Hampshire Avon Pike (Royalty Fishery).
With October the 1st marking the beginning of the usual Pike season I had a trip planned back to the Royalty to try for the large population of Pike, as they hadn't been actively fished for since mid March I guessed there would be no better time to have some fun with the dead baits and a batch of Rapala lures.
This time I made the trip from London to Christchurch at 6.30 after having missed my first train due to my own stupidity, but I did not want to dwell on it too much even though I sat at the train station for a further 57 minutes waiting for the next service, I on a couple of occasions thought about turning back and jacking in the session but after a period of time I talked my self out of it and stuck it out, how glad I was by the end of the session that I did chose to wait, 2 hours later I was rolling into Christchurch and came across the river Avon on the way into the station, it looked in perfect condition as it did last year.
I started to bubble inside with a mixture of confidence and excitement, last year I managed a huge Barbel of 14lb 6oz, could I catch a specimen Pike now that I was here for them?, only time would tell, I stepped up the pace, got my ticket and went straight to the Falls swim, set up a dead bait rod and cast it straight into the deep water in front of me whilst I prepared everything else, for 20 minutes I let the bait swirl around in front of me and nothing doing, so it was time to move up.
A few anglers were already on the river and the Pike were coming out to around 10lb, that news was encouraging but I had to find some of my own, most of the swims near the car park and 50m up and down were packed with anglers at times, as I like my space I decided the top section of the river would be more suited to me, on my way up towards the railway bridge opposite Mugs Hole I noticed a shoal of silvers break the water as a predator tore through them, out went the Sprat and within 10 seconds the float bobbed and off it went, a gentle lean into the rod and I was hooked up with my first Royalty Pike albeit a jack of about 3-4lbs but a fish is a fish, great bit of fun.
I moved up the bank to take a couple of pictures and then headed off towards Waters Meet to the deep stretch below the Trammels, as soon as I arrived ,there another Pike showed itself again around 3lbs, it seemed like most of the Pike coming out we're all around that size to 6lb, I wasted no time to get another bend in the rod, the Sprat went out and it fell straight on it's snout and took no time for it to open its and swim off with it, another Pike on the bank with 3minutes, the jacks were on the feed big time, but now it was time to try find something a bit bigger, on went a Sardine and I fished the back part of Waters Meet and waited around an hour but no other bites came about.
On my cane rod that I packed I had a single dendrobaena primed for a good strippey, but I only managed to catch my first ever Sea Trout of about half a pound, and it was a pleasant surprise, I've never seen one before so that in itself was a great catch and a pretty strong fight for small fish, punching above its weight came to mind, after carefully returning it I changed tactic and went over to the lure rod and searched for breaks in the weed on the clear spots and worked my silver + gold Rapala, for the hour or so I fished with it 2 small jacks both about 3lbs hopped on and frolicked in front of me, again good sport but now I wanted its parents or grand parents.
Looking down to the famous Pipes swim, scene of last years massive Barbel.
My next haunt was the piece of river leading down from the little weir which looked like a Pike heaven, fallen and sunken trees lining the far bank deep recesses with plenty of cover and plenty of silvers darting around as food, it looked ideal to find a monster of my dreams. After an hour though nothing showed at all apart from a couple of very good Carp, the biggest of the two was around the mid twenties and the other low twenties, a shame I wasn't here for them, if I'd hooked one of them, god knows how I would have got it out, then I saw it...............a Pike and not just a Pike, an absolute monster and the largest I've ever clapped eyes on, I estimate it to be around 22-24lbs just by going on what I've seen in photo's, I grabbed my dead bait rod from the swim upstream and winched out my bait and plopping it on the surface and it triggered a response immediately, the Pike came up off the bottom and turned 180 degree and inspected my offering and opened up it's huge mouth and went to inhale it and then in a split second it changed its mind, as it was told not to touch it as it was dangerous, then it started to back away slowly and dropped down the water column where I lost sight of it.
Through that entire scenario my adrenaline pumped big time, damn had I missed my opportunity for a monster that this fishery is so famous for? An hour passed by and dusk was approaching very quickly I had to make a decision whether I was to stay in this swim or head down river to Greenbanks in the deep water or sit in the Piles for the last 2 hours, but just before I was to make that decision, the monster Pike revealed itself once again in exactly the same spot, this time I cast further out into the deeper water to draw out of its lair and into it feeding territory, but then disaster hit or should I say I hit the Pike, the line caught a couple of leaves on the overhanging tree the Pike was under and altered the direction of the Sprat and it landed straight on top of the fish, with one almighty flick of the tail the Pike was gone, leaving the swim a murky brown as it kicked up loads of silt and leaves, it wasn't happening here now.
The light started to fail as dusk settled, I had one last throw of the dice and headed down river, I tried a couple of deep slacks giving the Sardine time to sort any feeding fish out, 7oclock came and I was starting to think about packing up by like 730, as 8pm was the time to be off the fishery, so if it was to happen I needed it to happen soon, then as if by magic or by telepathic demand, the Pike float dipped and stopped then came upstream a little bit then stopped, it bobbed again then slowly headed down under the water, as if it was a scene from Jaws!, I waited about 15 seconds then I slowly leant into the 2.5lb test curve rod and the rod just went solid and bent double, immediately I could tell I had hooked a lump, never experienced a fight quite like it, the first 4-5 minutes it just ambled around at it's own leisure, then when it got fed up with towing me around it went radio rental, the fight exploded into an all out battle, Carp and Barbel have nothing on this fish, it gained 20-30yrds in a matter of seconds, then stripped line off of me at an even quicker pace, a quick bit of thinking prevented me from losing her as she headed for a the far bank where it charged through the undergrowth, on the 15lb line I just had to tighten up and coheres her to come back into the main flow, then she bolted back down river stripping even more line off of me, I'd walked about 20yrds downstream just to get close to it again, 10 minutes now had passed and I was still no closer to getting her into the net, god knows how big she is I thought to myself, and will I ever get to see my prize??, when I hooked her it was still light and just as I got her to within 10m of the net, she made off for the main flow again, it was not done, absolutely amazing, my arms felt like jelly and my legs were shot through the nerves and adrenaline.
15 or so minutes had passed and although this was the fight of a lifetime I wanted to end, after this battle I wanted to see what was responsible, then the float appeared out of the depths as she was tiring and ready to come in, I switched on the head torch and that's when I saw it, the biggest Pike I've ever been in contact with, a 42'' landing net and it didn't go in first or second time, it was a very long and thickset Pike, as she cruised into the net and the tail was in I fist pumped in triumph and let out a John Wilson-esk laugh, what a fish, I let her rest in the net after that almighty battle to recover whilst I prepared the camera and scales, time to see my reward on the bank and I was not disappointed at all, she was enormous, no idea what she could go, I let the scales do the job, in the sling she went 21lb 9oz, minus the slings weight, she settled on the scales at 19lb 5oz a new PB, although I knew that already, what a stunning specimen, time for it's photo, which I had to be quick about as being on my own I had to use the timer and the rain started to fall and drizzle turned into steady rain, but no matter what weather came it wouldn't dampen my joy.
A true crocodile of 19lbs 5oz, what a fish, god only knows what a big twenty feels like!.
She was immaculate, enormous teeth that I managed to cut my hand on when she flipped once and a massive head, she was very thick across the back but I think she was relatively young and got plenty of space to grow, that could be one of the big twenties that the Royalty has become so famous for, a night to remember, not a twenty but who cares, for now it is my personal best and the Royalty has done it again for me, I need to visit more often, who knows what I may catch next............