During the last week of July and the first week of August, we had quite a bit of rain, which cooled down the temperatures after what had been a very warm June and July. With a couple of free days at the end of the month, I thought after a week of cooler weather it might be a good time to visit the midlands reservoirs and flyfish for Pike, Perch and Zander, so Dad and I booked up a half day on Grafham.
We were a bit unsure how it would fish as we hadn’t fished it since early June, but on my very first cast of the afternoon I had a pluck, just as I was about to lift my fly out of the water. I cast back in the same direction and as I was retrieving my fly I had a much better take, that I struck in to and hooked. After the first few seconds of hooking in to a fish on the fly, I can normally guess what species I’ve hooked, and I was pretty sure on this occasion I’d hooked in to a Pike, as the fish went on a couple of unstoppable runs, which aren’t that characteristic with Perch and Zander. It wasn’t a bad fish either - at 19lb 4oz and 100cm, it was a great start to the afternoon!
The Pike were really switched on and by the time we had to head back in to the harbour, we’d caught another five Pike, with all of them being over 12lb, along with a few Zander and Perch too.
It had been a fantastic afternoon and as you can imagine we couldn’t wait to get back! However, I had a busy fortnight coming up, with four days at the BBC Countryfile Live Show, which was sandwiched between some coaching sessions I was running for Waltham Forest Council at the Walthamstow Angling Academy, so it would be at least a week and a half before we could get back there. On our first opportunity, we returned to Grafham, and although we wanted to fish a full day, we were still quite tired after all the coaching, so we decided to have another afternoon trip instead. Dad had also been suffering from bad tennis elbow, which had got worse since the start of the fishing season. He actually had a cortisone injection booked for the next day, which he wasn’t looking forward to as he hates needles!
The conditions on the day were looking good - the temperatures had cooled down even more, and it wasn’t too windy. Dad said to me that he would just have the occasional cast and would see how his arm fared throughout the afternoon, and after around an hour of fishing he hooked in to the first fish of the afternoon - a Pike just under 10lb.
Not long after releasing this fish, we both spotted a big Pike roll about 70 yards or so away, so we immediately up anchored and headed over to the area where we’d seen the fish roll. On Dad’s second cast, using one of his homemade flies, which I’d nicknamed the ‘Zander Lander’ (although it catches all predators), he had a good take and set the hook. We immediately realised that this was a very big fish - it hardly moved at first, just hugging the bottom before moving very slowly over towards the anchor rope. I could see he was putting as much pressure on the fish as possible - his 10wt looked like it was going to explode! We both didn’t say a word throughout the entire fight and even my heart was pounding! Unfortunately though, it had found the anchor rope and the line started to grate, but thankfully he managed to steer it away and it then went on two unstoppable runs. It then swam around the other side of the boat, and the fish very slowly started to come up to the surface. Eventually, we saw this huge Pike emerge, and Dad steered it towards me with the net, and in it went, head first!
I can’t repeat what he said when it went in the net on my blog, but I’ve never heard him swear so much! We were both stunned and shocked at it’s size. After a few pics, we quickly laid it on the measuring mat and it was at that point we realised how huge it was. At 124cm it was the longest Pike we'd ever seen, and on the scales it weighed 37lb 2oz. Whilst Dad held the fish in the water by the root of the tail, I measured it's girth with a piece of 20lb line, and it was 59cm when laid out on our measuring mat. After a couple more minutes of reviving it and admiring it in the water, it started kicking until eventually Dad just couldn't hold on any longer, and it swam off.
Dad then showed me the fly that he’d caught the fish on, not realising he’d caught it on a smaller version of his Zander Lander, which was tied on a size 2 hook! He’s caught some fantastic predators from Grafham over the years, but this fish topped them all!
After a short while trying to comprehend what had just happened, we started fishing again, and two casts later Dad hooked in to another fish! This time it was a Pike weighing 15lb 12oz, which, in comparison to the 37, looked like a jack pike!
Although Dad told me he was only going to have a few casts, his adrenaline had kicked in and he kept on fishing - he actually told me wanted to try and catch a 10lb+ Zander and a 3lb+ Perch in the same afternoon! Although he didn't manage it, he did catch another three Pike, all good doubles, 2 Zander to around 8lb and to cap it off, right at the last minute, a Perch of 2lb 14oz (42cm).
