Originally published in the London ES magazine on the 31st of January, 1997.
Last week I had a day on a Central London water with Bill the Vet. It was mournful and windy and cold as hell, but there had been whispers of a big pike taken there. These seemed to be confirmed by the bailiff who sold us our day-tickets. ‘ Beautiful fish, well over 30lbs,’ he confided to us. ‘Caught by a bloke from Rotherhithe.’
Any idea of his name, I asked? Was there a photo? Any witnesses? A pike of ‘well over 30lbs’ would certainly be the largest taken in London this season. No, on all counts said the bailiff. The bloke didn’t want any publicity.
Bill the Vet and I cast out. Bill the Vet has yet to catch his first pike. His ABU Cardinal rod has yet to buck in his hands and the Berkley Trilene monofilament line has yet to sing under the tension of a hard-running fish. Indeed, Bill the Vet is beginning to doubt the very existence of pike. That day did nothing to change his outlook. We hunched into our water-proofs and Bill the Vet smoked and I wondered about the man from Rotherhithe. Pike lore is full of characters like this, pale riders who turn up out of nowhere, do battle with monstrous fish, and then depart as mysteriously as they arrived.
We talked to the only other angler there, a die-hard London piker who, it turned out, spends four or five days a week in a wind-swept vigil on this bank. No, he said, to his certain knowledge, no pike of over 20lbs has come out this season.