Floating crust for carp

Being an “Old” Crust-Ancient

Brian Skoyles reveals his methods for catching wily old carp off the surface.

Words and photography Brian Skoyles

Since I first cast a rod in earnest to catch a carp by design, I think it’s fair to say things have changed a bit. Squawking “Herons” have been replaced by high tech remotes, climbing trees by drones, casting by GPS directed boats and the old par boiled spud by high tech boilies. Out of interest I never did persuade a carp that a potato was a delicious meal. I did however catch plenty on breadcrust, which fueled my passion for surface fishing which lasts to this day.  

There is nothing more exciting than getting up close and personal with an unsuspecting carp by travelling light and doing a bit of margin stalking. I accept that, these days, not all waters lend themselves to this approach, being far too busy, but most parts of the country have the odd small pond where a bit of fun can be had on a summers evening. Forget about pb’s and bagging up, this is all about going back in time for a couple of hours of “Old School” carping.

Gear is simplicity itself. I prefer a 12ft rod with a test curve around 2lb, a medium sized reel with a good clutch, loaded with 15lb line. My setup is a Daiwa X45 floater special and a GS4000 reel. At the business end, just a hook, my choice a Korda Mixa. My unhooking mat doubles as my carry bag for the odd spares I might need.

I like to wander around the lake, avoiding the obvious well used swims and just throw out a few bits of crust, along the margins, near overhanging trees etc. Most of the time it will get attached by small silver fish, but that’s ok, as I reckon the activity could attract the bigger fish. Most of the time the cast is no more than an underhand swing. Sometimes I don’t actually lower the hookbait into the water until I know a fish is active in the area. Resting the bait on a lily pad, or hooking over an outer leave of a tree, can be a plus. I’ve had fish pushing a pad up in the air to get at the crust, as it slides off the slurp is better than any bite alarm.

Using crust has gone out of fashion, but that can be an advantage. On a couple of pressured waters I fish, the carp are becoming more and more suspicious of the usual particle floaters but excuse the pun, can be a sucker for a large lump of crust, particularly in the margins on an evening. It also tends to solve the problem of nuisance ducks, seagulls etc. as you are fishing so close in. 

It doesn’t always work, but when it does it provided some of the most exciting fishing you will ever have. One minute the crust is there, when without warning a dark shape appears below it. You watch, you tense, as slowly a carp approaches your crust. It disappears, you strike, and the water explodes … you’re in. 

Pure Magic for an ancient carper!

Tips and tactics

How to catch your first barbel

by Ricci Cox

Barbel are probably the most sought after fish in British rivers nowadays. Known for their hard-fighting qualities and ferocious bites (many a rod has nearly been lost or actually has been pulled in thanks to a barbel bite), this torpedo-shaped, bronzed beauty is definitely worth targeting.

They are now more widespread than ever before thanks to stocking around the country over the past decade or more by some angling clubs. Rivers like the Trent, Severn and Nene hold more and bigger barbel than ever before. Many a river around the country has produced big fish well into high double-figures nowadays, even a few twenty pounders and the current British record is a 21lb 2oz, caught in late 2019 from an undisclosed Sussex river.

There are many ways to go about catching a barbel. From the simple method of free-lining a bait, such as luncheon meat on back waters and smaller, steady flowing rivers, to fishing more ‘carp-style’ with boilies and pellet baits and fancier rigs with lead core leaders or rig tubing and heavy leads on fast running rivers like the Severn and Trent.

Small, steady-flowing back waters also make for great barbel habitats
Start with boilie, pellet and hemp and you won’t go far wrong!

If you are new to a water, I would recommend keeping it simple and and start with a boilie, pellet and hemp approach – a pretty reliable tactic on any water for barbel. Boilie choice is important. I would recommend a quality fish-meal based boilie, like ‘The Source’ which I’ve caught many barbel on. Others like ‘Complex-T or a Halibut-flavoured boilie or pellet will work a treat too. Avoid fruity flavours.

If this doesn’t produce on a given day, you can always try a cube of luncheon meat which works well. I’ve caught barbel on Paprika and curry flavoured luncheon meat as well as plain, so don’t be afraid to experiment with spices and flavours. Pepperami and other meaty treats have caught many a barbel over the years too.

