Pike Fishing


 

 ' PIKING IN DAYS LONG PAST '

'' Fact And Folklore ''

In or about the year of 1854 piking was at an all time high and in those days pike were considered as food for the table.Even further back in history naturalists and fisher folk alike had observed the pike's habit of  ' playing 'with a bait the typical ' mouthing ' lifting and dropping and ' false running' experienced by modern day fishermen.

Although fished for with fish baits such as roach,gudgeon and perch the pike apparently had a great passion for.

A swan's head and shoulders, 

a mule's lip, 

a damsel's foot, 

a gentleman's hand, 

tender kittens before their eyes are opened, 

and the fleshy parts of a calf's head. 

Then of course there were those baits and creatures that repulsed the pike.It is said that if a toad is presented to him he will turn directly away from the loathsome creature.Likewise if presented with a tench.

Common methods of catching pike included Snaring,'Trimmered' ,Float Fished ,' Huxed ', Trolled,'Snapped ' [ Snap Tackle ] ,Shot and Illegally Netted.

SNARING

Snaring was widely practised in the Fens of East Anglia in particular those ditches and small streams running into the River Ouse.The general method was to cut a stiff length of aspen about twelve feet in length,From the thinnest end a length of copper wire about three feet in length was attached this was constructed as an open running noose.In order to remove the shine and glare from the bare wire and to make it pliable it first had to be burned in hay.On finding a pike basking in the shallows the noose was skilfully and carefully slipped over the fish's head to a point behind the gill plates.A quick sharp tug pulled the noose [ Snickle ] tight and the pike was unceremoniously hauled from the water.

Many times the wire acted like a cheese cutter and deeply lacerated the fish.


'THE TRIMMER'

The trimmer was without doubt the most effective method of taking pike from open water frowned upon by many even in those days as totally unsporting requiring no skill and well adapted for poaching and the river keepers who used this method to control pike populations.A 6 inch length of wire armed with double hooks and looped at one end was baited by threading the wire shank down through the bait fish's mouth and out it's vent.It mattered not whether the bait was dead or alive.The hooks were then placed either side of the roach or gudgeon's mouth and the baited rig tied securely to twenty yards of 'common twine' which was threaded through a small cork and a larger bung.The smaller of the bungs was secured 10 inches from the bait by trapping the line with a small peg pushed into the central hole running through the cork.Correct placement of this cork bung was important as it acted as an anti-kink preventing line twist.

At a point three to four feet from the bait the large bung was secured in the same manner.These were painted in different colours and easily seen against the glare off the water and also acted as a pilot float such as we use today.The whole affair was tied off to a strong peg driven into the ground,a short length being reserved in a series of coils at the foot of the peg in order to allow the pike to run a short distance.With the bait thrown out across and into the water it was then a case of waiting until the ' floats ' indicated that a pike had taken the bait.At which point the fish would have been hauled ashore.This simple but effective method accounted for hundreds of pike in it's day.

' THE FLOATING TRIMMER '

Another popular method based on 'The Original Trimmer ' yet again simplistic but effective.In this version a length of rounded wood  perhaps 8 inches in length had a groove cut around the centre of the 'dowel' with a half inch notch cut in at one end.Twenty yards of  'common twine' were lightly wound around the groove and the rig baited as previously  described.A three to four feet length of twine between  the bait and trimmer was left free and simply gently eased into and lightly secured in the notch at the end of the trimmer.The whole arrangement then secured to a peg driven into the bank and the bait thrown into the water.When a pike took the bait pulling the line from the notch the loosely wound twine unravelled from the trimmer and the pike felt no resistance until the hooks pulled home.

' HUXING '

This method practised the art of attaching a live bait on a 'trace' hooked once through the lower jaw or under the dorsal fin.[ Perch baits had the spiny dorsal fin cut off to make it easier for the pike to swallow ] suspended under an inflated ox bladder.Which would hold the largest heaviest pike without being pulled under.The erratic bobbing of the bladder denoted when a pike was close at hand stalking the bait,there was no mistaking the actual take as the pike ran the river dragging the inflated bladder behind.It was a simple matter of allowing the fish to exhaust itself then retrieve it by hand or by boat.Some experienced 'huxers' used live ducks instead of bladders believing that their flapping and quacking attracted bigger better pike.It is well documented that geese were regularly employed for using this method in Irish waters.

This is still practised today in some of the southern North American States where the bladder is substituted by plastic coke bottles or such like.Baited and left to drift several bottles are fished at once and followed downstream by boat.

TALISMAN

There is a bone deep within the pike's head that resembles a cross.Removed,cleaned and dried these bones were worn as talismans to ward off enchantment and the powers of witchcraft.Hungarians and Bohemians believed it an omen not to be disregarded if they were to see a pike in any still water or ditch before mid – day.

MEDICINE


It was strongly believed that pike held great medicinal qualities.

Eating the heart was said to guard against and ward off fevers.

The gall bladder [ bile ]used as a linament to ward off eye infections.

Jaws were dried and ground to dust to ward off pleurisy.

Any small fish or fry found in the pike's belly were ground and liquidised into a draught for the poor in consumption. 



 

 The Elusive 20lber

' Born again predator ' an apt description for a creature that has neither changed in appearance nor habit over thousands of years.

When and where does it all begin ?

Spawning takes place any time between February and April dependant upon temperature,Southern pike may spawn long before their Northern counterparts which often suffer low temperatures well into spring,on occasion spawning as late as July.Both male and female pike migrate to the spawning beds covering great distances and many miles seeking shallow water rich in vegetation and which warms quickly under the pale winter sun.Marginal water,flooded islands,reed beds,weedy areas and ditches are all favourable areas in which the hen pike will spawn.

Vegetation is essential to the spawning process ..

Late-spring and most aquatic weed is dormant or at the very least in the throes of first growth.The pike's eggs are sticky and cling to weed.However in the excitement of their reproductive process the females are none too particular on which surface their eggs are laid.Herbaceous land vegetation lying underwater or flooded areas are prime nursery areas for fry.

