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…
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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

Targets, campaigns, strategies and aims

I’m really not the most serious of fisherman. Although I enjoy capturing big fish – who doesn’t – and setting new personal bests, I’m not hell bent on it. I lose interest in fishing for any one species, venue or style after a short while.

Travelling back from a brilliant session on the Wye last week, my mind started to wander. A short evening trip had produced nine, battling barbel and four chub. Special fishing on a special river. And yet as I drove home all I could think about was trying to catch a big, feral carp.

A lovely Wye barbel
A lovely Wye barbel

barbel 2 web

Carp: I have a funny relationship with them. My best ever carp fishing experience was on a mature, overgrown lake nestled at the top of a golf course. Previously a syndicate water, it had drifted into a state of limbo and was not really being managed by anyone. The golf course would half-heartedly charge you five or six quid to fish, but hardly anyone did. And yet there were still some good carp in there. Nothing big enough to attract the specialists, but some lovely old fish up to around 25 pounds or so.

Over one year I fished it regularly. By positioning a Nash Whiskey pop-up with a pva bag of pellets on a bolt rig (pretty cutting edge at the time!) tight to one of the overhanging trees at the shallow end of the lake, a chance or two over the course of an evening session was possible. And it was great fun. Waiting for that explosive take, sending the buzzer into meltdown and having to sit over the rods to ensure they weren’t dragged in. I only ever had commons from the place, to just shy of 20 pounds and boy did those fish fight.

A long, lean golf course lake common carp from around 15 years ago.
A long, lean golf course lake common carp from around 15 years ago.
This one went 18lbs 15ozs - my second best from the golf course
This one went 18lbs 15ozs – my second best from the golf course
My brother having a cast on the golf course one Christmas eve many years ago. We actually got a tench that day!
My brother having a cast on the golf course one Christmas eve many years ago. We actually got a tench that day!

But since then I’ve not really fished for carp specifically. The odd trip to Lake John after perch would usually involve a carp rod fished ‘sleeper’ style. And they inevitably make an appearance during the winter, while after perch on commercials.

I had a go on a proper, muddy puddle after them in the spring and it was as a depressing fishing experience as I’ve had in a while. After one hour and three carp I packed up and went home.

And yet just a few days earlier I landed a gorgeous, dark 13 pound common from the gin clear quarry I’ve been fishing for tench – it was a memorable fish and one I was really pleased with.

A perfect common carp of 13lbs 8ozs from the tench lake
A perfect common carp of 13lbs 8ozs from the tench lake

But a carp’s a carp, right? Wrong. My aim, now, is to get a proper, wild, feral carp from a local canal. I guess it’ll be a campaign of sorts, something a bit more serious perhaps…

Perch fishing – getting closer

I spent a lovely birthday afternoon fishing the perch pool last week. The weather was bordering on pleasant considering the time of year – I didn’t even need to remove my coat from the bag.

I managed around 15 big skimmers and bream, a couple of good roach and even a stunning little ghost carp as well as three of my target species – perch – all on float fished prawns.

A handsome little ghost carp
A handsome little ghost carp

The icing on the cake came after I’d rested the swim following a frantic bream feeding spell at the end of the day. With just three king prawns left, I picked out the biggest and positioned it slightly closer in.

After a short wait the float sailed away and upon striking I knew I’d hit into my target, finally, a big perch.

It was a nerve-racking couple of minutes, but everything held and I was soon admiring a stunning, deep shouldered fish weighing in at 2lbs 8ozs. A new personal best by all of 1oz. Awesome!

A new personal best perch of 2lbs 8ozs - lovely fish
A new personal best perch of 2lbs 8ozs – lovely fish

Good luck George

I thought I’d open with a few words on the closure of the one fishing shop I’ve visited more than any other in my life – Sudbury Angling Centre – or George’s as it’s become more commonly known.

Sudbury Angling Centre
Sudbury Angling Centre

George has run a fishing shop in the centre of Sudbury for well over 20 years. It was originally based just a couple of doors down from its current location on North Street. It then moved to Acton Square for many years, before moving to its current location back on North Street a few years ago.

Like so many of the old high street fishing shops, increased rates, fierce competition from online sales and a lack of anglers simply dropping in to buy bait has led to George deciding it was time to shut up shop.

George always was a top guy; kind, informative and mild mannered.  He always raised a smile when, as a lads, we used to pile into the shop only to buy a quarter of a pint of maggot between us.

In the early days of my fishing life there were actually three fishing shops in the centre of Sudbury – George’s, Robert Nunn’s and Stour Valley trophies/tackle – halcyon years indeed.

Good luck George. EADT piece

*****

I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet fishing wise at the moment – a three pound perch. I rarely obsess over specific fish at specific weights, but at the moment all I can think about is where, when and how I’m going to catch a three pound stripy.

Perch have always been one of my favourite species. But until recently they were a bit of a bogey fish for me, certainly the bigger ones anyway.

However, since a spell spent fishing for them at the excellent Lake John in Essex which culminated in a fish of 2lbs 3ozs one cold March afternoon, I’ve notched up a handful over the 2lbs mark, up to a personal best of 2lbs 7ozs caught on a memorable first visit to the Great Ouse.

I’ve had some good fish from a local commercial fishery over the last year and with a few hours spare last week I made my first official ‘mission three’ trip.

I was confident – the pool had been fishing well in the milder, overcast weather and with a bag of Tesco’s finest king prawns in the bag and a bit of firsthand knowledge regarding the resident perch and their general behaviour – a three was surely in the bag!

Needless to say, as dusk began to descend and with only a couple of bream to show, my confidence was clearly misplaced. Upon talking to the bailiff he suggested worms had been tempting the perch recently and that the now ubiquitous use of king prawns on the pool had seen the perch wise up to them to an extent.

I impaled a wriggler and after another couple of bream, finally a perch arrived, but only a smaller fish of around 14ozs or so.

Camera phone snap of my sole perch
Camera phone snap of my sole perch

The final fish I hooked gave a couple of heavy head shakes, leaving me wondering if I’d finally tempted my target. But then it zoomed off and after a right old tussle I landed a nice mirror carp.

A nice mirror carp
A nice mirror carp

So perhaps it isn’t going to be as easy as I thought. It never is. I have a few ideas up my sleeve in terms of venues and I’m determined to try a light lure/drop-shotting approach as well as more traditional bait fishing tactics. I think it may be a slightly longer term plan, especially as we enter the long, cold winter.

Anyway, tight lines to all the good people who I’ve conversed with on and offline this year. I might even get a few hours fishing in over the holiday period. Merry Christmas.

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.

Rob’s canal carp quest

My old mate Rob has become a bit obsessed by a big, dark mirror carp that he’s found living in a stretch of the Grand Union canal near to his home.

He’s had a few short sessions in an effort to tempt it but no joy yet. These big, urban carp are no commercial fishery pushovers that’s for sure!

I’m heading over to Rob’s for a couple of days fishing soon and while we’ve discussed various waters to target, I’m hoping we can at least squeeze in an early morning or late evening on the canal in search of carp. I really fancy having a serious go at some wild old canal carp and I have a couple of waters much closer to home that I feel could be worth targeting – a feral 20 pounder really would be something.

So I asked Rob how big he thinks this fish is. ‘Yeah, it’s big’ – is as much as I can get out of him. I hope you get her soon mate!

Canal carp
Rob’s big canal carp