Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Anyone know what did this to a pike..?

One of this fish we caught yesterday had this damage to one side of its upper jaw. Any ideas..?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Unhooking practice

I need some more unhooking practice, Hawkeye observes in his Mancunian brogue as we head down the coast road towards the Not Quite As Secret As The Secret Pit pits. Should get one or two today, I reckon.

After a frosty start and ice on the car, it's bright, still and clouding over when we rock up on the causeway between two pits. I fancy one, H fancies the other, so we're soon fishing back-to-back in different lakes.

We're on deads today. I fancied a change from lure fishing but it feels strange lobbing out baits on 12ft rods, tightening up to set the blobs and then standing there, staring at them. Half a dozen chucks here tops with the lures and I'd be on my toes.

Half an hour later, a blob goes sailing off. Hawkeye gets his unhooking practice a few minutes later, as a six pounder finds itself engulfed in the net. Both hooks well in the mouth, but he whips them out like a good 'un and slides the fish back.

A move or two later, the bailiff comes along and tells us a fallen tree which had blocked access to another part of the complex has been cleared. Hawkeye reads my mind. Let's give it another five minutes here and move then.

I fancy a move, as the bit you can now get to again was good to us a few seasons back. It was also once the scene of an incident involving skinny dippers of the female variety a few years ago, but this has nothing to do with my desire to up sticks, bearing in mind how cold it is.

I've got the rods broken down, kit squared away for a move when Hawkeye's float bobs and jinks away. More unhooking practice, this time a low-double which puts up a decent scrap before we bundle her into the onion bag.

Hooks out, quick picture. Still fancy a move, asks H. Yeah, best part of the pit, got to be worth a look, I say. I feel a bit bad about this an hour and a half later, when we've tried a deep corner, a shallow bit and a bit in between without another pull.

One last move sees us finish up on another pit. Hawkeye nails one, right next to the tree where you always catch one, where he caught his first pike around a year ago. Since then, he's caught quite a few and has probably got better at it than he realises.

This one's a bit challenging, unhooking practice-wise. The bottom hook's nicked in the throat entrance, so I make a brief guest appearence, and show him how to pop it out by going through the gill arch.

Just before we have to go, as gloaming descends on the Not Quite As Secret As The Secret Pit pits, one of my blobs bobs and dithers 30 yards out on the edge of a bar. It drops it, I pick the rod up and when the line twitches a minute or so later, I wind down and give it a ding.

The rod hammers round, yes good fish, good fish, good and it's gone in a swirl and a bow-wave. Beau locks, as they say in France. I know how big it felt, for a brief instant. When I reel the bait in, the bottom hook's somehow turned 45 degrees, meaning it was never going to plant itself in the fish's gob.

Hawkeye says he's learned a couple of things on the drive home. I just wish I could go back there tomorrow and catch that pike.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Caught on the hop again

Grey skies and drizzle never particularly inspire me and I nearly didn't bother when I took furry chops for a walk on the beach first thing and saw the mist rolling off the flat calm sea.

But the temperature climbed a couple of degrees as I drove down the coast road towards the big bayou and it was nudging double figures by the time I got to the drain around lunchtime. There was another car in the lay-by and when I looked off the bridge, I saw three other guys lure fishing in the spot I fancied.

One of them hooked into one as I watched, his mate netting it off the high banking. I got the gear out, walked down the bank and as we were exchanging hellos, he had another one. A couple of them were eastern Europeans, using what most locals would regard as inadequate gear - spinning with feeder rods, one small landing net between the three of them.

But the fish was unhooked, another lure someone else had left in its gob removed as well and it was back in the drain and off. I didn't really pay any attention to how they were fishing other than they were using small shads on feeder rods.

Each to his own, I thought, as I wandered up and down the same side of the drain, eventually catching a jack on a small shad. One of the other guys had caught four or five by this point, including a couple from swims I'd fished without a hit.

As I passed them on the way back to the bridge, to try down the other side, I clocked how he was fishing. Chuck it out, let it sink and tap it along. It might not be the ideal set-up on a drain that's thrown up the odd big fish in recent seasons, but you can't get much more sensitive than a quivertip when it comes to showing takes.

I hoofed it round the other side, lobbed out a Kopyto and let it hit the bottom. Tap, tap, tap on the rod; hop, hop, hop the lure. After a couple of casts, there's a rattle on the end and I'm into a jack. The take was pretty gentle, but the fish had the lure well in its gob.

I try the same, hop, hop, hop and catch another one around the same size. Again, it's completely engulfed the lure. I try the same with a bigger shad and the same thing happens a couple of times. The fish are all like peas in a pod, fat jacks.

A couple hit the lure and come off, so now I'm watching the line as I twitch the lure back and striking when I see it tighten or feel a bump on the end. I catch more jacks doing this. I haven't caught anything over 4lbs but by now I've lost count.

