In Search of River Pike

Spinning Pike Traces

Early Years

As a 12 year old I used to spend long summer days fishing my local river Roding for anything but pike. At that age the river seemed huge, the grass long, bugs and the fishing was always a challenge. The river is around fifteen feet wide and no more than three feet deep, and that’s if you are lucky enough to find a hole. Back in the days it used to have a reasonable head of fish including chub, dace, roach, perch, gudgeon, minnows and the occasional big eel. But Pike? Not once did it ever cross my inexperienced mind that there were pike residing where I was fishing.

30 years later and the river lost a lot of its flow and is being overtaken by reeds beds. There are only a handful of swims where I used to fish and my favourite swim now represents no more than a big reed blanket.

All the fish that are left are scared out of there wits. Cormorants are decimating the river as are people wanting to catching their dinner. All you see are minnows and the very occasional wandering chub.

River Roding in winter
River Roding at Abridge

It was the minnow situation that one day got me thinking about “whats feeding on these minnows”. They are too small for cormorants to bother with and don’t make much of a dinner. This is when the challenge started. Let’s see if there were any perch in the river. I know there must have been but I never caught many.

Testing my theory

Armed with a drop shot rod and a match the hatch plastic minnow I started to drop shot in the deeper swims on the river. My first outing at Shonks Mill Lane resulted in a very small jack pike around a pound and another three pounder. So there were predatory fish in the river and it looked like there were quite a few.

I spent a couple of years walking for miles up the river, trying to find places that I believed held fish. Every time I found a spot I would mark it on a map I had printed. I finally had around 15 swims that I fancied getting a pull from. The only problem was it was now the middle of summer and the river was un-fishable due to the annual influx of duckweed. I’d have to wait.

Just couldn't resist the Rapala
Only small but great fun on a small river on light gear

A few good down pours around October, the river finally cleared and it was game on. There was a slight colour in the water and very little flow so I would have to tread carefully. Some of the swims have fantastic features on the near bank and any disturbance would see them disappear.

First trip

My first trip out was going to be a stretch of the river at Debden. There were four fishable swims and all of them held minnows. Armed with a 7 foot spinning rod, 20lb braid and a homemade 15lb wire trace with a Rapala Flat Rap I was ready for some action. Flat Rap lures are designed to be fished be fished in the top two feet of water. Its golden orange belly has always caught me a few pike. Fish any deeper than that and you got into sunken branch territory.

My Gear

  • Rod: Okuma Dead Ringer
  • Reel: Dawia Ninja 2000A
  • Main Line: Savage Gear 20lb Silencer Braid
  • Trace: American Wire USA trace wire
  • Lure: Rapala Flat Rap

You must take real care when approaching your swim. Fish don’t only live on the far bank. They can be living right under you feet so it’s always worth an initial cast close in, in every spot. After that start working your features. The left and right of the tree, in front of the reed bed, Then work the deeper water in front of you. Upstream and down stream, always varying the speed of your retrieve. On these small rivers I have found that if the pike are there they will hit it within a couple of seconds so be ready. There isn’t an abundance of food for them so when the dinner bell rings they are ready to jump the queue.

Start of the session

A small jack pike
A very good example of how not to set up your camera. At least it hides the hair loss

The first two spots drew a blank so I moved onto a swim which had a tree over the far side to my right and a sunken tree on the far bank to my left. My first cast landed precariously in the tree, hanging on by the tip of one of the trebles. With a gentle flick of the wrist the hook tore its way through the old brown leaf and landed perfectly next to the tree. BANG! A pike smashed the lure as it hit the water. After a very brief fight a lovely little two and a half pound jack graced my landing net.

For me the size of the fish I was catching was not important. It was about the challenge of finding them and presenting a bait that they couldn’t resist. It’s hard work and at times can be soul destroying. But when you do manage a fish, the feeling of satisfaction is overwhelming.

So, have another look at some of the small rivers around you and keep an open mind. There are fish waiting for you, they are just going to be a challenge to catch.

You can find a huge range of lures from Rapala at their website

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