Category Archives: Pike

Back On The Bank

Well it’s been a long time since I last updated my blog, and I have been putting it off due to circumstances which took place over the past six months.  My father, Peter, was diagnosed with Motor Nueron Disease  in November and passed away in January. To say it was a shock was an understatement as he was such a fit and energetic man who really lived his life to the fullest.

I am not going to go into the details of his illness or how incredibly brave he was, as he documented this himself in an article that was published in the Irish Times before his untimely passing. What I would like to do in the coming months is write about some of our fishing adventures together, which spanned 25 years here in Ireland. We had so many good times on the bank, and it would be a shame not to share them  here. It is going to take me some time to scan in the old photos to really do them justice, but I look forward to relaying some of our eventful fishing trips on these pages.

I seem to have had a mental block with my writing since losing dad and have not had the passion to put words down, but I know if he was looking down, he would want me to carry on with the blog because he said he really enjoyed some of my articles. The one thing he didn’t like was the title, which was a bit tongue in cheek, but he reckoned it lowered the tone of the page. I decided to take his advice and use one of the suggestions he put to me, so now the blog will be known as Running Ledger.

dad and paul fishing

On the angling front, I have been making quite a few trips out this year, and found my time at the waterside really helps with getting over dads loss, however my catch returns have not made pleasant reading. My pike fishing trips were barren to say the least and apart from some welcome jack pike, I didn’t really connect with anything substantial apart from one mid-double girl early in the season.

Unlike last year where I stuck it out on a couple of waters, I decided this winter to put on my exploring hat and ended up doing a lot of river fishing. I spent hours gleaning over ordinance survey maps looking for interesting back waters, marinas and likely looking pike hotspots. Did I uncover any? well I may have possibly, but the pike certainly weren’t in a biting mood, the days I visited.

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As quickly as winter had arrived, it was gone again and my thoughts turned to the usual summer species. I had been pondering about targeting some big hybrids and roach for a while and over the winter months I decided on a new venue to work on in between tench sessions. I didn’t have much info to go on apart from some water framework directive reports and a gut feeling.

To tackle a decent sized water, you really need to give it at least season of proper fishing, if you want to try and crack its code.  There are some waters I have been fishing for quite a few years yet I still feel I haven’t even scratched the surface with them. They all have their moods, and fish differently in certain conditions. Keeping a diary is a good start and the more information you enter the better the chances are that you will find a trend.

prebait2prebaitMy plan was to get as much feed as humanely possible into the lake to try and get the fish into the area I planned to concentrate on. This can be time consuming, costly, and a lot of hard work, but if you want to do something properly, a lot of effort and drive is needed.  I set about a prebaiting campaign which involved a lot of spombing and spodding and long range catapulting. A boat is really the best tool for the job but if you are organized you can manage to get a good amount of bait into a swim without one.

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I started to do some short morning and evening sessions around St Patricks day and although I did get some fish, I didn’t land anything special. However I was in this for the long haul and nothing good ever comes easily. It wasn’t until April that some better fish started to come out and although I was getting plenty of shoal sized hybrids in the 2-3lb bracket, it was some big roach that I caught that gave me an inclining that I might be on the right track. Fish to a few ounces shy of 2lb made a welcome appearance and gave me the confidence to carry on baiting the lake up for the remainder of the season.


It was also during April that my Aunt and Uncle came over from the UK to visit for a long weekend. It was lovely seeing them again after far too long.  Since the last time I had seen my uncle he had also caught the fishing bug. Living where he does in Suffolk, didn’t give him much best scope to fish for Salmon or Sea Trout, two species he had never caught before, and it was agreed we would hit one of my local marks to try and right that.

On the Sunday morning we headed off to a local spot on the beach armed with a fly rod and a drop shot rod, hedging our bets that one method would work. This was earlier in the season than I would normally go after them but I had heard reports that there fish were about and being caught. We hit the beach ninety minutes before low tide and spread out to try and find some bars of silver hiding between the sandbars and kelp strewn rocks.


My uncle, Tim, had travelled some distance the year before with a friend of his, to fish the famous river Towey in Wales, home to enormous sea trout.  When planning those trips you can never negate for weather conditions, and hundreds of miles of driving were wasted when the river turned out to be in flood. This made me all the more determined to try and put us on some fish, but forty five minutes into the session, things weren’t looking too good as I hadn’t seen anything move.

The tide was moving out quite quickly and as the sand bars got bigger, the remaining water gathered into smaller pools and it was in one of these that I spotted my first trout. Not one to miss a chance, I called Tim over to where I had seen it, and as luck would have it a few more started to show. I soon noticed that the widely spread out sea trout were now confined to these smaller pools and this would give us our best chance of connecting with some.


The first cast into the spot saw me connect with a super fish of about 2lb which fought like a tiger in the shallow clear water. Next cast saw Tim hook a fish and after a couple of nerve biting minutes of acrobatic flips, jumps and powerful runs,  he was proudly holding his first ever Sea Trout. The huge smile on his face made the experience all the better. He couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have such amazing fishing on my doorstep coupled with the breathtaking scenery that surrounded us.

For the next half an hour we managed to land seven good sea trout and lose as many again, with one or two really good fish spitting the hook mid fight. It was a perfect session and one of those red letter days that come along once every so often. I was just glad he was there to enjoy it.

sea trout

As May came around the corner, I deviated from the trout and silvers and made my way back out for my first tench session of the season. All winter I had been musing over various lakes which needed to be fished along with reading up on new and improved tactics and of course fine tuning the tench gear.

My aim this year is to beat my personal best of 7lb10ozs but to be honest, catching any decent tench is a pleasure, especially ones as beautiful and hard fighting as the wild ones we have here in Ireland. I kicked off my season at a social for the Tenchfishers club of Ireland on a quiet lake in Longford. It was great to catch up with the who’s who of Irish tenchers, even if the weather was more suited to Pike angling. With howling gale force winds and pummeling hail and snow it was no surprise that the tench didn’t pop out for a meet and greet.


My next few trips saw me head back to a lake I had been fishing on and off for the past couple of years. The water is a real ballbreaker and blanks are the norm, but there is always a chance of a decent fish if you put the hours in. It wasn’t until my fourth trip till I managed to get my first bite of the year. With the light fading and thoughts turning to the long trip home after another fishless session, my float bobbed then lifted right out before sailing away.

