Chasing big perch

With the river season over, Ady and myself often switch off from the pike fishing and turn our attentions to other things. This usually means a mixture of species and mostly on lighter gear. We still may have the odd dabble for pike but mostly for the next few months at least, it will be light lure fishing. It makes a nice relaxing change from the hard graft of pike fishing. Actually it’s not always relaxing as we go a bit hard no matter what we do, and I will explain our approach to perch later in this post.

So first thing up was for us both to sort a new outfit. We get a few offers now and again and we are lucky enough to be able to have a play about with bits of kit. First off a new rod was on the cards. Something with a bit of sensitivity but also a bit of back bone so you could give the fish a bit of hammer or so it would handle the pike we would still no doubt catch. My buddy Martin at Lurelounge suggested we have a look at the Favorite rods he had coming in and we both opted for the Bluebird. At 1.5g-8g it seemed perfect for jigging, should be fine for the smaller trout lures but also importantly for us, be able to handle casting the 5cm Rapala jointed shad rap and X rap shad that we use for big perch.

I switched my new Daiwa Legalis 1500 on to my rod and Ady pulled out an old Shimano Aernos for his, though he soon realized that he needs to treat himself to a new reel as his shimmy has seen better days. Now I’d spooled up my reel with 8lb Suffix nanobraid a few months ago. I’m positive I spooled it up right, but the braid seemed to always be twisting and tangles would arise. On top of that I felt it seemed to break too easily, not anywhere near the 8lb mark. I’ve always pretty much used Power Pro because i’ve never had any issues. Usually I’m reluctant to try new braids and so I thought about putting some Power Pro on the Legalis until I spoke to Gary at American Tackle who suggested I try the Bushido combat braid, so I did.

So that’s the gear sorted, we are ready to fish. For you, well it’s a bit of a  guide, you don’t need to have the exact combos, but it gives you an idea of where you want to be. We’ve had umpteen combos over the years, some perfect some a bit of a bodge job but the important thing is to get yourself fishing first and upgrade later or fine tune your gear to suit your preferred way of fishing. The only other bits of kit i’ve not spoken about, a wire trace. I was using knot2kinky wire which you can easily tie by hand and make a trace to suit your set up. I won’t get in to the wire versus fluorocarbon debate and whether wire puts off perch or not. I think the article itself will answer that question as you read on. As for lures, whatever floats your boat really. A selection of soft plastics in sizes that a big perch might want. Say 2 inch up to about 4 inch is good. Yeah 4 inch, you are chasing big perch aren’t you? Not the little wasps, that’s a different ball game all together. All though the approach for most people chasing big perch is soft plastics, for us, they are only there as an option. Our preferred lures are crank baits and as most already know we love to use the Rapalas, jointed shad rap and X rap shad are a great option. Now if you want, you can fill four lure boxes up with a massive selection of softies and hard baits and you can lug them around all day, swapping and changing in an attempt to figure out that one lure they want. Or, you can trust that with just a couple of lures, you have it all covered. You have enough variety to catch fish in various situations and you can trust that it’s not so much about what brand of lure they want but more that you know your lures work and you need to find that big hungry perch, and that if you find that big hungry perch, any of your lures will do the job. I reckon that between me and Ady we had around six or seven different lures and probably twenty lures between us. Let’s go find those perch.

So without trying to seem like I’m having a pop at anyone here, everyone these days seems to go out fishing and have super glue on their feet. How many times do I bump in to people on the bank who have been in the same spot for ages, I can even go off and fish for a couple of hours and come back and they are still there. Some days i see lines of four or five lure anglers covering fifty meters of bank, cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. Dip in to the four tier lure bag and pull out another lure. Cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. Now that method is fine if you are catching, but if you are not, why do they carry on at it for the next hour? Unless you are in a well known spot then that is a waste of time, fish do swim about, one minute they are there the next they have moved fifty meters, hundred meters and more. This is probably where the superstar anglers are ready to jump in and tell me that grinding a spot is a great way of catching big perch. Grinding a well known spot with a few fancy techniques and trying to lure that magical stripey to take your lure. Yes it does work, especially if all you ever do is fish those same spots day in and day out, raping the shit out of them. Well done pal, you’re a lure angling superstar. Why don’t you write me an article explaining that it was all down to that special brand of soft lure you’ve attached yourself to that made all the difference? These poor newcomers to the sport are so filled with shite by some of you that they think the only answer to their problems is to go out and buy your lures, cos you said so.  >insert rolling eyes emoji<

Ady and myself prefer to stay away from the crowds/circus and as a consequence we have to work our socks off for a fish. That’s why we travel light, because we will cover some amount of canal in search of our fish. Location is key, not all canals will produce the big fish but I do have to say, that every single canal that I have ever fished has produced a perch of 2lb plus and who knows else what lurks? Get out and give them a go for yourself and see what shows up. They don’t come easy and they aren’t as numerous as the little wasps and angry teenage perch that always seem to be everywhere. You’re fishing for one or two small pods of big perch and you have to work out where they might be, or get lucky. The canal we chose we hadn’t even fished for a year. We know it has some nice fish in, but we were aware that the recent rise in popularity of lure fishing means that it will no doubt have been fished most days for that last year. This can mean that the bagging up spots might have moved and the fish broken up, it might mean the perch have moved far away from the features or it might mean that the fish have seen it all. Every combination of lure flying past their noses and we now have a bunch of perch that are lure shy. This could be hard work.

We were joined on our session by a buddy, Drew. We’ve fished a few times together but shifts and such mean organizing a session isn’t always easy. Last time out we were trout fishing and we managed to help him break his pb in spectacular fashion with a proper lump of a brown trout. He already has a superb pb perch under his belt, a couple of notches over the 3lb mark but we quietly whispered to him that there was every chance he could beat that today, if we could find those perch. On these sessions you can easily fish all day and catch nothing and that is the risk you take. Our approach is the slightly larger lures, the noisy cranks and this approach is a searching method and one that will mostly rule out the larger shoals of perch. We’re chasing one fish today but it could be a whacker!

We actually had a bit of a late start, crack of dawn had been and gone and it was well after 8am before we even got to the water. Bit of traveling involved but sometimes you need to have a change of scenery  or the fishing can become boring. Canals aren’t my favourite to be honest but early doors in the closed season I’m quite up for it. By about May I’m pulling my hair out and thinking about the rivers again. But the canal is where we were heading and if a few fish are caught then there is a chance that one of us at least will be smiling. Rolling up to the car park, surprisingly not another angler in sight. I wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or a sign that the fishing on here had been poor recently. Only one way to find out. We all grabbed our gear and had a few chucks in the first spot. Casting around, this bridge used to throw up loads of fun size perch and the chance of something bigger if you were lucky. While the fun size perch were not our intended target it would have been nice to have caught a few here. It didn’t happen, not a nibble or a pluck. Sure sign that this spot has been fished recently and probably hammered over the last twelve months. No bother, we didn’t intend on standing here jigging and drop shotting all day anyway. So off we went, a handful of lures and our trusty feet to help us find some perch.

We explained to Drew that the idea is to leap frog each other, covering loads of water and using noisy cranks to grab the attention of the fish. Hopefully we could cover loads of water between us and find a pod or two of large stripey spikey things. The clarity of the water was ok, enough visibility to see a following perch and enough murkiness to give us some cover and give the perch the confidence to hit the lures rather than just follow. All we had to do is fan cast the water in front of us, and then move on. Quietly leap frogging along the bank, casting up along the edge first and then covering the water in front of us. The plan is a good one, it has worked for me and Ady in the past and we were quietly confident that it would work again. The first canal session I am always switched on, ready for a few fish and the thought of a potential long hard blank don’t really enter my head so much. But that could easily happen.

Drew asked Ady which lure to stick on and after a quick glance in Drew’s lure box, he spotted a Jointed shad rap in hot tiger, “that one pal” he said. Ady put on a smaller 4cm jointed shad rap because he’d brought the wrong bloody lure box and instead of the perch lures he had his trout lures. I stuck on a small Ujka lure thinking we would have a bit of variety between us. After a hundred meters, I could see Ady wasn’t happy as his 4cm lure wasn’t getting down the required depths. He had me digging out my lure box and offering him up a few choices, and he went for one of his favourites, the Rapala X rap shad. Not too much later I was making a switch myself and since Drew had a nice bright shad rap on i went for a more natural looking pattern, an old Walleye pattern. not really natural for these parts but you get the idea. At least me and Ady were happy now, confident in our lures again, that they were getting down to the right depths and we knew we just had to stick to the plan. After about an hour of this and not a fish to be seen, I’m not so sure Drew was happy with our plan. Stick with it, we explained. The fish can come from anywhere. They are not always in the most obvious spots and we have to work and find them. You see this method of fishing isn’t for everyone.

Often in lure fishing you role up to a fishy spot, start off small, catch a few fish and you are enjoying yourself and a bit of sport. The sport dries up, so you change lures, methods or spots and you start to catch some fun size perch again. Nice bit of sport and some good fun. Before you know it, time is ticking on and you’ve caught plenty. But often you do this, and nothing of note shows up. No big stripeys to show for all your effort and when the fishing is tough, you resort to finesse tactics to try and tempt a fish or two. The drop shot comes out, tinniest of movements on the rod tip, keeping the lure in their faces and eventually a fish. But for us, it’s the opposite. Stick to the larger lures, stick to keeping mobile and just keep fishing, moving and hammering away trying to find that one fish. Go big or go home.

Three hours have gone past now and we’ve not had a sniff. We come to a canal narrowing and then finally I manage to catch the first fish of the day, a fun size perch. We’ve kind of reached the wall now, where the enthusiasm is nearly gone and all excitement at the prospect of a big perch are practically gone. So the tiny lures come out and we’re jigging around like loonies for fun size perch. Luckily, i managed to come to my senses and snapped at the lads to pack this in and get  moving. “We can catch these anywhere lads, we haven’t come for these” and so off we toddle, plodding on along the canal in our search for the biggest fish of them all.

Within about ten minutes of moving I get the first hit of something decent. A couple of violent shakes and I shout to the lads I have a fish. My heart racing as the rod is bent double and the tell tale fight of a large perch, or so I first thought. The fight changes and the short sudden lunges tell me this is no perch but in fact a pike and by the time the lads get to me we all know it’s a pesky pike. I do love pike, but they are a bugger when you’re heart has just been racing at the thought of a huge perch. At least its a fish and Drew kindly slides his net under and then quickly takes me a photo.
Another couple hundred meters of water covered and I think we are nearing four hours of fishing without a single sighting of a chunky perch. Drew is blanking and is starting to doubt there are even any bloody perch in this canal. This kind of fishing is really tough on the body and the mind, its draining and it’s hard to keep your head on the target. You start to doubt your tactics and your mind starts to wonder. You want to try other tactics, you need to catch a fish, you have a bag full of lures and surely there is one in there that will do you a job. We reach a bridge and have a cast around with the softies, but for me and Ady it’s a quick few flicks around and after not so much as a bump we are confident that nothing is here that we want and so off we move yet again. A quick few words from Ady and Drew is back on track, putting the trusty jointed shad rap back on and again we are off leap frogging. We passed a couple of spots where we have previously caught nice perch in the past. The initial excitement of the chance for a large perch comes and then quickly goes and before long we have covered another few hundred meters of water and again, nothing.

