Why is it that no one ever stalks pike in the same way as carp? It's a very neglected branch of the sport. Pike anglers seem to be becoming as lazy as some carp anglers are. Buzzers, deadbaits and bedchairs seem to have become the standard pike kit.

Location and observation are massive components of modern carp fishing, but pike fishing, to me, doesn't seem to have gone through the same revolution. This totally amazes me, given the amount of pike you tend to see when looking round a water, climbing trees and looking in snags. More camouflaged pike might be, but they are often just as visible as other fish. They also tend to occupy areas close to the bank and close to the surface, at least in the summer months.

The lake that introduced me to sight fishing for pike is a Cambridgeshire gravel pit of about 35 acres, tree lined, gin clear and full of weed. It also suffers from regular algal blooms, that can sometime totally kill off all the weed, and also totally wipe-out all visibility. But when it's not suffering from this, visibility is usually very good. The pit's full of features, bar upon bar upon bar can be seen stretching across the whole lake on a sunny day.

A couple of friends and I had spent the season chasing the pits very limited carp population, and had often seen pike, to a good size it has to be said. The pit is heavily used by water skiers and most evenings and every clement weekend would see an assortment of ski babes and guys towing it around the lake at break-neck speed. The boats they used were the sort that could do the cross Atlantic run in a matter of minutes, why they chose such a 'small' water to run around on I do not know - but then, they probably thought that we carp anglers were also a bunch of idiots, though some of us were! Horses for courses as they say.

On one occasion a couple of years ago, Sam and I were carp fishing one warm sunny November weekend. Reeling the rods in and packing away the tackle after a blank night, one Saturday morning, we set off around the lake in search of carp. Sam had had a good look around the previous day, and commented that he'd seen some big pike along a tree-lined margin. Climbing the over-hanging trees revealed a number of pike cruising along the marginal shelf. We watched for a while and saw about 10 different fish, mainly low doubles, but with one or two monsters amongst them. The average size of these fish was very high, and they were coming so close to the bank that our view was unrivalled. We continued around the lake.

Another area of the pit had also recently shown signs of pike. The previous week, I'd fished an area close to the car park where a large number of old car tyres had collected in a small bay. The tyres had been used by the water ski club to mark out lanes and jumps. However recent storms had broken them away from anchor and pushed them all into the bay where they had become wedged. The sight of about 200 tyres in the corner of the lake was not a nice one, but I noticed the amount of small fish this extra cover had attracted, and how the occasional scatter would give away the presence of a hunting pike. On reaching this area, more pike could be seen, but lacking any tall trees, the area was hard to get a good look at. The odd long shape would loom out from the tyre cover, do a quick tour of the area, and return from whence it had come. No carp could be seen, so off we trotted in search of some.

After a few hours searching for carp, we found ourselves back, once again, up the trees watching the pike. Really we didn't need to be up the trees, as the pike were so close to the bank. Given this opportunity, a plan was hatched to catch one. The angling was to be competitive, the first to bank a pike was the winner. A bet was made and the losing angler would have to fork out for both beer and takeaway, high stakes indeed! Lacking a few essentials, a quick drive into town saw us return with trace wire from the tackle shop, and half a dozen sardines from the supermarket. All sorts of rig designs were put forward, and each competitor chose their favoured set up. Both comprised of one or two size four single hooks (carp hooks) on a length of wire, technical stuff! Polarised glasses on, and rod in hand, the match was under way. The only rule stated was that each competitor must be able to see his bait in the water at all times and it must be fished perfectly static.

Positioned a few yards apart, in amongst the tree roots, we both dropped a sardine about a foot from the bank in about three foot of water. I had no illusions, this was without a doubt going to be a piece of cake. I'd done a fair bit of pike fishing in my time and had moved away from the species to concentrate on carp for the simple reason that the pike were stupid! And if one swam past your bait it would take the free meal in a jiffy. Or so I thought!

The bait had been in the water just a few seconds when the first fish approached. Easy I thought; here we go. The pike, about ten pounds, stopped next to the bait. Tilting down it looked at the sardine sat on the bottom. The fish just hung there looking at it with its tail upwards suspended almost vertically above the bait. After a few minutes the fish righted itself and swam on along the margin. I was perplexed, had this 'stupid' pike sussed that the dead fish was attached to a line?

Looking down at the bait it looked perfectly natural. The bait was free-lined and the line lay out of the way along the bottom. Not hungry maybe, I guessed. I waited for another fish to come along. For the next twenty minutes we kept a whispered commentary of what we were seeing. Numbers of fish were moving in front of us and we would warn each other of fish approaching from each of our directions, describing the fish as we went. Time after time recognisable fish would enter and exit the area, some would stop and look at the bait and others would just ignore it totally. None wolfed the bait down as soon as they saw it, as I had pretty much expected.

Unbeknown to me, Sam had a cunning plan up his sleeve, and had quietly netted some small perch with his landing net before the match, intending to use them as live bait, should the sardines fail. After about half an hour of probably the most exciting fishing either of us had had in a while, Sam decided to play this ace. Substituting the deadbait for a couple of his 'specials', he re-lowered the rig. At the same time he also throw the sardine in the margins as well. The perch soon attracted some attention, and a fish approached boldly. Unfortunately for Sam the pike preferred seafood, and quickly high tailed it with the free sardine. He was mortified!

Just a minute later, one of the fish that had often stopped and looked at my bait, stopped once again. Hanging directly above the bait it gave a slight flare of the gill-covers and my bait vanished inside its large mouth. The suck at the bait had been barely noticeable, but the speed the bait had been taken was quite astounding, one second on the deck, the next gone! The fish moved off slowly with the bait, and a quick strike brought the size 4 continental boilie hook into the scissors and the fish was on. Instantly tail-walking, the fight was quite dramatic and after much splashing about I netted a long, lean and very well conditioned fish of about 12 pounds. Beer and take-away were on Sam, job done!

Perhaps this was the beginning of a feeding spell, I don't know, but it was very interesting that the fish just looked at the baits for what seemed an eternity, and then both deadbaits were taken within seconds. If we hadn't been able to see exactly what was going on, would we have ever realised we were on so many fish? I think not.

The next weekend I returned to the pit with some proper pike tackle, and whilst no fish could be found in the margins, I fished to the tyre snags and took four fish including three doubles to 16lb in just an hours fishing!