With the River Severn still in the streets of Tewkesbury, Upton and Gloucester, I decided to give the rivers a miss this week. I actually enjoy a river that is bank-high, and even one that is overflowing a little presents no problem, but when the official statistics declare that the Severn is now running at thirty four feet above its bed, then it’s time to consider something else, I’m sure you agree!
I decided to give the local canal a go instead and see what the summer perch potential was like. The Staffs/Worcs canal is very active with boats during the warmer months, and so with school holidays now in full swing, I chose to fish evening sessions. That’s the beauty of a canal that is just a few miles away; you certainly couldn’t fish for just a couple of hours if you were travelling great distances. Apart from the effectiveness of time, there is also the cost of petrol involved.
By doing evening sessions, and taking advantage of the still long days, I was able to manage four outings this week. The first two were with the spinning rod. I do like that style of fishing for perch and whilst there is a buzz associated with any bite, there is something special when you feel the fish hit the lure as it is retrieved through the water. I put a small spinner on – a Mepps Aglia number one, and tied a few strands of red wool around the hook as added attractor to goad the perch into taking the bit of metal that I was casting out into their territory.
I had a very pleasant time and although I didn’t catch any monsters, on both occasions I ended up with not only perch but also several chub as well. All fish are predatory to some extent, but a lot of anglers don’t appreciate just how much chub fall into that category. Live baits, dead baits, spinners and lures; whatever you are fishing for, whether it is pike, perch or zander, if there are chub around then sooner or later you will catch one.
For the final couple of sessions I switched to static fishing, and in particular live baiting. In order that I could have a good supply of gudgeon I have bought a whip. This type of fishing is pretty alien to me, and fiddling around with 1lb 6oz line and size 18 hook, I had to keep really focused so I could find the hole and then tie the knot properly. It took several attempts before I got everything set up and ready to go. I take my hat off to match anglers who work with 12 ounce line and size 26 hooks. I thought there was nothing wrong with my eyesight until I started to tie my rigs; how you manage at that level, I don’t know!
I caught just enough gudgeon to keep me going, but I also had lots of perch as well on the single maggot hook bait – and ironically I caught bigger fish on the whip than I did with the live bait presentation. It’s funny when all you want to do is catch tiny fish but you keep getting landing net size perch, which is the reason you are after the tiddlers in the first place! Should I continue with perch on the canal (and I’m not sure yet, it all depends on the weather forecast) then there is a definite case put forward for lobworm.
The first static session was dry as far as the weather was concerned, but on the second the heavens opened. At times the rain was so heavy it was like being in a tropical storm. I’ve been in the rainforests of West Africa during the rainy season, and what I was experiencing in Staffordshire was not far behind some of the downpours I have been in whilst out and about in the African jungle. But fortunately I always carry my umbrella, and even though it was just about adequate against the driving rain, it was definitely better than nothing at all.
Although I enjoyed my visits to the canal, I do prefer the rivers really. It’s not simply the species – I am not focused on barbel to the exclusion of everything else – but the environment. I love flowing water, whether it be a brook or the tidal section of a river. And hopefully I will be back on the Severn soon, if not this coming week, then certainly the one after. I keep promising myself some quality time after zander, so when the river drops back within its rim then I can consider my options.
(Originally published July 2007)