger hit with our nine year old expert!
On the serious side though it was good to exchange ideas and methods about lure angling with guys that have been jig fishing longer than us and anglers that have had to suffer the abuse of many English anglers without having actually done anything wrong themselves. Believe me they are as keen to get their fellow countrymen playing by the rules as we are, but if it was an easy problem to solve then it would have been done already I do, however, firmly believe that get togethers like this are the way forward .
Moving away from my brief flirtation with match fishing Mike and I decided to put a concerted effort into the last two weeks of the season to try and get him his first double figure pike, something that for some reason just kept eluding him all year.
We decided to focus on one drain in particular, from which I had caught a number of decent pike to 23lb in recent seasons; most important of all I knew exactly where the fish in this particular drain would be heading when they went to spawn and, with a bit of good luck and timing, we would intercept them en route. We also intended the odd trip away from the drain after other species but in the end circumstances conspired to make this just one visit to chub fish on the local River Cam where we ended up with a few very modest chub, one of which was grabbed by a large pike on the way in, so that little bit of information was stored away for future use.
So we headed off to our chosen big fish drain with a little bit more optimism than the rest of the season really should have given us but that’s anglers for you, invariably the glass is always half full. In reality though if you know your venue the last few weeks should be somewhat of a shoe in, or at least as near as there ever can be in angling. There are many factors that dictate where pike will be for the rest of the year, all of which change annually, but the one ever-present factor is the need to reproduce and spawning areas are invariably the same year after year.
With pike there are many factors that make for suitable spawning areas, however there will always be some form of plant life involved, reeds being a particular favourite, as the females need to attach the eggs to something.
Our first few trips turned up nothing but jacks, but they were displaying all the signs of having their minds on spawning as they were picking up and dropping baits left, right and centre so it could only be a matter of time before the big girls came calling, and on this we were right.
The next trip started off quite slowly before I got very excited when my quite large chub livebait was nailed by something and began to make its way downstream. However the culprit turned out to have eyes bigger than its belly and did the rather considerate thing of killing my livebait into the bargain!
We nabbed a couple more jacks throughout the day with the by now, customary dropped runs before, just as Mike had to pack away, something made off with his sardine. As he bent into the fish it was quickly apparent that this was more the stamp of fish that we had come for and so I went up and sat beside him with the net at the ready.
Now it is often said that pike don’t fight hard - at least not in this country - catch a pike from an Irish Lough or Scottish Loch and they will fight ten times harder than their English cousins it is often said and, having caught twenty pound pike from both countries I wouldn’t disagree, however here we had an English contender. This pike ploughed on and on against a tightly set clutch and 50lb braid and it went on several powerful runs before, after a timed ten minutes, it sank into the net.
I turned to Mike and said, “Well done mate, your first double is a twenty!”
Fortunately I had the pike lying quietly in the edge having a breather as Mike went on what resembled the dance of the headless chicken as he got everything ready. I made sure that he had calmed down a bit before slipping the net up to him and helping to unhook it. On the scales she thumped around to 21lb 5oz - a new personal best by 12lb!
Over the course of the years I have been fishing I have put a lot of personal bests on peoples’ hooks, with guiding you get to do it a lot, especially with zander as few people have caught one before they come, but it’s something I never tire of. In fact a certain Mr Welch has a very respectable 13lb plus zander pb from a trip with me (I most certainly do – and it’s one of my most treasured angling memories! Ed) and despite the experience it’s a day that can never be repeated enough for my liking.
However there is also what I classify as taking the piss and that would be to go and get another twenty two trips later and from a bait only a few feet away from one of my own, but Mike managed that on the same drain two trips later - so I won’t be taking him again!
In fairness I had my chance the trip before as for only the second time this winter the rod went round on the strike and stayed there, line purred off the clutch and with visions of finally getting a twenty this year I played the fish back to the net, whereupon it went off like a bullet, the clutch failed to yield on account of the fact that I was turning the Baitrunner tensioning knob by mistake - and the hooks tore free. I could have cried, I certainly swore and Steve Backley couldn’t touch with a javelin how far I launched a Fox Warrior deadbait rod.
Oh, for the record Mike’s second twenty went 20lb 14oz.
I hate fishing!
See you next time!
By the Same Author
- The Angling Trust, an ‘Unbelievably Weak Governing Body’ - Not Just Teeth: December
- Fishing in Sickness and in Health - Not Just Teeth: November
- Jigging for Zander and Deadbaiting for Pike - Not Just Teeth: October
- Autumn perch and catfish - Not Just Teeth: September
- Catfish, Carp and Kids – Not Just Teeth: August
- Paying your Dues?
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight: Part 3
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight: Part 2
- Sounding Off
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight