A pocket of pike on the canal (pike article and video, entry 282)

A pocket of pike on the canal

In recent times I have turned more and more to the local canal network as a place to fish. Not that I have neglected it over the years, but with petrol being the price it is, if you only have a few hours to spend at the water’s edge you can hardly justify travelling great distances. So with fishing on your doorstep you can fit in more shorter sessions. And that’s exactly what I did this week, managing three visits to the Staffs/Worcs Canal, all of them just four hours long. In fact it all fitted in very nicely with the rest of my week, meaning that work and other responsibilities could all be balanced comfortably.

Acts of environmental vandalism

The first trip of the week was to a section of the canal that wasn’t exactly new, but as it has been many years since I fished there, it felt that way. As I was doing a week of perch fishing, the most important thing was that the far bank bed of reeds would still be there as per my last visit. Now it may seem like an odd wish, after all reeds just don’t disappear on their own do they? No they don’t, but the powers-that-be have a horrible habit sometimes of ripping up stuff that needs to be left alone.

It’s bad enough when floods pull out overhanging trees and the hot swim evaporates in seconds. But that’s nature and can very easily be forgiven. However when it’s man and his sometimes confusing logic at stake, it’s a little more difficult to come to terms with. One particular section of the Staffs/Worcs Canal immediately comes to mind. The dense reed bed along the far bank not only provided a haven for nesting birds and other wildlife, it also was home to some nice carp. Then one day I went to fish it and found that it had all been ripped up. And all that destruction so that a mooring spot can be made for a boat. It’s not as if the rest of the bank was taken either, they could have tied the boat up somewhere else.

A surprise pike but I’m not complaining

Livebaiting for perch

But this time round, no acts of environmental vandalism had been committed and I was able to set up a small waggler rod fishing pinkie towards the reed bed. I was open to catching perch on the set-up of course, but I was also looking to get a few gudgeon so that I could fish a livebait rod as well. Perch will very freely take a live fish and they will hit the bait with as much aggression and power as any pike or zander. But on this occasion they weren’t playing by the rules and so the lip-hooked gudgeon remained intact and in one piece.

The pinkie rod produced gudgeon and small perch, but nothing of any size. It was a nice day but the northerly wind started to pick up as the session progressed. A very cold spell had been forecast and this was the day that the weather was supposed to turn. Although the people behind the weather can get it wrong sometimes, on this occasion they were accurate and by the time I packed away the day had definitely turned from pleasant to one that was going downhill very quickly.

Discovering a pocket of pike on the canal

Tip of the week

If you live close to a canal don’t neglect its potential. Particularly in recent years, urban canals have improved so much.

Where they were once devoid of anything but shopping trolleys and dead dogs, they now contain some very good fish.

My second session of the week was to a similar spot to the first, in that I had been there before but it had been many years ago. Still fishing for perch, my approach was the same – floatfished pinkie and a gudgeon livebait. One thing about the Staffs/Worcs Canal is that though pike are present they aren’t there in great numbers throughout the length. It’s not what you would describe as a ‘pike canal’. I like that, because it means that you can fish for perch with lighter line and not have to worry about your bait being picked up by a pike. It’s the same as when you are chub fishing. You can’t fish with 10lb line just in case you hook a barbel.

So it was a surprise to first of all lose a fish and then finally to land one. Fortunately the pike didn’t put up a fight at all, which is just as good as I was fishing with 3lb 6oz line. But the encounter with two fish had me back on the towpath the very next day, and this time although I had the pinkie rod to catch livebait, I had stepped up the other rod and brought some proper pike tackle with me. I had four runs, landing two fish, both of which were very small ones. In fact as you can see from the video, one was very small indeed. But it had become evident that I had indeed discovered as pocket of pike on the canal.

Small but perfectly formed

The flip side of the canal being easy to access

Whilst it is debated as to whether Christopher Columbus was the first person to discover the new world or not, I knew that these pike had already been found. The reason I knew this was the angling litter that had been left strewn in the area including deadbait packets. Whilst the positive side of the local canal network is its ease of access, unfortunately that means the darker side of angling is evidenced. It is a society problem but when you see stuff thrown around that is obviously angling-related, it does give us a bad name. I know that syndicates are anathema to some anglers but one thing I do appreciate on the section of the lower Severn I belong to is not only the peace and tranquility but the fact that the only evidence of man at the water’s edge is flattened grass.

Click on the icon for this week’s video clip

The week ahead

The cold spell is here as I write this and so with the rivers looking good I feel the ladies calling me. And I go with my wife’s blessing as she knows I love my grayling fishing! So northbound it is as I head for the River Dove. Join me next week to see how I get on.

(Originally entered November 2008)

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