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Pike


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This voracious Fish has a flatfish head, the under jaw being rather longer than the upper one and turning up slightly at the point; the mouth is immensely large and is thickly studded with teeth, the lower jaw being furnished round the edge with large and sharp canine teeth. The body of a Jack or Pike is long, with small hard scales; when in season the back is of a greenish gold color shading into a creamy white under the belly, and is beautifully marked on the back and sides with large yellowish spots; the eyes are bright yellow, so placed in the sockets as to enable the Pike to see what passes above him; the fins and tail are a dark purply color marked with dark wavy lines.

Pike, or Jack (as they are termed when small) are found in ponds, lakes, canals and rivers, where there are beds of weeds; and grow to a very large size. I have seen them weighing 40 lbs. From March to the end of June they are out of season, resorting to ditches and creeks, or the stillest parts of the river for the purpose of spawning; at such times the small ones take the bait eagerly, but are only tit to be returned to the water. From July (on the first of which month Jack-fishing usually commences) to October, they are generally found near, or amongst sedges, water-docks or flag weeds. They are seldom found where the stream is very rapid, but a retreat in the vicinity of a whirlpool, or sharp bend is a favourite locality. In rivers, about the middle of September, when the weeds are rotting, Jack may be observed lying among the weeds, basking in the sun; appearing too lazy to take a bait, for it is not unusual to see the small fly swimming and playing about their deadly enemy, without his taking the trouble to disturb them. As the Winter approaches. Pike retire into deeps, under clay banks, or where bushes overhang the water, and where sunken roots of trees, and stumps afford them a stronghold.

The most favourable weather for Jack fishing, is when a slight breeze blows from the south-west, sufficient, to ripple the water; and the day cloudy and dull. Thick water is not favourable, for during a flood, which causes a coloured water, Jack and Pike keep close in-shore, among the rushes, and sedges, which grow near the banks; or in the still bends of rivers to keep out of the rapid current, remaining almost stationary until the waters clear and subside; but as soon as this occurs, then comes the Angler's turn, for having been for some time on short allowance, they are then bold, voracious. and will fearlessly take the bait.

The voracity of the Pike is well known to be enormous. In April. 1863, whilst spinning for Trout at Marlow, my gut flight was bitten off by a Jack; putting on a fresh flight and bait, I threw in the same direction as before, the very first throw I caught him, with the first flight still in his mouth; and know of many similar occurrences. There are several instances of Pike being choked through trying to swallow one but slightly smaller than themselves. There is a case mentioned of a large Pike seizing a Swan by the head while it was groping for food among the weeds in a lake. He got the head down, but the body was too large even for his capacious jaws; being unable to disgorge, he was choked, and the bodies were found a few days afterwards on the shore. They will in fact, seize anything, from a Swan to a leaden plummet. While an Angler was plumbing the depth in a roach-swim, in the Lea, some time since, a jack of two pounds took the plummet; he was safely landed, owing to the hook projecting slightly from the side of the plummet.

Jack-fishing may be classed under four heads viz: - Spinning, Live-bait-fishing, Trolling, and Snap-fishing. Spinning is by far the most scientific and interesting method of fishing for Pike, requiring some amount of muscular exertion to practise it properly. The most useful Rod is of mottled cane; from twelve to thirteen feet in length, for fishing from a punt, and rather longer for bank-fishing. It is best in four pieces, so as to be in a compact form for travelling; and with two extra tops of different lengths, to be used for Snap, and Live-bait-fishing-. The shoulders of each joint should be double brazed, the plain shoulders almost invariably sticking in the ferrule of the next joint, in wet weather, in consequence of the wood swelling; when this occurs, any difficulty in taking the rod to pieces, arising from this cause may be obviated by warming the long ferrule in the flame of a candle; when cold, it may be separated easily. The rings at the end of the tops should be of steel, to counteract the effects of the constant friction of the line. All the other rings should be fixed upright.

Besides the mottled cane rods, there are others of hickory with the butt of ash and the tops of lancewood. These are capital for heavy fishing and rough work, but I give the preference to the mottled East India cane as much for its handsome appearance as for the difference ill weight and its general utility.

The Winch should be either entirely a plain one, or, what is called, a plain-check. For convenience of packing I should recommend the check-winch, with the handle made to turn over; when the handle is left up in the ordinary manner, a slight blow will sometimes render it almost unserviceable; through being bent or twisted. For this reason I always use the spring handle. Some fishermen prefer the hard-wood winches, which run very easy; these are very useful when live-baiting.