As I struck, the power of the fish as it tore out from the swim, reminded me what I had been missing all through the cold winter months. As with most battles in this lake, it was all about brute force as I gave everything to stop it getting deep into the jungle of weed. The fights always seem to last for ages but in reality, they are normally over in less than ninety seconds. They are a far cry from winching them in from distance on heavy rods, as you get to feel every lunge and surge as you both try to second guess each other.


As soon as I lifted the landing net, I realised I had just caught an old friend again from last year, what were the chances. The distinct chunk missing from her tail meant it was the 7lb 8oz fish I had caught last May. I zeroed the scales against the sling and popped her in. The initial reading on my Avon dial scales was 7lb 12ozs. I decided to check it again with my Rueben flywieights, and these gave me a reading of between 7lb 6ozs and 7lb 8ozs. I rechecked the Avons and this time they gave me a reading of 7lb 6oz, so I settled for that.

7lb6oz girth

I had remembered to bring a measuring tape with me, as I had not got any details from her last time. From the tail to snout she measured 59cms or just shy of 23 inches in old money. Around her belly her circumference went 44cms or just over 17 inches. It was interesting to see she is a longer fish than my personal best and I have no doubt later in the season would be close to 8lb. However there was slight disappointment that I had caught the same Tench again and not a new one. My thoughts about the lake having a small stock of fish may run true.


I managed three more sessions there in the past 10 days and I have managed just one more fish which was a lovely male of 5lb 3oz. Both fish came on the float and took corn and maggot cocktail. I have another lake I have been meaning to fish for a while, with the only thing putting me off being the long walk.  I think now is the time to bite the bullet, travel light to see what she has to offer. I will also be back out after the big perch that I was targeting during the Autumn. Suffice to say I have my eye on a fish which was far bigger I caught in September, watch this space.

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Wet Wet Wet

Well what a grueling winter we are having weather wise. The rain has not stopped here in Sligo for it seems an eternity but I have to spare a thought for those in some other areas of the country who seem to have been hit a lot worse with major flooding and damage done to property and businesses.

Although the weather has been atrocious here, it has only really affected me on the fishing side of things luckily with rivers looking like something out of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and lakes doubling in size in some cases. I have never really been too worried about arctic conditions when winter fishing as I luckily don’t feel the cold too much but this extra water has really slowed the pike down considerably on the few venues I can actually get near. I have made it out twice in the past fortnight and it has been very slow going. The deadbaits have not been touched at all and I have had to turn to doing some lure fishing to pick up the odd fish here and there.

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My first trip was to a backwater on the Shannon and I planned to mix the fishing up a bit with one rod out for pike whilst doing some feeder fishing for some perch. My hope was that the perch would like the shelter of the backwater and would probably be quite happy to follow the bait fish there whilst in turn the pike would not be too far behind. The theory was good but the conditions just wouldn’t allow for proper fishing with 60-70mph winds causing mayhem all around me. I had just purchased a Fox Supa Brolly as I felt it would be useful for the winter pike sessions plus be handy for the overnighters I would start in spring. If nothing else was gleaned from the session, at least I got to test the brolly out in some serious conditions and it held up admirably thank god. It fits nicely into my quiver and will be a godsend for my tench fishing as I really am sick of dragging the bivvy out for short sessions. I didn’t bother going for the overwrap or choose the  brolly system as I don’t think they were necessary, but have got a mozzi panel for it to get away from the biting midges we get here in Ireland on certain waters when the weather warms up that can really be a pain the arse.

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I managed another short afternoon session at the weekend and decided to head to a local enough lake that usually produces a fish or two for me when the going is tough. On arrival I was met by high water levels and a muddy bankside, but not so bad that I couldn’t set up and get the rods into a suitable area. I decided to mix it up a bit with deadbaits both popped up and on the bottom and chopped and changed with a variety of baits. After a fruitless couple of hours I changed my set up to a drifter float, as the wind was coming from behind me and I could get the bait into some fishy looking areas. This along with some sink and draw with a smelt didn’t even get a sniff. The sight of my second otter this winter was a bit of a surprise. It spent the afternoon working the lake in search of its lunch and was soon joined by a cormorant who seemed to be faring better on the hunting front, popping up with small roach and rudd every few minutes. Knowing that there were some decent perch in the lake I decided to give the rubber jigs ago before darkness fell but to my dismay I had left my lure boxes back at the house…. clutz.

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Rooting through my ruck bag I did find an unopened lure still in its box under all the unnecessary clutter I had brought with me. It was another of the lures I had won in a competition early last year with the crew but had not had a chance to use yet. On having a look at it, I remembered I had seen it before in one of Dermot Ogle’s excellent posts on his blog. He seemed to really rate it and the guy knows his stuff, so I made up a wire trace and put the Iron Claw – Phanto Glide through its paces.

iron claw

First cast and I had a delicate take which let go almost immediately. Having not lure fished for a while I got my head back into it and told myself to strike at the next bit of interest. A couple of casts later and I got another opportunity and this time made no mistake hooking up to a feisty wee pike. Although it was under 10lb, it was more than welcome and gave a good account of its self on the light gear. With darkness nearing I decided to cover another bit of water with the lure which I noticed had a number of ball bearings in its body. Was this what was rousing the pike to have a snack ? After another few casts I got a take right at the margin and it was a much better fish but as quick as you like it let go and sunk back to the depths. I gave her a number of casts in the same area but she seemed put off by my presence. Once bitten, twice shy.

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Walking back to my gear I gave the lure a couple of casts along the way and did manage one more jack of about 8lbs  which felt like he was on steroids. I reckoned if I had got the lure out earlier I could have had a few more fish on the bank and it gave me something to ponder. How many fish have I missed out on whilst sitting behind my deadbait rods enjoying a coffee and catching up on some books when I could have been working harder for the fish. I do not do much lure fishing for pike apart from early in the season and maybe a bit in the spring. I seemed to have got myself into a rut of fishing with baits in the depths of winter as it has always been the way I had structured my pike season. Of course a lure angler is severely restricted when he fishes from the bank but quite a few of the waters I fish have some good depths close to the shore with quite a lot of bank space for lure fishing so there really is no excuse. It’s something I will definitely be doing more of in the coming weeks before I finish up my piking.

