How (not) to Catch a Pike

Autumn in Scotland

I’ve toyed with doing a little pike fishing for a year or two now, mainly to get out during quiet times of the year or when the weather is too vile at the coast. I caught a few when I was a teenager but I’ve rarely fished for them since.

My opportunity came at the end of October when the forecast looked much more inviting inland than near the sea. I’d previously sussed out some likely spots, whilst a quick trip to the Edinburgh Angling Centre provided deadbait and a few traces.

I headed for a very quiet spot on a large highland loch, miles from anywhere along a series of tracks and thick woodland. The wonderful autumnal gold colours of the silver birch trees surrounded me as I marched along, and the loch was stunning in the broken sunshine.


At the end of the track, and between me and my chosen spot, was a humungous tangle of birch and fir. This made for a lot of hard, wet, exhausting stumbling around. However, I eventually made it to base camp, a gravelly shingle spit alongside a peaty river emptying into the loch. My hope was that spawning trout heading upstream might attract a few pike looking for dinner.

Casting out a trout deadbait I settled down to check out my surroundings and get the tent and other gear set up for the night.

My little stretch of stones was it – there was nowhere else to set up camp, at least not close to the shoreline. To be fair, it was flat and more gravel than stones, so not too challenging.

I popped the drone up for a look around as I waited for interest from a pike. Doubtless many kayaks explore the shoreline but I doubt many fishers make it to the loch through this dense woodland. Extremely pretty though!

I continued in pike-less fashion for the next few hours, with a mix of deadbaiting and a little plugging. Other than starting to remember some long forgotten tactics, it was rather pointless. Any pike that were there either laughed at my attempts or simply ignored me.

Hiding from the Elements

Eventually darkness brought my fishing to an end and I parked the rods for the night. I set up my lightweight stove and popped a pot of water on to boil. Dinner was a boil in the bag curry but tasted better than it looked.

This was the first time I’d taken my little titanium wood burner along in a rucksack. Previously it’s always been in a boat or a kayak. I found it easier to manage than I expected, largely by ruthlessly leaving other stuff behind. Still, a starter supply of dry wood and also the drone made for a heavy pack today.

I was very glad of the logburner’s warmth as it now pouring down and pretty chilly outside. My gear steamed satisfyingly in the tent as it dried in the heat. Listening to the rain hammering on the tent, I munched a few wine gums and relaxed. I think I earned the generous splash of bedtime whisky in my hot chocolate!


Next morning dawned cool but not as dire as predicted – there was even a hint of sunrise. I slept well, despite my stony bed, as the camping mat absorbed the bumps nicely.

Rather stiffly I stepped outside and fumbled around to find my gear in the semi-dark. I lobbed out the deadbaits again, although more in hope than expectation.

Next priority was getting the stove up and running again, for that essential morning coffee.

Over the next few hours I kept fishing but with no interest whatsoever from a pike. The breeze got steadily breezier and the rain rainier, so I eventually called it quits late morning.

I had only a few hundred yards to cover before reaching my track home, but this was uphill and over a mix of dense woodland and some bog. Hard going even without a heavy backpack and fishing gear!

I think I made it to the forestry track just before the rain came on solidly and the wind really got going. However, it was a very bedraggled failure of an angler who finally made it back to his car!

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  1. I can recommend the nets of sticks from the coalman or diy store, they are super dry & light to carry. Even if you also burn some wet wood, that flue is the easiest to clean I’ve ever seen !

  2. You do need a little care with that flue, as it’s very thin metal and has some pretty sharp edges. It’s very small and light though, despite shattering any peace and quiet when you set it up! I find the stove is actually a lot more economical with wood than an open fire, possibly because the tent keeps some heat in and just warms your immediate space that much better.

    I quite happily buy kindling or dried wood as you suggest, although I’ll also stock up if I have the boat with me and can pick up logs from the like of Etive. I was a bit wary about this spot though as I find commercial plantations vary a lot – some have loads of very easy to use twigs and dead timber, others very little. In this case there were some usable dead birch saplings but nothing available from the fir/spruce (not sure what they were).

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