The good thing about these days fishing with others is that when the going gets really tough, at least you can still take the piss out of each other. That itself gives you a little bit of an energy boost, raises the spirits and enables you to conquer those nagging thoughts in your head. Soldier on we must and soldier on we will. In front of us is another, boring featureless bit of canal. Nothing to target and nothing standing out that says anything special or points to the potential of a perch holding spot. Though we have to remember that while all above water may not scream fish, we really don’t know what is down there and there could be something somewhere here that holds a few fish. As Ady passes me, casting up the canal I stand just off his shoulder, ready to cast. “I’m going to cast right behind you hear pal when you hook this perch” I explained. We’d explained to Drew before that if one guy catches a perch, first priority is to get that one in the net but then the other lads need to be fishing in the same spot. So often the big perch hang around in small groups and when one large perch is caught, it is the perfect opportunity to bag a couple more. A few cranks of the handle and a few twitches of the X rap later and Ady is calling out, he has a big perch on. The typical jagged fight of a big stripey and I can see his rod rattling away as the perch keeps darting for the bottom. Ady gains control and Drew quickly slips the net under while I’m already casting at the spot where the perch came from. Ady instructs Drew to do the same and we are both casting around, hoping and praying that we can bag another one. Ady unhooks the perch and leaves it to rest safely in the net before joining us casting around the area to try and bag another, and he did. “I’m in” he shouts and again Drew is quick to net the second fish for Ady. Two lovely fish in two casts and finally Drew starts to believe that this method might actually bag him a fish.

Ady and myself set about sorting the fish out and getting some photos while we instruct Drew to keep fishing to see if anything else will show. The immediate area in front of us and where the perch came from doesn’t throw up any more and before long Drew has made his way a little further down the canal away from where the action took place. A few photos are taken and me and Ady have a little chat, full of enthusiasm again and happy that we have managed to bag a couple of nice fish. Ady is beaming with his double capture and i’m just happy one of us has at least caught. These days are tough and if we all blank its a bit of a downer but so long as at least one of us bags a good fish, then it is a result. Drew is a good sixty meters from us now, fishing hard. We ponder on what is going through his head right now. Excited that Ady has caught but at the same time gutted he’s still not had a good fish. “At least they both came to you pal and not one each to both of us mate” I said. That one would be tough on Drew we thought. It’s bad enough not getting in on the fish but if everyone else but you has caught a big perch it’s even tougher. No soon as we have said that, there’s a shout from sixty meters away. “I’m in, I’m in. Get the net, get the net!” Camera still in my hands I set off running down the bank towards Drew. I look up and see his rod bent double, and on the floor at his feet, there lays his own net. but Drew is just too drawn to the huge perch he has on that he doesn’t even realize the net is beside him. I can’t run and talk cos I’m belting down the bank faster than Usain Bolt. Just as I bend down to pick up the net I get my first glimpse of the fish, and its a good un. I slide the net under and Drew is jumping for joy. “What’s your pb again pal?” I ask.
With the two perch in the net, plus Drews super pb 3lb 10oz perch we set about getting a few photos. I think Drew is in shock and just can’t believe he’s just bagged such a superb fish. This method of lure fishing takes you from rock bottom to being on top of the world, and all in an instant. From feeling like you are never going to catch, doubting everything you are doing, out of no where it happens and you are left quivering like a little baby at the sight of something magical darting around in front of you. When you lift the thing out of the net it grows again and you just can’t believe what you are seeing. These perch are just something special.

There’s a spring in the step of everyone now and what was turning in to a long hard day is now a splendid result for everyone, except me of course. Ha ha, but that’s the way it is sometimes and to be honest I wasn’t that fussed. These are special moments and next time it will be me with the fish and someone else missing out. Me and Ady have had days where he’s bagged up and i’ve blanked and likewise the other way around. Luckily those days where one of us misses out are rare and usually we both get at least something from the day, even if one of us catches slightly more. Drew suggests now that the only thing missing from the day to make it perfect is for me to get one. “Don’t say that mate” explains Ady, “the spawny bastard will probably bag a bigger one”.

Next cast, a few cranks of the handle, a few twitches and my lure is smacked. Big fish! Ady is next to me with the net and we see this thing coming up and then going back down. “Net this quick Ady” I say in a panicked voice. This thing is massive, deep bellied and potentially a massive fish. Rod bent, i turn the fish and as it comes up Ady slides the net under. “This is huge” he says as I leap for joy. The scales swing round and drop short of the magical figure, but who really cares. At 3lb 15oz it is the biggest of the day and a tremendous fish, truly tremendous.
I think by now we are all happy with the result and even though we soldier on for a little while longer, deep down i think we were all ready for a bit of food and drink and a chill out in the car. We fished for a good half an hour or so, leap frogging our way on the trusty method and trying to catch another big perch. Drew is in front and Ady feels it is time to pull a prank. He whispers to me and says, “watch this” then proceeds to wait for the perfect moment and as Drew is winding in his lure he taps the end of his rod butt section. Instinct kicks in as Drew feels the hit, or so he thinks, and he yanks in to thin air nearly pulling his arm out of joint. Ady and myself are chuckling away like little kids at the back, Drew unaware of what just happened and thinking he just missed another big perch is gutted. Again, he gets a twang and quickly reacts “I’m in” he shouts. Wait a minute, Ady didn’t do it a second time. He’s bloody in to a perch again, ha, marvelous. As Ady nets the perch he’s explaining to Drew what the hell just went on and claiming that this 2lb 13oz perch is part his capture too. Super end to the day and another cracking capture.

So there you have it. A little insight in to how we go about targeting the big perch. It’s not an easy method and as described earlier, can be really draining and especially so if you don’t manage to catch one of the dream fish. There are other ways to do it and on other waters this might not work and standard jigging is more suited. We could have jigged for perch but since we didn’t even know where they were we had to go find them. If you are hammering a spot that has perch you can roll up with fancy techniques and try something different to wangle a fish out but to do all that on here would mean you wouldn’t have even got within a mile of the spot we found the perch and you certainly wouldn’t walk the couple of miles to target such a featureless open bit of water with softies.

As for our new combos, we ll we both love the new rod. Really great bit of kit and handled the fish really well. Perfect for the 5cm shad raps and sensitive enough to fish small softies too. I have used one inch lures and 3g jigs to have a bit of sport on the fun size perch already so I know it will do me a good job with those not just chasing the big ones. My reel is bang on though I already knew that as i’ve been using it a few months now. Ady on the other hand is on the lookout for a new shiny reel, no doubt he wants a blue one to match the rod. First impressions of the Bushido braid is really good. It’s silky smooth from the start and doesn’t need three weeks to bed in or soften up like some braids do and we were able to cast a fair distance too. So we are really pleased with our new bits of kit,  looking forward to giving them some more time on the bank and catching a few more fish on them.

The lure of small streams – by Dave Binns

How many times have you passed by or over a small, shallow, rock filled stream or the upper reaches of a river and peered in only to convince your self that it wouldn’t be home to target-able populations of fish, let alone anything of any size? Well, as they say, never judge a book by its cover as these type of waters can offer some cracking sport to the light lure angler.

Of course were talking mainly trout. Wild, naturally occurring populations of these hard fighting fish thrive in this sort of environment. They are spreading at a frantic pace and it hasn’t taken anglers long to realise it as they are fast gaining popularity. No longer just a target of the game fly angler, lure anglers are now getting in on the act with spectacular results and fish of between four and six pounds are regularly been reported.

Within half an hour of home I have four rivers that offer good trout sport. A couple of them are quite large, the other two are a lot smaller and one of those you would definitely call a stream in places although it does open up in parts and more so from the middle sections of its length. There are still good trout to be had but chub, perch and the odd pike also show in these parts. However, it’s these smaller, more intimate waters that interest me the most.

 So, what is it you may wonder that attracts me to such small, overgrown places? Well, it’s the feeling of been at one with nature, like you belong there and somehow become a part of it. As you slowly and carefully make your way upstream, waist deep in clear water you see and here things you wouldn’t normally see while trudging along the banks snapping sticks as you inevitably step on them and forcing your way through head high brambles and nettles. And, if your careful, nature doesn’t see you. King fishers zip past so close and fast that you feel the wind off of their wings. Moore hens will stare at you like statues as you pass their nests and if your lucky you can creep up on the fish, watch and study their behaviour before making your move. And of course the hard fighting and stunningly marked fish.

On larger rivers you can quite easily bank fish, wandering along flicking lures out all day. However, on these small waters waders are a must. The banks are generally much more over grown and you will simply not see or even fish the little pools and holes that the fish are laid up in standing on the bank as you are unable to cast to them. It also makes playing and landing fish so much easier. I use a Cortland fly fishing net clipped to the strap of my lure bag as I’m in the water and do not require a handle as such. It’s also great for resting the fish.

Whilst on the subject of resting fish here’s a quick note about handling trout too, something which was brought to my attention by a fly fishing friend. DO NOT squeeze trout behind the head as the fishes organs are located right up there and it leads to death once released and you will not even know. They fight like hell too and I always make sure I rest and release the bigger ones just like I would with barbel, holding them head up in the flow or rested in the net and only letting them go once they are fighting me to go. Again, early release will see them shoot off only to go belly and get washed away later.

Wading and fishing upstream is an absolute must if you don’t want to spook the fish and ruin your chances before even putting a lure in the water. Fish sit facing upstream so you don’t need me to tell you that it’s better to sneak up on them from behind. Every footstep you take will produce a sound, which will of course be carried by the current so let the current take it away from where your fishing. This goes for any sediment or weed which you might disturb too, you don’t want it been washed down into a nice pool where a big trout might be sat.

Trout also like to sit on the bottom looking upstream for flies and insects been washed towards them in the current so let your lure do just this by casting upstream and working it back towards you. Of course if fishing from the bank this doesn’t matter quite so much but I do still have far better results casting upstream and working the lures back towards me with the current. The only time I cast downstream is when fishing too a feature that has some sort of obstruction like a fence or bridge preventing me from casting too it from below.

Right then, lets move on. You might now be wandering what sort of gear you would need to fish these small rivers and streams and, if you haven’t yet sampled light lure trouting what you need to actually catch them. Chances are that most of you will already have an outfit suitable with maybe a minor tweak or addition. A 6 or 7 foot light casting rod around 10 to 20 gram will do but nothing too soft otherwise you will struggle to pull better sized fish out of fast water.

I use a 7ft Drennan Spincast which isn’t actually casting weight rated but marked up at 1.25lb test curve for some strange reason. It might sound a bit on the heavy side but I find it works very well. Don’t be tempted to go for a rod much over 7 feet in length though as you will find it becomes a hindrance in and around bushes and overhanging trees. Reel wise, any small reliable fixed spool to balance your chosen rod will suffice and I currently use a 2500 Shimano Catana.

For main line I use mono and this may come as a surprise to a lot of modern lure anglers but let me explain. When I first started to target trout I was loosing and missing more fish than I caught and at times I felt like pulling my hair out. Trout like to live in fast water, sometimes very fast meaning they only have a split second to decide if your lure is food or not. This means they hit hard and fight hard! Quite often they will go airborne right after the hit and its not uncommon for them to do so 3 or 4 times simultaneously. Other times they will thrash about on the surface especially as you are about to net them. Mono absorbs a lot of this, cushioning the hook hold where as braid, with its lack of stretch just leads to hook pull after hook pull.

After a bit of playing around with various brands and breaking strains I settled on 8lb Daiwa Sensor. Its light enough to not hinder casts, its robust enough to withstand a bit of hammer from rubbing on rocks and tree branches and is more than strong enough to turn trout when they make a run for tree roots. Just be sure to periodically check the last few feet for wear and tear especially if like me you stick a few wayward casts in the trees or the stretch of river you’re fishing is particularly rocky.

The only disadvantage I have found to using light mono is when snagging lures as 8lb will fail to bend most lure hook out. However, this is negated by the fact your wading shallow water and can simply walk over to your lure and remove it from the offending object in most cases.

Leader wise, I don’t bother and just tie a small swivel snap direct to the end of the main line. It’s not going to gain you any advantage as the fish hardly have time to study it in the fast water anyway. But, if it gives you more confidence an 8 or 10lb fluro leader wouldn’t hurt. Lower down stream though where I’m more likely to encounter pike I do use wire. Like a lot of people use on their lighter hard lure outfit I use 18lb K2K. It doesn’t seem to put the trout off. The only detrimental aspect has been to the action of very small lures.

This brings us nicely to the next part, lures and hooks. Trout will for the most part, given half a chance take just about any small lure. There are though times and conditions when a little more thought is required and I’ll cover the various lures and scenarios when I would choose each one after a quick look at hooks.
Trout, unlike other predators have quite small, delicate mouths and treble hooks are not required. Just ask any fly angler for a look in his fly box and you are very unlikely to find anything with a hook much bigger than a size 14. With this in mind, and after a bit of playing around and talking to other anglers I swapped all the hooks on my trout lures for VMC predator inline’s. The majority size 6’s with the odd bigger lure carrying 4’s. And on smaller lures I find a single size 8 is ample. Using singles in conjunction with mono has lead to a massive drop in missed takes and lost fish. The hook holds are superb and it’s so much easier to pop a single out than risk damaging the fishes mouth trying to remove trebles.

Nailed! Right in the bottom lip on a single.

So then, which lures do I favour? Minnows, little dumpy cranks around 4 or 5cm, similar sized wake/surface baits and spinners all come into their own. Unless your choosing surface baits you will find that sinking lures are far superior. As I said before, trout love to live in fast water and trying to fish such spots with a floating diving crank can be neigh on impossible as the lure simply will not dive due to the water pressure pushing against it and killing the action. Sinking lures get down past the worst of the boiling, swirling water on the surface and stay down.

A killer tactic, especially for wary fish is to play around with lures of different weights and sink rates until you find one that will suspend as the flow holds it up. Then, rather than wind you can cast it out and just twitch it as it is carried downstream. It’s particularly effective too for working under cover and places you can not cast to. Cast upstream and let the flow work your lure under the cover for you, then hold on tight as a fish shoots out from under the cover and smashes your lure.

From left to right – Salmo minnow, Yogi, Mark Houghton custom minnow, MH crank ‘n bean, Vibrax #2

Unless I’m targeting an area I know very well, or a certain swim 9 times out of 10 my starting lure is a 5cm Salmo minnow in either trout or minnow pattern. These are effective in anything from a foot of fast water to 3 or 4 feet of steadier water and are good for exploring new areas where you are unsure of the depths. They are also a good lure for the twitching method I mentioned earlier.

For bomb holes (my pet name for a certain type of spot which I’ll explain later) and deeper runs I go for something with a bigger lip like a Salmo hornet or Yogi, both 4cm. In normal use these would dive well over 5 foot but in the flow, with the rod tip up a bit or in fast holes they don’t go so deep and work well.

You will be surprised at how little water trout will sit in and 6in is more than enough even for fish of over a pound. Quite often you can find fish sat in little holes 8 or 10in deep when the surrounding area is little more than a trickle. To target very shallow sections, or when bottom weed is a problem I reach for some custom designed minnow baits that I had made by Mark Houghton. They are around 6cm and sink but they only run at around 6in deep on the retrieve. They also have just the one hook in the rear and when fitted with an upward facing single they can be run across gravel and over the top of weedy areas without fouling and getting stuck.

Next up are surface baits, these are quite possibly the most enjoyable to use for me. As you creep along the river keep watching for signs of fish taking flies and insects from the surface. When you find some stick on a little wake bait, something like a Mark Houghton Tadpole, Crank ‘n Bean or Salmo bug, cast well upstream past the fish and gently twitch it as it comes down with the flow. Takes are generally instant.

And last but not least, the good old spinner. It’s so easy to catch trout on these that I rarely bother now as its just no fun and offers no sense of achievement for me personally. However, that’s not to say they do not play a part in this kind of fishing. Neither is it a guarantee to catch fish. If your new to this sort kind of fishing or if you just want to catch a few trout or even let the kids sample something new then I fully recommend spinners.

Number 2 Mepps or Ondex in silver, gold or copper will all catch fish. The Rotex spinners from Savage Gear are also pretty good and, in fact, the number one rotex is actually a good lure to target grayling with. Now there’s a challenge for you. The only time I do opt for spinners though is if the rivers are up a little and carrying colour. When everything else fails I found that an orange Vibrax spinner will winkle out a few fish.

On to location now then and you will find trout are so predictable and easy to catch yet at other times so annoyingly unpredictable. Smaller trout, and to some extent bigger ones can be located in just about any sort of water but then the very next day they are like hen’s teeth. I have no idea where they disappear to, presumably they just took them selves away tight to the bank and under stones and bushes. These small ‘shoal’ fish can be found in good numbers in long, smooth glides with even bottoms although they will also be found in smaller, faster spots too. One thing trout don’t seem to like is mud or silt and my results have been very poor in such areas.

There are though a few spots to keep an eye out for while working your way along the river, spots that in general hold numbers of bigger fish. I’m not talking swims here or, like on bigger rivers a nice big slack on a bend. I’m talking something the size of maybe half a coffee table and even smaller that might hold just 3 or 4 fish. One thing to note though is that you are very unlikely to get more than one fish from such spots as once hooked the fish will spook the rest of the group and they will scatter.

Big trout I find are quite solitary beasts and equally territorial. They can turn up out of the blue just about anywhere but they do tend to have a favoured spot to sit in on the bottom and lay in wait for passing food. Anything that stands out like a small undercut bank, steep drop off or a deep hole behind a large boulder are all good places to locate bigger fish. Been territorial means that should you miss or loose one, return at a later date and you will more than likely find it waiting for you in the same spot.

In general trout like fast water and if your unsure as to weather its too fast or not then it’s probably not!

Don’t be afraid to have a chuck in the fastest of fast bits as they normally throw up a surprise or two. Any spot with fast water, faster than the surrounding areas all hold fish and the well oxygenated parts are the ones to run your lure through. Below rapids and weirs are prime examples. Creases, confluences, bridge supports, in fact any sort of feature you would normally look out for will all hold trout of various sizes.

Lastly is my favourite feature, the ‘Bomb Hole’. So called because it looks like a bomb or grenade has gone off creating a crater in the river bed. Actually it’s created by soft rock been worn away by fast water directly below rapids. Just like a waterfall plunge pool only on a much smaller scale. A word of warning though, NEVER attempt to wade through these holes as even in small rivers and streams they can easily be deep enough to go over chest waders.

And there you have it, my take on lure fishing for trout in small rivers. If you haven’t tried it yet get out and have some fun. The fight you get from some of these fish just have to be experienced. Before I go there’s just a couple more things to note. If you didn’t already know trout have differing seasons depending on which area of the country you live in. Generally covering the traditional closed season and on into October but its advised to check your local by laws.

Lastly, they may look tasty and it may be perfectly legal but lets leave them to grow into 6 pound fighting machines and let them all go, they are readily available on the fish counter after all.

Phantom lures jerk baits

Short story here. I’ve got some lures to sell.
Buy Phantom jerks

So the longer version. I’m often getting asked by you guys about the Cobbs jerk baits we use. Jack Cobbs no longer makes these lures. I think the last place I knew that had any in the UK was Chico who might have sold out/have the odd one left. You can find them in a few shops around Europe if you look hard enough but it will cost you £30 a lure plus postage last time I checked. Worth it to be honest if you love a nice jerk and are lucky enough never to lose it to a snag.

So the next question I get is, what other good jerk baits are there? Well in my quest to feed my own lure addiction, which you guys will end up with if you haven’t already, I’m often buying lures and usually jerk baits. I’ve got some ok, some crap and some good. Then I randomly bought a couple to try. The package turned up and I had about 20 minutes of day light to test them out and see how they ran. I wasn’t even wanting to catch a fish I just wanted to play with my new toys.

I had four lures. Two six inch and two seven inch lures, both sizes I had a standard jerk and a soft tail version. I bought one of each because i’ve found in the past, with some lures a change in size means a change in lure if they don’t get it right. One works, and the other is crap. So I chucked the first one out, a six inch standard. Couple of taps and it’s gliding perfect. Couple of cranks of the handle and it’s gliding perfect. I play about and it just keep gliding perfect. Slow to steady sink rate with a nice body wobble. Happy with that, it’ll catch for sure. So I stick on the seven inch and it’s like an exact copy, works like a dream. Larger lure with three trebles and possible wider glide, or is it that it looks wider because it’s bigger? No, I think it does glide a little wider. Bloody hell, if two of my lures out of four work I’m chuffed to bits.

So next i get the smaller soft tail out. Couple of taps and it’s gliding perfect. Couple of cranks of the handle and it’s gliding perfect. I play about and it just keep gliding perfect. Slow to steady sink rate with a nice body wobble. Obviously this one with the added bonus of the curly tail wiggling away behind. I also noted a slow retrieve (not jerking) had the lure coming in with a slight S shape action and body wobble, with tail wiggling away it looked ace, great for shallower clear waters. So yeah the seven inch goes on and you know the rest. They are bloody magical. An easy to use jerk bait, great glide and a perfect lure for anyone new to jerkbaits. Twenty minutes casting and all four are tested and I’m happy. A few days later I get out and fish seriously. I used lots of lures that day from soft lures, to burts to jerks and ended up with five pike landed. Three pike came on the seven inch soft tail, one on a four play and one on a burt. I’m well happy happy, it glides and it catches fish.

Next I do a bit of research in to the Phantom lures. I’ve seen them about before but they are US based so again not easy to get hold of. Looks like the ones I had might be an older model as the new ones looked to have more colours and also an option to add screw in weights. Also noted the price is high and importing them would be a nightmare for small time shops like me. They’re not made of wood and aren’t custom made, they are produced using some modern fancy resin stuff or whatever, I’ve no idea what.  Anyway, by now I just want to get hold of some for the shop so I order a load from a guy who was selling them off cheap and here they are. Limited availability, what you see is what I have for sale, though I’ve probably kept a few for me and Ady and you can’t have them. If you want a jerkbait that works, these are what you want. After that, you’re on your own like me, taking a risk on a lure and then finding out if it’s any good or not. I can’t help you with the addiction, in fact I’m probably making it worse, sorry.

If you wanted a Cobbs but can’t find one, get one of these instead.

Crankz n jerkz

three_d400Funky title, snazz it up a little and get the youngsters on board! I’m thinking of getting some tattoos and growing a beard too, that should do the trick. Rock on! Stick with me, I’m from up north, I’m a Riverpiker.

I don’t know why everyone is messing about with tiny bits of plastic? My god you are missing out on so much fun. Ok, I know I’m a bit of a strange northern bloke who doesn’t go fishing to catch 5m of wasps on tiny bits of cut off plastic that don’t even look like a lure any more. I’m a guy who goes fishing with stupidly shaped, stupidly coloured lures that will either catch the fish or give them a heart attack and if I’m lucky I manage to catch a pike or two along the way. But when it happens, boy is it seat of the pants stuff. Now I’m not here to rip in to drop shot, jigging or Texas rigging and the rest. Some people are a bit touchy when I go there so I’ll leave that one, I’ve learnt my lesson before. But I’m going to have a bash at getting some cranking and jerking back in to the world of lure fishing, you’ve all gone a bit soft.

