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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Andy Brown's talk - PAC region 30/60 (Canterbury & Thanet)

Nick Prior and Andy Larkin are joint R/O's and run a very successful, enjoyable, yet informal, (Canterbury & Thanet) Pike Anglers Club regional association - just as well really; otherwise I wouldn't fit in! The membership is drawn from the ranks of pike fishermen across a vast catchment, Ashford in the west, Romney and Folkestone to the south, Faversham to the north and Thanet/Deal in the east, our meetings taking place within the (central hub) Canterbury & District Angling Association HQ in Sturry (just outside Canterbury) - a motley crew of varying experience and ages. The one common denominator is our enjoyment of pike angling - in whatever guise: expert, novice, and any level in between.
My best "boat caught" pike - 23lbs 6oz
from Lynch Hill, Oxfordshire.
Taken on a trout livebait - vaned from the boat using a
Grice & Young "Big Piker" centre pin
Andy Brown is a senior member and a very successful pike angler - on Thursday evening he gave an illustrated talk on his approach to boat fishing on big reservoirs and the Kentish R. Stour. The special skills required to use boats, to the best advantage, were clearly explained with the logic of Andy's decision process being easily understood. I was happy to listen to his opinions, the accompanying photos being indicative of the success of his tactics, particularly on Bough Beech Res. Andy showed a sequence of big pike images in which 30+ fish, over 25lbs, were displayed; at least 8 fish over 30lbs - including a "Doomsday" fish of 36lbs+. Gadget and I got back home just after mid-night, the loss of sleep being, a price worth paying for this informative exchange.
I can't claim to be anywhere close to Andy's calibre, as a pike angler, but I found it very interesting to hear his theories on abortive takes, bait choice (size and species) and hooking arrangements for his particular speciality which is trolled dead baits - bounced along, close to the bottom in 30+ feet of water. Another interesting snippet was his preferred choice of "Bait-runner type" reels over multipliers - the choice of many of the best boat anglers I knew in the 1980/90's (Bait-runners were not an option at that time!)
I have spent quite a bit of time mulling over the content of the advice proffered by Andy and find myself at odds with some aspects and in total agreement with many others. I am not a boat angler, I just don't like them; yes I have caught a few decent pike whilst afloat, but these are the exceptions. I have, over the years, fished Rutland, Llandegfed and Lynch Hill with varying success - I never felt confident on any of these waters and my results were poor as a consequence.
A Wilstone pike of 23lbs 5oz - the result of a 3inch lift on a
pike monkey indicator. Bait was a bouyant Herring
As I stated at the begining of this post, the PAC regional association 30/60 is made up of a membership from widely differing backgrounds.Personally, I have a great love for the intimate fisheries that are the small drains of the marshes (the Norfolk/Cambridgeshire fens in my past) where field craft and a delicate approach is required in order to experience regular sport, although my roots are with the vast exspanses of the Tring Reservior complex - Wilstone in particular.
Andy touched upon the finnicky bites that he experiences whilst trolling on Bough Beech, I have to concur with this train of thought - we experienced similar behaviour on Tring during the 1980's. Pike were quite adept at mouthing a bait without any indication on our alarms - the first thing we knew was when we reeled in to find teeth marks on our baits.

One of the lessons we took from this period was to reduce our hook size. I would generally fish with size 6 trebles; so these were reduced to size 8's and, on occassion, I would go as small as size 14's! Andy Windmill (who was the Luton PAC regional co-ordinator during the 1980's) had developed a single hook rig along with Alan Beat purely as a response to these rejected pick-ups by fussy pike. What I found hard to accept about Andy Brown's talk was his incistence to continue using size 4 (and bigger) trebles - you could anchor a cruise liner with one of these!

A sardine on an Andy Windmill/Alan Beat "instant strike" rig accounted for this fish
Martyn Page and John Bailey (1985) produced the book - Pike; the predator becomes the prey - and within its' pages is some of the best pike angling advice on offer. A section by Vic Bellars is particularly worthy of note - Vic choosing to highlight the ineffectiveness of treble hooks in a deadbait situation. The "Jardine rig" was developed by the "legendary" Alfred Jardine in order to fish livebaits - Vic picked up on the fact that over 100 years has passed since it was introduced and we (pike anglers) were still using it, without question! He had developed a new hook pattern (a double which was manufactured by Partridge of Redditch) and was available to all - well anyone who could visit Fred Buller's gun shop in Amersham, Bucks. I could, and did, obtaining a large supply of these items in various sizes. They were of a "Japan Black" finish and razor sharp - just the job for fishing sardines. I cannot recall how many pike me, and my mates, took from venues up and down the UK, but it would have been 1000's - Vic Bellars doubles accounting for the vast majority.

One of my very first pike to sardine - 18lbs 10oz from Grebe Lake, Emberton Park, Northamptonshire
I have to think that Andy is a victim of his own successes - he has now a favorite method which he has complete confidence in - so fishes to the exclusion of all others - thus arriving at the "Catch 22" situation - it has to be the best method as it's the only one you use! I also find myself in a very similar situation - sardines are my favourite bait; I would fish them in any situation I came across, confident that they are a superb bait. Simply because I don't use any other baits means that all of my fish come to sardines, therefore perpetuating my confidence in them as a successful bait.

A pike of 19lbs 11oz on a very small bleak live bait - R. Thames, November 16th 1982

I have made the choice to no longer fish live baits - I have not gone soft, just am now aware of the dangers of transferring fish from one water to another and the resultant implications - so I don't do it. Live baits are, however, the best method of catching pike. It is a very non-selective method unless bait size is embarrassingly large (there is no way that it is defendable to a member of the public - a fish of over a pound is a big fish to the vast majority of dog-walkers, joggers, cyclists etc, so don't give them something to moan about by using these over-sized livebaits in public situations). What isn't up for discussion is the fact that pike are designed to eat live fish - there is no other reason that they evolved with their fin positions if it were not for the need to have the explosive acceleration to catch live prey. If they were meant to be a scavenger, they would have evolved a similar body shape to the eel or catfish! Over the years I've had some very nice pike on live baits, but have arrived at the opinion that the very biggest pike are lazy scavengers and will respond best to large dead baits (the best return for a minimal effort). So these days, my fishing involves using large, flavoured and coloured dead baits fished on long traces made using size 8 "which-way" doubles. Nothing revolutionary, but I am comfortable and confident with this approach. So despite the fact that Andy and I have very differing approaches to our pike fishing; it is amazing how many aspects we have found similarities in our theories and results.

The best, so far, from Wilstone Res - on a Crucian Carp live bait - after dark!


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