Canal Frustrations

I’ve been concentrating on all three of my local canals over the last few weeks. They’re all different venues, not only in name but their sizes, depth and characters. They range from tiny, shallow and intimate to large, deep, exposed and tough. A range of species, many to specimen size, reside in them all, meaning there’s always something to target. Unfortunately, the heavy rains and flooded rivers even started to effect these canals.

I wanted to fish for big perch, but heavy colour in my chosen venue, caused by the River Don flooding, meant I tried to catch a big chub from a different canal. The pegs I headed for are steeped in canal chub history. In the glory match days of the late 80s and through the 90s, when this ‘cut’ always had big matches every week, these were the pegs to draw for the chub. Once the matches stopped and the canal was almost abandoned, the chub grew on, and some were claimed to top the 7lb mark. I’ve only occasionally fished here in the last few years, catching some nice chub averaging just under 5lbs, but I was stunned to see what had happened while I’ve been away. I know we’re well behind weather wise this year, but I think the pictures will do the talking.

This is what I was greeted with, but below is what these pegs should look like

As you can see, some real butchery had ruined the chub hot spot. Even worse, all the willow branches had been dumped on the canal bed, meaning it is now an absolute snag fest. It doesn’t really affect the boats, as the canal is about 10ft deep here in the middle, but it certainly buggers light line fishing for chub up!

I still had a go, using a cage feeder, liquidised bread and flake on the hook. I used 4lb line straight through, I daren’t go any lighter. The first bite was a drop back, but by the time I made contact with the chub it was in a snag under my feet! As soon as it felt the hook, before I’d struck, it had motored 15 yards towards me into that snag! I knew then how tough this session would be. After 3 chub had broken my hook links in various underwater branches, I managed to net the fourth, a small sample that would have been between 3-4 lbs. It wasn’t exactly enjoyable stood up cranking it in as hard as I could. I decided to try and brave the murky canal for big perch instead.

The perch venue had cleared slightly, though visibility was just a couple of feet. Normally it’s crystal clear, but I still hoped some big perch would find my juicy lobworms. I had plenty of them with me, and Martin came along too, though he was going to float fish on bread for the bream, roach and chub.

I fished around 70 yards away from Martin, not that I was being unsociable. I just knew that the area Martin was in had produced very few big perch over the winter, so I tried a less popular area.

The bream certainly liked Martins bread as he started putting together a fine net from a canal. I’m really surprised more anglers don’t fish these neglected waterways instead of fishing in muddy ponds. 50lb nets of bream, roach and chub are easily caught, and that’s in just a few hours. I also caught some bream on my worms, link legered at the base of the near shelf. I then hooked a fish that fought a bit harder. I saw it was a perch and it looked a big one too, but I quickly landed it without too many alarms. Despite its impressive girth, it didn’t have the length to threaten the 4lb barrier and weighed 3lbs 9oz. A cracking result in such murky water.

Just before darkness fell, Martin came to take a few photos, we then went back to his peg. He’d caught plenty of slabs, so many he struggled to lift the net! A good day had been had by us both, but our timing was good because the next day the canal flooded badly after yet more heavy rains. It was like fishing the river Trent according to some anglers, yet a few days later it was like a ditch as some bright spark had failed to close a lock gate while they ran loads of water into the River Don! No wonder the fishing was so different on what would be my last day after perch.

I caught dozens of perch, but nothing was over 12oz. I also caught the first roach of spring, and lost another roach around 12oz, signalling time to change the target species as the roach become very dominant. Multiply the photo below by 20 and you have an idea of my catch. It can be quite expensive feeding all those tiny perch expensive lobworms!

I moved canals again, targeting quality roach. Even this canal, well away from rivers, was heavily coloured. Over a couple of early morning sessions, float fishing and feeder fishing bread, I managed some nice roach. Not the big pound plus fish Martin and I had last year, but some nice quality redfins. Of course, the bream are everywhere these days, so numbers of slabs were also netted.

I noticed a lot of the roach had marks on them, possibly from goosanders or cormorants.

On my second trip, one roach had a nasty slash from a cormorant, but it had lived to tell the tale! At least I think this is almost certainly the work of a cormorant!

This canal is very urban, but maybe the cormorants visited while the rivers were raging through and most stillwaters had an ice lid on them. I certainly hope it’s not a regular thing, as the roach are real stunners in this tiny canal. They will also be my local targets for the next few weeks, along with some canal bream and tench……….and then it’s time to try and catch some really big tench from some gravel pits. Roll on summer!