I’m actually going to start in December 19 as it relates to something a bit further down the line. I’d had a Piking trip early December to Medway Valleys Trout lake, I’ve given it the odd go over the years without a great deal of success, a few mid doubles being the best. This particular day I’d had a take and pulled into a good fish, those that fish for pike will know that once the water cools, they are not the greatest fighters. But you can still tell you’ve a goodun on, this one pulled hard and was stripping line from the clutch, with 40lb braid I take no prisoners, so it was clearly a good fish. About a minute in, ping, she was off, shaken the hooks free. I was fairly melancholy about it for the rest of the session but I’m a stubborn sort so vowed to spend every moment of my angling time trying to catch whatever it was I’d lost. So, Dec 19th I was back, I’d had a few Jack’s, the rain was incessant to the point that I noticed a bit of water running into the lake from a swim opposite. Within an hour it was a raging torrent as the millstream that runs alongside the lake burst its banks, my swim soon had six inches of water extra. I packed up and left, and that was that the lake came up 3 foot and you couldn’t get near it, so the lake was closed for the foreseeable.
So, Jan 2020 arrived.
One of the clubs I’m a member of had just got hold of a couple of miles of drain down on the Romney Marsh that has a bit of history for decent pike. I’d had a trip down there in the summer and walked all of it with a marker rod, a simple affair of a pike bung and lead, every 50yrds I’d check the depth. After around a mile the drain suddenly changed with a bit more width and another foot of depth, going from 4ft to 5ft. It doesn’t sound a lot but when you’ve miles the same any change can be the difference. This extra depth and width lasted 800yrds before it went back to how it was. It was this area that I decided to concentrate my piking on. I’d had a few doubles to 16lb 8oz before Christmas and first session back in the new year managed a 15lb 12oz and a 15lb. I was back 2 weeks later. First run was the 16 I’d had several weeks before, this time 16lb 12oz, next take was something special a 24lb 12oz beauty.
I don’t imagine there’s many more if any like that down there, so I was very pleased with that one. Fish like that really are a rare treat. As for kit, I have a mile long walk to where I like to fish so it’s a Transition Rucksack with a unhooking mat clipped to it, Transition quiver and the Aeronium supalite chair, that’s about as light as I can go.
I had a few more trips down there over the next month or so and had a four more doubles to 16, and no, not the same 16 I’d already had. Just a quick mention on my method of piking. I’ve done an awful lot of it over the years and for me, on the waters I choose to fish, deadbaits rule, almost exclusively legered. Occasionally I’ll stick a float on and drift a bait around but that’s usually after a legered bait has failed. I would say that it rarely makes a difference. If they are feeding, they’ll pick a deadbait up off the deck. I also rarely move, again, when they are feeding, they’ll find your bait. It’s about making the right swim choice in the first place, which goes back to my pre-season planning. I’ve had a 20 in the morning only for a pal to catch it in the afternoon from a swim 400 yards away, when they’re on it, they’re on it. What I don’t want to do is reel in and move from a swim that a big pike is just about to swim through. That’s my logic and it seems to serve me well on the drains and pits I fish.
March arrived and finally on the 4th Trout lake was back open. Now ive normally stopped piking at the end of Feb and move on to something else but with the water finally dropping enough to make a few swims fishable for day only angling, I thought I’d have one last go. I’d had a couple of 8/9 pounders and then suddenly I latched into one a bit bigger, whether it was the one I’d lost back in December of course it’s impossible to know but she turned out to be 20lb 11oz.
A cracking end to my Pike season. All my pike fishing this winter has been done with the 12ft Snapper cult deadbait rod, a nice robust rod that takes the roughness that pike rods often endure. In amongst those pike trips I’d had the odd go for Perch but hadn’t had anything exceptional with just a few 2s.
Mid-March and I wanted to try for some gravel pit roach. A couple of summers ago I was carping on a coastal pit and had been having a few Bream and got down on my knees to unhook yet another when this monster roach came up with my 16mm boilie and size 6 hook in its lip. A quick shake of its head and it was gone. So now whenever I want to try for a roach it’s here that I head. Ive since had Roach to just over 2lb, there have been 3s out which if I had to put a weight on the one that dropped off, I’d say it wasn’t far off that magic mark. I wasn’t fishing for the one I lost so I wasn’t particularly bothered about it. For me it was just good to know they are in there. By mid-March fish are starting to move about so I decided on 45g mesh open ended feeders loaded with some Sonubaits black roach with a little grilled hemp added. I put red maggots plugged in the middle of the feeder. Rigs are little heli rigs like scaled down tench rigs. Short 3-inch hook links of 6lb fluorocarbon, this gives a bit of stiffness to prevent tangles. Hookbait is double red on a 16. I favour live maggots, dead reds are great for bream but you will catch more roach on lives. I recast every 30 to 45 minutes at this time of year.
