Caught by the River

Pike Fishing On Lake Windermere Part 2

25th March 2008

More from Andrew’s the Lake District adventure;

I’d love to be able to describe exactly what happened and how I skilfully played the fish, but it’s a blur. Initially relief that I’d not missed the run, but panic that I’d not set the hook properly. A flurry of reeling and the knowledge that a fish bigger than I’ve ever previously felt had my hook in its mouth, was pretty pissed off and wanted to get away. Some time passed, I’ve no idea how long and we finally see the angry pike swirling and splashing just below us. Rich skilfully nets it and it’s in the boat. Now, between me and you, this is the bit I’m dreading. Catching the dangerous mother is one thing, but dealing with it another. I look at Rich, and with a sinking feeling hear the words, ‘Your fish, you deal with it.’ He helpfully flicks the hook out of its mouth with his fingers and with blatant disregard for their safety. I start to inwardly panic. He then places it a sack, lowers it over the side and lets it get its breath back before we release it. I have a few minutes respite, but soon enough it’s back in the boat. Rich shows me how to slip my hand under its gills and grab it by its chin bone (or whatever technical term). This doesn’t seem so bad. I mean my hand might be in its mouth, but I’ve entered from its throat and I’m nowhere near its teeth (or so I hope). I’m not exactly comfortable, and I’m trying to take the bulk of its weight on my knee

Rich takes a few snaps and I plead with him to take it off me. Somewhere during this I remember stretching my fingers to get a better grip. They must have gently brushed the pike’s teeth as when Rich finally relented and helped me release the fish, there was blood coming from all of the fingers on my right hand. I haven’t mentioned before, but one of the few things I know about pikes is that they have anti-coagulates in their saliva. They bite their prey and even if it tries to get away, there’s a clear trail of blood to follow. Sure enough, the blood flow from my fingers doesn’t want to stop. I ask Rich, if it wouldn’t be better to wear a glove on the hand that you put in the pike’s mouth and get that look of disdain you’d get if you tried to order a half on a Friday night in any Northern town. Not the done thing apparently. Although I do then notice that the so-called pro on the front of ‘Pike and Predator’ seems to be wearing chainmail over his hands.

My drama is quickly followed by another one of Rich’s successful strikes. He brings in a 16lb pike pretty quickly and shows me again how to unhook and handle the fish safely. The irony is that as the fish swims away from the boat we notice Rich’s little finger is bleeding profusely. Gloves all round next time? (Obviously not)

We’re so contented with the fish that have been in the boat that we both spend the next few hours dozing. I open one eye from time to time to appreciate the surroundings, but on the whole the gentle rocking motion of the boat keeps luring me back to sleep. The next time I awake I see Rich strike, but unfortunately he’s a little too late. I then get a run, but inexplicably (not really – just lack of skill) also miss. I think we both miss again, and maybe its my turn when we again hear the sound of line leaving a reel, but in all honesty, I’d rather see another fish in the boat than get that sinking feeling that comes with another missed run. And besides, Rich has been more than generous, if not completely altruistic with our alternate strike deal. To prove my decision entirely correct, within minutes another 14lb pike is in the boat.

A few beers later, followed by a much better nights sleep, its Sunday Morning. We awake to find a mist, possibly even a dense fog, has descended on the lake.

We head out, but it’s difficult to navigate with visibility at only about 50 yards. We put out the rods in a spot we’ve guestimated is about right, just by an island, but we’re not hopeful. After an hour or 3 (time has by now become meaningless) the mist/fog slowly lifts and a pike jumps about 100 yards from the boat. You wouldn’t think it was possible. A huge dinosaur launching itself out of the water and sending ripples for as far as the eye could see. As with all fisherman, I instantly panic about the prospects of this being over. I phone my parents who are kindly providing home cooking before I return to London. With a sigh of relief I let Rich know that a late lunch is okay and we look at the rods with a renewed hope. Conditions now feel perfect and after witnessing the flying pike, we sense that there’s going to be one more monster in the boat before we have to return to civilisation.

We pack up the rods as slowly as possible, even leaving the last bait out a little longer as we have a final look at our beautiful surroundings. Unfortunately, its not to be, but I have consolation in that thought that there’ll be other times. But maybe rent a cottage?

Andrew Walsh