Keeping it local – Highway to Hemel

My mate Rob relocated to the ‘new’ town of Hemel Hempstead a little while ago. After he travelled over to stay with me last year, spending an action packed couple of days on the Wye, this time I headed over to Hemel to sample some of the good variety of local fishing he now has on his doorstep.

I really enjoy our fishing trips together as the emphasis is on enjoying a bit of a social, exploring new venues and trying a few different methods in search of whatever comes along . Pure pleasure fishing.

We started on a stretch of the Grand Union canal close to Rob’s home. He’s found a few nomadic carp that he’s been targeting – without success thus far – and as we arrived in the hot afternoon sun, they were moving around enjoying the warm weather, but they were wary too and clearly used to being fished for.

A pair of canal carp - the one on the right was a big fish!
A pair of canal carp – the one on the right was a big fish!

I’m a complete canal fishing novice. The last time I fished a proper canal was the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation sometime in the mid 90’s – time spent basically trying to stay alive on a freezing December day that produced a total of two micro roach.

The Grand Union felt a lot different. The surroundings were pleasant and the weather warm. And there were clearly a few fish around.

I began feeding a few pellets by an overhanging tree and delayed setting up in an effort to encourage carp into the swim and feed. Rob went off to see if he could persuade one to take a floating crust.

It was a hot day, but the wind was swirling and it felt like change was in the air. The carp were certainly responding to the weather, charging around and generally making a show of themselves. I was confident they’d get their heads down. Indeed, it wasn’t long until clouds of silt were wafting up intermittently from my pre baited swim and I couldn’t resist getting a bait out. I started with a small chunk of spam, freelined, with just a couple of large shot a few feet up the line to keep it pinned down.

My classic canal swim
My classic, suburban canal swim

Rob, meanwhile, had found a trio of nice carp a little down from where I was. It just felt like something was going to happen…

And it soon did. Rob called to say he’d got one! A lovely, lean golden common carp of 10lbs. It was a smashing fish and I was chuffed he’d achieved his target and was there to share it with him.

Rob's canal common carp
Rob’s canal common carp

It was also the point when the carp simply vanished. We never saw a trace of those carp again for the rest of our time on the canal, it was amazing. They went from being quite visible, moving around in small groups to melting away completely.

I returned to my swim, which by now was really being stirred up. At the time I thought it was carp and upon flicking the bait out again I was expecting a savage bite any minute. But instead a series of finicky pulls and plucks suggested it wasn’t a group of carp in my swim.

I sat it out for a while and Rob went off stalking again, all to no avail. I decided to set up Rob’s new pole, feeding hemp and caster into the same swim I’d been carp fishing in. It was great fun and despite the fact I’d not used a proper pole in ages, I soon got into the swing of things. We ended up taking it in turns and soon put together a nice bag of mainly perch, the odd roach and one nice bream – great fun.

Rob 'shipping out'
Rob ‘shipping out’

Our plan was to head over to a stretch of the upper Lea in the evening and after a fish and chip supper, we headed over to the river.

The river was very low and clear and I thought things may be tricky. But fishing the last couple of hours of the day into darkness is usually productive on the Lea, and I fancied one of us would get a chance of a chub or barbel.

But we didn’t. In hindsight I think a roving approach would have been worth a try but instead a static bait and wait approach yielded only the dreaded crays for both of us.

The Lea was looking the part, if a little low and clear, but nothing turned up
The Lea was looking the part, if a little low and clear, but nothing turned up


Our plan for the second day was to head over to a quiet, mature gravel pit that Rob had discovered held a great head of roach, good tench and a few nice carp.

As we stumbled out of the door at dawn, the nip in the air and the fine rain indicated clearly that the weather had taken a definite turn. Heavy and grey clouds, now visible in the half-light, filled the sky as we pulled into what was clearly an attractive, tree lined still water with plenty of good features to fish too.

We were immediately greeted with patches of bubbles emanating from various areas across the lake –more than enough encouragement to make us get set up as quickly as possible.

We both opted for light waggler tactics and while Rob’s baiting strategy focused on loose feeding hemp and caster, I opted to introduce some groundbait laced with hemp, caster and pellet. We both opted for maggot hookbaits initially.