So yeah, I’m a piker at heart and not only that I love catching them on proper lures. I love that some days it takes a whole heap of effort just to get that one shadow to follow. That follow that turns away as it realises there’s something not quite right about that fire tiger jerk bait, that wiggling crank making a right rattle. Boy is it hard work sometimes. Cast it out, crank it back. Tap the rod, jerk it pause it speed it up. Over and over again you work that lure, all the time trying to work out where it is in the water and what it is doing. Always trying to make something happen, mix it up and make that pike hit. A kingfisher flies past, one of the finest moments you will witness while you are out. You pause to absorb the special moment as the flash of blue races past. Bloody hell I missed a hit!

It’s not easy at times this cranking ‘n’ jerking. Cranking in a plug isn’t so bad. Cast out, wind in and let the lip of the lure dig in and make that lure wiggle, send out a flash of colour a bit of noise and loads of vibration. Every pike in the swim is on alert and you can bet one of them is coming for a closer look. But do I speed it up or slow it down? I like to do both and throw in a pause. Some days it seems anything will work and another one thing or nothing. I’m always trying though. I’m always twitching and cranking and pausing and I’m trying to work out something to make that pike hit. Those pike aren’t daft and they can work out something is wrong. But they are still very primeval and if you can work that little bit of magic, something inside that predator takes over and they just have to have it. Bingo, fish on!

But that’s part of fishing and it only makes me want to do it all over again. Hit and miss, lots of hard graft and not always the glory we see in magazines, Facebook or those Youtube videos. Not everyone is like this, but it seems these days there are far too many anglers who only want to catch fish and even worse only want to catch 25lb pike and 3lb perch. Wow if only it was that easy. I’d be bored out of my skin. I’m not an old bloke or anything, but I was brought up fishing for anything and everything. My first taste of fishing came from a rod my granddad made out of a Willow branch with a bit of line and a hook tied on. Jigging my tiny maggot for minnows in the shallows of a northern river surrounded by nature and peace. That’s why I still notice that kingfisher and still get as much enjoyment out of every individual sighting. I’ve evolved with my fishing through the years and I’ve turned into pretty much a permanent lure angler. My first taste of lure fishing was chasing pike on local ponds as a kid. I didn’t read any lure magazines, there was no internet and no Youtube. I learnt what I knew by hard graft, lots of blanks and I enjoyed everything about my fishing. I spent years and years working a lure and if I’m honest, I never really caught that much. As a kid, the odd jack every few sessions was a great result and I never once felt like I was doing something wrong or I was failing by not catching that huge pike, I didn’t even realise they existed. Then one late autumn evening as the sun was going down, a brightly lit red sky and a scene from every anglers dreams. Out of this scarcely filled jack pond, out of nowhere came this huge thing. I never knew it was there, no one had sent me to the spot and I’d not read about it in the weeklies. Finally my hours and hours of cranking and jerking had paid off and my tiny little plug had bagged me a fish which still to this day is a personal best pike. Magic!

Before the days of the drop shot became popular, many long time lure anglers were already bagging twenty plus perch in an hour on a spot and having some good sport, and they were proper perch. Those ten ounce plus perch that are like angry little teenagers. They come at you in numbers and the fun you can have is really great. But for me, eventually after an hour or so of teenage perch after teenage perch I’m bored again. I love the little fellows, what a stunning fish they are but even on a tiny rod it gets a little bit tedious for me. So I pull out the cranks and the jerks and I go off in search of one or two fish. That huge stripy figure ghosting towards my jointed crank. Time is standing still as my lure sits suspended in the water. If those ten ounce perch were little teenagers, this is the big meat head who spends all his days pumping iron at the gym. This guy has some shoulders on it and it’s going to smack that lure of mine. Wow that is a magic moment and that really does get me excited about my lure fishing.

I’m not in it for numbers and though it might sound as though I’m only wanting to catch the big ones, it’s far from that. Yes they do put a really great icing on the cake, but I’m more interested in the art and skill of working a lure. While I can appreciate a top lure angler and his ability to switch methods and work out how to catch those ever so picky perch that we have now after the recent lure craze, most of the methods really just don’t do it for me. We all have to have our own ideas of fun, there’s some great rewards to be had by having a tinker and even going to crazy extremes as to use a static lure suspended from a pole. While some guy is having his own fun doing that and others are drop shotting tiny bits of rubber, for me though that is not what I class as lure fishing. I’m not in it to catch numbers, I’m not doing it to catch specimen fish. For me you can’t beat that rush of a pike taking right at the rod tip after you have been getting your jerks timed to perfection. A big perch following in right to the edge and turning away when you know it was one of those fish that would make any top angler a happy man. That thump of a hit and having to hang on to your favourite bit of kit as an angry pike finally smacks your rod round after hours and hours of working that lure.

It’s not the easiest thing to try to explain and probably one of those things where you have to have been there or had it happen to understand it. I think that’s why a few years ago I turned to the GoPro video camera. Mounted on my cap, I might look a bit stupid, but after a few weeks of taking it off my head every time I saw a dog walker out of embarrassment, I now don’t really care how much of a nugget I look. Before someone says it, yes I know I look a nugget without the camera on my head! Anyway, finally I was able to capture some of those special moments on film and the next thing I find myself cutting and editing clips and knocking out videos for Youtube. The timing I suppose couldn’t have been better with the surge in lure anglers and I now find myself helping a whole heap of anglers learn the basics, lose less tackle or go that next step and start turning blank sessions in to fish on the bank. Seeing some of the results people are getting off the back of a few words or a video and a few tips is just fantastic and something I never thought I would end up doing or getting so much enjoyment from. I now find myself beaming when a lad 200 miles away that I have never met goes and catches a pb pike off the back of something I said. I get old guys sat bored in retirement saying they no longer sit on their backside watching day time TV, they got themselves a lure set up and off they go. They get out, enjoy the countryside and catch a few fish. It really is great to keep reading these little stories of success and it makes all the stuff I do worthwhile.

Unfortunately I am still left with one or two who just want it easy. They want to know the spot, the easiest method and they are not happy unless they are bagging the specimens every single time the go fishing. To be honest, most of them don’t get too much back from me. It’s not my thing and I know I’m not going to be able to change the way they go about their fishing, but then who am I to say that what they want to do is wrong anyway? Each to their own and all that. But I’m from Yorkshire so I’ll say it how it is, it’s just wrong, get a grip pal. I am a little stubborn at times and while I might write off some of those guys as no hoper’s I’m still here to try and spread my words to those of you who I do think I have a chance with, or at least one or two of you anyway, because you are after all lure anglers. Come back from the dark side.


So I go right back to my hard lures v soft lures. I’m not saying I never use a soft shad. We all know a simple soft shad approach on the right day can be as deadly a lure as any ever made. Now add all these fancy techniques and a million variations in soft plastics and you can probably guarantee you will never have another blank session in your life especially if you scale right down and slow it right down. Even in the worst of conditions you will catch something. But then what? Do you claim a 3cm perch as a successful day out? In the scale of things, in abysmal conditions to catch that fish is in my book, some top angling and I will give credit for it because it takes some doing. What about when you get out in good conditions and it all goes well? You bag up on schoolies or teenage stripys and you come home a champion. Well done pal. For me it gets a bit stale catching fish over and over again and I want to do something different. For me I’m back throwing plugs and jerk-baits and while I might not catch no where near as many in numbers as I could, I feel like I’m lure fishing again.

Hard plastic lures come in many shapes and styles and the colours range from natural to stupidly bright. There’s deep divers, medium divers, shallow plugs and jointed plugs. Jerk baits, glide baits, tail baits and surface baits. What about some of the hybrid lures with hard bodies and curly tails or strange surface crawlers. Add in some truly awesome custom creations from the likes of Matt Holmes, Craig Beverley or Mark Houghton and why would anyone want to fish with anything else? We’ve now gone from steady jigging a dull tiny morsel of rubber to figuring out just how in the hell am I supposed to work this thing let alone catch on it? Yeah I’ll admit, some of these hard baits are not the best, my own favourite the Musky Mania Squirrelly Burt is notoriously crap out of the box and you have to not only tinker about with it in the tackle shed to get it to work right, but you also have to learn it, get to know it and even name the damn thing. Mines called Burt by the way. This is all starting to get a little bit weird now and even sounds more hard work than actually catching fish. But for me, if you are in this lure fishing game for the long haul you need to have something more than just going out and catching fish. After all, why is it so many have turned to lure fishing? If we simply wanted to catch fish, sit yourself next to an old bloke with a flat cap and watch him catch fish after fish on the pole, he’s been doing years and he’s a master. I watched a bloke at the recent Wye championships cast a maggot on a float 40 yard with pinpoint precision accuracy and catch 6cm silvers faster than anyone could ever dream about. If it’s numbers you want, these lads have been racking them up faster and a lot longer than any drop shotter no matter how big in the game they are.


So I’m back casting about cranks and jerk baits. I’m watching the sun come up and go down and I’m enjoying the wildlife around me. Not only that I’m chucking lures and enjoying having to get to know them, really tune in to what is happening and really think about which lure will cover the bit of water better or which will help trigger a hit by it’s noise or its movement. Let’s go fish a small flowing river, two foot deep with the chance of a huge wild brown trout if you are lucky, Forget the soft lure they just don’t work this bit of water right, but which crank, how do I make the most out of it? They come with big diving vanes and small diving vanes and they float, suspend or sink. The deep diver is no good it’ll smack the bottom in less than a single crank of the handle. But then you could use that as your method. As it smacks the bottom kicking up a commotion it is spotted by a fish. What about the super shallow floating lure? Drift it down further than you could cast or under a bush you would never ever reach with anything else and slowly work it right back up your swim. Pausing it and twitching it and using the flow to take it right back down again. One cast can last you an age if you use that lure and the flow of the water to your advantage. Stick on a suspending plug and cast it across the pools, slowly twitch it back and then let it slowly drift around the stagnant pool left in the wake of a huge boulder. What about a tiny jerk bait? Cast it out and jerk it through the flow using the current to make it dart across or glide under a bush even using the flow to keep it zigzagging on the spot. There’s so much to do and so much to chose from, you actually forget about catching fish. You start to relax, you begin to start lure fishing and your rod is now truly an extension of your arm. Every tiny twitch of your hand is transferred along to the tip, down the line and to that little dancing lure. You can feel every tiny vibration as the nose fights against the flow or the jerk moves against it and then eases as it turns to move with it. Watching your lure moving through the pools, light flickering off the fast flowing water you see something else catch your eye and before you know it every nerve in your body jumps up on alert as adrenaline shoots through your body and a huge brown trout slams in to the tiny lure. Yes that fish is an absolute joy to catch and a real fishing trophy but the way you did it, that was the enjoyment. You’re a lure angler and you lured that fish.


