IFD: A thirty pound pike is considered the fish of a lifetime and only a few people will accomplish that dream, however our next guest has caught a mind blowing thirty 30lbers. Known as a big fish angler, Dave Horton has become one of the most famous pikers of all time and his book Ultimate Pike has become a pike anglers classic. So now over to Dave who will tell us in depth more about what it takes for top level piking…
I’m a Watch manager in the Fire Service – have 3 grown up kids (soon to be a granddad for the first time) and recently caught my 30th 30 pound Pike!
Most of you reading this will not be aware that I am in fact at least half (I like to think more than half) Irish!
My father was an Irishman who left Tipperary town in his teens for the bright lights of England. He and my mother made a family of six as I have an Older brother and sister and I’m half a brace of twins! We were the Casey’s (a common name around Tip Town) but became the Horton’s when my mother re-married after Dad done a bunk when I was 4 and I gained a half sister too!
My Twin brother became my twin sister (gender re-asignment) many years back so life is, was and always will be varied in my world.
I met the mother of my Children when we were both in out teens and we shared the next 17 years together before she eventually had enough of me. In fairness we had little other the kids in common but you don’t realise these things when you’re as young as we were perhaps? Between us we created my greatest accomplishment yet in the shape of my three fantastic kids (Amba 30 – Connor 27 and Jake 21) and this coming May Amba is to make me a grandfather for the first time so as far as I’m concerned 2016 is already a GREAT year!
I remarried some years back and have the perfect Wife now in as much as I haven’t clapped eyes on her in over six years! That reminds me I must divorce her!
These days I share my life with a Girl (Donna) I was in class with every day throughout senior school but never found the courage to talk to much. She was a pretty lil thing (still is), went out with all the cool dudes (I never have been) and seemingly never noticed me. We re-met 4 years ago and get on like a house on fire!!!!
My world is completed by the fact that the young Lady I dated before Donna decided she’d sooner leave with both of our cars rather than the dog she’d arrived with and in no time at all Lucydog and I became inseparable!
She’s a huge commitment and has cost me numerous fish (Dogs are not always permitted) but we love each other implicitly and I wouldn’t be without her!
What was your first memory of fishing and was there any early capture that set you off on a lifetime of pike fishing?
My first Angling memory was of a family day out back in the very early 70’s- I suspect we were somewhere around Slough for that’s where the majority of my extended family lived at the time – my Grandparents and a couple of Uncles and Aunts were present, my mother wasn’t as she was quite poorly by now. Particularly as my Father had long since had it on his toes, it was the men folk that sort of mentored us boys. Again it’s not until much later in life that you realise what was going on at the time but I remember it all fondly and with great respect now too. Fishing tackle appeared and so did a little gravel pit and a few hours were spent being educated in the fine art. Grandad was very comfortable with fishing and apparently I was the quietest and most softly trodden of “the twins” so I got to fish with him and see how it was done.
Grandad helped everyone set up and got them fishing first and then he and I wandered as far away from the others as we could (all of 50 yds on the half acre pit) and planted the gear down beside some trees. For the next 30 minutes I learned more than was ever going to again in any other 30 minutes of my next 30 years of fishing! Whilst my uncles, cousin and brothers were busy catching little Perch and Roach Grandad and I simply crept along the tree line and looked into the water. I didn’t always see what made Grandad mumble and muse but occasionally I did and they were HUGE!
Little crusts of bread were scattered amongst the branches of the trees and slowly they’d disappear into magic swirls of water that slurped and sometimes even re-appear too! I remember graphically having it explained to me how if we were stealth like and patient enough that maybe just maybe we could lead one or better still two of the fish (for when there’s more than one they compete and make mistakes) “Hansel and gretel” like out from the branches to where we might just might be able to try fish for them “We’re just trying to trick them David!” Pleasant banter and mild derision emanated from the area of the Pit that the rest of the family were fishing, at our lack of fish but Grandad smiled wryly and tried to keep me calm. Periodically I’d run back and forth to the others telling them of the monsters that lurked beneath the trees but they were more than content catching the little Roach etc and so if I’m honest would I have been!
Eventually we began fishing ourselves and shock, gasp, horror all we were catching too were little Perch that seemingly swallowed the hooks and bled and even littler Roach. Every couple of minutes though Grandad would wander off down to the other end of the trees and feed a little more bread in. All too quickly an Auntie appeared and told us that time was almost up and that Nan (the matriarch) was thinking about heading home soon. His hand forced Grandad stood up and declared that it was now or never and promptly bit the line above his float before tying on a really BIG hook! I had to hang back incase I spooked them but off he went to the other end of the trees and within seconds he was waving frantically and calling me over! The whole family seemed to appear just in time to hear Grandads line snap and see the water calm and I got to watch the ever calm head of the family throw the rod down in disgust and start cussing! I was to run the whole event through my head a million times over the next few years and without doubt the Angler in me was born that very day!
