How to Catch a Pike | Chris Darke’s 41lber.

How to catch a Pike by Chris Darke….This is a brief account of the events of November 2nd, 2017. Words can’t really describe how I felt, she’s been on my mind for 6 years, not constant, but always there, ticking away in my subconscious. Although I must admit after no captures or sightings over the last couple of seasons the thought had crossed my mind that maybe the chance had gone.

Catching a 41 lb Pike

It was something I was just going to have to put behind me, so as the new season approached and after recovering from a recent shoulder operation, I thought I should reacquaint myself with the fishery by doing a couple of perch fishing sessions on the “predator lake”. It was great to wet a line after such a long time off due to my op, and as November arrived I felt ready for a start on the syndicate water. Which is, in fact, a fly-only trout lake. As the syndicate only allows 4 members on the water I booked up for the second day as the first day was already fully booked.

Always ask About Catch Reports

when I woke up in the morning I had no idea how the day’s events would unfold. The water normally opens at eight but I didn’t rush this morning. I took my time, I got dressed, made my way downstairs took out half a dozen suitable baits from the freezer, made a flask, and steadily loaded the car. It was about nine-ish when I eventually left the house.  With the water only being ten minutes away door to door I was soon at the lake and catching up on how it had fished the previous day with Jake the fisheries manager.

Neville Fickling was Fishing the Next Swim

Apparently, the first day had produced a handful of Jacks and the odd hungry trout to the Four anglers that were on. So after ordering 4 live baits, I set off to find a suitable starting point. After a quick drive around the lake, I was pleasantly surprised to find the spot I really fancied was vacant so I pulled up, unloaded the car, and made my way down the bank. The swim directly to my right was being fished by a guy who needs no introduction in the pike fishing world, former British record holder Neville Fickling. I wandered up to see if he had anything to report but as is a common response when fishing, the answer was negative!

Livebait on Drifter Float Is the Chosen Technique

We had a quick chat as my eyes scoured the lake in search of inspiration. By the time I’d set up it was probably around ten am, the sun had begun to shine and a slight NW breeze had picked up as predicted. The plan was to fish a float fished live bait on the drifter float, wade out onto the gravel spit that runs out directly in front of the swim and let the float work its way across the lake varying the lines and depths every drift. With depths of over 25ft in areas, the water has a lot more water to cover than its seven-acre surface area first lets on.

Big Kit For Big Fish

After a couple of drifts, I let the bait make its way out to about 60 yards put the braid in a clip, and put the rod in the rest whilst I put together another rod. As this was my first proper pike outing of the year I’d bought some new braid to re-spool my dead bait rods. As I sat with my eyes on the drifter float my hands were busy winding 300 yards of the new Rovex 8 strand braid in 50lb onto the spool of my 10000 bait runner. once full, I put the rod together, (Greys 12ft 3lbtc dead bait) and threaded the braid carefully through each of the rings, and now for the technical part…or not!

An Easy Low Resistance Rig is a Must

The business end was easy, minimal, low resistance, and hopefully fairly unobtrusive, first of all, I thread 3 rubber float stops onto the braid (a power gum stop knot would work equally as well) and space these out about 2 feet apart up the braid towards the rod tip. Then I tie on the trace normally consisting of a pair of partridge size 6 barbless trebles and 28lb seven strand Drennen wire. I then cover the float stops in a pea-sized, oval-shaped lump of tungsten putty, this ensures the last 6-8 feet behind the rig stays nicely pinned down. Now to mount the bait, as this was only going to require a gentle underarm swing I could get away with nicking the bait (an 8″ Dead Ide) on quite lightly.

Balance the Bait to Avoid Resistance

One through the wrist of the tail and one about halfway down the flank somewhere inline with the dorsal fin. I then set about balancing the bait to counter any resistance by giving the bait an almost weightless, natural feel and help the bait drift gently down. Hopefully coming to rest “on” and not “in” any weed or debris that might impair presentation. I carry a few little sticks of balsa wood in various sizes, these are inserted into the throat of the bait via the mouth, and pieces broken off or added until the desired buoyancy is achieved. I then use a tiny piece of fuse wire to wire shut the bait’s mouth closed so as not to lose any of the balsa wood during the cast.

Sink the Braid Until it’s Settled

 I then trim off any tag ends and it’s good to go. A very short underarm swing saw the bait land somewhere near the base of the marginal gravel shelf, probably two-rod lengths from the bank. I watched the bait disappear into the depths through the gin-clear water. I then gently sank the braid taking care not to move the bait once it had settled. I placed the rod carefully onto the rests, turned on the Delkim, opened the bail arm, and attached the drop-off indicator. I was adjusting the tension on the arm of the indicator when from nowhere the Delkim gave a couple of bleeps.

Do Not Ignore the Margins

My eyes immediately focused on the braid at the point where it entered the water, again a couple of bleeps as the braid tightened ever so slightly, then…nothing. Probably a Trout I thought to myself. I re-set the indicator and decided to recast the float rod, I reeled in the float and had just popped it onto the rest in order to put on fresh bait. When all of a sudden the Delkim on the margin rod burst into life! As I span around the braid pulled from the clip and began to trickle from the spool. I picked up the rod, pulled some slack from the spool, engaged the bail arm, and checked the drag.

You Can Only Dream of a Fish This Big

 As the braid tightened, my heart pounding in my chest, I steadily, but firmly bent into the fish and was immediately greeted by that feeling we all hope for. The feel of a big fish realising it’s hooked and shaking its head in anger! The fish set off into the lake for about 40 yards and as I slowed her up she came up in the water and hit the surface and at a range of about 50 yards. I could clearly see it was a huge fish! By this time the nerves were beginning to kick in.

Top tip: Keep your lures in separate containers. They can have a chemical reaction when mixed together and can cause a melting effect.

I Was Glad of my Quality Braid

I waded out onto the gravel spit to give myself a good angle on the fish as a knew of 1 or 2 serious snags further down the margin towards Nev’s swim. One of my legs had now begun to shake, quite involuntary due to the surge of adrenaline that was making its way around my body! I kept steady pressure on, easing her back towards me. 

A couple of times I felt her hit heavy weed but patience and steady pressure saw her powering her way through. This is when a good quality braid and minimal rig components all pay dividends, a lesson I’ve learned through fishing for carp on very weedy waters. Once again she hit the surface, but this time she was close! Probably 25 yards from the bank. By this time another syndicate member, Mark had seen the disturbance from around the lake and run round to offer assistance, always welcome when dealing with a big fish.

 As she hit the surface and gave a roll I could see she was beginning to tire. I steadily waded back towards the bank where Mark was already waiting with the net. I drew her to the surface one last time, she rolled onto her side and I slid her into the net. We both grabbed the arms of the net and bustled her deep into the mesh. A mistake at this point would have been heartbreaking! We broke the net down, rolled down the mesh, and ushered her into the shallows. As I knelt down in the water beside her I rolled back the mesh to reveal the huge flanks.

A 41lb 120z Beast Was Brought to the Net

Mark and I looked at each other and both said I think that’s her! By this time Nev had turned up, took one look in the landing net, and simply said “oh dear!” I sat in the margins with her while a couple of the lads assembled the unhooking, weighing, and photo gear. She was weighed on two sets of scales, both recorded weight of 41lb 12oz. We then carried her in the sling placing her gently in the margin. I walked her out to thigh-deep water and cradled her in the water until she was ready to go on her way. After a minute or so I felt the power pulsing her body and she was ready to go. She powered away and disappeared into the crystal clear depths, a sight I’ll never forget!

Courtesy of Chris Darke.