Getting that rod to be an extension of your arm, getting your senses tuned in to what your lure is doing and working out what you do and how you do it has a positive or negative effect on what happens out there and is the difference between success and failure. A young lad who was looking for a bit of help from me went and made the step up from small lures to bigger jerk baits and not only that, his first bait-caster set up. Now I taught myself how yo use one but the intentions were to get out with him and show him how to do it. Unfortunately work got in the way and his eagerness to get out and play with his new toy meant he was out alone learning the basics the hard way. No big problem that can be a good thing, learn from your mistakes and all that, it never did me any harm. Yes he had a few birds nests and a few other teething problems but he started to get to grips with it after a few more words and tips exchanged. However no fish were caught and it was starting to get harder to keep throwing that heavy jerk bait over and over for not a single bit of reward. Another chat and I explained that catching fish was not important at all right now. What was important was he learnt to use that new rod and reel. It was important that he learnt to do everything as if he had always done it. That extension of your arm is so important and I explained he needed to get so in tune with his lure that he knew what it was doing when it was 30ft out and 4ft down in murky water. It is you that is making that lure dance and it is you who needs to feel that it is dancing. You need to sense and feel everything and be on high alert for the slightest tightening up or slackening of the line. Another half dozen or so sessions under his belt and a bit of confidence that he was comfortable casting, retrieving and working every single lure he had and he was ready for those pike and guess what? One day, he went out and he was so in tune with all his gear that when he actually found those pike, yes he went and found them with his own hard graft, that little dance he created just had them mesmerised. I forget exactly but something like twenty seven pike in three small sessions is a fantastic result and when you add in a pb mid double pike on a jerk bait, he’s a proper lure angler, he lured that fish.

So anyway, after all that don’t take this as a bash at any method you enjoy doing. It might not be for me just like twitching a crank or working a jerk might not be for you. We have to suit our own fishing to our own styles and our own version of fun. On top of that, some anglers only get out once or twice a month and when they do they want to catch fish not struggle like made for a single follow. For someone like me who usually fishes loads I’m not so fussed about always catching plenty and that’s probably a big reason why I might think differently to others or have needs different to others. But I encourage you to not forget these lures and get out and always have at least one or two of them in your collection. On days where I have been using both hard and soft lures there have been occasions where not only were the hard baits the difference and actually caught some fish but they pulled out some proper whackers. Just as the lure craze kicked off me and my pal Ady were out on a canal that in the past had produced lots of big perch. We were using the usually trusted soft lures but after a while we found that for what ever reasons it simply wasn’t working that day. Was it a bit of extra pressure with the soft lures, had the big perch seen it all? There were a few other good lure anglers out who we bumped in to and their efforts on drop shot and the rest weren’t producing for them either. We decided we needed to move off a little and try to find some perch. A great way to do this is with noisy, bright lures. Make some noise, let them see the lure and see if you can at least get a follow. After that it’s down to tactics and method changes if you do find some. We didn’t need to change anything, within no time they were showing and not only that they were hammering the cranks. Rapala jointed shad rap for me and Rapala X rap Shad for Ady. Lots of two’s and some big three’s but had we gone for the soft approach it probably would not have happened. Always make sure you have something to totally change it up a bit. I know especially with pike that is often even more so the case.


Recently we got the chance to fish one of the countries iconic waters. Llandegfedd reservoir in Wales is/was (delete as applicable) home to the British pike record and last year it re-opened for a few trial days. An email sent off more in hope than any form of expectation turned out to be a winner and we got our date with one hell of a tough water. There’s monsters in that place but anyone who thinks they would come out easily is in for one hell of a tough time. I think most know it will be one hard slog, we knew that but worse still for us (and probably a few others) was the fact it wasn’t the kind of water we usually fish. I’d only ever fished Chew once and that was on the fly rod and worse still that was my first ever time with a fly rod. So I was hardly an experienced reservoir dog and Ady had fished a few in the lakes and a few more elsewhere but to be honest he too wasn’t that wise when it comes to fishing 40ft plus of water. Anyway, to start off we went the soft lure approach. Big heavy weights, get them down and see if we can find a fish. Some days soft lures just work and you just cast it out, wind it in and get ready to hang on. Other days an angler such as myself is left thinking of ways to make it happen. With the lighter soft plastics there’s loads of ways to fish them and you might be able to work out a method to pick up some fish. There’s a few things you can do with big softies, jigging them up off the bottom and back down again. Slowly bouncing them across the bottom, kicking up dust or even shallowing up with lighter jigs and trying to work some layers because after-all, the pike might not be sat right down on the bottom. That last change worked and I picked up my first fish but it proved to be a false hope as no more came and I was left thinking about my trusty Burt, those hard baits, internal rattles, vibrating bodies and flashes of colour. I know when I use those I am doing my best to make something happen. Something to trigger that primeval instinct I talked of before.

So that’s what we did. We went in search of some more suitable depths and we got back to doing what we know works. With only one day on the reservoir and loads of water to cover we decided to stick to what we know and if it happened it happened and if it didn’t well at least we have gave it our all. You’ll be surprised how easy it is for a pike to spot a jerk bait less than three feet under the surface and they will come up from twenty feet down with very little effort. They just suddenly appear and in crystal clear water it really was great to finally see a pike following a lure. More and more came and we had follows, half hearted hits and lost fish and then a few started to stick. We had a couple of follows from some really big fish, twenty plus at a guess, before finally my Burt did the trick and I landed a proper one. We were really happy with that and we both spoke how we felt that the hard baits had done the trick and the softies just wouldn’t have done it on the day.


I get loads of enjoyment from working the big lures, the big plugs and the big jerk baits. I have a mess around with other stuff like the Savage Gear Hard eels or the 3D trout. Great lures and both picked me up fish when I started to test them out. But I often find myself trying to travel light and only taking three or four lures. I dig in to my set of drawers full of must have lures and after a rummage around I find myself covering the options. I can’t leave without a Burt so that’s already in my bag. A jerk-bait for different movement and if its a Buster jerk I also have that extra rattle for added attraction. I’ve always had fish on the Savage Gear Hard 4play series and now tend to take along a 19cm Low-rider. Noisy, great movement and you can fish it in a constant retrieve and get that wiggle and rattle going or put in a kind off stop-go retrieve which on some days is just a killer method especially if you need to try and force a pike to hit. That lip digs in, you lift the rod and it vibrates like mad and they just have to smack it. A good option then is to go for a softie. Great for getting down in the deeper water or working a little quieter and slower. The Real eel or Hard eel are great for that and have picked me up fish when the pike just didn’t want anything hard. The 3D trout is just so lifelike it’s almost like cheating. But do you know what I end up doing these days? The softie goes back and I pull out a nice jerk bait instead. I’m back to wanting to catch a pike on a certain lure with a bit of craft and skill rather than just catch a pike. Not a big headed thing here, but I can catch a pike. I’m not one of the big boys banging out huge fish every week, I’m not in and never will be in Nev’s list, but I’m happy enough that I catch plenty of pike and can be a bit choosy how I do it. I’d much prefer throwing a Matt Holmes jerk through the depths of winter in the hope I can get one of those pike up off the bottom than slowly running a softy right down there right by it’s nose. In fact I don’t always agree that is the answer on seriously cold days. A common theory is while the pike are lazy, saving energy and not wasting those hard earned calories the method is to fish it slow as possible and get it right in their faces. It probably does work for much of the time, but yeah I get bored with that. So I’m back throwing a Buster jerk. “Wake up you lot!” Buster shouts as the dinner bell rings out. I just love catching pike right through the coldest months like that and the way they hit a lure, they’re not lethargic or conserving any calories. They are bloody mental and they hit that lure so hard it’s a good job I’ve been working so hard to make the lure dance that I’ve still got a bit of warm feeling left in my fingers to hold on to that rod.

I now spend my fishing days with a mate or two, having a laugh and sharing the successes and failures of lure fishing. We go out with the hopes of catching a whopper but it doesn’t really matter that much. Let’s get some action first, let’s catch some fish and enjoy lure fishing. A hard week at work is bad enough with chasing fish that might not even be there, adding more pressure to yourself and meaning that anything short of spectacular is a crap day. Forget that, just get out and throw some lures about and catch whatever comes up. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to fish when you are not chasing dreams or targets. Years ago I remember chasing my first ever river twenty. Double after double after double were landed. Up early, fishing late, hour here hour there it was a constant chase. While I still enjoyed the nice doubles the other pike just got chucked back. Pesky jacks I want a proper fish! Then one day I went fishing and I caught a good one. It was about seventeen or eighteen pound I can’t quite remember but I looked at it, and boy what a fish it was. To think these things swim up and down our rivers and to think I could trick one of them in to hitting a wooden lure was enough for me. I’d found my pleasure, to hell with catching twenty pound pike. I started to just go fishing again, no more chasing anything, no targets no dreams just chasing the next bit of lure fishing and a bit of fun. A pike would come, I knew that, so long as I worked at enjoying my fishing and enjoying using my lures. I was right, the fish kept coming and I forgot all about that stupid target and then yeah you already know it. Bang, not too long after my rod smacked round and I bent in to something different. My first river twenty was bagged and I enjoyed it so much more because I enjoyed it for what it actually was. A truly inspiring creature, a product of millions of years of evolutionary awesomeness. It wasn’t just a twenty, it wasn’t a target, a number or a notch on my bed post or anyone else’s bed post, it was just awesome. I just love pike!


New Year Reward

New years eve, day off work tomorrow and I’ve not been on the drink. Perfect chance to get out in the morning and go fishing and enjoy a bit of free time for once. Everyone else was partying or letting off fireworks. Why set them off at ten to midnight? Do you not get the point? A whole year to prepare and you still cock it up. I’m sat scratching my head all night as to where I can go fish. Storm Frank has caused so much mess, the rivers are in the fields for a start. Still scratching my head it’s ten past midnight and I’m in bed, but I didn’t bother setting the alarm, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. An hour later I’m still listening to the idiots letting off fireworks and stumbling down the street making as much noise as possible, the twats, I really need to go to sleep so I can be up in the morning. But I didn’t bother setting the alarm, I’m a twat.

At some time after 7am I woke up briefly, just enough to notice it still wasn’t light yet, but i rolled over like a lazy dog. I could have and should have got up there and then and gone fishing, anywhere would do. The next thing I know about an hour later some weird noise wakes me up. It’s my mobile phone vibrating. Left on silent so as to not be woken up by a bunch of “happy new year” messages or pings from Facebook alerts and the rest. In my still sleepy state, blurry eyed, I manage to cut off the person ringing me. I saw who it was, it was Neil and I already know why he’s ringing me at this time. Something tells me he’s out fishing and he’s caught a big fish.

New years eve, day off work tomorrow and I’ve not been on the drink. Perfect chance to get out in the morning and go fishing and enjoy a bit of free time for once. Everyone else was partying or letting off fireworks. Why set them off at ten to midnight? Do you not get the point? A whole year to prepare and you still cock it up. I’m sat scratching my head all night as to where I can go fish. Storm Frank has caused so much mess, the rivers are in the fields for a start. Still scratching my head it’s ten past midnight and i’m in bed, but I didn’t bother setting the alarm, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. An hour later I’m still listening to the idiots letting off fireworks and stumbling down the street making as much noise as possible, the twats, I really need to go to sleep so I can be up in the morning. But I didn’t bother setting the alarm, I’m a twat.

At some time after 7am I woke up briefly, just enough to notice it still wasn’t light yet, but i rolled over like a lazy dog. I could have and should have got up there and then and gone fishing, anywhere would do. The next thing I know about an hour later some weird noise wakes me up. It’s my mobile phone vibrating. Left on silent so as to not be woken up by a bunch of “happy new year” messages or pings from Facebook alerts and the rest. In my still sleepy state, blurry eyed, I manage to cut off the person ringing me. I saw who it was, it was Neil and I already know why he’s ringing me at this time. Something tells me he’s out fishing and he’s caught a big fish.

