Sunday, 17 February 2013

right place, right time.....and the right ghillie to put you on it

I got a chance today to get out with my mate, Mr Woodchucker. With the constant floods on the rivers we're all having (are we still talking about floods?) just getting on one has been tough. Working all week and then come weekend it's a wash out. Well it was snow melt that was still running through the river systems this time and it was touch and go whether to stick to the river as planned or jack it in totally and go somewhere completely different. After some lengthy phone calls, texts and the rest, Woody just took the plunge and opted for a day afloat. There's always a chance of a fish anyway but I reckon Woody simply wanted to get out on the river for a day.

We had to have a change of plan, at least on my part anyway. Being mainly a lure-a-holic meant I don't often change things but the river was no where near ready for results on lures so I had to sort myself some dead bait gear out. Saturday was spent sorting it all out and trying to think of what I might need and ended up with me twisting up some new traces ready for Sundays assault. We'd planned to meet early but I was awake even earlier and at 4am I was sat in the living room finishing off setting up the rod which I'd forgot to do the night before. That's why I couldn't sleep then, I must have known something was missing.

I met up with Woody, his mascot dog Tike, got the boat hitched up and all the gear in his car. We were hoping to be on the river for around 7am as with the days finally starting to start and finish earlier/later we wanted to make the most of it. The drive to the river was a spectacular one in itself, mist rolling across fields as the sun began to rise on the horizon. We were both excited at the thought of a day that was to be pleasing on the eye. It's great catching fish but when you can do it in surroundings that look the part too it makes a day even more memorable. We arrived at the boat launch to find a slippery, icy, mud ramp. It looked quite dicey but we got the boat in and were away. There was a bit of colour to the water still and there was also a good bit of pull to it. Today we'd have to find some slacks to drop the baits in. Luckily my ghillie for the day was already expecting this and had a good few spots ready to drop in on. We set off for the first slack hole and as we made the way up river already it was promising something special.

As we pulled up towards our first spot the signs were good. Plenty of fish in the area showing up on the fish finder and a grebe busily working away diving down for a mouth full of silvers. Our slack bit of water had gathered a bit of ice, so we knew this bit of water would be somewhere the fish would be hanging out. We tested the depth and set up our stop nots so that the baits would be sat just right, stuck a dead fish on and cast out. Lamprey, herring and mackerel tail were the weapons of choice for starters.

Owning a boat is something I have found myself thinking more and more about, though funds aren't anywhere near enough and I know from speaking with other boat owners that you need more than you think you need, so I'm a long way off captaining my own vessel. I'm relatively new anyway to serious pike fishing so I've lots to learn and catch up on and in any case, a boat doesn't guarantee you any more or bigger fish. You still have to know you are doing and probably even more so from what little i've seen of boat fishing. The captains job is much more complicated than that of passenger, who apart from the odd job now and again just has to sit there and be guided all day. It's all right for some innit! I just had to sit there and be taken to the fish. I was with a man who knew where to look and how to tackle these places and I was going to be parked right on these spots and even told how to go about wangling one out.

"We'll put a bait there, one there and you should chuck yours there mate," explained Woody. He already had his rods in before I'd finished faffing with my own, then realising it wasn't quite rigged up correctly so quickly having to change it, cut my macky tail and then finally lob it out. We also fancied this spot might hold a perch or two so set about jigging about the area to see if any where around. We were busy breaking up lose bits of ice and scouring the area with the ultra light gear when suddenly my float just vanished. I quickly put the light lure rod down and picked up the bait rod, winding in the bit of slack line ready to set the hooks. The float had come back up but was bobbing about a bit and so I asked Woody what he thought. "You think I should go for it now mate" to which he gave me the nod. Fish on!

This was a good start, the bait hadn't been in the water no more than ten minutes and already I was in to a fish. There was a decent bend in the rod but when quizzed I couldn't say for sure how big the fish was because it was the first fish on my bait rod, and this bait rod felt like a big long bendy thing compared to my small jerk bait rod. There was a bit of solid resistance but I wasn't too sure. We were generally chatting as I leisurely played the fish, Woody sorting the net out then I got a glimpse. "Fuck's sake Woody get the net!" I'd seen the fish and knew it was a nice fish, mid double at a quick guess, though may be deep down I knew it was to be something else. The fish gave a couple of lunges, I faffed with a long bendy rod and fancy new baitrunner reel before finally lifting the fishes head up and sliding it towards the net where Woody scooped it up.

