Heading east into the Black Country (perch article, entry 126)

The first session of the week saw me heading eastwards into the Black Country, where canals are everywhere, reminders of the industrial heritage that the area is associated with. Nowadays though, the region has gone through a certain transformation, and in some parts you wouldn’t link the present with the past. But no matter what surface cosmetics take place, the canal system is still a permanent reminder of days gone by.

The area that I fished at one time was nothing more than a polluted body of water, and anyone seen standing on its banks with a rod in hand would definitely have been a candidate for the men in white coats. But times have changed, and whilst not everything about the present is good, the clean up of the Black Country canal system is certainly a positive thing about modern life.

Like many of the man-made veins that cut through the area, the stretch of canal I visited is free to fish. Of course you need an EA licence, but as no club has taken on the venue, then you can fish from the towpath legally. A combination of the cleaner venues and proliferation of commercial fisheries means that the angler has never had it so good in terms of choice.

Continuing in my ‘spinning for perch’ mode, I arrived at the stretch of canal and instantly liked what I saw. Look beyond the old factories, litter and burnt out cars, and there are plenty of fish holding features to get excited about. Reed beds, bridges, turning bays – they are all there. Even the submerged shopping trolleys are features of a sort, but not particularly pleasant ones I suppose.

I had a blank first hour and a half, although I wasn’t concerned, as I was quite optimistic that I would connect with something. As I entered the second half of the session (I was there for three hours) and a small pike turned right at the edge as it followed the spinner in, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I got my first fish. And a pike it was, just a small one, but in very cold conditions any fish is a bonus even if it’s not one of your target species.

But I did add a perch right at the end, not a big fish but still nice to catch. I left the stretch thinking that I would definitely be back again. But to round the week off, instead of east into the Black Country, I headed west into Staffordshire. It was another very cold day, and I was grateful that I was spinning, and therefore able to keep on the move. I didn’t fancy being rooted to one spot, as the banks were still covered with frost from the night before.

As has been the case on almost every trip I’ve made so far after perch, I had the whole canal to myself. Well, maybe not the whole canal, but certainly the bits that I fished. But I was kept company by the numerous mallards and moorhens, so used to people feeding them, that the moment you stop by the side of the water you have an audience, each one ready to enter the fray when a piece of bread is tossed from the side.

The fishing was slow, but I did manage a small chub. Whatever type of fishing we do (and at the moment I’m focusing on spinning for perch) the moment that we call ‘the bite’ is always exciting. Whether it be the scream of a buzzer, the dip of a float, the tap on a quiver tip or the thud as the fish hits the lure, every one is a real adrenaline boost for the angler. As a genuine all-rounder I thoroughly enjoy whatever fishing I am doing at that time. And as long as we are enjoying ourselves, that’s what angling is all about.

(Originally published Decdmber 2005)

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