You may recall mention of a mission to Esthwaite fishery in a previous blog post. You may also recall doubting I’ d ever get off my arse and actually go to the Lake district in the middle of Winter. Well my friends it did happen and what’s more it ended up being an absolutely cracking day out.
I am not a morning person and consequently it’s a long time since I got up at 5:15 am but the prospect of a crisp winter’s day in the Lakes pursuing monster pike got me out of my festering pit at this ungodly hour and into Andy’s car by 6am. I practically filled his boot with all my shit having brought fly, spin and deadbait tackle as well as every other conceivable accessory I could think of. Our next port of call was Cleckhuddersfax to pick up Matt who despite his best efforts had managed to wake up his entire household watching seedy Matt Hayes videos at full volume in the dead of night. We then motored our way up to Esthwaite via the M62 and M6 which felt very odd as I always go up to the Lakes via the A65. Before getting to the lake we stopped off to photograph a delightful misty morning Lakeland scene in Newby Bridge.
Already the day had a good feeling to it albeit with a curious sensation that it belonged to an alternate manifestation of my universe and the normal me was concurrently still tucked up in bed. I think it was the lack of sleep! We arrived at the lake before the shop was even open but used the time to get tackled up and inspect Matt’s box of exotic rubber sex toys fitted with trebles, damn I wish I’d got a photo of them.
Andy is still fairly new to fly fishing and this was also his 1st pike mission so he went in a boat with Matt whilst I ventured out alone. If I tell you I had to pour coffee onto the frozen solid mooring chain to unclip myself you probably get an understanding of how cold it was. Nevertheless the hoar frost added to the beauty of our surroundings and as we motored out onto the lake the view opened out to reveal snow capped fells against the clear blue sky. When someone tells you they’ve enjoyed their day’s fishing immensely despite not catching a single fish it’s usually retrospective rose-tinted bollocks but on this occasion I instantly acknowledged that just being here really could suffice. Still, a fish or 2 would be nice.
There’s one fact that all pike anglers know. It is a wisdom relayed between ourselves and to non-anglers every time we see a stretch of reeds at the water’s edge. “Aye” we motion with a sagely nod “there’ll be pike there. Fact is I’ve only ever caught one pike in front of reeds for hundreds of hours pike fishing but that is of little importance. So it was that we fished in front of reeds and saw not one pike.
We continued around the lake fishing the margins and drop-offs, or at least where we guessed there may be a drop off, and targeted those other stalwarts of pike lore, the fallen tree (that provides cover for prey fish) and the shallow weedy bays (that provide haven for food sources for the prey fish) but we remained distinctly fishless. I kept alternating between casting various ‘flies’ out using my beautiful blue Guideline LPX and hoying out plugs and spinners with my Daiwa spinning rod to try cover as many bases as possible. I also had to keep wiggling my toes because 2 pairs of socks was not enough to fend off the cold!
I was following some way behind Matt and Andy as they fished down the Eastern shore when I heard a commotion and then saw a frantic waving of arms. My finely sharpened senses told me a fish had been caught. I wanged my electric outboard into full walking speed and set up a collision course with them as they reciprocated, clearly they were keen for me to see their catch!
“Andy’s caught the biggest brown trout I have ever seen” joked Matt. I instantly knew it was a wind up and they actually had a half-pound brownie in the net. Very funny. But wait, what is this? At an agonisingly slow pace we converged and I began to make out the form in Andy’s net. There indeed was the biggest brown trout any of us had ever seen. I began snapping away but for now it was almost pointless because I was shooting into the sun, I just had to wait until their boat came around and Andy got the Leviathan out of the net for a decent pose – a pose with him holding probably the biggest brown trout any of us would catch before we die. Andy dropped the fish, or maybe the fish dropped Andy, I don’t know anymore. I do know that the pictures I’ve been left with can’t do the fish justice but I think you can get an idea of the size.
I could claim some part in the capture of the beast as it was my plug he caught it on, an orange Big S job that had caught pike on Sheelin.
An hour later I still hadn’t had an offer. I was bobbing around near a boat house, still on the Eastern shore, retrieving my plug in that autopilot mode you get into when nothing is happening. The plug stopped. “Is this…is it..umm..ah bloody hell yes it is! A fish!” I caught a glimpse, a flash of flank under the green tinged water and it’s size indicated a reasonable pike. But as I hung on, trying to adjust my clutch I began to realise it wasn’t shaped like a pike and another roll at the surface flashed some coppery brown hues. “F*ck me it’s another monstrous brown”. It was a close in fight but despite rolling like a big brown cement mixer he didn’t snap the monofilament and I squeezed him into the net. The following couple of minutes were not my finest hour, I struggled to unhook the plug from its mouth (despite already being debarbed), had to cut the leader, and spent a bit too long holding him out of the water to get good pictures. Neither did he go back too well, I’ve never returned such a big fish out of the side of a boat before and he slipped my grasp before I’d felt him kick back to life. So I got my trophy pictures (thanks Andy!), but it felt a little bit hollow. Nothing’s ever straightforward! Interestingly, apart from the fish clearly being a stocked brown you can also just see a slash mark on its flank which we assume was caused by a pike. What size pike is having a go at something this big?!
I think we all needed to absorb what had just happened, 2 double figure browns landed within an hour. We made the long trip back to the lodge chattering excitedly between boats and continued doing so as we sat down for lunch in the warmth. Our initial estimations were 15lb for Andy’s fish and 12 – 14lb for mine. Looking again at the pictures I think Andy’s was indeed 15lb but mine probably more like 11 – 12 but I’m really not sure, I’m not used to handling fish this size.
The second, and last session of the day wasn’t as eventful but Matt did manage to catch a pike which, actually, was the original purpose of the day! I hooked and lost another fish not far from where I caught my last one but didn’t get to see it before it got off. I like to think it also was a pike but who knows..
What a day, what a glorious day. Good company, big fish, outstanding scenery and fantastically photogenic weather. I think all 3 of us will be returning to Esthwaite sometime soon. If you’ve not been yet, I suggest you give the place a go.