Bare areas of water can be made more attractive to and encourage pike to spawn by introducing fir or broom branches into the shallows.The female followed by several cock fish will disperse her eggs over a wide area of carefully chosen ground.A place where there is minimal chance of the water levels dropping.In clear water,a film of silt over the eggs created by spawning disturbances will simply suffocate the eggs.

Hatching occurs over a period of only a few days up to several weeks,warmer water denotes quick hatching and in colder climates the process is considerably longer.The fry remain attached to the grasses or woody stems on which their eggs were deposited for twelve days.At this point the egg yolk/sac has been absorbed by the fry and they are now free swimming feeding on zooplankton.Developing fast their attention soon turns to insect larvae and other micro-invertebrates.

At two to three months of age the young pike are now fully fledged fish eaters at a period prior to resident prey fish spawning..Cannibalism thins out the weaker pike.

Twelve month of age now reaching 15 inches in length and yet to reproduce,the youngster will gain weight and grow to heavyweight proportions very quickly.

From this point on gaining 2lbs per body weight within twelve months,the following year 4 lbs are gained within the year and so on.

By the age of six of seven years old the elusive 20 lber !


 

 ' CHAIN OF LIFE '

       PIKE HAVE PURPOSE..

Pike have for eternity roamed our waterways,lochs and rivers not only giving chase to and predating on baitfish but scavenging for carrion too.As within the ' Chain Of Life ' and the Food Chain like most other creatures aquatic or land dwelling,pike target the slowest,weakest,oldest,the infirmed,the dead and dying.Their natural instincts drawn to those in distress.

Most healthy baitfish will probably live their lives out untouched and un-harmed by resident pike.

By scavenging fresh carrion the pike ensures that the waters remain clean disease free and free from bacterial spread from rotting flesh.Any baitfish that appear to be or are potential disease carriers are also taken out by the voracious pike.Mother Nature ensuring a plentiful food supply removing such threats from the pikes natural food resource.

Phytoplankton=One celled organisms and plants such as Diatoms and green algae to name but a few ..

Zooplankton=Small aquatic creatures many at larval stage - jellyfish etc

Plankivorous Fish=those that 'graze' on plankton.

Nutrients entering the water system via farm drainage,feeder streams or the water table are ideal conditions for the production of excess phytoplankton growth.

Dangerous levels of phytoplankton often results in Oxygen levels simply depleting overnight.Causing many fish deaths,weed too fades and dies.Leading to eutrophication,bacteria feeding avidly on the rotting weed mass below and totally starving the water of oxygen.

Zooplankton feed on the mass of phytoplankton preventing eutrophication in its's earliest stages well before any detriment is caused to the water or inhabitants.

This natural mechanism breaks down when the existing plankivorous fish life numbers escalate to such proportions with rich feeding that left unchecked by predation by resident pike zooplankton levels fall drastically.Falling below the necessary natural ratios.

A healthy ratio of pike are also of vital importance to predate on the small planktivorous fish's preventing disaster from occurring Thus ensuring zooplankton levels are maintained.

In an ideal situation pike in their own right limit the phytoplankton ratios.The nutrients introduced into the loch/river system in turn then aiding and promoting healthy weed growth which in turn attracts more fly life.

The result Bigger Healthier Fish !


 

 PIKE MANAGEMENT..

THE CASE FOR PIKE..

Many fisheries shriek at the word Pike ! Don't want them in here ..Remove them .! WHY ?

Pike could almost be described as prehistoric having been swimming and predating our waters for thousands of years largely unchanged in looks and characteristics.

Found in Lochs,lakes,rivers,ponds and ditches resident populations have probably inhabited those same water systems since time immemorial.All from and of the same bloodline.

Nature provided a natural balance between predator and prey both co-habiting in the immediate locale providing self sustainability for all resident species.So it would logical to assume that less pike would encourage further development and extensive breeding within the populations of silver fish stocks.Thus improving catch rates of roach,perch,rudd even bigger fish too...

Yes but only short term...In the long term the management of pike in waters where they are naturally established and unmanaged is far less complicated and poses far fewer problems than waters where pike management policies have been implemented.A slight contradiction perhaps …

To Explain..

With each passing year the problem escalates.An increase in biomass equates to an increase in individual fish of a smaller average size eating more ..What is the answer ?The percentage of pike in any given water should be around 10% of the total biomass of fish present this is as Nature dictates to maintain a balance between predator and those predated upon.Attempting to manipulate or interfere with such a delicate balance is the beginning of major problems that can take many years to revert back to some sort of normality.

Within the pike community there is a hierarchy.

At the top ..The real heavy weights the biggest and largest ..[ Only a few take pride and place here ]

With other pike in their diet..[ Some quite big ]

Central..Here we have the middle weights...

With smaller pike in their diet.

Bottom...High numbers of Jacks...

Eating the smallest and youngest of pike.

All pike fishermen are aware that pike are cannibalistic but Why eat their own ?

Natures way is for pike to control their own numbers,having few natural predators to contend with.If this were not the case generation after generation of pike would soon clean up all the available prey fish reserves and then simply starve to death !  Plus throwing the overall ecological balance into a state of 'Damage beyond repair'.

There are times when prey fish stocks are naturally scarcer from season to season and it is at these times in particular when larger pike tend to victimise and predate on a higher percentages of smaller pike.Thus the ratio and natural balance of pike to prey fish stocks is maintained.Therefore removing only the biggest of pike leads to an unhealthy explosion of ever hungry Jacks.

Other proven factors to consider.

Removing big fish results in an increase of the natural pike biomass as the number of Jacks increases and therefore predation on other species at an all time high !

Jacks pound for pound consume far more prey fish than the bigger mature fish,and fewer smaller pike.

Feeding hard,growing fast,gaining weight fast goes some way toward preventing being a victim of self predation !er ? Remove the smaller fish to allow the bigger pike to reduce the high numbers of Jacks 

Nature will retaliate and try to rebuild the balance back up to its natural ratio of 10%.Take out smaller fish of around 10 lbs weight results in a population explosion of small Jacks soon to be medium sized Jacks.All male pike grow only up to around the 10lb mark thus by removing fish of these weight ratios not only are the males being singled out by 100/% but also young females which totally unbalances the ratio between sexes.