When I wasn’t taking pictures, I also managed a 17lb 7oz, a jack and a couple of nice Zander too. It was then a mad dash back to the harbour, which we managed just in time!
The next day Dad had his cortisone injection and was advised to rest his arm for the next fortnight or so, but I just couldn’t resist another afternoon back there to give it another go, so I fished by myself whilst Dad joined me in the boat, as he wanted to get some fresh air, although it must have been very frustrating for him not being able to fish and being forced to watch me! I caught two more Pike, and four Zander, along with a Perch of 2lb 14oz.
Over the next week Dad’s arm slowly improved and about a week later we returned, this time both fishing, and we were joined by Nigel Botherway, host of TalkSport’s ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ radio show every Sunday morning. The aim was to try and help Nigel catch his first Perch and Zander on the fly. Sadly, the fishing was really hard and we caught just three Perch between us, but it was great to spend an afternoon in the company of Nigel and talk about fishing trips abroad, which we all really enjoy. This turned out to be our last trip flyfishing for the predators on Grafham, before the lure fishing season opened on September 1st a week and a half later.
On the opening day for lure fishing, we decided to mainly target Pike, although we would bring lighter set-ups and smaller lures just in case we came across some Perch and Zander. We got off to a good start, as it didn’t take long before Dad caught the first Pike of the day - a fish of around 11lb. This was the start of a short spell where the Pike really switched on - I caught a 14lb’er, then I cast back out, retrieved my lure and as I was about to lift it out of the water, a much bigger Pike took the lure, shook it’s head a couple of times and came off. I quickly cast back out and luckily, it took the lure again - but this time I landed it! At 20lb 6oz and 105cm it was to be the biggest Pike we’d catch that day. Then almost as soon as we released it, Dad caught another Pike!
After a couple of hours with no more action in that area, we decided on a change of location in the afternoon. Dad fancied trying an area that, to be honest, didn’t really appeal to me at the time, but I thought that a couple of drifts wouldn’t hurt. I quickly had a take and and hooked in to a fish on my 150g heavy jerk bait rod, that I thought was a Trout. Dad hooked in to a fish at the same time, but he was using a much smaller shad on a spinning outfit. When both fish came to the boat, they both turned out to be good Perch - especially my supposed ‘Trout’! We quickly got them in the net, and they turned out to be 2lb 11oz and 3lb 8oz (46cm). My fish, the 3lb 8oz, had completely engulfed a 6” lure!
We’d found a shoal of good Perch in between 6 and 16ft of water, and I switched to fishing an 11cm Ripple Shad in Cappuccino, which I fished on a straight retrieve. We landed around 12 more Perch, and all but a couple were over 2lb. I also landed a Zander of around 5lb too. They were absolutely wolfing the Ripple Shad!
We returned the next day and started fishing for the Pike again, and with just one follow in the first few hours of fishing, we decided to go back to the area we’d caught the Perch the day before, and target these again. We searched for them on the finder and found they’d moved in to slightly deeper water overnight, and were now in between 21 and 26ft of water. We went on to catch around 20 Perch, again most over the 2lb mark, along with another Zander and three Pike. I also managed to catch something I didn’t really intend on catching - a cold!
Unfortunately, my Dad came down with it a couple of days later too and it completely wiped us out for about a week or so, which was very frustrating as all I wanted to do was go fishing again! After about a week and a half I just had to get back out, and whilst I still wasn’t 100% and didn’t think I could hack a whole day on a reservoir, I had an afternoon on my local river targeting Perch. I hadn’t targeted Perch on rivers for a couple of months, but just 15 minutes in I had an almighty take, which I did hook, but it very quickly came off. I reeled my lure in and found the fish had completely blunted the hook! I quickly sharpened it, cast back out, then hooked and caught a lovely 3lb 5oz (43cm) Perch! It took a Pit Boss Jr. in Blue Shiner Gold.
Since then, we’ve had a couple more trips back to the reservoirs, although the fishing has become considerably harder, which is not surprising after the first month of the reservoirs opening for lure fishing. The trip before last was very frustrating for me - I hooked four Pike and only landed one! We have had some nice Perch though.
As the temperatures continue to cool down, hopefully we can look forward to more good predator fishing in the coming weeks!