Basingstoke Canal bread punch roach at St Johns

September 3, 2021 at 1:22 pm

With a morning free this week, I paid a long overdue visit to the Basingstoke Canal at St Johns in Surrey, where in the past I have enjoyed sessions catching roach and skimmer bream on the bread punch. Parking the van in the free public car park, I was disappointed to see that there is now a time limit of four hours for parking, which means that, allowing time to walk to the canal, set up, then pack up later, a three hour session will be the maximum without the chance of a penalty.

This was going to be a sprint, literally and loaded up my trolley in quick time to get to the bankside. The path leads through a small wood and as I neared the canal I could hear the engine of a barge heading for the lock, which was unusual as due to shortage of water in the canal, the use of the locks is restricted, in fact this was the first barge that I have ever seen on this stretch of canal.

Before Covid, this was a well fished section, but it was obvious that very few swims, or overhead trees had been cleared. Finding a gap between the trees, I set about making room among the brambles for my tackle box, aware that I was now on a tight time schedule.

The barge had stirred up the bottom, putting a bit of colour in the water, which is good, but had also dragged up weed, which covered the surface. Moan, moan, moan. I was already making excuses for what could be my first blank of the season and I hadn’t even made a cast yet. Oh yes, I might as well  say that there was also a strong wind blowing from the East along the canal.

Setting up the pole with a 4 x 14 fine antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook for a 5 mm punch of bread, I dropped a small ball of plain liquidised bread just over the weed, followed by the float, set off the bottom. The float sank as it cocked and I swung in a small roach.

I continued to take small roach off that one ball of feed, until I saw a jack pike chase one of the roach in, panicking it to the surface. Adding a couple more lengths to the pole, I fed another ball past the middle and followed with the float, increasing the depth by six inches. I had planned to fish the middle later, hoping to find a few skimmer bream, but the pike forced my hand. It was now business as usual, with a roach a chuck and mixed up some damped down feed with a sprinkling of strawberry flavouring in the hope of some better sized fish. It seemed to work. The landing net came out for this one.

I had several better sized roach and put in another ball down the middle, watching a couple of  decent roach search through the cloud as it sank. Casting across the area to fall through the cloud, the float slid away and the No 5 elastic came out, when I lifted into a much better roach, that flashed in the sunlight on the strike.

That’s more like it. This roach was in perfect condition, making a bee line for the opposite bank, but was soon in the net.

A couple more roach followed before a slow sinking bite saw the elastic out again and a bend in the pole. I could see the float moving steadily to the right and thought big bream, but a thin green shape began to rise to the surface. It was that jack again, this time with a roach held across it’s jaws. It turned back through the swim and I held on trying for a break, but the lightweight elastic stretched out until the juvenile slowed to a stop, shaking it’s head. I janked at the pole trying to pull the roach free, or cut the line, but it stayed put, before pulling steadily over to the far side taking elastic. After a few minutes of this tug of war, the pike was on the surface and coming my way. The landing net was out ready. The poor roach was still visible and as I broke the pole down to the top two sections, the pike rolled and the float pinged back to wrap in a tangle round the pole tip.

A pike, the bane of my life had done it again, ruined my fishing. I figured out a long time ago that feeding liquidised bread, excites bait fish to the extent that any pike in the area homes in with it’s built in fish radar. At least this one had a decent roach to feed on now. The tangle was impossible to unravel and I fitted a replacement rig.

Another ball of the strawberry feed soon had more bites and roach filling the net, but now the barge was filling the lock with water to pass downstream and the canal sped up. Holding back the float produced a washing line of floating weed and I missed a few bites and bounced a couple of others off the hook.

The pike had scared off the decent roach and I’d had no sign of skimmers, even small ones, so with this last roach, I decided to pack up early and avoid a parking fine.

I had used up most of my bread holes anyway.

Considering the number of runners, dog walkers and cyclists, including a trio of tandem riders, that all had to have the pole cleared from their path, forty odd roach was not bad for a little over two hours fishing.