The Piker in me wasn’t realised until I was about 20, when I witnessed a fella catch a BIG Pike from my local river – he called it 20 pounds and I had no cause to doubt for it was huge. I hatched plans during the next week or so that saw me setting up in the same swim as I’d seen the fish caught from and bugger me if I didn’t go and catch it! It actually weighed 18 pounds but was without doubt the fish that sowed the Piking seed in me!
Where did you fish in the early years?
I began Piking proper in 1984 and most of my earliest Piking was carried out on my local river Lea and adjacent gravel pits it was here, more than anywhere, that I learned just how specific feeding spells could be and more importantly just how crucial recognising them was too.
What became very obvious, very quickly, especially on the Lea, was that the Pike fed hard at Dawn for perhaps an hour and then almost not at all the rest of the day. Multiple catches (lots of fish in the 5-8lbs range and the occasional double) were common place but only if I arrived early enough. This helped me learn the great importance of identifying feeding times and maybe even more importantly when NOT to go! In 1985 I caught my first 20 pounder from a Gravel Pit but it was my second 20 pounder, a fish that weighed a mind blowing (for me) 32lbs 4oz, caught in Oct 1986 that was to really shape the direction my fishing went in from that moment onwards. The 32 was caught from Ardingly reservoir in Sussex, which was the first of the Trout Waters to open its doors properly to us Pikers in the UK and it was here that I learned just how tough (slow) the fishing could be but also obviously just how BIG the rewards could be too. I was and am on reflection a bit of a by-product of the great Trout water revolution that took place from then until now in Piking as I’ve actively set out to fish many and most of them over the years and consequently in the region of half the, approaching 300, twenty pounders that I’ve caught thus far have come from that type of venue.
You have targeted BIG fish when you could have been catching numbers of average fish, what motivated you and how difficult is it to achieve?
For me the enjoyment in catching a Pike seems to be almost directly related to it’s size and thus I set out to gain as much enjoyment as I can from each capture. That said it doesn’t escape me that I somehow apportion greater significance to some captures than I do others. For example some of the fish I’ve appreciated most are a few pounds shy of my PB (37lbs 4oz) and in particular I have a fondness for BIG River Pike and my river 30’s are certainly amongst my favourite captures.
Whilst it’s true I often set out to specifically catch BIG Pike I can honestly say that the most enjoyable fishing I think I ever have is when I’m fishing somewhere that I can expect a few runs and yet know I’m in with the chance of catching an outsized fish too! There have been times though where I’ve fished waters that hold very few fish but that I think or know have 1 or 2 BIG ones present and I set my stall out to catch them. Doing so can mean that I really don’t catch a lot else in the mean time. Fortunately I’ve become quite good at determining just when I think BIG Pike will feed and consequently I can keep the number of sessions after them to a minimum.
I in no way wish to come across conceited or arrogant but I genuinely don’t think BIG Pike are that much more difficult to catch that their little brethren but there are obviously significantly less of them about and gaining access to them can be perhaps the BIGGEST hurdle of all.
What advice would I give to someone looking for that magical first 30?
In a nut shell it is imperative to fish where you think or know one lives. I can honestly only think of 5 (I’ve caught 30 now) of my thirty pounders that have come as a real surprise to me. That said I fish in a manner that will hopefully see a fish of that stamp (if it’s present) become interested enough in what I’m offering to be tempted into taking it.
I firmly believe that BIG Pike behave a little different to little Pike especially when it comes to feeding and consequently we may have to adapt our methods and tactics too at times? I’m a fan of BIG live baits 12oz and more and I’m fairly convinced that Pike that eat BIG food items will have to feed less frequently and thus picking your times and days will be even more crucial to success!
What is your preferred method and baits for fishing for Pike?
I’ve mentioned above that I’m a fan of BIG live baits (12oz or more but rarely over 2lbs) and my preferred method especially when you consider that my great love is river Piking would be to fish that free roving style under a float. When it comes to dead baits I’ve come to realise that Pike can be very particular about what they want. Sure they often seemingly take just about anything thrown at them but I suspect that even more frequently they can be quite fussy and that they will quite literally be refusing your offerings and you’ll be blissfully unaware that they are doing so? By way of example, I learned in recent years just how keen your BIG Irish Pike are on taking Brown Trout in preference to for example Lamprey or Herring etc. Whilst closer to home I’ve seen Smelts, for example, out fish any and everything offered alongside them. It is vitally important to keep an open mind and also to occasionally ring the changes too for the Pike might well find something else that tickles it fancy one day?
If you are fishing a water that you have heard holds big pike how long would you give it trying to achieve the target or when is enough, enough?
I’ve never really fished anywhere that I’d sooner forget for every venue is an adventure to me and I’ve pretty much eventually got to grips with most places I’ve fished if I’ve really put my mind to it? That said I do recall driving 436 miles through the night to fish a particulary on form venue in Scotland some years back that required that I arrived and left under cover of darkness and thus undetected. Unfortunately on this occasion I was accidentally discovered and reported by a Dog walker and thus ejected and driving home “fishless” within a couple of hours!