So I jump in the car and the bloody thing won’t start. The recent mild weather has led me to forget about a winter service and typical, it’s a proper frosty morning. There’s a proper crust on the windscreen and I lower the window to reach my arm round and spray some de-icer onto the windscreen. Finally the car starts, but not after waking up half the street in the process. After about four long chugging, noisey attempts it sparked up. Anyway, stuff em, they didn’t think of me and my fishing plans when they were enjoying themselves last night. Still windscreen half steamed up I’m weaving my way in and out of the cars in the street and hoping that heater starts to warm up soon. I’m in my trainers, no socks, my lounging joggers and my hoody and it’s bloody cold. Out of the street and on to the main roads it’s a pretty clear run but as I get on to some country roads I’m cautious of the icey surface and my caution is proved right when I pass a car abandoned in a ditch. Not too bad, no smashed up car or anything it had just run off the road and in to thick mud where they had just left it. As I pulled up my car not too far from where I know Neil is, I grab my camera and set off on a 400m dash. I remember when I could do this in a decent time. Like shit off a shovel when I was a kid I tell ya. Not now though, not while half asleep and running on mud and ice in a pair of trainers similar to a pair of slippers.

“Happy New year pal” I said as i shook his hand and was greeted with a massive beaming smile. Neil had already had a go at a couple of self takes but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. Especially when you are not really expecting to catch such a fish. I know you should always think you have a chance and be prepared but we don’t live in a dream world and big fish don’t come too often. For Neil fish of any size haven’t come that often at all because he’s suffered far worse than I have in recent times. Problems at work, shift changes and the rest have meant his time on the bank in 2015 have been very limited. He wasn’t really organised for today’s result because even this session wasn’t planned. Neil was supposed to be working new years day but a last minute early morning call from work and he had the day off for once. Neil was already awake and he seized the chance. He didn’t roll over like I had done. He didn’t come up with a list of excuses like hurricanes, high water and the rest he just went fishing. Excuses are there if we want to find them but deep down you know that it’s you who has to make that little bit extra effort. Don’t make an excuse not to go fishing, make it happen. I know as I sat waiting for that mist to clear on my windscreen as I sat in a cold car on my drive, I smiled to myself and said “that’s what you get when you put in that extra bit of effort to make it happen.”


There it is. An absolutley awesome fish. After a quick re-weigh with us both double checking the net and Neil no longer panicking and shaking we could confirm a new pb for Neil at 25lb 8oz. So glad I could get there to witness it and help get at least one photo to look back on and smile at. Releasing the big girl back in to the depths was a great moment and after that Neil packed up and we drove back to mine for a pot of tea and a chat. A great start for Neil to the new year and inspiration for him to make a bit more effort to find some time in between work and family and find a bit of time to get out and enjoy what we love doing. For me, it’s a huge reminder and kick up the arse I obviously needed to go out and make something happen. I know I say it to others, but obviously I don’t always take on my own advice. 2016 will be a year where I won’t be rolling over and grabbing another hours sleep.

I wonder if I can still get out this afternoon?


The Fine Line

Sometimes we don’t know how close we are to success and/or failure. It’s the little things some days that make all the difference. We might have the best rods and reels, the coolest lures, the stinkiest bait or the golden ticket to a lake of dreams, but if lady luck isn’t shining down on you it can all be a different story. Some of the top anglers are at the top not just because they have the golden tickets, the top gear, the best lures and all that lot, they are up there because they have a super knowledge of their chosen sport. They have learned the ways, the methods, the waters and even the phases of the moon and the rest and they work their bloody socks off at catching all those big fish we see and dream about. But it’s not that kind of thing I’m here to talk about, I’m here to talk about the little things we don’t always even know we do that make a difference.

12279660_1517832055176460_913199622_o_d600So me and  Ady are planning our weekly day on the pike. We had some great sport not too long back and we were fancying our chances of something a little bit bigger from there. Now we love our lures and on the right day at the right time they can bag you a monster pike. They can also often out fish the bait rods for shear numbers of fish. On a recent session we had three bait rods out between us but the lure rod casting in and around the baits just kept catching fish after fish while the baits some how managed to avoid being taken. So we have lots of ideas between us of how best to hit this other spot again. We want to see if we can find something a bit bigger from a bit of water that we think should hold a lump of a pike but up to now we have never quite managed to find one. So after lengthy phone calls and discussions we decide there’s only one thing for it, lets go get some live baits.

Well we’ve picked the coldest, windiest day of the winter so far. We don’t do much other course fishing, so between us we haven’t even got the right gear. After realising I haven’t even got a chair to sit on, we scratch our heads and Ady ends up bringing a cooler box for me to sit on. Best we can do and I look a right noddy sat perched on a brightly coloured plastic tub. All the gear and no idea I mean, no gear and no idea. We have two pints of maggots, three or four feeders and a packet of ten, size twenty hooks. Not gunna land many pike on this set up. Anyway, despite me looking like some garden gnome we can catch the livebaits if we can find them. Both clipped up on the spools we fish on top of each other. Piling in the maggots and trying to get some kind of feeding frenzy going. We need to get some baits quickly so we can spend more time hunting down the pike. Before long we are in to some fish and we decide to get twenty baits and then get piking. If we used all those it would be a good days sport and if we needed more we knew where the silvers were and we could come back and catch some.

A few small perch are caught and then a few small roach. We’re picking up fish at a decent rate, we wouldn’t win many matches but we’re catching. Every now and again we catch a nice little skimmer bream before Adys rod wraps round and he’s in to a monster. Not our usual toothy kind, but a very nice roach which takes Ady and his 2lb hook link on a good run around. What a fantastic roach, we need a photo of this one before plopping it back in to the water to watch it swim away. Come off it, you didn’t think we would put that under a float did you? Shame on you for thinking such things. After a good hour or so we are happy with the number of baits and decide it’s time to see if the pike are at home. So the feeder rods are put away and out come the bait rods.  After a good hour, the freezing cold 50mph+ winds blowing right in to our faces have really taken their toll. When we can no longer put a maggot on the tiny hook we decide it is time to get the bigger hooks out, just for the simple fact we might actually be able to hold one of them in our hands. It’s pike time.

Right, where do you start? We have a mixture of baits but a split of small 4-5 inch fish and some 8-10 inch baits. We decide to put the smaller baits on to see if the jacks are about. We don’t want the best baits taken by four pound pike, that would not be a good result at all. But after a good hour of piking we have not so much as had a tiny knock on the float. This isn’t going to plan at all. We bagged up on the lures but that was weeks earlier. What if the pike have moved off? What if other pikers have been here already recently and we’ve missed our chance? We haven’t even got the trusty lure rods with us to do our usual thing, so now we start to have a million nagging doubts in our heads about anything and everything. Theories of this and that. What should work and why it isn’t. We get itchy feet. We know the bait will do it’s trick if a pike is there but we dream about covering all the water with a trusty Burt and moving on to find the next pike. What do we do? Do we stay or move? Lift the bait and drop it elsewhere or leave it for the pike to come and find? Nagging doubts start to take over our minds.

What if we changed the smaller baits for bigger baits? May be our tiny little bait just isn’t getting enough attention. There’s lots of water but also lots of fish here, we know that as we were catching them. What if that tiny little fish is just hidden among a mass of other fish and the pike haven’t even noticed it. Stick a bait in an area devoid of other fish and it sits there sending so many signals out. The pike pick up on these distress signals and come from all over the place. But it’s not happening here, there’s just too much food about.

So that’s where we are. Struggling like mad to get a pike and fighting like mad with all kinds of ideas, doubts and we’re in an unfamiliar place. We are lure anglers and when we’re doing our usual thing we keep at it, but now we are lost for what to do. There’s no golden ticket, no fancy tackle and we don’t even know all that much about the venue as it’s not exactly somewhere we’ve fished that much. So I’m back to the start of the story. This is where lady luck either shines on you or she doesn’t. This is where things go go fantastically right or miserably wrong. And it’s not the ticket, the tackle, the lure or the bait that is the deciding factor. Sometimes it’s the smallest most insignificant thing that makes the difference. Something you didn’t really even think about too much.

We’re both fishing next to each other. One rod to the right, that’s Adys, and mine to the left. We’ve covered most of the water in front of us and both baits are now sat about twelve feet apart pretty close in. It’s time to make a move. We have lots of gear, more than usual with all this bait stuff. Two nets, camera gear, bait, bags and rods. So we could just wind in, pick up the gear and go. But even though me and Ady don’t do that much bait fishing, we still kind of have a routine. Things just happen sometimes, they work, and it sticks. We don’t just run to the next peg like headless chickens, it’s all done in a certain way. One of us is lookout and one of us is cart horse. Look out keeps an eye on the floats, still merrily bobbing about out in front of us. Cart Horse has to pick up all the bags, camera tripod, buckets, boxes, flask and kitchen sink.

So I’ve just got the last bag on my shoulder and as I turn I’m met with “your float has gone”. I didn’t even look, I just started throwing bags on the floor and picking up the rod while Ady was getting the camera turned on. The first time I looked up I saw the float, back on the surface and for a moment I was left wondering if my chance had gone. Had I missed the fish? Had it felt the hooks and let go? The camera was rolling, ready for action but was there going to be any? Then as i got my bearings of what was happening, I could see the float was moving sideways, the fish was still on. Now after all those nagging doubts before, ideas to switch to bigger baits and the rest we’d still not changed anything of what we were doing. I still had on a tiny bait by pike fishing standards. A jack pike would have no trouble with this bait, it was probably more suited to catching big perch. I had a single treble hook on my trace. No need for two, just one in the tail. If the pike had grabbed this bait, it was going in it’s mouth in one gulp. “It’s still on, I’m hitting it.” There’s no need to wait, count to 10, 30 or 60 or whatever it is some people do. My bait is in the pikes mouth, my hook is in there, I just need to whack it.

A quick check of the drag so that when I set the hooks the spool doesn’t just spin and the hook does it’s job. I’ve done that before and now, mostly, have learnt my lesson. I wind down fast until I feel the line tighten and then hit it. I can remember seeing the rod just bend and then not do anything and my first thought was “bottom” to which I quickly told myself it wasn’t bottom because the float was moving when I struck. No jagged shakes of the rod tip, no super fast run just a bend in the rod and solid resistance. “I think this is a nice fish Ady”. The fish just kind of swims about a bit, up and down and we know we have a nice pike on the line, easily a double and probably a high double. We get a quick glimpse at one point and I guess at 17lb, which would put it at the biggest we’ve had from this spot so a result if it is.

As the fish slides in to the net, it’s job done and a pretty calm reaction. We’ve got a nice fish, lets weigh it, photo and get it back. It looks a bit stocky as I look down at it’s back while explaining to Ady where my scales are, and then the thing turns on it’s side and it suddenly grows in size. “Ady, it’s deep” I explain in a shocked, serious tone. Ady has the scales ready and as the fish is lifted out of the water the size of this fish just gets bigger again. “What’s your pb again?” he says. Holy cow this fish is huge, what a monster and weighs in at bang on 25lb once we’ve deducted the weight of the net. I think we were both a bit shocked to be honest, we just didn’t realise just how broad, round and fat it was until we got it out of the water. A new pb canal pike for me.
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Oh aye, fine line. Bloody fine line indeed. Without so much as a sniff we nearly was out of there. If we had made the call to move ten seconds earlier we would have missed that fish. We would never have known what would have been, but looking back, we know how close we came to missing out. It didn’t matter what lure, bait, rod, reel or ticket I had I just needed that last bit of (good) luck. Next time you are out struggling, doubting, trying to think of a plan to get something to happen, fiddling with rigs, bite alarms, weighting your lures or switching them, just remember that some days it’s the tiny things that make all the difference and there’s not always much you can do about it. When your luck is in, you’re the best angler on the planet.25lber4_d600



We had a few more pike and a bonus lump of a perch on a bait after that. It wasn’t a spectacular day for numbers of fish but what a day it was. A specimen roach and a perch that any angler would be proud of and a target specimen pike to make even me smile. How about that one then, and smile I did, all bloody week and then some.

