Snowdrop time heralds fishing frustration as pike become picky subject

John Bailey and Simon Clark celebrate a big spring pike.

John Bailey and Simon Clark celebrate a big spring pike. - Credit: Archant

It's that most wonderful time of the angling year when spring is just around the corner and the daylight hours are stretching out ever further.

It’s snowdrop time. Photo: John Bailey.

Its snowdrop time. Photo: John Bailey. - Credit: Archant

Above all, what makes my own heart lift, is the sight of snowdrops decorating the banksides wherever I go. It's a sense of renewal, that the angling year is starting to begin again.

Snowdrop time is also bloomin' frustration if you're a predator man. Spring offers the most mind-blowing potential, probably the time when you could break that pike record. Chances are, you won't.

The sober truth is that, at this time of the year, pike in particular are as picky as they are ever going to be. They've got spawning on their mind and food is more of an irritation than an inspiration. Pike will perhaps follow a lure or they might pick up a dead bait. But there will be no real intent. The chances are the lure will be ignored and the bait will simply be sniffed and then rejected. It's frustrating, maddening, mortifying even as the pike now are at their heaviest.

There's not much you can do that is going to solve the entire problem, but you can try a few things before you give up in exasperation. Small floats, small baits, small hooks can all work their magic. But never go too light on the line or the trace because you never want to put a big fish in any sort of jeopardy. Try, too, to keep as mobile as you possibly can. Location is always the biggest key to any fishing situation, but especially so at this time of the year. You've got to establish whether the pike are in the deeps, in the shallows or between the two. It is always good if you can locate what remains of the weed beds because that is where the big fish will inevitably head to spawn.

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Keep your eyes skinned. Again, that is always important, but never more so than now. Look for big fish swirling in the shallows, or big sheets of bubbles where they are diving into the weed. Normally, a pike angler will avoid small jacks, but not at this time of the year. Where the small males are about, the big females are bound to follow.

If the miracle happens and you do get a run, strike fast, don't wait for it to develop because in all probability it won't. I think that is why I like to sink and draw a dead, wobbled roach at this time of the year. If you do it well and if you keep in constant contact with your bait, you sense when a pike even breathes on it. And, too, it's a method that keeps you mobile. As spring sniffs her way towards you, it's best to find your fish rather than wait for them to come to you.

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Finally, a hat's off to the Norfolk Flyfishers Club. Sunday just gone saw a working party around the lake and along the track to the water. It was as though the entire club had turned out and there was some real work done. This compares well with many clubs where working parties have been shelved for fear of accident and legal action as a result. It seems to me that the Flyfishers are full of old-fashioned, traditional commonsense and that is what gets things done.

Not by me particularly, though. I'm rather ashamed to report that after half an hour's rather limp digging, I developed blisters and hobbled off with my shovel between my legs. I'd like to say that I let my rod do the talking but after a week of blanks, I'm not too capable in that department either. It's hardly a wonder that I am looking forward to Tench Time again, though I'll have to wait for the bluebells and primroses for those.

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