Second trip of the year to Penton Hook, Dan couldn't make it so Darren and myself were joined by Wandte guru Stuart - after his first pike. The early morning water looked great although a little fast. We found a nice looking spot and quickly set up.
Darren & Stuart fished the slacks in the side I aimed for a far side feature, but without enough lead my sprat was quickly swept away into the fast water. I decided to leave it and see. About 20 minutes later I had a run (to be honest I thought rubbish had caught on the line but I wound down to check).
Cracking fight in the fast water and my old friend the bitten pike, the third time I've caught her - going to have to think up a name if I see her again. Didn't weigh her but she's probably still about 8lb 9oz. Pike first cast - fantastic!
Next cast and the ledgered sprat held against the feature and it wasn't long before I was in again. Another superb fight and a fat 7lb 10oz pike, I'll have to check if this is a new fish or a recapture [Edit: New pike]. Pike second cast - this was going to be good!
Another hour or so fishing around the features both close and far side but no more runs so we decided to go exploring.
A walk around the island revealed we had the place to ourselves, so we set about ledgering a variety of baits around the island, but we couldn't find any more pike. We got to some tighter swims so I swapped over to float fishing to present a bait a few feet off the bottom, giving the pike more choices.
A cast to a feeder stream was met with a bob on the float before it gently moved away - a typical 20 pounder run. I struck and was met by an enthusiastic but tiny pike about a pound. Still, I love catching them on the float.
We continued round the island without a touch and we were running out of time. With only a few minutes left there was a bang on Stuart's rod, he wound down and struck - a sprat head was retrieved... But I think that run was enough to make him come back - another piker is born!
We gave it a little while longer to see if the pike would come back, but no more runs. We left the island, Darren cursing his luck, Stuart wondering what might have been and me, the jammy bugger, eager to explore further... We'll all be back!
I think this is a week I'll look back on in the closed season and regret! After my barbel last Thursday Dan and myself hit the river again the following day. Two barbel hooked and lost, the first looked about a pound, the second shed the hook unseen - at least we knew they were feeding.
We haven't been since, we are both working but we could have squeezed a few hours in here and there... Need to sort that out!
My apathy was spreading over to Saturday's trip to Penton Hook, that is until I was preparing the bait earlier - can't wait to get there now - it's funny what fires up the interest again.
Sprats are bought fresh from the fishmonger, and wrapped in batches of four in cling film so they don't touch each other and break when they are unwrapped frozen. Once my hands are well and truly clean the process goes as follows:
Untangle end of cling film
Pull out about 18 inches
Pull against rippy thing (it'll work one day)
Hack through it with scissors
Get it stuck around itself
Untangle it and spread it flat
Swear at cling film
Place sprat on cling film wrap it around twice
Push cat off kitchen counter
Place 2nd sprat on cling film wrap it around twice
Push cat off kitchen counter
Place 3rd sprat on cling film wrap it around twice
Push cat off kitchen counter
Place 4th sprat on cling film wrap it around to finish
Push cat off kitchen counter...
Repeat ten times before starting on the other baits (bigger baits get freezer bags - yay!).
As you can see from the photo - it didn't go exactly to plan... Back to where I found the roach on Tuesday, this time armed with a few slices of bread to pick out the bigger roach. It didn't work, it attracted monster gudgeon and tiny roach (smaller than Tuesday).
After an hour or so the bites dried up so I put a ledgered pellet out to see if there was a chub or barbel about. I missed two wrap-around bites before connecting to the chunky 4lb barbel above. Great fun in the fast dark water and on a center-pin.
The problem: The pike at Penton Hook tend to give very little bite indication, normally it's just a bang on the rod-tip or a bounce on the bobbin, and if you are digging around in your bag looking for your mini pork pies or trying to photograph that bloody kingfisher it's a recipe for a deep-hooked pike.
The idea: I've been experimenting with a bolt-rig type set up and although it's early days, it seems to be working.
Copied from the carp anglers arsenal it simply consists of a standard running ledger with a stopper about a foot away from the lead. The pike has enough 'free line' to suck up the bait (this will probably only work with small baits) but soon has to drag the lead along.
