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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)

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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