The worst scenario is with a lack of male fish to fertilise the eggs the females become egg bound and die.These big fish are necessary to keep the smaller pike populations under control to maintain a healthy ratio.

So all in all in the case of pike best to let Mother Nature take her course for it would be impossible to remove all pike from any water and left to their own devices will maintain their own numbers at a healthy level.

 

 ' BEHOLD THE BEAUTY OF LIFE '

' Spring Days '

'' Behold the beauty of life as it bursts forth,open thine eyes and look beyond the 'Smoke 'n' Concrete' of everyday life.For it is time to reflect upon Mother Nature's birthing gift,a time when she replenishes her larder with the new born to procreate or simply to sustain the lives of others...Take only that from the circle of life which is to the benefit of those already here and those yet to come into this life ''

Nature provides.....Adapting and evolving over many decades,acclimatising to an ever changing world of Global warming,natural disaster,de-afforestation and over population both human and animal.

So how does Mother Nature compensate in her natural world ?

Survival of the strongest and fittest.For instance a hen salmon carries an average of 800 eggs per pound body weight..16,000 eggs spawned by a 20lbs fish.

Why so many ? Due to the extreme mortality rate that the species suffer.Providing a hen with so many ova ensures that a few offspring will survive to procreate the species.

Ova....Egg and eyed ova

Alevins....Fingerlings

Parr....3''-4'' Take on their natural colours

Smolt....4''-7'' Silver scaled ready to run downstream and migrate to the sea.Heading for the rich feeding grounds under the ice caps off Greenland.Krill,shrimp and prawn their staple diet.

Grilse....Salmon returning after spending One Sea Winter in the ocean.

Salmon....Fish returning after spending 2 plus Sea Winters in the ocean.

Throughout their various stages of growth salmon are predated on by many other species of fish,birds and animals.

Birds....Black backed gulls,Herring gulls,Cormorants,Grebes,Goosanders.

Animals....Mink,Otters

Fish....Eggs-all species of fish Trout,Seatrout.Other Salmon,Pike,Zander.

[Sea] Aquatic animals....Seals,otters.

It is said that for every 5,000 surviving smolts only 1 pair will live on to return to their natural birth river.

Spawning takes place in December a time when food is scarce for all creatures.Other than salmon which do not feed in freshwater but take sustenance from slowly absorbing body oils from reserves stored in their body tissue and calcium from their array of scales.

Exhausted from the lack of 'real' food and the rigours of spawning at least 97% will not make it back to the sea and simply die littering the spawning redds with decaying flesh.

This process is essential to feed the river with important nitrates to the benefit of the water and all that lives in it ! And also feeds the scavengers with carrion..White Tailed Eagle,Golden Eagle,Buzzard,Raven and Carrion Crow.

The cycle is complete and food provided for all whilst allowing for another generation of salmon.Salmon run different regions/areas at different time periods for example the Cumbrian Eden has a run of 'Springers' in January of the year whilst the Hebridean Islands see salmon running in the summer months.Some fish spawn earlier than others in November.Others-later in January dependant upon locality.Those regions that geographically suffer severe winters are earlier to spawn than those of more temperate rivers.Ensuring that the offspring hatch into warmer spring waters than of the winters chill that would kill them.

A cogwheel within a cogwheel..

There are many other examples of Mother Nature's hand at work within the animal Kingdom.Again ensuring survival of the fittest.

Red deer hinds come into 'Heat' normally from the first signs of frost in early November/October giving birth late May / early June..However hinds that have mated with rutting stags very early in the season can delay development of the embryo extending the gestation period by several weeks or months.Thus ensuring that the calves and fawns are born into warmer weather with food available.

Mink too have this ability along with at least 100 other animal species,including rodents,bears and badgers.

The True Circle Of Life.

 

 ' FIRST BITE '

Pike seize their prey side on by the flank,needle sharp teeth in the inside of their mouths,'tongue',gill rakers and jaws 700-900 in all,that slope backwards ensure that once held in their jaws no prey can wriggle free.Prey must be held in their jaws until dead or disabled before the process of swallowing,in order to ensure that their meal does not escape.This may be almost instantaneous or last for several minutes in the case of large prey.

Once the pike is confident that the prey is dead or critically disabled it is then briefly ejected from it's mouth and taken head first.In the case of large baits several attempts at turning in the described manner often occur.This is a natural inborn mechanism and all deadbaits receive the same treatment too.

The process of turning and swallowing is now underway.

Not only is the head the bulkiest part to swallow but as the fish is taken into the pike's mouth and inched towards it's throat the fins flatten against the roof of the pike's mouth / prey fish's body and no personal injuries occur from spiny fish such as perch.If the pike were to take the prey tail first the fins would splay out and swallowing would be impossible.On occasion pike will cripple prey fish grabbing them by the tail in an act of disablement then in the blink of an eye turn the prey and commence swallowing.

Directly after the prey fish has been turned and the pike begins to swallow the position of the lowermost treble will be just inside the pike's mouth,small baits would almost certainly be well into the mouth cavity.As the swallow develops and the bait is gorged further into the throat opening both sets of hooks will be in the pike's mouth.Large baits take time to pass into the throat and are not swallowed immediately whereas small baits can be swallowed into the throat in a matter of seconds and directly into the stomach.Once the bait is fully engorged in the pike's mouth a strike should have been made hooking the fish in the mouth or scissors.

If the bait has been hooked up in the correct manner the hooks should pull free of the bait on the strike or the bait dislodge from the throatThis also serves to prevent the pike using the deadbait lodged in it's mouth as a lever to help dislodge the hooks.Experience and a little understanding of how pike actually take a bait allows us to interpret just what is going on below the surface and aids in timing the strike..more so when fishing float or ledgered deadbaits.

 

 'LEAN GREEN AND MEAN'

'Far below hidden in a tangle of tree roots a pike hangs motionless in mid water.Almost invisible against dark shadows he is hungry.Tense as a coiled spring.Shoals of small perch and occasional roach foraging for a tasty morsel or two  often cruise nearby and are easy prey.

