As a fishing-mad youngster, pike were what other anglers caught. My encounters with them usually involved a big swirl in the water, a yank on the rod and then a slack, hookless line waving in the breeze. Yes, once again the little roach I was winding in had been ambushed by a lurking freshwater shark. Eventually I made efforts to catch them deliberately, but with limited success; I reckon I've caught probably less than ten double-figure (i.e. 10lb+) pike. But as they were rarely my quarry of choice even in my most enthusiastic angling years, this tally fairly reflects the modest level of application. I never did manage a 'twenty'; my biggest was 16lb 8oz. To catch a twenty-pound pike is to cross a threshold. It's probably equivalent to finding a BB rarity...
Rob and I were away to a slow start yesterday. I am struggling to shake off a virus at the moment, so our intended overnight session was shortened to just a few hours. Static deadbaits was the plan, which meant we needed something to sit on during the inevitable wait. My vintage fishing chair is missing a foot, and Rob's is with a new owner after he kindly left it in a lakeside car park for anyone to take home back in August. New chairs then. So our first port of call was a tackle shop, where we emptied our wallets. Finally, we were tackled up and fishing by a ridiculously late 3:00pm.
The sun set and all was quiet. I'd just brewed our second or third cuppa when my bite alarm beeped, and then beeped again. The bobbin was lifting an inch, dropping an inch, lifting again - a very twitchy, tentative take. I picked up the rod and felt the line; it was tightening gently. Winding down, I struck and the rod took on a satisfying curve. A couple of kicks and then it was coming quite easily. In response to a query from Rob I said "Nah, it doesn't feel very big" and he readied himself with the landing net. The fish took a little bit of line and I had to backwind a couple of turns, but otherwise it was mainly just a weighty resistance. Suddenly there was a swirl right by the net and in the light of our head-torches I glimpsed a hefty lump of pike turn and dive. Oh, I thought, that looks quite decent actually. In a moment Rob had it netted, struggling a bit to get its tail over the cord. I put the rod down and peered into the water. There lay a large pike. To my rusty eye it looked very large in fact. Conscious that I'd overestimated the size of the last one, I said to Rob "How big do you reckon?" "Upper double?" he replied, like me unwilling to voice what we were both wondering: could this be a twenty?
Leaving it in the water for a minute we gathered the necessary equipment: unhooking mat, scales, weigh sling, forceps, camera, even some water to pour over the beast and keep it wet. Not many decades ago a pike like this might have been gaffed and killed. The deep of pocket would have had it in a glass case on the wall. Thankfully, today's trophy is just a few million pixels of frozen memory. The stage set, we had another look at our leading lady. "Big, isn't it..."
Grasping the mesh, I lifted.
That's the moment you know. When you lift a fish from the water and feel that dead weight in the net. The unspoken, optimistic thoughts which you've carefully restrained suddenly come bursting out. It's a twenty! It's got to be! On the mat it looked enormous. Neatly hooked in the roof of the mouth, the forceps did their job and then it was the moment of truth: into the weigh sling and aloft. Allowing for 10oz of wet sling we settled on 24lb 14oz. A twenty and then some! Yesssss!! How did I feel? Elated covers it.
Rob did a grand job with the camera. A few snaps of each side, and then back in the water and away. Supporting the great beast while it recovers, as its gills softly pulse and its fins waft, you cannot help a feeling of complete awe. To catch such a creature and spend a few precious moments thus is a privilege indeed.
So there it is, the tale of my first twenty-pound pike. By 8:00pm we were packed up and off home. Sadly it was the only fish we caught, so Rob has yet to get off the mark. But, we will be back. And therein lies another tale...
Pike that large are rare. In our few visits to this venue we haven't seen many other anglers, and of course we want it to stay that way. I previously pondered the advisability of mentioning the location. My thoughts were: supposing we jammily catch a biggie straight off, and I've been blabbing about where we're fishing? I'll feel a right silly-muffin then, won't I! Well, it's happened, but perhaps I'll get away with it. After all, how many anglers are going to drop in to NQS? Not many I hope. This is a birder's blog, isn't it.
Anyway, mum's the word...