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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!

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Sunday 3 December 2023

Target a twenty

When Jim Gibbinson's "Modern Specimen Hunting" was published, in 1983, it was a groundbreaking piece of angling literature.  Not only did he cover various techniques required to target specific species, he also included chapters on photography and the impact of weather conditions on fish location. Truly remarkable given the complete lack of cyber technology at this time. Jim was an "angling colossus" during this period and I am still a disciple to his thought processes forty years down the road. It was his response to an Angling Times headline - There's no Substitute for Time" - which resonates to this day. "Yes there is! It's called ability" was Jim's brilliant repost and, as a result, elevated his contribution to my own angling journey to that of a, boundary pushing, visionary.  

Another image nicked from Flea-bay

Now whilst many of Jim's thoughts still remain part of my angling philosophy, there was one chapter in this book which didn't quite work for me .It was his section on Pike fishing that, by his own admission, was about a subject which required far more space. That he then added the proviso that he was wishing to assist anglers who had already done a fair bit of Pike angling and now wanted to catch a "twenty". It was "mission impossible" as he then went through a whole repertoire of advice which covered every aspect of Pike fishing which was relevant at that time. A great read but, as it was aimed at experienced Pike anglers, didn't impart any advice of which they weren't already aware? Lot's of topics covered but so little detail!

After our recent PAC meeting, I began to think about this particular challenge due to some interesting exchanges which were conducted during the evening's various individual up-dates. We call it the round robin, but simply we all tell the other members of the gang what we've been up to and tangent conversations evolve as a consequence. I don't believe that a single member of the Canterbury/Thanet PAC Region goes Pike fishing without the desire to catch large specimens, yet our approaches to the task are as varied as the individuals involved thus why I am writing this post. Under no circumstances do I wish to make out that I'm any sort of expert ("Ex; being the unknown quantity and spurt, a drip under pressure" - Rod Hutchinson) but I do have some thoughts about Pike fishing which have stood me in good stead and the test of time.

23 lbs 5 oz from Wilstone Res. Tring (22.12.1986)

What follows, therefore, is my slant on "is it possible to deliberately target a twenty pound Pike?" Under no circumstances should this be viewed as anything other than an individualistic opinion about this angling conundrum. Quite obviously I've had four decades to think about this particular challenge and am certain that Jim would have plenty more to add if that chapter were it to be given a modern edit?  To be fair, if I asked each member of the Canterbury/Thanet PAC Region what advice they would offer, ihere would be a very diverse mixture of replies to this question?

Pike do not grow to twenty pounds being particularly fussy about what they eat so, I don't really think that an angler's choice of tactics play a huge role in tempting such fish to take their baits. That said, my own thoughts revolve around the theory that these larger Pike are lazy, opportunistic, feeders, seeking maximum return from minimum effort. It is purely because of this that I am 100% a dead bait angler. Please don't think that I've adopted the chuck and chance mentality of so many modern day anglers, I work bloody hard to position and work my baits as effectively as I know how. 

19 lbs 5 oz of pure joy. The largest Pike in the drain, by some margin.
You can't catch what ain't in the venue!

I truly believe that any angler who can catch Pike can, by definition, catch twenty pound plus Pike. The single most important factor in the whole equation has to be that of venue choice?  If the water doesn't contain fish of this size, it doesn't matter what methods you're using!  The most obvious route to a successful conclusion to the challenge is to join a venue/club which has a known stock of Pike which have attained this weight. It is then down to the angler to locate an area where such fish live and present a bait option which the fish accepts. This is pretty much how my own adventure unfolded when I started to fish at Wilstone Res. Tring. A big water, with a known stock of large fish, and every now and then I got lucky. What wasn't happening was me actually targeting the bigger specimens over just using tactics which caught me some Pike.

However, some words of wisdom that Jim used in his book are "Pike thrive on neglect" What a piece of advice for anyone who wishes to discover the thrills of a journey where the rewards are only limited by the effort that individual is prepared to put in. It has been this single factor which has played such a pivotal part in my own Pike fishing adventure since picking up the rods again in 2011. My venue choices are based upon lack of easy access, the further away from car parks and entry points the better I like it. These days my main efforts have been directed at intimate fisheries which might require a long trek to reach, but don't involve me having to cast huge distances or use heavy kit. Techniques we developed whilst fishing for Pike and Zander in the Cambridgeshire Fens during the 1980's are still perfectly suited to the angling I do today. My theory is that if the Pike I seek won't come to me, I will go to them. I have no idea how many miles of bank my rods have been "leapfrogged" during these past three winters but, boy, has it been worth the effort. Ten "twenties" and another forty-one doubles have fallen to my rods during this period and I remain confident that this trend will continue all the while I am prepared to put in the graft.

There's gold at the end of them rainbows! Scenery like this and not
another angler in sight!

