Tips for River Piking
By Nathan Edgell (www.adventuresofariverpiker.co.uk)
For those who don’t know me my name is Nathan Edgell and I’m a predator angler based in the UK. I love fishing for predators and my speciality is the top apex predator Esox Lucius.
I’ve been pike fishing for just over a decade now and I absolutely love it and live it. My first encounter with a pike came from a local lake and it’s one I’ll never forget, it weighed in at just over 6lbs and it was a real case of who caught who? From that moment I was hooked and wanted to go at every available opportunity and pretty much have done. That first fish has led me to a passionate affair which has taken me on some incredible adventures across the whole of the UK. It has led to the capture of over one hundred river twenties and a handful of river thirties. It’s led to making and meeting new friends and to a place which continues to amaze, baffle, inspire and sometimes infuriate me. That place is rivers. I love rivers and river fishing and river pike truly are exceptional creatures and the fight well that is second to none in my opinion.
Please don’t get me wrong I love catching pike and will fish for them anywhere. I’ve pike fished in Ireland, Scotland, wales, the lake district and famous waters such as Chew Valley to name but a few.
Due to an absence of still waters locally I began to pike fish rivers and being pretty much self-taught I soon developed my own craft, techniques and very quickly began getting some great results.
That said it really isn’t all about big fish not for me anyway and my motto really is “big or small love them all” as for me there’s something very special about getting out there on our rivers and locating a truly wild river fish. Working long hours and having a young family means I’m often constrained by time so I learnt quickly to maximise opportunities which meant really learning the craft and building up a knowledge of waters and pike behaviour.
Over the years I’ve grown to love our rivers as they really are special places that are under-utilised and they have the magic of the unknown as you never really know what’s coming along next.
Nathan Edgell Tips for River Piking
When fishing rivers have good strong gear, rods are very competitively priced these days go for a rod with at least 2.5lb tc. A minimum of 15lb mono or 30lb braid is a must and always use a wire trace. Long nosed pliers/forceps are needed and side cutters to deal with difficult hook holds, hooks are easy to replace, pike aren’t. Use a landing mat where needed, fish responsibly and always care for your catch.
The traditional Pike season runs from October to March on most waters so wrap up warm. Wear suitable clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty but that is comfortable and stay safe and always have a change of clothes in the car.
The key to pike fishing rivers is mobility. Being constrained by time as most of us are due to other commitments and the shorter daylight hours during the traditional season don’t wait for them to come to you. River pike are more opportunistic than still water fish so stay mobile and search the river until you find a taking fish.
4. Lure Fishing.
Lure fishing allows you to cover the water and to search it methodically and quickly. Use this method to locate pike which will follow or that you miss and then go back as soon as you can with baits. You will also discover area’s that look like good pike holding spots and again you can then concentrate on these area’s with baits.
Target features, predators and prey use features for different reasons as a general rule pike being an ambush predator will lie up in certain places, find these places and find the pike. These places are notably weirs, side channels, tributary streams, bridges, cover, islands, areas of slack water, natural obstructions; drop offs bends and creases. Learn and target the features on your local rivers.
Ignore margins at your peril. I’ve caught more river pike from margins than anywhere else. Approach swims quietly and with caution, stay a rod length back and start by fishing the water immediately in front of you. Keep your silhouette off the water and never walk up the bank side but rather zigzag away from the river and then back on to it. One of my pet hates is observing anglers who walk right up to the edge of the river in the swim and immediately cast to the other side of the river, if you were on the other side of the river where would you cast to? Exactly where you are standing is the answer.
7. One may lead to more.
More often than not when you find one pike there will always be more. There is a reason why that pike is situated in that specific location and usually it won’t be alone. It always amazes me even after catching one or even a few pike and the disturbance this causes that you can still catch another one only a minute later. Don’t write off a swim that you’ve just caught in.
