I have fished the River Medway since I was eight years old and used to go regularly with my dad fishing various stretches in Tonbridge, specifically Cannon Bridge and adjacent streams. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing but It was during theses sessions that I began to learn the basics of fishing and caught a few fish along the way. I have only fished the river a couple of times in recent years specifically targeting the pike but really I should have fished it more often as it is my local river, however that was all to change this winter when I decided to target a 20lb river pike and it seemed logical to fish the Medway for my intended target.
The river Medway starts up near Hartfield in Kent and flows through Ashurst, Tonbridge, Yalding, Teston and Maidstone to Chatham. The river is ideal for large pike with a good head of silver fish and I believe it has produced un-verified 40lb fish in the past but many verified 30lb plus fish. I set a realistic target of 20lb but to be honest I was just happy to be out fishing on a new adventure.
I started my campaign on a section of the River Beult which is a tributary of the Medway in Hunton but after a full days fishing with no fish I moved down to the Yalding stretch for my next session. I found a couple of nice areas to fish and in the afternoon I managed a nice 11lb pike (pictured left) that took a small roach deadbait in eight feet of water. This was the only fish of the day but I was off the mark and had bagged my first double Medway Pike.
My local stretch of the Medway is above Tonbridge and so I decided to explore these areas and had the advantage. I had heard of upper 20lb fish being caught from one section a couple of years ago and so was confident the fish were there but catching them would be a different ball game. My tactic was to go light with two rods, rucksack and net and try to cover as much water as possible casting. I had a mackerel section on one rod and a dead roach on the other and fished on a paternoster rig that would allow the lead to snap off if it got snagged up. I left the rods out for no longer then forty minutes in each swim and if I didn’t have a bite I reeled in and moved on.
The fishing was slow and after a few sessions I didn’t have a lot to show for my efforts and what was particularly worrying was the lack of jack pike. I say lack of jack pike but what I really mean is no jack pike! I literally didn’t catch one jack pike which is absolutely which is a very bad sign for the future of this river and extremely worrying. I fished over five miles of river and for no small pike to put in an appearance make me wonder what has caused this massive decrease in population. It is probably down to a number of things including predation and poaching but whatever the main cause its very upsetting as the Medway used to hold loads of pike when I fished it as a boy.
After blanking numerous times I decided to try another stretch a bit further upstream and set about changing my tactics to suit the conditions. I scaled down my rods from 2lb TC to 1.5 TC and fished smaller baits. I needed to change something, after all I wasn’t catching with what I was using. I moved to a shallow section of river and flicked a small mackerel section down in the margins just passed a dead bush. After a couple of minutes the line began to pull, then slacken off but finally a bite materialised. I picked up the rod, closed the bale arm and bent into a fish. At last I had hooked a decent pike from the Medway and all I had to do now was land it. Luckily for me the fish didn’t put up much of a fight, in fact it came in with the style of a bream but I was complaining because she was in the net and I had bagged myself yet another Medway pike.
On the mat I managed to get a good look at her and noticed that she had a rather ugly lump on the top the body that to the touch felt like jelly and to make things worse the fish was underweight for its size. I didn’t want to cause her much stress so I unhooked her, put some antiseptic on the lump, took a quick snap and put her back without weighing. I estimate the weight to be around 14-15lb but a fish with a frame this size should be pushing 20lb. Once I returned home I did some research into the lump and found out its a condition called Lymphosarcoma which is not life threatening to the fish but can become infected.
This was to be the end of my Medway pike campaign and although I didn’t catch my target fish I was happy to have a landed a couple of double figure pike from a difficult river. I did manage to get in some more pike fishing on a large gravel pit and managed a lovely looking mid double pictures to the right. The 20lb pike will have to wait until next year.