A pleasant surprise from the canal (roach article and video, entry 303)

A pleasant surprise from the canal

I have been enjoying my visits to the local canal in recent times. What began really as a reaction to petrol prices going through the roof, and therefore limiting long-distance travel, has actually become something that I choose to do rather than out of necessity. And always faced with decisions as to what species I target, my mind is forever feasting on the options of roach and perch, with carp and eels also gradually muscling in on the scene as we move into summer. But it was for roach that I decided to fish this week as I looked forward to a couple of short, and into dark, visits to the Staffs/Worcs Canal.


The Staffs/Worcs Canal


The canal itself was initiated by James Brindley way back in the late 1770’s, taking a total of six years to build. You could describe James Brindley as the Father of the canal network as he was also responsible for others in the country. The canal itself is 46 miles long and one of its major attractions for anglers must be the fact that for most of its length it is rural. Even with Wolverhampton, it only touches the western edges of the city’s suburbs. And the posh parts at that.

And it’s that rural setting that not only adds to the pleasant surroundings but also means that you are able to fish in peace. And as a lot of my angling is done at night, the last thing that I want to be worrying about is confrontation with gangs of chavs on the towpath after dark. I’m happy to say that in all my visits to the canal I have never had so much as a sniff of trouble. The worst that has happened is people that pass by and want to talk for an hour. But I can live with that.




Quivertipping on the canal

For most anglers nowadays the canal means a pole, or if they are still in the dark ages (like me), a waggler fished with a rod and reel. But how about legering? Many years ago when I was a teenager I legered a small bomb on the canal near Wombourne that I used to fish a lot. So my present day choice of a quivertip rod isn’t something new. I fished with a rod that I have bought this year (I actually bought 2), namely a Fox Duo-Lite specialist. Dispensing with the standard 1lb test curve two-piece I opted for the 0.5 ounce glass tip.

My line was 2.5lb Maxima straight through to a size 14 Drennan Super Specialist. The lead was a tiny 1/8th ounce flat lead and this was stopped by a small shot with a bead over it a good 14″ from the hook. Very often I find myself fishing quite short hook lengths for roach but I wanted to experiment with a longer length this time. By drawing the lead back I was still pretty much in touch with the bait and I liked the idea of the bait being away from the line cutting through the water, which on a short length is quite close; and even though these fish aren’t pressurised in the slightest, they’re still fish and as such possess that instinctive wariness.


My target species – a roach


A carp grabs the headlines

I decided to fish with sweetcorn, which I find invariably separates the fish in terms of size. Yes, there will always be those days when small ones will suck and destroy the bait in a split second, but overall it does avoid smaller ones in my experience. And over the two sessions, the fish that I caught, although not monsters, all needed netting. So in this case, the theory worked.

But it wasn’t a roach that made the news this week, instead a carp grabbed the headlines. It was 6.35pm on the first session when the tip pulled round in a determined way that indicated that something had picked up the bait without realising and was probably on to its next grain of corn even as I struck. What I thought initially was a very good roach, turned into a good chub and eventually became a double-figure mirror carp. As the title of the article says, it was indeed a pleasant surprise. And on 2.5lb line an achievement as well.


My first red campion of the year

The canal is now an ever increasing blaze of colour as the wild flowers begin to come into their own. The dandelions are in full bloom and thanks to the 200 ray florets that make up each flowerhead, they provide a beautiful stunning yellow as you look up and down the canal. The butterbur flowers have now died off but have been replaced by the enormous leaves. The white dead-nettles looked stunning, particularly in low light, but the lesser celandines are finding their space rather cramped as the taller plants such as cow parsley tower over them. And I saw my first red campion of the year. What an amazing world there is out there if only we open our eyes and look.

This week’s video

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(Originally published May 2009)

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