The Line should be from sixty to a hundred yards long, of the best eight-plait silk, rather fine, so as to make as little show as possible in the water. It should be prepared with waterproof dressing to prevent kinking.

The Trace for Spinning, which is fastened to the line thus:-

the end of the line being first knotted to prevent it slipping when wet, should be of moderate sized gimp, with from two to four swivels, and about three feet in length; the weight (shots or "field" lead) required on it to sink the spinning bait, will vary, of course, according to the water in which it is to l)e used. A trace which would be heavy for still water, such as a lake, unless very deep, would probably be much too light for a stream such as is found in some parts of the Thames and similar rivers. For my own part, I prefer large salmon gut for the material of the trace, as it is quite equal in strength to gimp, if not stronger, besides being transparent in the water. Still, using moderate sized gimp for the flight of hooks or artificial bait. The following short Trace will often be found useful, when extra weight is required: the requisite number of shots being strung on a short piece of gimp the ends of this are fastened to a couple of swivels; loop of gut or yellow gimp being attached to each of these, the Trace is ready for use.

The Flight I use and consider the best, is composed of three triangles, a reverse hook and sliding lip-hook, mounted on yellow gimp, the length of the flight being in proportion to the bait. To bait it; the hook in the triangle at the end of the flight, lying in a line with the reverse hook, is inserted in the centre of the root of the tail, the reverse hook is then inserted in the side of the bait, nearly opposite the vent; one hook of each of the remaining triangles is inserted in the side of the fish, in a line with the mouth, keeping the body straight, and on passing the lip hook through both lips, the bait is ready for use. By keeping the body perfectly straight as far as the vent and curving the tail almost at right angles with the body, the bait will spin " true " when drawn through the water. Some Anglers prefer the bait to spin with a "wobbling" motion, considering that it then more resembles a wounded fish, but I always prefer a straight spinner.

Besides the one just mentioned, there are the following flights, which are on the same principle of curving the tail, but two of them are without the reverse hook.

No. 1 is the flight already described, but with the addition of a fly triangle, this is mounted on a short piece of gimp, having a small loop which is passed down the gimp of the flight you intend to use, before it is fastened to the trace; and bangs on the lip-hook. One hook of this triangle may be inserted in the reverse side of the bait, which otherwise would be exposed without hooks. By the way, loose fly triangles are not novelties, I have used them myself more than a dozen years since; and am persuaded that if they were more generally in use, there would be fewer instances of fish being really missed with the spinning bait. Nos. 2 and 3 are also good patterns.

There is another variety of flight greatly fancied by some Thames Spinners; it consists of four triangles, and a lip-hook attached to the gimp by one very small loop only, at the end of the shank of the hook. When used, the end triangle is fixed in the tad and the others along the side, the second triangle being inserted in the fish, so as to curve the tail; before the lip-hook goes through the lips, the gimp is twisted two or three times round the shank of the hook to prevent, it slipping.

The " Francis" flight has been already described in the chapter on Trout fishing; made on gimp, of a size large enough for Dace or large gudgeon, it will be found an extremely good tackle for Pike.

No. 4 is baited thus the baiting needle, to which is attached the loop of the gimp, is inserted in the vent of the bait; push it through, and drawing it out at the mouth, bring the triangle close up to the vent and insert the loose hook in the tail, to give it the necessary curve; take off the needle, and drawing the lead down the gimp, force it into the mouth of the bait which is now ready for use. The whole of the weight being concealed in the bait, none is required on the trace.

No. 5, the "Water Witch" like the last, has the whole of the weight in the head of the bait; the spinning motion being produced by the pectoral tins at the head. The Spear, having oil it the lead (which it will be observed has a small projecting fin pointing towards the head, for the purpose of retaining the bait in proper position) is pushed down the throat of the bait, so that only the tins are left projecting on either side of the mouth; the fly-triangles may either be left, loose, or one hook of each inserted in the bait; which, last, will be safer if there are many weeds.

The best Natural Spinning Baits are Gudgeons, Dace, or small Chub from live to six inches in length. Some anglers prefer a Roach, but unless a very narrow one be used, it will not spin in so satisfactory a man nor as a Dace. I have also spun with a very small Barbel in default of having a Gudgeon of the requisite size. Baiting a flight so as to spin properly is not a very easy operation for a beginner, but practice and a careful attention to the foregoing directions will soon overcome those little difficulties.

