Christmas Eve, the "night before Christmas" and tonight, according to one well known poem, children will go to bed with "visions of sugar plums" dancing in their heads, but I suspect that when my head hits the pillow after my return from Midnight Communion a prehistoric looking fish will be inhabiting my sleeping thoughts. The reason? My next planned fishing session is a January piking pilgrimage to Norfolk, to be shared with fishing companions Pete and David.
While pike are not my favourite species (perch claim that epithet), they exert a strange fascination over me, and have done so ever since I caught my first of their kind, a lively jack of about three pounds, back in January of 1982. There's something special about a fish that exhibits such ferocity and oozes malevolence in its watery home, while being so fragile and vulnerable on the bank. Add to that the myths and far fetched stories that surround old esox and you have the stuff of which angling dreams are made.
Pike are also the fish, more than any other, whose size, for me at least, is one of the least relevant factors in terms of my appreciation of them. Because many of the places from which I've caught pike have been relatively wild or natural waters, catching any pike is an achievement, and the pounds and ounces merely a bonus. I have also found that small pike, such as the one caught by my son in this picture, are often more exquisitely marked than their older and larger counterparts, and these predators in miniature are as appreciated for their beauty as others are for their weight.
In addition to the imagination capturing qualities of the fish themselves, there is an attractiveness caused by the differing styles of fishing for them, all of which I enjoy. There are days when pike will chase a lure in the manner of a kitten chasing a toy, and seeing the water erupt as a pike aggressively turns with a lure in its mouth is one of the heart stopping thrills of angling. Lure fishing is an active, intuitive approach to fishing, maximising the primeval hunting aspect of the sport that links us to previous generations of our ancestors. Live baiting has always been the most reliable method for me, and although dead baiting has been responsible for the downfall of a number of my pike, it is the method in which I have the least confidence, and at which, in the words of many of my boyhood school reports, I must "try harder".
Pike and perch share my winter fishing attention, and the tail end of this calendar year has been disappointing in terms of pike captures, although my perch obsession has meant I've only twice fished for them since October, resulting in the capture of just one miniscule jack. However, last January and February yielded a bountiful supply of pike for me and Pete, and our hope as we look towards January is of recent history choosing to repeat itself. My first pike of 2015 was this 14 pounder pictured below, if its grandmother swims in a Norfolk river whose name I'm unwilling to divulge, is twice the size and has a mind to take my bait next month, then my Christmas wish really will have come true. Santa, I really have been a good boy .............