Here’s what pike fishing was like back in February! (Ed)
It’s been raining pretty much since August last year here in the West of Ireland! Which is bad news for us anglers. Decades of poor land management has seen the removal of native forests and the draining of bogs in some areas, so rainfall events flush off the land and into the waterways very quickly indeed. The result? Flooded venues and venues that are very difficult to fish if, indeed, you can get to them to fish at all. It can be tricky to locate a meandering river when it has burst its banks and flooded six fields either side. Patiently, I waited for weeks until there was an opportunity when the river had dropped to 1.2 metres above normal level.
This particular river is all but unfishable for large parts of the winter because it is simply too high. Fish won’t feed well in rising floodwater, preferring to take shelter from the increasing strength in currents. Once the river drops, it’s ‘game on’ as fish take advantage of the weakening currents and coloured water to feed heavily. With a series of storms approaching there was going to be a small window of opportunity so I decided to seize it while I could; the river would soon be rising and likely off limits for another few weeks and the last couple of opportunities occurred while I was participating in biological surveys many miles off the western coast of Ireland. Now or never!
I arrived at the venue and set about preparing my kayak. I wasn’t carrying much gear – a couple of rods, a bucket of lures, a couple of cameras and, most importantly, my echo sounder. Pike are predatory so if you can find the shoals of prey fish, chances are the pike won’t be far away. No predator is going to be successful if they expend more energy searching for prey than they get in return for eating it! It makes sense to stay close to your food source. Echo sounders vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but even the basic models will give you enough features to locate shoals of prey fish.
Having located the food source I was able to determine through experience that the shoal of fish below me was comprised of roach, a small, silver fish that are staple in a pike’s diet wherever they are present. The logical thing to do was to use a lure that represents these small fish. I was going to be trolling the lure, casting it behind me, leaving it in a rod holder and paddling slowly, dragging the lure behind me. All I had to do was drag the lure around the edges of the shoal and wait for the rod to arch over.
As it happened, the rod arched over a dozen times. I was kept busy on the river for the day. Pike are always fun to catch but today was a numbers game. Plenty of pike were landed to the kayak but none of them were of any real size. Still, good fun all the same and surely better than being handed a ‘blank’ for my efforts. All fish were unhooked quickly and returned to the water, some didn’t even want to hang about for the camera! Just a word on handling pike: despite their fearsome appearance and, at times, voracious appetite they are actually one of the more delicate freshwater species. Bad handling can do terrible damage to the fish. Carry forceps to remove hooks and handle them confidently but gently. If unsure, I would advise fishing with somebody who knows what they are doing for you to learn the basics.
After a busy day on the river I headed for home. My Nova boots and Tsangpo suit had kept most of me warm for the day but I had started to lose the feeling in my fingers. Time for a cuppa …