Pike Lure Fishing brought up to date

November 30, 2021 at 8:00 pm

With frosts and snow returning to the UK weather forecasts, bait fishermen are putting their rods to one side, until the warmer weather come around again, while many anglers will be looking to their predator fishing gear to continue fishing. In 2014 I wrote a blog following a pike fishing session with a specialist, who is adept at all forms of lure fishing, from the tiniest drop shot jigs, up to exotic spinning rigs. My own spinning tackle is firmly planted in the 60’s and 70’s, a seven foot Hardy split cane rod and an ABU 506 reel, although my concessions to modernity are plastic plugs over my faithful wooden models.

An autumn perch, the first of many on a cold afternoon with vintage tackle

When the picture below dropped into my e-mail inbox from fellow club member Lee, along with an invite to join him on his next pike fishing session, I jumped at the chance, just to go along with my camera to see how it was done.


 For our morning session, Lee took me to his local water, where this double figure pike was caught on a lure,  a well matured gravel pit surrounded by trees, with features every twenty yards, bays, roots and reed beds in abundance. Early mist had cleared, with just a hint of ground frost and the lake had returned to it’s normal level following flooding, a white tide mark evidence of the level two weeks before.

Lee’s tackle was a revelation to me, a seven foot Savage Gear lure rod, coupled to an Okuma Tormenta bait caster reel, loaded with sinking braid, that gives a direct feel from rod top to the lure. A far cry from the seven foot Hardy split cane rod and Garcia ABU 506 closed face reel loaded with 10 lb mono, that I have been using for years. Likewise a small selection of his lures, jelly eels and various multi-bodied plugs were an example of how far lure fishing has come since the simple Mepps spoons I’ve used in the past.

We walked the bank first, with Lee pointing out where he’d had pike before, starting to fish at an inviting looking reed bed, expecting a strike, or a follow from each cast, his outfit easily capable of reaching the edge of the reeds fifty yards away.

This is usually Jack Alley, but today the smaller pike could not be persuaded to take, despite frequent changes of lure. Lee joked that he wasn’t used to fishing under pressure, feeling the need to put a fish in front of the camera. We moved down into a heavily wooded area, where he’d had good pike before and a few casts in, there was a swirling boil just feet from the bank, as a big fish veered away from his lure.

Encouraged by this promising action, Lee rang the changes in an attempt to tempt this fish, but maybe the clear water was against us and it failed to move to the lure again. As the saying goes, “here’s one I had earlier”, a finely marked nine and a half pounder from this swim a month earlier.

 We moved on, trying each gap in the trees, expectant of a take at the slightest tap of the rod, as the lures worked their magic among the roots. This is the attraction of lure fishing, with dead and live baiting for pike, it’s a waiting game, but a lure can be taken the moment it hits the water, or just on lift off, going from inaction to explosive action in a matter of seconds.

Two hours had passed quickly and each new area offered up several choices of holding spots, this bay being a pike fisher’s dream, but once again Lee’s efforts were frustrated and we moved to a narrow spur, that at first glance had nothing going for it, until I saw a small fish jump, followed by another. Either a small jack pike, or a perch was attacking a shoal of roach. Another change saw a fish bodied lure with a bright jelly tail clipped on and cast out to the topping shoal.

Third cast through, the rod bent into an arc, as the lure was seized and Lee instinctively struck hard to set the barbless hooks, a boil on the surface indicating the exact take point. The rod kicked as the pike shook it’s head, before heading for open water, pulling hard on the reel drag. I went back to collect the landing net, returning in time to hand it over to Lee for the end game of an epic battle, the look of satisfied relief on his face saying it all. This young, fit guy had still managed to break a sweat on a cold morning.

 Job done! What a fin perfect beauty. A quick spell in the weighing bag ran the scales round to 11lb 8oz, then this heavily camouflaged killing machine was slipped back in the water. Not content with his capture, Lee ran the lure through several times more, saying that two, or three pike will often work together to drive a shoal of bait fish into such an enclosed area. Not today though and both with family commitments that afternoon, we headed back down the motorway.

A week later another photo dropped into my inbox. Lee had been busy again. While visiting relatives in Leicestershire, he’d found time to pop down to the river Soar for some R&R and bagged a personal best 3lb 6oz perch.

This was taken on a Savage Gear 3D white crayfish lure.

CZ452 HMR Varmint autumn visit to the warren pays off

November 23, 2021 at 5:07 pm

One of my farmers gave me call this week to say that she had got a contractor in to cut the grass and attempt to fill in the burrows with his tractor on a large rabbit warren. Her now deceased father had done the same in previous years without lasting effect, although with me keeping the rabbit numbers down early in the year, he was able to put cattle out on the land without fear of dangerous burrows causing injury to his herd. Taking over the farm from her father, the field had been left fallow and the warren allowed to expand unchecked, until I was called in earlier this year, carrying out a cull of about twenty mature rabbits, before the undergrowth made shooting impossible.

