Caught by the River

Pike Fishing On Lake Windermere Part 1

24th March 2008

here’s the first part of a Lake District adventure, that Andrew took back in February;

I’ve been meaning to go fishing with my friend Rich for a few years now. Fishing for me has usually been a fair weather sport. Lazily watching a float on an estate lake type of affair, the vague dream of a carp making it slide from view. This was to be a whole new experience. Freezing cold weather and fishing for prehistoric beasts with loads of sharp teeth. Finally, just after Christmas, we put a date in the diary and decide to stick to it. Whilst flicking through the paper on the train journey, I see a picture of a cormorant eating a 3ft pike. Clearly a lucky omen. Rich meets me at the station and we nip back to his to pick up the boat. I’m not sure what to expect, but it’s basically a one-man tent on top of a small motorboat. 10ft long at the most. Rich has been busy with preparations and the boat is laden with food, warm clothing, tackle and baits.

As we’re driving up through the stunning scenery that leads into the Lake District, Rich points out kestrels to me whilst letting me know that the conditions are looking good. There’s a 15mph wind from the southwest and the sky is overcast. The temperature is about 9 degrees. Tonight will apparently be an almost full moon.

On arrival we don fleecy adult baby grows. I immediately become attached to mine and insist on keeping it. (Probably the less said the better). More layers of waterproofs and we’re ready for off. We launch the tiny motorboat next to a sign that says no launching of motorboats.

Rich heads towards one of his favourite spots and I enjoy the amazing views and surge of pleasure in the knowledge that I’m out of London, phone turned off, in the middle of a lake, about to hunt for monsters. By early afternoon we’re fishing. The water is crystal clear and you can see down to depths of well over 10ft. I keep expecting to see pike swim past I’m that confident we’ll catch. We have 6 rods out (Jeff – Rich has 2 rod licences so we’re legal!) with a variety of dead baits including mackerel, smelt and lamprey. We’re fishing on the bottom at various depths between 20 and 40ft. The deal is we’ll take turns in striking at runs. Rich will go first to show me how it’s done. No bite alarms, just sitting waiting and listening for the sound of a reel.

We only have to wait 20 minutes and we’re rewarded. It’s a more frenzied strike than I’m used to seeing, as Rich ensures that the hook is set. Within 5 minutes he’s brought a monster into the boat. An 181/2lb beast. Its beautiful and yet, extremely vicious looking. My first big pike up close.

Rich handles it with the utmost care and extreme ease, even hugging it against his waterproofs to calm it when it tries to wriggle from his grasp. Easier said than done when you see the endless rows of razor sharp teeth throughout its gaping mouth. After the photos and weighing we relax with a beer. Rich is incredibly relieved that we’ve had a big fish and that my journey from London hasn’t been wasted. I assure him that just being there would have been enough, but we both know that’s not entirely true.

About an hour later, the slow hiss of line leaving a reel interrupts my thoughts. I strike and feel the pleasant weight of a fish on the other end. It swims off and puts up a fight, but I sense that its nothing like the monster we’ve just witnessed. The tackle we’re using is fairly heavy, so without too much trouble, I bring the fish to the surface. This excites Rich no end who informs me that the small pike I think I’ve hooked on mackerel is actually a giant brown trout. (A ferox). Apparently in over 10 years he’s never managed to catch one and he’s delighted to have it in the boat. Despite the fact it would comfortably feed a family of 10, we put the 8 1/2lb beauty back.

Another a beer and I wonder aloud how I’m going to pee. A tricky affair in a small boat involving the other person needing to go to the opposite side to balance you. Definitely not something to try in the dark after many more beers. As we’ve already had a brilliant evenings fishing we decide to head back to a bay where we’ll sleep for the night. We eat a delicious dish of Italian meatballs that Rich cooks on the boats tiny, but functional stove. The sleeping arrangements are cramped but no less comfortable than a small tent and we settle down for an early night.

After struggling to initially sleep due to Rich’s snoring I’m woken up around 4am by other fishermen arriving and launching their boats. It starts to get light so we drink tea and prepare to set off. As we start the motor we drift behind another fishing boat also leaving our bay. Amazingly (to me at least) it kills it lights and motor, allows us to pass and then doubles round behind us. I have no idea what’s going on, but Rich informs me that it’s just somebody paranoid about protecting their favourite swim. I know that anglers can be protective of their favourite fishing spots, but the clandestine nature of this behaviour seems excessive to say the least. I mean, the lake is 12 miles long.

We arrive at another swim that has been productive for Rich in the past and by 7am we’re fishing. I am by now feeling slightly guilty that Rich is doing all of the work. I try and make amends with bacon and egg sandwiches which doesn’t quite do the trick as Rich allocates dealing with the anchor to me. This involves dragging about 50 yards of soaking wet rope attached to heavy lumps of metal at fairly regular intervals. That said, there’s a sense of achievement when the anchor is finally up, and it certainly helps me to keep warm.

We’re fishing for about half an hour and Rich lands another fish. Only 12lb this time. Its hardly photographed as we’re becoming pretty complacent about the fact there’ll be more. Sure enough, another run and this time it’s my turn…….