Or maybe just a right Charlie
Left to right: a first cast perch, the dandelion is a beautiful flower, caught after the canoes went, a ruffe, the carp on session three
As I so often write, the great thing about angling is that it can be to each one of us what we want it to be. A casual approach only venturing out when the sun is shining or diehard fanatic in all weathers: dedicated single species fisherman or literally happy to catch anything that comes along: focused big fish angler or content with a bag of 2oz roach. We all find the niche that we are comfortable with and we pursue that path. For me personally, I target specimen fish but am also a genuine all-rounder. And so on the basis of the last statement, after half a dozen or so canal carp sessions I wanted to switch to targeting perch.
For me ‘variety is the spice of life’ is more than just a nice catchphrase, it is the essence of my angling. Not that I get bored or my fishing ever becomes mundane – far from it – but the variety of species, venues and tactics keeps my enthusiasm and drive at boiling point. So much so, that as I drove to the canal after perch instead of the previous carp visits, the switch had me in the ‘kid on Christmas Eve’ mode. You meet people regularly who tell you that the passion wears off as you get older. Well speak for yourself mate!
I headed for a spot where I have caught big perch before, with the word ‘big’ a relative one. Size has to be balanced with the venue and what its stock is. I fished a tried and trusted method on the canal, with a light free running leger, bank sticks and bite alarms and a light hanger. Bait was a single worm on a size 10 hook and fished over dead maggots and brown crumb. To all intents and purposes, with just a casual glance, I might be a carp angler. The big advantage that the set-up has over float fishing is that I can flick the bait right under far bank overhanging trees. To do that with a rod and reel would be impossible, only a pole would allow that precise presentation.
I got off to a flying start, landing a nice perch first cast. I didn’t even get time to do my usual ‘Hello, I’m Stewart Bloor’ bit on the video. I had to do it while I was playing the fish. A smaller one followed and as the sun started to set I felt really confident. And then they came. I heard them first, and something sank inside me. A flotilla of canoes made their way through the stretch. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that we all have a right to use waterways and all that. But it wasn’t so much that they came through but rather the attitude in which they did it.
I’ve had canoeists before who have glided through so as to cause minimum disruption. But this lot splashed, shouted and made maximum noise. I think it was pretty obvious that they didn’t care and even that they were doing it on purpose. I know that there is a move on the part of canoeists to open up more waterways and all I can say is that conflict with anglers is going to be inevitable, particularly with people like these. No angler would be happy with them coming through but to do so in the manner in which they did, well I can’t see everyone handling like I did and saying nothing. For the next hour or so I had to just wait for the fish to get back to normal, and I had another big perch right at the end. At least I walked back to the car on a high note.
It didn’t take me long to get back out, the next day in fact. I headed for a new stretch, nothing to do with potential disruption from canoes but something I had already intended to do anyway. There are two ways to get amongst fish – you can either follow the leads of others or you can go out pioneering and exploring. And whilst there’s nothing wrong at all with the former, the latter is far more rewarding. So, casting out the rods it was with a sense of excitement that I sat back and waited. And I didn’t have to wait long either as I again had a perch first cast. Just a baby this time though. I really enjoyed the session, and although no big perch, I did catch a number of ruffe. It’s been ages since I had one of those, I even took a photograph on my Blackberry and via twitpic, loaded it on my twitter!
Fishing a different section of canal miles from where I was the day before I noticed that the flower species were also very different. Soil type, shade, exposure to sun and all those sort of factors determine what you encounter and this time round I found lots of greater stitchwort growing in the hedge behind the towpath. I also passed a healthy colony of green alkanet on the way and garlic mustard was quite regular as well. Dandelions were in abundance, as they were at the previous place. When people think of ‘weed’ that’s usually the flower they picture. But when you look closely at them you find that they are actually very pretty and wonderfully put together. Just like there is no such thing as a nuisance fish, there’s no weed in my vocabulary either.
I had a song thrush singing in the common ash tree right above me and if it hadn’t have been for the kids ‘f-ing and blinding’ in the field beyond I’d have captured a lot more of it on the video. I don’t know why people have to use that sort of language, it’s common place to hear it everywhere nowadays and just in general conversation as well. It doesn’t offend me, it’s up to people what they do. But I don’t particularly want to hear it either. I’d sooner listen to a song thrush. I also saw a great crested grebe on the canal, which got me thinking. I can’t actually remember the last time I saw a Staffs/Worcs Canal grebe, other than a little grebe of course. So maybe it was a first for me!
My third and final session of the week saw me back on the canal, back after perch and back in a regular spot. I arrived with just three hours of fishing time, but it’s better to have that in late evening than it is to have eight hours during the day with the sun shining and boats through one after the other. I didn’t catch a perch but I had a decent chub, roach and a carp that I recognised from a previous session. A mixed bag of fish for sure. The sun also brought butterflies out in force and I saw three species in the area where I fished: green-veined white, orange tip and peacock. I also heard a distant cuckoo at dusk, but am yet to see one this year.
And finally, to bring it back to perch, the programme that I featured in recently with Steve Collett is now on the On-line Angling channel. I posted the trailer link on my Angling Journal facebook page, which you can access via the home page of this website. You have to be a subscriber to view it in full, so if you aren’t then you’re in the same boat as me. I have seen a copy before it went live though so at least I know what it looked like. Charlie Sheen eat your heart out. Or more like Charlie Chaplin perhaps. Or maybe just a right Charlie.
Video number 21 on list
(Originally published May 2010)