From his ambush the pike has perfect sub-surface and forward vision.The slightest movement will not pass unnoticed.A brief glint of light penetrates the murky water as a roach turns against the sunlight.Rolling from side to side the small fish twists and turns struggling to maintain his balance.Pausing momentarily to rest,head hanging low he drifts downward drawn towards a mass of heavy roots.

Into unforseen dangers.........

Realising his predicament he forces himself upright once again.With no energy and fading fast,his progress is slow and hesitant.

The little roach is in serious trouble.

Masked by thick roots the pike eases forward for a better look....Hungry eyes lock onto the little roach.With a powerful tail thrust the pike gives chase.His sleek form rushing upward towards his victim with an electrifying turn of speed.

Moments later strong tooth studded jaws snap open engulfing the small fish as the pike rolls onto the bait ! His back and tail break surface in a flurry of spray as he turns heading back to his lair.

The hook pulls securely into the corner of his mouth and the fight is on !


Motivated by a combination of greed and curiosity this pike was fooled into striking the lure.His killing instincts aroused by the mannerisms of the little bait fish as it passed overhead.Lures are imitations not exact replicas of natural food sources.Leaving no scent trail to follow up.

Take a little time to watch fry in the shallows.Take note of how they react to light,shade and feeding patterns-try to create their movements.

Lures are versatile fished 'on the top' sub-surface or dredging the bottom layers.

Floating lures come in all colours,shapes and sizes.Dressed to imitate frogs,mice,water rats and fish fry.

Classed as 'wake flies' these lures sit proud of the water a bubble tail and wake  ripples the surface.Alerting predatory species before finding the bait silhouetted against the sky.Surface lures such as these can be manipulated to mimick swimming,injured,dead and dying fry.

Technique is simple,imaginative,easy to master deadly !

There are few hard and fast rules ....cast allowing a brief moment for the lure to settle.A splashy entry is acceptable.Retrieve line in long steady pulls,short sharp tugs or slow and easy.Add further life-like movement by raising and lowering the rod tip or sweep the rod from side to side.

Experiment !

The speed at which the lure is retrieved can be crucial.Too slow and the lure lacks any attractive movement hanging limp and lifeless.Too fast and the lure will simply be ignored.Most fish species are willing to chase a fast lure in warm water.Whereas cold water requires a slow deep retrieve when fish are likely to be lethargic.

Lures range in size from from 2's -6/0's with an overall dressed length of 3-7 inches and beyond !

Smaller lures are easier to cast .A lot of practice with a well tapered line is necessary to cast huge lures any distance and is generally uncalled for.

Use colourful flashy lures on bright or sunny days to reflect available light which will attract and hold predators attentions.Dank overcast days demand dull high visibility lures that absorb light transforming them into easily seen silhouettes.

Sinking lures can be fished with floating,sink tip,slow and fast sinking lines and made to 'swim' by manipulating the rod in the same manner as fishing with floating lures.

Different depths can be explored with the sunk line by counting the line down n each consecutive cast.A count of 5-10-15-and so on until fish are found.

Flourescents are best fished in bright sunlight searching the deepest water.In dirty or peat stained water reds and oranges are highly visible.

TIP

Try using buoyant deer hair lures on a sunk lure over weed.Retrieve with long steady pulls and momentary pauses allow the lure to bob up towards the surface mimicking a dying fry.An excellent method for inducing hard takes ! 


 

 'PLAYING HARD TO GET'


'Blinding shafts of light penetrate deep through still murky waters as summer's sun rises high into cloudless skies.

A solitary pike retreats into black shadows escaping the harsh light and heat of the day.She is lethargic,without motivation.For the present she is content to lye up through the long daylight houurs awaiting darkness to fall.

Last night's foray in search of food was barely successful and she struggled to find a meal.Heat and humidity have forced resident baitfish to hold up too.She is hungry.

Lying in thick weed tight to the bankside she waits patiently.An occassional roach cruises past oblivious of her prescence.Strands of weed mask the pike's vision.Easing forward for a better look she is beaten back by piercing rays of strong sunlight burning into her eyes.Reluctantly she concedes returning to the shadows.

The silhouette of a distant baitfish swimming hard and fast toward her catches the attention of hungry rolling eyes which are already locked onto their intended victim.Her whole body twitches in anticipation with her tail slapping back and forth exitedly.Tension mounts as the baitfish nears.

At last the small roach passes directly overhead.With a powerfull tail thrust the pike turns within it's own length rising ghost like from the shadows .Her forward vision is excellent with the sun to her back.A great bow wave creases the surface as the chase begins.In an instant the pike overpowers her victim.In a flurry of spray the hook pulls deep and true as she turns diving back down to her lye.'

Fooled by the realistic movements of a roach fry fly this pike was tempted into striking.Welcome to fly predatory fly fishing !

Pike will take advantage of any available cover as a means of ambush and can often be found lying tight into the bankside behiond fallen trees,under overhanging bushes or in marginal reed beds ready to pounce on any unwary baitfish that pass by.

To cover likely lyes wade in a reasonable distance below the obstacle casting dorectly over where you presume the fish to be.As soon as the fly splashes down strip line back towards you as fast as possible.Six or seven casts will suffice.The fly will pass close too or directly over the fish's head.At which point the pike will rise to the bait turning  within it's own length to give chase.Taking the fly hard and fast atany given point between between turning and the angler's feet ! Be aware and expectant takes are explosive ! the pike has little or no time to deide whether to follow or not.Within moments of seeing the fly or see an easy meal escape.This method is particularly effective with floating or intermediate lines over shallow water armed with floating lures that create a wake.

Most fly fishing techniques with sunken flies and lures were devised to enable the angler to cast downwind drawing the fly toward the fish from behind.The described method is the exeption and can be deadly in clear warm water.

Needless to say any fish that are lyingup will be head into the wind or any current and respond accordingly to any changes in wind direction.

Wade only where it is safe to do so with the utmost of care using a wading staffif in any doubt.Lochs and lakes can be dangerous over patches of soft sand and mudwhich give way to sudden drop-offs.Be sure of your footing before attempting a cast.Do not take irresponsible chances it may be your last !

Rivers and other outflows spilling into the loch always hold fish close to shore well within casting distance.Baitfish too congregate here picking off small food items carried in the flow and out into the loch.

