For weeks I have watched the lake. My eyes freed from concentration of the float have roamed over this epic sheet of water for signs of life. In my past experiences here I have always feared maybe this lake lacked population. But now I know better. For the fish are there, and to see them you just need to know when and where to look.
Groups of tench can be seen around noon as they slowly pass between lily beds in the clear water. At dusk massive shoals of roach dance along the reed beds rippling the surface on it's eastern shore. Regularly a pair of monstrous carp who have no mind to feed, drift mid water in front of one particular spot. These are just some of the sights I have seen in this constant relationship between myself and the Lake. Though it is another which brings me here.
Pike! The lake is full of pike! I have had a few run ins with them so far. Most have been accidental, others accidentally on purpose. One has a story which I must save till later in the year, when the cold is here and we sit in front of warm fires recounting such tales. But for now the things I have seen inspire me to spend a little time in search of that most viscous version of essox... the summer pike.
Considering current rules and regulations of the lake has forced me to reveal an as yet unknown secret. Hidden away in a draw behind bags of bait and piles of tackle are several boxes stuffed full of......
Yes, you've got it, lures! I love 'em in a very odd way. I suppose the only comparison I can make is my fetish for lures is like a woman's for shoes. I know I don't need them, but they're so pretty I have to have them. And the insane thing is that I hardly ever use them and I know it.
But for the first time since I began writing this blog "the lure of angling is going lure fishing"!!!!!
The itch to plug the depths has become too much to resist, and so the other night I headed down to the wooded banks of the lake to fire lures out into the void and try and tempt a jack or two from the weeds.
Spending most of my time sitting low and still surrounded by a plethora of kit being the norm, results in me feeling somewhat naked with the frugal amount of tackle needed for a session of fake wanging. But even as I looked at the single medium weight American style outfit my good friend Rob had brought me as a gift from Canada a few years ago, and the small bag of lures, I knew keeping it light was the key to covering maximum ground in this game.
As for lures, I learnt long ago when I did this a fair bit that it is best to only take a few select lures and work them well, rather than take a whole box and be repeatedly changing. Having studied the topography of the lake in detail over the past few months decisions came very simply by way of anything that floats or does not dive deep.
The weed free frog - With it's key weed guard and semi buoyant nature this little lure works slowly under the surface, and is great for pulling through and along the edge of lily beds
The top water mouse - A true surface lure, this little fellow just buzzes along the surface making any sneaky old jack pikes think they are about to get a free meal. But this one has a surprise for them by way of a double hook which becomes very prominent when the soft lure is bitten.
The Svenson shallow runner - This is one of those lures that actually dives surprisingly deep when cranked hard, but pulled slowly it holds around 3ft and the rattling wiggle combined with the semi reflective paint job has proven deadly in the past for me.
The Shakespeare shallow pike - I will not deny how crude this looks, but looks can be deceiving. The cannibalistic character of the pike has made this slow and distressed moving lure top scorer in my team
The twin tail jig - I love plastics, mainly because they work in so many different ways and situations. Whether its reeling them back slow and deep, fast and shallow or jigging them up off the bottom and letting them fall, they make a million different movements and can normally be relied upon to scratch a hit.
As excited and prepared as I was, it seemed on the day the lake was far from in the mood. The banks empty, I worked my way through a third of the lake swim by swim and cast by cast, searching every weed bed, nook and cranny, and all I had to show for my efforts were two follows and zero hits.
A chance encounter with the bailiff informed me that the majority of predators seemed to be following in hot pursuit of the bait fish that were last seen in the shallow bay back where I had begun earlier.
With little light left in the day I immediately headed back rushing along the bank, missing swims I had already earmarked for return visits. Upon arriving I knew it would not be long until light faded and I could see the rings of topping small fish all over the bay in front of me, but no signs of attacking predators.
My third cast was slashed at by a small pike whose flared gills could be seen quite far out in the clear water. Two repeat casts, and he hit the lure hard before spiralling from the shallow water like an angry tarpon shaking his head. I actually saw the lure fly out of it's mouth as it arced through the air. This was the sort of action I was after.
A while later a cast on a skeletal old branch in the water, grabbed me a second hit. But after zig zaggin around, the second small jack found his way back into his woody home and me snagged tight. I have always hated the thought of leaving a fish snagged up, no matter how small they are. So given the shallow depth of the water I decided a bit of a paddle might not be so bad. The first step into the edge and my left foot went sank right below the ankle. Wading was not an option! I did not like the idea of pulling for the break, but it seemed my only option. Clutch locked up, I tightened down and began walking slowly backwards. Lo and behold the snag moved. The branch was no where near as big, or deeply dug in as I thought. My hopes of landing snag and fish seemed very real now. Closer and closer the snag came in at a snails pace, until finally it was within reach of my hand. How gutted was I when I pulled the slimy silt stinking branch out, only to find that the little bugger had pulled the 'old leave the hook in the snag and get off trick.'
The next fifty casts reaped not so much as a single tinkle, and after trying all my shallow lures I ended up throwing out the twin tail and retrieving it at a monstrous speed. I never thought anything would have a go at such a fast travelling lure, but about ten feet from the edge a fish darted out and grabbed it just as I was about to lift it from the water. As always with summer pike I got real value for money. Jumping out the water and long darting runs, the works. The fight you would have thought came from a much larger fish, but when I eventually calmed it down and slipped the net under, it revealed the hardest earned, yet perfect little tiger of a jack pike I have landed in years.
Although I have caught pike from the lake literally twenty times this ones size. The capture of this miniature preadtor really made all the effort worth while, and it certainly won't be so long before I dust of those boxes of pretty things again.