A Winter’s piking by Danny O’ Callaghan

I started this years pike campaign with high hopes and plans to get out as often as I could and to do alot of overnighters, as last season I only managed 7 or 8 sessions (due to a nagging ex girlfriend) with fish to 18lb to show for it. So this year i aimed to beat my PB and that i did!

My PB stood at a 21.02 river pike for the past 3 years.

On the 25th October 2016, I set off down the river around 9:00am on a very mild and calm October morning and decided to work my way up the river rather than go to the furthest spot I usually have success on, as my lift wasnt collecting me until 6:30pm. 

I tried 2 spots, one in the main flow and one further down where the river widened out and had alot of features with slack areas and overhanging trees. It was soon 12:30 and without a bite on the deadbaits I got the lure rod out but with not much luck. 

I switched one deadbait rod to a paternoster rig and the other to a popped up smelt and sat this swim out a little longer while having my lunch hoping that something would show up. it didnt… now 2pm i set off for my favourite stretch of the river feeling somewhat hopefull that a big girl could show as “when the jacks are away the big girls come out to play” and this stretch is also where i had claimed my previous PB.

I switched back to my usual tactics which worked here in the past , hard on the bottom in a deep silty area on the inside of a bend of the river. Baits chosen were a large smelt and a full lamprey around 14″ long. I waited and waited with not a beep or a sign it had been weirdly calm and quiet all day, I began to pack up some of my gear around 5:30 as light was fading fast when my right hand rod with the lamprey on went into meltdown. 

I could see the line in the water tearing off into the middle where there was still lots of weed from the summer so i wasted no time with striking hard into the fish with the drag up tight to steer the fish clear and once in control I could loosen up and play the fish, she went on two good runs under the rod tip when the net was slid out but third time lucky she was in the bag. 

I knew it was a decent fish but couldnt get a good look in the dark until I got her on the mat and quickly grabbed my headtorch. Once I had a look I smiled to myself and was rushing to weigh her thinking she would hit the magic 20.

I knew she a good fish, when I went to unhook her the trebles had come out in the net and she had bent out a size 4 hook that shall not be named but will never be used again.

I wet the sling, zeroed the scales and slid the fish into the sling, she came in at 22.02. I had broken my PB by a pound exactly and I was over the moon, what a great start to the season. I popped the fish into my floatation sling and left her to wollow in the margins as I rang my Da to hurry up and bring his camera, another  scales, and a torch that he needs to come down and take some pics. I had no tripod and nobody nearby to ask to take a pic in the pitch black. 

I packed away all my gear and left one rod out in the hope of another. Half an hour past by and soon I could see a light bobbing towards me so I went to retrieve my catch from the sling. Out on to the mat with her and my Da gave me the approval with a “yeah thats defo a 20+ son well done” , we weighed her on his scales to confirm and then a few quick pictures and back she went!

I was delighted with a good start and felt confident to go on and hopefully do better on a few other waters.

Next up me and a mate tried a lake not too far from us for a few hours the following weekend , I had one fish of 15lb that gave a great account for itself. We returned early the following Sunday and I managed two fish of 13 and 14lb. 

A few days later with a day off work during the week I was thinking of doing an overnighter here or another lake which was fishing well and was producing some good fish. I chose the second lake and what a great decision that turned out to be.

Tuesday evening my Da dropped me off and helped me over with my gear. The lake was busy and wasnt sure of a spot so might have had to wait it out. Luckily enough 2 guys fishing the swim I had wanted to fish were leaving shortly so I got my rods set up and had a chat with the lads. 

Soon enough the rods were out and I was chilling in the bivvy trying to watch the floats through the fog and listening for any signs on the alarms. 3 hours passed with nothing and a mate fishing further down had packed up and came over for a chat so I stuck the kettle on as the fog was finally beginning to clear. 

We had just been talking about the chances of a run tonight and it could throw up a big fish under the windy conditions and the low pressure that was creeping in and with that my alarm was screeming and line was being tore off my reel. 

I was on the rod like Usain bolt and waited for the fish to end its run then wound down quick and struck into the fish with a massive headshake straight away, jerking the rod tip towards the lake. I quickly loosened off the drag a bit and slowly played the fish towrds me as I knew it was a big one and didnt want her wiping out the lines next to me or worst of all losing the fish. 

She really did fight hard and was an epic battle in the dark waiting to see a glimpse of her under the head torch and when she finally did show and seen two headtorches shining at her she went on another run, at this stage my heart was in my mouth but soon had her under the rod tip again and with good netting skills on hand, a lump was in my net and when I peered over the edge to have a look I couldnt believe my eyes.

She rattled the scales at 26.08 and I had well an truely smashed my PB! Absolutely buzzing! after a few pics she rested in the sling for a few minutes before releasing her into the depths leaving me one happy man on the bank.

Leaving just the second rod out i was relaxing with a cup of tea and a smoke as my mate left and the second rod went off resulting in a fine 20lb 2oz pike.  Delighted with a brace of 20s I didnt get much sleep. The next day I had a low double and an 18lber that evening with some other anglers going on to catch some great fish too that night.

That weekend I was on the beer celebrating and gave the fishing a miss. The following weekend myself and three mates set off down the river Inny at 7 am, but with very little rain over the past few weeks the water levels were very low so we tried various stretches of the river but couldnt find any fish or a deeper area to fish so we called it a day and went home that afternoon.

I managed to get my da out after some 3 or 4 years of no piking for him due to becomming a workaholic! We went to two different lakes he used to fish in the 90s that had done a few 30s over the years so I couldnt wait for it. It wasnt to be though and drew another blank but we had great craic and he instantly got the bug back planning our next trip on the way home.

Myself and my good friend darragh decided to do two nights where I had had the 26 a few weeks prior and it turned out to be a great weekend with plenty of action for both os us and a few high doubles to 18 and 19lb. although the second night was a bit rough with tempretaures dropping to -4 and all the gear freezing over but the good fishing made up for it all.

​Next session out with my da I managed a fatty of a trout at 7lb 10oz on a small popped up roach and a 17lb pike just after dark and straight after he lost a good pike so we sat it out another hour but it went dead and we called it a day.

​​With that fish playing on my Da’s mind we set off back to the spot a few days later after work with one rod each and a few bits to try and get him a lump and back into the swing of things. He managed a beaut at 22.02 and we were both delighted a great moment to share and a great first fish of 2017 for him.


2 weeks later me and a good pal Ambrose went for a few hours after work on a friday as we were both busy that weekend and it turned out to be another busy night and we jus couldnt leave as we were getting takes every 15 – 20 mins. 

Ambrose broke his PB with a cracking 20lber and a few doubles , I had an 18 a 19 and a few low doubles and lost 2 good fish so i was also determined to get a 20 and kept at it until finally at 3a.m I was rewarded with a lump at 24lb 8oz and soon after that we set off home both happy with a 20lber each and into work at 9 wrecked but buzzing , its always well worth it. 

​I decided then to fish a new lake but with 2 blanks there and signs of spawning on most places i left it be for a few weeks and let nature take its course. im planning a few lure sessions now over the coming weeks and then ill be full on fishing for carp , tench and bream for the summer , im hoping and planning on breaking some more PBs so if its anything like my pike season i should hopefully be in for a treat!

About paddykeogh20

We are three anglers who enjoy all aspects of fishing. Whether we are blanking or catching were happiest on the bank or shore. If you like your fishing join us by watching our many trips and as we interview some top anglers along the way.....
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