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Next weekend sees the National Angling Show taking place in Dublin at the Swords exhibition centre. I will hopefully be heading up for the event as it will be nice to catch up with a few fishing pals and also see what the show has to offer as I haven’t been to it since 2007. The same day sees the Irish Specimen Awards taking place too and I am due to collect an award for a tench I caught this year. I haven’t claimed a specimen for donkeys years as the whole process of getting scales certified and calibrated along with filling in all the paperwork never really interested me. However I have been fishing with my mate Craig Murphy who has the scales done and is a dab hand at going after specimens of a wide variety of species and as he was with me the day I caught the tench he said I should enter it in. It will be nice to get out for the day at the event and see some fellow fishermen and trade tales of fish caught and lost. A special congratulations must go out to Jason Dingle who broke the roach/bream hybrid record with a fine fish of 7.44lb which was caught in May of last year at the famous Monalty Lough in Monaghan.


I received some tasty products from Pallatrax in the post this week and can’t wait for the weather to warm to try them out. I had asked Simon at head office to send on some of their pastes as I had quite a bit of success last year using some homemades ones for the tench and they got me some bonus fish when everything else failed. I had always associated paste with fishing at commercials or using it to boost my carp baits, but was really impressed with the way tench took my homemade concoctions when float fishing last summer. On one evening I had not had a touch on my usual maggot and castor hookbait and switching to a fishy pellet based mix I had made and landed four nice fish in the last hours of light. Since then I always carry some in my bait bag when going after the tench and it has proved to be succesful on a number of lakes that I am sure have never seen paste or pellets in any great numbers before.

I got a nice variety of flavours to try including the very aromatic ‘Crave’, and the ‘Jungle’ which has a nice nutty biscuit twang to it. The ‘Winter Almond’ flavour has been really producing this winter in the UK for carp and it is another which I think the tench might have a liking for whilst some old faithfuls like Scopex, Strawberry and Pineapple should also work a treat. The texture is such that it will definitely stay on the hook well enough to fish the margins and I have also made up some coil rigs to try on the feeder rods which should be interesting. Before the tench do walk up from their slumber though I hope to hit the Lough in Cork for some early season carping and I will certainly incorporate the them on one of my bottom baits.

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On a final note, I sent Korum a mail last week asking if they sold the locking nuts for the accessory chair attachments separately as I couldn’t find any online. I had lost a few on my travels last year somewhere along the line which rendered my attachments useless. I had tried with some bolts I got in the local hardware store but they didn’t work out. They asked my for my address and said they would send some of free of charge. The post man arrived to the door this morning with a pair of them in a jiffy bag which has saved me having to go out and buy new attachments for the chair. Big thumbs up to whoever it was in the Korum office who sorted that out for me. Cheers…

As I am writing this the forecast snow has just started and the temperatures have really dropped in the last 24 hours. This might slow the fishing down even further but as long as the rain stays away I don’t mind too much at all. I think we just need a week or two of dry weather and this could improve prospects no end.  At least my wee girl Pippa is happy at the sight of it arriving..

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2014, A Fresh Start

Well a new year is upon us and with that come new goals and targets for the coming season. 2013 was a better year for me fishing wise. I had some very enjoyable sessions on the bank and although some targets were not achieved others were and I had some great days out with some good fishing buddies along the way with a new personal best to show for it.

The highlight of the year for me was my new personal best tench, however as a result my other fishing suffered somewhat from my blinkered approach to the species. Not that I am compaining, as at the start of the year I had set my goal out to catch a seven pound fish and feel that if I was to gain my goal, I had to put the hours in. This did however see me not trying for other species as much as I wanted too. I also felt that once I had caught my target fish I took my foot off the gas a little fishing wise, and maybe this was because I was exhausted after trying to juggle early mornings and late evenings and all the driving that goes with it, with work and family commitments. I also think that I lost my mojo for a few weeks which is never a good thing for an angler who is trying to hunt for bigger fish.

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Other highlights of the year were getting to fish some new spots that I had earmarked for quite some time and although some of these excursions weren’t as fruitful as I would have liked some of the places will certainly be revisited this year with the hope that I can crack them.

For this season I have as always made a plan for my fishing and if I keep to it which isn’t always the case, then hopefully some more cracking fish will grace my landing net. The year has started off slowly for me with a culmination of adverse weather conditions and household chores and family matters that had to come first before I could continue with my search of some big pike. I have managed to get on the bank a couple of times but my camera has seen more action than my rods, after some breathtaking dawn and dusk scenes.

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My plan is to keep on hounding the pike until the cut off point which is usually around St Patrick’s day as it’s generally then the fish are spawning and other species start to make an appearance. I also plan to try and catch an elusive 2lb roach this winter/spring. This is a project that really does excite me as I will be planning some sessions on two new waters, that rarely see a coarse angler but definitely hold some absolute clonkers, and from what I have heard could do fish a lot bigger than my target. As with most fishing in Ireland, weather and water levels will dictate to when I get to approach these red finned beauties and all the action could come within a small window, so I plan to have everything packed and ready for them as I await a phone call to tell me they are on and I should get myself off down to the river for what could be all or bust.

Come spring I also hope to catch up with some specimen bream and hybrids which have eluded me for the past couple of years. If you have read previous blog posts, you will know it was not from a lack of effort but more – wrong place wrong time. Prebaiting is the name of the game here and a lot of it, which isn’t easy when some of the venues are not too close to home. However, if I keep an eye on the conditions and see a good opportunity coming my way, one big hit of bait and then fishing at the right time could see me hit the jackpot.

speci bream - monaghan

All this comes from reading some really interesting theories about big bream and their feeding habits a few years ago on some Irish fishing forums where people like Bill Collins have really opened the eyes to a lot of anglers on how to approach these fish. Keeping an eye out just for weather conditions alone is not enough, there is a lot more involved and learning to watch how air pressure rises and fall on a barometer and how it effects fish will certainly put you in with a better chance being on the bank when the fish are actually feeding. If you have the chance you should certainly do some googleing on the subject and you should come across the posts which are on certain forums and the information written in them is like gold dust for the serious angler.

As soon as the bream will have gone to their spawning grounds it should hopefully be time for the tincas to come out to play if winter doesn’t continue on until June like last year. Having noted a lake or two with some really good fish in I plan to carry on targeting these with the hope I can add to my pb from last year. It may sound like a cliche but it really is a joy sitting in a swim with the mist coming off the lake in the early morning in the hope that when your float next dips you will be attached to an angry tench bolting for the nearest reed bed. Although my target is to beat my pb, I don’t think it is beyond the realms of possibility that I could come a across an Irish 8lber and it is this incentive that will keep me plugging away.