Thank you lady luck. 🙂



Trust your lure

12226512_1514873395472326_1612537243_n_600Some days it seems like everything is stacked against you. You can guarantee that if we make half a plan to go fishing something pops up and makes it seem like catching a fish will never happen any time soon.

It’s midweek and me and Ady know that this weekend we need to get out and fish, as for the next couple we might be struggling due to other commitments. We’d had some real hard graft the weeks previous and so a nice day afloat on Adys boat would be nice. A few fish, more laughs and if anything else pops up it’s a bonus. Well it bloody chucked it down midweek and the river shot up, colour of mud and there’s not a chance in hell we will be fishing it.

12231366_1514876282138704_1600955361_n_400Struggling to think of anywhere to go we opt for a canal we know about. Some of the canals we fish get a nice flush through when the rivers flood which makes them as dirty as the rivers themselves but a little further afield we know a few that don’t suffer it so much and if they do they tend to get it later anyway. As we pull up and start to get the gear out there’s a couple of cars and a van that pass us and they all looked suspiciously like anglers. As we start at the first peg on the canal we can see someone in the distance, he looks to be pike fishing. We cover a good strecth of canal and have one hit from a small pike. We bump in to another piker, rods everywhere and before we can discuss what to do next a car pulls up and three more pikers get out. I think that just made our minds up.

12202419_1514861642140168_313513772_n_600Chatting to an old bloke on another stretch and there’s at least two matches on. That’s ruled out our next plan then. We have a half hearted chuck on a bit of canal we never catch on and yep, we manage to not catch on this bit too. A new bit of canal and we have one follow each, both from small pike and apart from that, nothing. Hours have passed now and we’ve not had a fish, this is going bad very quickly.

We find ourselves back in the car, aimlessly driving somewhere random while running through all the spots we know and one by one knocking them off the list. Eventually we end up at a spot just on the off chance that no one is there already. Just when we think we have a bit of luck because it’s empty, the heavens open up and there’s an almighty down pour.

12207725_1514886052137727_1290167769_n_400We’re both pretty much gone by this point. Drained of any energy and willingness to keep going, there’s certainly no way we’re getting out of the car while the rain keeps bouncing off the bonnet. You have to laugh sometimes and we both did, but deep down we are both gutted as a blank now and we know we might not be out for a few weeks and that means it hurts even longer.

Finally, we get a break and while I wouldn’t say the sun came out, at least the rain dried up. Let’s just give it an hour here and see what happens. So we’re back out, may be even with a little spring in our step. A fish some time soon and that spring could get springier but if we don’t get anything soon I imagine we’ll be back in that car as soon as we feel the next rain drop.

12212577_1514873282139004_1895469097_n_800Two casts and Ady is in, great start. As he fights to gain control of the fish I have the net up and ready to scoop. Bang, fish in the net and we’re off the mark finally. How quick can moods change? A really nice low double, unhooked and picture taken in no time and we’re back chucking around.

When the going is tough a change of tactic sometimes does the trick. You fish a bit of water that you’ve thrashed to foam and then one lure goes and pulls out all the fish. I’ve done it plenty of times, but on the other hand, we’ve also done it plenty of times using just one lure. One trusty lure that catches the fish over and over again. That’s the tactic we were opting for today, no faffing around switching and changing lures, losing confidence in one and thinking another will do the magic. Nope, just one tried and tested lure, five or six chucks in a spot and move. Leap frogging each other as we go with the thinking that if a pike is there, it will react. When we get that reaction it’s either one loan fish or if we are lucky, it’s stacked with pike.

12208562_1653167118272536_3351750128103341401_n_400So this lure we are using is  an old favourite of ours. Caught so many fish for both of us there’s no reason to ever doubt it. It’s a Musky Mania Squirrelly Burt and among many pikers it has a bit of a cult following, and with others it’s one of those lures that you just don’t get on with. It’s one of those Marmite lures I guess, for me and Ady, we absolutely love it. The first fish today came on the trusty Burt, downward swipe of the rod, pause and than bang it’s nailed. Happens so many times and you have to be on guard ready for it, even after a long hard graft of nothing you always know that at any second that lure is going to get smacked.Problem is that Ady is using his top Burt, it’s lured uncountable fish. Me on the other hand, I have that stupid nagging in my head. You see my legendary Burt was quickly cut from the jaws of a good pike last week, hooks snipped to help get the fish back in quickly after a net tangle and bad hook up. Only thing is I’ve not replaced the hooks on it and instead pulled out a brand new Burt. Oh no, not the curse of the new lure. They either catch first chuck or they blank for ever.

12231503_1514873362138996_2039434289_n_600So when I get that first tug on the rod I’m one happy angler. New lure curse is gone and I have the confidence that I have a fish catching machine again. It’s a Squirrelly Burt, they are all fish catchers, you just need to get to know it and form that lure angler bond between you and your lure. That confidence that it works so that when you are up against it, and every single thing in the whole world seems to be conspiring against you, deep down you know that what you are doing is right. You know that your lure catches fish and you just need to find them. That nagging that is there is just a distraction, something else to make the fishing difficult when it need not be.

12200515_1514873545472311_1911403016_n_600Of course we bagged up after that. Burts flying here there and everywhere, just like before but the only difference this time was the fact we were where the pike were. Fish after fish, some landed and a few more lost off. When the fishing is like this it really does hammer home that most important thing in lure fishing. Keep mobile and find them because that’s the best method or technique anyone can use. It doesn’t matter which fancy lure you have or what random method you are using, you will not catch pike if they are not there so get off your backside and go find them.

How to unhook a pike

What to expect
You are about to go head to head with a dog eating, kid munching monster. Only those brave enough should continue reading or even attempt to fish for pike, for you risk losing a finger, an arm or your life. Ok not quite that bad but unhooking pike is a scary thing to newcomers. They have hundreds of razor sharp teeth and I promise you this now, if one of those teeth should cut your skin, you will bleed for a good hour. So keep that in mind as you read on.However, those pike as big and nasty and notoriously monstrous they are, the tales of dog eating kiddy snatching pike are just bonkers. On top of that those pesky pike are a pretty fragile creature, especially when we stick hooks in them and throw them up the bank, they don’t tend to come off so well after that. So read on and pick up some safe handling tips.img_1208_600
The Tools
You need big tools. No tiny disgorger for pike fishing,  just big tough tools. Get the best you can afford but don’t scrimp. Buying a cheaper smaller version now will mean you spend more in later months when you realise you got it totally wrong. A pikes mouth is huge so going small means you will be putting your hand inside that fish trap. Not good for fish and not good for you, so go long.Forceps can come in handy, but they are often not strong enough for larger treble hooks. I do suggest a pair of extra long forceps for smaller lures and trebles and also just in case they may be of use for anything else (there’s many a time when you end up in a pickle!). Instead I prefer a set of long nosed pliers, 12 inches at least. They are much stronger and will help get out the bigger hooks. I do also carry a small pair of pliers in my pocket for simple unhooking jobs. Lastly a large set of side cutters are needed for those rare occasions when you can’t quite get a hook out. By simply cutting a treble you can free a badly hooked fish and what might be a long complicated job turns in to a simple one. Remember the fish comes first!
The fish welfare kit

Of course the tools are a big part of fish welfare, but after that the important things to have are a good sized knotless landing net, 30 inches or more. I see too many people pike fishing with tiny landing nets which are no good at all, you need a big net for a big fish! When you get that giant on the end of the line a large net to scoop up your dream fish is what’s needed. When you have the fish in the net compose yourself. Have a breath or two, let the fish have a breath or two and check your surroundings. Lift the net out of the water by scrunching up the net and lifting (do not lift by using the landing net handle as it will snap!). The pike will be safe in the net should it thrash around and won’t be dropped from height on to it’s head.

A must for pike (and most other fish) is an unhooking mat. Fish don’t do well laid on concrete or stones. When they thrash around they cut up and also any course ground will wipe away the protective slime they have, leaving them vulnerable to disease. There’s a massive selection of mats available thanks to carp fishing. Choose one to suit your needs but keep in mind a pike is a long fish, often 30 inches and more if you are lucky. When you have the pike in the net, lift it on to the unhooking mat which should already be wet. This will help protect the fish and not wipe away the slime. A dry mat would remove a massive amount of slime. Once your pike is on the mat then it’s time to look out for those hooks and get them out of the way while you can.

pac-logo-new1Best tip

Well this isn’t going to be easy. You have all the gear but I have no idea how to explain it in text. This really isn’t an easy job to do, and so here’s the best tip I can give you. Go out with someone who knows how to do it. The stuff that can be shown up close is so much easier in the flesh than in written format. But yeah, I know you are itching to get out fishing and most probably you don’t know any pikers to help you. Well your local Pike Anglers Club could be the answer. They are the number one approved piking body in the country and they are there to help. Just get in touch and you will be guided to your local PAC region who will be more than happy to help.
Unhooking a pike

So we’re now left with the guys who are either to shy to seek help from the PAC, those mad keen to just jump in and have a go or those of you that are here because you keep catching pike by accident and have decided it’s time to learn how to deal with them.

So you have the pike on your wet mat. Whether bait fishing or lure fishing you have sharp teeth and sharp hooks to deal with. Well the pike will not bite you but any sudden movements will have those hooks flying about and then there’s a chance of a hook sticking in you. Yep, it’ll happen eventually, I’ve done it a few times now. So if you can you need to either quickly get the hook out or secure the fish so it can’t flap around. Checking where the hooks are, manouvere in to a postiion so you can deal with it. A great way is to straddle the fish and hold it between your thighs. Fish on it’s side or back and jaw without the hooks nearest you. you basically slide two fingers under the gill plate and up along the jaw, grip the jaw with fingers and thumb and pull the jaws open. The mouth will open up and you can get your forceps in to deal with the hooks. If you are lucky this is simple and you are done. If they are tricky, try a little levering with your pliers but if you have any doubts, by far the easiest thing to do is cut any awkward hooks. However, you are cutting the hooks to make it easier to get them out or the lure out. You are not doing this as a way to pussy out of dealing with hooks and sharp teeth. Some people seem to think that simply cutting the wire and leaving the hooks in a fish is what you do. Well no, that’s just a dead pike.


Boga grips and pike gags

Barbaric stone age tools that are not needed in pike fishing. A pike gag was designed years ago for idiots and pussies to help them open up a pikes mouth. These are not needed once you learn how to open a pikes mouth safely.s1053388_600

A boga grip is not the tool for the job either. The picture to the right shows the damage a boga grip does when a pike thrashes around while being gripped by one of these things. There’s only one winner and that leaves the pike with a broken and mutilated jaw.


A difficult task
It’s a difficult task but in time you will gain the confidence to deal with pike easily. It isn’t as tough as you might think, once you’ve been shown a couple of times and had a go you will be fine. But in true RiverPiker fashion I simply cannot leave it there.  Belwo you will find my unhhoking video, used by the PAC as a guide for newcomers to the sport. If you cannot get out with another pike angler, watch this video over and over until you have it down to a fine art. Good luck!

