Saturday 19 October 2013

Little and Large, Pike and no Perch

More fishing for perch this last week.   The results though have not been at all encouraging.   The perch have been eluding me completely.   This time last year some good perch were almost crawling up the rods, eager to greet and meet me.   Not so this year.  

Trip one saw me on a reservoir, lobworms at dawn.    I might as well have stayed home and  fished in the bathtub for all the interest the perch showed.   But the day was not to be a total blank.  Not quite.

A single lonely bird was flying above the water.  It was in silhouette so I could not precisely identify it, but it was either a swallow or a house martin. 
Tiny Pike...but the Biggest of Three!
All its mates are long gone back to the African sun, so maybe this one was still working out how to use its Sat. Nav.   Far too late in the year for it to be in the UK, and I do wonder whether it will manage the journey South successfully.    But back to the fishing, which was very slow, only two very tentative bites showing on the floats all day.   But two bites, two fish.    Neither bite was the hoped for perch,   neither produced the hoped for pike.  They were pike,    but the two smallest pike I have ever caught.  Worse than that, they were the two smallest pike I have ever seen anyone catch.  But even at that size, efficient little hunters.  About three ounces apiece. Note the full belly in the photo, and the Argulus Fish Lice on its body. Note also that the orange stains on my fingers are starting to fade a little now.  I wonder whether these little fish were six months old or eighteen months of age?   Earlier in the year one of a similar size, maybe a little larger, was to be seen in some shallow water near my feet.   I was feeding it maggots, which it seemed quite happy to eat.  It probably swallowed half a dozen: red ones.   Why are so very few tiny pike actually caught, if they are prepared to take maggots in this way?  And so the day ended.  A few terns, magpies and other common birds flew past, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The garden, next day, held more of interest from the birds.  A gang of long tailed tits drifted through,
Long Tailed Tit eating a Seed
stopping on the feeders for a few minutes before disappearing again.   They occasionally hang upside down from one leg, whilst eating a nut that they hold in their other, free leg.  Very acrobatic.

On to day two, and another, different water.  Two rods out for the perch once again.  As I sat down I heard what I thought was a curlew.   Two or three times I heard it.   Thirty minutes later, the same call, directly overhead, confirmed that my bird call identification is not totally useless.   A second pair of curlews were to fly over later, but their calls had all ceased by 10.00am.  I have never really known how to correctly pronounce curlew.  Is it Cur-loo  or curl-yew?  I must look it up.  Take a break from reading this whilst I consult the OED....................OK, back now,  still there?     Curl-yew apparently.

A little later a good fish rolled right over my right hand float. I had glanced away just before it did so, and so am unable to guess at the species.  Apart from one carp which jumped clear of the water later in the day, 150 yards away, it was to be the only sizeable fish I saw.  It is odd, but I very often seem to pitch my spot exactly where good fish show themselves.  I don't know if it is luck or instinct, but it happens far too often for me to explain it happily away as coincidence.  Within a second or so of this fish rolling, my second rod, fishing 20 yards away to the left, produced a good bite, and it was obvious fairly soon that it was no perch.  The fight was characteristically pike, and soon a fish of about six pounds lay in the landing net.   I was probably fairly lucky to land it,  no wire trace, five pound monofilament hooklength,  but I didn't look the gift pike in the mouth: well, not too closely anyway.

Earlier in my angling career, although I did occasionally fish for pike, I never felt comfortable doing so.  It all seemed rather barbaric.  As a young teenage angler, I was advised to buy a gag, which I understand are now illegal  ( and should be).  Jardine snap tackles were de rigour, universally used, and I was told that I must always wait for the second run of the pike bung before striking.   Always livebaits of course.  Many fish were hooked deeply in those days.
Later, I fished for pike up at Loch Lomond, and it was to be my first experience with deadbaits, which were then the new buzzword in piking.   I stood on the shores of Lomond, half a mackerel dangling from my rod, feeling really, really stupid.    There was no way that heaving so much of the catch of a North Sea trawler out into such a huge body of fresh water would ever work.   Damned ridiculous, and I bemoaned the fact I had been unable to catch any livebaits the previous week.    Ten minutes after that first cast hit the water I changed my mind, for incredibly, the line started to run out, and the first of five pike that took mackerel over the next two hours was landed.  And it was a personal best too.

