It was meant to be a date with old mother Avon for me this weekend just past, and zander I hoped might be my quarry. At the time this plan was conceived, the river was up, coloured and looked perfect. Only problem was that I could not get anywhere near it for at least five days. As I feared, through the week the conditions trickled away with the flow of the river, leaving my only hope a predicted downpour Friday night. That downpour never came and I knew that the opportunistic window therefore resided in the hours between however early I could get up, and whatever time dawn held off till. The whole idea had waned in my mind as time passed and by the start of the weekend just did not seem worth it. So I began pondering a possible plan B.
It was my age old angling accomplice Rob who offered a suitably interesting venue change. He has permission to fish a largely forgotten estate lake deep in the Warwickshire countryside, that although silted badly, has what can only be described as an unmeasured fish population of god only knows what. Rob has spent a few sessions fishing this water and has had some interesting captures during what he described to me was reliable sport. The hint that hooked me though was the information that recently some big pike had been captured amongst a haul by one of the other anglers who also permission to fish the lake.
That was enough for me, and given the large current stock of dead baits lining the bottom drawer of our freezer, this seemed by far a better option than struggling on the Avon. So a date was made for a foray Sunday along with the promise of a roast dinner at mine when we got back to mine.
I do love an estate lake. They have to be my favourite sort of still water venue. Just the thought of one and the mysteries that lie beneath it's old and protected water is enough to get the hairs on the back of my neck bristling. So to say I was looking forward to this trip might have been a little bit of an understatement. Add to that the possibility of some big mean old crocs swimming around undisturbed, and it was quite a miracle that I even got to sleep on Saturday night.
It was only just light when we arrived early Sunday morning, and after travelling down miles of tree lined drive into the estate we found ourselves looking over the old lake as mist rose slowly off the water. Beyond the water across a huge expanse of impeccably manicured lawn towered an imposing Gothic house. The clicking sound of coots could be heard through the mist and a tawny owl still hooted in the woods alongside the lake; already this was more than I could ever of hoped this experience would be.
We headed round to a small point on the southern bank and set up close to where the feeder stream breathed life into the lake. It would of been far too vulgar to set up some kind of depth gauging rod and then trash the water up. So I instead just just hooked on a large dead bait, set my float around three feet above the weight and cast it far out into the direction I fancied. It only took three casts plus a slow retrieve to figure the depth was around three and a half feet on average and then that was it I was fishing.
I kind of always expect a long wait when I begin on a new water. So how shocked was I when one of my floats began that seductive 'there is a pike sniffing your bait dance' after only five minutes. It was only a jack pike of about four pounds but the speed in which it found my bait hinted this might be a good day for piking. And it turned out it was! Only minutes after returning the first fish and recasting the other float to toddled off attached to a second pike of identical proportions and I was in heaven.
The next one I had to wait a good three quarters of an hour for. But this one felt a bit bigger on the strike. Though saying that all pike feel big on that initial hit I think. Longer but leaner this one went berserk as it neared the bank dashing off to my left trying to get under the bank.
Not long after this we agreed that with the whole morning available we should maybe explore some other spots round on the eastern wood which faced the house. Rob explained earlier to me that a lot of the fish shoal tight up in a deeper area when its cold., so this seemed the obvious spot to chuck my baits.
Although a little awkward for both sitting and casting, the area looked spot on for a run or two. One rod was cast into a shallow reed lined bay to my right, in which small fish were still topping around at mid morning. The other was punched full force half way across the lake as if I was trying to land it on the houses eastern patio.
After both rods were sorted - one perfectly still and the other bouncing up and down in the ripple - I plonked myself down for a nice warm in the winter sun. I think those few moments that I sat enjoying the warming rays were the last moments of respite I got before the action really kicked off.
One rod after another went off, with the rod cast out into the centre of the lake reaping the most attention. Honestly I have never seen pike this hard on the feed in my life. You don't realise that every capture of a pike actually consumes quite a large amount of time. From the bite all the way through playing, landing, unhooking, releasing, re-baiting and casting the process probably takes a decent amount of time. Then normally you wait a while for a run. But today this was like match fishing for pike!
With the constant action it was only a matter of time before I got a double hook up, and it happened as I watched a bite develop on the rod cast into the middle of the lake. The float had dithered a bit, moving off a little then stopping. I knew a pike was interested but decided to wait and hold on until it moved off. As I waited rod in hand, I heard the buzz of the free spool. But the float was not even moving. Turning my head, my other rod was bending round and the line was cutting off across the surface of the water. I dropped the rod I was holding back on the rests and grabbed the singer. I had only just struck when the float of the other rod buried. Luckily Rob was not far away, and after hollering for some help, he struck into the second fish.
Mine came in quickly enough and with that safe in the net we landed the second pike. This was first for me! I have had two tench, two bream and two carp in the net at the same time, but never two pike.
Between seven and one I had around twenty different enquiries, five dropped runs, three strikes that met with nothing, I lost three fish during the fight and landed nine spanking pike between four and seven pounds. Luckily I had a large stock of dead baits with me, as when it was time to leave all I had left was two mangy skimmers and a mackerel head.
I will certainly be making arrangements to return to this gem of a lake before Christmas, because although all I have caught so far is what I would describe a jack pike, I have one hundred percent belief that they have to have a mother, who lets be honest, could grow quite large in a lake full of these size fish if she was a cannibal prone to infanticide.
Just before we left we did have a little look round to scope out a few areas and it was then that Rob told me about a little spot right down at the far end of the lake by the dam wall, where the water is surrounded by reeds and the depth plunges to well below the three foot average. Maybe that place could be the lair of a pike eater? As far as I am concerned it probably is and I will be dreaming of that until I return.