Who am I?

An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Wednesday 13 November 2019

Pike pondering - Bait

Following a recent comment from my mate, Mark Chidwick, I've had cause to think about how I approach the challenges of pike fishing given that I now concentrate my efforts towards fish in rather intimate venues, opposed to the reservoirs, lakes and gravel pits of my past. The one thing that must be stated, right at the start, is that, as a species, pike are very simple to understand. This doesn't mean that individual fish can't demand very specific techniques in order to secure their capture but, by and large, they respond to very simple tactics.

Although I acknowledge the effectiveness of live baits, I'm unable to bring myself to use this technique due to personal views based around an inability to defend the method to an onlooker. Illogical? Probably, but a decision I made way back in the mid-80's, over which, I've no regrets. Similarly, I'm fully aware of the phenomenal success that the use of modern lure technology has produced for many anglers. My son, Benno, and my brother, Simon, have both chosen this style of pike fishing, over more traditional methods, on many occasions and have caught lots of fish by doing so. Me? No thanks, far too energetic plus there's so much more to my time on the bank than just catching fish, if that makes any sense? No, I'm a dead bait devotee and will, impatiently, await events as conditions dictate. I suppose that there are two ways of looking at my pike fishing - either I'm very one dimensional or, as I prefer to view it, a specialist? Certainly, whenever I go in search of pike, I don't feel as if I'm in any way disadvantaged by this polarised choice of tactics.

To an outsider dead baits might appear to be an unthinking, chuck and chance, type of approach, the archetypal sit and wait fishing of cartoon caricature and I have to agree that this remains true of many dead bait anglers encountered during my pike fishing sessions. Fortunately this isn't how my own efforts are conducted. Much thought and effort being employed both before, and during, my time at the waterside. Indeed, some of my bait preparation can be conducted many weeks prior to the offering actually being cast into a fishery. I'm fairly confident that I've not used an item of dead bait as it comes, off the shelf, since the mid-80's. Once Eddie Turner had introduced me to the use of fish oils and buoyancy aids I was sold on the concept of offering something different, it was all about giving yourself an edge. Right from those very early days, up on the banks of Wilstone Res. Tring, I recognised the importance of working at bait presentation and have since gone on to explore further enhancement via the employment of bait dyes. None of this stuff is rocket science, the specific information being freely available to anyone who wishes to seek it.

In my own quest for an edge, I have meddled with all three tweaks, either on their own or in combination. If pushed, then I think buoyancy would be the aspect which has the biggest influence on my catch rate, thus aiding confidence whenever faced with a fresh challenge. Flavour is certainly something in which Eddie placed massive faith, and I rarely cast a bait which hasn't been given the fish oil treatment, especially if there is any tinge of colour in the water. Bait dyes are an additional string to the bow, and I'll always resort to the colour ruse if at a venue where other pike anglers regularly visit. This is particularly applicable to my sessions along The Royal Military Canal, indeed my best Kent pike fell to such a bait in Feb 2013 - a Herring tail section dyed red, laying flat on the canal bed.

To my way of thinking it's all about going that one step further. The majority of my dead baits are purchased from the fresh fish counter at our local Tesco, so anyone can obtain the same items. It is my insistence on flavouring and/or colouring these offerings, prior to placing them, individually wrapped, into my freezer which separates my baits from those of others. I carry spare syringes and fish oils so that baits can be further enhanced on the bank, plus I have a couple of small atomiser sprays of colour dyes which can be applied should I so decide. The buoyancy is now provided by the use of Fox "bait poppers" which have replaced my far less efficient use of polystyrene - how I cringe at those crude, early, efforts, yet I still caught more than my fair share of decent pike during the period despite the methodology.

One of my very early "twenties" taken on a fish oil infused dead bait
It's certainly true, in 2019, that the bulk of my presentations revolve around the use of legered baits, but static they ain't. Following the initial cast each bait is twitched a few inches every ten, or so, minutes and, if no takes are induced, will be re-positioned after approximately three quarters of an hour. Should the venue allow me scope, then I will leap-frog my rods along the bank during my stay if action is not forthcoming. What I'm trying to convey is how far removed from sit and wait fishing my own sessions are. I'm constantly thinking about my next move, what other options do I have available? Should I change my bait, flavour, colour? Should I incorporate a float, surface or sunken, in the mix? Whatever my decision, it will be made with the intention of increasing the chances of a pike being tempted to sample my bait. All of this thought process driven by my experiences pike fishing over the past forty-nine years, 1970 being the fateful year when, as a spotty teenager, that first encounter sparked a passion which still burns brightly to this day.

Royal Military Canal success
I've been enthused to pen this effort by the recent deluge of posts by Gavin Haig over at Not Quite Scilly. Assuming that the current wave of enthusiasm lingers, the next offering will be my thoughts about tackle choice and bite indication.


  1. 'Deluge!! Ha ha!!

    Thanks for sharing your approach on this topic Dylan. It's deadbaits for me too these days, and I've been a pop-up convert since fishing the Exeter Canal. Rob's approach was an eye-opener too. Very small, popped up baits, with a scattering of similar free offerings, and fishing after dark. The capture of four twenties (three different fish) is testament to the effectiveness and potential of his methods. I'm always learning!

    1. Hi Gavin,
      Deluge? Perhaps avalanche might have been more apt? Your mention of Rob's bait size made me realise that I'd completely overlooked bait dimension (size and shape) in this post. Something for future blogging I feel. There have been several occasions where the pike have demonstrated a preference to baits of a particular type to the exclusion of all other offerings. It was particularly obvious at Loch Awe and my big baits = big fish was quickly shown to be a very flawed hypothesis.
      Hopefully I'll expand upon this and other aspects of my pike fishing as the posts progress. Cheers for the comment.
      Take care & tight lines - Dylan

  2. My local rivers seem paved with signal crays these days so I am going to need to vary my approach with lifted or paternosted deads. Mind set change, no hardship.

    1. Dyson rigged deadlies used to work very well for us in The Thames, as I recall. I've only seen Signal Crayfish in The Bulbourne in Hertfordshire, none in East Kent as far as I'm aware. Good luck with your pike fishing this winter - tight lines - Dylan

  3. Enjoyed that Dyl; thanks for posting (and not a floppy hat anywhere)

    As always, best regards to you and yours - good luck with the winter pred hunt


    1. Hi Andy,
      Glad it made your approval - potentially there's loads more where this came from. I'll see how it pans out?
      I spoke with young Tom Lane the other day and hopefully will get over to The Ethelbert for a chat and a beer during the winter?
      Take care & tight lines - Dyl