Things changed earlier this week though and with the rivers dropping a bit I saw a chance to go out piking. I arrived on Monday and the river was still well up and flying through. The colour wasn't too bad though, although it was still a bit mucky. I fished along one of my regular stretches but nothing was happening. Swims which usually fish well during high water seemed barren of fish. I eventually got to one of my favourite swims of last year, but which has only produced one take this winter, and sent the lure downstream and out from a marginal tree hanging in the water. By holding the rod high I steered the lure under the tree and although the force of water meant that the paddle tail was working without winding in I started a slow retrieve. A few turns of the reel and the lure got hit hard. It was difficult to judge the size of the fish due to the extra flow but eventually she came round to my way of thinking and neared the net. At first glance she looked like a 20, with a big wide head and broad across the back but as it turned out she wasn't very long. In the net and onto the scales where she went 19.12lb...
Happy with the fish in far from ideal conditions I carried on but nothing else wanted to play so mid afternoon I went to another stretch. After the long walk to the swims I made a cast full of high hopes that a new bit of water brings. A few casts later a nice double shot out from the margin but stopped an inch short of the lure! She looked at me crouching behind a clump of grass with disdain and with one swish of her tail she disappeared.
On I went and several swims later a fish hit the lure close in. I struck but after showing me her flank whilst shaking her head she came off in a split second. A couple of swims later the exact same thing happened but this time I at least got a good look at the pike.. an upper double who nonchalantly idled off after throwing the hooks. That was it for the day but with the weather looking to hold I decided to come back the following day.
I arrived back at first light and found the river in similar condition.. high and fast but with just about enough visibility. I fished the entire stretch without a take and on the way back up dropped in the most likely swims again. In one swim I made a few short casts, fanning the river downstream of me and on the last cast I swung the lure into the margin before starting the retrieve. I'd hardly moved it when it got hit about as hard as a lure possibly can be, wrenching the rod round. I struck and was into a good fish at last. The force of water made it feel very heavy but I eventually bought her upstream to me where she surfaced. This one was definitely a 20! I reached down with the net but the heavy flow kept pushing her out of reach. I could see she wasn't hooked very well and feared a hook pull. I had her half in the net but every time I tried to lift her the flow pulled her back out, then once she was 3/4 in I lifted again and realised that the mesh had now caught on an underwater bramble. This wasn't good; I dropped my rod and heaved but she wouldn't go all the way in.. then the inevitable happened. As the flow backed her out of the net the spare hook caught in the mesh. She was still attached but to the outside of the net. She was almost within touching distance so made a split second decision to try and hand her out but before I had chance to lay face down in the mud, with a big swoosh she was off! Gutted! I hate losing fish of any size but this one was about 22 or 23lb at a guess. The rod got chucked up the bank and I just hope there weren't any children close by to hear me curse.
I fished on with the loss still hurting and eventually landed a scraper double for my troubles. About lunchtime I went to another stretch and on the first cast a nice double followed the lure in. She wouldn't take it though and sank away. I fished down to the end before changing my lure and fishing back up. A few swims in and a fish finally hit the lure. She went 16.02lb on the scales..
A few swims further on I had another hit from a big slack and after a short fight she went straight in the net. Bit bigger this one at 18½lb..