21 February 2013

Breaking the ice

The Leam is a tough river to fish at the best of times, and we certainly haven't seen those for a while. After two successive blanks in less than ideal circumstances (river still rising or in full flood) I realised that Sunday's reasonable weather forecast wouldn't change much - the river was still too high.

So I responded with a different plan, and headed back for the first time since late summer to my local stretch of the Grand Union Canal at Bascote.

Now, I normally fish the canal as I would any 'still' water - a delicate waggler set up or my lightest bomb rod. Today I thought I'd ring the changes with a pole attack, in part because it would give me plenty to think about after weeks of fishing the Leam on what has basically been one tactic. 

The first challenge would be my own lack of skill, if only because I do so little pole fishing. Second, the pole I own, while nice enough, is an 11m carp pole designed first and foremost for hauling big fish out of the margins. While one top set rigged with a 5 elastic is just about up to the job of roach fishing, it's still a bit of a beast. 

Third, I had no idea how 11m of pole could realistically be managed on a narrow towpath with cyclists bombing along behind me. And fourth...

Well, fourth caught me totally off guard. Fourth was the thin layer of ice which had settled on the water overnight. Resisting the temptation to give up and head straight off to the Long Itch diner for breakfast, I noticed that the water beneath the bridges was clear of ice, so loaded up for the short walk to a swim at the next bridge.

The fact that it was ice free was pretty much all that swim had going for it; on a perishing cold morning, the last place I wanted to be was in the shade and looking straight into an icy south-easterly wind. Still, nil desperandum. A couple of tiny nuggets of squatt-laced groundbait went in (a new 'recipe' for me), a pinkie on size 22 hook lowered over it (another first) and... well bugger me, it went under. A 4oz roach came reasonably easily to the net, another came quickly after, a 'blade' followed 10 minutes after that and then... well, then it died. 

I tried everything I knew to get something going, which admittedly didn't take that long. But while nothing worked, all was not lost. Shipping the pole in and out gave me much needed practice, and I gradually developed a nice routine which saw the poles shipped neatly to one side when not in use - an invaluable towpath skill for anyone keen to avoid bike-flattened pole sections. 

So the morning passed pleasantly enough, with plenty of birdsong, the odd bit of local knowledge gleaned from passing dog walkers and, finally, the rising sun melting enough ice to allow me to shuffle into the sun for an hour. 

And then, after a blank couple of hours, the finale. Switching for the last time back from punch to pinkie, I lowered the float into position. It didn't so much dive as slide away, a slow bite which screamed 'bream'. The strike hit something solid, the pole elastic finally had cause to emerge from hiding and then the hook pulled. Bugger.

An interesting morning in all, and one on which I'm still reflecting. I'm not too worried about the lost fish or the hard going - I know the canal is full of 2-3lb bream, and 'slow' is hardly surprising on a session which included the novelty of breaking ice to get the keepnet it. What is really causing me thought is how I feel about pole fishing. 

I can certainly see the appeal and advantage in theory, and indeed I've derived a lot of pleasure over the last year from pole fishing for carp with little floats right up against margin reeds. But so far the appeal of longer pole fishing, and of pole fishing for smaller fish, has largely eluded me. I suspect it's something I'll keep coming back to every now and again, but I'll be surprised if it ever becomes a favourite approach.

1 comment:

George Burton said...

Interesting thoughts on the pole Mr Toad

It's certainly true that all that shipping back for blades is only for the dedicated match angler, but it is equally true that there is no more accurate way of fishing a canal, and it does add a touch of variety to one's exploits of course

It's well worth sticking with, but I must confess that I always found the prospect of bringing less hard-fighting bigger fish to the net far more tricky than anything else. It certainly needs some perseverance to master especially when balancing all that against elastic choice but it will be worth it. Next time you'll have that bream I'm sure!