I had been on and off the phone to Mike for a number of weeks prior to our 2nd meeting at Loch Katrine. Booking on the loch had been busy and the piking had been frantic by all accounts so to get a window at the end of the season was a sheer delight. Mike is an excellent host with a knowledge of Katrine as deep as the loch itself. His hard work has allowed him to fish at some of planet earths most exotic and remote locations such as Thailand, Nicaragua, Iceland, Canada and Costa Rica to name but a few. He is as tolerant an individual as I’ve ever come across and has enough stories to keep you going when the fishing is slack.
Myself and Rachael were up at around 0600 in time to get breakfast on board, load the car and make the 2 hour journey from Dundee to the loch, where we met Mike at 1030. He was excited to be testing out a new purchase in the guise of an Irish loch boat. Measuring in at 19′ in length, there is more than enough room to secure 3 anglers. I’m rapidly learning that there is a special knack and patience required to fish from a boat with multiple rods as I am usually restricted to bank fishing with a maximum of two.
The timing of our visit was a bit off, as today coincided with the ‘Loch Katrine Steam Weekend‘ and was a busy day at the venue. Some skilled driving was required towing such a long boat, which required weaving around steam machines of all shapes and sizes and of course, the approach road to the boathouse was littered with cyclists so caution was advised.
When we arrived at the boathouse a couple of season permit holders were taking a break from lure fishing and getting themselves sorted for another session on the water. Our boat for the day was proving to be a bit of a stubborn Irish lady, as she initially refused to come off the trailer, so after checking the boat for rouge bananas, Mike backed the trailer into water and with some extra muscle from the lure fishers the wooden hulled boat made it afloat. During our wait, our newly purchased buffs from Deer Creek came into their own. Never leave home without one.
Once loaded with our gear, we were off to our first swim and baits were jettisoned from the boat into favourable locations. It wasn’t long before Rachael had a run and was into a fish. It was unfortunate on this occasion that the pike escaped the hooks before making it to the net but we were into a fish nonetheless.
Not wanting to hang around in any one location for too long, and maximise our chances, Mike suggested pulling the anchors in and cruising to a new spot. After baiting up once again the rods had literally been set for a few minutes and Rachael’s reel screamed, signalling a hard running fish. The strike was put in and I made a frantic bid to take in the other lines that may have hung up the fish. It was a great effort by Heels&Reels to land her first Katrine pike, (which was just shy of her personal best from another location in Scotland) as it pulled like a train, or a ‘snot rocket’ as our friend Dave lovingly refers to them as. Our guide was on hand to net the fish and after a few photos she was returned unharmed to the water, giving me a great opportunity to film the release underwater . Magic.
After a bit of tucker and some waterside chat, it was my turn. This was it, my chance to beat my own recorded personal best caught from the River Wensum in the centre of Norwich, weighing in at 19lb 6oz. I have caught larger fish in my opinion, but none that have been weighed. Mike signalled that a run was on and I wound down the slack line, got that special feeling just prior to connecting and hit it hard to make sure the hook was set. As these were barbless hooks, it was essential that I stay connected to this fish at all times. The pike went ballistic, making run after run, it did it all, with tail walking and head shaking in plenty of supply. Honestly, in all the pike I’ve caught, this was without doubt the hardest fighting fish I’d had the pleasure of hooking into. A real steamship in the Trossachs.The drag on the reel was screaming with repeated bursts of speed and exuberance from my quarry. Honestly, it was amazing and with the level of the loch being low, there were times when I had to bully the fish over weed beds that would otherwise be submerged. Mike was on hand to give advice and after an epic fight she was in the net. ‘It’s a twenty, it’s a twenty, it’s a twenty! And what a twenty!’ These were the shouts of joy coming from Mike as he slipped the net gracefully under her. I was in shock but grinning like a mad angling monkey nonetheless. Rachael had the whole thing on film, expertly capturing the moment with her phone camera, my GoPro chest camera got the action from a different angle. The final result was 22lb 3oz of esox lucius, my largest fish to date.
After the excitement we moved around for our final stop and I tried a bit of fly casting for the pike. It wasn’t long before I had my first take but the fish turned, shook the hook and was away again. I was after a bit of casting advice so I offered my rod to our guide. After a few casts he was into pike, which he played with ease and Rachael scooped it with the net. Nothing materialised all day on the lure rod but I did manage to lose another couple of jacks. Had I landed all the fish I connected with, it would have been my best day out pike fishing so far.
We had a great day out on the water, the weather remained benign with very little wind, allowing for some decent fishing. Mike was due back home to sort some dinner out so our time was drawing to a close, I have to admit I was selfishly casting away with little regard for the time as I was enjoying the experience so much. Rachael was gently cajoling me to knock it on the head and in the end I realised we had to get going back to the boathouse to unload and pack up.
Fantastic day out on the water with a great guide and friend. If you would like to get out on the water (boat fishing only) then look here. Alternatively follow the venue link on the left hand side of my web pages.