Now, for most of us, this is only a couple of hours before work, but often this can be the best time of the day for piking on many waters. So, with a little bit of effort, short morning sessions of little more than a couple of hours, can be well worth all the effort.

Obviously, if you are only able to get to the water for a couple of hours, it's not viable to travel long distances. This may mean that you have to set your sights a little lower than normal, but often I find it's a good time to try some prospecting on a relatively unknown water, where you aren't wasting precious winter days which could be spent on more productive waters further from home. Paradoxically, you need to fish some longer sessions on a water before you can assess whether it is worth fishing for short sessions. Obviously, if you are only going to be fishing for the first couple of hours in the morning, there is no point in fishing a water where the pike only come onto the feed in the afternoon. Only by fishing a few all day sessions can you determine if a distinct early morning feeding spell is present.

Having found a water that produces fish at the right time of day, the next important step is to produce a list of hot swims. The areas that, given the chance, you will fish. I normally choose no more than a couple of swims and fish these in rotation, unless I am having a lot of action in one area, and then I may persist there. When you get to the water, the last thing you want to be worrying about is swim choice, decide where you are going to fish before you go and stick to the plan.

Although always important, it is even more important that you keep the baits in the water for as long as possible. Time spent chatting, choosing a swim, or sorting out tangles loses precious fishing time. My first priority is to get my baits in the water as soon as possible, once my landing net and unhooking mat have been positioned. Everything else takes second place.

If you have done your homework properly, then you should also know where you are going to put the baits in the swim. Normally, I spread the baits out between different spots in the swim, to try to intercept any fish that might be in the area. Although the swim may have one dominant feature, you can bet your life that this isn't the only place that will produce. Drop-offs are a good example, although most fish will be caught tight to the feature, odd fish will also be picked up a metre or two past it, and even more in open water. If the rules permit me to fish more than one rod, then at least one bait will be constantly on the move, searching for fish away from prominent features or known feeding spots.

Most of the time, once the baits fished to features are in position, I will leave them there until I pack up for work and concentrate on the roaming rod. Rig choice is normally determined by the swim but I will normally use a simple running ledger rig incorporating a John Roberts run-ring to reduce resistance to a taking fish. If dense weed is present on the bottom, then this is replaced with a sliding sunk float on a paternoster link, to keep the line clear of the weed. Paternosters and float rigs are fine for longer sessions, but there is an increased risk of tangles, which I try to avoid at all costs on these short visits, as each tangle means one less chance of catching. Save the fancy rigs for when you have more time, unless there is a very good reason for using them.

Bait choice is really dependent on the water, as with most of my piking, one rod will normally be fished with a larger than normal bait, say a whole herring. This rod is likely to receive less action, but will pick up the occasional fish, and more often than not, picks up the biggies. On the other rods I will use whatever bait past experience has proven to be the best on the water. Normally this will be a deadbait as live baits are too difficult to catch on short sessions, and on many waters, deadbaits sort out the big ones that make all the effort worthwhile.

So, is it worth the effort? Well, you will never catch as many pike as you would by fishing longer sessions, but you certainly won't catch any if the baits aren't in the water! If you can find a water where the pike feed well in the early morning then your catches may be almost as good, for a small fraction of the effort. Fishing several short morning sessions midweek will often see you alone on the banks, chasing unpressured fish in a quiet secluded environment. And when you get one of those days when the baits are taken as soon as they hit the water, you will know that it has been worth it.

Don't expect action on every visit though, often you will have to endure quite a few blanks, particularly if you are fishing specifically for the bigger fish. In the long run, you will greatly increase the number of fish caught per hour on the bank. This time of year is a golden opportunity to put some extra fish on the bank. But make the most of it because it doesn't last long.