Roving the Cut
Perhaps the best way to start fishing any canal for pike is to travel light and explore as much water as possible. Techniques are a matter of personal preference to a large extent, or at least a secondary concern to the business of location. Besides obvious places of shelter, such as sinister snags, bends and boatyards, pike will rarely be far from areas where concentrations of prey exist. In fact, the all-rounder who knows the whereabouts of roach and bream shoals on the canal is one step ahead in this regard.
In the autumn, when pike fishing begins properly, the fish can be quite evenly spread. But as temperatures cool, just as the roach shoals begin to group, the same is often true of the pike.
Selby Canal Fishing Photo Gallery
It is also fair to say that pike can travel fair distances on canals. It is not unheard of for a large fish to be caught twice in a season at locations a mile or more apart. The availability of food and angling pressure both have a bearing on this, and because of their popularity with casual anglers and poachers, easy access points rarely offer the best pike sport.
I routinely walk long distances in my own fishing and especially favour awkward or overgrown areas, since it’s a safe bet that most other anglers will give these a miss.
Timing and conditions can also be crucial to success. Feeding spells can be short, but if I had to pick just one hour to fish for pike, it would be the first sixty minutes of daylight. Pike tend to be more active when light levels are low; their prey have less chance to see them coming at these times and the pike can capitalise on their superior eyesight. This seems especially true on clear shallow canals, where pike can prove fussy on calm sunny days.
Looking back over some twenty years of canal piking, however, I am reluctant to draw hard and fast rules about conditions. Yes, there are general rules we can observe: early and late are good times; overcast days and spells of settled weather are preferable to those periods where the temperature yo-yos up and down. There is always a chance with pike however, and with the exception of days when a thick sheet of ice covers the canal, bites are always possible. I remember catching a fine double figure pike in the middle of a sunny, calm Sunday afternoon, for example, in
complete defiance of textblog logic.
If you must use more than one rod, it’s best to have one on a bite alarm to avoid missing runs and harming the pike.
Perhaps this is what makes the pike such a fascinating quarry. They are wild and unpredictable, and their moods can range from comatose to kamikaze in the span of a few hours.
On some days the only highlight will be the hot bath when you get home; on other occasions, when you find the pike active and hunting you might experience some truly unforgettable sport.
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