BIg Pike - Attempt No 12 ( Fens, Boston, Lincs)

If you look back into the blog, tench and grayling have been a particular struggle for me in the diaries but thankfully today is pike fishing.  The good news for today though is that piking is one of my better fishing specialisms having been fortunate enough to catch an awful lot of doubles over the years.  

However, a 20lber has eluded me for a long time now, which may be because I have predominantly fished Bala Lake and other North Wales lakes/reservoirs such as Llyn Brenig and Llyn Aled Isaf. Whilst I love fishing these big venues, they are so deep and often in desolate upland terrain that I don't actually think that they hold the density of prey fish that you would expect and really big fish are comparatively rare.  That said my brother and Mrs Fish have both manged to land 20lbers when I've been piloting the boat and I did lose something huge (at least 25lbs...) when trolling off the "Red House" on Bala Lake.  If you catch it let me know...

Anyhow, one of my mates used to fish the Fens as a boy and having read avidly about Dave Horton and Steve Rodwell's catches there in "Ultimate Pike", I've always wanted to try leap frogging down a wind swept fen looking for really big old girl to cheer up a cold day.

I've been invited for a day's shooting near Boston, so it's time to kill two birds with one stone and fish the day before on the West Fen to try out fen piking for the first time.  The books weren't kidding when they said each drain could appear featureless though....

Luckily, we had some local knowledge in that my pal Damian caught his last pike and also a PB of 26lbs from the swim we were planning to start from.  Now although that sounds a red hot tip, I should point out that he was 18 when he caught that fish and is 40 now so our intel is only 22 years out of date then...

Not to worry, I've set up two 3lb test curve rods, one on a straight lead with two size 6 trebles attached to a half mackerel, while rod two has an overdepth Fox deadbait pencil baited with my No 1 deadbait of a fresh sardine - oil tastic!

I'm not really sure where to start as I'm used to staring at 500 acres in front of me rather than a drain only 15m wide.  One on the far margin and one in the middle seems sensible and we're off.  The pencil is in the middle and although lying flat is twitching after only 30 seconds.  I'm trying to sort rod two onto a buzzer when the float lifts a little then lies flat again.  I decide to park myself in the mud next to that rod for a few minutes and just after sitting down the float starts to cock again and I wind down and strike as it starts to sail away.  Literally first cast and after two minutes we're off.

Now, I really was not expecting what happened next, no chug chug of a jack; no snag; the rod is just taken straight to it's test curve, starts violently bucking in my hands and the drag is giving line straight away as a very heavy fish bolts up the drain.  Ten arm wrenching violent minutes later with Damian up to his knees in mud he net's my first fen pike....

Plus at 20lbs 4oz, my first 20lb Pike and what a belter too.  Chuffed to bits, I do my best to fish with enthusiasm through the rest of a miserable cold winters day but despite losing a jack, it's all about the first 5 minutes and I can't get the smile off my face.  20 years later and it's still a prime catching spot. Location, location, location as they say! 

Mr Fish


Big Pike - Attempt No 11 (River Dee, Chester)

Quick run up the River Dee at Chester today from the meadows to the pumping station.

I was after perch really trolling a Mepps Aglia 5 red and yellow to 10lb braid.  No perch but a jack of about 1lb at the pumping station at the end of the straight.

Better then a back to back blank though.  Thinking of going to the fens for a piking trip as I've not figured out the Dee yet for pike or perch of any size.


Mr Fish


Big Pike - Attempt No 10 (Shropshire Union Canal, Chester)

Not much to say about today - bitterly cold day.  Three hours on the Shropshire Union canal from Boughton Hall Cricket Club into town and then down to Telford Warehouse.

Despite trying most lure types, not a single take.  Real confidence sapper after two good fish in 2 hours last time.

Blank number 18 I believe...

Mr Fish


Big Pike - Attempt No 9 (Shropshire Union Canal, Chester)

I've been raring to go on the River Dee for weeks after buying a load of Perch lures but predictably there has been biblical levels of rain and the river is a chocolate coloured unfishable torrent.

