Crankbaits on the canal

My pike fly fishing is currently on hold as the river looks like a churning chocolate milk shake at the moment, so I’ve been using the lure rod to run some crankbaits through the canal. I have tried using the flies on the canal, but there is far too much cover on the towpath side to get a good cast in, so I’m back on the lures for the foreseeable.

I have been using a little Fox crankbait (don’t know the type, and can’t look it up as you’ll see below) for my last few trips to the canal, and had a lot of trust in it as a fish catcher. My preferred method at this time of year is to walk along the towpath ‘trolling’ the crankbait along the near shelf, stopping at any likely looking spots to spend a few minutes casting around. I’ve noticed that most of my takes actually come from the ‘trolling’ part, and this is quite an exciting way of finding the bits of canal where the fish are likely to be holding. Today worked out well as I had a 2-pounder within about 200 yards of starting – promising!

After a fishless half an hour I was about a mile along from where I’d parked the car and had a pike follow the lure along before swirling off and heading across to the far bank. I stopped and had a few casts, with the pike following in again on the third before spooking back across again. A slightly overeager cast to cover it saw the bait hit a far bank hawthorn and I could tell by the way it hit that it was lost. After pulling for a break I decided to try a big spinner to try and raise a take, but a quick rifle through the tackle bag showed I was out of traces so I had a very despondent walk back to the car.

I still had about an hour of light left so I popped into Willards at New Bradwell to grab some more traces, and stumbled across this interesting little chap on the shelf:

Rapala floating magnum in firetiger
Rapala floating magnum in firetiger

Back on the canal I was astounded by the action of this lure! It has a really enticing wobble and some lovely little actions when you twitch and jerk it on the return. I was worried it might run a little deep for the average 4-5 feet of the canal, but it is easily controllable with the rod tip and great fun to use. I walked along about half a mile playing with it at close range so I could see it in action, and was rewarded with a lunge from a pike right under the near bank. It missed so I tried running it along again and it hit 4 times in all before I hooked up and got number two on the bank. This is really unusual as I find any pike that hits a hard bait once tends to be too wary to come in again – there must be something about this pattern that really triggers a response. Very thankful that I had flattened the barbs as they slid out easily and I returned this one – about 4 pounds this time – to the cut.

Losing the light I went to my favourite spot on this stretch – between three fallen trees – to try and get a last one out as the light went. I’ve noticed that the pike have a real golden spot of about 20-30 minutes at dusk at this time of year, but today didn’t bring anything more so I headed back to the car. On the way I spotted a gap in the boats where a barge had just left so I decided to have a few last casts before I actually called it a day. I dropped the lure against the reeds on the far side and within about 5 turns of the reel the lure stopped and I lifted into what felt like the bottom. ‘The bottom’ then charged off down the canal, taking line from a fairly tight drag on my 20lb braid. After a few heart-stopping lunges I caught sight of it and knew that it was a PB by at least double my previous best. It scrapped like crazy before coming to the net, only just squeezing in but brought safely up on to the soft, wet grass. I rapidly got the hooks out – the large hooks on this lure make it very easy to get out thankfully – and decided to get it back in the water rather than try and take a photo. With a smile a mile wide I gently lowered her back in and was very pleased to see her swim strongly back. I don’t tend to carry scales but pessimistically reckon it felt a good 12-15 pounds (with the optimist in me thinking it was probably a shade more than that). Very safely my first double anyway!

Three pike in an afternoon is better than I’ve done for ages, so I’m very happy with the new approach and the fact that crankbaits are seeming to be golden at the moment. Only down side is that I need a new landing net now as mine is buckled!

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