Well the first few months of the piking season have passed, with a few fish caught, but nothing particularly big… and we've now changed our plans totally!
But lets go back a bit, and I imagine like a lot of you guys who aren't full time carpers, as autumn arrives you start thinking about which venues you're going to target for the pike.
Gary and myself are the same, with us running through the waters we fancy, including places we hope to return to like the Warren in Essex, Blenheim Palace, Bewl Water, and the mighty Landridge. Then there's a few places like Farmoor, Ardingly, and Weirwood that also tickled our fancy, and all these thoughts before we'd finished off our last few carp sessions… but that's the fun of it, the planning.
So we then started the piking in earnest, with a few trips to Rib Valley in Hertfordshire, as it's a reasonably close venue to Gary and myself, and as these were sort of 'shake down' sessions, to make sure we had everything packed after the change over from our carp gear to the pike tackle, it also has a handy tackle shop on site for any bits we might need.. or have forgotten!
I manage to land a jack on the first visit, and it's a reasonable 14lb'er that lands in my net second time out… I'm giving Gary some stick now as he hasn't caught yet, but he has his day on our following trip, opting for a bit of drifter float fishing that nets him a cracking 3lb 5oz perch, and another 14lb pike.
It's during these outings that we really start planning ahead, and even though the piking has only just got going, we start to chat about next spring!
I think because this years tench and carp campaign was so dire, we've both been trying to think of somewhere that would still give us the chance of a good fish, and perhaps be a little easier to get to, bearing in mind we journeyed up to Bedfordshire through most of last summer, which wasted good fishing time, and cost a fair bit in diesel!
Gary suggests fishing somewhere in the Lee Valley area, which we both live on top of, and we soon look up the waters (many of which we know) and make a shortlist of possible venues for next year. It's left for me to ring Lee Valley Parks to find out the details, waiting list times, access, and general info on the species we're interested in…. it turns out to be a call that will change our piking plans altogether!
Ringing the Lee Valley Parks office I'm soon explaining how Gary and myself are looking forward to next Spring/Summer, and a venue that will give us the chance of some good tench and carp, and if the odd big bream came along we wouldn't mind that either.
Speaking to one of the very helpful team at the fisheries office, I'm soon getting a run down on possible waters. Of the three we'd fancied, it seems they all contain worthy fish to target, but a couple of them I find out have 2 year waiting lists, so that leaves the last choice.
It's a big water, but has all the main species, and in good sizes… and more importantly, tickets are available straight away. Looks like we've found our venue, so I check ticket prices and when we have to apply, so I can report back to Gary. Then before I can end the call, I'm asked if I want the tickets now as this will let us fish during the usually productive Spring period?
This is something I hadn't thought of, with Gary and myself thinking we'd fish the Spring on one of our club waters then start on the new venue in June, and I pass this on to the Parks officer I'm speaking with. I'm then asked what we're fishing for at the moment, and explain that we're just starting to get into our piking. It brings an unexpected reply.
'How about doing your piking on the new water?. It's got some good sized fish, and then you'd be ready for next year!' This was certainly out of the blue, but perhaps they had something there?
A hasty chat with Gary and I go over the details of my recent call. The thing that holds us back is the cost of the ticket, which isn't cheap. But as we discuss the situation we realise that if we balance the money we would save from our impending day tickets against the cost of the new ticket, we would probably end up saving money. All we need to do is concentrate our pike fishing on the new venue, which in turn would give us the chance to keep an eye on the water with regard to the tench and carp movements.
I'd already asked for application forms to be sent out, and they turn up a day later, so we fill them in and they're returned. The fisheries office promise a fast turn around if needed, but that won't be in time for our next trip, so a visit to an existing club water looks on the cards.
We decide on Landridge for our next trip, and are soon in a couple of favourite swims getting a selection of baits out.
I'm having a play with a 'kebab' rig. It's basically a single treble hook mounted on a trace, with what amounts to a long 'hair' coming off it. Using a thick slice from a large deadbait (you can use 2 or 3 pieces, depending on how long the hair is), it's threaded on the hair along with a polyball to pop-up the bait. I've then trapped a drilled bullet on the trace with a couple of rig-stops, so I can now adjust the height the bait pops up off the bottom.
I've heard some of the arguments against the rig, saying that if pike take it, they would have taken a whole bait anyway. But the points in its favour are the large release of oils because of the cut sides, and its thought that on hard pressured waters pike might take a small chunk of bait as opposed to a whole 'dead' they've gradually become suspicious of… well, there's only one way to find out!
There's also some live baits we managed to catch, so it's a varied menu for our quarry.
Gary's first run results in a dropped bait, but not long after he has the first fish on the bank. It's not big, a 8-9lb jack, but it lets us know the fish are there. It's not long after that I'm in, and a scraper double gets tempted by my roach livebait.
We have one more fish in the session, it's on one of my rods, and it's taken the kebab! A reasonable fish, long but empty, which is a shame as all it goes is 14lb… but at least it was taken on the new rig.
That's all we have on the day, so not a bad outing, and it fills in the time till we get those new tickets, let's hope it isn't long!