They're obviously packed into a fairly short stretch of the drain, because the guys on the other bank are catching as well. More eastern Europeans arrive, hit the far bank and start catching. The new arrivals don't have a landing net, so the pike are all grabbed and fumbled up the bank.

I hook into a slightly bigger fish, which comes rearing out of the water in a tail-walk as soon as I strike into it. One of the guys on the far bank bank comes round for a chat. Up from London, never been here before, lovely place.

He starts fishing down the bank, no landing net. I catch another fat jack and I'm bored.  As I'm breaking down the rods, the chap down the bank hooks into what's obviously a much bigger fish. He's still playing it, or it's still playing him, wallowing just out of reach, as I catch up with him.

It throws the lure and disappears. We have a conversation along the lines of if you'd had a landing net, you'd have caught that.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yet another lure to try

I can't really call this home-made, as it's just a bog-standard grub mounted on a jig head, with a spinner blade from AGM clipped on to its nose.  The blades are £2.35 for six, so no big deal if they don't turn out to be pike catchers.  I'll let you know how it gets on.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Eel work out a bit on the pricey side

Ash's face was a picture as he tried to get a jack-ravaged Real Eel to stay on the hook for a few more casts the other day. At £8.99 for three, I felt the big fella's pain. I know he had a thirty on one last winter, I know they're an incredibly life-like imitation, but £3 for six inches of soft plastic..?

We'll never know if he'd have caught the same fish if he'd had a 50p Kalins or some similar, considerably cheaper bit of plastic on the end instead of what was one of the next big things last season. Soft plastics are, of course, a gold mine for the tackle trade because they have a limited lifespan.

Once they get chomped a few times, they're off to the big lure box in the sky and you end up forking out for another packet. I've no idea how many pike I've caught on a couple of my favourite Rapala J13s, but they do last for ages.

Shads and other softies are like throwing money in the river by comparism. I've had fish hit Hammers or Kopytos I've not connected with, reeled in and found just a tail-less blob left on the hook. I guess this rant's a bit tongue in cheek, as I'd think nothing of getting through a tenner's worth of lamps if I was catching well on deads.

Copying is rife among lure manufacturers. So maybe someone's cooking up a budget Reel Eel on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Wisbech as we speak.

Winter's just around the corner

I picked what might turn out to be the last sunny day of the autumn to have an hour on the big drain earlier in the week. Winter spates turn it into a surging mass of water when they fill it up from the river and flush it out to sea between tides. This can be when it fishes best, if you hit the right part of the fill-empty-fill-empty cycle.

When it's standing and the level's low, the water clears and the pike seem harder to tempt most days. There were plenty of fry about, with grebes and a goosander tucking in. I knew the pike had to be there, as I went through half a dozen shads at different depths and speeds, with just one hit I failed to connect with to show for an hour in the sunshine.

I tried an old pit on the way home without managing to add to my rapidly-growing tally of jacks. As the sun sank behind the alders, a stiff breeze got up and the temperature dropped noticeably. I tuned into the weather forecast on the way home up the coast road. Winter's just around the corner, it said.

Thoughts on three lures

I've tried three lures for the first time this autumn and caught on all three, which is an encouraging start. They're different variations on the time-honoured plastic shad, which I'm currently using most of the time.

Big Hammer

I really like these lures now I'm starting to get the hang of them. The big, square tail really kicks on the retrieve and pike seem quite partial to the 4.5ins version.

It took me a few trips to get my head round how to use them. I know, it's a swim bait - you chuck it out, and reel it in. The crucial thing with these is use the right jig-head, as in one of the wedge-shaped shad ones AGM sell.

They seem to work best with around 15g of weight . On anything lighter, or a ball head, the tail's frantic action makes the lure roll from side to side, rather than swim naturally. 

Mounting the head flush to the back of the lure also seems to help get them to swim right. You also get the odd one which seems to have an even better action than the others in the same packet. They're hand-poured, so I guess there's probably some slight variation from lure to lure.

AGM sell them in around a dozen different colours at £3.99 for four. Creeping Death and Atomic Punk - as opposed to red, orange and black - both produced on their first outings, as did the silver, sparkly one with the yellow tail, whatever that one's called.

They have one flaw, as I soon discovered when I started catching a few on them. They're made of incredibly soft plastic, so you sometimes only get a couple of fish on one. Worse still, a missed hit sometimes results in a tail-less lure. 


I like these too, especially the 4.5L version. It's a slim-profiled shad which has a lovely wiggly kick on a 10 or 12g jig-head. 

The 5ins version has a deeper-bellied profile. Stick a 15g head on its nose and it gets a nice wiggle on, even on a slow-ish retrieve.

They come in more patterns than you can shake a stick at, don't ask me why but the pearl or yellow ones seem to be banker colours.

