Friday 16 November 2018

The Freshwater Shark

Last Sunday night the forecast was lousy. Heavy showers, windy, the lot. Work-wise, Monday looked a write-off too, so I did something I've been meaning to try for a while. I went night-fishing for pike...

To be honest, years ago I was never all that enamoured of pike. Although I fished for them on occasion, I rarely did very well. My most successful endeavours involved a bag of sprats and a stretch of the River Colne, where I'd usually catch a few small ones. But anything bigger than five or six pounds was a bonus, and my best from the venue weighed 11-something.

More recently though - and thanks mainly to the enthusiasm of my son Rob - pike have got under my skin a bit. It's helped that I've caught a few, including a couple of real whoppers. I've said it before, but there is something truly awesome about a big pike. I think it's a combination of factors. First of all, they are properly wild fish and therefore rare; not stocked or artificially fed, but a genuine product of their environment. Secondly, despite being at the top of the food chain they are really quite fragile creatures, surprisingly vulnerable to careless handling, and that fact instills a measure of responsibilty and therefore respect. And finally, they are just so HUGE! A twenty-plus pike is jaw-droppingly enormous. Once you've had one on the bank, you can't wait for another...

So anyway, I'll cut a long story short. I fished for two nights but caught just one pike, which picked up a juicy old smelt at 06:50 on Monday morning. Here it is:

First Exeter Canal pike of the season: 11lb 8oz

I'm not quite sure what's going on with my facial expression there, because that semi-puckered look would not have been what I was going for exactly. All I can say is that this was a self-take, and I had no idea when the camera was actually firing. In fact, this is my first fishy self-take in many, many years, so I should just be grateful it worked. Coincidentally, my very first angling self-take involved a pike. No remote control (I still don't have one of those) so it was a whole series of shots featuring me and a modest pike, wrestling. This is about the best...

Springwell Lake, 1979

The pike weighed 9-something, and I'd waited all day for just the one run to my legered sprat. So I was going to photograph that fish. Absolutely. In the end I didn't get a single decent shot, yet still spent ages in a darkroom, developing the film and making the prints. Goodness knows why, because they're all rubbish! I'm glad I did though, because that nearly-40-year-old photo is like a little glimpse into angling history. And into mine too I suppose...


  1. Great post Gav. I clearly remember how well the slowly retrieved sprat method worked.
    As for the Springwell Lake pic, I have pictures of either a 10lb or 13lb fish from the same bank - maybe the same swim.

    1. Think I have a copy of it Ric. Also two of Roy: one from the same era, with a nice mid-double, and the other from a few years later with a pukka Springwell twenty. I might well stick them on the blog one day. Good memories...