Pressure? What pressure? Air pressure, that’s what, and it’s what I’ve been thinking about this week… I noted a chance remark by a respected angler on social media, and coming from Mark Parker, a long time contributor to several of the biggest angling publications, and someone who knows his stuff, a comment about air pressure got me wondering. As an angler who goes fishing when opportunity arises, regardless of conditions, I’m fully aware that overcast, dull days often fish better than bright sunny sessions, but air pressure isn’t something I’ve ever really considered before planning a trip. I go when I can, and if I catch, that’s great, if I don’t, then it’s never my fault anyway, I can always justify an excuse, so I’ve never been bothered…
Mark’s comment reflected that during periods of high or rising air pressure, then deadbaiting for pike can be a thankless endeavour for scant reward. Coincidentally, I’d just suffered another blank, and throughout the month of December, a period of settled weather with high pressure, I’d struggled badly and was at a loss to explain why; could it be down to air pressure? I know carp anglers are of the opinion that rising pressure means a switch to zig rigs, as fish move up in the water, but I wasn’t aware (or hadn’t even considered) that it may also affect pike in a similar way. I decided to install a barometer app on my Huawei phone, and keep a close eye on it to see if things changed.
Over the next day or so, the atmospheric pressure rose further, and a session on the River Trent yielded only a few fish from a swim I’d done well on previously, all falling to maggots after a prolonged period of basically feeding them to death. For the first couple of hours, nothing, then odd bites until I’d netted a handful of chub, roach and dace to end the visit… a disappointing result, but again the weather was settled with hardly any cloud. A trip to the canal proved equally fraught, but finally, after almost a week of fairly constant high readings, the barometer began to show signs of falling…
I’d kept a weather eye on pike reports locally and realised that it wasn’t just me struggling to catch; many of my fellow pike anglers were also finding it difficult to tempt bites, and a blank was the norm. During my last pike outing, I’d come across a pair of lure anglers who blanked, and a couple of static bait anglers had also caught nothing, and I hadn’t seen anyone record anything at all during the period of high pressure. Coincidence? Possibly, but what if I caught as the barometer fell? Would that prove a point? There was only one way to find out… Stanley Pool on the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society card is a good sized water with plenty of decent pike residing within, and was where I’d previously failed, so it seemed the best place to experiment. The reservoir is split into two parts by a bridge, and in the ‘small pool’ as it’s known, I know that there is a river bed which divides the lake bottom; I’ve photographed it during low water in summer, so knew exactly where it runs, and what a fine ambush point it provides for hungry pike.
I arrived early as the dawn broke and wheeled the barrow through the woodland to get into my peg before anyone else. As I’ve said, I know the topography of the swim, but couldn’t resist marking it with Deeper ™ sonar just to get the correct depth and found that the river bed changed from seven to eleven feet within a short distance. Worryingly, my sonar didn’t show many fish, and those that were pinged were just below the surface! It’s rare that I use the fishfinder facility, but as it was an experiment, I could (just) justify it to see if piscine location tallied with air pressure statistics. It doesn’t identify the type of fish though, and on size alone, I judged them to be roach or bream, so opted for two bottom baits fished into the old river bed. One was suspended beneath a float, fished overdepth, the other the usual running leger tactics, and both were moved at one hour intervals in case pike were lying up on the bottom.
Two more lure anglers wandered around the whole lake and caught nothing, and a deadbait angler set up in my line of sight, so I watched him intently to see if he caught through the day. He didn’t, and as the day progressed, I didn’t either… very frustrating! I looked at the barometer, and realised that as darkness fell, it was still dropping, so I held on, hoping for a chance, that pike would switch on, and begin to feed. If you stare at the bright red top of a pike float for long enough, it will move. Mostly, it’s your willing imagination, but I’d been watching mine intently for hours without a hint of interest from pike, when I thought I saw an almost imperceptible ring emit from the float tip; I sat bolt upright. For five long minutes, I watched intently, willing the float to slide away, but it sat there on a mirror like surface, without any further movement. I looked away for a second, and I was sure it dipped! I rubbed my eyes, certain I’d been seeing things, but the white band below the red tip showed itself; just a rise of a couple of millimetres, but there…it was moving…
Again, I concentrated on the red tip, and a few seconds later, it rose up in the water and laid flat; something had picked up the bait! I moved to the rod, watching the float as it bolted upright in the water, swirled in a circle, then sank away into the depths… A firm strike saw the hooks bed home, and I felt the head shake of a pike down in the deep water. My opponent tried in vain to discharge the hooks, and after a minute or two of scrapping, the float reappeared as the trace came into view. I can’t say it was a huge fish, a scraper double if I was lucky, but it was in excellent condition and fought surprisingly well. Quickly freed of the trace, it was photographed and rested in the net prior to return, then swam away vertically downwards to resume its ambush position. I was pleased; after a difficult day, spent constantly moving baits, changing baits, and thinking about baits whilst watching the barometer, I was beginning to think that there may indeed be some validity in keeping an eye on it to correlate pressure with feeding spells, and stay at home if the pressure got too much!
My compatriot, an angler who knows the water better than I, hadn’t caught, nor had he seen a fish. His three rod attack hadn’t worked, and the only thing I’d done differently was move my baits to different spots. In truth, a single fish proves no theories, especially about air pressure, but it HAS got me thinking, and the more research I do, the more I believe I’m on to something, something which will enhance my angling understanding and hopefully improve my catch rate. I made a note of the pressure at the beginning of the session, during, and at the time the fish hit the bait, so I’m beginning to build a log to see what I can discover… hopefully I can prove a relationship between air pressure, pike and feeding, but only time will tell… I’ll just have to go fishing more I suppose, which seems a like a great scientific result to me! Give it some thought; if you get chance, make some notes. If nothing else, it will get you thinking about what is going on around you, and maybe you’ll crack the code before I do!