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One of the great things about this time of the year is that I can work during the day and fulfill my other responsibilities, then set off somewhere late evening, fish through the night and still be home for breakfast. And of course all of that is made much more easier and convenient when the venues in question are local. With the Staffs/Worcs Canal becoming a regular haunt of mine in recent years, it takes just minutes to get to the nearest stretches and with traffic being light at that time of the day, even the ones not on my doorstep are easily reached in no time at all. This article features the canal and in particular fishing it for carp. But first, something about the format of my Angling Journal.
Since 2003 I have written a weekly piece, this being joined some years later by a video that appeared on YouTube. The article has always been the main star as far as I’ve been concerned, with the video playing sometimes a minor part in accompaniment, other times a much more prominent support role. But as from this week they will both be equal partners, in effect two pieces of a perfect jigsaw (as I say on the video when explaining the move), perfect in the sense that they fit together intentionally. Some things will appear on the article, other things on the video, but when both are taken in hopefully the two together will give a greater view of the big picture of that week’s angling.
Back to the canal, and I arrived with plenty of time before dark. As it was raining the shelter went up first. Not that I’m worried about getting wet, far from it, but I have gear that needs to be kept dry. I can dry out but my camera equipment won’t, and bait needs to be kept away from the rain as well. And talking of bait I want to spend some time on that. Firstly, the pigeon conditioner seeds (photograph 1) that I put out as an attractor. I get mine from a place called Cosworth Stud Feeds and their address is: Units 4/5 Perry Street, Wednesbury, West Midlands WS10 0AZ.
They do have a website which will appear in a search and you can get their telephone number, opening hours etc from there. If you’re a Black Country lad like me – and I know many from the region read my Angling Journal – then you can probably do what I do and drop by personally, thus avoiding postage charges. I forget exactly what I paid for my last sack of seeds, it was about £11, I think. Hardly going to break the bank is it? Just one thing though, if you do use seeds, as with any other baits of that nature, they need to be prepared properly. I soak mine in boiling water for a day or more. Make sure that they are well covered (you can always drain off extra water later) and as they take on liquid they swell to their maximum size. You want them to increase in the bucket and not inside the fish.
If fishing close-in I put them out as they are, but usually I end up adding a small amount of brown crumb so that I can throw them out by hand, and if fishing at distance then enough crumb to mould them into balls. On this occasion I added M2 dip as that was the bait I was fishing with on one rod. Of course, other alternatives include bait boat and spod. The seeds themselves produce a lovely syrup-like mix when prepared and this merely adds to the attraction. I’ve been using them for years and not just for carp either – they are a staple part of my barbel approach.
My tactics on session one on the canal was to fish the left rod about 1/3 of the way out and the right rod to overhanging vegetation on the far bank. Tackle was very similar, 10lb line to 10lb braid hooklength of maybe five inches. Leads were 2oz and fixed as bolt-rigs between 2 beads and a powergum knot. On the left rod I fished a 14mm lobworm pop-up boilie and on the right rod a 12mm M2 bottom boilie. From the moment darkness descended, the chub took over. I had everything from a single bleep to a mini-run and this continued right through the night with no let-up whatsoever. The chub weren’t all big either, as you can see from photograph 2. I also had eel nibbles on the lobworm boilie; these reminded me of barbel fishing on the lower Severn in summer when anything remotely attractive to the species gets nibbled and eroded during the night.
But no carp, which makes it a number of blanks from that particular section this year, although I have caught a couple of fish elsewhere on the canal. But that’s the sort of fishing I do, blanks are part and parcel of the journey. When it does come together though it’s absolutely rewarding. And hoping that things would indeed come together, my second journey of the week to the canal saw me head to the very spot I had previously caught my two commons. And looking to make it a hat-trick of fish in as many visits, my confidence was as high as it could be. It was a lovely night and on this occasion I did put a few seeds out. Knowing that the fish are there – well at least two of them anyway – it was an attempt to get them focused in the area around my hook baits.