When the pike feels something is wrong it tends to bolt giving a very satisfying run. I was worried the pike would eject the bait but they (so far) seem reluctant to release their prize.
I'm not sure if the lead sets the hook (as in carp fishing) or the pike thinks it's going to loose it's meal but either way it seems to work. I'll need to trial if for a longer and in the summer I'll try sight-fishing for them to see exactly how it works.
And should the line break the lead will get stuck in the bottom and the float stoppers will pull off.
Since experimenting with it I've looked it up on Google, and it seems to have been tried but with very little success, with the resistance resulting in ejected baits - but it does seem to work for me.
Has anyone else tried bolt-rigs for pike? Or found a better way to improve shy runs? I am prone to missing obvious solutions!
Our first trip to Penton Hook of 2012, and myself and Darren were there in time to watch the sun rise over the island, I regret not taking a photo now. There was a crisp frost and mist rising from the morning water, and it was cold.
Everything looked great until we noticed the speed of flow, the water was only a couple of inches higher than normal but the current must have been nearly twice as fast.
We were both worried about presenting baits in this fast flowing water but it wasn't long before I heard Darren shout he was in. I ran for net duties but the pike had come off. He described the pike as 'a lump', when a carp angler says lump you know it was a big fish!
Next up I had a run but failed to connect to the fish before Darren lost a second fish. All this action had taken place in ten minutes and all on ledgered roach deadbait. Then we were out of dead roach.
We fished on with sprats and plugs and tried a few swims before Dan eventually turned up at midday, only four-and-a-half hours late! He had brought sausage sandwiches, but the brown sauce had only made it half way here before falling out of his bag and smashing - cr*p!
Sausage sandwiches were consumed before we all set about trying to find a pike. It wasn't until 2.30 when I had another run and landed a 8lb 9oz pike on ledgered sprat. As it turned out, the only pike of the trip, Brian 'Jammy Bugger' Roberts strikes again!
The pike was one we'd seen before, the instantly recognisable one that had been hit by a larger pike in November. It had healed well and was an ounce heavier this time so it's doing fine.
We fished into a very cold dusk before calling it a day. Time had flown by, and to be honest I think we could have done better - we should have explored some more swims. I'm thinking of putting a self-imposted time limit on each swim next time. And this is the third recapture in 18 pike, have we just found a small pool of pike? Time to move? Probably.
But we will be back to the island soon, there is lots of water still to explore and hopefully a lump or two still to grace the landing net...
Yesterday saw myself and Dan head to the Wandte to see if the chub and barbel wanted to play, they didn't! The only fish that made an appearance was this eel, which makes me think; if an eel will feed at this time of year surely the chub and barbel will.
Time to experiment with some new baits, we covered a lot of water so we must have been in the vicinity of our target species (and I'm pretty sure the gear is fine). We just have to tempt one into taking the bait, I'll do some research but if anyone has any suggestions of an effective winter barbel bait please let me know - thanks.
While wandering about looking for new swims I did spot a shoal of perch, no big fish but I'm yet to catch a Wandte perch, so that's my next target (along with a winter barbel).
Meanwhile on the River Wye, which is back to a fishable water level, Roger and Paulos went in search of a pike. A seven pounder to Paulos and a sixteen pounder to Roger - good work guys! I'll pop some photos on here when I get them.
Well the trip to the River Wye didn't go as planned, we did get a couple of pike but the river was far too high. Roger and Paulos are still there and hopefully they'll get another session in before Paulos has to fly back to the States, as for me I'll be back towards the end of February - hopefully the river will be back in the banks by then.
Flooding is possible!
Edit (Friday): And my Mum has just sent me this photo of the Wye... Guess there's no fishing today!
I have found a project for the rapidly approaching closed season - get my old car (1963 MG Midget) back on the road - that should kill a month or two!
And the first fish of the year - a minnow. Couple of hours brook fishing after a roach, but none showed. I did have a couple of dozen nice dace, so a good trip. I was however plagued by bloody pike crashing through my swim - typical - I didn't have any pike gear!