Pike a menace on the Basingstoke Canal

October 9, 2019 at 12:31 pm

With storms sweeping across the country from the Atlantic, bringing waves of thundery showers; raised river levels gave me few options this week and I opted for a first time visit to the Basingstoke Canal at Ash Vale. A damp start was forecast in the morning, giving way to sunshine around lunch time, before more heavy rain by 3 pm, enough time for a session on the bread punch.

This section of the canal is unknown to me, but I was hoping for roach and skimmer bream, walking along with my trolley to what looked like a feature swim, with a lily bed growing out from the garden opposite. The water was very clear and I could see fir like weed stretching across, dipping down into the boat road, which was 3 feet deep. A gusting breeze was ruffling the surface from right to left and I set up a rig with a 4 x 14 antenna float to cope with the drift, a size 18 barbless ready for a 5 mm pellet of bread.

A small ball of liquidised bread at the edge of the drop off and another a metre out further into the boat road was my starter feed, being pleased to see the float dip, then sink slowly as a roach took the bait.

Back in, the float sank again, this time the elastic coming out of the pole tip and I could see a good sized roach flashing beneath the surface, getting the landing net ready as I passed the pole behind me. Whoosh! The surface erupted as a pike grabbed the roach, which cartwheeled free, when I pulled it away from a pike. That was a nice roach. I hoped that it had managed to escape.

The close in swim was now dead, the pike still hanging around waiting for an easy meal. Adding more lengths to the pole, I fed a couple of balls to the far side of the boat road, dropping the float in among the cloud of fine crumb. The antenna dipped and disappeared. Bracing myself, I lifted the pole into a tiny roach, that I skipped back across the surface to avoid the pike.

Back over again, a steady bite and resistance as a better roach fought its ground, again trying to keep it on the surface over the danger area. Another swirl and I lifted the fish clear, leaving it bouncing on the elastic.

My next roach was even better, pulling out the elastic as it darted left and right, getting ready to skim and lift it past the danger zone as I brought it closer. The roach knew the pike was going to make a lunge, throwing itself clear of the surface in panic, just in time.

I would have packed up and moved by now, but the roach were on that far side of the drop off and feeding, the pike more of a nuisance, than a threat. I tried another ball of feed over, taking a couple more roach, then I struck into a smaller fish, that was seized immediately. The pike had crossed the canal and was now heading off downstream stretching out the elastic. I fitted another length of pole and waited for the hook link to break, but the pike turned against the elastic, swimming past me down the middle with the roach across its jaws. Back and forward, then stopped, the pike was in the driving seat, I was just a passenger, the elastic not firm enough to take control. Breaking the pole down, I steered the pike toward the landing net, only for it to let go of the roach.

Badly damaged, the roach was still alive and swam away into the edge, when I released it. Fish can survive terrible pike injuries and have often caught roach with healed scar tissue. I put another ball over, then set about getting the elastic back inside the pole, it having stretched too far.

I had to wait for the next bite, this small roach coming over unchallenged.

The pike was back for the next roach, grabbing it half way across, stripping out elastic again. I pulled hard against the pike and it turned, swimming just below the surface with its tail and dorsal clear, obviously tired from the previous struggle. The line flew back. It had bitten through the hook link.

That was it, I had had enough. It was too early to go home, so I tipped my fish back, packed away my gear and loaded up the trolley, ready for a walk back in the other direction, settling down opposite another garden..

I needed to get out another rig and set up to fish on my side of the shelf again, dropping in a couple of balls to get things started, while I sorted myself out. The first few roach here were quite small, then the elastic came out as a deep bodied fish flashed beneath the surface. A skimmer? No, a rudd, that was quickly netted, just in case there was a pike here too.

Roach were in a taking mood and I began to make up for lost time, the float sinking on each cast.

They were not big, but after the tension of earlier, it was good to unwind with a few fish. Even a small perch took the punch.

The wind had now increased making bite detection difficult, until the float held under long enough to strike. This also meant that I stayed down my side of the canal, controlling the pole at 9 metres would require strong arms.


I missed several bites, probably from tiny fish, that dived away with the float, but at least there was plenty of action to keep me interested.

This was the best roach from my second swim. It was a relief to take my time netting this one, without the fear of another pike attack. Apart from the pike, regular canoeists paddling up and down, a dozen swans and signets, joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and even about twenty ramblers, all of which had interrupted my fishing, requiring the pole to be clear of the water, or the towpath, I had kept the fish coming to the punch.

The clouds had been gathering since lunch time and the swans were now diving for the bread on the bottom,  it was finally time to call it quits.

This little collection had taken 90 minutes to put together on the second attempt, I was disappointed not to have found a few skimmer bream to go with them, as they populate the canal throughout its length, but with over 30 miles of the Basingstoke Canal to try, better luck next time.

My timing was perfect, with the van loaded for the return journey, spots of rain were already falling and the roads were soon awash.