Although I will continue to fish for tench throughout the summer once the prime months of May and June have passed I will not be putting in the same amount of time for them as I hope to really try and get back into some proper carp fishing this year. Location really is my main pit fall when it come to my carping as most of the north west of Ireland is barren of decent waters, but there are a couple of ultra low stock lakes that I have been fishing this past year or so with not much to show for. A handful fish in ten acres really is a challenge but they are catchable and if I do manage to land one, it will really make my year. I do however plan to do some travelling this season to some more productive fisheries both in Ireland and hopefully the UK to help put the odds in my favour.

17lb common

One of the fun things about writing a blog is it tends to kick my arse into diversifying somewhat to make it more interesting to read, and I will certainly be back out trying for some salmon and sea trout this year as it would be a sin not to target them when they are so plentiful in the waters where I live. But as with everything there is so much to do and so little time. If I manage to crack even a few of my targets this year then I certainly won’t be disappointed.


On a different note, I am delighted to have been asked to join the Pallatrax team this year. Pallatrax are one of the most innovative and forward thinking fishing companies out there as far as I can see and 2014 really is going to be a busy year for us. If you have not come across them , they are responsible for products like the ‘Stonze’ range of weights which are patented worldwide and really are a one off system which are environmentally friendly. Their ‘The hook’ range have been a favourite of mine for quite a few years and is a pattern that has put a lot of fish on the bank for me and one I have complete faith in.

It is not just their end tackle they have become well known for though, their bait range is also one of a kind. Their ‘naturals’ range really caught my eye when I was doing my fisheries management course a couple of years ago and was learning about invertebrates and fly life which fish naturally feed on. The range includes a plethora of naturals like gammarus, daphnia, bloodworm which I am really looking forward to trying out this year in certain angling situations.

naturals range

Pallatrax also do a wide range of boilies, squabs, pellets, method mixes and quality glugs which have been responsible for some big catches all over Europe. For a full look at their range and to check out how some of their products work, check out their website at: as well as their facebook page for up to the minute reports at:

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Pallatrax also expanded last year with the launch of their sister company ‘Lone Angler’. The company is fronted by barbel angling legend Trefor West and they do a great range of quality rods and luggage as well as some other interesting baits concepts. For a full low down on what ‘Lone Angler’ has to offer you can see their products on the website:

I would like to thank company head honcho Simon ‘Pom’ Pomeroy for asking me to join the team as well as big fish guru Jez Brown for his help and look forward to seeing how this exciting range of products work in my angling situations here in Ireland.

Well that’s it for today, I would just like to wish you all a happy new year and hope that you enjoy your fishing as much as possible and catch some whackers along the way.

On Your Pike

December has really crept up on me and if it wasn’t for the decorations sprouting up everywhere, I would have sworn it was still late October. Apart from a brief cold snap a couple of weeks ago, the weather has been unseasonably mild and I am not sure if this has been affecting the pike fishing or not. Well I say pike fishing in general, however some lucky anglers have been getting among the crocs so it has most likely just been me who was back to blank for the past couple of weeks.

After my last catch I thought I could really kick on and get among the fish, but as ever pike fishing has a cruel way of kicking you in the arse and just when you think you have got their number, they turn their nose up to every bait you offer them.  In all likely hood though the truth probably paints a different picture. The last couple of times I have been out the conditions have not been conducive to catching the bigger pike I yearn for.

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Bright cloudless skies with not a breath of fresh air don’t fill me with optimism when I am on the bank, and as I can’t just up sticks and hit the water when the conditions looks right, I have to take what cards the weather man deals me on my free days.

I know it is a cliché, but as I have said in previous blogs, fishing is not all about catching fish it’s about so much more. Each trip is a learning curve and even if I blank, I try to take something positive from the experience. I mentioned my scatterball approach in my last blog and since then I promised myself I would stick it out on a water, try and learn as much as possible about the place and hope that my time on the bank would in turn produce some fish.

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Well you guessed it my following three sessions didn’t produce a single bleep on my alarms, follow on a lure or bob on my float. I did however learn more about the water in question. A few hours plumbing around various swims and finding out the depths helped give me an idea of where the drop offs are and where the fish are likely to hold up at various times of year.

Another clue that helped somewhat was to keep my eyes peeled on the water to watch where shoal fish were topping in the mornings and evenings. Find the prey and the predators should not be too far away. I was also lucky to bump into a local angler known across the land as the ‘bream king’, but who also is a dab hand at tempting big girls from their lairs. He had spent some time on the water in the past and was very helpful in pointing out what he knew about the place. Cheers mate. All these things I find help put the odds in your favour for when you do get a good day to be out and help you make the right decisions on where best to fish.

So following on from the blanks, I got a pass to get out again this week and with things looking better weather wise I felt a lot more confident about my chances of getting a fish. From both experience and reading what the experts write, bigger pike do like to have a munch before a colder front arrives, and with such a system on the way coupled with a new moon, I was out the door this morning quicker than rat up a drain pipe.

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On arriving at the lake a stiff breeze was blowing right in my face and as it was not a cold one I hoped this might bring the silvers with it to my bank. On the downside casting any great distance wasn’t helped by the gusts. However this was not too much of a problem as a lob of thirty to forty yards is all that is needed in this swim to get a nice depth.

I set up two deadbait rods one with a smelt and the other with a roach. These were both popped up off the bottom about 18 inches to try and slow down the crays which can have a field day on your baits. Even though popping them up won’t stop them I find it does keep your baits intact a little longer which is helpful when trying to catch a pike.

Don't mess with the Crays, they'll mess you up

Don’t mess with the Crays, they’ll mess you up

Both baits were in the water by 8am which was pleasing as I feel a lot more confidence piking in the morning than the afternoon at the moment, plus I had an appointment with my three-year old and a Christmas tree at 4pm.  The first few hours went by like the past few sessions without as much as a murmur but I wasn’t too disheartened, as when the bigger fish are on the move the smaller ones sometimes make themselves scarce if they think they are on the menu. Well that was what I was hoping was happening out there. Cheeky 3lbers hiding in the weedbeds as their mothers went out to grab a bite to eat.

One thing I have been finding a lot of at the lake was crushed up crayfish shells and discarded claws on the shoreline. I had wondered if Mr Heron was to blame as I had seen him out on most trips poised silently waiting for a small roach to get within striking distance.