When it comes to rig choice, I’d recommend a three-foot leadcore leader (I’ve never been snapped up or lost a fish on one of these in nearly 20 years of carp and barbel fishing) and a simple lead-clip system with a 2-40z lead in most cases, a hair-rigged boilie with a quality size 8 hook on a 3ft, 20b breaking strain braid or 12-15lb mono hooklink, depending on your main line – go slightly lighter on the hooklink with mono, i.e – 12lb hooklink with a 15lb mainline). When casting out, don’t tighten instantly, let the rig and leadcore sink and settle on the bottom first. The leadcore leader keeps the line all pinned down as barbel are spooky and will shoot out of your swim in an instance if they suspect anything is wrong, especially the big, wily, older fish – I’ve seen this with my own eyes in a crystal clear summer river.

A simple but effective barbel rig. You can swap the lead for a feeder if you want to put more bait out each cast.

Getting bait to the fish can be done with PVA bags, a catapult or a bait-dropper (again, depending on size and flow of the venue). When fishing small back-water river swims, I’ve even found it possible to sneak up and just put a few handfuls in right over the rod-tip, when hidden by the bank foliage, trees, etc. Just be careful not to spook fish, especially on really small backwaters, rivers, etc.

Rod choice is usually a 1.75lb specialist barbel rod and medium-sized reel on small backwaters and rivers and a 2.8lb carp rod and free-spool-reel with 15lb mainline on big wide rivers like the Trent or Severn. This may sound quite heavy gear if you are not used to fishing that way for barbel, but believe me a double-figure plus barbel, in a strong flow will still test your gear, let alone the trees, etc that can flow down in floods! It also makes it a lot easier to cast 3 or 40z leads and PVA bags out 50-60 yards.

Here I found a clear gravel patch just 2 inches from the bank on a small backwater and carefully lowering the rig in with a handful of bait over the top. The barbel (pictured) was the result – as this fish moved back out of the main river under the cover of darkness and took my hookbait on its way through

On smaller streams and back waters, a single rod-rest will suffice, with rod in the air and line out of the flowing river as possible. I use ‘snag-ears’ on the rod rest as barbel bites can be ferocious and I’ve heard many a tale of anglers rods being pulled in! Or you can hold the rod on small waters – like I am in the picture left (also resting on a bucket). They’ll be no mistaking when you get a bite! On bigger rivers, carp-style alarms and butt rests low to the ground will do the job. Bite alarms are great for fishing into dark too, if you don’t want to fish alarms, make sure to get a starlight for your rod tip or you’ll be packing up early!

Best times of year to catch are from the first day of the river season (June 16th) through to October/November time (depending on air and water temperature) and even though you’ll still catch barbel in cold, winter, flood water conditions, it’s a lot harder, bleaker fishing. Dawn and dusk are great times for a bite, although I’ve still caught a fair few in the middle of the day, so anytime is possible really if they’re in your swim.

On small rivers and back waters, have a walk and look for likely looking swims in the clear water (patches of gravel amongst the weed, under over-hanging trees, etc) and don’t be afraid to put a bit of bait in on these spots – as smaller fish, chub, etc will inevitably feed off your bait too.

On bigger rivers, don’t be afraid to put a fair bit of bait in as there can be dozens and dozens of barbel in a swim at any one time. And big fish mop up the bait too. On my last Trent session I put out around 3 kilo’s of pellet, hemp and boilies over 2 rods, had two bites, with the fish weighing 11lb 4oz and 11lb 7oz.

One last word… don’t over think it. Just get out there and try it if you’ve never caught a barbel. I know many people who want to catch a barbel, but come from a background of roach, bream and general coarse fishing and are daunted when more experienced anglers tell them of epic 20 minute battles with monster barbel on super-fast flowing, big rivers like the Trent and Severn.

Just get out there and enjoy yourself, most barbel fishing in the UK is on lovely, wild, scenic rivers or quiet little backwaters… you don’t have to start on big rivers. Do a little research and find a water that appeals to you. You’ll never forget your first barbel if you manage to land one (or the bite and fight for that matter) I’m yet to catch a barbel (even when they’re only 2-3lb) that doesn’t take off like a rocket a put up a great account of itself! I’ve nearly had my rod pulled in a few times which is why I now use ‘snag-ears’ on the rod rest to stop this from being an issue. Tight lines!

