Sunday, 25 September 2011

Blenheim Palace... "It's a funny old game"

Blenheim Palace - a grand view indeed
Friday morning and we were off to Blenheim Palace for Keith's 40th Birthday fish-in. The day started early at Jeff’s house with a cuppa and a bacon sarnie at four in the morning! The car was quickly loaded and we headed off down the M40 towards Oxford. Obviously the only topic of conversation on the way down was of fish and all forms of fishing, so much so that we only went and missed the bloody turning off the M40 for the A34! 
Luckily this didn't matter as the rest of the lads were a bit late too. We finally arrived at the gates about 6am and met up with Keith, Pete, Martin and David. Tackle and bait was hastily loaded onto the boats, and walkie talkies handed out for direct contact with each other during the day (great ploy Keith).

Jeff was first to man the oars as we headed out onto a misty lake full of optimism. The others, being slightly quicker to organise themselves, meant we were lagging behind slightly but followed the other boats up towards the grand bridge.

Anchored up near to Keith and Pete’s boat,  we began by fishing a light float for perch with a sleeper rod out each for pike. Pike floats on and with baitrunners set so that any run would be sounded by the clicking of the clutch alerting us to a taking fish. Keith duly caught his first pike of the day within minutes of us arriving. The fight was quite an amusing affair as the fish swam around the anchor chain, but Keith skilfully threaded his rod under the chain to untangle the fish landing it safely, and without further incident. He caught another smaller fish a little while later.

I'd love to say that plenty of bites were forthcoming for us too, but there were no definite indications for hours that could be undeniably confirmed as a fish.  Jeff said he had a bite at one stage and I thought I did once too, but they were hardly what you would call sail away, if they were bites at all?   Jeff’s post covers the morning in more depth but suffice to say that in the grounds of such a fine palace we pretty much royally blanked from 6:45am right through to about 3pm. Jeff's brace of crayfish later on the only catch made on our intrepid vessel all morning.

"next bite and your mine"

got  ya!

After a stint down the other end of the lake over lunch, where we were thouroughly entertained by a grebe feeding small perch to her 3 adolescent chicks, we eventually came up with an inspired decision. "Let's head back to the bridge and see if there are any more fish up there - the winds blowing up that end of the lake after all". This turned out to be the best decision we made all day.

Back in position by the bridge I lobbed out a roach deadbait on the pike rod, and turned my attention to the float rod with a worm on a size 10 hook intended for perch or tench. I picked a position just a rods length out from the boat and baited it with a few handfuls of casters and maggots. It wasn't too long before my first proper bite of the day happened; I struck it clean and felt a heavy thud, thud, thud feeling as the fish hugged the bottom. I quickly made a grab for the landing net for the first time in about 8 hours of fishing, but before I really had time to think about what was happening the fish had woken up and had shot off under my pike line toward the middle of the lake. The clutch, being set a little too tight for 3lb line verses a strong fish (most probably a nice tench), meant the inevitable result - it quickly parted at the hook!

I tied a new hook on and got the float back in position checking the clutch again, gutted that I may have lost the only real chance of the day.  It was only minutes later though, that Jeff alerted me to the fact that the reel on my pike rod was starting to turn and rather quickly too, I struck and had a fish on!  On my request, Jeff moved my other rod to the back of the boat so it was out of my way, leaving me to play the hooked fish.  A welcome 8lb pike was the result of the take, saving my day from the dreaded blank we had been expecting since the mornings results.

A minute or so after this photo was taken, one of those totally unexpected events that can sometimes happen in fishing from time to time unfolded on our boat. Remember I said Jeff had moved my other rod, well he shouted out something about my rod? I turned round to see the rod hooping over just as Jeff was picking it up. "Feels like a tench" he said, the fish still deep and out of view. As it rose up through the surface layers I had a feeling it wasn’t, but I must leave it to Jeff to tell the rest of this part of the story. A mad 10 minutes had just ensued to lift us out of the doldrums and hopes were now high for more action.