A deep depression or dark hole will be evident forward of the river mouth where it merges with the loch.Scoured out by years of heavy spate water.Depth and expanse will be governed by the volume and force of winter floods.Debris such as fallen trees may lodge here offering good holding lyes

Before covering the outflow stand well backfrom the waters's edge casting the fly directly intio the river mouth.Allow the fly to swing around in the current covering any fish thast maybe present tight to the bankside.Taking a step forward increase the length of cast by a few feet.Cast across the stream at 45 degrees.Once again permit the fly to swing in the current.A few casts more takes you tpo the lochside.Continue casting at 45 degrees targeting the drop-off.So that the fly is travelling a foot or so within the deeper water.The current working the fly as it fishes through.Cover all available water.If possible wade to the opposite bank repeating the same sequence.By fishing both banks in this manner it effectively fishes a lattice or criss crosss casting pattern.Which ensures that all the water is thoroughly covered.

Follow the path of the line with the rod tip as it travells across the current .Keeping in touch with the fly at all times,gently stripping the line as necessary to mtivate the fly.A strong current will create a bow in the line resulting in the fly coming to the surface and skating.To prevent drag it is neccessary to mend the line as soon as it hits the water.To do this simply raise the rod lifting a few line .Roll the rod to your righthandside with a gentle flick.The line will lift and carry back on itselve settling exactly where you want it.

                                                                                           TIPS

In a strong wave use large flies that sink and hold their fishing depth.When fishing calm conditions use smaller flies.Strong currents demand large sizes whilst minimal flow requires smaller patterns.

When casting into tight bankside lyes over clear or shallow water extend leader length from 9 feet to 15 feet to reduce the chances of 'spooking'.


 

  ' THE ULTIMATE DECEPTION.'

At some time in their lives most fish species will be hunted preyed upon and eaten by other predatory fish.In nature's bloody arena beneath the waves.A deadly game played by one and all in which only the the fittest and strongest survive.

Such is life within the food chain where the hunters often become the hunted.


'Hidden deep in thick reeds,hungry glazed eyes lock onto a small baitfish cruising nearby.All alone seperated from his shoal the small roach is easy prey.Desperate to escape the attentions of his enemies he tries in vain to find the main shoal unaware that he is being watched.

Frustrated and tired he searches for a safe refuge,meaning to rest up for a while.Reeds are close at hand inviting him in but without the security of his shoal danger lurks in every shadow.Fatigue forces the small fish to 'take a chance' but time is running short.....

Bursting out of the reeds greedy mouth wide open a lone pike gives chase.In an instant the roach is overpowered taken hard and fast from below.The water boils erupting in a spectacular flurry of spray as the pike breaks surface.Throwing plumes of froth high into the air.Jaws armed with needle sharp teeth show no mercy as the pike rolls onto and takes the bait.

Pulling the hook deep and true !

In the blink of an eye yards of line scream from the reel as the stricken pike bolts for cover !

The deceipt is complete and the fight is on ! '

Welcome to the exiting world of fly fishing for predatory species such as pike.

Fly fishing leaves no scent trail to follow up so all target species have to be cunningly lured to the fly.

To attract fish,lures must be mobile colour co-ordinated and fished in an eye catching manner.

A game of  'cat and mouse' as the angler attempts to outwit his quarry with lures of fur and feather.Which must be presented with lots of movement to attract any nearby predators.Inducing a strike at the lure.

A combination of design and angler coming together as one.Fly fishing often provokes a positive response over the same ground where conventional methods have failed simply because when fished correctly flies and lures assume a natural life-like action that metal lures and plugs cannot equal.'

At first glance it is difficult to imagine a lure of fur or feather bursting into 'life' yet this is precisely what they are designed to do.Cast into the depths our lure transforms into a sleek streamlined fry.

Most lures have long flowing wings that shimmer enticingly on the retrieve simulating a swimming action.At the same instant the throat hackles pulsate adding movement to to the head similar to the breathing mechanism of fish in their natural state.With bodies of sparkling yarns and tinsels 'mini' shafts of light penetrate deep through the water in the same manner as a small fish turning against natural sunlight.Flashing with every twist and turn.Some have red varnished heads or red target spots tied in at the thorax or chest for predators to home in on.

As with all disciplines of angling,presentation is the key to success.

A balanced outfit is vital.You will need a stout fly rod capable of casting a number 9 or 10 weight forward line.A wide arbour reel with backing line,heavy mono leaders,wire traces and a selection of 'fly lures'.Specialist fly  fishing lines are graded into ..floating,slow sink,fast sink,and neutral density.

Combine your chosen line or lines with a mono leader of 14lb or 18lb breaking strain and add a tippet of 17lb test fly wire which is thin enough to tie without the need for crimping.

Selecting the right lures can be a nightmare to the novice fly angler.Choose from those that resemble fish imitations such as roach or perch fry patterns.These are proven lures taking quality fish time after time.Don't be tempted to fill your box with bright sparkling flies dark coloured flies have an important role to play too.

Bear in mind that when viewed from below high visibility lures silhouette against the sky exaggerating shape and movement.Shape alone is not sufficient to deceive and a life-like action must be relayed to the lure.Fish with lures that are dressed with synthetic materials or natural deer hair they  do not absorb water and easier to cast.

Weight forward floating or slow sinking lines are ideal for the bank angler covering the margins and can be punched into an onshore wind with relative ease.

Fly lures can be cast into difficult lyes,inacessible to bait fishermen covering vast areas of marginal water,reed beds,shallows,submerged trees and underneath overhanging vegetation.

Fly fishing is exiting and not too difficult to master with a little patience and practice offering great rewards to those who persevere .

Why not give it a try ?.


 

 ' A RED HERRING ? '

An old adage but is it true of pre-baiting it undoubtedly works !


'Lying low hidden deep within a tangle of tree roots dark shadows mask a solitary pike.Invisible to the world outside her realm of privacy,she is content to await the opportunity to ambush any unwary roach or rudd that come her way.

First light has long since melted in the dawning and this morning there is little activity from shoals of small baitfish that dominate these waters.Tense as a coiled spring her senses honed razor sharp.

