Bread punch v pinkies on the Basingstoke Canal

February 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm

The weather forecast was  dry and mild, after days of snow and rain, with more to follow tomorrow, only problem, where to fish? Having some serious, sponsored match fishing friends, I remembered them moaning about  struggling at a league match on the Basingstoke Canal, when the winner had bagged up with skimmer bream from a bay below the Barley Mow pub. Looking at the map, it was further than my usual stomping ground around Woking, but only another fifteen minutes in the van, so why not give it a go.

With help from a local, I managed to find the car park, which was already full, but squeezed in on the end of a row next to the tow path and unloaded my gear. The canal was coloured and moving at a fair pace, similar to the Wey Navigation. I found the bay 200 yards downstream, where two other anglers were already fishing the upstream end, both with poles at 11 metres.  They were fishing pinkie and maggot, having their own private 10 til 3 match, putting a steady stream of small roach and perch in their nets. They were OK with me fishing below them and I set up about 30 yards away at the tail end of the bay, my bait being the bread punch, with a few small red worms for backup. The match winner had caught at 11 metres, but I intended to fish closer to start, so plumbed the depth and found the near shelf at 6 metres, the bottom remaining constant out to 9 metres at about a metre deep. Due to the flow, I’d selected a 6 x 10 shouldered float, heavier than my normal 4 x 10, bulked with two 10s down the line.

I introduced a small ball of liquidized bread just above my float on the 6 metre line and trotted through, the float diving away as a tiny roach took the 4 mm pellet of bread. A few more small roach and misses and it died. Another ball and more small roach. This was not a match, although looking upstream, by swinging the fish to hand, my catch rate was already outpacing the two above me. I put on another pole section and ran it through, a few slightly better roach.  Next move was to deepen up by 6 ins and hold over depth, easing it down the swim, then holding. Second trot the float slid away, but I  missed it. In again, following another ball, the float cruised under and 12 oz skimmer was taking out the elastic from the pole tip and running upstream. I put on a couple more lengths and waited until it was ready, before sliding it back across the surface to my net. The guy upstream called down and I held the fish up for him to see. Skimmer! The next few fish were better roach up to 2 oz, the over depth and steady feed of crumb working. I moved up to a 5 mm pellet and lifted into a 6 oz skimmer first cast, followed by a 4 oz roach and more small skimmers. The feed was going in every time the bites slowed, at a much higher rate than on a static canal, but the fish were consistently larger. I’d brought two bags of  liquidized bread from my freezer, about one and a half  loaves worth and it was going fast, but another large skimmer made me keep going. This fish brought the other two anglers down for a chat, as I was now building a decent weight and they were still getting mostly small stuff.

They’d never fished with bread punch and thought it was only good for small roach, when on cue I lifted into a pound plus skimmer. This ran out the elastic towards the middle and I followed it with a couple more lengths of pole, the fish settling down to a deep pulsating fight, before coming to the surface, ready to be pulled back to the net. I ushipped the pole at 7 metres and skimmed the fish to the net, show boating to my audience and paid the price, as the size 20 hook lost it’s hold. The rig pinged back into a knotted ball of slime. Oops. With that they returned to their pegs.

I unclipped the rig and fitted on one similar and chanced a run through at it’s shallower depth without replumbing and the float sank as though it was overshotted, but no, there was a good roach on the line, the net going out again for an eight ounce fish. To rest the 7 metre line, I tried fishing out to 9 metres, but snagged the bottom, due to shortage of bites and lost a hook. This gave me the chance to try a larger hook and went up to an 18, going back to the 7 metre line with a 5 mm punch and lifted immediately into another clonking roach. With three hours of fishing gone, the roach and skimmers were queuing up and my audience were back to watch me successfully net a bream of around a pound, the larger hook hanging on. They had now packed and weighed up, the one above me netting over 6 lb and his mate 8 lb, all on red pinkie and maggot. Their catch was a lot of small roach and perch with the odd bonus fish, plus small skimmers, but none over 4 oz. Although they had watched me catching close in, they didn’t try it. A few snow flakes were beginning to swirl around, so the guys left me to it and I decided on another half hour before packing up, but with ten minutes left, the float buried and stayed down for five minutes, as a large fish made a dash for it. It was too fast and hard a fighter to be a bream, making long runs, which I followed out to ten metres, putting on more lengths, before it began to get worn down, only making the odd roll under the surface, before I slipped the net under it, a monster roach! Thew. My best roach in years. I decided to weigh it there and then, 2 lb 7 oz, so taking off  7 oz for the net, a genuine 2 lb roach. Who said you can only catch small fish on the punch?

Knowing I might catch bigger fish, I’d left my small canal landing net and brought my larger river fishing net, this lot would not have fitted in it, the total being just over 12 lb in under four hours. This proves to me that the bread punch is the better bait on the Basingstoke Canal and OK you miss out on the perch, but with fish like this it’s not worth switching.