After several weeks bream fishing, I decided to switch back to my canal carp campaign. This would be the final session before the glorious 16th once more heralded the start of a new river season. After what has been a slow time on the canal, I wondered if I would hit gold, or would I continue to struggle in my pursuit of a decent fish? And that’s one of the great things about angling – not knowing what the future holds.
And even though certain devotees of particular theories like to predict the exact second that a specimen fish will take the bait, I find that in reality, fishing is nothing like that at all. In fact I’d go as far as to say that when everything looks perfect we are just as likely to struggle, and when grim is the order of the day, there’s every chance that something decent will turn up.
Arriving at the canal late evening, the last few fishermen were packing away and heading home. More often than not I do find myself doing the night shift, taking over from the day anglers. And even though I do absolutely enjoy fishing in the dark, the real reason I stop out all night is because that is the most productive time, plus of course the hour or so either side of darkness.
I baited up a couple of spots, both just yards from the towpath, after all this is the canal and even with an under-hand cast you have to be careful that you don’t catch the far bank trees or vegetation! I put out half a bucket of seeds, hoping to not only attract some carp, but also to keep them there once they arrived. I was able to throw the seeds out by hand, such is the width of the canal. No need for spods, catapults or marker floats on this venue!
The weather forecast was for a dry night, and even though I had brought my umbrella, it stayed firmly closed inside the holdall. One of the disadvantages of fishing the canal is limited space, and even though in the event of rain, I can just about set the umbrella up, it is a very awkward manoeuvre. Therefore, more than normal, a canal overnighter has to be planned very strictly in accordance with the forces of nature.
It had been a beautiful day, but as the sun set it got quite nippy. Although daytime temperatures had been in the high teens across the country, the overnight ones had plummeted. In fact the day before, even as far south as Oxford there had been a ground frost. The English weather is just like the English women – we’ll never understand it but we just learn to live with it anyway! Not that I’m speaking from experience you understand!
It was my left-hand rod, fished up to a bed of far bank reeds, that signalled the first fish of the session – a chub about 1.5lb. I do like chub, and they certainly put up a decent enough fight, but on 10lb line, even a feisty fish is pretty much reduced to nothing more being reeled in. Apart from a few line bites, the rest of the time up to midnight was very quiet, and as the local church bells signalled the start of a new day, I found myself dozing off.
Wrapping the sleeping bag around me I was soon asleep, but always being a light sleeper when fishing, I was very quickly on the rods as the bite alarm indicated that I had tempted a fish to take my boilie. Definitely a good carp, it certainly gave a decent account of itself and did its utmost to evade capture. However, with the only snags being the far bank reeds, it wasn’t long before I was lifting it out of the water and onto the bank.
It certainly looked a nice fish and the scales took it to a good double. I’m not sure whether there are any 20’s in the stretch so anything from a double upwards is more than welcome. I believe that the definition of a specimen fish is not the actual weight, but rather the weight compared to the size of the fish in the venue. So on some waters a 15lb carp might be nothing yet on others it is a monster!
Anyway I was certainly a very happy man indeed with my common carp. After eleven canal sessions that had only produced two small carp (and of course numerous chub) I had at last hit the target. And with this particular entry of my Angling Journal being the one hundredth, it was nice to enter the second century with a good fish. And as we are well into the cricket season right now, you could say it is very much a case of one hundred not out! And as the early morning mist started to rise over the canal, I felt very blessed to just be there. Sometimes catching a fish is just a bonus!
(Originally published May 2005)