Bored and with the family away for a few hours, I've took the dog for a walk along the canal next to Boughton Hall cricket club to try for a pike or decent perch.

First cast loses the lure I spent an hour carefully selecting into the scrub in front of the used car garage but second cast on a large Back and white Mepps produces a really solid take in the basin.  It's a great scrap on a light spinning rod and after going aerial 2-3 times, two bemused Japanese tourists see me hand out a nice pike of 9-10lbs.  Not the worst start to fishing a new venue!

I've only got a couple of hours but an hour later a jack of 5lbs takes the same lure further east on the canal but working back with various plugs doesn't add anything else.

I'm probably not going to beat my pike PB of c.17lbs in the canal but it's worth a try if the river is in flood.

Not looking good at Utd for the "Chosen One" - even the scousers are getting feisty...

Mr Fish 


Big Perch - Attempt No 3 (River Dee, Chester)

Even though, I'm not the greatest lure fisher in the world, Chester or even my house probably(!), there is something about the little rascals that keeps me buying them like Imelda Marcos with shoes. 

Living on the Dee is like torture, given I just can't get to grips with it after over 30 years of trying and a quick surf through Google can show plenty of 20lb plus pike and some great perch.  This boy seems to be pretty good at finding them though:-


I'm reliably informed that a 5lb perch has come out of the City Centre stretch which is where I live so I've been researching the best trolling lures for perch for literally weeks now and they've arrived from various far flung parts of the world at great expense. 

A Kwikfish K15 banana shaped plug in black and green apparently has an action which is "Irresistible" to big stripeys so it's off for a row before work with this bad boy trailing behind.  Must confess that the doubts were starting to kick in as I passed the water treatment works 1.5 miles upstream but sure enough when dragging the lure under an overhanging tree off goes the ratchet.

My PB perch is only 1lb 4oz so any decent fish stands a chance of getting me a PB.  Excitement short lived though as a feisty but relatively small (0.75lb) perch is netted.  Nothing more on the way back down the river but plenty of options to try in the coming weeks if the levels stay sensible.

Mr Fish


Big Tench - Attempt No 9 (Lymmvale)

Fished between hut peg and car park peg.  Falling barometer and overcast.

Not much else to say, save that Plan B didn't email me and I spent another 11 hours at Lymmvale fishing every method imaginable and caught zip, nada, dim byd, rien, "F-all" if I need go on.

Blank 19.

I really am rubbish at Tench fishing.


Big Tench - Attempt No 8 (Lymmvale)

Decided to work my way round Lymmvale on a hot day/evening with my highly technical anchored crust rig on one rod and a white chocolate shelf life boilie on the other rod to beat my Tench PB of 5lbs which has stood for 20 years and was on a pole to a caster rig on 1.5lb line.  See recent salmon/chub on the Wye blog for the Mr Fish special rig.

Must admit these white choc boilies smell amazing, though I've never actually caught anything on them.  No change today either with 7 hours invested for not one twitch.

Blank number 18, I'm afraid.

Back next week(ish) with Plan B - not the singer of course...unless he wants to email me and come!

Mr Fish   


Big Salmon - Attempt No 3 (River Wye, Rectory Beat)

River: Wye
Beat: Rectory
Air Temp: 33.4 Deg C
Level: 0 on Gauge B
Barometer: Steady at 1006 HPa

My best man and Tulchan fishing gang member has been suggesting that we try somewhere closer to home for salmon and the Wye looks the best bet to get some good fishing without breaking the bank.

Access is controlled by the Wye and Usk Foundation, which is a charitable organisation.  In theory, it's a piece of cake to book some fishing but after studying the catch returns and trying to book onto one of the most productive beats, it's clear that the relatively low cost (for salmon fishing...) means that people book all the best beats way in advance, even in high summer.

