I suppose it's inevitable that, with the passing of time, enjoyment becomes more about the journey than the actual destination. I haven't undertaken a serious angling project since the Winter Eel campaign of 2015/16. Yes I know that I've made all sorts of noise about a split cane thirty and the like, yet have failed any serious commitment due to factors beyond my control. Now, however, with the death of Bev's mum our lives will return to a more even keel and my ability to chase dreams might, once again, allow me to focus on specific targets.
Although I like to think of myself as an "old school" specimen hunter, an all-rounder, it won't require the IQ of Einstein to spot that I'm rather biased toward pike angling. Over half a century has elapsed since I caught my first yet, the thrill of a bite alarm bursting into life, as a monkey rises up a needle or a drop off falls from the clip, still has that something which I'm unable to convey in written format. Pike, the apex predator of UK freshwater ecosystems (prior to alien imports = Wels Catfish), are magnificent creatures which, even to non-anglers, are mightily impressive. The sheer size of the fish is enough; very modest individuals are nearly three feet in length. Coupled with that un-blinking stare, awesome dental display, plus the intricate, dappled, scale pattern along an elongated torso, they demand respect from all who set eyes upon them. It was love at first sight for me, not that I could have envisaged the power of obsessive addiction that was to develop, at the time?
So here I am in November 2020, twenty-one sessions into a new adventure; I blanked on Monday but took nicely conditioned seven/eight pounders on Thursday & Saturday, just to keep you up to speed! Over the course of this winter period I am seeking to catch a "wild" pike in excess of twenty pounds. In itself, not too much of an ask, I've captured plenty of pike which exceeded that weight during my angling adventure. What seems to have happened, just lately, is I've taken my eye off the ball. Allowing myself to meander, rather than concentrate on where I'm going. Looking back through the recent diaries reveals the cold statistic that it's been five and a half years since I caught my last twenty (Loch Awe - April 2015) In my previous incarnation, prior to the Kent birding sabbatical, I'd have been spitting feathers if it had been five and a half weeks during the most intense period of my "big fish" obsession!
What's so different this time round? Well the most obvious factor is that I'm no longer part of he big fish circuit merry-go-round. Chasing yesterday's news has no place in my current thought processes and this applies to all aspects of my angling, not just pike. When, and that's not an if, the next twenty is drawn over the chord it will be a moment of intense emotion because of the choices I've made. Although I appreciate that many factors can motivate others to seek their personal goals, I have to remain true to myself and wild pike is how it has to be at this point in the saga. Joining Canterbury & District AA or Mid Kent Fisheries would provide an easy route to this target, but truly wild fish they wouldn't be, in my opinion, even if they had been spawned in the fishery. In the "old days" I'd have been all over them like a rash, hence the expectation, but no longer part of the equation. It will be a lonely spot, most likely somewhere out on the Royal Military Canal, where the culmination of my quest comes to pass and, whilst I would like it to happen very quickly, the pike which grace my landing nets, along the way, are always appreciated whatever their size. As I said, at the beginning, it's an ability to enjoy those nuances of the journey which makes achievement of any goal so rewarding. With another seventeen weeks, at least, in which to pursue my prize. I'm very content to fish in a manner which has produced so many good pike for me in the past.
Now whilst I am happy to align myself with a fairly specialised dead bait approach to my pike angling it doesn't mean that I've ceased thinking about what I'm doing or how it might be improved. As Eddie Turner had said, all those years before on the banks of Wilstone Res. "Make sure you find an edge" He didn't mean dropping the bait in the margin, although it might be worth a try under certain conditions but, instead, do something which makes your bait stand out from those of the other anglers fishing the same venue! It is a lesson which was quickly heeded and is now central to every pike angling challenge I embark upon. I'll end it here with a little snippet which might just demonstrate how much luck plays a part in this wonderful hobby. At 08.08 hrs, this morning, I'm at work (yes I know it's Sunday but the order book is at bursting point and "needs of the business Minge!" echoed in my ear) It was Benno telling of a pike that Luke had just taken from The Stour on a 4 gram perch jig using an ultra-light set-up. At least twenty-five minutes between hooking up and landing, Luke was a gibbering wreck - what a pike! Cop a load of this. Me next - please!