Autumn Pike With Matt Boast
As the leaves start to change colour, and the mornings become cold with frost coating the grass, I know it’s time for an autumn pike hunt.
My planning on the rivers starts in the summer months. When the water is at its lowest, the deepest holes are revealed. The snags that create slacks for the bait fish to hold out of the main flow are exposed.
So as I walk the dogs along the banks during these hotter months, I will be formulating my plan of attack. How am I going to cast upstream, past the sunken tree that nobody can see, but I know is there? My bait will wobble enticingly past like a baitfish struggling to fight the current, the big girl will be laying in the slack water waiting for just such an opportunity - conserving her energy out of the main flow.
Timing is crucial - you are best to hit the rivers at the first and the last light - the moments known as the witching hours. Low light conditions help to give both predators and prey confidence (not feeling too exposed by large amounts of light). As the sun climbs higher in the sky, the pike retreat into darker confines - although you can find the smaller jacks enjoying the warm shallows if you creep along the banks.
Each spot I arrive in, I will systematically work using the knowledge I recorded in the summer. I will start with some short casts on the inside margins to find any closer fish that I may spook once I start making longer casts. Dependent on the water temperatures and the river flow, I will vary my approach in the early autumn: with low flow, I will choose lighter lures and fish them higher in the water column presenting a silhouetted bait that the fish can hit so hard it results in a slack line. As the autumn progresses and the flow increases, I will use heavier baits to get them down quicker and will revert to fishing downstream allowing the bait to stay deep. I will use the current to swing the bait across the flow and close to the key holding areas.
For this approach, Storm’s R.I.P. Multi-Depth Screw System is invaluable. Its simplicity is the key. I can have a pocket containing various weights and switch them out: removing some if I find a deep slow glide, or adding them to my bait lower in the water as I swing it using the fast current into a back eddy on the boulders at the end of the mill pool.
When selecting my baits, I will always have two tail types with me: the paddle tail that will thump away in the current, and the curly that has less resistance in the flow and only needs the slightest movement to pulse enticingly. As the season progresses and the mornings become colder, the pike can be more dormant in the early mornings and stay passive until the sun warms the water a little. If the usually productive spots fail to deliver, I like to try a spinnerbait. The combination of noise, vibration and flash can trigger the fish into feeding on those colder days.
Another little trick l use is to balance my tackle and replace the split rings on my lures with 40 lb rings. This enables me to fish snaggy situations with trust in that I can bend out the split rings and not lose my favourite lure. My two main setups are one fixed spool for longer casts on big rivers, and one multiplier setup for small to medium sized rivers. I like a heavy or extra heavy setup and I run a bright-coloured braid as it's quick to pick up direction if caught up in heavy flow. This will be connected with an FG knot to 0,90mm fluorocarbon leader and terminated with a VMC Crosslock Snap.
Fishing rivers fast is the key, so I like to keep my setup straightforward with one rod and reel, a net, unhooking mat and unhooking tools - then a simple Rapala Sling Bag with a selection of lures and interchangeable weights to suit changing conditions. This minimalist setup stays in my truck allowing me to grab two hours before work and a couple on my way home to get the results I need when putting the time in.
Tight lines and I can't wait to see your pictures of a big pike on a frosty morning!