The warren above, on my last successful visit, before the nettles and grass took over. The warren below as I found it this week, after the tractor had scoured the surface


At first glance it seemed that no rabbits could have survived the heavy machinery, but as I walked the field, recent scraping of buried burrows had already begun.

Holes were spread out along the warren and I took up station with my HMR, sitting on a dead tree, where there was some cover from a bitter north east wind.

By 3 pm there was little comfort from the weak November sun, as it settled behind the trees, while scanning the area ahead of me with the rifle on the tripod for half an hour, had shown no movement.

I opted to move 200 yards closer to the gate, where a large tree would shield me from the wind. This was close to an active burrow complex and I could cover a wide area with the rifle mounted on the tripod, which I adjusted to give a comfortable standing position.

All I needed now were some rabbits. The shadows were stretching out across the field and it was about the time that something would come out for a pee. Taking occasional sweeps of the field, I returned to this position in time to see the smooth round back of a rabbit pop out of the ground forty yards away, only to watch it disappear again down into another burrow. I’d had not chance to sight on the rabbit and heightened my concentration on the area, as once one has made the effort, the rest usually follow. It is not unusual to suddenly have half a dozen rabbits in front of you, when seconds earlier there were none.

The light was beginning to fade rapidly with the sunset, when a large rabbit emerged to bolt to another hole. Was this the same one? This time I got a shot off, which threw up dust at it’s feet, causing it to dance. It was down a blind burrow and could just see the pricked up ears. The ears flattened. I waited, holding on the aim point. It ran out and stopped. Boof! The bullet impact causing it to run on the spot and slump.

I waited for twenty minutes. No more offers. Time to pick up my reward, a healthy buck. Maybe he was going from doe to doe before bedtime.

I knocked on the door of the farmhouse to pass on the news that, although the contractor had done a good job of flattening the field, the rabbits were already busy re establishing their kingdom. Her comment “It’s a nightmare. When are you coming back?”




Bread punch finds carp, crucians, rudd and big gudgeon at Allsmoor

November 20, 2021 at 5:12 pm

With my wife driving into town for an afternoon’s shopping, I scrounged a ride with her down to my nearest pond for a few hours fishing. I walked round to a swim with the remains of a lilly bed, that has been killed off by recent frosts, but could still hold a few decent fish. A typical dull autumn afternoon, it began to drizzle with rain as I set up.

Very shallow close in, the depth increases gradually to about 30 inches at the edge of the lilies and I started off by feeding two balls of liquidised bread, mixed with ground carp pellets, out to the edge. My usual rig for this pond is a small waggler, with a No 4 shot down the line to a size 14 hook, which can be fed out and cast underhand from the extended pole. Bait was a 6 mm punch of bread.

Casting into the fed area, the float tracked away as a half decent rudd took the bread on the drop.

My next cast produced an even better rudd, that dived back into the cover of  the lillies, before being pulled clear with the pole.

They got bigger, this golden rudd an example of the fish that tend to show once the water cools down.

I settled down into a rhythm with rudd after rudd sinking the float, but as the drizzle died down, a breeze started up from the west, blowing leaves onto the pond. This brought two problems, where to place the float between the leaves each cast and leaves drifting into the float once it was cast in. I could usually hook a couple of fish from a gap, before aiming for another and starting all over. Quality rudd were still in the swim and I wasn’t complaining.

Monster gudgeon had moved in on the feed and were outnumbering the rudd three to one.

Having been double jabbed the day before, Covid Booster in my left and Flu jab in my right, both arms were beginning to ache with the constant lifting and feeding of the 9.5 metres of pole onto the grass behind me, unshipping the top two sections, then leaning forward to net most of the rudd.

This pond is full of fish and the bread punch tends to find the better ones, even the smaller ones gave a good account of themselves.

I began to miss a few bites and went down on punch size to a 5 mm, hitting into a solid little crucian, that ran into the lily bed, doing me a favour, when it managed to shear off a few of the old lilies, giving me more space to cast to.

I had been getting big gudgeon regularly, the one below being the biggest.

The 5 mm punch had improved the bites and another hefty rudd came to the landing net. Most of these seem to be minus their top lip. Genetics, or poor handling by anglers?

By 3 pm the light was beginning to fade and my camera had not captured the full colour of the crucian below.