One last word of note regarding gear, is to take a well padded unhooking mat and to rest your barbel (by holding it gently upright by the tail in the water) or in your landing net to give it chance to recover before releasing. On hot summer evenings I’ve sat with a barbel for 5-10 minutes after an epic fight before it’s been strong enough to power off again…

Summer fishing

Tench on the Method feeder

by Darren Davies

Nowadays, the Method feeder is often over looked as a tactic to target tench, most anglers choosing to adopt scaled down carp techniques, however the method feeder, fished correctly is still a devastating tactic and should not be dismissed as a small fish method as was proved on a recent session I had on an old estate lake.

The key to fishing the Method is accuracy, casting to the same spot every time to build up a regular supply of feed for the tench.  Ideally you want to choose a venue that holds a good head of fish as getting the tench to start competing for food is vital when using the method feeder.  At the start of the session is not uncommon to recast every 3-4 minutes, firstly to build up the loose feed and most important of all, these first few minutes when the feeder enters the water is when it is  most attractive to the fish.

I have long stopped using regular groundbait on the feeder for a couple of reasons, the first is convenience, today several companies produce Method Ready Pellets which can be used direct from the tub, no need for mixing groundbait, trying to find the right consistency when you arrive at your venue.  Secondly, when these pellets fall off the feeder they stay in the swim a lot longer, unless they are eaten unlike regular groundbait that tends to disperse a lot quicker.

Over the years I have used numerous hook baits for the tench which have ranged from small snails, sweetcorn, soft hookable pellets and of course maggots, however quite often to increase your chances of catching the bigger specimens and to avoid the smaller “nuisance” fish you will have to adopt a harder hookbait that will withstand the constant pulling and mouthing by the silvers and I would quite happily hair rig a 12mm fruit flavoured boilie or pellet on a short rig often no more than 6 inches.

I recently had a very memorable session, in fact it resulted in a double figure haul, after recasting the feeder regularly, the fish soon moved in and I enjoyed a string of tench to over 4lb, at one point having two fish in the net as I rested one before recasting only for the tip to bang around as soon it hit the deck.  The method feeder is a very active way of fishing and if you get it right you can be in for a real red-letter day.

Enjoying summer fishing

‘There is no better feeling…’

by Drew Holmes

Waking up to the warm sun rays shining brightly into your umbrella, there is no better feeling. Something i have been fortunate to experience quite a lot recently. Waking up overlooking a lovely old pit that was dug in WW2 that hold around 250 stunning carp, where i have done a bit of spring fishing so far this year. 

This fishing has kicked off the year to a flying start for me, leading to the capture of my new P.B which is now a stunning 27lb 2oz mirror that i caught on my second ever night on the lake followed by another lovely 13lb mirror that following morning. These fish topped off my spring carp fishing, hoping to get back out on the bank soon sitting lazily behind some carp rods. Waiting for that magical sound of a Delkim breaking the stillness that rests calmly over the lake. 

For now my mind is all over the river season with the River Yare, Bure and Wensum pretty much on my doorstep. My mind is in a million places thinking about a long summer of warm nights and early starts out on the broads after bream, perch , roach and everything in between.

River fishing has been a big part of my fishing for a number of years being lucky enough to bank a few very memorable fish from the stunning setting which is the Norfolk Broads. 

These fish include pike over the fabled 20lb mark and big bronze bream over 5lb. Blessed to have my dad and uncle who share the same passion I do for the sport who have helped me on my journey to be an all round angler, and a successful one in my opinion.

On the horizon for me next will be some lovely tench hopefully if luck is on my side. Hope anyone reading this has the best of luck next time you are out.

Barbel fishing adventures

Forever searching

by Darren Davies

Having fished the River Wye since I was a lad, my original love affair with this beautiful river and its tributaries was in search of chub, which was something of an obsession at the time. My love for barbel came a few years later.