The section is some miles away from the place I fished in session one, and doesn’t have the chub ‘problem’, although to a much lesser extent they are replaced by bream. And it was that species that at least saved me from a blank. With tackle being identical to my previous description, other than the pop-up which was now an M1 12mm, it was the change bait that tempted the fish. A bleep on the indicator and movement on the hanger had me on the rod waiting for development. If a liner it could mean a carp was in the immediate area, and with the fish being totally innocent other than natural wariness, it could even have been a carp picked up the boilie and at that precise moment wasn’t aware. But no, the subsequent moments revealed a bream had taken the bait.
I fished from about 8.30pm until midnight and then called time, as a busy day following meant I needed some rest; although getting to bed after 1.00am and up with the lark might not be considered body recuperation time to many I guess! On the nature front I had a pair of mute swan pestering me for food, and maybe not having experience of my sort of fishing they kept going over the lines. Even though they were just slight pulls I did recast. I have to have total confidence in what’s out there otherwise I can’t settle, and even a short tug on a hair rig set up could mean the hook can pull into leaves, twigs or other such stuff that will mask the point. The nature highlight though was at least four very noisy tawny owls in the immediate area. More often heard than seen, I was very blessed to have two fly across the canal and I got great views as they silhouetted against the sky. The accompanying video features footage of a wood pigeon, mute swan and young mallards.
My next visit to the canal saw me tick yet another tawny owl, this one in flight well before darkness. Although I’ve heard loads so far this year, I hadn’t actually seen one until my previous session, and now I clock three in a few days. A bit like the proverbial bus. On the fishing front, although the carp continued to play hard to get, the bream obliged. I added a couple of fish, both on the pop-up rod, with photograph 4 confirming it was a 12mm M1 that did the trick. I knew they were bream takes as opposed to carp, as they were drop-backs that didn’t result in a crazy run but rather a weak lifting of the hanger; although in fairness to the fish they did put up a decent enough fight considering the odds stacked against them.
I fished till after midnight, always hopeful that I would get a screamer and connect with a carp, but it wasn’t to be. Not to be discouraged in any way though, I was back on the cut (as it is known locally) and back after my elusive quarry. Groundhog day followed as several visits to the canal all produced fish in the shape of small bream, but no carp. However I wasn’t discouraged, and I knew that if only through perseverance, it would come good in the end. And so it did, on the very last session of the article. The number of times it clicks for me right at the end is considerable. A lesson to us all that when we know we are on the right track, we should keep going and not give in. Many anglers start a campaign but after a couple of blanks move on to something else.
And that sort of leads on to the title of this week’s article. I think about my angling a lot; for me the intellectual preparation is as vital as getting tackle ready or sorting bait out or whatever. I like to think outside the box, which as we know is a term indicating that we’re prepared to explore beyond conventional reasoning. But what is also important is that we don’t just think but actually live outside of it as well. In other words, we can have all sorts of ideas but unless we do something about them they’re actually irrelevant. How many times do we think we ought to give something a go but we never actually get round to it? Living outside the box for me has put carp on the bank in a section where a pleasure angler told me ‘I have fished here for years and never even hooked into a carp. There are none in here’. It’s also, in the last year or so, introduced me to some nice perch on a venue where everyone else fishes for carp. And I’ve also heard someone say that there are no perch in there.
And putting legs on my thoughts saw me catch the fish that you can see in photographs 3 and 5 above. An hour into darkness and there’s movement on the 12mm M1 pop-up boilie rod. Another bream? After all I had caught two already that night. No, this was no bream. As line peeled off like there was no tomorrow I knew that I had finally connected with a carp. A few minutes later and I’m slipping the net under a fish that weighed in at 11lb 5oz. It was a really solid fish and well packed and looked in great condition. Of course I’ve had bigger carp, but as I so often stress, it’s not about the stand-alone weight but rather the circumstances surrounding the capture. Like the fish, my canal sessions so far this year have been into double figures, and many may not understand how I can be actually contented with three carp.
I get people contacting me telling me to go and fish this commercial water or that pond because ‘You can catch a carp every ten minutes’. Although people are trying to be helpful and they see themselves as a sort of piscatorial knight in shining armour, rescuing me from my misery, the reality is that they don’t really understand the mechanics of specialist angling. In fact just the day after I caught the fish, I had a text from Steve Collett who is himself pursuing canal carp at the moment, informing me that after 12 sessions he had finally caught one himself. Like he said ‘Only 16.12 but you know how it feels’. Yes Steve, I do! Brilliant! (Published June 2011)