Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Canals, some observations

Aside from my dalliances with the competition side of things I also managed to get in plenty of other trips during the latter weeks of 2015. As is now usual for me these days it was all lure orientated and involved walking many many miles of the midland canal network. I'm in it for bites these days, the fun aspect far outweighs the pursuit of specimens for me at the moment which is why I've been scouring as many stretches of canal as possible, searching out those elusive hotspots.


Until the last few months I never realised just how interesting and diverse canals are for angling opportunities. On the face of it they are much of a muchness, very samey, often quite bleak looking and it can be difficult to know where to start. I don't profess to be an expert myself but not a single session has passed where I haven't taken something at least from it and learnt something new.


So far for me, bridges have been far and away the most consistent spots in terms of fish attracting features. Most offer slightly deeper water in the margins which, on shallow canals, can make a huge difference. Small perch abound tight to the concrete and brick walls whilst the middle track beneath bridges often throws up some better quality fish. The width of the bridge can be a crucial factor too, the small brick built types often found on rural stretches are usually home to perch and maybe the odd small zander whereas the wider, darker concrete ones spanning main roads in towns for example are more reliable for better zander and bigger perch. Tunnels and railway bridges are zander hotspots and most rarely fail to produce an enquiry or two.


Locks and lock pounds, whilst very attractive to anglers, can be very hit and miss from what I've found, a prime example being flights of locks where you have several sets over a very short distance. Some pounds in these flights are invariably barren of fish life whilst the next pound along may be stuffed to the gunnels. This is mostly,I feel, down to inconsiderate or inexperienced boaters draining the pounds down to nothing by leaving sluices open or gates slightly ajar. As an example, There's a 13 lock flight just outside Northampton and after fishing it several times now I can confirm that at least nine of the pounds are pretty much devoid of fish, in fact last time out, 2 pounds were almost empty of water. I've seen similar things at Stockton and Hatton aswell in recent weeks so in 2016 I will be avoiding such areas like the plague!


Single locks with long stretches of canal either side can be good for a few bites but they are absolute magnets for other lure anglers and it's very easy to tell if somebody has been through prior to ones visit because the fish can be very cagey and hard to tempt. I find the fish often move away from them once the first boat of the day has been through too, often moving back in just before dark after the last boat.


Moored boats are always worth a cast or two with permanently moored ones worthy of extra attention for sure. Areas with reeds in the margins are generally quite silted up and shallow and have not been good areas for me so far so I tend to avoid unless I find at least 2ft+ of water next to them. Rural tree lined areas are also often very shallow beneath the trees and in these spots I find the middle track to be most productive . These swims are often quite snaggy too with loads of twigs and branches scattered around on the bottom.


Stretches with metal shuttering or concrete banks are usually deeper than natural banks and I spend a lot of time working the margins in such spots. Bends and junctions again are good areas to head for as the flow and the the boat traffic tend to scour the bottom out that little bit more. One thing I do look for on any canal is the deeper areas because in fish holding terms the difference between 2ft deep and 3ft deep can make a massive difference.


I find it amazing how long, straight and boring looking stretches seemingly hold next to nothing as you work along them then suddenly you'll hit the jackpot and catch several from a particular spot even though it looks no different from the rest of the area. A return to the same swim the following week often turns up nothing as the fish have obviously moved on.



As I've often mentioned in previous posts, the colour of the water has always been a major thing for me as I've really struggled to get my head around how the fish can find the lure in heavily coloured conditions. Thankfully my recent trips to the grand union in particular are really helping my confidence on this front and I've found that by spending more time in each spot and slowing things down bites will come. Don't ask me how they locate the lure but they certainly manage somehow and the takes can often be really violent.


To the uninitiated, canals with their muddy water, rubbish, boats, dog muck, chavs and cyclists may seem a nightmare place to wet a line. To the enlightened however they offer some very interesting sport and you never quite know what your going to catch next. For me, I have a long long way to go before I truly understand such venues and how to get the most from them but it will be an enjoyable journey that's for sure!
















Saturday, 2 January 2016

Match time!

Seeing as it's been a while since my last post and we are now into 2016 I think I need to start bringing this blog up to date a little!

Carrying on from where my last entry left off, my next trip out after grafham was the Lure Anglers Canal Club pairs match in Warwick. This was to be my first ever canal match and it was on a stretch I'd only fished once before so I was somewhat nervous as I entered the carpark and saw all the other competitors getting their kit sorted. There was 28 pairs fishing but I soon spotted a couple of familiar faces including my partner in crime Carl so It wasn't long before I managed to settle into game mode.

Carl and I drew number 17 out of the bag which meant seeing as Teams were to be set off at 10 second intervals we would be 17th in the que. Not a great start as it meant there was 16 teams in front of us to get to the hotspots first!


