Having suffered the same disastrous salmon season as many this year, with an unsatisfactory four fish (and three of them were tiny) from my many outings, it was nice to spend a Saturday in November catching six fabulous wild fish which fought like demons on the lightweight tackle I was using. The fact that these fish were pike – not often considered fine quarry by game anglers – did not matter. They were truly wild, they pulled like trains, were caught on a beautiful loch in fine company and there is nothing not to like about that.
I have always had a soft spot for pike – as long as they are in waters natural to them. They grow big, are aggressive fighters and readily take a variety of baits when the mood takes them. They are, however, not easy fish to catch when not in the mood, but unlike salmon, you at least know they are in the water you are fishing no matter what the conditions – and after this very poor year for our silver tourists, this is indeed a welcome aspect of their pursuit. Being a fly angler by inclination and therefore keen to be active in my quest for fish, I am also a sucker for chasing pike using artificial lures; a fact borne out by my almost single-handed support of the lure tackle industry.
Joking apart, like opening a flybox full of flies, there is something wonderful about experimenting with different lures and having a fine collection from which to choose. I have perhaps been lucky in having picked up many of my lures from America and Canada (when deployed to these parts in my previous military career) at a fraction of the cost it would have taken me to buy them here, but I remain a fan of picking up a lure or two each new season. When the going gets tough, it is good knowing you are likely to have something that works in your box – and if it doesn’t, at least it’s fun trying out a variety of different lures (and this often stops you falling into the ‘monotonous automaton’ retrieve that is the devilment of every lure fisher). That’s my excuses for my excesses over…
I cannot reveal the loch I was fishing as a guest on the Saturday in question, but suffice to say the backdrop of beautiful highland Perthshire and very benign, windless conditions certainly added to the enjoyment of my day. I was also very fortunate that my friends Jim and Andrew were full of good craic and I perhaps pushed the bounds of decency by catching as many pike in our short session as I did, but every dog deserves their day and I certainly enjoyed mine.
I have fished for pike on the fly before and can confirm that this is a fantastic way to catch them, but on this occasion, with three of us in a small boat I chose to fish with light spinning tackle including a small multiplier and baitcasting rod. The use of light spinning gear certainly added to our fun – the capture of pike in the 6-10lb bracket on heavy deadbaiting rods would certainly have reduced the thrills and spills, but these fish put a fantastic curve on our light rods and this allowed them to show us just how powerful and sporting an adversary a highland Esox can be.
The fish did not give themselves up readily – apart from two small jacks, we had no action until half past two when finally the bigger fish came on the feed as the day warmed. The next two hours saw us have follows, swirls and takes – and acres of fun. Anyone who says it is not exciting to watch a large pike follow their lure to the boat and then engulf it, doesn’t have a pulse as far as I’m concerned. Andrew even had a large perch grab his diving plug although sadly it spat out the hooks and gained its freedom earlier than planned. I was lucky that it was my day: it was my lures that the pike homed in on the most and I finished my successful day by casting right into the rings of a swirl seen in a burn-mouth as we were about to head for home and had the excitement of a pike follow right out of the shallows and hit my lure only feet away from the boat – magic!
Don’t just take my word for it, try a bit of light pike spinning yourself – be in the right place at the right time (and with the right company) and you will have a ball.