Monday, 16 January 2012

Big Pit Pike - Caught, in the Minds Eye...

What I want to know is this. Is it possible for a pike well in excess of twenty pounds to leap clear of the water and perform the twist I have attempted to depict in the sketch below, a drawing derived completely from the lightning-strike, shooting-star, split-second mental imprint I was lucky enough to have seared into my memory as just such a pike performed just such an act, and just as I brought a lure past its nose?

You'll have to forgive the inevitable inaccuracies of my pencil -- it can't possibly be correct -- but without the aid of a dead pike set up in the 'studio' (kitchen...!) with such a twist in its body there's no way I could possibly get the foreshortening correct and the anatomical details in just the right places and with correct orientation, nevertheless, it is very much like the mental image of what I witnessed, inevitable errors notwithstanding. As for drawing splashing water to make it look less like a dead thing on a fishmonger's ice pile, forget it. That'll take months to learn never having drawn a splash in my life.

It was the culmination of a day's piking, a day when frustration was king. Martin Roberts and I had organised a piking trip to a local pit whilst boozing with the local angling bloggers society in the pub last weekend. I had to be reminded about the details the day after, but they were clear enough -- "let's go after a twenty next Saturday". So that was that...

A sharp overnight frost, our first serious frost of the winter, had obliterated the balmy weather of Christmas through early new year and in the Valley of the Kings, a freezing fog had dusted everything with crystaline cheery splendour. The mist was clearing and sky a sheer, cloudless yellow-blue by dawn and the air very, very cold indeed. We intended to spin our way around the lake after a preliminary excursion, sans tackle, right around the lake's perimeter in search of clues as to the the likely whereabouts of pike.

All we saw that might have been reason to be cheerful about our prospects were the dimples of three or four tiny prey fish on the surface of the water in one swim along the northern bank, an area that was noted for later in the day when our deadbaits would be lobbed out. As it happened, we got the deadbaits out long before we intended to as spinning was not only unproductive, but for me, thoughtlessly employing a barbel rod for the job, almost impossible due to the wet line freezing solid in the too small rod rings and jamming on the cast. When this finally cost me a lure as the cast jammed half way out on a right angled margin cast and sent it arcing right into the branches of a tree, I'd had enough of bad lure fishing and called it day.

We chose two adjacent swims on the Eastern bank, put out a couple of baits each and sat back to await the inevitable 'twenty'.  We didn't get so much as a bobble of the floats in two hours and so we decided to hop along to the swims where we'd seen the topping tiddlers at dawn. These felt immediately better, alive somehow, electrified with fishy prospects. When my float began to toodle away just ten minutes in my blood was up but the run was aborted -- not to mind -- just a few minutes later Martins bite alarm sounded out and he had a twitchy kind of run that suddenly turned into a belter as a fish picked up his decapitated mackerel and made off with it. Unfortunately the strike met with nothing whatsoever, not even the firmness of a bait pulled out of the jaw. The bait came back unmarked by pike tooth, inexplicably.

None of this seemed to matter. We'd clearly dropped in upon some willing pike and when a massive swirl, one that we both agreed had to have been caused by a large pike, erupted just a few yards off Martin's float fished roach, we were sure we were in for something special across the rest of the day.

An hour later nothing more had happened except another large swirl in Martin's swim. Two hours later it was looking as if our chances were slipping away. Three hours later we were becoming resigned to a head scratching blank even though that large fish (or fishes) had erupted once again. It wasn't interested in dead food, evidently, and was, we thought, preoccupied with the tiny fry that every now and then would pimple the surface. Martin brought his bait up to half depth to entice it, and then so did I, but it (they?) wasn't interest in that either.

By evening even the swirls had stopped and I'd moved swim, though Martin stayed put having had the majority of fishy activity happen in his. Then a really huge crashing swirl was witnessed in the next peg along, one that could never have been created by any fish other than pike as the lake is that rarest of rare things, a British lake without carp in it. I immediately bit off one of my dead bait rigs, hitched on an antique ABU floating plug, and went fish for it.

That was when it happened. Five minutes after starting and just as the wobbling plug was brought within ten yards of the bank and past the end of the overhanging tree to my right, a huge pike leapt clear of the water and only because I was staring straight at the precise point where the plug would now be travelling and exactly where the fish leapt, the image of the moment, as it twisted its body through ninety degrees and crashed back down upside down and head first, was imprinted indelibly and unforgettably upon my memory.

Martin came along the bank, having heard the crash, seen the ripples spreading out into the lake and my excitable yelling...

"I'll draw it for you when I get home" I said. Certain that I could, the image being so sharp and clear...

Was it this big, Jeff?

... Nah, Bigger!!!

That was that though. I even chucked my dead-bait into the swim too and spun around it, but the pike never was interested in anything I could do, so it stays uncaught, and like all uncaught leviathan pike, becomes a story instead.

Never mind, a good story of a big fish uncaught is better than any story of no fish at all to an inveterate blogger like myself!

Now, where can I procure a dead pike?

To get that drawing, just so....


  1. What you fail to realise Jeff is that drawing which you think is 'iffy' is a million times better than anything 99% of others could do!

    Hatt original pencil sketch + ebay = £££'s

    Could you do me one of a Ferrari without any shading so I can practice my colouring in? I already have the crayons.

  2. Steve in Colorado17 January 2012 at 01:19

    Colorado is not known for the big pike but I've caught more than a few, the biggest being about 12 pounds.
    And yes, they ARE aerobatic and can give a stunning display. I've also had them tail-walk before or after the aerobatics.
    Altogether a memorable experience- especially when they perform mere feet from your canoe...
    Concur with Keith- nice sketch.

  3. Could a 20 plus pike clear the water? Yes indeed! The hardest fighting fish it has been my priviledge to land was a river pike of 22 pounds. I was astonished to see it tail walk quite clear of the surface. And this was NOT one of those "very near the boat" tailwalks often induced by celebrity anglers for the benefit of the camera. This fish was still 15 yards away from me.