Two more crucians failed to photograph, while the camera flash dazzled the images. I decided to pack up at 3:30, but at 3;20 a slow sinking bite saw the elastic extend, as a plump common carp went off with the tiny 5 mm punch of bread. It was so plump that I thought that I had hooked a big crucian. Keeping the carp away from the lilies, the carp was soon out of danger and I broke the pole down to the top two sections, which proved interesting, when it fought round to the side of my keep net, but I got it back to the left side and the landing net. A beautifully conditioned common carp of 3 lb, although the camera again failed to do it justice, with glare from the flash reflecting back from the golden scales.

That was it. I called it a day. There seemed little point in continuing once this fat common was in the net.

The punch had worked well and only wish that I had swapped to the smaller 5 mm punch earlier.

It had been a busy four hours, ending with a bonus carp. The smaller punch may have brought more hard fighting crucians, but if fishing was predictable it would be boring, wouldn’t it?





Carp and skimmer bream beat the cold on the punch at Hitcham Ponds

November 16, 2021 at 7:42 pm

Each year I try to fish a prolific farm pond before winter sets in, but this year the clocks had been set back to Winter Time and frosts had lowered water temperatures, before I had an opportunity to fish. The 15 mile journey from home was the usual series roadworks and traffic queues, that seem to be the rule these days for urban travel, while attempting to avoid passing through two major towns on the way.

The car park was empty and I had a choice of swims, setting up in a corner. Earlier in the year, the surface would have been full of activity, topping fish and cruising carp, but the sight before me was far from encouraging. Not a bubble, or a rise, the only good sign being the lack of wind, the hill top pond on the edge of the Chilterns often windswept.

I decided on a cautious approach, feeding one small ball of  squeezed up .liquidised bread, ground hemp and ground pellets, six metres out, where there is a slight increase in depth to about a metre, casting a 4 x 14 antenna pole float over the top, with a 6 mm punch of bread on a size 16 barbless hook. After five minutes the float showed signs of interest in the bait, the antenna shotted down to half way, raising and lowering by millimetres. This went on for for another five minutes, until the float very slowly sank away. I missed the bite and the bread was still on the hook. Very fussy today. I dropped the bait back in, for a repeat performance, but when the float sank this time, I left the strike for ten seconds. On cue, it popped back up after nine. More dithering and it went down slowly again. Missed again and no bait.

I went down to a 5 mm punch. Same again, a dithering bite and very slow sink. Leave it and lift. Solid. The elastic was out and following a V that was zooming out across the pond. My timid roach bite, was a full blown common carp, that was bending the pole as  five metres of elastic applied relentless pressure,  flashes of gold beneath the surface tracking each change of direction. It boiled on the surface momentarily, then was gone again, throwing up a chain of bubbles as it tried to remove the hook on the bottom. The surface rolls increased, until it was being drawn back to my bank by the heavy 12 – 18 elastic. Without breaking down the pole, I swept the carp back across the surface to my net, praying that the the size 16 barbless would keep hold.

About 4 lb, it had been a slow, then thanks to this carp, a very busy start to the afternoon.

As it was past my lunchtime, a sandwich and a cup of tea were needed to settle my nerves, while a couple more small balls of feed were required to attract the fish back into the swim. Back to a dithering bite and a slow sink of the antenna. Anticipating another carp, I lifted into a small roach.

Oh dear, what a disappointment. From the bite, I at least expected a crucian carp. The roach was ice cold, the water temperature was well down and the fish, being cold blooded, not really interested in feeding. I kept missing unmissable bites, making contact always being another small roach.

The sun had come out, taking the chill from the air, but putting a glare on the surface and I moved the float round in line with the island, where I had a dark contrast for the antenna. Plumbing the depth again indicated a slight increase and adjusted the float to just off bottom. The softly softly approach had caught a lucky carp, but I now went for a change of plan, adding more ground pellets, with a sprinkling of strawberry flavoured ground bait, damping the mix down to allow soft balls to be formed. I put in two balls to start. More small roach, then bang! I was into another carp that ran straight for the island. I added another length of pole as it ran and raised the pole to take some of the shocks, when it rolled on the surface. This was much bigger and faster than the first, running straight through lilies to my right and thrashing about on the surface. The hook came out, the rig flying back.

I put another couple of balls into the swim, the area a mass of bubbles from the fight. It was not long before the float was under again and a better roach was swung in.

For the first time bubbles were coming up in ones and twos and soon I had an answer to the cause, when a dithering bite of lifts and slants drifted under and I struck into a fish with a familiar fight, the slow thud of a skimmer bream, being followed by it flapping on the surface. This was one for the net and I steadily drew it back as it rolled on the surface, the last yard, or two the most dangerous for slipping the hook .

The very next bite produced a smaller skimmer, which again fought well following a protracted bite, when the float would not go under. Once again the hook was barely holding onto the bottom lip, the small piece of punch bread blown in and out of the mouth, until it moved off with it.