After being encouraged to fish for the barbel by a local bailiff on several occasions and hearing the stories of their fighting qualities I finally decided it was time to target these golden torpedoes.  Barbel are quite plentiful in the Wye especially with fish in the 5-6lb bracket so it was no surprise that my first session resulted in a couple of fish of average size.  The bites were rod wrenchers, the fights memorable and the fish were in perfect condition.

As an all-round angler, I still kept fishing for the chub, however when the conditions were right, mostly in the warmer months I would again pursue the barbel, they were enjoyable days, there seemed to be less anglers on the bank back then, the scenery was spectacular and the fish obliging. 

Eventually over the years, my barbel PB increased with a respectable fish 9lb 2oz and the following seasons saw me catch numerous 9’s with the biggest going 9lb 8oz.  Having fished various methods over the years, certainly the most consistent has been the good old open-end feeder, filled with groundbait, pellets and a boilie hook bait generously covered in paste.

The Wye draws thousands of anglers from all over the country and for very good reason, you are often placed in magnificent surroundings, deep in the heart of the countryside, enveloped by nature, wildlife and best of all there are a wealth of fish to target.

As I enjoy fishing for all species, I have never dedicated any length of time fishing for the barbel and a 10lb+ specimen still eludes me as I tried to rectify this last season and decided to put some time in to catch a double, however with the travel restrictions in place and with the river often flooded my chances were kept to a minimum, although I did get close to my target last autumn during a time when conditions were good, the river was carrying a bit of extra water, bit of colour so I arrived at the river early.

Four barbel graced the bank that day, from memory a couple of 7’s preluding the brace of nines, resulting in a PB of 9lb 14oz (pictured below), the funny thing is my barbel PB has increased by 2 ounces everytime since it stood at 9lb 8oz!!  Surely the next one has to be the 10lber?

My search will continue, however like most rivers the bigger specimens don’t normally fall until later in the season, lets hope I am not distracted by the pike fishing or the venue that I know that holds big perch and lets not forget the roach on the Severn……….I could do with an extra day in the week!

Chub fishing adventures

This is where my love of chub fishing began…

by Phil Mapp

It’s far too difficult for me to pin point one aspect of chub that attracts me so much to fish for them. Everything involved in the way I fish for them, from the miles spent roving about with minimum gear to the plucky bites on the tip, I think it’s the whole package that I find so appealing.

Over the years I’ve realised how difficult a large chub can make it for an angler, given its environment and its natural behaviour of spending a lot of its life under cover/shelter.

Once I began to understand the life of the chub , it began to make the task of finding the larger fish that little more easier.

My favourite way of fishing for chub has to be the simple link ledger, which offers very little resistance if used correctly, allowing even the most weary of fish to move off with a baited hook, making this a very effective way of fishing.

There is one particular morning back in June 2017 on the Great Ouse that stands out for me, it was this morning that really started something…

I’d found a nice little spot that bottle necked in front of me, and opening back up wider a little to my right further down stream, with the rocks and stones just below the crease in the centre of this narrow spot I could see my margin was much darker and deeper, with this in mind I lowered my link ledgered luncheon meat down onto the waters surface and watched its disappear bouncing over the stones until it was out of sight, as I began to stop the line flow off the reel I noticed the water bringing my line round into my near margin maybe a rod length away or so.

Before I could set the rod on the rest I felt a thump, then another, then the whole rod went rod pulling my hand too, with that I struck , A loud crack echoed down the river as I watched my rod tip sliding down a very tight line and into the water. With another big thump the tightness almost eased, and to the surface rose my rod tip above a large chub.

Once the fish was in the net I could straight away it was a new personal best, unfortunately for the chub it had been attacked by what was probably a very large pike.

I think as the chub picked up my meat, the pike picked up the chub. Causing my rod to snap on the strike. With the chub weighing 6lb 4oz I was over the moon but disappointed in the condition of the chub after the attack. 

It was this particular morning that turned my passion into an addiction.

And with time I managed to go onto catch some truly epic fish as far as my personal fishing went. I feel very privileged and very blessed to have fished some amazing stretches of the Great Ouse….

My addiction became an obsession and there were times when I was very selfish and I only had one thing on my mind… constantly, it was all about the chub,  and to really push myself into seeing what could be achieved with maximum concentration…

Even when I’m happy I’m never really happy, not really, because I’m always thinking about the next snag, the next spot, the next fish.

