Fishing through the ice

January 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

With the snow washed away overnight, we were dismayed to see snow covered ice still blanketing the Basingstoke canal on Sunday, when we arrived for another round of our club’s canal championship. With a clear area located, pegs were positioned and the draw taken, while the heavens opened, lashing us with ice cold rain and sleet. I’d left a warm bed with the promise of a dry day from the BBC forecaster and the thought of watching a float go under, so far I was not the most optimistic angler present.

I got to my peg to find myself next to my main rival to my left, who now had the championship in the bag, with a string of consistent top placings, often ahead of me by one point each time. I could do with a win just to give my ego a boost. By the time the whistle blew for the start, the clouds had parted, but a gusting wind took it’s place, ruffling the canal with mini whirlwinds. With only punched bread as bait, I had no other options and after five minutes without a bite, my float bobbed and sank away as a 4oz roach took the bread pellet. Doubts now dispelled, I set about the business of catching fish, some very small, but weight to beat my rival. His net came out to land a roach twice the size of my biggest, but now I was playing a 1lb skimmer bream, this would put me well ahead. To my left, drifting towards me, was a raft of weed and twigs that was attracting the fighting fish like a magnet, extending the pole elastic as it made it’s escape bid, the tiny hook pulling free from it’s lip, as I tried to steer it away. Fifteen minutes in and I had just lost a potentially match winning fish. I threw in another ball of crumb and fished over it, lifting into a smaller skimmer, making sure to avoid the weed raft on it’s way to the landing net.

I netted another decent skimmer, only to look up to see an even bigger bream slide into my rival’s net. My next ball of liquidized bread produced a swirl, as a pike flashed through the shoal of feeding roach, small fish leaping clear of the water, desperate to escape. Soon after my line went solid, when the pike grabbed a roach, the 2lb jack allowing me to pull it slowly towards the surface without a fight, before turning and swimming away with it’s prize and my hook. This gave me some respite, but twenty minutes later he was back, snatching at roach as I brought them across the surface. A vicious take ripping away another of my roach. Another hook gone. I introduced another three balls in different parts of my swim, seeing the surface boil as the pike went in for the kill. I got up and walked down to the angler on my right for a chat, finding that he also had pike trouble from a much larger fish, the good news being that no bream had been taken from that end. I returned to my peg to see yet another bream slide across the surface into my rival’s net. From now on it was damage limitation from my point of  view, just fishing the near shelf from now on and introducing enough feed to keep them interested. The bigger fish were down the middle, but I kept busy snatching from the margin, rather than lose more tackle to the pike. I the final whistle took me by surprise and I began packing away my gear, while I waited for the scalesman. I was top weight so far with exactly 4lb of roach and skimmer bream, with just my rival to weigh in, it could be close. When he pulled his fish from the water, I could see that he had two bream bigger than my largest and 5lb 10oz on the scales meant that he had beaten me again.

This 4lb net of silver fish proves that on a very cold day, for the price of a loaf of bread, a good day’s fishing can be enjoyed with the simplest of tackle. I also tried for the pike later with a plug, but no takers. Like Arnie I’ll be back, this time armed with some dead baits.