I stood at the very edge of the perfectly manicured lawn and looked out over the water. As I'd approached the lake all I could see was the autumn backdrop reflected on the water. Now though looking through polarised eyes I could see the water was clear, and I mean clear. Literally, I reckon I could have seen gudgeon wink at thirty feet it was that clear and that clarity made me smile. The reason I smiled was because I could think of no better place I could be, than standing in front of a neglected gin clear estate lake full of sight feeding predators with a lure rod in my hand and a backpack full of lures.
Although in pike fishing heaven there was one fly in my ointment; depth, or lack of it as was the case. With the perfect clarity came a fall in the level of the water, and on a already shallow lake this can be problematic. The question was though, how do you lure fish a water that is normally shallow, but right now is so shallow an Oompa-loompa could wade across it with little fear of wetting his family jewels. As if to further complicate the conundrum, this year's weed growth was stubbornly hanging around and though dying, was still protruding off the bottom enough to making fishing any lure with dangling hooks almost pointless.
Had I not already spent far too much time messing round on another weeded up Estate Lake the answer might not have been forthcoming. But I had, and anticipated such an issue might be the case. So I had brought with me the box of surface lures. Now I wasn't thinking that in the chill of October I could actually get the pike taking surface lures, but was instead thinking of using some Lake fork sinking frogs I had that can be with a large single worm hook tucked neatly inside. Although designed to be fished primarily on the surface for bass, these lures sink slowly when not in motion, so they can be worked amongst weed beds. My intention though was slightly different.
First cast I sent the heavy but unweighted lure flailing half way across the lake where it landed with a loud splat of a splash. I watched the white lure sinking slowly and before it reached the bottom I began reeling. With the clear water and wearing my Polaroid glasses I could see the lure the entire way back. As it rose to the surface I would slow my retrieve and let it sink lower in the water. I never even paused as I picked up the lure and fired it out again a few degrees to the right of the first cast. Again I watched the white frog kicking its way back to my bank at mid depth. This time I wasn't the only one watching! From somewhere ten or more feet to the right forty feet out I saw a green torpedo shoot out and I saw a distinct flash of white as jack grabbed the frog and turned away. I never even thought about it as I instinctively struck to set the hook. This was it, two casts in and the first fish on... this was going to a good day.
We'd not even got off the lawn and three pike more had hit the net along with a few missing the lures and a few not hooking up. I was right, this was going to be a great day's lure fishing with these pike.
After messing around in the mouth of the feeder stream where we thought some big perch might be lurking in the heavy cover, we moved round to the shallows behind the island where normally you find loads of fish standing guard amongst the old lily beds. On this occasion with the water so shallow it seemed the fish really weren't that comfortable in so little water. I only found one single small pike prepared to attack in all the cover and that one went crazy in the shallows, flipping clean out of the water during the tussle.
Further round the lake once again in open water the weed seemed to disappear entirely and with it the hits. It seemed to point to the fact that pike were using the old dying weed as cover in the clear conditions to attack from and as this area held little to no weed then it held no pike. I did try a few lure changes in this less snag-filled area and after trying a few plugs I switched to casting a savage gear 3D bleak on a light jig head. Rather than bouncing it back, I retrieved it slowly with the rod held high; in doing so the lure wobbles side to side flashing as the lighter belly moves side to side. It turned out there was at least one fish hanging out nearby, when one shot out from close to my own bank and tore into the lure, shaking its head violently as the hook bit.
The bridges on these old estate lakes always look mouth watering and personally I always think they look to be the best spots to nab a perch from. So I followed my gut instinct and deliberately went after them. Rather than cast smaller rubber lures on my medium outfit I instead went old school and cracked out a 7g Mepps spinner and began casting it across the spans of the ancient stone bridge. It took a few casts to get used to flipping the reels bale arm over before the lure reached bottom, but soon enough I was catching it before it hit the bottom and instantly beginning the vibrating retrieve. My descion was quickly validated when something crabbed the lure as I worked it a way out from the bridge. I kind of knew it wasn't a pike from the different fight, but my knees still almost turned to jelly when I saw stripes and red fins when the fish boiled up to the surface. The hook hold held and soon I was unfolding a big estate lake perch from the net like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning.
After that one was released I was straight back on the spot repeatedly casting the spinner over where I'd hooked the perch and retrieving it back again in the hope there might be a shoal hanging out around there. Persistence paid off when a second smaller perch hit the lure and although I was nowhere near as big as the first it certainly looks like it will be one day.
I do hate to admit defeat, but the smaller half of the lake where the water drains out into the stream was unfishable. This year some reed clumps have appeared out in the lake and with lily pads rooted all over this diminutive section it is pointless even attempting to cast into it.
Being as it's only a small lake the only option was to take one last tour of the lawn area and see if any of those fish that didn't attack or that came off might fancy a second shot at the lure. Back where I began I changed back to the lure I started with and cast the LFT white frog again across to the island. It only took a few casts to root out yet another average sized pike of three or four pounds. This lake for some unknown reason has an unusually high number of pike between 1-5lb and seemingly none between that size and massive. Really the next sized fish you are likely to catch after a five pounder is probably fifteen pounds. So I was shocked when a few casts later I hooked a better fish. I saw it strike at the lure right out in the lake and once hooked it really kited through the shallow water. Finally, as it approached the net it looked better than all the rest so far and on the bank it did turn out to be that rarest of fish for this lake; a pike that had broken out of the jack ranks but still wasn't a monster.
I think the thing that really sticks out about this photo apart from my hairy smiling mug, is that bite mark. The one on the visible side was deep, but only showed one side of its attackers gape. The other side though had both sides of the attackers jaws scraped in it and that was at least eight inches wide. Although there's quite a few small bream in this lake I reckon there's a good chance these small pike make up a good part of the big girls diets and the missing sizes of fish might reflect years when they really hammered the smaller pike.
In the end I knew I'd had a good session from the state of the lures I'd used. Three or four of these Lake fork frogs are done for with their legs hanging off, full of teeth marks, slashes and huge tears where they've been ripped off the hook. I reckon I had landed twelve pike, lost five and had loads of hits that didn't hook up. The few little perch I had and that single big estate lake Sargent were a very sweet cherry on top of an already enjoyable pike session.