Still very much enjoying spinning for perch, I decided to continue in that vein for the couple of sessions I had planned for the week. And as before, I decided to concentrate on canal venues, although I tried two different ones. In the area that I live, although we don’t have any canals in Sedgley itself (due to its altitude) we have an abundance of them within just a few miles radius.
In fact in Birmingham alone (which is about 10 miles away) there are 35 miles of canal network within the city boundary. Compared to Venice, which has just 26 miles, this is an interesting statistic, although to bring it into perspective, the latter is much smaller as a city.
But for my first session I headed for a rural canal. Sedgley is right on the very edge of the West Midlands conurbation and a mile or so from the centre you are either in the middle of urbanisation or the fresh air of the Staffordshire countryside, and I know which I prefer. Entering the canal towpath via a bridge, the first thing I noticed was how clear the water was. It must have been days since a boat came along, I thought to myself. And whilst, as anglers, we generally don’t like barges on canals, they do serve a purpose in moderation.
The canal in question has lots of features including many dense groups of bushes on the far bank. And with the water being the clarity it was these swims were obvious ones to target. You just have to be careful that when you cast you don’t hook the branches. Say no more. The ideal cast is across the canal, dropping just short of the overhanging branches so that the initial plop of the lure gets the fish’s attention, which is then encouraged further by the movement as it is retrieved.
One good thing about the water being so clear was that I could experiment with different makes of lure and watch their action in the water as I reeled in. I could also see how each one reacted as I played around with retrieval techniques. Although I’ve only recently got into spinning, like any branch of the sport, if you are already reasonably competent in other areas you can adapt very quickly. Many aspects of angling such as watercraft for example are the same whatever you put your hand to.
Anyway, I’ve decided that the Mepps spinners are the ones that I favour, and in particular the Aglia lures. They do have a good action and so far are head and shoulders above the others I have tried. I’ve been fishing size 1 and using both the silver and gold coloured spoons. But I will be experimenting even further, and will be sharing my results as I progress.
On the session in question I ended up with seven perch and a solitary chub. These chub get everywhere, although I’m hardly complaining about that, as you will see as you read on. None of the perch were particularly big fish; in fact one or two were hitting above their weight by tackling the lure. But that’s what some fish are like, and perch fall into that category. If ever the saying ‘your eyes are bigger than your stomach’ applied to a fish, then the perch must surely claim that accolade.
To round the week off I tried another venue. By now the temperatures – both air and water – had plummeted and frost covered the ground. With the canal being crystal clear, I knew it was going to be hard. After the first hour without even so much as a tug or a fish following through, the odds seemed very much stacked against me. But if anything, I am persistent and so I carried on regardless. And then in a five minute feeding spell I caught a couple of chub, averaging at about the 1lb mark. Not big fish, and not even my target species, but in the circumstances very welcome indeed.
Working my way along the canal, I came to a long-term moored boat on the far bank, which definitely was going to be worth a few casts. As it was, on the first retrieve I noticed a dark shape following the lure in. It looked huge and I immediately thought ‘carp’. As the spinner came closer to the edge, I saw the fish hesitate, at which I stopped the retrieve momentarily. As I began to reel in again, the fish pounced, by which time I had realised it was a chub.
As you can see from the photograph, it was a cracking fish. Even the old lady walking her dog as I landed it made a comment that she had lived by the canal all her life and didn’t realise that there were fish in there that big. And it just goes to show – we never know what is lurking in our local canal. OK, it might be the biggest fish in there; on the other hand it might just well have a big brother. And whilst I am really after the perch, I can quite happily cope with diversions of this nature!
(Originally published November 2005)