My question was answered in a more abrupt manor however when an otter hoped out of the water and onto the bank next to me with a mini lobster in his mouth. I don’t know who jumped highest as we both looked each in shock not expecting each others company. As quickly and quietly as he had arrived, he dived straight back into the water laughing at the fool on the bank covered in coffee. I know otters are not everyone’s cup of tea for various reasons but in deep rural Ireland on a vast loughs they are a sight to behold up close. I just wish I had my camera to hand at the time.

Back to the fishing and with not much happening I decided to crack out a chicken sandwich salvaged from the roast the night before in an attempt to trick the pike into following my lead. With just one bite left my left hand buzzer on the smelt gave a couple of beeps. Had the fish read the script ? I reached over and felt the faintest of movement on the braid, enough to reel down and strike. Solid resistance was met and it felt decent too, then within a split second the fish must have roared up from 14ft below to crash out of the water letting me know I had hooked a proper one.

battered trace after the fish, and small popped up smelt

battered trace after the fish, and small popped up smelt

The fight was fairly tame until she got within netting distance and started to show off again tailwalking out of the water. I got the net under within a few moments and that was when the real fun started. My 42inch landing net snapped at the spreader block and the fish somehow came out and tore up the bank wiping out my other rod in the process.

I managed to compose myself and kicked my other rod back out of the way whilst trying to lure her back into arms reach so I could chin her.  She had tangled herself in my other line but I managed to  slip the hand under her gill and got her out onto the unhooking mat with braid  wrapped around my feet nearly sending me flying. She was nicely hooked in the scissors and the hooks popped out with ease. On the zeroed scales she went 23lb on the nose and to say I was delighted was an understatement.

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I set up the phone for some self takes instead of the camera as I wanted to try out a new app which lets me shoot 10 shots in 30 seconds. With the phone balanced on my bag they went surprisingly well, apart from some gurning faces when she had a flap in my arms. She went back in the water none the worse for wear from her experience and gave me a soaking with a flick of her tail.

As with most big fish days that was the only bite of the session. If I had stayed on till darkness who knows what could have happened. However, I was more than happy with my mornings work and I drove back home a little earlier than usual so  I could spend a bit of extra time sorting out Christmas matters with my girl. It’s funny how a decent fish can turn a grumpy old sod into a happy chap in the space of a few moments.

 (Self Take – Out-take, don’t drop her)

december pike 291


Double Trouble

Well it’s been a grueller of a couple of weeks with a succession on blanks on the pike front. They say effort equals reward and if that was the case I should have a volley of big fish to my name, but that’s the mystery of fishing for you and if it was easy it definitely would not be fun.

I have been fishing a variety of waters in search of some decent fish which goes against my new found mantra after my tench fishing this year. I promised I would pick a decent water and stick with it, but with various invitations and opportunities arising I have been galavanting around various counties.


On one hand I suppose it breaks up the monotony of blanking when you are doing it on different venues but am I really learning anything about these waters when making fleeting visits ? I suppose you do learn something when you fish a lake even the once, be it plotting depths and finding swims, to noting feeding times and of course through conversations with other anglers.

I have been teaming up with angling buddy Craig Murphy quite a lot this winter and although things have been slow the fishing has been eventful, be it smashing rods or injuring myself. The couple of times he has been out on his own, he has managed to get a few fish making me conclude I must have had some piking curse bestowed on me.


Luckily my piking hoodoo lifted yesterday when I made an early morning visit to another lake I have had on the radar for a number of years. During a recent visit to Dublin with the family I did my back in badly, so my venue options were restricted to an easy access lake with little or no walking with my tackle. This spot conveniently had waterside parking, so with heat patches on my back and a couple of painkillers I made the short enough journey to Mayo to see if I could winkle one out.

I am not a big fan of lakes that have easy access as they tend to attract lazy anglers who don’t know what bins or black sacks were made for. Because these places are naturally busy places for anglers of all sorts, the fishing can be a hit and miss affair too for a variety of reasons, so my expectations were not too high. However on arrival at the lake and a recci along all the fishable spots I was pleasantly surprised to find little or no rubbish which always gives you heart. Either the anglers that had been fishing there use some sort of common sense or it hadn’t been getting much attention at all. Either way the day had started on a positive note.

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My bait selection was pretty poor to be honest, comprising of 90% sea baits as I hadn’t had a chance to replenish my freezer. I did have a packet of pollan though which is a good all round bait to try on a new venue as they are highly visual and of course pop up naturally if they are packed properly. Sadly mine didn’t pop up so I used a trick Craig showed me of bait flossing the gills and just above the anal cavity to make an air tight chamber and then injected the culprit with air to give it some buoyancy. The other rod was sent out with a fresh half herring which was also popped up with a polyball a foot or so of the clean lake bed.

With the baits out I got the coffee on and settled down for another blank. On the subject of coffee, I find it a godsend on cold mornings when pike fishing and the stronger the better. It may sound like over kill but I nick the percolator from the kitchen while she is still in bed so I can make a decent brew. I came across a new coffee (to me) in the local supermarket recently and it certainly keeps you alert when you have only had a couple of hours sleep prior to a session. When I noticed it was numbered 6++ on the ‘coffeeometer’, it went straight into the basket and then onto the bank.


Another reason to bring the percolator is it takes that bit more effort and time to make the coffee and invariably it’s when you are in the process of doing so that a run usually occurs. I don’t know how many times the aptly named ‘sandwich trick’ has saved a blank session. My dad and I came up with the name when we used to fish the canals and things would be quiet. Once you opened up your sandwich the fish would see this and nab the maggots and you would strike whilst your lunch ended up in the water. A great trick that used to have my poor mother busy making the heaps of sandwiches needed to get a good net together, but was well worth it.

As I was pouring my first cup of the day, right on cue the delk gave a couple of bleeps on the pollan and I struck into my first pike in what seemed like an eternity. After a couple of head shakes the fish came in easily enough and my hoodoo had been broken. Never had I been so happy to see a jack pike.


I have been using quick links to attach my traces this year as I find it is easier to just un-clip it from the mainline to deal with the fish and to also attach another baited trace to the rod to get your bait out again quickly. When pike fishing, I find you may only get one or two feeding windows in a day and if you are not prepared correctly, you may miss out on another bite, faffing about with rebaiting traces and such. Any fish landed though, no matter how small should never play second fiddle, so always make sure you have dealt with any pike with hooks in their mouth before you’re looking to catch another.

