I spent a really enjoyable day fishing with erstwhile angling blogger and top bloke Russell Hilton on his local canal patch recently.
We had perch in mind. Russell’s had some really good perch from his local canal network and despite the prospect of a cold, bright day, enthusiasm was high as we met at dawn on a section that was alive with small fish topping under the pale pink skies.
Russell’s strategy involved building a swim by feeding liquidised bread and then waggler fishing bread punch or maggot over the top. Bites from roach, rudd, silver bream and perch came every cast. A bigger bait was then presented nearby in the hope a big perch may be attracted by the commotion.
I was content to reap the rewards of these carefully laid plans by simply sitting next to him!
We had a really good day with plenty of big, colourful perch, a pike each and all sorts of other fish on the waggler – including some serious rudd. Russell managed a special perch after a flurry of activity just after lunch. Frustratingly, the majority of big perch we hooked during this particular feeding spell came off. I had a decent one not too far from the net when the hook pinged out and Russel also lost a couple of good ‘uns… But of course it didn’t really matter a jot.
It was a pleasure simply sitting and chatting. From angling blogging to angling blaggers; from bureaucracy to bream via politics and perch – we discussed a range of subjects, interspersed with some lovely fish and regular enquiries from passers-by. Russell was even called into action to help a guy, who explained in broken English that he’d lost his bag by the water. He failed to grasp the notion that the police were unwilling to treat this as an emergency and come out immediately to root around for his bag!
A cracking day all-round. Hopefully we’ll find the time to do something similar again soon.
You could never claim Wales to be at the centre of the carp fishing universe. Yet its famous wild carp fisheries, Pant y Llyn and Llyngwyn offer a genuinely unique experience for those interested in the history of carp in the UK and some of Wales’ urban waterways – in Cardiff especially – but also Newport and Swansea, offer exceptional fishing with some big, beautiful and even unknown fish. Alan Blair’s brilliant Urban Banx series recently covered Cardiff Wharf and the film is well worth a watch.
I expect some of the huge, deep reservoirs hold carp and potentially some very big ones too. I think a serious, long-term campaign could reveal some genuine surprises – but that style of fishing just isn’t my thing.
There are many day ticket and club lakes, rivers and canals too – from busy, muddy holes in the ground stuffed full of pale, pellet-stuffed pasties to some genuine hidden gems – quiet, beautiful waters holding some lovely carp. And of course the most famous carp fishery of all time sits just on the border of England and Wales…
I’ve spent a couple of evening sessions over the last couple of weeks enjoying the last days of summer doing some surface fishing after work on my own favourite south Wales lake. It’s usually fairly quiet on weekday evenings and while even a twenty pound fish is a rare beast here, the variety of carp – from scaly mirrors to long, lean commons means it’s a place I love to fish. My requirements for carp fishing are simple – I want to be able to fish relatively autonomously, without endless rules and regulations, ideally stalking fish and preferably off the surface.
The carp here can be spooky – taking free offerings cautiously but ignoring the hookbait and disappearing completely with undue noise. One evening a guy started flicking the odd boilie into his swim a good way round from me, yet the two carp I’d got taking crusts confidently simply vanished.
The two highlights have been a beautiful long, dark and scaley linear mirror carp of 11-and-a-half pounds and a big mirror carp of over 16 pounds that took a crust literally under my feet and that I saw eye-to-eye before it took. The noise of that fish bolting as the hook was set was quite something!
I’m really enjoying this carp fishing lark and sooner rather than later I’ll make a real effort to track down a Welsh 20.
My local canal is an engaging place to fish. It’s overgrown, weedy, deep and gin clear with little boat traffic and it sits relatively off the beaten track – I’m sure it’s capable of producing a big roach or rudd.
With a decent number of prolific club and day ticket venues nearby it also receives little angling pressure. It suffered a major pollution a few years back and while it had reasonable carp and bream form prior to this, I think they are ghosts now.
However the silver fish population has recovered, to an extent. There are not large shoals of fish, but they are there in pockets. Fishing bread flake over small amounts of bread mash over a couple of short sessions last season I had a couple of dubious rudd – both around a pound in weight, some good roach of a similar size and a silver bream/rudd hybrid. Using maggots I added dace and a canal trout!
I was keen to try again and see if I could locate a decent rudd. With the numbers of roach, silver bream and all manner of hybrids, it may be that there are no genuine rudd in there, but I’m enjoying trying to find out. So, armed with some bread, a rod, net and camera I ventured out for a couple of hours in the morning, in the hope of making contact with canal gold.
The sleeping swans were alert to the bread mash feed, but fortunately after this unexpected alarm they wound their necks in and went back to sleep.
It didn’t take long for a positive bite and a silver bream was the first fish to find the bait. A fish of maybe eight ounces, it was the first genuine silver I’ve caught.
Soon after a nice roach getting on for a pound put in an appearance, before numbers of much smaller fish moved in and attacked the bread on the drop, giving unhittable bites. I persevered for half an hour, but it proved frustrating.
I moved round to a shady position and fed some more mash further out into the channel. It took a while, but eventually fish began topping and some of the ‘slaps’ were from much better fish – big rudd?
I managed to extract three more good roach – all taking the bread once it had sunk right down in around eight feet of water. It was nice to get the roach and I’ll certainly try for them in winter, but no sign of the rudd this time.
With a little extra water in the river and the first month of the river season generally seeing cloudy, blustery days – it’s been a great start on the Wye.
I’m really lucky to be able to head over to the river for a few hours after work as and when conditions dictate. I’ve made a couple of short and sweet trips to the river fishing for three or so hours each time, travelling light with the aim of tempting the odd chub or barbel.