But I still had that most difficult of jobs to do, and I had to do it five times.    Getting a snap tackle out of a pike was never easy, it always seemed risky for both myself and for the fish.   When I returned to angling after my long 30 year "holiday", things had changed.    Someone had invented a way of sliding your fingers in through a pike's gills, as a way of holding a pike steady.  It also seems to help cause them to "open wide", as a dentist might say.  This is a truly magnificent way to deal with a hooked pike.

This blog is not intended to teach people how to fish, nor even to give them tips.   But where pike are concerned there are two things I would advise strongly.  Firstly, if you do not know how to hold a pike as described above whilst you remove the hook(s), then get someone to show you, before you next fish for them.  It really does make things far safer for you and the fish, and makes access to the hookhold much easier.    Secondly, if you are able to bring yourself to use single hooks, do so.   All you need then is a set of long nosed pliers and most pike will be easily and safely separated from the end tackle.   I did a few experiments about three or four years ago, and discarded trebles as being needed only when lure fishing.  I also experimented with braid as a hooklength:  failed: the pike easily cut through it.  I tried 80 pound monofil as a hook length: failed in the same way.  So I now only use wire and a big single hook. Micro-barbed or even barbless if I can get away with it.   Does it work?  Well my best day's piking, two or three years ago,  produced 14 fish to 22 pounds, all on single hooks.   I only missed three runs, and 13 of those fish were hooked in the scissors.   You be the judge.    

Back to day two, this week: the 6 pound fish was easily unhooked and quickly returned, the swim going dead then.  A little later, an exploratory cast to another spot produced an instantaneous bite: perch? no,  yet another pike.   A third three ounce fish.   Must be some sort of record: three pike struggling to make half a pound between them.

The day was to be cut short, as my son phoned me to say that his car had suddenly stopped on the motorway.  He is a fairly new driver, and didn't know what to do.  I even had to explain that his car insurance does not cover such mechanical failures.    I hope he knows how to pay the estimate of £800 quid to repair the damage done as a result of the cam-belt breaking at 60 m.p.h.

Day three, and packing a few deadbaits I drove back to a river I fished a couple of weeks ago.  I had seen a swirl as I walked back to the car.  A long shot this, a hundred mile plus round trip on the off chance that the swirl was  due to a pike, especially with the river now carrying some extra water. But the trip, my first specifically  for pike this year, was to produce a success.   Look closely: the pike in the photo is undoubtedly smiling, maybe even laughing,  smiling because she knew that, when weighed, she would be another of those "annoying ounces" fish.   Nineteen pounds twelve ounces of very fat pike.  I was too impatient.  I should have waited until she had eaten her breakfast.  Not, by a long way, the hardest scrapping Esox I have caught, far too well fed a fish for that. 

This evening at home, a couple of photo opportunities came, even as I was writing this.  Under dull lighting at about 5 o' clock, the sparrowhawk revisited. so: through the glass of the lounge window:
Sparrowhawk, 300mm Lens,  Back Garden.
Being  a poor tactician as usual, it was perched very near the bird feeders, scaring away any potential prey.  But it was probably non too hungry, as there were a lot of pigeon feathers on the roof of our utility room this morning.  The sparrowhawk fed rather well yesterday I think.  A few minutes later there was a very loud crack of thunder, and the light outside at the front of the house started to look very eerie.   I grabbed the
View From Front Balcony
camera, bolted up to the top of the house, and saw the best complete double rainbow I have seen for some time. Ever noticed that the sky, or clouds, as seen inside a rainbow, always seems to be a slightly different shade?
One of my very first memories is of a rainbow.  Like most people my age I can remember just a half dozen or so things from when I was about three years old.  The most vivid of such memories for me is that rainbow.  My mother was gossiping with the neighbours from across the street, and I asked her what it was.  "A rainbow" was her reply.  But I wanted to know more, how it got there, what made it, how far away was it, could we go nearer. I stopped short of saying that I wanted one.  But as you might expect, neither she, nor the neighbours could give me the answers.  "It comes from the rain" said one.    But it isn't raining said I.  And it wasn't, at least where we were standing.  It was the first time I had met an adult who did not appear to know everything. And it came as quite a shock.

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