Will it ever end… I don’t think it ever will. 

Not for me anyway… 

Predator fishing

A beginner’s guide
to pike fishing

by Ricci Cox

Traditionally in the UK, early October to mid-March (when the river season closes) is the best time to target and catch pike. You can catch them all year-round, on lures and live baits in summer for example, but they’ll be at their biggest in the colder months (before spawning) and pack on weight feeding for the cold weather. For example a pike that weighs 17-18lb in June could potentially be 20lb-plus in February or March.

Fox jig heads are easy to use with shads – just thread them in through the nose of the fish and pop the hook out the back

The two most popular ways to catch pike are with lures and dead baiting (live baits are a great option, on waters where this is still allowed – although that seems few and far between nowadays). When it comes to lures, soft lures (such as shads) have become much more popular in the last 10-15 years.

Hard lures, like these from world-renowned brand Rapala, (pictured right) are also a great way to fool pike and you can cover the entire depth of the water searching out fish with deep diving lures – a great way to cover the entire swim.

You’ll probably find, particularly on rivers, that 90% of your fish whilst lure fishing will be smaller ‘jack’ pike (1-5lb fish) as these are most common and more enthusiastic chasing lures. You will catch the odd bigger one depending on venue, but generally, dead baits definitely seem to pick out the bigger fish.

Generally, lure fishing is a great way to cover lots of water on lakes and rivers and a really efficient way to catch pike if you only have time for short morning or evening sessions before work.

Dead baiting can be done either with a float (pencil floats, pictured right, are the most popular and versatile) or by legering with a free-running rig, bite alarm and drop off indicator (pictured below). This involves leaving the bale-arm of your reel open so fish can take the bait freely at which point your drop off will move up or down, depending whether the fish moves away or towards you, and your bite alarm will ‘bleep’. At this point, you should pick up your rod, close the bale-arm and strike quickly to avoid deep hooking a fish.

Generally, float fishing is recommended on shallower water, whereas in deep water, it’s easier to leger – although it really is up to you – some people like watching a float all day, whereas others like to kick-back and read a book, watch a film on an iPad, etc, knowing as soon as a pike picks up the bait, they’ll be sharply awoken by a high-pitched alarm on a leger set-up.

The two images below show how easy and few components you need to set-up your rigs. The left hand image is a simple leger set-up. Simply thread a lead weight or in this case, a lead weight on buoyant ‘leger stem’ (to avoid weed). This also has a large run ring to keep the line running freely when you get a ‘take’ from a pike – they will drop your bait if they feel too much resistance – then just thread a leger stop bead on to your line and tie on a pike trace covering the swivel on the trace with the leger stop bead as pictured below.

The image (above right) shows the components you need for a float rig. It’s a really simple set-up too. You simply thread a ‘float stop’ onto your mainline (set this at the depth of water you are fishing in, so the bait lays on the bottom of the river or lake bed) then thread on a bead, the float and another bead. Next goes on a Fox ‘egg sinker’ weight and then simply tie on a pike trace (I recommend buying a ready-made one if you are new to pike fishing) with two-trebles to mount your dead bait on.

Bait wise, there are a whole array of dead fish that a pike will eat. They aren’t particularly fussy in my experience. Although a lot of anglers have their favourites. Mackerel, sardines, lamprey, eel section, roach, rudd, skimmer, perch, trout, small pike will all catch a feeding pike if presented in the right spot.

I use a Korum Multi-mat which is a combined unhooking mat, weight sling and carry bag. Making it ideal to unhook, weigh and return a fish to the water. 

Rods of 2 & 3/4 to 3 & 1/4 test curve are recommended depending on if you are fishing on a river or large gravel pit. Anything lighter and you’ll struggle to cast a decent-sized dead bait out. Standard size reels will suffice on rivers, but again if you are planning on fishing a large lake you might want to go for a larger ‘big pit’ reel. Minimum 15lb mono main line is recommended. If you are fishing braid, 30lb-40lb should do the job and be roughly the same diameter to the 15lb mono anyway, so you’ll get a similar amount of line on your reel either way.