After returning the jack my rod was back out on the same spot in double quick time with another arse injected pollan and I returned to my colder than hoped coffee with renewed optimism. Within a minute my alarm let out another couple of bleeps and I thought it was just settling. Another beep and I was onto the rod to see it nearly getting pulled in as I had forgotten to open the bail arm. So much for pike not liking resistance.

The fish gave the same few head shakes and I thought another jack until it got to the margins and she thundered up and down the swim for a minute or two. Slipping the net under my first double of the season more than made up for the long line of blanks of previous weeks.


She was hooked nicely in the scissors and went back strong after a couple of quick self takes on the camera. Sadly the pictures didn’t come out as well as I had hoped due to the light and angle of the camera. A workman and his tools etc etc.

By the time I got back to my coffee it was stone cold but there was plenty more in the packet and things were looking good for the day. The session was cut short though when I got a text from the wife telling me the little one and her had woken up with chest infections. The gear was packed up quick smart so I could get home to look after the girls, but with a couple of fish and the curse lifted I was happy with my mornings work.

With the recent rain, I have been mainly fishing lakes as the rivers have been high and dirty and only as I write this are they fining down and probably in perfect fishing condition. The plan is another visit to a lake in the morning as the feeling is the pike should feed up before this forecast cold front. When the weather does strike, I am going to turn to the rivers for a week or so as I don’t find they are as effected by severe drops in temperature as lakes are.


Hopefully my next blog will bring more words on catching fish rather than pontificating about the positives of blanking. It would also be a bit special if my first 20 of the season was a hard fighting lady of the river. We live in hope.

On another note, I have set up a facebook page for this blog and you can find it at

Going With The Flow

Kicking Off The Pike Season

I have had a fairly uneventful past week on the fishing front though not through the lack of trying. I have done four half day sessions spread out around the county of Sligo without much return, but it has been most enjoyable searching out some new spots and earmarking some for later in the winter.

stone  rainbow

One thing I wanted to do more of this season is river piking as there is quite a bit of running water near me and it’s fairly unexploited apart from the trout and salmon guys. Without much info to go on, the trick is to pack light and travel as much as possible to search out a hidden gem or two. This is never easy for me as I always cram as much gear as I ‘think’ I might need, but in reality a quarter of it is necessary and probably less than that is used on a day session.

So after a trial run on the first day, I slimmed down my gear to the bare essentials and kept luxuries to a minimum. I dumped the chair and substituted it with my unhooking mat. With the changeable weather I wear waders or salopettes so getting damp when sitting on it isn’t a problem. When I am river fishing, I like to keep as busy as possible anyway, so there isn’t much sitting between leap frogging deadbait rods to working pools with a float fished dead to chucking some lures into some likely areas.

river fishing 031

I pack whatever gear I need into a carryall which isnt too bad on the back and is big enough for stuff like my tacklebox, lure box, camera bag, lunch, jacket, bait and scales. The only other thing I have to take then is my rod quiver which can take five rods, but I usually just pack a couple of deadbait rods and and a lure rod. These coupled with bank sticks, a brolly and landing net and I am ready to head off into the wilderness like Bear Grylls.

With nearly all the rivers in Sligo getting a run of migratory fish, these are the favoured quarry by locals, so I don’t hear of much on the pike grapevine, and in a way this is the beauty of the fishing. The couple of stretches I fished over the week really hadn’t had any serious attention from anglers. There were numerous swims where I had to hack my way through the undergrowth to get near the waters edge and a bit more work to make it safe enough to land any possible fish hooked. A boat would be perfect but a lot of the stretches are not navigable, so your only option is to put the miles in.

river fishing 021

When river fishing especially in winter you have to take into account the water levels. Apart from the obvious effects of flood water, like flow, colouration and debris causing obstruction to your fishing, sometimes you just can’t get near the banks to fish at all. This has been the case over the past few winters, so I have been making the best of the opportunity to get out there and test out new swims while the rivers are at near summer levels.

Even though the fishing has been slow, I am happy with what I have found through these reccies and I have some spots that will be fished again throughout the winter when conditions allow and hopefully I will encounter some angry river crocs.

river fishing 029

Another water I tried in the past week was a small lough in Leitrim which I sometimes pop by on my travels. The owners of the lake allow me to do the odd fishing session on it as long as I don’t annoy the sheep to much. I have only fished it really in the winter for the pike but I do know it holds good bream and a couple of other species….. The problem I had when I rocked up last week was that the cold weather had not yet killed off the massive weed population the lake has. In the winter it always had some weed, but this was well over the top and I was forced to fish the few margins that were clear to try and winkle one out.

The outcome was pretty predictable and I didn’t see a fish but I will be back in the new year for a session or two as I know it holds the odd good pike. From doing research with college, I found some old papers dating back to the 60’s of surveys that were carried out on the lake and even then some big girls turned up in the nets. Sadly one fish I caught last year there was quite heavily covered in cancerous tumours on it’s head and mouth which were quite shocking to look at. Hopefully it was just an isolated incident.

sick pike 1

The month has not been a complete disaster though and I have been catching some perch along the way as I hone my skills with the jigs. Although I have not hit any monsters, it has been interesting to see what patterns work in different swims, depths, colours etc and as I keep a fishing diary I can read back and see what worked when. What I also do before I head out on each session is to take a screen grab picture on my iphone of the days weather picture on XCWeather. The picture gives me the hourly weather and I can correlate all the information into my diary when I get back home.

perch fight

The rivers have been a lot kinder to my pal Mark Harrigan though this week, who I think I have mentioned in this blog before. The man giant has a knack of winkling out the bigger ones and he continued his hot streak at the weekend with a brace of twenties from the river. The first one of the day took a liking to his popped up roach and hit the scales at 20lb 9ozs. An hour later and his float fished roach sailed away on his other rod and this resulted in a fine 24lb 8oz lady. He narrowly missed out on breaking the 30lb barrier last year with a 29lb+ fish and I have no doubt he will manage it this year if he keeps up this form.


