Leading predator angler Dean Brook reveals how he targets the biggest fish on the river...
UNDERSTAND THE VENUE
Rivers are wild, constantly changing entities, so you need to take the time to learn the stretch you are targeting to get the most out of your pike fishing. Ideally, walk the river prior to the season, when the river is low and clear so areas of deeper and shallow water are more easily identifiable.
This reconnaissance also enables you to check out areas of weed or even snags.
Take in the geographical nature of the land. The steeper the sides of the surrounding land, the quicker the river will flood during rain. Plus, the lower-lying rivers also tend to stay in flood for longer. All of these things will affect how the river fishes.
Once you have sussed a length of waterway, it is always best to keep mobile.
I often cover a couple of miles or more in a single session. This means keeping your kit to a minimum but the more water you are able to cover, the more chances you will have of offering bait to a feeding fish.
On rivers, particularly strong, powerful waterways such as the Wharfe, Swale, or Wye, the pike have built up a great deal of muscle mass as they are used to fighting the flow.
So, to ensure you are able to land every one you hook, step up your gear up accordingly. I use either 20lb mono or, ideally, braid. I also use 28lb wire for my trace. River fish are not as pressured as stillwater fish. They are not put off by tackle, so why risk losing them because your gear is too light.
EARLY AND LATE
Low, clear rivers can be the kiss of death when targeting pike because their confidence and cover are blown. This means that especially on days when the sun is bright, either early or late starts are the name of the game. I have lost count of the number of decent-size pike I have caught over the years, fishing at either dawn or dusk.
It sounds time-consuming, but never underestimate the power of prebaiting. The Wharfe where I fish is a big river, and experience has shown that the pike on this type of watercourse are extremely migratory.
By getting the fish used to feeding in a certain area, you can start to either hold them there or intercept them as they are travelling in search of food. No river pike, especially one of the ‘big girls’, is going to turn their nose up at a free meal!
I always use float rigs on the river. Floats are better at giving you early indications that a fish has possibly picked up the bait.
To induce a bite, I often give the reel a couple of turns to twitch the rigs back to the bank. This can act like a trigger to a fish that is in two minds whether to take the bait, as it thinks its dinner is getting away.
ON THE RISE
Often the best time to fish a river for pike is when the water is rising. The prey fish become very active and they need to continually adjust their position in the river due to the ever-changing current speeds.
This leaves them wide open to attack from a predator as they are forced to search refuge from the flood.
Conversely, once the river is in flood, the pike fishing will be next to useless due to the extra colour in the water. You will now have to wait until the flow ebbs and the colour once again drops out before the pike will feed confidently.
On the plus side, if it floods for a while, the fish will be ravenous when the waters do eventually start to go down.