This means that the best results are often obtained by fishing places neglected by other anglers. To this end many anglers spend a lot of time searching for new waters. However with an estimated two million plus anglers in the country, finding new virgin pike waters is not easy. An alternative approach is to fish areas not covered by other anglers. In practice this leads to a situation where many of the more successful pike anglers are fishing further out in the lake where other anglers can not reach.

Let's look at four long range tactics.

1. Radio controlled boats have been used to ferry baits out a long way from the bank with great success. In some cases this has led to anglers taking up model boat making as an additional hobby, but this can prove a very expensive solution to distance fishing. It is not one I have really considered and is banned on most fisheries that I fish.

2. The obvious answer to gaining greater range is to use a rod to cast the distance. Powerful specialist rods, huge fixed spool reels, shock leaders and advanced casting techniques are the order of the day. However it is physically demanding and there is a great risk of the bait flying off the hooks. I believe there are easier, more effective ways of obtaining that extra distance.

3. Vane or drifter floats are basically large polystyrene bodied floats with a heavy wire or plastic stem running through. A plastic sail is fitted on top to catch the wind. I use these floats with a 12ft, 31b test curve rod and a large fixed spool reel loaded with greased up 12 to 15 lb b.s. line. This tackle is set up in a spot where the wind blows away from the bank. The terminal tackle consists of the vane float with a weight below then a wire trace to a deadbait.

The tackle is lowered close in, where the wind can catch the vane to sail the bait out across the water. Letting the line out as required will enable you to cover up to 200 yards out - hence the need for the huge fixed spool reel to hold a terrific amount of line.

Unfortunately there is no mechanism for releasing the bait so it cannot be fished static on the bottom as the wind ensures continuous movement producing a very unnatural presentation for something that is supposed to be dead! However it is a method that has accounted for more than it's fair share of big pike.

4. Ballooning is in my opinion often the best method. It is easy, cheap and great fun but if you use the ballooning technique you must walk around and collect the balloons at the end of the session. The main limitation is that you must fish with the wind coming from behind you.

Once I have selected a swim with the wind blowing from behind me I set up my gear. I am at present using a pair of Harrison 12ft, 3lb test curve rods with a pair of very large fixed spool reels to hold the large quantity of line to reach the distance. These reels are loaded with about 300 yards or more of 12lb b.s. line loaded from a bulk spool. This is a very cheap yet effective way of loading up these large capacity reels. The line is tied direct to a home-made wire trace with two semi-barbless trebles.

These hooks only have a barb on the actual hook which goes into the deadbait. The advantages of using barbless hooks is that they penetrate easier at range and are more easily removed from the fish when unhooking. If you are just starting out piking I recommend buying good quality ready made traces rather than attempt making your own.

As regards bait, there are excellent ranges on sale in most tackle shops. Richworth have a range of 17 different deadbaits, including coloured varieties. These coloured deadbaits can work very well in murky water. The effectiveness of deadbaits can also be enhanced by injecting them with fish oils. I like large half mackerel baits and use these with the top treble in the tail and the bottom treble in the flank.

I am now ready to go - upon opening my pack of balloons and inflating one, a knot is tied in the end to keep it inflated. A length of nylon is attached to the knot with a paper clip secured at the other end. I attach the paper clip over the swivel to the wire trace and gently lower the large deadbait into the water. If smaller deadbaits are used, a running leger is added before the wire trace so the line can be tightened up to the weight when free of the balloon. With a large deadbait it is easy to tighten up to the bait.

Line is played out as the wind takes the balloon and tackle out across the lake, far beyond casting range and hopefully into virgin water. This technique avoids the need for a boat or the terrific splash of a long range cast. When the balloon reaches a suitable spot, tighten right up to the balloon and deliver a firm strike, thus releasing the paper clip and balloon, leaving the deadbait to sink to the bottom exactly where you want it. Tighten up to the bait and place the rod on it's rest with a suitable indicator that will show both positive takes and drop backs. In all cases you should strike promptly to make sure gut hooking the pike is avoided.

By the end of the day several inflated balloons will end up littering the far bank. Leaving them will result in either ballooning, or worse still, fishing, being banned. My friends and I have a novel solution to this problem and hold a balloon collecting and bursting competition after packing all the gear away the person with the least balloons ends up buying the first round later in the pub!

As with all forms of piking the fish's welfare is foremost and you must remember your unhooking gear. I always carry a large unhooking mat, a thick leather glove and forceps with me. Once netted the pike is placed on the unhooking mat, turned on it's back and the glove used to open the pikes mouth (this will be full of very sharp teeth). Once the bottom jaw is held open, the pike cannot close it and the barbless hooks can be removed with forceps. Never use a gag as this barbaric instrument can easily damage the pike.

Last year Virginia caught a nice double figure pike which, upon examination, not only contained her trace but three others - naturally everything was removed and the fish safely returned to the water in a far better condition than when landed. This begs the question whether some unscrupulous anglers are too frightened, inexperienced or lazy and do not attempt to unhook the fish and just cut the nylon above the trace.

As mentioned in an earlier article, it is advisable for beginners to fish with an experienced pike angler to learn first hand the techniques necessary before fishing alone. Alternatively the Pike Angler's Club often arranges top quality teach-ins for newcomers to the sport. I would strongly advise any pike angler to give serious consideration to joining the PAC for good instruction, talks, shared information and an excellent magazine.

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