ABOUT SIX or seven years ago my pike fishing changed direction from bank fishing gravel pits and local rivers to boat fishing the trout reservoirs of the south east of England. With the knowledge I have gained through fishing these waters, having in the process mastered boat-handling, and the various techniques such as float and leger trolling, I now feel confident in my ability to catch fish on a regular basis. As with all fishing, the more you fish a water the more you can build up a mental picture of the venue, and hopefully find new hotspots on the way. This is especially true with boat fishing, as you are always on the move when trolling, and with the use of an echo sounder the underwater topography soon reveals itself. Often what can look like a featureless piece of water can, in time and repeated passes, turn out to hold a wealth of pike holding features, with drop offs and hollows showing themselves on the screen of the sounder.
Experience and new lessons are learned through fishing with different people, observing other anglers on the water and in exchanging ideas with like-minded anglers. Ideas can also be picked up from reading books or watching videos, and then these methods can be refined to suit the angler and the waters fished. For example, my favourite method, the float leger-trolled livebait, was picked up through viewing one of Neville Fickling’s videos, which I watched when I first started to fish the trout waters.
The technique is simplicity itself, a single bullet of about one ounce in weight is put on the line above the wire trace holding the bait, line is then paid out and the bait literally hangs down by the side of the boat. To refine the method further, I have put markers on my line in the form of stop knots tied with pole elastic. These stop knots are measured off at depths from 10 to 30 feet, this means I always know how deep my bait is fishing which can be adjusted to suit the conditions or the moods of the pike. I usually try to keep my bait within about three feet of the bottom when using this method and, coupled with the use of an echo sounder, this can be achieved with ease.
This particular style of trolling has probably been my most effective method in catching pike on the troll and is particularly productive in the deeper areas because I can get the bait right down to the bottom, which I’ve found can be vital in the winter months when the fish often move into deeper parts of the reservoir. -As I stared earlier, I have markers on the line at ten foot intervals so I can keep track of how deep the bait is fishing and have always been happy to have the bait within about three feet from the bottom. Always feeling confident that a pike will rise to a bait fished in this manner. However, there’s always room for improvement, and sometimes overconfidence can lead to something being overlooked. Attention to detail coupled with concentration really can make all the difference, and there is one particular day’s fishing which stands out in my mind as demonstrating precisely these points.
On the day in question I was fishing with my regular boat partner, James Gardner. The water we were fishing had been producing reasonably well, accounting for a fair number of fish to just over 20-pounds. However, since we had last fished the water the weather had changed, getting colder with some heavy rain during the week prior to the session. Water had also been pumped in which was coloring up the reservoir and also lowering its temperature. But as always we were both confident we could still get some pike as we had a fair idea where they would be. We both fished roughly the same methods; one rod was set up for float trolling whilst the other was equipped for the aforementioned leger trolling method.
As expected, the action was slow and it wasn’t until mid-morning that the first take came to my rod — which I promptly pulled out of on the strike. Never mind, I though, I was sure to get some more chances before the day was out. I was right, takes started to come relatively consistently throughout the day — but all to James. He ended up with over a dozen fish up to 28-pounds, a good day’s sport by anyone’s standards. I am too embarrassed to let you know my results for the day, but you can rest assured they were nowhere near as good as James’s.
You may wonder why I was a bit slow on the uptake that day and why, if we were using the same method, he out-fished me by such a margin. Well, it transpired that he was using a leger boom on his line, above the wire trace and was using a weight of 21/2oz whilst I was using a weight of just one ounce in the form of a drilled bullet placed directly on the line. I think that the extra weight James had on his line really nailed his bait to the bottom, whereas mine had more freedom of movement due to the lighter weight. He had stop knots on the line to keep track of the depth, as I did, but James adjusted his markers to coincide exactly with the sounder, so that if the depth shown was 20 feet his stop knot was right on the mark. This was tested by letting the heavier lead fall to the bottom. He constantly fine-tuned and checked this throughout the day, because he wanted to have his baits tripping right along the bottom, he thought that in the changing weather the pike would be hard on the deck — he was right!
So, although we were both fishing the same methods, James’s attention to( detail was far greater than mine and everything that he was doing was for a reason. His results for the day speak for themselves. Something else that makes a lot of difference is concentration. When fishing from a boat, trolling with livebaits, you are always kept busy — particularly if it is a windy day. Keeping the boat on the right line, watching the sounder to keep track of what’s going on beneath the boat, and making sure the bait is behaving itself and following the right contours. Trolling being what it is, pike can come out of the blue, I am sure a lot of the fish we catch are not necessarily actively feeding but get tempted to have a go at a bait that passes over their head. This being the case the pike sometimes give quite tentative takes, not really getting hold of the bait and running with it in a positive manner. This of course is one of the big plus points of fishing in this way because fish can often be caught that perhaps wouldn’t be by other more static methods. But you have to be alert to takes, concentrating on what you are doing and always keeping an eye on the bait, as sometimes the only indication of a take can be a sharp stabbing of the float or a slight tightening on the line of the leger rod. If you are not alert or in tune with the way your baits are behaving you can miss these delicate takes.
Needless to say, on the day in question the action wasn’t particularly fast and furious, takes tended to come out of nowhere and every time James caught a fish I would tell myself that the next one would come to me. How wrong can you get, and as I said, my own concentration and attention to detail wasn’t all it should have been on that particular day. Just a quick update. This technique works especially well with kayak fishing.
But there you are, that’s what fishing is all about, there is always something to learn or improve upon and the lessons are always greater and really sink in when you can see for yourself. If I had been fishing on my own I would possibly have been satisfied with my own results for the day, accepting that the fish just weren’t having it. But with my boat partner outfishing me to the point of embarrassment, it goes to show how more fish can be put in the boat with a bit more thought. Nothing worth having comes easily and concentration coupled with attention to detail is vital in boat fishing, especially so when conditions aren’t perfect. It’s sometimes easy to fall into the same routines, but with a little extra attention these methods can be refined so that the best is achieved from the water being fished.