Other items of tackle you will need include a good sized landing net – a 42 inch one is ideal. When lure fishing some anglers use a separate and smaller specialist latex-type net, which stops the hooks getting caught up in the mesh. An unhooking mat, weigh sling, scales and some forceps to unhook the pike are all essential items too.

Learning how to unhook pike is a must. The key is to be confident and learn how to ‘chin’ a pike. This involves sliding two or three fingers under the gill plate and gently pulling to open the pikes mouth, which will give you access to the hooks with your forceps. This is the safest way to un hook a fish – for you and the pike. Barbless trebles are better and will even just fall out in the net sometimes if a pike is lightly enough hooked.

If you are new to pike fishing, try and go with a more experienced angler on your first trip. You’ll learn loads and be more confident unhooking them on your own next time.

Bars of gold

Beautiful, big canal rudd

by Colin Hebb

I would just like to talk about my very special canal that I have just a few miles away from me and it holds some really big Rudd. 

The first thing I do is to get my tackle ready the night before so I am not setting up on the bank making noise. I use a 13ft drennan float rod with a small Drennan Reel loaded with 6lb line and a small size 8 hook.

I like to get to the canal very early around 3am and I open the gate and walk through stopping at the water’s edge. I then listen for any signs of feeding fish we have some over hanging bushes on the far bank and insect’s such as slug’s and Ants and other buds fall in and this is what the Rudd feed on.

What I like to do is leap frog down the canal giving each swim around 10 minutes just to see if anything is about. Then I feed around 4 pieces of floating bread flake just short of the over hanging bushes and wait and see if there is any fish in the area. It can take some time to find the fish searching 3 miles of canal but I love it.

Walking and watching the wildlife I often see barn owl’s hunting in the meadow’s and deer’s grazing in the fields.

So on this occasion it was pretty quick and I had found some feeding fish under a bush so I cast my floating bread flake into that spot and within seconds it was taken by a very big fish. I am not sure what it is yet but I am hoping it’s one of the big Rudd that live in this canal so on the strike the fish came right out of the water hoping to shake the hook but when it hit the surface it was still connected. Then it decides to go into the lillies and around the roots but I managed to get the fish out.

And as it came over my landing net a beautiful bar of gold was waiting for me in the net. I turned my head torch on and for a few seconds just marvelled at it the beautiful blood red fins and the golden colours on the scales. So I quickly unhooked and weighted a beautiful 3lb 2oz golden canal rudd and that is before the day has began.

After resting her for 10 minutes in the landing net it was time to return her to her watery home.

Now I am packing up watching the mist rise off the wild canal and that is way I love early morning fishing the early bird catches the worm and all that.

Tight lines everyone.     

3lb 2oz of stunning, golden, canal rudd

Eel fishing

In search of ‘snake eyes’

by Mark Mann

There’s a chance (I bet no one gives it a second thought) that in some of your small estate lakes or inland seas resides a long mysterious creature. And because so few angle for them, it’s very much a suck it and see scenario.  

A fish that travels in excess of 4000 miles for over three years across the world from its humbled begging the island of Bermuda through the Sargasso Sea to reside in ponds and lakes across UK deserves immense credit. 

The Eel.  

Listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) could this just be the rarest of rare fish you’ve yet to catch? 

Two of my good friends and myself were absolutely up for the challenge and spent many an hour studying what environment they prefer and what gives us the best chance of a specimen.  Following this we found a small estate lake that promised good form having heard of carp anglers accidentally catching them.  

Eels just can’t resist lobworms!

Bait for me, was the lobworm. A plentiful bunch on the hook. My other mate a roach head and the other, a fish meal boilie.  Two of us used The anchor or “T” bar rig as it has been named. Size 6 hook, 15lb wire trace and a good swivel just like a combi rig to avoid line twist, followed with a Straight through running rig on a 1oz lead with strong 15lb mainline (they fight!) This rig aided avoiding deep hooking as the Eel is infamous for.  

We used Multi specimen rods and alarms with light bobbins. Trying to allow as little tension for if or when an eel picks up our bait.

Settled in for the evening we went about setting our traps and fired up the Cobb cooker for a stew.  It was a stormy day with the wind raging.  I questioned my sanity being under these large oaks! A few hours later I received a burst of beeps and rushed to the rod, picked it up and leaned into a fish.

