Bread punch on the Basingstoke Canal

December 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm

A change of plans meant a free afternoon this week. Hard frosts followed by a few day’s rain had left the fields and ditches waterlogged and my little river was bombing through, so my best option for a few hours fresh air was the twenty minute drive to the Basingstoke Canal.

With liquidized bread and some sliced white back in the freezer from my last outing on the river, bait was no problem and with tackle loaded, I was on my way before noon. Good news, a space in the car park, even with Christmas shopping in full swing; a longer walk, but better than the road side. I’d remembered to fix my trolley wheel puncture too,  which had been a bit of a let down, so a few hundred yards and I was at my swim, a sheltered spot in the town with gardens backing onto the towpath.

Temperatures were still below ten degrees C, but with no wind, or swans in sight, a decent afternoon’s fishing looked on the cards. Many “proper anglers” look down on the pole as a means of catching fish, but very light rigs and delicate baits can be presented by this method, while for the older angler such as myself, no longer possessing decent eyesight, or deft of touch, the rigs can be made up in the comfort of your home, or even bought ready made up at the tackle shop. After plumbing the depth to find the near and far shelf, I started off at the top of the near shelf without a touch, before increasing the depth a few inches and adding another metre to the pole.  This time a small ring radiating out from the float bristle indicated interest in the punch bait, another ring and it sank slowly beneath the surface. A lift and the float stayed down as a good roach pulled the elastic out from the pole tip. The elastic soon coped with the darting runs of the roach and the first of many was in the net.

I started to miss bites, or hook half ounce micro roach, so on went another metre and the float went out to the middle following another small ball of crumb. A three ounce roach, then the elastic stayed out with the steady throb of a six ounce skimmer bream. Good, this is what I came for, the swim has produced near two pound bream for me in the past. Regular feed was being rewarded by more roach, so I shallowed up and dropped the bait into the cloud, a fiddley bite developed into a slide away and the elastic followed into the water. I could see the flashes from a better skimmer and followed it with the pole as it dashed up and down the swim, until it was ready to be drawn away to my net. Another two skimmers followed and a good weight seemed on the cards, when disaster led a three pronged attack. First a hook in the lip of the last skimmer snagged my landing net and pulled through the lip, the line breaking before I could cut the net. Unable to find my spare made up hook links, another rig was attached  to the pole stomfo tip, was set to depth and cast in to sink as the float cocked. Excellent, more elastic out and an eight ounce roach eventually slid into the landing net. Disaster number two now struck. The hook was embedded in the thick part of the roach’s lip and would not come out, so I gave the disgorger a try, only to snap the fine wire hook shank. Two rigs in two casts. I had another rig, but this was not a match, although I was in the moment, catching a steady flow of better fish. As I sorted through my various made up packs of hooks, the third disaster struck, the swans arrived.

Mummy, Daddy and two signets now laid claim to my ground bait, their long necks reaching down to the bottom of the canal, black feet clawing the air to keep balanced. Game over. I found my hooks, looping on the new link and waited, until a mother and young daughter saved the day, when they arrived on the towpath and began feeding the ducks and squawking gulls, the swans making off at full speed in their direction. I decided to give it another half an hour, taking a few more ounce plus roach, but the better fish had moved off, leaving the three inch micro roach to feed at will. By three pm the light was going already, as the shortest day approached, and with a chill already in the air, I lifted out my keepnet to be greeted by that welcome sound of quality fish sploshing at the bottom. Transferred to my landing net and a quick weigh in, before returning, indicated five pounds of silver fish, not bad for two and a half hours fishing, considering the thirty odd micro roach not put in the net.