Six feet of pike from the Wasing

I have been coaching Tayler Clark off and on for nearly eight years and I have been fortunate to watch him develop into a fine young angler. I had promised him a pike handling course on the Predator Lake on the Wasing Estate over the Christmas holidays but with the loss of my mum this never happened. Last week he called me to tell me he was about to start his half term holiday and would like to go pike fishing.

I tried to organise a full course but with such short notice I ended up with just Tayler and his friend Aaron. I picked them up from Tayler’s house at 7.30 am Thursday morning and drove down to the Kennet valley. The track to the Predator lake was still underwater but not as bad as my last visit when the flooded Kennet made the lake inaccessable. A little bit of water and mud is no problem for my Toyota 4×4 and after a drive that the lads really enjoyed we were parked at the lake. The floods made the siting of the rods a little problematic as Aaron did not have waterproof boots and the wind added a chill to an otherwise very mild day.

Tayler wading out to the rods

We set up six rods, in three pairs, legering various deadbaits and sat back to wait for some action. After a chat on tactics and a complicated discussion on the ethics of fishing I gave them a demonstation of trace making but we had to retreat to the shelter of the car to heat shrink some off the treble hooks as the wind was so strong. Two and a half hours passed but I resisted the impulse to move as this fishery often does not switch on until lunch time and then the drop off indicator on one of the rods shown above fell to the ground and the bite alarm shrilled. Aaron took the first bite but the fish dropped the bait as he struck, we were all a little disapointed but a missed bite is better than nothing and their enthusiasm was renewed.

We had discussed a rota for taking the bites (ever the optomist, me) and as Tayler’s personal best pike was bigger than Aaron’s we decided to let Aaaron take the first fish. Shortly afterwards the next bite came on a legered dead trout and Aaron was into a good fish which he played quite well. I netted the fish and as I carried it to the unhooking mat I noticed another trace besides our own hanging from its mouth. Our trace was easily removed but the other trace disappeared into the pike’s stomach.

I explained to the lads what this meant and with Tayler’s help I started to invert the stomach very gently but the hooks were very far down and I ended with the pike’s stomach turned inside out further than I have ever had to do before. The top hook on the trace had slid down to the other treble, they were tangled together and hooked into the wall of the stomach. These were of the stainless steel variety probably salvaged from a lure before being incorporated into a homemade snap tackle. This type of hook would have taken a long time to rust away, even in the acidic environment of the pike’s stomach and had to be removed to enable the pike to feed properly.

Using a set of bolt croppers I carefully cut the hooks into pieces and removed them a bit at a time, the lads watched this process in silence and finally understood the need for the comprhensive tool kit I always carry for unhooking pike. I had just completed this difficult operation and had started to replace the stomach of the fish when another bite alarm sounded and I sent the boys to deal with it, telling Tayler to strike immediately. This he did and was soon playing a good fish. I replaced the pike’s stomach very carefully, put in into a sack in the shallows and then went to net Tayler’s fish.

The result was the photograph below, Aaron’s fish on the left weighed fifteen pounds twelve ounces and Tayler’s fish weighed fourteen pounds thirteen ounces. Both were their biggest pike and swam off with no ill effects.

Tayler and Aaron and their pike

Once the fish were returned and all the excitement had subsided (I still get just as excited as the lads do and the day I don’t is the day they nail my coffin shut) I examined the remains of the snap tackle I had removed from the pike’s stomach. I found that the swivel on the end had no main line attached to it which meant the the knot securing it had probably parted. I wish some anglers would learn to tie knots properly and test them rigourously before use.

Aaron caught one more pike about seven or eight pounds in weight and both lads missed one run each, I explained that these were probably small fish who had not got hold of the bait properly but that it was not worth the risk of deep hooking a fish by waiting longer before the strike.

By about 3.30 pm Aaron was complaining of very cold, wet feet and so we decided to call it a day, one which we will all remember for some time.