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!