The Challenge: 200lb of pike, including 5 doubles, over the 2013/2014 river season. And I thought it was going to be a fairly easy one this year after the barbel challenges of the previous two seasons... Little did I know what work and the weather had install...
I managed 14 pike for 92lb 11oz and a total of 4 doubles to 16lb 1oz - Failed! I wasn't worried by a slow start, I knew the Wye over December and January would save me - but the floods had other ideas.
James had his own challenge after 200lb and 5 doubles, but after a healthy start his campaign was also ultimately finished off with the floods. Interestingly Paulos would have come the closest with only 5 trips to the Wye - he landed on some cracking days!
Next season I'm going to try again, as is James - and this time we're going to pool our resources; James showing me some local haunts, and me putting him on some Penton and Wye pike... Hopefully we'll have better luck next time...
No closed season blues this year, I'm planning to fish at least every couple of weeks while I'm waiting for the river season to re-open.
And the first trip was to Marsh Farm this weekend, in search of a tench with James and Richard. My tactics were simple; a bait and wait approach, lift method and as light gear as I dared.
Richard had a tench fairly quickly, while James wandered off exploring, the problem with fishing with these guys is they are rather good at catching fish, and as I was fishing differently I did start to doubt my tactics.
I stuck with it through very windy conditions and just after lunch I had my first bite. Then I started getting a few roach and skimmers while I waited for a larger fish to arrive.
I've never really fished for tench before and my PB was a tiny 12oz. A bumped off fish signalled the tench had arrived, next cast produced my prize, a 1lb 4oz tench (top photo) - the first of five times I was going to up my PB this afternoon.
James joined me and now it was a bite a cast. I had another tench followed by three bream.
Weighing and photographing everything slowed us down a bit but tench were new to me and I needed PBs!
With the action thick and fast me and James managed a double hook-up, two fish in the landing net at the same time.
They really didn't want to both pose at the same time for the camera, but Richard managed a photo under a stormy sky.
I had now upped my PB to a rather more respectable 4lb 7oz and running out of time one last cast upped it again to 4lb 14oz. With a swim full of fish it was difficult to drag ourselves away.
My final score was 9 tench, 3 bream and a dozen or so roach and skimmers. And an important new PB, next step is a five.
James managed 6 tench and a little roach and Richard managed 3 tench, about 9 or 10 nice bream and a dozen or so roach, skimmers and hybrids. A great day all round.
I think it's safe to say we'll all be back. I will be after a five pound tench and I think all three if us have an eye on a crucian carp PB...
June: Me and Dan hit the river minutes into the opening day with one thing on our minds: barbel! They had other ideas, just one fish to Dan, a 4lb 3oz barbel saved the session. It was the same story all month, I struggled to find a fish, eventually landing a little river carp... It was a start.
July: I eventually landed a barbel, and a couple of pike, and a couple of carp. Only four trips out all month, another story that was going to last all season. The fish really weren't feeding yet and time was so limited by work.
August: Dan lead the way with the barbel, landing 4 nice fish including a double of exactly 10lb - it was to be his last fish and last trip of the season, bloody work! I just landed one barbel, 7lb 13oz, my best of the season!
September: Four trips out, three barbel. It made me realize just how lucky Dan and I had been over the past three seasons - with no time on the water even locating a fish was virtually impossible.
October: Didn't wet a line. Didn't fish. Crap!
November: I went fishing! Three times! The first saw me land a barbel, the next saw me bag up on mini bream - but that was just what the doctor ordered; a few bites to strike at. Next myself and James hit The Royalty, it was a tough day with just one jack to James - but I will be back.
December: A trip to Walthamstow with James resulted in a double, I was just the net-man but it's a tough pike water. I faired better at Penton Hook, landing 3 pike including two doubles - I wasn't worried about the Pike Challenge, the Wye would save that. And then the floods came!
January: And the floods stayed! A couple of OOS from a flooded river before Paulos arrived and we had a blast at a flooded Wye. We managed two proper days in high water, Paulos taking the honors with three pike including two 16s. I added a jack and a sixteen to my season - the pike challenge was in trouble!
February: Go away flood! We hit the Avon, but the conditions were ridiculous - I will be back when the season reopens - and I presume James and Richard will be up for it as well. The only other session resulted in some OOS trout, providing a 5lb plus challenge for some April fly fishing.
March: Thank God Paulos turned up and showed me how to catch pike! Ten pike including 4 doubles and the fish of the season, a 23lb 12oz pike - fantastic. I managed 5 to 14lb 5oz - my pike challenge was gone. A final trip to Penton Hook produced only a day sat in the sun. Not my season!
Another season is in the history books, and despite a long day on Penton Hook Island I didn't manage to add to my pike tally... Still it was great to be out on the water in the sunshine (better than being at work!).
Full season report to follow - I'm sure it won't take long this year! Highlights that spring to mind are all of being the net-man; netting Dan's double barbel, a double pike for James and that fantastic twenty for Paulos...
Back on The Wye today, and Paulos and myself were on the water for first light. Conditions weren't perfect, but they were the best they've been for months - water was a lot lower, visibility had improved and we were fishing over a large shoal of active bleak - expectations were high!
But it took nearly four hours before the first run, and a 10lb 14oz pike to Paulos, cracking start. Had they finally switched on? Another four hours later Paulos had another run...
But this was one of those runs we're all after, I could see he was connected to a lump... Paulos gradually gained the upper hand and I climbed down the steep bank for net duty.
A fantastic 23lb 12oz pike, he was really showing me how it was done! Nice one Paulos.
We thought they might go on the feed now, but the rest of the afternoon produced a few dropped runs, a near miss on a plug and a hook-pull each (mine looked about 15lb, gutting). Only a little jack saved me from a blank, the day belonged to Paulos.
It was brilliant to see a twenty, it's been a while, Paulos' second biggest ever, well done that man... Right, I want one!
Last trip of the season to Penton Hook and when I saw the water conditions my heart sank - it was going to be pretty difficult just to get a bait in the water.
I did manage and I was surprised when I had a run. A jack, but at this time of year I was hoping he might have been eyeing up a big female... Which kept me fishing on into the sunset, but that was the only action of the afternoon.
It was a day with blank written all over it - so it was great to end on a pike, no matter what size... I'll be back next season...