The brief interlude of sunshine soon passed to haze, as mist formed across the fields and the sun sank beneath the trees, the temperature dropping in unison. Another ball of feed brought a few very small skimmers, some coming off the hook as they were lifted through the surface film. A smaller hook and a 4 mm punch may have been the answer, but it would have been game over, if I contacted another carp.

More small roach followed and I scraped up the last of my feed and put it in, a lift bite laying the float almost flat, striking into a skimmer well off the bottom, that surfaced in a flurry of spray, skimming across the surface on its side, but staying, on despite the hook being in the skin of the lip.

A cloud had come over making bite detection difficult in the gloom, the last skimmer being hooked, when the ripples from the bite stopped and I assumed that the float had gone under. It had and I took my time bringing the fish over to the net.

Gudgeon now crowded round the feed and with visibility at a premium, I packed up at 3:30 pm.

The bread punch had once again provided reliable fishing on a hard day, when I experience cold hands for the first time this year.

About fifty fish in under three hours, but where were the crucian carp that used to dominate this pond?

By the time that I had packed away and loaded the trolley, passed through the wood, unlocked the gates at either end of the field, loaded the van and got on my way, it was rush hour and dark, The stop, start journey home taking over an hour, but eased by the thought of the hot chicken casserole waiting on my return home.

Autumn roach bonanza rewards the stick float and bread punch

November 11, 2021 at 6:43 pm

A warm bright morning saw me revisit a swim last fished in the summer on my local river Cut. Then I had three carp among a net of quality roach, but now, falling leaves and a gin clear river, following nights of frost, left a question mark over what I would catch. On my walk to the swim, I had seen a pair of cormorants sitting over the river and wondered how long they have been living here, knowing that each one requires at least a pound of fish a day to survive. Multiply that by 365 days and they could consume 800 lbs of fish a year between them. The river could soon go the way of many others and be devoid of fish, due to these once sea birds.

On setting up my 14 foot Browning float road, I could see a long branch had washed down in the recent floods to cover the bush opposite, extending downstream for several yards, effectively cutting off the best part of the swim, where the float is drifted up to the bush and held back, then worked along the front of the bush. The swim is only three feet deep at the bush and I could see leaves on the bottom extending right across, not a good sign. There was little flow and chose a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stick float to a size 16 barbless hook, starting off with a 5 mm bread punch.

Not sure how it would fish, if at all, I mixed up a quarter of a pint of liquidised bread, with a covering of ground carp pellets and a handful of ground hempseed, damped down to allow loose balls to be squeezed up. I put in one small ball upstream of the long branch and cast in alongside it, the float carrying downstream a yard, then slowly sinking away, when a small chub took the bait. A brief, fierce fight and the chub was in the net. It was time to get serious and put on the bait apron.

Casting into a gap in the leaves, the float gave a gentle dip as it drifted down, a lift of the rod enough to slow the float, resulting in another slow sink. This time a decent roach was diving back to the bush under the branch to be pulled clear, zig-zagging back to the landing net.

My fears of it going to be a hard day were dismissed with a repeat performance, as the float sank away with a better roach from the same spot.

The next roach appeared to have damage across it’s back. With no pike present in the Cut, I could only assume that this one had escaped the grip of a cormorant.

More roach followed.

A decent sized dace that exploded into action.

I put in another ball of feed and began catching monster gudgeon.

I lifted into a snag that began to move. The golden shape of  2 lb crucian carp flashed beneath the bush and I drew it out into open water, where it suddenly woke up, rushing off upstream, pressure turning it, before rolling on the surface. At this point I thought that I had the carp and pushed out the landing net ready, but it turned and powered over to the opposite bank, running downstream toward the bush, getting behind the branch. Turning the carp, I gave too much pressure and the 16 barbless hook pulled out, leaving the crucian to realise that it was now free to sink back to the bush.

That was annoying, but I rebaited and fed another couple of balls over and I was back catching roach.

Like a lucky dip at the fair, everyone was a winner, the occasional small ball of feed keeping the fish lined up beneath the branch, slowing the float to a standstill bringing a predictable slow sink and another fighting roach, the next one the best of the afternoon. Who said that the bread punch only catches small fish?

This is last fish of the day, starting at 11 am and finishing dead on 3 pm, the bites were still coming, but 4 hours was enough. This is just a snapshot of the hundred odd fish that I caught, the punched bread evidence of a very productive session.

Pulling out my keepnet, I could hear that I had a good weight and lifting up on the scales they were bouncing around the nine pounds mark in the landing net.

Roach, chub, dace and monster gudgeon, all from a tiny river, under threat from pollution and now cormorants.