Wednesday, 29 October 2014
After a fairly lengthy bit of toil, I can finally breathe out again and give news that my next book project is imminent. A collection of past favourites and current work, “Tangles with Pike” represents a decade of writing. Well, strictly speaking that would be more like every year since the age of about thirteen being hypnotised, thrilled, baffled and sometimes just a little obsessed by Pike. We're aiming for a late November release, with both a full colour hardback and a special e-book. And while you wouldn't always judge a book by the cover, I'm thrilled to have a David Miller special gracing the front.
Pike are still my favourite fish on the planet. I think this is for several reasons. One is the fact that even twenty-two years since my first, they still have that ability to jam my heart into my mouth and feed me that irresistible cocktail of excitement and adrenaline.
Nowadays, I tend to think pike are one of the easier species to catch. At least, if they're hungry they will tolerate line you'd never dream of using for say tench or perch fishing. But I didn't always think like this. In the very beginning, my dad would occasionally bring a bung float and sprats to the bank and I can remember thinking "this is never going to work!" Compared to my roach pole, it looked like shark tackle.
My first success was lure fishing in fact. Which is spooky, because an exact replica of the first pike plug I ever cast (below) was recently given to me by Garrett Fallon (the book designer and editor of Fallon's Angler). It was fairly shocking, to be frank. Yes, it wiggled frantically enough to be grabbed by my first ever pike, but then in mid battle it came apart in the middle. And disaster was only averted when… (I'm going to be a sod here and just say look out for the book!).
Actually, this makes me think just how much better tackle is today. Those things I regarded as the height of sophistication in about 1990 (springy line, hooks with huge barbs, crappy fibreglass rods) were actually pretty dodgy.
Anyhow, the tackle might have got way better, but I'm still after pike with varying degrees of success so many years later. Having dreamt of opening the 2014 pike season for a while but tied up with the book, it felt like a full circle effect to take my dad (above), the very person who first started me pike fishing. These days neither of us is that partial to a bung float and a bag of sprats. We catch way more these days with a fly rod in fact than we ever did in those early days.
The Grand Western Canal looked beautiful, if a bit weedy still. Nor were the pike massively hungry as we walked for perhaps two or three miles, watching and searching. I'm pleased to report that even on a Sunday, we also didn't spot any of our illegitimate friends with plastic bags in place of landing nets. Funny, but in the midst of all the current paranoia around poaching and the business of "naming waters" it seems to me that the sport could actually do with more not fewer legitimate pike anglers on the bank. That, and having people willing to talk to those in the wrong and report things rather than just whinge.
It's very easy when you're having a slow day to make excuses on the level of "this place has been poached!". But the answer usually lies with the angler or the conditions. On this occasion, it was just way too bright for the first two hours. We barely even saw a pike, other than a tiny thing that launched itself at my fly- and missed.
Pike fishing is so often a case of either drama or disappointment, with not much in the middle. And so it was on this occasion; just as evening arrived, all the fish appeared, as if some conjurer had magically restored life to a dead canal. I caught two little pound-or-so devils on my eight weight, before a well-aimed shot under a bush let to a slightly better class of carnage with a lively fish of about four pounds which I watched trailing the fly before rushing in for the kill:
All good fun, even with modest sized fish and after so many years of piking. In fact the one thing I perhaps feel less need to do these days is to slog for hundreds of miles in the hope of something huge. I will definitely be dreaming of a monster from one of the larger lakes or rivers this winter, but actually just being there is often enough. Best of all, I just love the game of hide-and-seek that the small, clear waters can offer. These have fuelled my writing as much as the more famous places and big pike I was lucky enough to catch. But I hope that as well as a few monsters, "Tangles with Pike" will do justice to an extremely varied catch of absorbing and entertaining stories, rather than the standard "here are a load of big pike and here's how I caught them" affair. The aim is definitely to capture the atmosphere, besides the figures. And I want to entertain people, not just make them think "you lucky XXXXXXX".