The Artificial Baits most in use, and which I consider the best, are the Pectoral-fin Baits, of which there are several sizes; the style of mounting I prefer is this: - the bait runs loose on the gimp to which is attached the tail triangle, to the shank of which is fastened a drilled shot or bead, to prevent the bait, slipping down on the hook. To the swivel above, is fastened by a piece of gimp of sufficient length to reach half-way down the fish, a triangle to fly loose around it; these are used with the ordinary trace.

The next is the " Sensation " Silver Bait; this is extremely bright in the water, and only requires an occasional polish to renew its lustre. It is a solid bait, spinning by means of the Pectoral fin; the body is scaled and has an extra twist to assist the spinning. The mounting consists of a triangle at the tail, and a fly-triangle on each side; it may be used without any lead on the trace, as it will be found sufficiently heavy, unless for very rapid water; I have taken many good Jack and Perch with it.

The Spoon and Otter Baits are also good killers, more especially in lakes. There are various other artificial baits, but the above are the most successful.

In lakes or in large rivers, a Colossal Artificial Fly with two large hooks at the tail and another concealed in the wings, is sometimes used for large Pike with much success. It is managed in a similar manner to the spinning-bait, but without any weight on the line, and is worked on or near the top of the water.

I have found the Pike-Gag a very useful implement; of great assistance when disengaging the hooks. It shuts up like a pair of scissors, and when in use, the points AA in the sketch are inserted in the mouth of the Pike which can be opened to the required extent, by means of the bows, which fit on the finger and thumb. The Gag is kept open by means of the steel extender B the teeth of which are made to catch on the screw C, but when not in use this portion shuts up on one limb of the Gag, the notch D fitting on the screw E and keeping it secure. The Pike-Gag can also be used as scissors, being very strong and sharpened for the purpose.

The manner of throwing the Spinning-bait as already been described in " Trout fishing." When weeds are found within six or eight inches of the surface the bait should be skimmed, as it were, nearly along the surface of the water. This may be accomplished by using fewer shot, a light bait, and keeping the point of the rod well elevated. Generally speaking, it is not of vital importance which way you spin the bait, so that you do it well and steadily; just sufficiently fast to keep the bait revolving in an attractive manner, at about half the depth of the water without fouling weeds, but not so rapidly as to make its speed greater than that of the fish pursuing it. Its revolving motion, undoubtedly, makes it exceedingly attractive to fish of prey; from whom it probably appears to fly madly for its life, although it possesses none. Make it therefore no difficult task for the Pike to overtake your bait and seize it with facility.

Although the Pike will very often hook himself, still it is better to strike with a short and moderately strong jerk of the wrist, as soon as the bait is taken.

The following directions for landing a Pike will be found in the "Guide to Spinning and Trolling" to which the reader is referred for more detailed descriptions of tackle, &c.: - "We will suppose that you have now hooked your fish, which will if it be of any size, require careful handling. Do not be in a hurry to land him. More fish are lost by the nervous feeling which shoots through the young Angler, when he feels the first rush of a Pike, than by any other course, whatever. Keep the point of your rod well raised and the line taut; if he makes for a bed of weeds and pulls hard, give him line, but still try to turn him by holding the rod the contrary v, ay, and endeavour to lead him back to the place from whence he started Now he strikes off again; let him go; now wind him in again, but do not distress your line by keeping it too tight on the fish. He now makes shorter journeys, and seems inclined to come to shore; hold him a little tighter, and feel if be will allow you to raise and show him, but be collected and careful. If fishing from the shore, try to lead him to the nearest opening in the rushes. Keep your line free, for he will possibly fur a few moments be more violent than ever, as if he were determined to break the strongest tackle. (Jive him a few turns more, and he will be quiet enough. Now draw him again in shore, * * * keeping the head a little raised above the surface of the water so that the nose or gills may not hang to, or catch hold of weeds, &c., * * * If you have a friend with you with a landing net or gaff hook, your prize is easily landed, but if you are alone, and without a gaff, then draw him as close as possible and keeping the line tight, grasp the Pike behind the gills, and throw him up a few yards on the grass."

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Pictures for Pike

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