I'd not really seen the fish that much, and to be honest I also tried to ignore the fact it was a lump, telling myself It's "just" a nice high double. Now I don't mean that to sound big headed, in fact I mean it to be quite the opposite. I've not long since had a nice lump out of the rivers and so now I was feeling that it wasn't going to be happening again. I just came out for a steady fishing session, good company and to learn off someone far more experienced than me. Despite me suggesting the fish was just a nice fish, maybe even hoping it was "just" a high double, Woody was having none of it. "It's a twenty is this mate" to which I told him to "Fuck off, it can't be".

Woody unhooked the fish in the net for me while I sorted the camera. I then held the net while my guide for the day set about zeroing the scales with the weigh sling on. As Woody lifted the fish I told myself this fish might be 19lb 6oz, no idea where I got that figure from. If I'm honest it wasn't a guess at the fish more me trying hard to believe I hadn't gone and caught another twenty.

"Twenty two pound, bang on mate" I was told.

I still haven't got a clue how I felt. One of the weirdest feelings ever. Absolutely over the moon to catch a fish as big and as beautiful as this beast. Yet I couldn't help thinking I'd had more than my fair share of good fish recently. I know that for top pike anglers this is nothing but for someone like me who isn't chasing twenties to get two in my last three sessions is ridiculous. Add to that we'd been here ten minutes, and add to that I'd been picked up and dropped on the spot by my mate who had planned the trip, planned the style of attack, planned the peg we'd be in and had even spoke of the chance of a lump despite conditions not being so good. Shit, I hope he doesn't bill me for this, those pro' ghillies charge a right lump.

Hat's off to Mr Woodchucker for that one anyway, a very big thank you from me!

So we obviously stayed here a while longer. I think we picked up a jack and a missed run next and were weighing up the options. You can sit it out in the hope more fish are here or you can move. If you sit it out you might not get anything where a move might see you drop on a fish again in ten minutes, but then again you might be moving away from a good spot only to drop on a blank spot. You just have to go for it and make a call and live with it. We sat it out a bit longer and were rewarded when another float was bobbing away, Woody was in.

It took a while before we got a glimpse of the fish so that gave us hope that it had some weight about it and when it finally showed it's head we were pleasantly surprised as it was another fat fish. I wished it had been another twenty to the boat but that wasn't to be. I want to be there when someone else catches one and I want to share their joy as that's not happened to me yet. Getting out with mates is about enjoying each others moments and that's something I'm enjoying. A quick photo or two and a quick weigh and the fish went back, though we'd need not bothered weighing the fish as Woody predicted 15lb 7oz and it was bang on that. I doubt we'd been fishing an hour by now so the results meant there was no way we were going to move.

We picked up another couple of fish, nothing major just the usual jacks and I also managed to get a good bend in the rod only for the hooks to fling out/not set properly. We finally decided it was time to move on and set about searching for a new slack spot. Again, bait finder and grebe were a good indicator as to where the fish were. This spot was much deeper and so we had to quickly adjust the set ups but it wasn't too long before we were happy and confident of our chances of a fish or two. however it was hard going though this time. We would be verging on moving when one of us would finally get a take, only for it to be a jack. We stuck it out a while longer only for the same result. We bagged a few fish before moving off again and eventually planning on dropping on our first peg on the way back.

However our fishing was interrupted when we had to come to the aid of a pleasure boat drifting aimlessly along the river, and three people looking slightly puzzled, embarrassed and cold. It seems they were new to boats and were having engine trouble. We pulled up along side and Woody proceeded to give them some basic tuition, re routed some pipe work and then set them off on their way with a now working engine.

Time was knocking on now but we still had time to drop on our last swim for the day but that proved not so successful this time round with just one jack and a dropped run to show. Last light and the witching hour only saw to stir thoughts in our mind of big fish on the feed but this wasn't to be and we headed off back home.

For me, an absolutely belting day. Words can't describe it (wait, I think words did just describe it as I've just wrote a blog). Again another big thanks to Woody for taking me out and dropping me on a right lump If only it was so easy to repay with a lump in return.

Ghillie dog Tike


  1. You're on a roll mate, make hay whilst the sun shines!

    1. I will do John no worries about that. I'll just make the most of the last few weeks on the river. All fish welcome too.

  2. Good fishing Paul,and another good read.
    Lets hope we can all get back on the rivers, before the last day.

    1. Thanks Marc. My river is not too bad though i'm only getting out on it for an hour each day due to shifts and school holidays but i've had a few jacks so I'm happy enough. I hope you can get a few sessions in before the season ends, good luck!