The teams set forth.......


Our plan was to try and slot in somewhere around the hire boatyard as this was a known hotspot and hopefully snag a couple of fish before moving on. By the time we got there two teams were already in residence and there was at least three further along the moored boats nearby. We managed to squeeze in further along but it was a less than explosive start for us as we both struggled to get a bite. Teams either side of us had landed fish but more teams were incoming along the canal too so we moved on slightly further to some fresh water.

Carl having a stare down with a cat


Within minutes Carl had a decent 30cm+ perch and we were off the mark! Buoyed by the success we fished on through the area but no more bites were forthcoming, damn this was tough! I spotted another competitor catch one and a real sense of pressure began to set in. We walked further along to a spot near a bridge which two other anglers had just vacated. Second cast I felt a very slight tap which seemed fishy and this was confirmed on my next cast when I landed my first of the match, another half decent perch.


Every little helps!


By this point we realised that we needed to find fresh unfished water as we felt a lot of the fish were being spooked by the sheer amount of rubber being thrown past them. Fortunately by now there was only a couple of teams in front of us and, knowing there was at least three bridges beyond them we resolved to get to them first as bridges are like fish magnets on every canal we've ever fished so hopefully we'd get a chance or two.

We soon overtook the last team and ten minutes of walking later everybody else was out of sight. Unfortunately the first bridge wasn't what we'd hoped for and was fairly small but high, not offering much cover for any lurking predators. Neither of us had a bite there so off we went to the next which looked way more appealing. It was quite a long bridge and pretty dark under there, perfect!

We setup either side of it and fished intensively. Half a dozen casts in I had a couple of taps which I missed before getting a proper thump on my next cast. The rod hooped over and I knew I'd hooked the zander we so badly needed. A decent looking fish flashed just below the surface just before disaster struck and the hook pulled! Talk about gutted, what a time to lose one! Minutes later however Carl landed the biggest perch so far which softened the blow a little! We fished on for no more bites and another team overtook us so off we went again.

Fortunately the other team got waylaid by some moored boats and we headed on to the next bridge which turned out to be a monster with a main road going over it and pigeons roosting beneath it right in the town center.

I went straight in with my heavier setup in case the zander were about. A sharp tug on my third cast told me they were and a couple of casts later I struck into and landed our first zed of the match, what a relief that was I tell you!


Never before has a small zander meant so much!


Carl too had a couple of pulls before netting another decent Perch, things were looking up! We gave it another 20 mins or so before deciding to head back. We had to be back at the start point by 3pm otherwise we would be disqualified so time management was paramount. We were at least 45mins away so we only had chance to put some time into probably another two spots at most.

Passing a few other teams on the way back it became apparent that most were struggling, either that or they were playing their best poker faces! We stopped at a viaduct which seemed to be twice as deep as the area around it so it had to be worth a look. After around 20mins I recieved a tiny tiny tap which was barely noticeable but instinct told me to strike and I soon had another chunky perch on the mat.


It's girth was bigger than it length!


We dropped in a couple of other spots with no more fish to show for it and soon enough the finish was in sight. A couple of other teams had reported catching a few but we were pleased with what we'd caught as we had fished hard and fished well.

Our five perch and solitary zander totalled 239cm with species bonuses added and we were hoping to scrape into a top ten finish. Considering the quality of the anglers in some of the other teams and the fact we were unfamiliar with the stretch compared to some of these guys we were over the moon when our meagre catch put us in 6th place overall. As you can see, 1st place aside, it was pretty tight at the top so we didn't do too badly at all for our first match.




A couple of weeks later It was time for our inaugural Facebook group lure match entitled " Annual Novelty Altogether Length championship" or A.N.A.L championship 2015 as it was so called! Ten of us descended upon a stretch of the grand union near Milton Keynes to thrash it out to see who was the best lure angler amongst our number (or something like that). Obviously it wasn't taken too seriously and much banter ensued, the fishing itself wasn't great but we all caught a few . In the event Jamie (potto) absolutely smashed the competition with over 4m of fish, I came second with 2.3m narrowly beating Carls 2.2m, my 10cm micro zed making all the difference :-)

As with all of our group jollies to date it proved to be a great day out and a proper laugh, hopefully we can sort out plenty more for 2016! Here's some pics from the day........


Phil started off seriously.....
As did Carl.......
Mike no so but Baz did for a little while at least!
Mike trying Nate for size
Even at lunchtime Potto was on it!
Perch w**kers!
The only snag on the stretch!
A popular swim for sure!
They came in all sizes
Yeah cheers Nate :-)
My score card, nice name change on there (mike)
In the end there could only be one winner, well done Potto!