I had a lovely day’s fishing with around 50lb, including some nice bream, a tench and what I’d come for with 4 or 5 quality roach to 1lb 14oz.
Rods for these sessions are the 11ft 6in 1.25lb Neoteric, they have just the right action for punching a feeder but are soft enough action that they don’t pull hooks out, on these I use 5000 Latitude reels. I had another trip a week later, but the wind had swung northerly and it had gone freezing, fishing the same swim this time I blanked. I had planned to have a good go for them throughout March but that was that LOCKDOWN.
I had 10 weeks where I wasn’t allowed on site to work, I’ve never had that kind of time off. After a week of getting up late I decided it was time to get stuff done. I made a list of things I’d wanted to do on the house that I’d been thinking about doing for 10 years and just cracked on. Scaffolding up, then rendered and painted the back wall, replaced various outside pipework. Fitted a new bathroom suite then a new shower room suite with new flooring in both. New kitchen floor painted the hall stairs and landing and fitted a new carpet. Then my son decided that living at home had got too much for him during lockdown, so he moved out with his girlfriend. I gutted his room, had the floorboards up and rewired it, painted it and fitted a new laminate floor. Painted the garage then dug out and renewed some fence posts that were on their way out and replaced 3 fence panels. The credit card took a hit but for me it wasn’t so much the money that was ever the problem, it was always time. I’d rather go fishing or play golf. But the jobs got done, and credit card has since been paid off. I’d just about come to the end of the list of jobs when the Angling Trust announced that angling could resume.
When fishing did resume in mid-May it was Tench time, now I normally flit about between lakes but what with this year’s Tench season being short I decided to stick to just one pit. I struggled, as did everyone else, just the odd fish and none to me. With no one fishing all spring the weed had taken over many of the spots we put a bait, amazing how we change the lakebed with our baiting and weed clearing. The lake had been open a few weeks by now and one of the gravel bars I was fishing on top of was clear, but a yard too far or too short found weed. Therefore, as has been my way the past couple of seasons I’ve been fishing inline, a length of Avid rig Tube, Korum inline Grub feeder and Turbo bead with my new favourite hook, a size 10 Allrounder, 12lb xpert mono and worm kebab.
This is a free running rig which with fairly tight lines aided seeing bites and getting fish in. My best session I had 3 carp during the day followed in the evening with Tench of 9lb 6oz followed by a 10lb 4oz and a 9lb 8oz the following morning. That was actually the highlight of my tenching with the following trips just giving me carp, some nice one’s mind to near on 30lb.
With certain Covid restrictions easing come July I managed to get some coaching done. I’d had several clients keen to use gift vouchers that had been purchased as presents so it was nice to meet these guys and get them fishing. I actually had my busiest ever year with the Coaching with so many people having my “Taster days” as well as several wanting more advanced lessons. In particular lots of Dad’s n Lads.
I’d been wanting a go for some Bream, waiting for the right conditions. A day at the end of July looked perfect for a trip to the Walthamstow Reservoirs. To catch bream on a day Session I needed a nice South westerly, overcast and low pressure which is exactly what we got. I arrived at 7 for the gate opening and made my way round. I picked a spot about two thirds down the rese, they are just bowls so no particular features. I just wanted to be down the windward end but still have plenty of open water as this is where I’ve always found the bream to hang out. I spombed out over a tight area with 3kg of mixed small pellet and Sonubaits F1 corn and over the top of this I fished an inline gripper lead with a ball of Banoffee groundbait moulded around it, a hook length of 6 inches of 10lb mono to a size 8 hook and a bait of a 12mm code red boilie and single piece of plastic corn attached via a knotless knot hair. I don’t like to put the hookbait in the groundbait ball so leave it hanging loose.
I had a special treat this session too as I had just taken delivery of the new Xcalibre rods, so I was keen to put the 12ft 1.75lb to the test.
