Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A passion for pike and a sense of place

Pike have figured very little in my angling this calendar year to date, with crucians, perch and general float fishing being my preoccupation for the first ten months of this year. I have fished twice for pike, blanking miserably in January and landing an unphotographed and unweighed river pike in March which I and Wayne, my angling companion for the day, estimated at between 15 and 17 pounds in weight. A couple of weeks ago I flicked out a small livebait on a "chuck it and chance it" basis while perch fishing, but no pike chanced upon what I'd chucked, and the perch were my main quarry, in any case.
However, over the last few days, my nonchalant indifference towards pike has been arrested, and long, lean and tooth laden pike are featuring increasingly in my thoughts and dreams. My once waning pike mo-jo is well and truly on the wax, again. Perhaps Pete and I overdid the piking a couple of years ago, when we crammed a decent number of short sessions into a three month period and landed a goodly number of pike, a high proportion of which were doubles, but if those twelve weeks left us feeling that our piking appetite had been satisfied, the hunger is now returning.
The catalyst for this change of mood has been the Christian Anglers predator fish-in, planned for next month, and perhaps it's the venue as much as the quarry that's responsible for my piking renaissance. There are certain places that I associate with certain species, places that have acquired legendary, almost mythical status, as places of piscatorial pilgrimage. In my mind for British pike those places are not the bowl shaped trout reservoirs beloved of many modern pikers, but the more historic, Broadland waters, Loch Lomond in Scotland and the Fens. Of these I have fished the Broads twice (blanking both times!), and the Fens once (with much greater success), and next month's adventure will also be on the Fens.
My last visit to the Fens was in the company of my two brothers, Andy and Tim, and nationally known predator expert and angling journalist Mark Barrett (no relative, despite the surname). Mark, with his expert knowledge and watercraft, put us right on the fish, and on a November day we landed eight pike and two zander, with four of the pike in double figures, the largest, which fell to Andy's rod, just two ounces shy of the magical twenty pound barrier. The picture above shows Mark netting a fifteen pounder for Tim.
The Fens have a windswept wildness, a kind of bleak beauty that demands respect, and perhaps this sometimes harsh environment explains why the locals have a historical reputation for being tough and redoubtable, the "Fen Tigers" of popular legend, and in these wild waters swim wild fish. There are no guarantees in fishing, and despite the fact that next month's fish-in is being arranged by top local angler John MacAngus we may struggle, and that uncertainty provides part of fishing's enduring appeal, but whether I "fill my boots" with pike or suffer an ignominious blank, of this I'm sure: it'll be a great day out in excellent company, and for as long as my deadbait is in the water I'll have a chance, and you can't say fairer than that ....

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