Jack Spratz on the Free Stretch

Before packing my bags and heading for the north, I wanted to have one last crack at a stretch of the Dorset Stour that has had the better of me more times than not recently. So I headed down with one of my unfortunate fishing friends, Mr Mikey Melrose, in search of one last Southern Northern Pike.

At the time, the south of England was flooded as an old flooded bastard, and rivers such as the Avon were looking distinctly un-fishable. However, being such a legend at fishing the free stretch (this couldn’t be more untrue by the way), I used my extensive local knowledge of the Stour to over rule Mikey and I packed up me motor.

A very flooded stour

A very flooded River Stour

As you can see it was incredible flooded and chances of a cheeky little bit of pike action looked bleak. We decided to have a crack anyway and searched out some slack water in a few of the more sheltered bays of the river. We returned to an old faithful spot that produced my missus’s PB pike and started to twitch some sprats through the slack water.

I could tell Mikey thought we were wasting our time. “Jack your a f*****g c**t for wasting my time” I think gave it away. Unbelievably, considering the water was about 2 metres higher than usual, flooded and extremely coloured we were in for an exciting hour, well considering that our free stretch trips were usually duller than the Women’s Olympic Horse Dressing Up Final.

Still having a crack

Still having a crack

Happy Hour kicked off with a take on my new rod. I felt a slight knock on the rod tip so  opened up the bail arm counted to 3, closed the bail arm, checked the drag and struck into the fish. The hooks initially felt like they were set nicely and the fish dived away. I passed to the rod to Mikey so he could experience his first pike battle, unfortunately, I obviously had not set the hooks well enough and the fish came off. So with moral boosted we got the sprat back in the water. On perhaps the third or fourth cast after the lost fish I had another take which when struck into, did not connect with the fish. So they were obviously there but we were just being completely incapable. Then to rub it in our faces something happened that I have never seen before, as Mikey pulled his sprat clear of the water a jack pike launched itself clear of the water aiming for the sprat. It either missed the sprat completely, or more likely, saw myself and Mikey stood there with rod and reels in hands, and thought “not for me”; either way it was an impressive display. This trip was turning out to be more like the Men’s errr I mean Woman’s Beach Volleyball.

Classic jack pike

Classic jack pike

Finally, our luck changed and I managed to hook and land the lovely jack pike in the pictures above, my first in an absolute age from the Stour. I think a slight change in tackle and techniques used that day was the cause for so many takes in such awful conditions. It was the first time I have used braided line and I have to say I am a convert. Every slight movement and flutter of the sprats tail can be felt on the line (and of course the bite indication is fair superior) and I believe it was no coincidence that the two hook pulls were on the 15lb mono I was using on my carp rods and the landed fish was on the zero stretch braid. I think the slight stretch could just be enough to take the edge off the strike. All in all a cracking couple of hours down a flooded river and a lovely little pike to show for our troubles.

Looking the bit!

Looking the bit!

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