River Irwell Early Start

I woke early and saw the sun shining, i just had to go fishing for an hour before work. So i decided to try out a new stretch of the river where i had previously walked the banks but never fished. This stretch consists of lots of shallow broken riffles but also 3 deep pools.
As i wished to keep things simple i decided to get the spinning rod out again and loaded up with a bronze mepps style spinner.
I had no takes or follows in the first two swims, but the third swim was the conjunction point of the rivers roch and irwell. The swim is a lovely long deep glide and it had pike written all over it.
I wasn't to be disappointed as on my third or fourth cast i had a take from a smallish jack pike as i was finishing my retrieval. However the hooks hadn't set and when the fish opened its mouth out popped the spinner.
After only a small amount of cursing and dark muttering i re-cast and two or three casts later had a take from a much larger fish, again nearly at the end of my retrieve in front of my feet. Its thrilling to watch a pike home in on a lure right in front of you.
This fish had the clutch on my reel screaming as it turned and tore off into mid-stream. Again though, it shed the lure and i was left disappointed.
My initial hour turned had turned into two so now i had to pack up and get into the office. It was great to get the feel of this new area of the river and i am sure i will come back to run some smelly cheese or lobs through the very chubby swims this section contains. As for the Pike, maybe i should strike harder? sharpen the hooks on my lures? purchase a softer actioned rod?
If its warm enough this weekend i might sit behind my pole for an hour or two and try for some roach and skimmers on the bridgewater canal or if its too cold for sitting still i am going to make up some Gorgonzola paste and see whats biting down at the cliff.