Some time, way back in the early 70's, I caught my first pike. It was a momentous occurrence and one that set in motion a series of experiences which have gotten me to where I am today - it really was that type of event! The venue was Pixies Mere, Bourne End, Herts and the pike a, very small, jack of around two pounds! The technique used in this initial encounter was the, then, accepted (barbaric) method of a free swimming live bait (a small roach) impaled upon a, shop bought, snap tackle, fished under a ridiculously buoyant "Fishing Gazette" bung - which was fixed in position by a wooden peg, trapping the line between itself and the float. Alfred Jardine would have been well acquainted with this type of gear, almost a century previous!
Thankfully, for the pike, as a species, and the sport in the UK, the embyo pike fishing group evolved into The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britian and as a direct consequence, angler education has run parallel with the promotion of pike as a quarry worthy of attention and preservation. If, for no other reason, this organisation deserves massive credit - my own confident un-hooking techniques being a direct result of my membership of the "Luton Region" of the PAC. Andy Windmill was our R/O (Regional Organiser) before Paul Elbourn took over - we spent some good times at these gatherings exchanging tips and tales - might have supped a few "light ales" whilst we were about it?
My individual progress was aided by my membership of The Tring Syndicate - some of the other members were extraordinarily proficient pike anglers and I learnt much by simply being in their presence. Lester Strudwick stands head and shoulders above all others - he was an obsessive "big fish" man with experience of many species. He was also a founder member of The Carpike Specimen Group and had spent a great deal of time on Loch Lomond - with some quality pike to show for it. I think that he is probably the most influential figure in my development as a pike angler - and that's saying something!
Eddie Turner, Bill Hancock and Vic Gibson (The original ET guys) were there in the background - they fished Startops (a weaning water) while we were tackling Wilstone (a man's venue!) I went to see Eddie give a talk at the Essex PAC a couple of years ago - it was a great night and we just didn't have enough time to fill in the gaps - he seems to be doing OK, or so he says!
So why this post? Where am I at today?
It doesn't require the detective skills of Inspector Morse to spot that the size of the tail and positioning of the fins on the elongated torso of a pike is the evolutionary design of a hunter. If the head end is included - a massive gape with two jaws full of needle sharp teeth - it's a no brainer! Pike have evolved to prey upon live fish - end of. If the species was primarily a scavenger, then surely, it would have evolved to look more like a catfish? Absolutely no requirement for explosive acceleration - eating carrion is an easy option - good return for minimal effort. But here's my slant on things.
Firstly - I have no great "need" to catch a big pike - I've caught loads over the years; so I'm no longer driven by ambition.
Secondly - my time on the bank is not solely for the purpose of catching fish - I still wish to be able to enjoy the encounters with other aspects of natural history that share the same environment.
Thirdly - by using dead baits, in their many guises, I remain confident that my approach will yield results but, by using the modern bite alarm technology, I am able to relax and enjoy whatever wildlife I encounter. I am not concentrated on an "orange" float - I simply wait for the electronics to alert me to a taking fish.
There is another reason why I have decided to stick with deadlies - I have made it quite plain, as a blogger, of my personal opinions as to killing life forms purely to advance an Excel spreadsheet list. It would be hypocritical, in the extreme, for me to then go using live baits purely to add to my list of pike that have visited my landing nets over the past 40 years.
When I'm outdoors, there are so many interests that are vying for my attention, that it would be foolish for me to focus all my efforts on a single float? I wouldn't be happy attempting to defend the use of a live fish, impaled on a snap tackle, to a dog walker, jogger, birder, etc - someone who was also enjoying the surroundings I am fishing in. So, for all these varied reasons, I am happy to use dead baits for 100% of my pike angling. I don't think that it will ever be described as hectic - what I can say is that is very satisfying. I've been extraordinarily fortunate to have landed some very big pike - the fact that dead baits have accounted for the majority (although not the heaviest!) shows that my confidence is not misplaced?
So whilst I am fully aware of how good a method live bait angling can be (for pike) I am, no longer prepared to use this technique simply to get a bite. If I were to locate a large pike in clear water where a free-lined live bait would provide the instant result - then I'd probably use the technique. As for tethering a live bait in an attempt at triggering a feeding response - not any more thank you.
I think the clever angler will never say never! As for me? I'll happily stick to using dead baits in conjunction with colours and flavours. I can buoy them up, I leave them flat on the bottom. I can vane them, hang them under a Dyson Rig. I could even try wobbling - I'd become tea-total first!
The satisfaction I derive from landing a pike, any pike, is no different from that initial capture some forty years ago. Of course I would like to remain a successful "big fish" angler - but the use of live bait is something that I have decided not to pursue. It is not a criticism of any other angler (individual or group) just a statement of my own current position - tight lines