Fishing has a way of keeping you humble. Fast on the back of triumph come the trials that build angling perseverance and patience. Ten days after landing my biggest ever perch, my first pike trip of the Autumn proved to be an altogether more chastening affair.
Accompanied by Greg (pictured below pouring a coffee to punctuate the inactivity) and Pete, confidence was high. We were in a spot that has been kind to Pete and I in the past, and the cold start soon warmed up into a lovely (although possibly too) bright morning of "mists and mellow fruitfulness".
Catching the livebaits was the first challenge, a task which turned out to be quite a challenge. However, despite their reluctance (perhaps they had an inkling of their fate) a few were collected, and soon we were in business. Greg elected to spin, rather than livebait, and caught a small perch on his first cast, a fish which turned out to be a "false dawn" as over the next two hours he was unable to add to it. After about half an hour my livebait was taken, and I reeled in the smallest pike I have ever caught on a livebait - it must have weighed all of 8 ounces. My theory, which is impossible to prove and so must remain only a theory, is that the livebait attempted to mug the pike and was somehow unlucky enough to get caught up in the young jack's mouth. To add to the insult it was deep hooked (despite my policy of instant striking), and required careful unhooking. The fish was returned (and swam off with a defiant flick of its tail), but I didn't bother with a photograph (which would only have been for comic appeal, anyway), as I wanted to return the fish to the water as soon as possible. Pictured below are some of my unhooking tools, not the prettiest sight, but a few pairs of forceps, some pliers, a Baker "Hook-out" and the Fox wire cutters are all essential items for anyone wishing to go pike fishing.
For the rest of the session the livebaits remained untouched, although Pete did manage another diminutive pike, about the same size as mine on a spinner. One of the handsomest fish of the day was this perch which was caught while fishing for livebait, a fish whose good fortune was that, although not large, it was marginally too big to be put into the "condemned bucket".
The sun climbed in the sky and the temperature rose, and it seemed clear that no further pike were likely to set the floats bobbing, and so Pete and I (Greg had already departed for work) opted to spend the last 20 minutes spinning for perch, a decision which resulted in a brace of small ones for Pete and another little fellow for me.
The day had begun with high hopes but, although the company and weather were congenial, had provided a tough start to a piking campaign that will see us through the winter and into next Spring. A baby pike apiece for me and Pete, but it's the wily esox at the top of the leaderboard after round one. Battle lines have been drawn ....