8. Lure Choice.
I love lure fishing and do lots of it and I write articles regularly for the Lure Anglers Society. Lots of lures catch fish but the trick is knowing why. In winter conditions go big, go bright and fish them slowly allowing the lure to stay in the strike zone for the maximum time possible. Pike can be quite dormant at this time of the year so give them something worth moving for. If I blank well that’s one thing but I never want to blank because my lure wasn’t seen, get them seen. Confidence in lure fishing is vital.
9. Dead baits.
All dead baits work on rivers. My personal favourite are sprats which are often overlooked and roach as a coarse bait. My experience of river pike is that they are extremely opportunistic and as I get to watch the majority of takes I witness that most of the time they don’t have time to study the bait they just take it. A simple roving float rig and trotting down the marginal line has caught me lots of fish. Mobility is key, the only time I switch to bigger baits is when I’m statically fishing a weir or a deep bend or a slack area of water and the deeper areas. Then float ledger or paternoster rigs can work well.
10. Avoid the flow.
Rarely do I catch pike in the main flow of a river. It’s important to know where not to fish as it is to know where to fish. Pike will mostly be in the slacker areas, creases and anywhere that is out of the flow and they will be nudging into it ready to dart out and grab prey.
11. Bait Fish.
“Find the bait fish and find the pike” is a phrase I hear and I’ve read often however it’s not been my experience. Pike in rivers are quite territorial and due to the nature of rivers in winter conditions tend to find holding spots and keep them because they provide the first and perhaps the most important factor for survival which is safety. Concentrate on location not bait fish.
12. Reading the River.
Rivers are in a constant state of change and each session brings new challenges, I always take a few minutes to study the river before making a cast. For bigger pike whether you are using lures or baits try and make an informed choice and get that first cast right. I work on probability and believe that the more casts and disturbance I make the less chance I have of catching so always try and get it right first time and keep it as natural as possible.
13. Keep it simple.
One of the things I like most about river piking is the simplicity of it all. If I’m float fishing I use a simple rig that consists of stop knot, float, trace and a single size 4 treble. If I’m ledgering statically then it’s just a running ledger 3oz weight, bead and twin treble trace fished hard on the deck. It’s possible to catch some great fish with the simplest of tackle and anyone can do it.
One of the hardest things to do in cold or any conditions and especially when lure fishing is to stay focused and concentrate. With most river sessions I always get a chance and when it comes I need to be ready. Always cover the basics, is the clutch set right? Is the landing net accessible? Be prepared stay focused and take the chance.
15. Have Fun.
No matter where you are in the world there’s more to fishing than just catching fish. It’s a fantastic excuse for spending hours in beautiful places with stunning flora and fauna that our countryside has to offer. It’s a great time to think and spend time with friends or family, I’m a father of two boys and watching them catch personal bests has been one of the many highlights of my fishing adventures. Fishing means so many different things to different people, enjoy every single moment, I do.
16. Pike Thrive on Neglect.
Every piker worth his or her salts knows this phrase “pike thrive on neglect” and I always like to add “so get to where is neglected”. Avoid the car park swim and well beaten swims that are obviously fished hard. Stay away from the littered area’s and instead head for the end of the beats or stretches furthest from the car park. Remember it only takes a 2m slack to hold a large river pike search them all meticulously and you just might be pleasantly surprised.
17. Free Stretches.
Never overlook free stretches of river; these are normally situated in and around towns. They are almost always written off by the serious anglers who automatically head off to their club waters. Therefore they aren’t fished often by the more serious angler but usually by children and pleasure anglers and they just might surprise you as they’ve surprised me on a few occasions. One mid double river pike used to lie up against an old dumped washing machine.
Hopefully these tips will get you thinking about river pike fishing and how to put a few more fish on the bank. I wish you the very best of luck.
Tight lines and wet nets.
Checkout Nathan’s Webpage for interesting articles, tips and more. www.adventuresofariverpiker.co.uk