I’ve no real desire to haul in barbel by the dozen, but it’s always nice to get a few fish in the quiet and beautiful surroundings of the Wye valley.
Interestingly, over the two trips I’ve had plenty of shoal size barbel fishing feeder and pellets into the fast water, but a trio of much better barbel and some stonking chub have come to big chunks of meat freelined into a deep slack, right under my feet.
With hot weather on the way and the holiday season about to start, it’ll soon be a lot busier on the river and I’ll probably leave it alone until the autumn. But there are lots of other angling adventures to be had…
Ah, June the… well, 20th. Surely the time to hit the Wye and bag up on barbel? No! Time to hit the M4 and the M25, in the relentless rain and travel to… Hemel Hempstead.
I was off to visit my mate Rob on his home patch. He has a wealth of water available locally and while the Grand Union Canal or the River Gade may not have quite the same pull to the travelling angler as the Wye, there really is some superb fishing available in and around this bustling Hertfordshire town.
Rob’s had all sorts from the Grand Union since he’s lived over here. Carp to just shy of 20lbs, 3lbs perch, big bream, numerous chub over 5lbs and even one over 6. Big fish for anywhere.
He had a few spots for us to try and a couple of wild cards up his sleeve. We started off on the canal, just as the rain subsided on the Monday. I was hoping to try for a carp at some stage and perhaps a chub on the river. We also wanted to have a go at the big bream shoals that patrol the canal.
It was pretty tough going though. We did get some nice roach on lobs and a few quick, violent bites –probably chub – that we failed to connect with.
A move to a renowned perch section saw us get a few decent stripeys, but it was fairly quiet for the most part. We snuck off at 7pm to catch watch England against Slovakia and by full time, wished we’d stayed out fishing! Still the beer was cold and the sun was shining…
The next morning we made an early(ish) start on the canal, but it was even slower than the previous day. The bright sun wasn’t helping and we moved onto the river. By mid-morning the cloud had moved over and we began to get a few bites. We soon had a bream each and plenty of good dace on the stick float. But it wasn’t easy and the fish would arrive in bursts before drifting off for periods of time. We all know early season river fishing can be very hit-and-miss and so we agreed, following a bit of lunch, to make a final move to another stretch of canal, via a quick stop on a much shallower, faster flowing stretch of the river Bulbourne.
And that’s when the day got interesting! Straight away we found some good chub on the river, cautious but clearly up for a lump of Spam rolled gently through the swim.
I tied on a size 8 and impaled a chunk of meat. And first run through, just as the Spam bumped past that most classic of chub features (an enormous tractor tyre) a good chub dashed out and literally grabbed the bait from under the nose of a smaller fish. I saw the bait in its mouth, waited that agonizing couple of seconds for the fish to turn, and… wallop!
I was buzzing after that. I’ve not stalked a chub in that way since the back end of the season before last. Raw, exciting fishing.
But the best was yet to come! A feral canal carp is something I’ve wanted to catch for a long time. I’ve been especially inspired by Jeff’s writing on his mission for a canal carp a couple of years ago, and Rob has done well fishing for them, ever since he landed his first from the canal the last time I was in town.
So, every moment relating to the capture of this canal mirror will long remain etched in the memory. My springy, unruly line; watching the carp – finally – slurp down the floating crust; the initial minute of absolutely brutal power; quietly helping the fish regain its energy; watching it swim away back into the deep, cool canal. I can’t really take much credit in catching the carp, as Rob had found them previously, but it was a memorable moment and fish. I just need to find my own, local one now…
We then sat down in another area to have a good go for some bream. And we had a few. And just as it was time for me to think about heading back, we found some more carp – warily sampling the odd bread crust.
I left Rob to it – I’d had my carp – and decided to scatter a few of my chips into a snaggy swim up from where Rob was. And it was a freelined chip, over a chippy groundbait, that produced not one, but two big bream, including the biggest of our trip by far. A great afternoon, in the end. Cheers mate.
May has been fairly hectic all-round, yet I’ve still managed to squeeze in a couple of short early morning trips on my local tench pool this month.
The first session right at the beginning of May was fantastic – a number of big, lumpy tench fell to simple float fishing tactics using three dead red over loose fed dead maggots.
The silkweed in this clear, deep venue is really thick and carpets the bottom, so the dead maggot approach works well as they don’t crawl away and they’re light enough to not sink into the weed too deeply – plus the tench love ‘em!
Unfortunately so do the great big eels that live here and the second session was tench free – despite the swim, at times, absolutely bubbling away – it was only a couple of big snakes that took the hookbait.
Still, in terms of enjoyment, I can’t think of many things to rival sitting in the early morning sun catching big and wild fish on the float from a lily fringed pool, all before the world wakes up.
We also went along to the latter stages of the annual Wye River Festival that takes place along much of the river through spring.
The 2016 festival programme saw all sorts of activities, performances and locations – including a sound installation at Redbrook and torchlight procession at Llandogo. It was good fun and you can’t help but embrace the distinctly pagan undertones running through much of the festival.
The overarching theme was: Celebrating of the outstanding landscape of the Wye and our complex and universal relationship with water – undoubtedly something all anglers can relate to!
These gentle activities were in complete contrast to my mate Joe’s stag-do over in Dusseldorf, also this month. A brilliant city and great people, we had a blast. A real highlight was heading over to Cologne to take in a third tier (3. Liga) match between SC Fortuna Koln and FC Erzgebirge Aue.
We’d timed it to perfection as Erzgebirge Aue needed a win to secure promotion, which they duly did. A full on pitch invasion took place on the final whistle which we all got involved in! Both sets of fans were great and it was a real party atmosphere. Good fun.