Whilst scrabbling through the freezer trying to find space for a box of squid and a number of different sized sand eels I discovered two packets of sprats which got me thinking. Having just blanked at Budleigh Salterton the idea of catching some pike seemed like a great idea so I started to look through my tackle and put together bit’n'pieces for a quick session the next day.
The River Culm as mentioned in previous posts contains a good head of pike, some of which reaching 20lb. Quite impressive for such a small water. For me however it is not about the size of the fish but catching beautiful pike on an equally beautiful picturesque river. There had been quite a few showers over the weekend raising the water level and adding vital inches of depth increasing the chance of catching more than one fish from the same swim.
One of the biggest problems I find when fishing on the Culm is many of the swims hide some horrible snags. Weed beds, fallen trees and enough lost gear of other fishermen can make it extremely hard to fish and in some case potentially dangerous to fish. It is always a good idea to walk the Culm when the water level is low, during a flood the water level can rise as much as 2ft in places submerging some features that you don’t want to be fishing over or near to.
My preferred method of fishing for pike on the Culm is to use a paternoster style rig. Not only does the rig keep the bait from drifting into snags it offers excellent bite detection. Traditionally paternoster rigs can be tricky and time consuming to set up correctly, Fox however introduced an excellent simple and easy to use paternoster product, Fox ledger stems.
If you look at this amazingly comical photograph I took, you can see how they work. A heavy weight is attached to a length of tubing topped with a float. Above the float is a large ring through which the main line can pass with very little resistance. A large rubber bead stops the line passing through the ledger stem the wrong way.
Fox Ledger Stem - Excellent paternoster style rig
Although I don’t bother myself, you can critically balance your dead baits with some Fox bait poppers keeping the bait on top of weed or gently wafting above the river bed. Even when the pike starts moving towards you with the bait you will still get decent bit detection. Just don’t try and cast them miles with a very heavy weight, they are not particularly strong and they will snap, I don’t like having a heavy weight flailing about when playing a fish anyway.
When I first started to pike fish I always bought ready made traces, roughly costing £1.99 each it can soon become expensive so I started to make my own. Because of the wire component people are immediately put off but it couldn’t be simpler. I prefer to use crimps over the twist method just because for me it is faster and easier to get a neat finish. I have included a quick guide to making wire traces at the bottom of this post.
The final rig I will be using consists of a Fox Legder Stem, a 1.5oz lead, and a 15inch wire trace with two Semi barbed trebles and some Fox bait flags to help secure the bait. If you are not going to be casting great distances and you are not familiar with where you are fishing it is a good idea to attach the lead to the ledger stem using 3 or 4lb mono. If your lead becomes snagged the weak link will snap allowing you to free the rig.
Pike fishing on the River Culm - Fox ledger stem, 1.5oz lead, 15inch wire trace, Fox bait flag
Pike fishing on the River Culm - Attach the lead using a weak link
For bait I have experimented with all the usual dead bait suspects, mackerel, brown trout, roach and sprats. One didn’t appear to stand out from the rest but I always find myself stocking up on Ammo dyed sprats in red and yellow. The way in which they are packed means they can be separated easily, allowing to take what you need for a session. Beware the dye, don’t get it on your clothes or your wife’s favourite wood kitchen worktops!
Pike fishing on the River Culm - Ammo Dyed Sprats
I started fishing at one of my favourite spots, gently lowering the rig into the water close to some weed and a small patch of lily pads. Literally within a couple of seconds the bite alarm started to emit a few bleeps but fell silent, I waited a few moments and lifted the rig from the water. Just as the sprat was was leaving the water I saw a flash of gold, the pike was still interested in that luminous sprat. I removed the yellow sprat and replaced it with a purple one and once again lowered the rig back into the same spot. Again withing seconds the alarm started to bleep, this time I struck and was into a fish. After a brief but exciting fight I had landed a nice pike of around 7lb.
I attached another purple sprat and lowered the rig gently into a swim beneath and over hanging tree. After 15 minutes I had an absolutely ripping take, the fish stayed deep and I was confident this was a larger fish. A couple of minutes later I caught a glimpse of the fish and it was tiny. Although the fish was only about 4lb in size it was perfection in miniature.
I tried a couple of other swims before returning to my original swim, I placed the rig a metre or so upstream from where I caught the first fish. Within 10 minutes I had another rip roaring take, a beautiful jack of around 5lb. Only one more dead bait remained in my bait box so I decided to try for another fish. While lowering the rig into the water one of the trebles became snagged on a bramble, I started to apply gentle pressure but the sprat fell off into the water, disaster!
Fishing on the Culm is great fun but while fishing for Pike be extremely careful when handling them. Make sure you use a 42″ landing net and a large unhooking mat. If you don’t know how to handle a pike try and get someone to show you how, if this is not possible then watch some videos on Youtube and read as many articles as you can. Pike are extremely fragile, please do everything you can to make sure the fish is back in the water as quickly as possible.
River Culm Pike
River Culm Pike
For more information about fishing the River Culm and any other of the Exeter Angling association visit their website – http://www.exeteranglingassociation.co.uk/pike.htm
For more detailed information about Pike fishing, Pike care and handling visit the Pike Anglers’ Club website – http://www.pacgb.co.uk/
Making your own wire traces
I use the following to make my own traces, crimping pliers (important!!), Drennan 7 strand 28lb Pike wire, Drennan slim crimps 15-28lb, Fox Predator crimp covers (silicone tubing works too), Drennan Semi-Barbed Trebles (size 8 or 6) and size 8 swivels.
Components to make a basic wire Pike Trace
Step 1. Take 15-20inches of pike wire, thread a crimp onto the line. Pass the line through the swivel and back into the crimp forming a small loop. Make sure the end of the wire is not visible, the wire strands are smaller than a needle and can damage the fish if exposed.
Step 2. Place the crimp in the end of the crimping pliers, gently but firmly apply pressure. You can use normal pliers but be careful not to crush the crimp tube or damage the wire.
Step 3. Repeat the process until you have crimped the wire in three places.
Step 4. Slide one of the Fox Trace covers or a piece of silicone tubing over the crimp and on to the eye of the swivel.
Step 5. Thread a trace cover and then a treble hook onto the wire (eye of hook pointing towards swivel). I prefer not to secure the top treble until I am on the bank but to do so simply wrap the line around the hook.
Step 6. Slide the trace cover over the shaft of the hook. I cut a Fox trace cover in half, use one section for the upper hook and the neater tapered section for the lower hook.
Step 7. Thread the other section of trace cover, a crimp and the bottom hook onto the trace. Make sure the hook can move freely and the loop isn't too small. Repeat the crimping process as before.
Step 8. Slide the trace cover over the crimp. Easy
I like to store my traces on a Fox rig board.