Artful Angler

Rob Kavanagh's fishing blog

ROB KAVANAGH

The inside line on fishing

Stroudwater Canal, Wheatenhurst

Friday 3rd December 2010


Fortunately this part of Gloucestershire has got off very lightly as regards the winter many parts of the country have been enduring, although there has been some very heavy frosts with the air temperature rarely getting above -5 recently. My thoughts turned to spinning on the canal as a good way to keep warm whilst covering plenty of water, but I ruled it out Wednesday and Thursday because a stiff wind was blowing hard. The way it cuts across the fields behind the canal embankment can be murderous and it was cold enough as it was without the harsh bite of any added wind-chill.

Friday it was then, and I was greeted by a clear sunny morning that had me basking in the thin warmth as I rummaged in the shed for the day's gear. Tooling up with a mixture of shads, plugs and an assortment of spinners and spoons I set up a nine foot spinning rod, the reel spooled with 11lb line and a wire trace at the business end. Although what I really fancied catching was a nice big perch, I tackled up heavy in case one of the many pike fancied a go.Thoughts of chub on the nearby river had me taking along an avon rod too and some bread and cheesepaste as an alternative if I had no joy on the perch/pike front, intending to spend an hour or so trying up and down the canal before settling in to some chub fishing later on and into dark.

With all that messing about in the shed it was gone midday by the time I crunched my way to the waterside. The canal was looking very clear with a slight flow, and dense stands of ribbonweed were readily visible only having died a few feet from the surface, but more importantly, so were the channels between them that a lure could be effectively worked. Starting with a big silver spinner tagged with red feathers I hoped the pulsing blade would trigger a response from a fish in the cold deep water, giving each spot a couple of casts and working the casts in a fan shape from margin to margin, varying the retrieve and twitching the tip as I did so.

Nothing was forthcoming in the first half hour as I worked my way along the bank until I got to the bend where the water shallowed to six feet, having swapped the spinner for one of my favourite spoons. Out of the shade of the trees the sun was lighting up the water and was very pleasant to have it on my back in the freezing air. After a couple of casts to the right-hand margin I saw a green flash zoom past the fluttering spoon . Suspecting an interested jack I had another cast to the same spot and watched a small pike take up the chase before braking to an abrupt halt on the marginal shelf under my feet. With only two foot of water over it's back it was like looking into an aquarium with all the fish's markings showing bright and clear. My spoon was dangling off the rod tip just a few inches from it's toothy face as it studied this plaything, the slightest twitch perking an immediate but measured reaction. It reminded me of a terrier in eager anticipation of a thrown ball but I didn't have enough control this close in to work the spoon in a way that would elicit a positive attack.

Slowly I lifted the rod to swing the lure to hand, mindful of my dark shadow being cast on the water as I did so, hoping that the pike wouldn't spook. A short cast to the left enabled me to do a short, erratic retrieve that the little pike slowly sculled around to watch, fins pricking up, waiting until it was just past before turning explosively, sending up a billow of silt and hitting the spoon with a powerful burst of acceleration. A spirited scrap ensued under the rod tip like a mad dog spinning on it's lead but the fish was quickly netted, estimated at about 4lb or so and returned.

Mission to catch-anything-at-all successful, I headed off to the river for a bit of chub fishing but without success. My fingertips were freezing as I touch-ledgered into dark but my discomfort was made up for in spotting an otter cruising along the surface as the light fell. Nothing else was about in the severe cold, not even the bats made an appearance to disrupt the calm of the still night air, and after an hour and a half of darkness I decided enough was enough. The coffee flask was long empty and rebellious thoughts of a steaming pot of tea soon had me converted and heading for the warmth of a snug kitchen.

Rob, 08/12/2010

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