I could tell straight away I was into an eel due to this jagged fighting. The tip jagged and jolted. It really is a different kind of fight but it’s unmistakable. It did indeed toe me all over and in time I had my target species in the net and what’s more it looked big! Having made all preparations for weighing she went 4lb 5oz. A personal best and as old as I was within reason! Eels average 1lb for every ten years and live to over 100! 

I was made up! My other mate was next to have action getting long takes that would carry on taking line for many yards but would hit into nothing.  This has somewhat baffled us as it happened on several occasions.  Was it because he was using roach heads and missing the hook? Only time will tell.  The following morning it was my other mates turn who landed one of over 2lb on the fish meal boilie to which drew our session to a close.

Eel angling is very rewarding and I’d suggest everyone to have a go at least once.  The venues we are angling on have produced them up to over 7lb and some are sure of losing bigger. Which just lights the fuel even more…

Red letter day

Tales of a personal best pike

by Andrea Penso

When in June 2018 my supervisor told me that there was going to be a conference in Western Canada, for me it meant automatically one thing: pike fishing!

I have dreamt about lure fishing for pike in Canada since I was a kid. More specifically, I’d always wanted to explore the pike Mecca: the Great Slave Lake. I remember collecting and religiously storing all the pictures of the Great Slave and the North Western Territories I could collect. This is the reason why I felt immediately mesmerized when I arrived in Yellowknife after my duty at the conference was done: my inner kid could not believe the natural magic of the place.

After a 30 minutes flight in a floatplane, I met my guide Greg Robertson and his crew, which were camping on a little island, located in a shallow bay. After leaving my bag in the tent, we jumped in the boat and took off immediately to explore a tributary of the big lake. All my readings and my most optimistic expectations could not prepare me for what I was going to experience that afternoon.

We arrived at the junction between the river and the lake, and started power-fishing with big spoons an area full of reeds in front of the right bank. First cast: pike! I could not believe my eyes. As I reel it in, I realize it’s at least 35 inches. By that time, I am jumping in the boat out of excitement, patting all my pockets to grab my camera. But Greg steps in, grab the pike by the boat and let it go. “Too small – no picture yet!”. Fair enough, it was not a pb anyway.

Second cast towards the reeds, two metres and strike: pike on! This one is even bigger, at least 37-38 inches. Once again, Greg does not even touch it end let it go using pliers. This script goes on for the next 30 minutes, where I land at least 30 pike in 40 casts – all nice specimen for my European standards. The motto is always: “no picture yet”.

As I start thinking Greg just does not want any pike slime on his hands, he decides it’s time to show me how the fishing is in the bay where we are camped. 20 minutes boat ride and we are drifting on this beautiful and peaceful shallow area.

After a couple of jack pike, I cheekily challenge Greg: “Maybe we should have taken one pic after all”. I can’t finish the sentence, and my spoon is stopped by something unusually heavy. I strike, thinking it was a log or something. The progressive bend on the rod clearly showed that there was no log at the end of the line. I start reeling in what immediately felt like the biggest pike I ever hooked.

Its reaction is slow, almost lazy. After 10 minutes it comes to the surface, and I nearly faint: this fish is way over 40 inches! As I finally managed to get it close to the boat, Greg tells me he’s not going to use a net or a cradle, because it could hurt the fish, and that he is going to lift the huge pike with his bare hands. As he kneels to grab the fish, he chuckles: “ok, maybe this time I outdid myself”.

In the meantime, I am sweating all my body fluids hoping that the single barbless hook will hold. Greg surely knows how to handle a pike, and with a firm move he lifts the fish in the boat. It’s done, I got the monster I was chasing since I was a little kid.

Now the scene in the boat is pure chaos: Greg is holding a giant pike with one hand, hugging me with the other while I am shaking like a leaf. A quick measurement tells us the pike is 47 inches long. I can not believe I caught a 47 inches monster within two hours after my arrival on the lake. We take some quick pictures, we release the monster and the only thing I can repeat is: “wow”. In all this, Greg is more excited than I am, he cracks open a beer and invites me to celebrate the success. We sat at least 20 minutes laughing like kids at that unbelievable fish, until Greg says: “I told you I would get you a picture fish!”.