Saturday, February 05, 2022

Never say never

After my last session I'd been thinking about piking quite a bit, the idea of covering water with an off bottom bait had inspired me to get making prototype drifters (see previous post) and also mess about with some other float ideas that are probably superfluous. I'd even stocked up on deadbaits as my supply in the freezer was limited in both variety and quantity. Reluctantly I'd bought a pack of lamprey halves. I much prefer being able to chop a whole lamprey down to a size I like, and keep the tail sections short enough to discard as they don't fill me with confidence when used on the hooks, But no full lamprey were to be had. So it was Hobson's choice.


With a replenished freezer and new floats to try out I couldn't wait to get back to the pit. Ideally that would have been on Thursday when it was dry and warm. With the temperature set to drop for Friday and with showers forecast it wasn't my preferred day. My couriers had other plans, so when they arrived late on Thursday for a collection it was Friday or not at all.

Not only had the temperature dropped, the wind had picked up and was adding a considerable wind chill factor coming from a roughly northerly direction. The rain had gone by lunch time but a shower was predicted around two. Oh well. I took the chance of leaving the brolly at home and after I'd decided where to go left my waterproofs in the car. 

My plan before setting off had been to fish the far end of the pit as that would give me good long drifts to test the float out. I had a short wander before loading my gear on my back and saw that a closer swim might also offer a drifting opportunity. As it's a swim that has been good to me before it seemed like an idea to start there. By quarter past one I had two float legered baits covering the margins and a third drifting about further out.

I hadn't bothered putting my fresh packet of lamprey in my cool bag as I was sure I still had a head section left from before (I put the bag in the freezer complete with contents after every session), but added the pack of small smelts I'd bought to go under the drifter. When I got to my swim I discovered the only bits of lamprey I had left were two tails I'd cut off. One of them got stabbed with my bait knife and the other rod got a decent mackerel head.

The drifter  float did a great job. Alas the smelt wasn't to the pike's liking. I'd forgotten how much work is involved with fishing a drifter. They never go exactly where you want them to, and in a slight cross wind have a tendency to drag in to the bank you are fishing from. As that could have resulted in the float going behind a point it restricted my range. The rain arrived a bit late, at two thirty. It wasn't heavy and by standing behind some shelter I only got damp. When it turned to hail I almost wished I'd put teh brolly in the quiver. After fifteen or twenty minutes the shower had blown past and I was starting to dry in the wind. It was time for a move.

Again I thought of a productive swim that might let me get a drift in and by three I was set up with the left and right margins covered with the bottom baits and the smelt drifting over the site of a lily bed. After twenty minutes the mackerel head rod was in action. Another confident run that, as last time, saw a lightly hooked double in the net after a short but dogged scrap. This time the hooks hadn't come out in the net but the bottom one was only just inside the mouth.

The macky head was replaced with a tail section and I went back to working the drifter around a few features. By four it was time for my final move to a swim where the drifter would be no use. It was wound in and I started to unship the float in readiness to switch to a bottom end cigar float to use with a float legered bait. I was just about to swap the one ounce lead for a two when an alarm sounded. The useless lamprey tail had been taken! This fish was again lightly hooked and just as the first went mad in the net after a more lively fight. It didn't quite make double figures but it did make me consider stopping where I was. I recast the lamprey tail and carried on with my rig change. I'd move regardless.

When I got to the last knockings swim I wasn't sure if I could face an hour or more with that icy wind blowing straight at me. As I had the place to myself it would be an ideal chance to try a swim I'd never caught from, and had only tried briefly once before. It had the added benefit of being nicely sheltered. I retraced my steps and started a slow set up.

In my early piking days I was always in a rush. I'd turn up and head straight for a swim I'd had in mind before I got there. Then I'd sit it out all day. I didn't want to spend any time without a bait in the water. As I got older and (hopefully) more experienced I slowed down and became less concerned with keeping a bait in the water. I now know that spending time thinking about where to fish is usually well spent. Ten minutes in the right spot with one bait is worth more than a full day in the wrong place with four baits.

The new swim had a lot going for it. A marginal bush overhanging the water, like so many swims here, and marginal reeds, like so many swims here! The lamprey tail went by the bush the weight of the mackerel tail was used to cut across the wind to reach some far reeds, and a smelt went to my left close in.

I'd not been there half an hour when the lamprey tail, yet again, was taken at five fifteen. Maybe it's the cold or the time of year but the pike are doing a lot of bulldogging, staying down and shaking their heads. I had no idea how big this one was. When a Pike opens it's mouth during the fight it acts like a drogue and makes for a lot of resistance making the fish feel bigger than it is. This one was another ten pounder. I thought it might have been the same one I had last month as it had a similar look to it's teeth. However, it was chunkier and a comparison of the photos showed differences.

The last lamprey tail got hooked up and cast out to the same spot. By now it was starting to get dark. Not as soon as last week though. At this time of year the speed with which daylight hours lengthen is picking up. I could still just about manage without my head torch when an alarm sounded a warble accompanied by a crackling sound. At first I thought the alarm was playing up again. Seeing a float steaming out from the bank suggested it wasn't! This one had taken the smelt, a bait I have almost as much faith in as lamprey tails. It was obviously the smallest of the session. Again only just hooked, it wasn't going to get weighed but as the sling and scales were out it got the treatment and proved to be heavier than I'd guesstimated.

I put the last smelt on and had a final cast. By six it was too dark to see the farthest float clearly so I wound the rods in and drew a surprisingly successful afternoon session to a close. F\our pike, three on baits I don't rate! An added bonus was that by hanging on the rush hour traffic had thinned and I didn't have to queue at the junction with the main road. Happy days.