Bread punch nets quality fish on the Basingstoke Canal.

February 8, 2014 at 12:58 am

The wettest January for 250 years, gave way to an even wetter start to February and I had been scanning the weather forecasts for days, in an attempt to get a few hours pleasure fishing in, when today came up as dry with possible sunshine. Still not trusting the over night forecast, I waited until this morning, before making my decision to go. Years of Winter League matches, sitting out in all weathers for the good of my team, have given me a deep dislike of fishing in the rain. Cold I can take, but the creeping dampness, that gets into the bait and down your neck, after five, or six hours on the bank, is no longer my cup of tea.

By 10 am the last shower had passed and as blue replaced grey, I was on my way to Tesco to buy their cheapest medium white loaf, returning home to process it through the liquidiser, saving a couple of slices for the hook. Now committed, my tackle was loaded into the van, before a quick sandwich and a peck on the cheek from my wonderful wife, who saw me off, shielding her eyes from that rare sight, the sun.

Arriving at 12:30, the Basingstoke canal at Fleet looked good as I carried my gear from the car park, but on closer inspection, it was very coloured and flowing right to left like a train, more like a river, than a sedate canal. Added to the mix was a gusting down stream wind, which meant rooting through my pole rigs for something that carried plenty of weight for holding back against the flow, that would also be immune to the swirling gusts.

This old Dubois pole float is probably on it’s fourth life, but still worth it’s 5 No 4 weight in gold, although my match fishing chums would cringe at the sight of it. Dotted down to the tip, it is super sensitive, “flashing on and off” at the slightest nibble. I plumbed the nearside shelf and started off just over it at 6 metres, the float set slightly over the one metre depth with the bulk shot a third up and 4 No 8s shirt buttoned down towards the hook. In this flow, I hoped that as the rig was held back, the bread pellet would swing up, then drop as it was eased down the swim.

I fed an egg sized ball of squeezed bread upstream of my peg and watched it break and drift down, before vanishing in the murk, dropping my rig in to follow it down, checking it in the flow at intervals. The float sank away, solid resistance. Skimmer?. No, instead, the first of many pine branches, blown in from the gales a few days ago. Ten minutes of this and not a bite. I would have expected a few roach by now. Another joint on and another ball of feed upstream made the difference, the float was checked, then sank slowly away. This wasn’t a snag and the No 4 elastic responded to the slow pounding fight of an unseen fish, as it took full advantage of the increased flow, taking my time to bring it to the surface for the net, the tiny size 20 just holding the edge of it’s lip.

A fish at last, this 10 oz roach-bream hybrid putting a smile on my face. Next trot through, the float sank away again to be met by solid resistance as the elastic pulled out, a slight bounce from below the surface indicating a much better skimmer bream. It was steady as you go again, allowing this pound plus lump to dictate the running, getting it in the net was the priority.

Once again the hook was barely holding in the soft tissue at the tip of the nose. With big fish in the swim, I tried going up to a 5 mm pellet, but missed the next bite, so returned to the 4 mm, taking a nice roach next cast.

 More roach followed, then the elastic was out again with another decent skimmmer rolling on the surface. This was looking to be a session to remember. The hot spot being ten feet down the peg, reminding me of the Thames. The smaller roach were coming from the head of the swim, taking on the drop.

A few minutes later the float sank away to be met with a juddering response, as a large roach began fighting for all it’s worth, chasing across the canal, while I fed on more joints. Again the elastic saved the day and a near one pound roach was guided into my landing net.

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I’d just slipped skimmer number four into the keep net, when the sound of an engine made me look up. A barge was powering upstream against the current towards me, only shutting off the throttle at the last minute, the three guys on board apparently unaware of my presence.

The barge scattered the shoal, stirring up the mud across the canal, having passed over my swim and effectively killed it. Once the mud had settled, I fed again and rang the changes, trying to find the better fish, but apart from a few more small roach, that was it. I stuck it out until 3:30 with barely another bite and packed up.

This lot were mostly taken in that first hour, before the boat and with thoughts of what might have been, I will return. Arriving home, I laid my nets out to dry in the afternoon sun and went inside for a cup of tea, returning minutes later to find them soaked by yet another rain shower. Another storm was on the way.