Hunter...opportunist and cold blooded killer.

The 'Water Wolf' is hungry!

Bloody scales carried with the current drift into her lye and for the first time this day she tastes blood.Curiosity and hunger draws her from her lair encouraging her to follow the faint scent trail of emulsified body oils and blood.Slowly she swims onward,the trail is stronger now and easy to track.Her predatory instincts aroused -looking for a kill.Rather than finding an injured fish or stale carrion she is confronted with chunks of fresh mackerel and oily herring strewn throughout the shallows.

Feasting on the first downstream offering she works upstream picking off each tasty morsel.Halve a mackerel lyes static within the scatter of fish chunks,an opportunity too good to pass by !A short stalk and she is upon the bait..snapping at the carcass with prehistoric jaws.After several attempts the 'victim' rises momentarily off the bottom in the turbulence.In an instant the mackerel is seized and she runs hard for cover...the hooks pull home and …

The Fight Is On.....! '

This pike was enticed out of her  'lair' in search of a bloody offering some distance upstream simply by pre-baiting and using suitably flavoured groundbait,appealing to her predatory nature invoking a feeding response.

Coarse anglers have for many years introduced loose feed into their swims whilst fishing.Not only to encourage other fish species that may be lying further downstream into the area but hold those fish and resident fish in the locale.Carp anglers and match fishermen are a prime examples.

Employing these methods to great advantage and increased catches.


HOW CAN THE PIKE ANGLER UTILISE THIS STRATEGY ?

PRE-BAITING


Many specimen pike have been drawn into and captured from pre-baited swims,simply by enticing pike from an area that maybe too dangerous,snag ridden or overgrown to fish from in comfort.

There are two strategies:

Pre-bait the chosen swim over a period of several days prior to fishing.

For the best results pre-bait at regular intervals,with no more than a dozen or so fish chunks.More than enough to hold their attention without over feeding.

Pre-bait the furthermost upstream swim on the actual day that you intend to fish.Continue working downstream baiting each individual swim.Once the final swim has been baited up return to the initial upstream swim and fish it through.In general the best time to bait a likely looking stretch of water is in the early morning when pike are active and their metabolism has 'kicked in'.

Pre-baiting in the late evening can induce pike to begin a regime of 'night feeding' contrary to their natural feeding patterns.

Likewise introducing loose feed  in the late afternoon may bring pike on the feed long after the angler has his stowed his gear away and gone home ! Ensure that all bait used for pre-baiting is fully thawed out or fresh-in it's natural state it will sink..If pre-bait consists of mackerel and herring for instance,fish over the baited area with the same or similar.

METHODS

PVA Tubing....Catapult....Groundbait....Bait Boat....Bait Droppers

Taking each in turn:

PVA Tubing...Fill a short length of PVA tubing with the desired bait cut into small manageable chunks.

Tie off the ends.

Thread the tube onto a boillie stringer needle.

Place the trace swivel onto the end of the needle.

Push the loaded tube down the trace next to the deadbait.

As the PVA dissolves the contents are distributed around the deadbait.

Catapult...Place several small fish chunks or balls of groundbait into the sling and hurtle them out over the staticdeadbait.

Versatile in it's use the catapult spreads it's load over a wide area.

Groundbait...There are several ready mix predator groundbaits on the market today,Dynamite baits range are excellent containing a high proportion of fish flesh .

Two colours are available..Red and Yellow.

Which is best ? Down to individual preference .

The beauty of this mix is that it can be moulded into solid balls and distributed via catapult or hand thrown without breaking up.

Plus it has the added advantage of sinking fast straight to the bottom even in fast flows,slowly breaking down leaving traces of a surface slick maybe 15-20 minutes after the 'plunge'  So it works well,and each ball delivered to the swim 'works' away for a reasonable time.

Bait boat....Used for extreme range work far outwith the bounds of casting range,several chunks of fresh fully thawed fish chunks are placed in the well of the boat along with the pre-rigged deadbait.

When the doors are triggered and begin to open the baits drop through the water layers directly to the bottom.An even distribution of loose feed is guaranteed to be placed around the main deadbait offering.Again emulsified body oils and blood seeping from the fish act as an attractant.

Bait Droppers...The largest bait droppers hold a surprising quantity of small cut up baits .Used in conjunction with a dropper extension and heavy lead they are ideal for pre-baiting on the move [ as described earlier ].When the dropper hits bottom give it a good hard strike or two to fully empty the pan. 


 

 ' GASSED UP PIKE '

There are varying opinions of how long we should play our pike.

Text book style of playing fish until they are rolling on the surface with exhaustion.

OR..

Play and land the fish with the minimum of stress netting the fish as soon as is practicably possible.

Both practices are loosely based on fish welfare.Both can and do from time to time create their own unique problems.

' WHAT DO WE MEAN BY ' GASSED UP ? '

' Gassed up is is the inability on occasion whereby pike cannot release gas from their swim bladders.Noticeable in some instances on releasing the fish,instead of swimming off strongly the fish tries to dive but then wallows on the surface alive but belly up.Some pike will actually 'appear visibly bloated' and swollen others simply unable to keep their balance and remain upright

Divers suffer the bends when returning to the surface too fast .. Pike equivalent 'gassed up '.

DEPTH

'Gassed up' pike are more frequently encountered in deep water swimsHooked near the bottom and wound to the surface too fast ...Water pressure not allowing for any immediate changes to the swimbladder.Thus allowing the fish some degree of comfort .

Pike have been seen to 'blow bubbles' whilst being played which would strongly suggest that they do have the ability to regulate the air/gas content of the swimbladder.Releasing excess gasses in accordance with any particular water pressure encountered.


'Gassed up' pike from shallow water are accountable to a prolonged fight and the build up of lactic acid due to over exertion and exhaustion.which in extreme cases is potentially dangerous as it upsets the whole chemical balance within the fish's body.

Fish that have been played hard and seem to be strong swimming away well on release,only to suddenly  roll onto their side are not 'gassed up' but simply suffering from from pure exhaustion and a lack of oxygen.Keeping fish out of the water for longer than is absolutely necessary combined with high water temperatures during the summer months and naturally depleted dissolved oxygen levels greatly increases the problem.