Tomorrow sees me get my first boat session in for the pike and I will be hitting a lake I have not fished for a couple of years. The water does do some big girls on occasion and although the sport is never hectic, the chance of a better one is on the cards. I have just spooled up two reels with some brand new braid as I hadn’t yet changed it for this season and didn’t have full confidence in my last stuff. I picked up 600 yards of 50lb Berkley Whiplash in green which has a really thin diameter of 0.17mm. The funny thing is I have never used this braid before even though I think it was one of the first ones to come on the market donkeys years ago. I will keep you updated on its performance through the winter. I also grabbed some big cheap as chips high visibility sea floats from the local tackle shop which I prefer to use on big waters as they are less prone to breaking on the cast, and double up as cracking pike floats.

oct tackle blog 003

A chance family outing to the local farmers market on Saturday morning turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The fish monger who travels down from Donegal every weekend for the market liked a bit of pike fishing himself, and after chewing the cud with him for half an hour he did me a great deal on some bulk herring and mackerel. I managed to fill half the freezer for pennies with enough sea baits to keep me going for a while. Now I just have to look after the freshwater side of bait and I should be ok for the forseeable future.

On another note, I was delighted to get an unexpected text from my pal Paul McCreivy who told me I had won an award for my tench from earlier in the season. I would like to thank the guys from the Anglo-Irish Tench Group who have a page on facebook and awarded me the best tench of 2013. They posted me out a certificate and a print out of my picture with the fish which I didn’t have. The funny thing is that I have not been on facebook for a few years so I don’t know how they got the picture, but it is always nice to win something, especially when it’s not expected.

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To keep with the moving times, I have set up a Twitter account for this blog and will be setting up a Facebook page too in the next week so I can post updates. I will also be doing a competition shortly on the blog for a great tackle bundle. To be in with a chance to win the goodies, be sure to check in for further details.

Getting Jiggy With It

Well Autumn is here and my general tench fishing is slowing down with maybe a couple of short sessions left before I pack it in. I have been trying for the bream on my local water but have not had much over 3lb after a lot of prebaiting and night fishing which is quite disheartening. When I first moved to Sligo five years ago they were so abundant and even fishing in bright sunshine you could still quite easily mount up a 100lb bag if you had put some feed in. Since then I have noticed that the roach have exploded and really made a difference to the make-up of the lough.

quick bream session

The sessions now seem to be dominated with roach and hybrids averaging 1lb and topping out at 3lb or so. This would be fun fishing if you were looking for a relaxing day out but when you are targeting larger specimens, it is frustrating.

This week also saw the family come down with the annual September sniffles so I had to abandon a trip to Leitrim in favour of something local. I have a small lake which is close by and is handy for a spot of rudd bashing and in the winter also gives up reasonable sport for pike. Although I have not had any monsters from it, you will get a run or two over the course of the day with fish to mid doubles which is fun when I fancy popping out for a few hours.

The lake also holds some perch which I have not fished for before so I thought this would be an interesting little exercise for an afternoon. I planned to fish two rods. One was to be set up with a free running feeder set up and the other a light spinning outfit with some rubber plastics to see if that stirred some interest.


The lake in question is lightly fished as it is on private land and takes quite a bit of work to get to the waters edge let alone make a swim. It is surrounded with tall rushes so a bit of hacking is required to get you close to the very deep margins which slope off to 15ft or so within a foot or two of the reeds. This I thought would suit some jigging and I had ample depth to work some movement into the plastic worms and hopefully invoke a strike from a perch.

I would usually use the ledger set up on a feeder rod but seeing as I was spinning too, I decided to place the rods on the sticks with the lightest bobbin I had in the box coupled with the Delkim set up on the highest sensitivity to register any movement. Groundbait was simple enough crumb with some worm extract mixed into a fluffy consistency and used to plug each end of the feeder filled with chopped worm. I made a couple of casts to get a small bit of feed in just off a point in the rushes then left it there to do it’s work.

jigging 001

spot the dog

The Spinning rod was cracked out and a selection of worms and grubs were laid out on the mat ready for any chopping and changing. I loaded the rod with the trusty nanofil which I have actually become a fan of over the past few weeks after an initial scepticism. I have some tungsten jig heads which are heavier than your standard ones and looked to be the ticket to get the light plastics out any distance without it looking too gaudy.

First cast sent the jelly out to the depths and a couple of seconds saw it hit the deck. I started to put some action into the worm type jig and straight away the rod hooped over and initial thoughts were weeds until something cruised off away for a few seconds then nothing. If it was a perch it was a damn big one, but reeling in saw a clean break and I kicked myself for not putting on a wire trace.

So I set up again but this time with six inches of wire and worked the swim for a couple of casts to try and search out a hungry shoal of stripeys. Fourth cast and the rod hooped over again but this time the line didn’t part. After a spirited fight I landed a jack of 6-7lb. Popping him on the mat I noticed when opening his mouth my other jig was just inside his lip. Thank god for that, there is nothing worse than leaving a hook in a fish especially from a school boy error. He went back none the worse for his double hook-up and I set out working the jig again.

jigging 014

Fanning the casts over the bay meant covering as much water as possible. I soon was hitting some small perch which were fun on the light rod but not what I was after. With no action to the sleeper rod I decided to up sticks and move round to make another swim at the far end of the lake.

jigging 006

When I got round the far bank the first thing I noticed was the ancient old tree which I have bivvyed under in the winter, cracked in half and laying completely horizontal on the bank. The strong winds from the night before had obviously been a hell of a lot heavier than I had noticed and this great tree had bore the brunt. Thank god I wasn’t snoring underneath.

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I set up again with both rods and worked as much of the lake as I could with my double pronged attack. For the next hour the alarm didn’t register a single beep yet bouncing the plastics in the same area produced take after take. Although I didn’t hit any monsters it was a lot of fun and definitely interesting seeing how the perch reacted to different jigs. Without doubt the king of the day was a small maggot like imitation with a tail that fluttered inticingly with every dip and rise of the rod.

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I must have had 20 odd perch and managed another small jack on the jigs with nothing to the real deal on the feeder.

I did wonder why they didn’t take an interest in the natural as I and I am sure all you have been pestered by perch on worms in the past. A comment by Gary Robinson on one of the forums made some sense to me when he advised using some jigs for the perch. He reckoned that they are primarily feeding on fry and small shoal fish in Autumn and his theory certainly seemed to have some weight behind it. Cheers Gar for saving a blank.

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Sadly due to my location in Sligo, I am limited to what tackle and bait I can get my hands on hence my somewhat crap selection of plastics. This is something I hope to rectify in the next week or so and maybe I will find the perfect jig to snare a proper sergeant.

