I really thought I was going to get a winter Wye pike, perhaps even a big one. But we all know expectation can be a cruel thing…
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.
Scene set. Pre-baiting done. Careful introduction of tasty pellets, crushed boilies and a few grains of corn over a few evenings into two, strategic swims.
Dawn start. Warm, overcast. Quiet…
Very quiet, in fact. Not a sniff. No sign of anything apart from small roach. Drive home feeling a bit dejected.
Back to the drawing board?
I ventured out on Saturday afternoon for my first, much anticipated pike trip of the year. With time at a premium, I decided to head to a stretch of the Wye not too far from home with the plan to rove around in an effort to find some near bank slacks in which to submerge a sprat.
With the river fining down after a prolonged spell of high water, the weather overcast, calm and relatively mild I was confident of making contact with a pike. By the time I’d picked up a bag of big, silvery, fresh looking sprats from the insanity that is Tesco on a Saturday afternoon I was itching to get on the river.
My route up the Wye takes me through the Forest of Dean. I love going into the forest at any time of the year – but in the dank autumnal gloom it takes on an especially atmospheric personality.
A few minutes before I was due to reach the river I passed an old pool that I’d heard held pike. It’s an under fished, secluded water that is gin clear and moody. I stopped the car there and then, turned around in a lay-by and parked up by the pool.
Anglers often talk of these sudden instinctive moments – moments when we change our pre-planned course in some way. Perhaps as anglers – folks who generally spend a lot longer out in the wild than the average individual – we are more in tune with the environment and can ‘feel’ these things – a sixth sense of sorts… or perhaps that’s a serious load of bollox!
Either way – I really fancied the pool and as I made my way down to the water I was already playing out the scenario of watching a pig pike charge from the near bank cover to grab my bait.
I rigged up my favourite, rather battered old Drennan pike slider float – one I’ve had for years – and cast out a sprat, before slowly twitching it back across a weedy bay. I honestly thought I’d get one first cast…
Three hours, seven or eight swims and no bites later and I realised my gut feeling wasn’t going to pay off today.