HELP

Under these circumstances what can we as responsible anglers do to aid the pikes recovery ?

Find a quiet stretch of water close at hand preferably with a solid current and erect a cradle from banksticks with a submerged suspended weigh sling or whatever you can utilise at the time..Gently place the fish facing upstream into the belly of the cradle and simply leave it in peace,once the lactic acid levels have equalised and the fish is fully rested and oxgyenated it will swim off happily unaided.

This process varies the actual recovery period peculiar to each individual pike and can take from a few minutes to several hours.


 

  TURNOVER AND CATCH THAT PIKE '

LATE WINTER TEMPERATURES

To understand Turnover we need to understand a little about the water and temperature ranges.

Armed with this invaluable information finding winter feeding fish becomes a precise matter rather than trial and error.

Being cold blooded creatures by nature in water that is particularly cold lethargy takes over fish stocks which in turn induces sluggishness and slow reactions.Too hot and fish simply seek the comfort of more compatible depths with temperatures that are more suitable to their natural body requirements.Within this band of temperate water fish will happily feed.Different species are often found at varying depths in the 'Comfort Zone'.

Lochs,lakes and tarns have a layer of warm water over a layer of cold water sandwiched in between these layers is a narrow band of water known as the thermocline – this is the feeding zone.

TURNOVER – AN EXPLANATION.

In the coldest winter winds severe temperature drops occur within the upper layer,when those temperatures drop to 4 degrees centigrade and below the thermocline breaks down.The upper warmer layer now at it's densest and cooling fast simply 'sinks' to the bottom of the loch displacing the cold water column.Which now rises to the surface.This action which occurs at least once a year presents otherwise 'stale water' to the natural elements to be well oxygenated and inhabited by the resident wildlife and fish populations.

Thus Mother Nature's way of natural regeneration of the water comes into playShallow lochs only reaching depths of about 15 feet do not develop a thermocline but are often heavily weeded blocking out the sun's rays,natures alternative.

Detritus and other rotting vegetable matter dead leaves and weed tend to gather in the bottom ten feet of the loch.Eating away at oxygen levels as the decay gets under way.Particles of detritus can sometimes been seen in the water accompanied with an aroma of rotten eggs.A sure sign that the loch has ' Turned Over ' it can be fatal to fish stocks suffering from deprived oxygen.This is the exception rather than the norm and not to be confused with the same ' symptoms ' during the heat of the summer.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO THE FISHERMAN ?

During the period of change as the thermocline dissipates and warm and cold waters displace each other  pike will access the deeper water which is for the time being well oxygenated and carrying prey fish too.Under normal circumstances this level would be avoided due to oxygen depravation.For most fish this is a temporary measure,oxygen levels soon build back up,a thermocline is re-established and as late January early February approaches pike are already migrating into the shallow margins pre-spawning.

In effect if during mid to late winter fishing in the shallows does not produce the goods and little if any activity is evident,cast that little bit further into deeper water that most anglers would avoid.There is a very good chance that feeding fish may found here.



 

 THE LURE FISHERMAN'S YEAR

[PART 1..Conditions ]

Consistent success fishing lures for predatory species such as pike relies on several factors that have to be taken into account.

The following notation is intended as a guide only.

In general..


WIND

Northerly winds tend to put fish down lying low.

Easterly winds are the coldest and fish least likely to take.

Southerly winds are moderately warm and sees fish on the take.

Westerly winds are the warmest and bring fish on the take.

There are of course' Exceptions to the rule ' with fish being taken under all of the above denoted conditions.

Bearing in mind that all loch fish lye head into the wave it is worth noting that those who fish coastal regions in particular will notice a distinct change in wind direction as the tide turns.

As the wind swings around fish too accommodate the changes turning to face the oncoming wind.

Big waves with ' white horses ' churning the loch up greatly oxygenate the water and fish are most active at such times.

Calm warm waters are depleted of higher dissolved oxygen levels thus fish stocks become lethargic.

TEMPERATURE AIR AND WATER

Fishing for all species is at it's best when the air temperature is greater than the water temperature.

Winter and early spring fishing is at it's best between the hours of 10.30 am and 3.00 pm.

As the first rays of winter / spring sunspillonto the water and skies brighten the air temperature gradually increases even if only by a few degrees.Enough to bring fish on the take.

Early morning mist rising from river or loch during false dawn is when the ' River Sleeps ' and fish are less likely to take.Until dawn some 40 minuteslaterwhen the morning's sun and brightening skies burn the mist off.

DEPTH

Fishing whether it be off the bottom or sub surface will greatly depend upon a combination of temperature and seasonal variations as the months are fished out.

WATER CLARITY

Is the water clear,tinged with snow ' Grue ' or dirty with spate sediment.

Choice of lure colour will be influenced by such conditions to enhance full visibility of the chosen bait

Dark lures show up better in coloured waters .. absorbing available light which helps to define their silhouette

Shiny lures fished in clear water reflect available light as the baits twist and turn,giving the impression of asmalldistressed prey fish.

Also giving a more natural appearance as shafts of light bounce off the body of the bait as natural light does when a fish turns against natural sunlight.

LIGHT CONDITIONS

Variable throughout the turn of the year the main point to remember here is that a pike's metabolism is at it's greatest early morning and as dusk falls.

Prey fish too are very active during these periods.

Like most creatures fish do not like strong sunlight burning into their eyes and will move on the sunniest of days [ not necessarily the warmest days ] to areas offering shade,moving back into their original haunts as early evening falls.

Some species are more nocturnal than others and will readily take a bait during the hours of darkness.

In the case of pike a minority of pike will be taken during nightfall though this not the norm.

Bigger fish of all species tend to feed dawn and dusk lying low throughout the daylight hours evading the attention of potential predators.

CHOICE OF BAIT

Taking all the factors into account it is a simple matter to chose a suitable lure to combat whatever conditions the angler faces.



 

 WHICH LURE WHEN..


[ THE LURE FISHERMAN'S YEAR Part 2 ]

The following notation is intended as a guide only.