Beginners Guide To Lure Fishing

Starting out.

Getting started in lure fishing can be a mine field and it can be the most confusing thing ever. When I was a lad, you had any rod and reel you could get your hands on, and you armed yourself with a spinner and a plug if you were lucky and off you went. These days there’s so much to do, so many tactics and methods and so many ranges of lures you haven’t a clue where to start. The internet has so much information and reviews you end up so confused after reading the many varying opinions. Every tackle shop has so much gear you just can’t 11057840_1609630902626158_1819297244876344911_n_600decide what you like and I haven’t even started on the lures, which ones do you need? So In an attempt to make it easier I’ll add my bit. Before I start you need to remember this, I’ll keep it basic while trying to cover plenty. Simple and as safe as you can to start with. I catch lots of fish and don’t bother trying to make it too complicated which I’d say is where you want to start out. Learn the basics for now, get fishing, have some fun and then if you want to try the many other methods then away you go.

A quick look
The first thing to do is decide what your target fish will be. Often people think of pike and that’s me too. But you can catch all sorts on lures, perch, chub, trout, zander and even stuff you might not think about such as roach, rudd, bream and carp. Oh don’t forget the sea species, wrasse, bass and just about everything. Yeah, bloody ace this lure fishing lark.


 But I’m a piker so I’ll split it up in to simple terms for the average guy who would fish for the standard course fish like me. Easy way is to split it in to size of lures, the set ups to go with them and the species to target. So you could go for big lures 100g plus and 20cm plus to target pretty much just pike. Go a bit smaller 50g and 15cm or less and you have a medium lure set up, still mostly pike fishing but you’re not going to be as drained after a days fishing.  Go 10cm and 20g and you have a good pike, perch, zander set up. Smaller than that, 5cm and 10g and you are mostly perch and chub sort of size and if you go less than 5cm and less than 10g you are going the route of trout and any smaller and you are going to be chasing silver fish with lures. Yeah that’s a very rough guide so don’t stick to those figures just use it to get an idea where to start. For now just remember the idea of various weights of lures, and that we have varying casting weight rods to match up to them.

Rod n reel combo
We’ve quickly split the lures ranges so let’s quickly split the rods and reels up. Most probably most of you will have used a standard fixed spool rod and reel combo (left image) so I would suggest for most people just carry on this theme. More experienced lure anglers may choose to go down the route of baitcaster rod and reel combo (right) for better casting distance and a whole manner of things. But since this is aimed at beginners stick to what you know.


Buying your first rod and reel
As a suggestion, many of you will be thinking along the lines of pike, perch, chub and zander. A chance of any and a chance of many fish. So we’ll not go look at all the specific set ups, the best way to get in to lure fishing is to go light. A light lure outfit is great fun and easy to do and you have more chance of catching something, anything. Plus you don’t have to spend much at all on a rod and reel to get started. The cost is the most important factor to help you decide what is right for you. A young kid with only his pocket money will look at the cheap tackle and a big company executive will want the tartiest gear he can find. What ever catagory you are in, get the best quality reel you can afford because that is the most important bit of kit for me, a smooth drag is just music to your ears when the bigger fish take. A cheaper rod will do you a fantastic job and isn’t that important when starting out. So we are going light lures 3-15g and 4-10cm lures as a rough guide. Now go and look around the web,
don’t buy anything, just see what you can find and come back to me in ten minutes, and read on.img_0878_400

Just bought your new gear?
Minefield wasn’t it. Rods and reels everywhere and you have no clue which to choose. Remember your budget? Lets say it’s £100 for a rod and reel. I’d say go £60 for the reel and £40 for the rod. That will get you an above average rod and reel.  For reels you will be looking at 1000-2500 size front drag. For the rods just check out the jig rods and spin rods to start with one of those. The casting ranges will vary and it doesn’t have to be anything exact. 2-10g, 3-13g, 5-20g honestly it is not that important at all. Lighter 2-10g range if you will go more for perch and slightly tougher 5-20 if you think you might catch more jacks or zander. Some rods will be shorter 5ft 6, great for getting in tight spots amd not tangling in trees, and some will be longer 8 or 9ft and will give you a bit more casting distance. Doesn’t matter too much though, just try it to where you might be fishing. Shorter rod for little intimate rivers and a longer rod for larger ponds or lakes. soft action rods will be good for spinning and faster (stiff) action rods will be good for jigging and putting movement in to a lure. The last thing to remember though is that your mate will have a rod and he’ll recommend this, and your other mate will have a rod and he’ll recommend that. Just remember its a bit of pot luck if you buy the right rod and reel combo first time out, especially if you haven’t had a play with it already. You can’t beat having a go with a mates rod to see if it is right for you. but do remember this, for £100 you can get a pretty decent set up and it’ll do a grand job, just go for it.

All set to go?
Nah, you’re no where near. Your reel needs some line on and I’d suggest getting braid over mono for most situations. Long story short, mono is stretchy and braid isn’t. That gives you a couple of things in lure fishing that is advantagous. No stretch so you feel every bump, knock and vibration of the lure and that is really beneficial as yimg_2265_400ou can also distinguish the tiny knock from a fish, the lure picking up weed, banging hard or soft bottom and much more. With mono you’ll feel naff all. The other thing is when you twitch your rod to put some action in to your lure it’s instant where the stretchy mono is cushioned and the action less, and add to that when you go to set the hooks you are in direct contact and so you will hook up better.

Fish Safety
Using lures will attract pike, you might even be wanting to catch them. So this means you need to protect your line against a bite off because a pikes teeth are razor sharp. I always use a wire trace. Now some of you might have heard of or seen debates about whether to use a wire trace or a fluorocarbon trace. This is a beginners guide and you are starting out from scratch. Please do not get talked in to not using a wire trace by anyone, for now at least. You are starting out on your lure fishing adventure and you
will catch pike on this set up and these lures. The wire will stop you losing a lure but more importantly it’ll stop you leaving a lure inside a pikes mouth and potentially killing it. In later articles I will cover things to do to avoid pike or where you might not need a wire trace. You’ve read this far, you’ve seen me catch fish and I always, always use a wire trace. Just trust me, you will catch pike, perch, chub trout and more while using a wire trace, do not worry about it scaring the fish off.

A 20lb wire trace from a well known tackle manufacturer should do the trick. If you want to look around, some even do lighter versions to go with your 10lb line. Personally I make my own light lure traces to suit what I am doing. I would suggest eventually you go down this route also as it is much cheaper. Please try to stay clear of the cheap tackle shop 50p traces or bundles of 50 traces for a fiver off eBay. You really do get what you pay for with some things in life.

Braid strength is important. Too light and you lose lures, too heavy and your casting is imparied and it effects the lure too much. So you need to find a balance. Buy a quality brand not a cheap import. For starting out, if you are lucky enough to buy a reel with two spools, fill one with 20lb braid and one with 10lb braid. Sounds a bit over gunned for perch you might think. Let’s get you fishing first, catching some fish and not losing all your lures. If you are fishing for perch on a shallow canal with no snags the 10lb is perfect. If you fish a snaggy river 20lb might help you get a few snagged lures back rather than snapping like cotton and leaving a £10 Rapala on the river bed. If you catch a few more pike than perch the 20lb will be more suitable also. (Note-if you are wanting to only catch pike then I would recommend going for a minimum 10-40g rod, 3000 size reel and 40lb plus braid but we’ll cover this another day)


lures-003_600What about lures?

What about all those lures, which ones do you need? You need them all and you need one in every colour. Well you don’t, but you will tell yourself that you do every day once you get the lure bug. You’ll buy lures just because they look pretty and something different to what you have. Eventually you’ll realise half of them are crap, fall to bits and catch nothing. Eventually you will work out which lures you like and which lures work for you where and when.

And that bit is the key. Once you work out what you like it will start to work for you, especially if you use that lure in the right place (where the fish are) and you start catching. The more you catch on it the more you use it and the more you catch on it. Total opposite for your crap lures.

I’ll no doubt do a lure article, but for now here are some things to look for. You want some variety in your lures. Don’t buy the same thing over and over. A good old copper spinner works and catches pike, perch, chub, trout and so on. Can’t go wrong with Mepps or Blue Fox Super Vibrax. Soft shads are cheap and catch fish. Mounted on a jig head of varying weights to help you get depth or work it faster or slower. A 2inch Relax Kopyto shad on a 7g size 2/0 jig head or a 2.5inch on a 3/0 jig head. You want a plug/crank bait to help mix it up. I like to use the Rapala shad raps and jointed shad raps in 5-7cm. They have a diving vain and a wobbling vibrating motion so adds something different to a soft plastic paddle tail shad. You can get all these or similar versions it really isn’t that important. What’s important is you learn to use them and you give them a go in a swim and if nothing happens move on after 10 minutes. Just trust me on that. Later on when experience, techniques and all the rest come in to play you might stay longer and try many things but for starting out, keep it simple, keep it light and keep it mobile.



Can I go fishing now?
Nearly. Unhooking pike is a tricky job and if you haven’t seen my video already go watch my “How to unhook a pike” video tutorial at the bottom. Being shown by an experienced angler is best but not always possible so the video helps fill that void. You’ll need some tools. Long forceps are good though I prefer long nosed pliers, 10 inch plus is good. A pikes mouth is cavernous and 8 inch forceps might not even reech and your hand will be very close to those ultra sharp teeth. Wire cutters are a must for a couple of reasons. A bad hook up and you can quickly snip hooks to untangle nets or any awkward hooks in the mouth. Quicker and safer for both you and the fish. Another great use for the hook cutters are WHEN you stick the hook in your hand. Yeah it’ll happen and if you are lucky it’ll only be in your hand and not still attached to an angry pike. Those cutters are well worth carrying around for when that happens as you can get yourself free of the fish. Ok the hook is still in your hand but you can deal with that once the fish is back swimming. 😉

Unhooking mats are great. You can get some that roll up nice and small and are light enough to carry around everywhere. But i’ll not preach you have to have one. Use common sense. Wet grass is fine but a hard concrete canal bank isn’t. Think about where you are fishing and decide if you need it. Any doubt, just take one.

Now you can go
Yes, now you can go fishing. Enjoy it. Don’t be in a rush to catch a monster perch or a humongous pike. The joy of light lure fishing is roaming around having a bit of fun. If you work hard you might find a sweet spot full of fish or even that massive stripey. Get yourself plenty of venues and give them all a bit of time, moving from one to the other to keep it fresh and see if you can get lucky and drop on a few fish. I can’t stress enough how important location is. You won’t catch them if they are not there. Don’t go buying more lures because that won’t solve the problem. If the fish are there one of them will hit within ten minutes. At that point you work hard to figure out if more are there and if certain things work or don’t.


And my last tip for the day is learn your gear. In some kind of Mr Miyagi, wax on wax off style you need to be at one with your gear. Get to know and feel everything that is happening from butt of your rod right down to the river bed itself. Watch everything, your line, your rod, the water, the lure and get right in the zone. Simply casting out and winding back in doesn’t always work unless a crazy pike is about. Some days you have to work at everything, faster slower, shallower or deeper, slowly twitched on the bottom or whizzed just under the surface. You are a lure fisherman now and the very best are super switched on, watching, working, jigging and jerking the lures, so make that lure work and lure those fish. It’s not always easy, you’re making it harder for yourself by using a daft shaped alien looking thing, but when it all goes right, it’s absolutely fantastic fun. Welcome to lure fishing!

Tight lines and have fun.