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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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Book Review

Tinca Tinca – The Tenchfishers (Harper Books)

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Well I am at the wrong end of the tench season to be really writing a review for this book, but if you are not keeping busy in the colder months pike fishing, then this is a great book to keep away the tinca blues till the spring. The Tenchfishers if you have not heard of them are a specialist group of like minded anglers who were first founded in 1954 but have been a proper organisation since 1967 and are all about the pursuit and love of tench.

Predominantly a specimen group of anglers, they have regions all around the UK and Ireland much like the PAC (Pike Anglers Club). They have annual fish-ins for members (usually at Horseshoe lake) and produce a couple of magazine bulletins a year which are worth the joining up fee alone.

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Among their members are some of the most renowned tench anglers in the history of the sport with the likes of Len Head, Chris Turnbull, Jim Gibbinson, Bob Church and Phil Jackson having all been involved in some aspect over the years.

There have been many requests for the tenchfishers to produce a book seeing as they already had a mountain of great articles produced through their bulletins and thankfully earlier this year Tinca Tinca came to fruition. The contributors list is like a who’s who of esteemed tench anglers and the book is a mix of articles from the bulletins with an amazing array of new material written especially for the book.

The publishers, Harper Angling seem to have had a knack of producing stunning books over the years including titles like ‘Mammoth Pike’ and its recently released follow-up by Nev Fickling, ‘The Biggest Fish Of All’ by the Perchfishers and ‘Ultimate Pike’ by Dave Horton.

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A common theme with books from Harper is the quality and feel of them and I think they make a real emphasis on producing good looking books. The cover design of Tinca Tinca is no different and features an underwater illustration from David Miller whilst the actual book is close on 400 pages of thick set glossy pages crammed with mouth watering pictures of the main character.

When the book arrived in the post my first port of call was to check out the Irish section in it as we all like to read things we can relate to. The chapter has contributions from Mike ‘Dingle’ Tudor, Keith Berry and Irish record holder Nick Parry along with historic facts and figures from Finbarr Quigley and Bill Brazier amongst others. As expected I wasn’t disappointed, especially reading about the dedication some of the Irish tench anglers apply to their trade. It really made me step up a gear with my own fishing this season. If you are an avid tench angler in Ireland then some of the stories will definitely wet your appetite and show you the rewards that are out there if effort is applied.

From there I found myself jumping around chapters that caught my attention and related to my own fishing. The book gave me a kid running around a sweet shop vibe, flicking from chapter to chapter instead of sitting down and reading from the start. After my higglety pigglety approach, I have now decided to give it another go from the start, like most normal minded anglers most likely have.

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The book covers everything you need to know about tench and how to approach fishing for them be it on wild Irish loughs, low stock UK gravel pits, vast windswept reservoirs or intimate farm ponds. Bait is covered in as much depth as you dare and the variety of different theories are all very helpful as long as you don’t get too bogged down with it all.

Tactically wise it is very interesting reading how times have changed in tench fishing and many fads have come and gone whilst some of the basics have stayed true through the years. The expected domination of boilies in tench fishing was thought to be the way forward for many as they gained prominence in the carp world, only to for them to still play second fiddle to the humble maggot and caster.

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The book does give a lot more than a scientific facts and tactical methods though and if tenchy tales and stories of monsters caught are your thing, you will be happy for sure.

I have read quite a few books related to tench fishing over the years from as far back as Fred J Taylor’s ‘Fishing For Tench’ written in 1979 to the more recent ‘Time For Tench’ by Chris Turnbull, and I have to rate this as the most comprehensive and complete book on old ‘red eye’ out there.

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If you have a love for the species or even enjoy a good fishing book then I would hand on heart recommend it. The tenchfishers have not released it into shops although some have appeared on ebay at quite high prices from some entrepreneurial sellers. If you want a copy you can buy it through the tenchfishers website which I will link at the bottom and it costs £35 plus postage and packaging. It does sound a lot but this is a book that you will look back on time and time again once added to your library. I am not sure how many they have published but I suspect it is a limited amount and once gone that will probably be it.

Link to the Tenchfishers website

http://www.tenchfishers.com/index.html

Link to buy ‘Tinca Tinca’

http://www.tenchfishers.com/tincatinca-buy.html

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Fishing For Big Tench – Ray Webb and Barrie Rickards

Another book I picked up in the spring was Ray Webb’s and Barrie Rickard’s classic, ‘Fishing For Big Tench’. This had to be one of the best deals I have done in a while as I got a mint copy on ebay for 99p plus postage. The one I got was the revised 2nd edition and another great read. For those who don’t know, Ray Webb was the holder of the Irish record tench which weighed 7lb 13ozs and was caught at the famous Lanesborough hotwater stretch on the Shannon back in 1971.

The book has a array of stories relating back to their angling trips to Ireland in the 60’s and 70’s when they spent long months fishing for tench around the inner lakes of Lough Ree and various other noted tench hotspots you may be familiar with. It was written before the explosion of mega tench in the UK, and a time when Ireland was a mecca for big fish enthusiasts and a 5lb fish was a real brute of a creature.

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Some of the tactics and tackle maybe dated, but this book is so much more than that, it is a journey back in time to when specimen tench fishing was just dawning. Although this book was published in 1976, there a few copies knocking about if you have a search on the web and shouldn’t break the bank should you fancy a look.