After the debacle that was Friday 13th and with the river having risen a couple of feet I decided on another trip as soon as the water started to drop, hoping that it would have bought the fish on the feed.
I managed to get out of bed this time and arrived at the venue at 6.45am for an early start. I made my way to my banker swim and started chucking my lure around but after 10 minutes or so it became obvious that there were no pike there. This was strange as this swim has produced a double on virtually every trip there this season, usually within a few casts. Moved to the adjacent swim and flicked the lure out round a tree where it made it's way towards me. As I paused beneath me there was a big puff of silt and a low double smacked the lure; I struck, there was a big splash, but I didn't hook up! A few casts later in the same swim the lure just stopped dead mid retrieve. It didn't feel like a fish and I didn't feel a hit as such but struck anyway. A couple of headshakes and the fish was off! It looked like my luck from Friday the 13th was still with me.
I carried on fishing all along the stretch but all I had to show for it was a couple of missed takes from jacks. It seemed that the fish weren't really on the feed and any hit I did have came from fish that wanted the lure almost stationary. A switch to a very slow sinking bait that I'd made buoyant by inserting a large balsa stick into a while back seemed to be the answer.
It was now about 1.30pm as I got towards the end of the stretch and to a swim I've only had one follow from this year from a fish about 7-8lb. I started off pitching short around the sunken tree on my right, then just over the nearside shelf along the swim. On about the 6th cast I could see the lure coming up over the shelf about 5 yards out when suddenly a huge open mouth and a pair of eyes came shooting straight up behind it. It happened so fast I can't remember the hit or striking but I'd hooked what was obviously a big fish. It tore around the swim ripping the 100lb braid off my baitcaster with ease.. an incredibly strong fish. After several runs it started to tire but was not done yet. As I got it closer to the bank it made a dive for a clump of reeds on my left and got in them.. I applied steady pressure, hoping the hooks wouldn't pull, and it came out after a few nervous seconds. As it came out it shot off to the right in an attempt to get me in the sunken tree but I was ready for it and turned it just in time.
I'd lowered the net down the steep bank by now and drew the fish closer. She went in head first but I was at full reach and couldn't lift the net with my left hand! She swam out! Luckily the hooks didn't get tangled in the net but she'd found some more strength. After a couple more minutes she was ready for the net for the second time but as she went in I couldn't lift the net again. I quickly dropped my rod and grabbed the net handle with both hands and with a big heave she was in. I then noticed that the mesh was wrapped over one of the arms so if she'd made a dash for freedom she would have made it. I eventually shook it out and she was finally safe in the bottom of the net. What a fight and what a relief. She could have escaped several times but my luck had finally changed.
Due to the high, steep banks I had to lift her vertically upwards and as I did so the metal arm of my Savage Gear net broke at the hinge... not that I cared at the time because this was the biggest fish I'd had out of this stretch at 24lb on the nose..
After such a big fight I was surprised to see that she had a big chunk of her tail missing.. God only knows how hard the fight would have been if it had been full!
I carried on fishing; not really caring if I caught any more and that proved to be the case, apart from a few missed chub and a missed jack about 8lb. Just before dark I decided enough was enough so went home a very happy boy.