This year I started my pike fishing on September 1st on the River Trent. I had not fished the river seriously since 1989, but news that the pike had grown a bit bigger was enough to get me down there. No not thirties, but one or two over 25lbs was a considerable improvement over the days when 21 or 22lb was about the limit. I use my boat on the river and this is where the hard work comes in. First I have to launch it. That's easy enough because it's downhill all the way to the river. Then the engine, anchors, bag and livebait bucket. I fish for about 2 to 3 hours and then go to work. The going to work bit means getting the boat out again, this time an uphill task. I pull it up using the van these days, even then, my back already knows it's the pike season! I used to put my 8 foot Snipe on top of the estate when I had it, but I have had to go back to using a trailer because the van roof is too high.

The next day I thought I would return to the same spot, 5 doubles up to 14-08 is enough to get anyone going. Unfortunately I had unloaded the van for work and when I reloaded it I had - guess what? Yes, failed to put the anchor in! So I had to bank fish and I blanked. I returned the next week and had a bait snatched off the hooks and played what felt like a good fish for about 30 seconds and that came off. Later I returned in the week and blanked again! The following week was a bit better, a 15, 11 and a small one. Remember this is all before work, a 56 mile round trip and it means being up at 4am. Okay, as the bloke says in Dark Side of the Moon, I've always been mad Actually the enthusiasm to crack individual problems is still there, which means when I make the effort I get a lot of enjoyment out of my fishing.

In September I also had a one night trip after zander. Needless to say it was a totally zed free night. I did have quite a bit of pike activity before midnight with a bonus 22-08 most welcome. That one took a legered dead roach. I was rather glad the pike stopped feeding after midnight, I needed to get some sleep. The next few days, I had a few before-work sessions on a local pit. A few fish to 12lbs fell to float legered smelt.

I enjoy the short before-work sessions. You get to see the world at it's best, just before and after dawn. The roads are much quieter, making for a much quicker journey to where I am fishing. Getting up early also sees you in your chosen swim before anyone else! It is important to catch a few pike from time to time, simply because fishing some of the waters I do can be incredibly boring! They are big fish waters and you do not catch very much from them. Waters like Bough Beech and Llandegfedd have an enviable track record as producers of really big pike. They are incredibly difficult waters though. Llandegfedd is difficult because you get a lot of boats on the water at once and you are not allowed to use livebaits. Bough Beech is difficult because it colours up badly when they pump water into it. As I write it has been pouring with rain and Bough Beech opens on October 1st. This will not make it any easier.

Having spent a bob or two on these difficult waters I still have to plan alternative venues - some just as slow. The 13 foot boat needs to be licensed to be used on the Norfolk Broads. More money! Mind you that particular boat is now located on my carp lake so I have to get that out. Oh and it needs one of those folding dodgers so I do not have to sit in the rain. Another 285! The old bank balance is looking less and less healthy by the minute This amount of effort is being made because in recent seasons I have rather tended to let things drift and because of this I have perhaps not caught as much as I would have hoped. you cannot make a particular water produce fish if conditions are wrong so you need some alternatives.

Then we have Rutland Water which opens in mid October. Rutland is a bit of an unknown quantity because we do not really know what it's potential for big pike is. Yes, it has been fished since the early eighties, but needless to say those in the know have played their cards very close to their chest. Who can blame them, I would have done the same. Because it is my closest trout water with big pike potential I am going to give it a serious try this season. I had a low twenty last year so fingers crossed.

While the diary gets fuller and fuller, there are other technical problems which need sorting out. I took over the running of The Tackle Shop in Gainsborough last April and of course I have the two bait companies Lucebaits and Striker Baits. Just as I want to go pike fishing, so do all you lot out there! It therefore takes a fair bit of planning to make sure all the bait is there for when it is required. At the moment we have the nightmare scenario of there being no really small mackerel about. Personally I do not use them much, I prefer a half mackerel, head or tail. You get two baits for the price of one that way!

