THIS is the time of year when dedicated angler Louise Mcstein feels perfectly at home.

The 31-year-old from Middlewich specialises in pike fishing when the season is right and has already landed some river beauties in 2020.

Louise, a fabric weaver, can already claim a season’s best 17lbs 8ozs catch among the six she has landed in the double-figure bracket.

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She enjoys many forms of fishing though, her commitment and passion having grown since her debut at Winsford and District Angling Association’s Newbridge Pool when she was eight years old.

“I have different places I like to fish through the year,” said Louise, a former student of Verdin High School in Winsford.

“My heart belongs to the river from October to March when I solely target pike.

“Once the rivers close for the season I spend spring and summer going to Old Hough Fisheries to target the carp and Gawsworth Hall to pole fish for variety.

“I also go sea fishing, the favourite being tope fishing.”

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The biggest fish she has caught is a tope just under 50lbs, while her best carp so far is a common of 21lbs 7ozs.

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But she is at her happiest on river banks aiming to tempt predatorial pike, a prized hard-fighting fish that averages in length around 20 inches and features a shovel-like snout armed with a large number of razor-sharp teeth.

They are known to lie in wait for prey, holding perfectly still for long periods before exhibiting remarkable acceleration and agility as they strike to feed mainly on fish and frogs, while also small mammals and birds can make a tasty meal for a pike leaping out of the water.

“The river is my favourite place. This is where I gain my most satisfaction. I have caught my personal best and some of the most beautifully marked pike from the river,” said Louise, whose other main hobby is visiting the gym but is also very much into rock and heavy metal music.

“What draws me onto the river is thinking about how vast river systems are and how they stretch for miles on end.

“My dead-bait really is a stone dropped in the ocean in a manner of speaking so to even get a bite is truly rewarding to me.

“When I fish on the river it just feels right and it feels like I am meant to be there. It feels completely natural.”

She feels lured to the sport.

“The thing I love most about fishing is the aura of mystery that surrounds it,” she said.

“There is no telling what you will catch or if you will catch, the wildlife you see and also whether the rain will keep off!

“No fishing day is ever the same, it will also produce some kind of unique surprise whether that is landing a specimen, a personal best or even seeing a kingfisher fly past.

“That anticipation and excitement draws me in every time.

“I also like the relaxation and time away, it allows me the opportunity to refocus and recharge.

“The challenge of fishing greatly interests me. Some days are more challenging than others.

“I have blanked multiple times, sat out in the pouring rain with no cover, snow, below zero conditions, storms and heatwaves. This doesn’t deter me but it encourages me further as I revel in seeing it through until last light or that “one more cast” feeling.

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“The satisfaction of it is also greatly appealing to me, especially when I use my own devised techniques, methods and baits. I feel very proud catching a fish on methods that I thought of myself.”

The quality stamp of her catches is reward for the dedication and thought she puts into her sessions.

“This season I have put in extra effort with pike fishing, getting out as often as I can. I always target pike as soon as I can as it is my favourite form of fishing.

“I have looked into new tactics and methods, that are serving me very well at present.

“My tactics for catching pike vary each session.

“I spend time throughout the day watching my surroundings, paying attention to changes in temperature and the direction of the current.

“I watch my surroundings for any form of activity whether it be a duck splashing on the surface, silver fish topping or small feeding bubbles. Within these areas of activity there is a good chance a pike will be close by ready to attack.

“I present my dead-baits within the area of activity so it’s an easy meal for the pike.

“I use two different set-ups which are a free running ledgered dead-bait popped up from the bottom and a static float set-up.

“The ledger set-up remains out for up to two hours at a time whereas the float set-up i will move every 30 to 45 minutes in order to explore the area.

“A must have for myself is pike pro oils. I inject my dead-baits with the oil each time. I don’t leave the house without it.

“I also like to use big dead-baits and I am not shy of putting on a dead-bait that weighs over a pound - big bait...big fish!”

The biggest pike she has landed is her favourite catch so far.

“My pike pb is a river caught 20lbs 9ozs,” she said.

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“I had blanked six times in a row and this was my seventh session. I was sat

huddled up underneath my umbrella trying to keep dry very close to giving up.

“I pushed through and it got to 1pm when one of my rods screamed off on the bite alarm.

“She put up an incredibly hard fight and to this day she is my favourite catch. She was caught on a ledgered mackerel tail, popped up and injected with pike pro oils.”

Never far away from her are the same feelings of excitement that got her hooked in the first place 23 years ago.

“My dad got me started. He took me to Newbridge Pool on my first fishing trip,” she said.

“He spent the day fishing and I mostly watched him. The more I watched him catch fish the more I was mesmerized by what he was doing.

“I found watching the float dance around and go under captivating.

“Just before last light he asked if I wanted a go. He showed me exactly how to hook the maggots and put the float in the water.

“I remember how excited I was and completely fixated on the orange float.

“Once that float went under I struck into it and landed my first fish which was a lovely gold common carp no more than 1lb.

“From that moment I wanted to experience that excitement over and over again and to this day that excitement still resides within me and I feel it every time I go fishing.”