Canal Tench – A World Away

I’m sure most coarse anglers have a strong affinity with tench. For all the ‘misty dawn’ clichés, they really are an exciting species to fish for and there aren’t many more satisfying angling experiences than slowly building a tench swim and watching those small clusters of pin-prick bubbles begin to move around the baited area.

I’ve fished many different venues for tench, but for me it’s the more natural venues, with clear water and plentiful weed growth that offer both the most authentic experience and best looking fish.

Stillwaters in their many forms, from ponds to meres and gravel pits to reservoirs, are the most prolific environments in which to find the species. Canals and, particularly, rivers are generally considered to be a world away from the type of places tench would be likely to thrive. And yet, a favourite tench fishery of my youth was the Suffolk Stour, just outside Sudbury. I had fish of over six pounds from the Stour and bags of two or three fish over a short session were common. Float fishing, either early morning or late evening, was the best tactic.

Six pounds two ounces Suffolk Stour tench
A 6lbs 2ozs Suffolk Stour tench

I’ve enjoyed reading Russell Hilton’s South West canal tench fishing exploits over the years. The rich, clear, weedy and often secluded canal venues Russ has blogged about have always reminded me of my old stomping grounds on the Stour. And in appearance, they’ve always looked a world away from the cold, sparse and featureless characteristics I’ve (wrongly) long associated with canals.

The canal, just after dawn

After inviting myself along for a canal tench trip, Russ had kindly identified a suitable looking area, raked it and introduced some bait a couple of days before we fished.

It was interesting to note Russell’s sparing, particle-based baiting approach with light scatterings of hemp and maggot forming the basis of our loosefeed. Again, this approach mirrored how I used to fish on the Stour. I always found heavily baiting for tench – particularly with groundbait – highly detrimental.

The session was hugely enjoyable and we had to work hard to finally get our reward – a brace of chunky green tench each. It took a while to coax the tench from their weedy sanctuary a few yards below our spot and bites mainly came around mid-morning as opposed to early on.

Russ had good numbers of rudd and the odd perch too, while I managed a solitary rudd of just over a pound – my best in some time and a lovely fish. But it was a very powerful five pound tench that really made my morning, and I was glad I’d opted to use a six pound line straight through to the hook as opposed to the four pound line I’d spooled on the previous evening.

5lbs Canal Tench April 2017 web

 

Perch fishing with Russell

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!

Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch
Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch

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.

My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
Slick-sense
Slick-sense
X marks the spot?
X marks the spot?

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.

Sleeping Swans and Rising Rudd

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!

Not a brace of fish you see to often - canal rudd and trout
Not a brace of fish you see very often – canal rudd and 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.

Sleeping swans and rising rudd
Sleeping swans and rising rudd

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.

That final shake of the head from a good roach
That final shake of the head from a good roach
Bread flake really does sort out the better canal roach
Bread flake really does sort out the better canal roach

Freelined Chips

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.

canal web

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.

Rob in one of his favourite canal spots
Rob in one of his favourite canal spots
Returning a truly memorable canal carp.
Returning a truly memorable canal carp.

13_8 Canal Carp 2 web

River Bulbourne chub web

bream and chips

“I’m just off to meet some blokes from the internet by a canal in Coventry”

Well it raised a few guffaws from my work colleagues, but the missus greeted my description with a roll of the eyes and a trio of jobs before I could even think about heading north.

I hit the road at 11am, bound for the centre of the angling blogging universe – Coventry.

It was Jeff’s Zedvember the 54th birthday, blogging and zander fish-in you see, my first attendance at the event.

I was pleasantly surprised to pull into the car park by the Coventry canal just an hour and a half later. And making my way along the canal I was greeted by a quite attractive, feature filled stretch of water – no wonder Jeff enjoys spending time here.

Broken chimp

Coventry canal

I soon caught up with Brian, James and Keith. Just up from them were Russell and Beth, who I tagged along with for most of the afternoon. It was great catching up with everyone and I had a good chinwag with most of the lads on the day. Soon enough Jeff and Keith popped by on their way for a refreshment pit-stop. They tipped us off about the hotdogs available outside the pub and it didn’t take long for Russell, Beth, Mick and I to get in on the action. I washed mine down with a nice drop of mild.

The fishing was tough though. But of course it was never going to be the sole focus of the day, fortunately. Russell did get a nice mid-double (ozs) pike and a lovely PB zander fishing tiny roach deadbaits. Brian had a good pike and perch and James a zander too. Well-in.

Russell with a nice double figure pike...
Russell with a nice double figure pike…

Me? One bite that never materialized into something worth striking at. It was a fun day and great to meet so many of the bloggers I’ve been conversing with over the last few years. And as an added bonus I made it out alive, after meeting a bunch of blokes from the internet by a canal in Coventry.

dusk canal

Canal Rudd – A Small Spark

It was by total chance that I found the shoal. In fact, I thought they were plump roach when I found them. But an unlikely gang of canal rudd is what has finally sparked a bit of interest in me going out fishing again.

It’s been an odd one, this summer. There’s nothing specific I can really point too that made me feel quite so indifferent about going fishing. Even when I had the odd chance to get out I simply couldn’t be bothered with the whole process.

And one evening, after some rain, I prepared the gear, psyched myself up and went out. I knew I’d catch barbel and I did. And while I was there, in the moment, I enjoyed the process and the fish and the session – but I didn’t even look at the pictures until weeks after. However, with the arrival of Autumn, the dipping temperatures and shorter days, my enthusiasm feels sharpened and refreshed.