My tackle is nothing special. For the vast majority of the sessions I use my Duncan Kay Carp rods, 11 ft with a 1 lbs 10 oz t/c which are either fitted with ABU Cardinal 66x's (or 55's) or my Matt Hayes "Limited Edition" centrepins. None of this has any impact upon the effectiveness of what I'm offering in the water, just helps elevate the enjoyment I experience when playing a fish. I use 50 lbs b.s. braid on the reels and 20 lbs b.s. Marlin Steel seven strand wire for my, home made, traces. My hooks are Drennan or Partridge "doubles" and my dead baits are as far removed from shop brought offerings as my imagination is capable of making them. I use a combination of dyes, fish oils and Predator Plus, with the further option of buoyancy aids if I feel the need. Because I have the attention span of a half-witted goldfish, I am totally reliant on electronic bite alarms for my bite registration. Dependant upon the situation, I will use either a front-runner or a back-biter type system. The only requirement being that they are loud enough to alert me to any activity as soon as it occurs.

My indication system when using a centrepin
involves a frontrunner alarm with a "Pike Monkey" on an angled needle

An original ET Back-biter with an ABU Cardinal 66 X

So there you have it. I really don't think that there is any way that a Pike angler can target "twenties" deliberately. I have a prefered bait size of between 6 - 10 oz, when available, yet can't put a label on them saying "Jack's not welcome". I've experienced some bizzare captures of small Pike which have picked up baits which they had no chance of swallowing. Just to end, I must offer one final piece of advice to anyone who wishes to catch these magnificent, yet increasingly scarce, fish. Forget all the nonsense you watch on Youtube and get in contact with your local Pike Anglers Club of GB, region. This organisation has all the expertise required to help develop the skills needed to, not only, catch these fish but also ensure they are returned to the water in the condition they came out?

24 lbs 10 oz of Loch Awe perfection.
It took me thirty three years to catch this fish!
That's not a target capture as opposed to stubborn persistence
paying off eventually.


4 comments:

  1. Great post Dyl. Met the man JG the once on Startops. After a brief chat he moved to the Wilstone point and later caught the Bream that featured in Modern Specimen Hunting. On catching Pike myself? I know my limitations. I don't want to risk harming the creatures with some error on my part, so keep them off my wish list. I've seen enough of anglers who appear to have given no consideration to the consequences of putting a fish on the bank. On Wilstone a pair of guys put a 19lb specimen on the bank, and that poor thing didn't see water again for 17 minutes, while they played about getting hooks out and photo's taken.

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    1. JG and I once crossed paths at a NASA London Region event, but the conversation was very brief. Your description of the fish handling skills witnessed at Wilstone is, sadly, still very much part of Pike angling in 2023. These guys, evolve from off the shelf, instant, Carp catchers and are more worried about what they post on Instagram and Facebook opposed to ensuring their captures are safely returned to the water. It's not a situation unique to England, I have lost count of the number of traces I've removed from the throats and stomachs of Pike that we have caught on Loch Awe. It seems common practice to just cut the wire, rather than remove the hooks?
      As always, cheers for the comment - Dyl

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  2. Interesting subject Dyl, and one I feel that I’m able to offer some insight based on personal experience? Not exactly “Target a twenty”, moreover “Targeting the biggest Pike a given venue has to offer”..... Is it possible?.... Well under the correct set of circumstances, hell yes!

    I’ll endeavour to keep this brief (I’ve been meaning to write an in-depth article for Pikelines regarding this subject at some point): Several years ago, after jumping through multiple hoops, I was granted exclusive Pike fishing on a Kent ex-gravel pit complex. This enabled me to experiment and study the behaviour of Pike without interference by other predator anglers (priceless!).

    Over an eight week period of regular pre-baiting (without wetting a line), I was able to observe the developing situation through the crystal-clear water. At first, the jacks were in abundance, and eagerly awaited the next batch of freebies I had to offer. However, slowly but surely over the following weeks, their behaviour changed dramatically! As the BIG girls progressively moved in, taking-up temporary residence and dominating the area, the swim effectively became a Jack-free zone! The small amount of Jacks that dared enter the swim tightly hugged the margins and were swiftly seen-off by the apex predators should they venture into open water. It was also very interesting to observe Pike behaviour and feeding habits, and their preference to certain baits over others (not to mention the effectiveness of pre-baiting!).

    To cut a long story short; once I felt it was time to put theory into practice, let’s just say I filled my boots, including the capture of a new lake record!

    Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours

    Catch-up next month PAC meeting all being well

    Andy




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    1. Hi Andy,
      The situation you allude to is so unique as to be not applicable within normal angling circumstances. Pre-baiting has been part of Pike angling since Neville Fickling published "Pike Fishing in the 80's" and spoke about "growing your own twenty!" As an individual, who seeks wild Pike, there is no way this approach will ever be a feature of my angling.
      With the obvious exception of clear water conditions and actually spotting an individual Pike, I remain convinced that Pike angling is about the law of averages opposed to targeting specific individuals.
      See you on Monday?
      Dyl

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