Carping around on the canal
Left to right: The fish that brought great pleasure, the badger emerges, watching you watching me, another shot of the carp
As an angler I’ve often got something tucked away at the back of my mind. Call it a project if you like; in basic terms it’s pretty much ‘I want to have a go at that’. And that’s how I’ve been feeling since the end of last year towards pursuing carp in the Staffs/Worcs Canal. I have caught them before, indeed I had some during 2009, but I wanted to put some decent time in and try out a few new venues. In times gone by, this particular canal was heavily fished, and if you did venture out then the first thing you did was to check the match bookings.
But since the advent of what we call ‘the commercial’, angling traffic has fallen away sharply. Not that I’m complaining – far from it – as it opens up a whole new avenue of opportunity for the specimen angler. And with the water temperature continuing to rise after the harsh winter we have been through, I decided that now was the time to dust down the carp rods and hit the canal. With the thermometer registering 10.6C on arrival I was more than confident as I set up shop.
Of course it still needed the carp to be present, and that was part of the challenge. I had fished the section before but for other species and had no concrete knowledge that they would be in there. I did choose the spot carefully though. Where I fished had a large tree over the water, several bushes, overhanging branches and reeds – while the bits either side are pretty barren and sparse in comparison. Surely if carp were present in the area, this is where they would reside. But the only way to really find out is to give it a go.
My approach was quite basic; any fish in the section wouldn’t be wised-up so simplicity was the order of the day. I baited up with a few handfuls of pigeon conditioner seeds, both towards the far bank, with one area congregated off a reed bed and the other off a branch that jutted out over the water. My rigs, which I show on the accompanying video were also straight-forward and without complication. A hair-rigged tutti frutti boilie fished hard on the bottom, with a two-ounce lead, two beads and a powergum knot combining to create a bolt-rig trap for any unsuspecting fish.
My session was for five hours, fished from late dusk through into darkness. There were a lot of fish topping, mostly roach and chub I suspected, but a few times something bigger crashed that made me instantly think ‘carp’. It was certainly encouraging and even before any action (or otherwise) I had made my mind up that this spot deserved more than just one visit. I had a number of typical chub mini-runs, where they pick up the bait and it gets dropped. If you’re a barbel angler you will know what I mean. But twice I had screaming runs that saw me lifting into what I hoped was a 20lb carp. As it was they were just chub. But at least I wasn’t a blanker.
The bigger fish crashing convinced me to return to the same spot on my second outing. But even if I hadn’t had that incentive I would still have returned. Whether it be a section or a single swim, you can’t judge it by one visit. I arrived late evening, and with the boats tucked up for the night I was looking forward to a few quality hours after the carp. Everything was pretty much the same as the previous visit in terms of approach except that I had a free running leger as opposed to the one shown on the video. With the line tight and a reasonable weighted hanger, plus fishing at close range, any fish will hook itself anyway. And that’s what it did as my right-hand bait got picked up by something that as soon as I lifted the rod, I knew wasn’t a chub.
After a short but very spirited fight I found myself netting a common carp. It wasn’t a big fish, maybe a scraper double, but I was over the moon with its capture. To venture onto a stretch where I had no prior knowledge or history of carp being present, and then to catch one, brought a sense of real satisfaction. It reminded me of the campaign I had a number of years ago, well before I launched my Angling Journal. I did the same thing then, targeting an area that was virgin territory. And when I did connect with some fish I was ecstatic. When you walk the towpath and can see quite clearly by the vegetation growth that no-one fishes there, it doesn’t half bring a sense of achievement when you catch.
While I was fishing I saw a couple of silhouettes of what I was sure were badger on the far bank skyline. This was confirmed on my third and final session as I managed to film them before it was dark. I didn’t catch any carp, just a small chub, but the sightings of these marvelous animals more than made up for the lack of fishy action. And the highlight was well into dark when I watched two badgers feeding and then just a few feet above them flew a silent tawny owl. What a priceless image that was. I couldn’t capture it on film as it was too dark, so it won’t end up on YouTube or anywhere like that. But it will be forever held in my mental memory card.
Video number 19 on list
(Originally published May 2010)