I recast the balls hourly. I had to wait until noon for my first bite, and a typical bream, a bleep as the bobbin tightens then a drop back. At 12lb 10oz it was a lovely fish. I was hopefully that a shoal had turned up but that wasn’t the case as my next bite came at 3, I’d just netted that when one of the other rods signalled a take. The first fish was another of 12lb 10oz, the 2nd one of 9lb. And that was that. It’s always nice to head off fishing with a target in mind and then to actually catch the said target.
So, August came, and my coaching really kicked off with lots of one to one’s, thus not leaving me with much time for my own angling. The only thing of note was a trip with my brother to a 300-year-old estate lake for a swing tip match, both armed with a 50-year-old glass Hardy Swing tip rod and Mitchell match we agreed to make it traditional methods only. So, paternoster and 3ft hook lengths were the order of the day. I was sneaking a victory with some nice roach and a few Bream when out of nowhere my brother upped his catch rate and soon overtook me on inspection the sneaky bugger had changed to a method feeder, obviously I instantly banned him and announced myself the winner. But therein tells a story doesn’t it, just how effective modern methods are compared to what you might call a traditional approach.
So on to September and another Bream trip to Walthamstow, this time for a night session. Night fishing is allowed on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month. It’s always a bit busier but I still ended up where I wanted and in the same swim as before. The day was different, just a slight ripple and sunny, it was going to be all about the night for this session, and so it turned out.
Fishing the same method as on my day session a few weeks before, right on cue my first bite came at 10pm and then I had a bream almost on every hour right through the night ending up with 8 or 9, nearly all doubles to high 11s. After 6am it all dried up and that was that. There are mid doubles which are what draws me back, but for this year my pb remains at 13lb 2oz.
September also saw me on the front cover of the Anglers Mail, the editor wanted to do a piece on my angling, coaching and Fishing for Schools charity work, I didn’t know he was going to use one of my pics on the front, a really nice surprise.
So, we’re up to October now and I started to have some trips for Perch. I’ve a few little 2-to-3-acre farm Reservoirs on one of my club tickets that have perch to 4lb. Whilst I do use prawns and worms, if I’m given a choice, I’ll opt for a livebait every time. In the same way a deadbait picks out a decent Pike, a livebait picks out a decent Perch. These Reservoirs do not have pike in so if you get a bite on a livebait you know it’s your target fish, although having said that I did have a 23lb mirror on a little roach a few years ago and oddly from what a tricky little carp water is quiet! I’ve tried catching on jigs, drop shotting etc but these waters only seem to produce to a bait of some description.
Iv trialled several ways of fishing livebaits and now settle on a sunken float paternoster. The reses I fish are up to 15ft deep, so a surface float isn’t all that practical. I fix a small black foam ball 3ft up the line using a couple of rubber float stops, then around 1ft to 18in I’ll have a heli rig kit with a 6-inch hook link of 6lb fluoro to a size 4 All-rounder hook. A lead of 15 to 20g is at the end of the line. I've experimented with running Dyson type rigs but found I get in all sorts of tangles; I do need to re look at trying them though. If the correct foam ball and lead are used and balanced well, I find a perch will as a rule cart the whole lot off, resistance isn’t a mega issue when live baiting. I had a nice run of 2s but no 3s. Then early November I had a trip to one of the trickier reses, I’m not sure there’s that many perch but what there are, are more often a decent stamp. And so, it was this day as my sunken float paternostered roach got snaffled. After a good tussle my best perch of the winter had turned up, all 3lb 14oz of it, 1oz short of my PB.
Having had such a nice Perch, I put fishing for them on the back burner. I had a go for the gravel pit roach again and managed a few to 1lb 6oz and then started Piking. Back down the Marsh and the drains I’d been fishing last winter. I had a few doubles to 17 throughout November and December. On my last trip of the year on 30th Dec I returned to Trout lake. I’d sat there for nothing since dawn and decided I’d give it until 2pm. 2pm came and I stood up to start packing away, as I did so the left-hand rod was away, and I finished my last trip of the year with a 15.
So, all said and done quite a nice years fishing, I’ve only written about trips of note, I did plenty of other fishing as well, I like to get out angling at least twice a week. I only had one short 2-hour session on a river for barbel back in June with no success, I find myself always drawn back to the lakes and canals which I have in abundance, I think we are all tend to do what suits us geographically. I wish I had a Severn, Trent or Hampshire Avon on my doorstep, I really should make an effort to fish the rivers more in 2021.