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!


Sunday 5 January 2020

Incredible journey

I'd given Benno my, 1976 2nd edition, copy of "Fishing for Big Pike" by Barrie Rickards and Ray Webb after we'd been to see Eddie Turner do a talk at an Essex PAC bash in 2012(?). Eddie happy to state that this book contained the most comprehensive advice for anyone who wished to catch pike. In fact he said it was the best book ever written on the subject - some statement! This Christmas was to see me get a replacement copy, an original 1971 1st edition, as a present from Bev's son, Darryl and his partner Alix. With the weather so grim and water levels all over the shop, the break provided a perfect opportunity to revisit the wisdom contained within this highly regarded tome.

November 8th 1981 - my first twenty at 20 lbs 3 oz from the, Kodak owned, Water End Fishery, Herts.
Whilst I enjoyed this trip down memory lane, I did so with a realisation that Eddie's praise had to be taken in some type of context. Yes it might have been the best book written on the subject, but that was in 1971 and certainly some of the advice offered no longer has place within pike fishing in 2020. This is no criticism of the authors, both fine anglers, without question but time travellers they weren't. Nor of Eddie; a guy for whom I have nothing but respect and fond memories of time spent together on Wilstone Res. in the early 1990's. I learnt more about catching "big pike" during those two winters than I did before, or have since, such was the willingness to share his knowledge with anyone who sought it!
22nd December 1986 - 23 lbs 5 oz from Wilstone Res. Tring
So there I was reading through the various chapters, regularly thinking "you can't do that!" and it soon became very apparent how far pike angling has come over the past fifty years. I would say that the passing generations of members of the Pike Anglers Club of GB (previous to which The Pike Society) have to take the majority of credit for evolution to modern catch and release pike fishing - a remarkable turn around given the ingrained mentality of the match anglers post WWII. However, it is impossible to ignore the events of 18th March 1963 when looking at the upturn in the fortunes of our "apex" freshwater predator. It was on this fateful date when, with total (verging on criminal?) disregard of our freshwater ecosystems, The Great Ouse River Authority took it upon themselves to introduce one hundred Zander into the Relief Channel and, therefore begin a chain of events which were beyond the realms of a Hitchcock horror movie. The fall out of this introduction, with the subsequent catastrophic population explosion, was to see the pike reinstated as a sign of a healthy fishery and the Zander taking on the role of the villain of the piece. All of a sudden the catch and release pike angling mentality was given added momentum in the angling press, endorsed by many of the high profile match anglers of that period.

Probably the most important step in the development of any pike angler.
Membership of the PAC should be compulsory before anyone is allowed to cast a bait
in pursuit of these magnificent fish. My opinion and not the law!
So, as it turns out, this combination of factors has seen the popularity of pike fishing become such that businesses are able to exist based upon demand for products relating to their capture. The incredible surge in the use of artificial lures is certainly one aspect of predator fishing which has grown beyond all expectations. I suppose that it remains down to each individual how enjoyment is derived from their encounters with pike, the one common denominator being a desire to return the fish to water and not chuck it up the bank as unwanted vermin.

An original ET Back-biter alarm with an open bale arm. Scotland 2016,
yet it wouldn't have looked out of place on Tring thirty years previous?
My own pike angling remains very much in keeping with those techniques which have stood me in such good stead since the Tring days - 1981 onward. Of course I've had to modify my methods, indeed I have rejected the use of live baits entirely because of a personal inability to justify this technique. Yet I still keep aligned with the advances in tackle manufacture and forward thinking anglers but, by and large, my basic methodology has changed very little? It is a realisation that pike are creatures of instinct, their role within a healthy ecosystem being refined by evolution to produce this magnificently efficient predator which gets me back to Barrie and Ray's book. Even in 1971, these two pioneers, were already placing great importance upon location. So much so that rigs, tackle and bait were of no importance until this fundamental piece of the puzzle had been put in place. It was really great to look back at the advice contained within that wonderful Christmas gift and only by doing so can I see how far I've come, as both a pike angler and a person, during the intervening years. Plus, it gave me an excuse to look back through old photos and recall some fantastic memories from my incredible journey in pursuit of Esox lucius.

An image I've used many times in the past. One of the most memorable pike that I've ever captured.
November 16th 1982 - 19 lbs 11 oz of River Thames perfection
Having just read back through this offering I've realised the role that our Scottish pike adventures, going right back to May 1982, has been totally overlooked. It wasn't deliberate but, might just be, the excuse I need to delve into the archive, one more time, to blog about some crazy times spent in pursuit of the best looking, hardest fighting, pike in the UK?


  1. Cracking picture of the Thames fish Dyl.... very atmospheric (despite the dodgy perm)

    In fact, we used that picture to promote the very entertaining talk that you kindly gave us at PAC Region 30/60 back in February 2012 (doesn’t time fly!)

    1. It doesn't seem possible that I caught my very first pike over half a century ago, yet the disappearance of that gaudy "Fishing Gazette" bung was the start of an amazing adventure. Over the years I've been incredibly lucky to have caught some very large pike but, of equal worth, has been the opportunity to cross paths with so many other like-minded souls.
      I've only given one other talk since that night in Canterbury, The Wantsum AA AGM. If you're ever struggling to find someone to pop down to entertain the troops - there's plenty of material in the archives that might just help illustrate how far pike fishing has come during my lifetime.
      All the best - Dyl

  2. Dyl, I can hardly believe that I caught a 'twenty', a year before you did. I'd say that at 24lb's it was a bit jammy too. But jamming big pike must run in the family. Years earlier my older brother jammed a twenty out of the Hampshire Avon and years later my late father got attached to a 19:11 in the Colne at Rickmansworth. I'll send you a pic of that one.

    Good reading as ever.

    1. Ric,
      Jamming out twenties must be the "norm" as I've yet to discover a bait which is able to be that selective? One simple observation, and a very famous quote from Gary Player - "the more I practice the luckier I get!" When I was starting out, the desire to catch pike in excess of twenty pounds was obsessional and I (we) travelled widely in order to satisfy this hunger.
      Today the sight of a twenty is still as exciting as ever it was, but no longer the be all and end all of my pike fishing. Apart from that Loch Awe fish, I have gotten far more pleasure from netting both of my son's twenties and also one for his best mate. I've had more than my fair share, over the years, and am now able to enjoy the success of others knowing exactly how they feel. I'm sure I haven't caught my last one, but will happily wade through the lesser fish and savour every moment.
      All the best - Dyl