I started to get more bites on the light float rod but I somehow kept missing them, not that I was too worried as the pike rod did its best to keep me occupied when a ticking clutch indicatd it was off again. This time a gentler run which stopped after a second or two.  With the float still moving across the surface of the water, and with rod already in hand line wound tight, I struck into the second fish of the day.  A short fight brought the fish closer to the boat where it surfaced in front of Keith and Pete.  "Bloody hell it's a tench!" Keith blurted out...and he was right.

4lb 8oz (sardine lover)
This fish was hooked fair and square in the mouth where it must have been mouthing the sardine tail at the cut end and picked up the trailing hook.  It's the first tench on a deadbait I've ever caught that's for sure. I don't think I'll be swapping from my traditional tench baits though; the nuisance pike might be a bit of a problem!

Pete (left) and Keith

Keith and Pete joined us again after my news update on the walkie talkies, and had some nice fish, both landing tench, Keith with a 7lber and Pete a new PB at 5lb 8oz.  Keith also landed yet another Pike at 15lb.

It was approaching 6pm when my pike rod was suddenly away again on another sardine tail.  I hit the fish, and so began one of the most epic battles with a fish I've ever had.  This fish felt in a different class to any previous pike I've ever played before as it went off on several powerful runs, stripping line off the clutch at will.  Now I'll freely admit that the clutch was set quite light, as I didn't want to risk a hook pull especially after losing that fish earlier on the float rod. The fish managed to take out some of the other lad’s lines during the fight.  Jeff's pike rig was first on my righthand side and was collected on my line dangling like washing. Then the fish surged across to the left over towards Keith and Pete's boat taking out one of Pete's floats ( I think he managed to free it though somehow).

The water still being quite warm at this time of year meant the fish was quite energetic, displaying some exhilarating tail walking, throwing the bait dramatically in front of Keith. Finally, it was in close to our boat but it wasn't happy, surging off on several more runs each time I tried to get its head up. I managed to get it towards the net that Jeff had waiting; the fish coming in on the surface like a large croc, gliding nicely over the cord.   Jeff wasn't quite quick enough lifting it up though and the fish tail-walked out of the net ever so slightly more pissed off by now!  My knees started to knock I think, and I was just waiting for it to throw the hooks.  Luck was on my side thankfully, and as it came in again  I guided it across the net cord again I shouted "lift, lift” to Jeff.  Faultless this time he lifted the net up with precision, engulfing the largest pike I've ever seen in the flesh, and a hard won prize was eventually mine.

After some speculation by the other lads the final weighing revealed my new PB of 18lb 10oz smashing my previous best by a cool 7lb. What a turnaround this day of two halves had been, and in the end was a very special one destined to live long into the memory I'm sure. Thanks to Keith for the idea of getting us all together and for the invite.

Martin & David plus "Blackie" the Antipodian Swan

Finally, commiserations must go out to Martin and David, who I know tried damn hard all day to get into the fish, but were just unlucky.  At least they got to see the potential that this beautiful lake has to offer though.


  1. What a wonderful story and a real tale of two very contrasting parts of your trip.

    congratulations on the pb Pike Lee,a real nice looking fish,it looked really well conditioned.Not to mention those Tincas.

    Sardine is a very good bait and not for just predators,prior to the influx of signal Crayfish on my local rivers,I had some very good trips on Sardine,targetting Barbel and Chub.But that
    was tinned sardine in tomato sauce and proved
    a very reliable bait during winter.

    Congratulations again on the Pike you look really over the moon.

    Kind Regards

  2. Well done on the pike mate. Great result from what looked like a brilliant day out.

  3. Cracking Pike - well done mate.

  4. Thanks all, yeah it was a great day out in the end. Fishing from a boat is a new experience for me, I'll definitely do it again.

  5. Congrats on your pb Pike Lee! a day mucking about on those punts at Blenhiem is always a great experience and i would recommend it to anyone. An electric outboard would be nice sometimes though........

  6. Cheers Leo, an outboard would be great, esp on the way back !