We were soon into roach – not big – but plentiful. Rob then tried a small cube of spam and immediately had a much better fish of 12ozs or so. Next cast, the same result and it didn’t take much persuasion on Rob’s behalf for me to ditch the size 18, tie on a size 14 and try meat. The response wasn’t quite as dramatic as Rob’s change, but soon I was netting a solid 12oz roach myself. It was a switch to corn though that really got through to the better roach for me. Throughout the day we had absolutely loads of them. All immaculate, solid fish between 6ozs up to one Rob had at 1lbs 5ozs. I managed a couple of a pound or so and the sheer number of fish we had around the 12ozs mark was amazing. Spectacular roach fishing.

Another cracking gravel pit roach
Another cracking gravel pit roach

We chatted to the friendly bailiff who informed us the lake offers good perch fishing, and some really big rudd, though sadly we never made contact with the latter or the big tench that inhabit the water.

I did go for a wander mid afternoon with a rod, net and bag of bits and bait and tempted a lovely, plump perch of 1lbs 14ozs from a classic snaggy, perchy looking area.

A super summer perch
A super summer perch

All too soon the prospect of the M4 began to creep into my thoughts and it was time to round up what had been another great couple of days with Rob, exploring the fishing opportunities on his local patch.


Author: tescovalue79

Age: 37. Work: Marketing & communications. Like: fishing, art, ITFC, good music, bad pubs.

6 thoughts on “Keeping it local – Highway to Hemel”

  1. Hi Ben, great blog, good to read your varied accounts from different places, I used to holiday around the Sudbury area and fished the Stour mostly in the town area with very some nice catches although I would like to return with twenty years of knowledge gained, you are also like myself living in south Wales, but from the other side! and you also fish the wye for pike and barbel, and your commercial jaunts after that three pound perch is also good good reading, as I’ve been trying that same water with exactly the same results! (Those really big stripeys must be racist?)
    Look forward to reading about a twenty pound pike this oncoming winter

    1. Hello Mark, great to hear from you mate and thanks for the kind words on the blog!
      It sounds like we’ve got a lot in common – are you based Cardiff way?
      I do miss the old Suffolk Stour, but I’m loving the Wye at the moment, it’s such an amazing place and the fishing really is second to none. I may give the pike a real go this winter, conditions permitting, but perch are another favourite and I’d love to get that three pounder.
      The commercial we’re fishing is an interesting one – I’ve heard reports of some really big perch, but I’m stuck on 2lbs 6ozs. Great fun though, especially when the Wye is out of sorts. Have you had any big perch out from there? Do you find they appear suddenly then vanish?!

      1. Hi Ben, the perch pool is an enigma with a very short 20 to 30 minute spell of feeding if you pull one or two out that’s about it really, had them to a couple ounces short of the three but lost a huge one at the net last autumn, it was at least four and still haunts me, had an interesting chat with a local fella who targets them with good results and uses, by design bread to catch them? I’ve not been there this season and as the river is so low and really out of sorts might try and pop there on Saturday afternoon for the last 4 hours or so, I have found a few spots on the river with some really big perch but this is a winter spot where I’m told they hold up for a couple of month’s, the photos I’ve seen are very impressive indeed and will be a welcome target for a river three as they look so different to the pond dwellers, have you fished the Taff for the grayling yet ? That can be amazing with some real surprise’s,
        I’ve lived here for the last twelve years and am just north of Newport, (quicker access to the river) and in that time spent a lot of time getting to know the wye and surrounding rivers and ponds,
        Cheers Mark

      2. Yes, that’s exactly what I’ve found Mark! Maybe a quick move to a totally different area after the feeding spell could pay dividends?

        Ouch, losing a perch that big has got to be painful, but stick at it and I’m sure you’ll meet that fish again.

        I’ve heard about some good perch areas on the Wye and I’ll definitely be giving it a go at some stage this autumn/winter. As you say a wild, vividly coloured three pound river perch would be awesome – perhaps my dream fish!

        I’ve only tried the Taff feeder in Cardiff and I have to say I didn’t really enjoy it. I fished it on a cold and sunny January day, the river was low and clear and it was always going to be hard. But I’d like to try the main river at some stage for the grayling. I read Radyr is the place to try?

        Stay in touch and let me know how you get on with your perch quest Mark. Perhaps we could meet up and try and catch one sometime! Ben

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