I went piking on the Wye at the weekend. Proper, old school winter pike fishing. Heavy gear, deadbaits, big floats. A flask, a scarf and a hat. Big river pike fishing.
The Wye doesn’t hold lots of pike – but those that eke out a living in those shallow, fast and unforgiving waters are fit, wild and potentially big. It’s survival of the fittest round these parts.
I started after the rain subsided, just after first light. The plan was to rove around with a single rod, fishing near bank features in an effort to locate a fish. By the time I’d settled into my first swim, the sun was beginning to show and it was lovely to be out.
By late morning I’d tried three or four swims without any luck. The next one I manoeuvred my way down to featured a large hunched grey tree to the right. Now stripped of leaves and colour its cold branches twisted their way awkwardly into the water, providing cover for both predator and prey.
I lobbed a sprat upstream, to just below the crease, where it sat nicely under the large cigar style float.
After half an hour or so and no bites, I thought about moving on again, but I thought I’d try a last cast with a roach deadbait. I picked out the biggest and positioned the float a little closer in.
And almost straight away the chance arrived. For me, without doubt, the most exciting moment in fishing is watching a pike float begin its jerky, twitchy dance that symbolises something deep below has found the bait.
The float trembled and then jabbed very slightly to the right. Then it stopped. Then it started again. I opened the bale arm and let some line out which was taken, but very slowly. I gave it a few seconds, tightened up and hit the bite hard.
Rod hoops over – dead weight. Dull thump. Another thump. Rod springs back. Gone…
I’ve convinced myself that it was a good fish. In fact, I’ve convinced myself it was a big one.
I fished on. If anything the missed chance had made me more determined. I fished hard, trying plenty of pikely looking spots. But I never got another opportunity. Yet I didn’t, and I still don’t, feel especially deflated. I would have loved to have seen that fish, but I felt energised by the moment. It’s almost as if working to create that chance was enough. And perhaps it is… for now.