Living on the edge of the Black Country, in the small town of Sedgley, I am not that far from a whole host of canal networks, that run like veins across the built-up area to the east of where I live. Invariably though, it is in a westward direction that I head when I want to do some fishing, with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal being the focus of my attention.
I don’t want to give a negative impression, but the canals of the Black Country are not always the places to be after dark. I did a few sessions there during the foot and mouth crisis a couple or so years back, and I suppose it wasn’t too bad – in-between the rats, drug addicts and glue sniffers that is!
OK, as I said, I don’t want to paint too bad a picture, but I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the mainly rural Staffs/Worcs canal is a much more desirable residence to set up at for a fishing session. And so it was, with just an evening to spare, I decided to do some into-dark roach fishing.
The stretch I fished – in the Staffordshire half – was a new one to me, and so I went equipped with the humble catch-all bait…the maggot! Whenever I fish the Staffs/Worcs canal, which is not much these days, I am always reminded of my very first fish that I caught when I was a boy – the gudgeon. In those days the canal was full of the species, and indeed nothing has changed over the years.
Right from the off, I was into the species, and although I am more used to heavier tackle, hair rigs and boilies, I can honestly say it was great fun. It was a beautiful evening and watching the float sail away was a very pleasant experience indeed. And whether we are targeting monster carp or tiny, fifty-to-a-pound gudgeon, it’s all about satisfaction. If we’re not enjoying our fishing, it’s time to re-evaluate.
I had set up with just a couple of hours to go before dark; hence the boat traffic was very minimal. And I must say that each boat that passed, it eased off the accelerator as it went through the swim. I made a point of smiling and saying hello. I know that there is often conflict between water users, but why add to it without reason? It’s all about respect.
We all have an equal right to be there, and providing, when our interests cross into each other’s circle, that we behave with consideration there shouldn’t be a problem. The problems develop when boaters or fishermen both think that the water belongs to them and no one else.
But as dark started to descend, the boats ceased. Due to the pull of the locks, fishing a canal can be like a river at times, but once the boats stop, it once more returns to a still water. And competing with the gudgeon, I caught perch and an eel. The latter certainly fought well. It was only a small one, but acted like something much larger.
It was as the light faded that I started to get super quick bites, which ended up with me striking into thin ‘air’, and nothing more than a sucked maggot to show for it. Yes, the roach had arrived! Still, I did connect with several, the best going to just 9oz. Regarding specimen fish, you have to treat each venue on its own individual merit; therefore anything over 1lb from the Staffs/Worcs canal would be a very good fish. And although I didn’t catch anything near that weight on this occasion, hopefully, if I do decide to re-visit I will hit the jackpot!
I did think that I had connected with a couple of decent roach, though, during the session. But instead of big, plump redfins, I caught some small bream. Mind, small or not, with a current run of three blanks on my gravel pit campaign, they’re at least the real thing! And holding the smallest of the two in my palm to take a photograph, I couldn’t help thinking that a ‘bream in the hand is worth two in the pit!’
Not that I was expecting any big bream on the canal, but I did keep an ear and an eye open for signs of any carp activity. Three or so years ago I spent the entire close-season fishing the canal in pursuit of carp. My commitment paid off with a handful of fish, the best reaching double figures. Although they aren’t around in numbers, they are certainly there, and bring great pleasure once you track them down.
On this occasion I fished until just after midnight, before calling it a day. Nothing to shout from the rooftops about, but a very enjoyable few hours nevertheless. Driving home in the early hours I promised myself that it wouldn’t be too long before I returned. The only trouble is I need to live to be 1,000 years old to do everything I want to in angling! There simply are not enough days in a year, working on the present time zone that we are in!
(Originally published May 2004)