Thursday, 18 October 2012
A Pit Stop in Reading
Another week of travels for me, this time on blustery waters to meet up with Peter Wardle- a man with a great passion for pike fishing, as well as possibly the largest collection of heavy metal albums in the Reading area. It was also a chance to meet the local PAC lads and do battle with some lovely, if sometimes moody gravel pits. On an eventful two day stint we had a bit of everything in terms of both fishing and conditions: fresh autumn sunshine and a thunder storm, periods of sudden excitement followed by damp lulls. It certainly helps to have local knowledge on your side with these large, imposing waters. Pete had that alright- but not always the smoothest navigational skills when it came to negotiating the roads around Reading! In his defence, Pete doesn't drive- and I'm starting to think the area's highways were planned by sadists. Anyway, he more than made up for this by taking us to a tempting looking bay on a large pit. I started off with drifting tactics, which I always like on windy still waters. I'm also a fan of dyed baits. These might seem a gimmick, but I like a bait which really stands out- and I've found them very useful on both coloured waters and larger lakes where you want the fish to have the best chance to find your bait. Once upon a time I would paint food dyes onto my offerings (and also usually my fingers) before freezing them. More recently though, some clever bugger at Pikepro came up with the idea of little sprays- much easier. Rather than a huge vaned float I tend to go with a smaller dart style float for the job. The scene looked beautiful, but I was anticipating a lengthy wait. A big surprise then, that an hour or so in and both of us witnessed a fin break the surface in the waves. I recast my drifter bait to the spot and within seconds the float slipped under. A quick strike and I felt nothing. Luckily for me, the fish was still interested on the next cast- again, I managed to miss the first indication, but the fish then grabbed hold as I reeled in for another shot. Some days you really do count your blessings. Not only did I get a second and third chance to hook up, but the fish actually came off at the last second. Only a split second movement with the landing net from Pete saved the day! It was a long but pretty skinny low double and a big relief. I do sometimes whether my practise of using just one treble for smallish drifted baits is wise- but perhaps the odd loss is worthwhile payback for an absolute minimum of complications with unhooking? The next run was also slightly fortuitous, as both of us also had a rod out at range at the time. Pete had a sneaky bite that he couldn't quite connect with, before moments later my drop off sounded. The first sight of the fish was a huge head- followed by a long but very skinny body. Don't get me wrong, I love all the pike I catch- but in physique this fifteen pounder reminded me a little of "Plug" out of "The Bash Street Kids". The charges were levelled- "I don't know- you come here, you catch our bloody pike!" But in fairness, I would have been lucky to get a sniff without being put in the right spot for the conditions. I hope to be able to repay the favour should Pete fancy a crack at the Somerset Levels (another great place to get thoroughly lost). The second day was harder, with just one jack and a lot of walking and some phenomenally dour weather- but it was also great to meet the Reading PAC crew and give a talk on pike fly fishing and other subjects. The other real recent highlight has been introducing a friend to pike fishing. Fair play to Adam Aplin for persevering with the fly- and catching his first ever pike on the method. After a previous session looking at safe tackle for pike and casting flies in Heavitree Park, we hit the Grand Western Canal. To his credit, Adam took two fish, also lost a bigger one and now really has caught the fly fishing bug! The pike were certainly obliging for us. I had been talking up the aim of fishing the margins when a cute little jack absolutely hurtled at the fly right under the bank as we watched: The best pattern on the day was a yellow and black baitfish in a size 1. I can't emphasise enough how much easier smaller patterns are to cast when you're starting out with pike on the fly- small waters offer a brilliant introduction on lighter tackle and you can always graduate to beefier rods and bigger flies later on. I was also delighted to see Adam handle pike confidently so early and, quite literally, get to grips with the basic skills: With the Levels so flooded, the Grand Western also formed a perfect plan B for some filming with the Sky Sports "Tight Lines" crew. I had intended to show them some river piking, but that was rendered impossible by Biblical levels of rain. Never mind- you can catch the action on the show this Friday (the 19th)- or on the podcast later on.