Last Saturday was the first round of the Basingstoke Canal Winter League, I always look forward to fishing this league, its well run matches and the fishing is good, last years series I caught between 5 and 11lb in every match, this years league bloodworm and joker is banned which is a bit of a shame as I enjoy fishing with it and you always get a days fishing, even in the worst of the weather.
The draw for the match was at Gold Valley clubhouse and we were fishing from the Hare and Hounds back towards Fleet, I drew peg 13 which was past the Hare and Hounds and on the way to my peg I stepped in some dog p**h and then got a boot full of water while setting up my box before the match, not that I am superstitious about unlucky 13 or anything.
I have never seen this stretch of the 'Bazzy' before and I havent fished the canal since march last year, so I was surprised to see the canal about 10" below normal level, the roots of trees were showing on the far bank and it was running and the water was coloured, normally the level would be up and the canal would be stood still and gin clear, so I didnt know what to expect, the locals all said it would fish well and we were very lucky with the weather it was extremely mild, very little wind and overcast, not normal for January.
My next surprise was when I plumbed up, at 10m I hardly had 2ft of water and that was 3m from the far bank, at 5m I had 3.5ft of water, my fishing was going to be limited to a band of water 4m wide down the middle of the canal, I hoped that there wasn't going to be any boat traffic as they would be going straight over the top of my bait. When I was setting up I never saw a fish top and was beginning to get doubts about how this stretch was going to fish, it was easily the shallowest stretch I have ever fished.
At the start of the match I fed 3 lines, liquidised bread at 5m, chopped worm at 10m downstream in the middle of the canal and groundbait and squatt at 10m slightly downstream in 2.5ft of water. I started fishing the 5m line with a 4mm punch and started catching small roach straight away, these roach were only small with the odd better one and they came in erratic spells, not a steady rhythm that you need to build a good weight, 5lb was look like being a good weight, after 45 minutes my fish had slowed up a lot and I could see anglers around me looking around to see who was catching, my peg was not the only one that was slowing up.
John Weedon to my right was really struggling to catch roach on the punch so he picked up his lobworm rig and first drop in he caught a pike of about 4lb, he was not happy as pike dont count, but in the next 15 minutes he caught 3 perch for 4lb on the lobworm and he had gone into an early lead in my section. I kept putting small roach in the net, but after seeing the size of his perch I had to give the lobworm a try, first drop in and my float buried, yeeah I thought as I struck and a 1oz perch came flying through the air, the next 3 drops had a similar result, so I went back to putting small roach in the net.
After about 2 hours my 5m bread line had all but dried up and I went across on the groundbait and squatt line, first drop in my float buried and I caught a 5oz skimmer, in the next 3 drops I caught 3 more and things were looking better. I then caught similar size skimmers until the end of the match by just topping up with the odd ball of Sensas Noire with some squatts in it. By the end of the match I had caught approx 40 skimmers on double squatt, about 3lb on the bread punch and approx a pound on the chop worm. When the scales arrived I needed 3 weighs, as they were proper canal scales, they only went up to 8lb, and I weighed in 19lb 9oz, one of the best days fishing I have ever had on a canal, and I won the match, we were top team on the day as well.
So maybe 13 is a lucky number for me.
Sunday it was back to Gold Valley for the first round of the Rushmoor League, the mild weather meant the carp fed and there was 5 weights over 100lb, I caught 9 carp and 3 bream on a big waggler for 60lb, a lovely days fishing. Lets hope the weather stays mild for as long as possible, the fishing is great and its a joy to be out on the bank.