Like the Big Hammers, their main drawback is you'll be lucky to get more than a few fish out of one, while the odd thump on the end you fail to connect with will sometimes mean another tail-less lure on its way to the bin.

These are around £1 each from Lure World.

Mikado Fishunter

These are a bit of an acquired taste - imagine a shad made from jelly, as in the mainstay of a decent fruit trifle, and you're not far wrong when it comes to this lure's durability.

But while the first fish that hits one of these usually shreds it, Fishunters are cheap and cheerful - I got them at £2.99 for a packet of five from Lure World and have one or two other things going for them.

The makers claim the head of the lure "sucks in" jig-heads. A 10 or 12g head sits nicely in the moulded recess. Beware if you use a drop or two or super glue to mount your shads, as some types don't agree with the plastic these are made from.

++They've now one back to £4.25 for a pack of five...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Who dares spins

First chuck on the drain and I nail this pretty little jack on a Big Hammer shad. Two casts later, I hit one a pound or so bigger.

I'd left it until late afternoon, remembering how the place came alive as the autumn sun sank below the floodbank a couple of seasons back. For the last hour or two, it came alive as rudd went mad for a fly hatch.

I see a load of same come flying out of the water in the next swim, followed by a swirly bow-wave. I hoofed it down there, four or five casts and Mr Hammer hits the nail on the head again. Another jack of around three or four pounds.

Never mind, at least I'm catching. If you like catching jacks, like Ash reckons he does, you'd give your right arm for my start to the season, as in I seem to catch three or four most times I go at the moment.

I 've not been keeping count but know I've probably already had more fish than I had all last winter. One double so far and most of the pike I've caught have been under 5lbs. But fishing's fun again, so who cares.

The fun continues with a jack that somehow squirms off the end as I go to chin it. Then the gloves come off when what's obviously a big pike, as in a proper old lump, makes the drain erupt as a huge shoal of silvers flee in all directions in the first swim I tried.

Up the bank, down the bank, a few more casts and another jack. Huh..? The big fish shows again a couple of swims further down, so it's up the bank and down the bank again. The rod hammers round, big fish, big fish - no. It's another jack. I can't get the hook out of it fast enough.

I keep thrashing the spot where it showed and bump off another jack. Then the surface erupts just out of casting range, the other side of an inaccessible 20yds of bank. Geese are squealing over the far bank, as they loft off the beet tops and form up for the return flight to Mussel Bay.

Teal are flying in, the light's going and I decide to come back and have another bash tomorrow. I have a vague, nagging feeling I ought to go back with the bait rods. Pop some big deads up bang in the middle of where the tiddlers are shoaled.

I go for the lures again, but this time the drain's almost lifeless until last knockings, when a few jacks start giving the rudd what for. Big shad, bright yellow, cast around where the big fish showed yesterday.

Come on baby, where are you..? The geese take wing again, great skeins of greylags arrow overhead whaunk, whaunk, whaunk. I fumble closing the bail arm, get a turn of line around my fingers and the lure's sunk in the weed by the time I sort it out.

I bring it back fast across the top to clear the mush off the hook and I see it in slow-mo as I'm about to swing the mucky mess that's covered the hooks to hand. A huge head and shoulders of a pike appear, it lunges and misses, turning away from the bank at the last moment and disappearing into the gloom with a flick of its great big tail.

Spot the pike #2

Here's a slightly easier one than the last STP (spot the pike...) challenge. I'd had four or five casts over its head before I spotted it right under my feet. I dropped the rod, rummaged for a camera and while I could see it clearly, the camera's struggled with the light coming off the water.

I then decided I'd try and catch it and it shot off in a swirl as I miss-cued and dropped the shad right on its hooter.

A day with the jack basher

Ash chuckles as I unwind my trace around a jack that might just go a pound on a good day. 

"So that's how you do it, is it - lassoo 'em..?"

It was a lovely day, albeit one where it turned out anything over 3lbs wasn't coming out to play. Ash managed eight or nine around the same size as the first one he had a few casts after my micro jack.

Ash stuck on what will hereafter be known as the Jack Pit. I tried another pit and failed to add to the tiddler I had in the first swim.

Just once, a bigger fish engulfed the lure right under my feet and spat it back out again in a split second. How they do that is completely beyond me.

It's always interesting watching how someone else fishes. Ash rigs his lures with lighter jig heads so he can twitch them back much slower than my 10 - 15g go for head. He also carries all his fishing swag on his back, meaning he looks a bit like a cross between your average Eastern European angler and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

We walked a fair old way, fished a bunch of swims on a couple of new pits and had a few laughs.

The last fish I photographed Ash - aka Jack Basher - with was a thirty. But he just loves catching them, regardless of size - not to mention catching eight or ten times as many as me.

Good to catch up.