JANUARY - MARCH


During these three months at the height of winter's chill water temperatures are their lowest.

Fishing deep and slow is necessary during January to get down to fish which are not only lying deeper than in the summer months but lethargic too and unwilling to chase a bait over extended distances.

Baits such as Soft Bodied Jigs,Shads,weedless spoons and spinning baits fished slowly just off the bottom produce fish.

Correct depth is achieved when the bait occasionally snags or repeatedly touches bottom.

' Bulldawgs ' are a good choice when bigger heavier baits are required.

As January fades through February and into March daylight hours and temperatures slowly increase.

As pike stocks move into shallow water pre-spawning the lure fisherman's attention turns to shallow margins,overspills from streams and rivers feeding the loch and areas rich in reedbeds.

Now lying up in relatively shallow water fishing slow baits is still most productive fished sub-surface.

' Shallow Running Lures ' and slow sinking / suspended ' jerkbaits ' or minnow style plugs ' twitched ' on theretrieveoften bring fish to the lure.

APRIL - JUNE

With rising temperatures feedingactivitygreatly increases dramatically as sustenance is required to build energy and stamina levels depleted during the rigours of spawning.

Most pike will stay within the bounds of shallow water until rising temperatures heat the water up and conditions become uncomfortable.At which time deeper cooler waters are sought.

Depending on regional weather variations overnight frosts are still to be expected especially in the Scottish Highlands.

Overnight frost followed by a reasonably warm sunny morning tends to have a slightly lethargic effect on the fish.

Whereas by mid morning the air and water temperatures have increased slightly and pike are now active and on the move willing to chase baits that only a few hours before would have been ignored.

With the continued rise in air and water temperatures tactics have reversed .. from fishing slow and deep to fast and on the top ! with a rapid continual retrieve.

Lures should be fished high in the water column from mid - water through sub surface levels and on the surface.

Baits such as Surface lures,Shallow divers,Bucktails,High Buoyancy and Slow Sinking Jerkbaits are ideal.

JULY - SEPTEMBER

The years highest air / water temperatures are experienced depleting dissolved oxygen levels in the higher water levels,forcing pike to drop down in the water column into deep water where they lye up for extended periods,starved of oxygen and lethargic.

Prey fish fall victim under short feeding spells as pike are drawn from their deep lairs by hunger and the will to feed.Again early morning and as dusk approaches fishing is at it's best.

Windy conditions or better still wind in combination with overcast skies bring pike back on the feed and willing to readily take a bait.

Fished on a fast retrieve erratic diving lures or sinking baits fished with a variable retrieve to allow the lure to rise and fall are best.

Jerkbaits come into their own during these months.

Towards the cooling effect of air and water temperatures with the onslaught of September's chill big ' Bulldawgs ' and spinning baits come into play.

OCTOBER - DECEMBER

In the early weeks of October through to November the pike's appetite is sharp but it is again necessary to fish deep and slow treating this period as one would during January and February.

One great disadvantage at this time of year is the expectation of dirty or tinted waters due to snow ' Grue ' a mix of ice and and snow melt tainting the water with a greenish tinge combined with a sudden drop in water temperature fish go off the feed.

Spate waters spilling into the loch dirtying the water with suspended sediments can be problematic too.

However all is not lost and fish can still be taken on ' Rattling Lures ' or those that are fluorescent in colour to compensate for the poor visibility in these types of conditions.

Bearing in mind that pike mainly ' feel ' the vibrations given off by prey or distressed fish before visual contact is actually made


 

 DEADSTICK '


This little know method can be used to great effect with all shapes and sizes of floating lures,simple,effective and at times immediate !

Simply cast a floating plug to any area where you suspect pike to be lying up.
Do not start retrieving immediately - allow the surface rings and disturbance from the lure hitting the water to completely disappear.
Leave the bait static bobbing on the surface for a minute or two .
Then and only then begin the retrieve if a fish hasn't hit the static lure.

Late spring into early summer are ideal times to utilise this method,being of a predatory nature pike expect young frogs,ducklings and mice to supplement their fish diet.
Particular interest is shown by pike over this period to anythng and everything that falls into or appears to be struggling or swimming on the surface.

' GRINDING '

For this method use a floating lure with a wide adjustable diving lip adjusted to swim deep.

Particularly put into motion for stubborn or inactive pike ' grinding ' is again a very simple technique that produces fish under difficult conditions when other methods fail.
The principal behind ' grinding ' is simply to bounce the lure off the bottom,off rocks,off structures,retaining walls and other solid underwater obstructions.
Vibration and ' noise ' inaudible to our hearing alerts the pike that there is a distressed prey fish in the immediate area,several minutes prior to to visual contact.
The more vibration and noise the greater the chance of attracting an otherwise stubborn fish to the lure.
With the broad diving lip set set to run the lure deep the bait fishes head down- tail up and aids in avoiding snags.
Keep a close watch on the hook barbs and sharpen up as required


 

 ' DOUBLE FLAPPER RIG '


Paternoster style rigs may not be the most popular choice by today's predator hunter..

However...

Taken from the sea angler's tactics the following method of bait presentation works well in running and still waters when there is a medium to heavy swell running and intermittent waves creasing the surface layers.

  • Take a whole roach,joey mackerel or such like.
  • Lay the bait fish on it's flank belly forward away your body.

With a sharp filleting knife make an incision at the base of the tail,until the blade meets back bone.

  • At this point the knife blade should be lying flat.
  • Slide the knife blade along the back bone as if cutting a fillet.
  • Pull the knife free when the dorsal fin is reached.
  • Turn the fish over and repeat the process on the opposing flank.
  • Please ensure that you are cutting away from your body …!


Hold the bait fish by the head and either flank / partial fillet will drop toward the head of the fish resembling a peeled banana .Carefully nip / cut the back bone / tail as close to the body mass as possible and discard the spine.The result ? a ' Double Flapper ' bait with unlimited movement that will ' beat ' with the water movements such as a bird in flight.A great visual attractor that also laces the water with scent.

Also effective as a popped bait too rigged on standard Jardine Snap Tackle



A GHILLIES TALE JOHN LINDSAY (C) J LINDSAY
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