A nice surprise on the local canal (roach article, entry 114)

With a really busy week I managed just the one trip and that had to be a local one, on the canal. Although Sedgley, where I live, has no canal at all within its boundary due to its altitude, the surrounding lowland area has miles and miles of ‘cut’ as the locals call it. I don’t know how true it is, but I have heard it said on more than one occasion that Birmingham has more canals than Venice!

All in all it does offer another option to the angler to fish on his doorstep, and particularly these days with the price of fuel. On the current section of canal I am fishing, I worked out that I can do eight trips for the same mileage for just one to the lower Severn. So although it would have to take desperate measures for me to actually cut down on my fishing, if I do want to fish two or three times a week, then local trips must feature more heavily.

Arriving at the canal, it was already getting dark. This was mainly due to the wintry weather that had kicked in. With the rain falling and the blustery wind, it wasn’t what we have been used to over the last few months. Yet in a strange way to some perhaps, I prefer the wilder weather. It does give you peace and quiet and for me in my angling, that is an essential factor. If on a fishing trip I never see another human soul, I count that as a blessing.

I fished the same stretch, and indeed the same peg, as my previous canal session. Although it could be argued that a canal is a canal and every swim is the same, that is actually very far removed from the truth. With variations both sides of the water’s surface, it pays to read the stretch before setting up. The swim in question has the boat channel close in, and there is a bed of reeds on the far bank with overhanging trees either side. It looks a good spot for any species.

As I am fishing for roach, I am giving maggots a miss. The canal is absolutely full of gudgeon and so I want to do my best to avoid them. Nothing wrong with gudgeon of course, I love all fish, but I do like to focus on one particular species at a time when I’m fishing, and at the moment it’s roach. Therefore I am fishing bread on a size 16 hook. Small enough for a roach to take but big enough to avoid gudgeon, although having said that I did catch one of the latter!

With a main line of 2 lb 8oz, I am fishing a hook length of 1lb 6oz. I would say that practically 99% of my fishing is legering so it’s actually a refreshing change to watch a float. That’s what captured my imagination many years ago when I was a boy – the wonderful anticipation of waiting for the float to disappear. Even now I still get a thrill from staring at the float tip as it rises above the surface of the water. The enthusiasm I feel for angling is just as real now as it was all those years ago.

On this session my float did as lot of moving, mainly lightning quick roach bites. However I must confess that I do miss far more than I hit! I don’t think I would ever make a good match angler, as I do not have a very good ratio of fish to bites. Still I enjoy it, and ultimately that’s what angling is all about. I suppose the truth is that a lot of missed bites aren’t really bites at all, just fish taking an interest that doesn’t develop any further.

But one fish that did take the bait had me quite excited. After a short but very spirited fight, I found myself netting a fish of 1lb 3oz. It wasn’t a roach though, but a crucian carp! It has been a long time since I caught one of those, and I was instantly reminded that I nearly had a few sessions for them earlier in the spring, but went for bream and carp instead. Although I wasn’t expecting it on the canal it was certainly a nice surprise.

It was a lovely looking fish, and whilst I am not suggesting that it has never been caught before, it was fin perfect and had no marks on it at all. And that’s how it went back as I slipped it directly into the water, as I don’t use a keepnet. (That’s not a dig at those anglers that use them by the way, but a simple straightforward ‘at face value’ statement that doesn’t have any hidden agenda attached to it!)

Right at the very end of the session I hooked into another decent fish, this one felt slightly better than the crucian carp. After a few seconds of playing it though, I lost it. It was my own fault really, as I had previously detected a slight nick on the hook length just above the hook itself. But as it was right at the end of the evening I did nothing about it. Even after being an angler all these years, it seems that I still have a lot to learn! I wasn’t sure whether it was a really good roach or another nice crucian, it had to be one of the two. Some things though are best left unknown.

(Originally published September 2005)

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