After trawling through the dates, I finally found a single rod (out of six) free on the Rectory beat, which is pretty famous and thought I'd just go down and scope it out, while picking up some work related business in mid Wales.

Unfortunately, as regards fishing, I picked one of the hottest days of the year and with the river down to it's bones, there was just no way that the salmon rod was going to make it out of the car.  Interestingly, the other five rods booked never showed all day which suggests to me that the low cost is encouraging some selfish practices........ie. book all the best weeks and if conditions are good fish the beat and if not, then so what, it's not big money.  Might I suggest to the foundation that either rods have to confirm 48 hours before (so the rods can be offered to other people if they are to be free) or a no show on the day cancels all other bookings that year?

Anyhow, enough Victor Meldew chat, the beat is beautiful and the low water and high temperature actually made it easy to find the fish.  Oxygenated necks were the order of the day and a bonanza ensued.  Fishing a team of spiders, sometimes with a small double on the point to drop the flies a few inches, somewhere over 50 fish came to the net over the day.  Although plenty were parr, there was also plenty of good grayling to 1.5lbs and brown trout to the same weight.

Building on my multi-fish experiences on the Teviot, I somehow managed to get two parr, a grayling and the best brownie of the day on a single cast which is one to tell my girls about when they are a bit older.  Around tea time, a switch to the chub rod produced a 4lb fish first cast to anchored crust in Ty Mawr Pool, where I saw my one and only salmon of the day roll in the seam of the main current.  As you can see, I use a highly technical rig and rod set-up for my river Chub fishing these days...

So, not even close to a salmon today but a truly great day's sport.  One final observation though, something particularly big did follow me through the woods at dusk at the bottom of the beat, which got my cold fish blood racing a bit(!).  I'm hoping it was a sheep but I'm not sure that they pant....

Mr Fish          


Big Bleak - Attempt No 1 (River Wye)

Now, I've never caught a Bleak and as one of only three major species in the UK that I am yet to bag. The plan was therefore to go drive back to Chester from sea trout fishing in West Wales via the River Wye and sort out this major shortcoming in my angling career.

For the uninformed among readers, the bleak is a majestic beast with many similarities to the saltwater Tarpon in appearance and fighting capabilities, though with the slightly restricting factor of a really good one being about 4 inches long...

I've brought no coarse tackle so a trip into Ross on Wye to buy a 3m whip, 1lb mono, some pole flats/weights and size 20-24 hooks is made.  I'm going all out bread punch and sloppy cloud ground bait to quickly work the shoals of river margin bleak into a shark like feeding frenzy.

It's hot today though, really really hot....

On arrival at the target stretch the first sight I see is another angler lying sun burnt in the back of his estate car to hide from the sun clutching a water bottle against his forehead.  There are fish all over the surface of the river and so making the daft decision to try to achieve my aim using a fly rod, 2 hours are spent nurdling tiny flies through shoals of probably Dace and Roach rather than Bleak before the 40th follow again fails to produce and the loaf of bread and pole comes out of the car. 

I've picked a concrete croy which extends about 15 feet into the river to sit on and work my magic from.  After feeding 5-6 golf balls of crumb into the swim over 5 minutes, the first put in produces a bite and a nice roach of about 4 ounces.  These keep coming with the odd dace for the next hour.  Perhaps this is not going to be so easy after all.

Each time a ball of groundbait goes in the bites stop for a few minutes, presumably as the shoals follow the particles downstream but I've noticed a few smaller fish topping inside the line of the croy.  First flick of the whip in that direction and the job's done, Barry the Bleak is in the bag and as you can see from the picture below, he's a fine specimen.

10-20 quickly follow before it's back in the car with "Only" the two easy targets of a Zander and Wels Catfish left to go to get the UK full house of species...

Mr Fish    


Big Sea Trout - Attempt No 4 (River Teifi, Llandysul)

I'm back down to West Wales on The River Teifi with my University mate Llyr and in the charge of Steffan Jones, sea trout guide par excellence for two nights Sewin fishing.  Despite poor conditions on recent visits, Steff has always delivered, so whilst the lack of rain for a long time now has resulted in bare bones river conditions in North Wales and Cheshire I'm still confident that we'll catch.  Always have total faith in you Steff if you're reading this!

