Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page

Freshwater Fishing

For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).

No baits, but exciting piking.

My pal Bill REALLY enjoys his bass fishing. each year he makes an effort to catch bass in every one of the twelve months. Since I first knew him he's made quite a difference to my own ideas of the 'season' for catching these fish. At the beginning of March we went together to try and catch a fish for this month (often one of the least productive). The conditions looked pretty good - water temperature 9 degrees C, bit of a swell, not too much colour in the water, pretty calm and not enough wind to interfere with casting. It was a slow start and I was getting a little impatient so I walked over to have a word with my pal. I'd barely spoken a sentence when Bill's rod bent and he was into a fish. Sharp lesson Mike! The fish was not a monster but it was in nice nick and a pleasure to see. However, it appeared to be a one off and we didn't get any more bites on that trip.

Bill's nice March bass.


The reason that I mention the bass fishing trip is that my own attitude is usually to try and fish for what I've always thought of as winter fish, such as pike, grayling, dace, perch, chub and the like. These fish are adapted to cold conditions and will usually oblige unless things are really wintery. I'm afraid that I'm too set in my ways to completely change my approach, and I do enjoy a spot of pike fishing so, over the past week I had three short afternoon sessions on the river in search of a predator.

My preference for catching decent pike is (1) Live bait, (2) Wobbled dead bait (3) A large lure. In each case the essence is something fairly big. There's little doubt that pike (and most other predators) are more inclined to take a real fish than an imitation so I usually try to catch a bait for starters. now over the past couple of years on the stretches of river that I fish catching baits has been much trickier. In the past, five or ten minutes float fishing would produce me two or three fair sized dace and away I went. No longer! The dace stocks seem to have crashed and it is often hard work even catching a single bait. As a result, after a fishless hour or more, I'll often pack in and try spinning. In fact on my first session of the three I managed to get one bait. I walked to a likely swim where there are a few metres of deeper, slack water close under the bank, lip hooked my bait on a good sized circle hook and lowered it in. For twenty minutes or more it swam round towing the split, wine-bottle-cork that I use as a float, but attracting nothing. I was beginning to doubt my choice of swim. However, I know that pike can be a little sluggish to respond at times so I persisted. I moved down a few paces to try the next little baylet. The bait behaved perfectly and swam out to the edge of the mid-stream current. Suddenly a long, green, body appeared and snatched at the bait causing the float to duck sharply. I had a good view of the pike and could see that it was a nice one, so I was full of anticipation - but the cork had resurfaced and when I reeled in instead of a heavy-weight pike there was a bare hook. The fish had managed to remove my bait against only the resitance of my little float. "Oh deary me!" I said.

A switch to a spoon followed by a plug and then a soft-bait proved to be futile. The pike was clearly digesting my bait and not interested in any fancy, carefully presented lures. I was gutted. The following morning there was a bit of a frost. Since it is hard enough to catch a bait when conditions are perfect, I gave it a miss. However, I was determined to try and catch the pike that I'd seen and they rarely move too far at this time of the year, but it was two or three days before I could try again. I wrapped up warm against the chilly, north-east wind and set off in search of the pike. As usual it took quite a while to catch a bait and this time I didn't have to wait too long before the bait somehow detached itself from the hook and swam away. Not even the satisfaction of a bite. It seemed like a curse, I could have cried. Again I flogged away for a while with a large lure but nothing happened. When I arrived home I answered the usual question "How did it go?" with a grunt and said I would try again tomorrow. I was greeted with the withering look that suggested I was crackers.

Now I know that I'm a bit of an idiot, but I'm well aware that if you don't go you'll catch nothing. Anyway, the following day found me togged up against the weather and fishing for another bait. It was hard work but eventually I managed to catch a sizeable grayling. Not my ideal bait but I know that the pike are not generally fussy about their diet. I also know that pike tend to prefer a fish of about one-third of their own body length. So, I walked to the area where I'd seen the big fish, and for half-an-hour I watched my cork being dragged round the likely spots by the bait. Nothing showed. Now pike, just like anglers, have a habit of shifting rom one likely "fishing = lurking" spot to another within their territory. On the opposite bank of the river was a smaller but equally pikey slack that I thought might be worth a try. I popped the bait in my bucket, trudged to the bridge and crossed over.

This time there was less bankside cover than in the first swim and not much choice of a spot for a pike to lie in wait. I watched as the bait swam round and worked its way to within a few centimetres of the bank. Suddenly, right under my feet, it was engulfed by a fishy torpedo, and the float shot under. I waited, with baited breath, for the fish to turn the bait (you can usually feel the 'knocks' as a pike turns its prey to swallow it). The current was dragging the braid a little but I wasn't too worried until suddenly my cork bobbed to the surface. I reeled in to find the bait, still alive and kicking, apparently unharmed. Surely I wasn't going to fail again. I encouraged the fish to swim into the flow and drift downstream to roughly where the pike seemed to have been when it dropped the bait. I feared the worst.

The cork sailed gently down in mid-stream with the bait perhaps only half-a-metre beneath it. Crash! Splash! Amazing! - it was taken again. Down went the cork and I could feel the weight of the predator as the line ran out under zero tension and the pike swam down to the bottom to adjust its prey. Two or three knocks later (it WAS a big bait) I closed the bale arm, and gently tightened until I could feel the fish. Clearly it sensed the tightening of the line and began to move off upstream. Faster and faster it went, the rod bowed and the tight clutch buzzed to give line. I was in. The fish circled a couple of times and made another short, powerful run. Then, to my amazement, it jumped. The pike completely cleared the water and crashed back in with a huge splash, like the proverbial 'horse off a bridge'. What a sight. If that jump hadn't doslodged the hook it looked as though I stood agood chance of landing the fish. I edged towards where my net lay in the grass and picked it up. The fish was clearly tiring now so I slid down to the water's edge and placed the net in the water. Carefully avoiding any chance of the hook catching the net I eased the fish over the rim and heaved it up the bank - success!

Prop the old camera on a handy mole hill, set the time release, unhook the pike (no need for pliers the hook was neatly in the scissors) a quick selfie and back she went. Honour (and I) was satisfied. Will I have another chance before the river coarse, season ends?

A selfie as I prepare to return my catch.


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