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.
So 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.
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.
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. 🙂