Anyone who wants to fish for Sewin/Sea Trout at night really should give Steffan Jones a call on 01559 364 999, though on your first night out new guiding customers may want to discuss his slightly unusual previous career as a DJ with him.....

Despite not having ever caught a sea trout when I started the Big Fish Diaries, my sea trout PB is now a fairly respectable 4.5lbs from the River Spey so it's going to take a pretty good fish to set a new personal record.

With usual Welsh blokes going away levels of organisation, there is a panic the day before as we realise that each man has left it to the other to book a hotel.  The Porth Hotel in Llandysul is right at the heart of the action but we favour a lovely place in not too far away in Newcastle Emlyn called the Gwesty'r Emlyn on the high street - great rooms, food etc, which can squeeze us in.  Panic over we make the 3 hour drive down through mid Wales and along the very pretty coastline on Sunday night in plenty of time to stop in Aberystwyth for tea and fantastic cakes at Llyr's folks and a stodgy dinner in the hotel in preparation for a night on the river.

The conditions look great as we go down to the river and after fishing a few runs at dusk, we are into the main event, casting into virtually still pools in total darkness.  I'm getting to grips with this type of fishing now and can feel the rod loading on the back cast and don't need my eyes, which is useful as they are redundant in any case.  A few fish start to move but as quick as the action looks promising the dreaded "Tarth" comes in which is a cold mist that covers the river when the air temperature is colder than that of the water.  It's like a switch has been turned off and the water is deathly silent.  Despite stoically (or foolishly) fishing on till 1am there's no sign of a fish, let alone a take, so hopes move to the second night.

Night two and I've set up two outfits.  The first is a 4wt for fishing small spider flies till dark and my usual heavier Hardy 7wt for after dark, this time matched with a heavier 8wt line provided by Steff to work the rod better with shorter lengths of fly line being aerialised on relatively short casts.  The air temperature feels warmer tonight and there's a lot of brownies rising as we reach the river.  A few Salmon Parr and brownies take the small flies as they go across the faster pre-dark runs and hopes are definitely higher tonight. 

Just on dark, there's a more solid take on the light outfit and after a really lively scrap on the light outfit a 2lb(ish) Sewin is netted to a Black Pennel.  We fish on and after being persuaded to fish some back eddies at my feet, I'm astonished to take a solid take right at the tip of the rod on the heavier outfit.  It comes as a total surprise and is duly missed but I'm more studious with the next cast and the Squirrel & Blue is firmly struck into the scissors of a bigger fish that bores deeper for a while but is eventually netted and is nearer 3lbs.

We fish on till 2am but whilst there are fish moving in most parts of the river and our headlamps pick out some real horses (6-8lbs) when moving through some shallow pool areas, they are frustratingly elusive.

The night is not without further entertainment though, as while sharing ghost and strange night-time animal stories, the aerialised fly suddenly takes on a life of it's own.  While I moan about hooking a leaf, Steff looks much more nervous than would be expected for a man about to pluck a leaf from a fly.  Dropping the line into the water produces a very odd sight in the margins as my fly and leader tries to swim to the waters' edge....! 

It's a couple of seconds before it dawns on me that Count Dracula has been hooked in his bat phase and is making a break for it to get to the bank.  Now I'm always happy to muck in but it really is important not to step on a professional fishing guide's toes, so I felt obliged to let my guide use all his Bill Odie skills to unhook said bat whilst it furiously (I'd probably be a bit annoyed too to have a hook with a bit of squirrel hair on it stuck in my leg) tried to bite him before dropping into the water, swimming to the bank and snarling at us both!

No more fish, but two of 2-3lbs and a bat is more than a good return for tough conditions and as ever a great experience fishing in the total darkness.

Give it a try...

Mr Fish