A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye
A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye

One warm, early autumn afternoon we took the boys over to the canal to enjoy the sunshine, a picnic and mooch around the Gloucestershire edgelands.

The edgelands...
The edgelands…

My local canal is an interesting, neglected and slightly unusual place. I’ve never seen any fish of note here. The odd tiny roach and mini jack pike. It suffered a bad pollution a few years back and much of it is thick with weed and algae.

A couple of lads were trying for pike, without luck, and had resorted to catapulting maggots anywhere but the water. They assured me there were pike, roach and perch in the canal.
As the sun began to dip, we made our way back to the car. My youngest wanted to look at a boat tied up close to the bank.

We went over and that’s when I spotted a decent shoal of plump and deep bodied sliver fish. I can’t deny I thought they were roach. But there were a few decent ones in amongst the sprats. And one fish, sat deeper than the others really did look a fish worth catching – maybe not 2lbs but, perhaps, not far off…

As I sat watching Match of the Day later that night, while my eyes were watching some infernal 0-0 it was that shoal of fish that were on my mind. How big was the biggest I saw? Were bigger fish were lurking under the boats? Would a bread or maggot approach work? Were they roach or, perhaps, were they rudd?

The next morning I arrived at dawn with a float rod, reel, net and a few bits and bobs and a loaf.

Just after dawn on the canal.
Just after dawn on the canal.

I decided to fish a small waggler close in – one of my favourite methods. 3lbs line direct to a size 16 and a pinch of flake.
I baited with some mash and set-up, excitedly.

Bites soon came, but they were frustrating. The float was dancing around but trying to hit the wonky, wavy and frankly weird bites was proving tricky. I shallowed up a touch and soon enough I hooked into a deep bodied silver fish that thumped satisfyingly in the deep, green water.

The depth of it suggested rudd – but on closer inspection looked like a bream hybrid of some sort. I think it may be a silver bream x rudd hybrid? I’d love to hear what people think.

Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?
Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?

Having that fish extracted from the shoal spooked them a touch and the bites slowed. I tried a mere fleck of flake and the next bite was just a touch more positive. A sparkling rudd this time of 1lbs exactly was the result. I was enjoying this. All too soon the dog walkers arrived and the boats started chugging but not before I’d added a couple more rudd of a similar stamp.

A lovely canal rudd of one pound.
A lovely canal rudd of one pound.

I returned a week later, but on a much cooler, overcast morning. The bites were quick to arrive but even more frustrating this time. Just as I was thinking about trying something different – perhaps a pellet or corn – I hooked a beautiful roach. Then another before another decent rudd made an appearance.

The bites tailed right off. I had a few old maggots with me, so tried a couple. A feisty, darting fish was hooked on the drop – a rare canal trout! And I added two small canal dace as well as more small roach before the sunshine arrived and the canal reverted back to appearing lifeless…

A canal trout!
A canal trout!

So, while these fishes will never set the world alight, they have at least sparked some real interest in me.

Canal carp – nothing doing

Scene set. Pre-baiting done. Careful introduction of tasty pellets, crushed boilies and a few grains of corn over a few evenings into two, strategic swims.

Dawn start. Warm, overcast. Quiet…

Very quiet, in fact. Not a sniff. No sign of anything apart from small roach. Drive home feeling a bit dejected.

Back to the drawing board?

Nothing home...
Nothing home…

Canal carp – chasing leads and climbing trees

Yesterday evening I actually had a rod and a few bits in the car. But I chose not to fish. I didn’t feel quite ready. I know I would have simply been chancing it had I fished. Instead I looked around, climbed up and down steep banks and trees and crept into quiet corners in an effort to find what I’m looking for.

Such visits are never wasted. So much to see and learn. The burning issue as I see it at the moment is access. The canal is very overgrown and wild and even finding a spot in which to position a rod on the bank and a bait in the water is going to be a challenge. And the two areas I like the look of both have major causes for concern. One, a wider marina area has, as is to be expected, lots of boats and buoys. They present a real issue in terms of actually hooking a carp. A bream I can cope with in the confined spaces, but an angry carp hooked at close quarters really can only go one of two ways – up or down, and that will present a problem! The second area is narrow and really very weedy. But with a few holes in which I think I could effectively present a bait. But I think I’ll have to employ some seriously tough tackle in a bid to get them out.

At the moment I think I need to begin a pre-baiting campaign of sorts. Nothing complex, but some bait introduced into a couple of spots over a few evenings.

And what of the fish? A few small roach and one tiny pike spotted; a few swirls from bigger fish out towards the middle of the marina; and, in the last swim I visited, one big, vortex of water complete with audible ‘clop’ created by an unidentified, yet clearly weighty fish as I peered over the edge…

The canal

Rob’s giant canal chub

My old mate Rob had a right result on the Grand Union canal yesterday. Targeting perch, he was fishing a big lobworm tight to a boat on a suburban stretch of the waterway.

And this is what found the bait – a 6lbs 3oz chub. Rob thought he’d hooked a carp initially, but eased off when he saw it was a big old chevin!

It’s a seriously big chub for a canal. The biggest I’ve heard of is a 7lb 3oz fish from the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal.

See Jeff Hatt’s excellent British canal record fish list for more info: http://idlersquest.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/british-canal-records-argument-for.html

Well in mate.

Rob's 6lbs 4oz Grand Union canal chub
Rob’s 6lbs 3oz Grand Union canal chub

 

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.