There is certainly no point in me trying to write from a position of authority on pike fishing. Although I have been many times, in the harshest of conditions, there are far more accomplished anglers that can teach you something with regards to tactics and getting fish on the bank. That said, I feel I have something to say regarding the moments of mental torment when ledgering dead baits as a chosen method for Esox.
The first thing I will say, for those of you that have never tried to fool a pike before, or indeed, those that have never been fishing before, is you have to try and be patience and remain confident in what your are doing. That is a must. Unless you don’t have the foggiest clue what you’re doing, in which case you I would advise you to read a book on your chosen quarry (or ask someone!).
I find most of my fishing trips start early in the morning with a gleeful optimism, which then (if I’ve not caught in 2/3 hours) slowly drips out of my soul. I start looking inside myself for something I can do. Here is a list (in no particular order) ...
2. Change /check the bait?
3. Add a visual stimulant or winter juice to the bait?
4. Change location?
5. Eat (another) sandwich or have a coffee? (This has had proven results in bringing a bite). Please note, I also once threw a Bacon Frazzle in a canal and a bite followed soon after. Shamanism. I recommend and still try this method regularly.
6. Do absolutely nothing and continue to watch the float? (my personal favourite!)
It’s impossible to know who’s fished your chosen spot before you. The angling pressure can ruin a days fishing, so put that out of your mind. There is nothing you can do about it. If you like to travel light, you can find a remote place to fish! That should instil some extra confidence. If you’re feeling extremely good, you can convince yourself you are ‘a pioneer’ of sorts and you’ll find yourself thinking/saying stilly things like, “I bet no-one has ever fished this spot before”, or (if you’re lucky enough to connect) “I bet this fish has never been caught before!”. You don’t know any of this to be factly correct, but it will feel good when you hear yourself say it!
In the awful case of succeeding in fooling the damn fish, you are then faced with the harrowing task of removing the hooks from its vicious mouth of a zillion teeth. This starts by resting the fish until it's got all of its strength back, then you take it from the water just at it's ready with all it's power to bolt into mid-air, whilst trying to place it safely onto a mat. Here you then proceed to wrestle with the beast whilst trying to put your hand in its vile mouth to remove two extremely sharp treble-hooks! Worth noting, by this time you cannot feel your finger-ends, they are totally numb from the ice cold conditions. You then place the fish back in the net to rest while you frantically look for some plasters for your torn digits, which are now totally covered in claret. I am sorry if I've not made that sound like the incredible fun that it is!
So, dear reader, I will presume you have concluded from this that when it comes to pike-fishing, I prefer to sit-it-out in the freezing cold, all-day, in the same spot, starring at my floats waiting for ‘The Villian’ to arrive and be fooled by my bait. You should also take note that I very rarely catch any fish at all, but for some reason that does not deter me from going fishing!
All words and images by Thom Barnett