is on quest for a giant catfish - read his latest adventure
LIGHTNING bounced off leaden clouds in the eastern sky and I knew the storm was near at hand.
Even close to midnight it was sticky and humid, and any exposed flesh was being ravaged by mosquitoes.
Tonight you could have mistaken this neck of the Bedfordshire woods for the tropics!
The still lake before me had taken on a dull metallic sheen, and in the reflection of the nearby streetlamps I could witness devilish shapes rising to the surface to strike at their prey.
Tonight it wasn’t safe to be a silverfish. Silhouetted against the night sky, they were easy to spot for the catfish that writhed over the lakebed, energised by the storm and constantly looking upwards to launch an attack.
On such nights Silurus glanis is no mere scavenger, devouring anything dead or dying. She is a killer of anything that can fit in her cavernous mouth – duck, frog or, in this case, roach and perch. Knowing this I had set my stall out to target the surface layers in a bid to tempt a big cat, and my three rods bore identical rigs.
Powerful Esox 12ft Piker rods they were, with equally tough 60lb Esox braid threaded through the rings. To this, via an FG knot, was attached 24ft of 44lb fluorocarbon terminating in a run ring with a large lead on it, a bead and a swivel.
Strong leaders are necessary to prevent tangles that can otherwise be a nightmare when using braid and surface livebaits. So the hooklength was 45lb sea mono with a size 1/0 Eagle Claw hook attached via a knotless knot. Two small foam balls on the hair gave just enough buoyancy to keep the livebaits in place.
Once each rig had been dropped on to the lakebed I slowly let out line until the poly balls and livebaits reached the surface. Here, or just beneath it, they were left tethered for the night, free only to move in a circle left or right. The vibrations given off by the baits were unmissable, and with no chance of tangles the cats’ radar would, I hoped, soon pick up on their struggles.
It was a perfect time to fish this way, and in between swatting horseflies and a little fitful sleep I struck three times as the baits were taken.
Two cats I estimated to be just under 20lb found their way into the net but alas, a third and much bigger fish was lost to a hook-pull after a 30-second scrap during which it was in total control.
I cursed my luck to the fish gods above, but tonight they weren’t on my side and responded to my ingratitude with thunder! Yes, I had caught, but I should have done better. As daylight ended the hunt I went to sleep knowing that I had to improve my technique.
I didn’t stir until lunchtime, and when I did I sensed a change. The light was bright and brittle, hurting my eyes. The temperature was still high but come sunset there would be no blanketing cloud over the lake to keep it that way. As a breeze pushed in through my bivvy door I knew the lake’s surface would be a fraction cooler than before. It was time to change my approach to cover all bases.
One rod would still be fished 2ft beneath the surface, but a second would now sit 6ft down in midwater. I felt it would be foolish to ignore the bottom layer entirely, and for the third rod I had at my disposal a medley of fishy offerings – mackerel, squid and krill-soaked boilies. I opted to fish two of these on a hair that, like the hooklength, was now made from 50lb braid.
Tangles weren’t an issue with this bottom rig, which bore a heavy running lead to minimise resistance. The other offerings were chopped into chunks and stirred up with two pints of trout pellets. This pungent mix would go in over the top, sending out an oily slick. Yes, I had let the best conditions slip by but with my new game plan my confidence had returned.
Dusk saw the breeze drop away and the moon rise. For the first part of the night it was the bait closest to the surface that was the most agitated. There were two huge strikes in its vicinity that sent ripples across the pond, but nothing came of them.
At about 1am I succumbed to sleep, aware that the chance of a big fish was now slipping away. Consciousness returned abruptly
at 4am as my alarm screamed out. Still sleep-fuddled, I was momentarily at a loss as to which rod to run to, but by the time my glasses were in place I knew – it was the livebait sitting 6ft down.
I struck and apparently missed, cursed, spun the reel handle in case of a miracle and struck again. Yes, the beast had swum towards me! This was the first and last time she would give braid so easily, and as she turned tail I was in no doubt who was in control. First she made her way to the far bank, then kited left, wiping out another rod and triggering a second alarm.
All I could do was turn off the noise and pray the second lead didn’t snag.
When the cat’s power failed to snap its tether her tail was used to whip the line in a bid to catapult the hook free of her mouth. Each time I was convinced I had lost, only for the surge of energy to
resume. The fight was brutal, but 10 minutes of constant pressure from a strongly-set drag took its toll. Eventually a marble-skinned creature rose off the bottom and up through the depths.
Dark as the silt which I had stirred up underfoot, a set of whiskers hit the spreader block – 52lb of this most primeval of fishes, and at that moment her sinister beauty was far more than skin deep.
Two of these on a hair kept the livebait, on a size 1/0 hook, up in the water. 60lb braided mainline, 44lb fluoro leader and 45lb mono hooklength. This sits on a run ring and a swivel and is cushioned by a bead Krill-soaked boilies for rod No3. Double boilie rig on a 50lb hair. POLY BALLS LINE AND LEADER HEAVY LEAD
Night watch for prowling cats at Swallow Pool. She’s mine, 52lb of beautiful wels catfish.