Another trip for the perch so next week as this warmer weather has put a halt to any notions of an early season pike outing. Then again if this Indian summer persists, I may have a dabble for a late tench too… decisions decisions.

Until next time.

2013 Hopes and Dreams

This is the time of year when I am either carelessly braving the harshest elements the Irish weather has to throw at me, trying my luck at old Esox, or sat at home beside the fire, going through my angling diaries and excitedly planning my targets for the year to come. I think all of us have some targets at the start of the fishing calendar, be it to visit old haunts that have been kind to us over the years, or to visit new places we have read or heard about or found ourselves through meticulously scouring ordinance survey maps.

Other targets may be to catch a new species, beat a personal best or to catch bumper hauls or target specimens of various fish. Everyone has their own targets and plans, and the thought of getting out away from the hassles of everyday life to attempt them are what all us anglers yearn for. I myself have been fishing in Ireland close to 30 years, and was lucky enough to have been brought out at a young age like most young kids around Dublin, to fish the canals by my father and cut my teeth at catching all range of coarse species.

80s canal

I remember our annual holiday in the 80’s when we would head up to Cavan for a couple of weeks and fish the hundreds of waters which then and some even now never see another angler. Sometimes we would hit the jackpot and catch some plump wild tench or big bags of bream; sometimes we were not so fortunate. However the memories were always fond and gave me lifelong love for the sport and a desire to spend as much time on the bank as possible.

Since those earlier years I have been lucky enough to fish truly beautiful waters all over the country and have learnt invaluable angling techniques from some of the great anglers I have had the fortune to fish with. I am by no means an expert in any sector of angling, more a jack of all trades. However I do think what I have learned over the years has given me a valuable insight to the areas of angling I tend to concentrate on these days. But show me an angler who knows everything and you will be showing me someone who has possibly lost the passion for angling.

Looking back on last year, my angling conquests were very limited. My fiancé and I were lucky to give birth to a beautiful little girl, who will know doubt be joining me on my fishing trips in the years to come. The time constraints of having a new born along with going back to college to study fisheries management left me with little time on the bank. So any angling time was utilised and had to be planned to a tee.

My pike fishing never really took off for some reason although I was concentrating on a rock hard lough of massive proportions. It seemed that the other few anglers that had been on the lake had been having it just as tough, so I didn’t count myself as too unlucky. There are not many better places in this land to spend a crisp winter day blanking, and every day out on this great sheet of water  is a learning curve for future sessions.

A couple of days on some local small waters redeemed my faith in the species and although I didn’t break the 20lb barrier, I did have a couple of doubles. I also got to witness them close up as they were in the process of spawning, a sight I never tire of. At these times I don’t even bring the rods with me, instead some polaroids, binoculars and a camera and marvel at nature at its best. After catching a pike at the end of March that a few weeks previous would have been as full as a bingo bus, but had now obviously been through the rigours of spawning and was as empty as a pub on Good Friday,I thought I’d better leave them to recover and set my sights on my summer quarry.

Spawned out pike

Spawned out pike

Tench, one of my favourite summer species, are not so abundant in Sligo where I have been living for the past few years, or so I thought, but I will get into that in another article. However there are a couple of lakes close to me that are worth having a bash and usually come up trumps for a few fish, even if they are not of record proportions.

As usual I started out for them a little early, but getting those misty mornings in and seeing nature waking up gives me a new lease of life and I know they are not to far away.  In the coming weeks I did have some cracking morning sessions bagging up to 15 fish in a short sitting, and it is always nice to get a bend in the rod. But after the initial few sessions of bagging up on the smaller ones, my mind as always kept racing, and thoughts of travelling further afield in search of some bigger specimens was the only thing going through my mind.

roscommon tench 2

There are literally hundreds of lakes within an hour’s drive from me that will produce such fish, but as always with last year, time was limited to a few bivvy sessions for them, so I needed to make the best of the precious time I had with them. In these cases no matter how much you prepare to the last minute detail, nature does rules the roost, but I did manage to get some and I also earmarked some waters that will be receiving more attention in the coming year.

The rest of the year saw me flitting around between doing some salmon and sea trout fishing on my local rivers, which have been getting some superb runs of fish. I also did some flirting with the elusive mullet that are found down the road from me and managed to winkle one out, and boy are they great fun on light tackle.

sligo salmon

My big bream hunt didn’t quite go to plan, but I was rewarded instead with masses of roach and hybrids, so who am I to complain? So I am here writing this on New Years Eve and looking at my list of targets for the coming season. Well if I wanted to do them all, I would take a decade, so I have had to whittle them down to achievable targets.

The next couple of months are going to be spent after my old adversary the pike to see if I can make amends for  last year. Reports coming from around the country don’t sound too good lately with the big girls not going on the feed. But Santa did come a few hours early to a friend of mine Mark on Christmas Eve. He went out with a couple of baits to get some time away from the Christmas madness and managed a beauty of 29.3lb.

I have a couple of lakes and rivers that are good for a big girl booked in my diary and I also have some unfinished business with that big water to see if I can break her secrets. I know they are there and they don’t give themselves up easily, but we all love a challenge.


Talking of challenges, my next target is a few wily old carp which could be just rumours, have definitely not been caught in 40 years, but have been seen once or twice and certainly don’t live in a muddy little pool. From February onwards I am going to spend as many hours as my kind lady will allow in trying to tempt one of these mythical creatures onto my hair-rigged hook. A small baiting campaign is planned at first, and if I do get to see one of them, then I do think I have a chance of catching one of these fish which could be over 50 years old.  I am not expecting to topple any records, but to do battle with one of these myths that have straightened many a pleasure angler and match man’s hook would be an unbelievable achievement for me personally.

28lb Mirror

This project will be ongoing throughout the year though whilst I also target the other species on my hit list.  I will not be letting my beloved tench away without a fight this year. I will be revisiting some old spots and others that I know have the potential to do very big fish and I am definitely after a 7lber.

cfree tench

But my real excitement is for a group of lakes that I have been searching for over the past few years from some old maps and accent stockings. The unfished waters have been found and I can’t wait to be the first to wet a line on them. But as I said earlier, that is for another article.

With the big bream that eluded me last year also on my list, I think I have an itinerary that doesn’t sound that chocablock, but will need a lot of time, effort, persistence and a sprinkling of luck. Hopefully the rewards will be revealed on these pages. If I don’t succeed at least I will have had a bloody good time in trying.