Why anglers crave the adrenalin rush of catching a big fish

Stuart Sutherland believes anglers crave the adrenalin rush of catching a big fish and that is where pike angling, he argues, comes into its own.

By Nigel Duncan
Friday, 27th May 2022, 1:00 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th May 2022, 10:53 am

The Armadale-based fishermen and qualified guide feels the current surge in pike interest has been sparked by a move away from salmon fishing.

Sutherland has over 30 years experience, having fished all over Scotland for game, coarse and sea fish on the fly, but pike are his passion, especially targeting them with a fly rod.

The angler said: "In my opinion, there is nothing more exhilarating than watching a pike chase your fly in gin-clear water, seeing its gills flare up and savagely hit your fly. You set the hook and then hold on."

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Stuart Sutherland with a big pike. Contributed

He should know as his career best is a 31lb specimen and he has enjoyed catching several other pike around that mark.

However, he remembers well the day he hooked his personal best. Sutherland said: "It was on one of the big lochs in Scotland and I have caught lots of big fish on the fly.

"I was in the boat with my mates and they were fishing lures while I was on the fly. The big fish nailed the fly. It is funny, but the bigger fish tend to take the fly in a more subtle way but then they really go for it.

"It is like a dog going for a postman's bag, they just want to kill it (the fly) and, as soon as I hit it, I said to my friend, it was a 20lb-er. He said it wasn't. It wasn't a 20lb, it was a 30lb-plus and it was a really special day."

Jinhua Wu with a 9lb cod. Contributed by Aquamarine Charters

He added: "To tell you the truth, it did not take me that long to land thanks to the modern carbon rods. You can really put the force on the fish and it was about ten minutes maximum to get it into the boat. I did not muck about with it."

Overall, Sutherland said that the equipment now available is far superior to the gear he started with as a youngster, and gear is now readily available in tackle shops and online.

Pike flies are also available and he said: "If you fish for trout and make your own flies then pike flies are on a much bigger scale. 4/0 and 6/0 hooks, and you need much more material.

"There are a number of guys in Scotland tying pike flies like myself, Willie Munn, Stuart Smith plus Dave Lindsay, known as Mcfluffchucker, from Edinburgh and the sport has undoubtedly become more popular with the decline in salmon fishing. Anglers want the experience of hooking bigger fish."

Anybody interested, he suggested, should contact a guide or find an experienced pike angler. Scotland also has an organisation dedicated to furthering the sport, The Pike Anglers Alliance for Scotland and Sutherland stressed: "There is a lot more to handle with a pike than with a trout.

"A pike has between 300 and 700 teeth and they are really sharp. You must have the right tools. You also want to put the fish back in good condition and that comes with playing the fish well and handling it carefully."

Pike are resident canals. Lochs like the Lake of Menteith near Stirling, Linlithgow Loch, and Pottishaw Fishery near Whitburn have sizeable pike, but it is fly fishing only on these venues.

Sutherland said: "You need a 9ft minimum rod if you are going for the pike just to get them in the boat quickly and you do not want the pike to be fighting longer than it has to.

"The stress is increased if you keep it in the water too long. You want it hooked quickly, landed, dealt with quickly and away. However, everybody wants to catch a big fish and that is where pike come in.

"Pike are very visual. You can see the pike chasing your fly, possibly three or four big fish at one time, and they will take your pattern at the top of the water and deeper. It is, trust me, very exciting."

Sutherland also confirmed that pike fishing was on the up and admitted: "I was a bit slow on the uptake, but perch offer great sport on light tackle, and you can target them with a fly rod."

Fly fishing now, and the water clarity remains excellent at Black Loch near Falkirk. Favourite fly patterns included buzzers, cormorants, damsels, CDC, Kate McLaren (cor) and dry flies were also catching.

Dave Cosser returned 22, Gary McGinley caught and retuned 38 fish on two visits, and the hot spots were Reedy Bay and the South Bank.

Leith Fly Fishers were among the clubs who visited and an angler from the Largs club returned a rainbow of around 12lb, just short of the loch record.

Nearby, Dylan Johnston tempted a stunning 15lb brown trout at Bowden Springs near Linlithgow fishing a yellow dancer while Jamie Johnston had a 14lb rainbow on his first cast in a bag of five on a chamois pattern with Robert Birrell netting ten including rainbows of 10lb and 9lb while Paul Dancer included a 10lb rainbow in his bag of nine.Special mention to Jackie Burnett who tempted ten and a best of 12lb on yellow dancer.

Nearby, Pottishaw boss Fraser Thomson said fishing had been inconsistent. For example, Paul Dancer had 29 one day and two days later four and another day 21 and two days later two. He added: "It is amazing one day and not the next but buzzers, daddies and hawthorn have been doing well."

Malleny Angling have set a catch and return limit of 20 at Harlaw Reservoir and evergreen Ronnie Robinson plus Robert Ross and G P Goh (cor) have all hit the limit this week with black spider, damsel and dancer patterns plus buzzers working well. The kill limit of three (day permit) and two on the evening permit remains the same.

Rosslynlee near Penicuik has been fishing well also with B Laird and T Pryde having 15 each to the net on black Shipmans and Kieran Latto 14 to the net on dries and FAB with David Bullen tempting 12 and Kevin Walkinshaw 12 on sedge, spider, apps, beetles and hoppers.

And Tweeddale Millennium near Gifford has seen green and olive buzzers and black beetles produce sizeable catches, including a number of brown trout.

In Fife, heat two of the Kingdom Fly Championship at Eden Springs saw Greig Davies win with a bag of 15 fish for 31lb 40z, mainly on dries. He stayed away from the rest of the fleet in sheltered water. Dan Brown had the heaviest fish of 5lb 1oz. The final heat is on Saturday, June 11 at Ballo near Leslie and anglers who failed to qualify from the first two heats can enter. The final is on Saturday, July 23.

Onto coarse fishing and local angler Kyle Kirkpatrick, who netted a Scottish one-day competition record of 161lb of fish recently, was again into three figures at Broom near Annan in the Sunday Open with a bag of 105lb 10oz with Barry Young in second place on 86lb 10oz.

At Auchterarder, Marty Pearson won the fourth round of the Edinburgh and Lothians Coarse Angling Club's 12-leg summer series at Orchill near with a bag of 37lb 5oz. Second was Scott McGhee with 36lb 7oz and third Geoff Lowe who weighed in 32lb 4oz. In the Knockout Cup, McGhee comfortably knocked out Tommy Lauriston.

At Magiscroft, local angler James Woodrow won Sunday's Sweepstake with 54lb of carp and 26lb 8oz of silvers on the Island Pond in warm, overcast conditions. Dave Birchall was second on 57lb 6oz and Derek Brady third with 55lb 2oz.

At sea, Aquamarine Charters of Eyemouth report good catches for a group from Midlothian and skipper Derek Anderson said Jinhua Wu was among the top anglers over the weekend with a fine 9lb cod on feathers.Finally, retail. A new range of clothing from Sonik has arrived in the shops this week.