Obviously deadbaits are not a worry for me, though livebaits are. I have about 200 stockpiled at the moment, though because of the hot weather a few have pegged out. I need to treat the water today! I am not complaining about the effort involved, after all if I didn't like doing it, I wouldn't do it. While there are a few pike anglers out there that go to similar lengths as myself, most do not have the opportunity. How then to make the best use of your time? Well, first you have to decide what you want from your pike fishing this winter. Is it size or will it be quantity? The two tend to be mutually exclusive I'm afraid! Always try and operate as close to home as possible. The less travelling you have to do, the more fishing time you ought to be able to put in. If you are fishing a big fish water, you really need to concentrate your efforts on the one place, so you can get to know it as well as possible. Mind you, on the big fish waters you tend to learn very slowly simply because runs are so hard to come by. In some areas you will have so much water choice you could end up running around like the proverbial headless chicken. If I lived in Norfolk now I would be like that. This is fine once you know all your waters well, but until then you would do well to concentrate your efforts on a limited number of venues.

Shift work is not most peoples idea of fun, but for those who have to endure it, it does allow you to get some extra fishing in. There is a big advantage in being able to fish midweek and during the mornings. Anyone on nights or afternoons has the chance to get out as much as five days a week and still spend the weekend with the family. This style of fishing does require the waters you fish to be near to home. I find that 100 mile round trips are about as much as I can manage on a weekly basis. It is not the actual distance, but the traffic on the way back that gets me down. In theory I can get from my house to the Norfolk Fens in 1.5 hours early in the morning. The problems come on the way back when the journey can extend to over two hours. For myself, it becomes impossible to operate with this amount of travelling time and certainly anyone on shift work would struggle to get in for 1pm!

For those with normal nine to five jobs, there is sometimes the option of Flexi time. In this way you can usually find some extra mornings. When I worked for the Water authority I used to accumulate lieu time from evening meetings and late arrivals back home after a job. In this way the 4 week holiday allowance could be extended to 6 weeks! One famous Norfolk pike angler used to manage to be off sick quite a lot when the pike were on. I can understand his keenness to fish, but fishing when you are supposed to be off sick is a risky job, with sometimes terminal consequences!

You need to plan your holidays to coincide with the best periods of pike fishing. This is fine in theory, but sometimes the weather has a different view. I used to like fishing Lough Mask in December, but so often it was a washout due to the rivers being in flood. I remember one February when we only managed to get out and fish for a day and a bit out of the whole week, such was the wind. Things were so bad that when we did find some sheltered bank fishing my one of the party of anglers spent the morning cleaning his Discovery! Generally in the UK, you ought to be in with a shout in late February and early March. If I could take holiday at short notice I would try to get some fishing in as soon as the ice clears after a freeze up. Unfortunately we do not get freeze ups anymore!

It also helps if you have flexibility at home. I would always tend to pack up early from a pike session if I thought I was wasting my time. Then I will return home and get those jobs done that need to be done. In this way I save time for another occasion. It is true that once in a while I get things terribly wrong and end up missing out. I remember leaving early on Horsey Mere and the dreaded Charlie Bettle moved into the swim after me. He had a lovely 25 pounder. Was I green with envy? You bet I was. Still, I have come away from Llandegfedd early a few times and as far as I know I have not missed out yet. The same applies in Ireland. When the weather has been really bad, returning home a day early has saved valuable fishing time when it might have been wasted.

I am writing this now as an example of time flexibility. I was going for a few hours this morning, but it is overcast and flat calm. This means that my favoured venue would probably fish like a lemon. So I decided to stay as home and get some work done. Hopefully the weather will be different tomorrow. I know from experience how some of my waters will fish depending on the weather. I certainly could not have gone on the river today because it has just rained non stop for 24 hours. It is probably too warm still for some of the other venues I would like to fish and really I have better things to do than go just for the sake of going. I could go zander fishing, but the problem here is that I have been out of touch recently and I really need to string a few days together if I am going to make any impression on them. The Middle Level was covered in duckweed when I passed over it last week anyway!

Well now I have an appointment with a large box of roach and a number of polystyrene boxes. If we get it all done I'm fishing tomorrow for a couple of hours at least!