After the third warmest March on record, you’d have thought that being well into April with the days getting longer and longer, it was practically summer already. Wrong. The wind direction changed to a northerly and the intensity of it brought snow across many parts of the country. Not much though and it only lasted a day, apart from the hills, where it held on for a short time before finally submitting to the sun. No wonder we talk about the weather so much in the British Isles. Without exaggeration, one day we are walking around in shorts and tee shirt and the next we’re battling our way through snow and ice.
And it was with this backdrop that I took a break from my tench campaign to target perch on a huge venue (photo 1) I’ve fished there before for the species. But with the keyword being huge, location is the all important factor. The water isn’t exactly wall-to-wall fish and while if you drop on them you can have great sport, if they aren’t in the vicinity it can be a game of waiting. And waiting. And waiting. You get the point! And it was pretty much like that this session, although I did hook into a fish after a while. Just the one but at least I wasn’t a blanker.
But before I move on to the fishing itself, a nature report. In spite of the harsh weather the natural world was advancing nicely and as I parked my car I noticed several varieties of flowers in bloom in the area including cowslip and primrose (photo 2). The appreciation of our native plant life features very much in my love of British nature, to the point where I consider there’s no such thing as a weed. Which makes gardening at home a lot easier than if you see the dandelion as an enemy! In fact I love the dandelion (photo 3) and did you know that each flowerhead has 200 ray florets and that there are 232 micro-species in the British Isles!
Anyway, if I haven’t converted you to the cause of British wild flowers, let’s get back to the fishing! My next session was on a much smaller and more intimate venue – the local Staffs/Worcs Canal. With the cost of fuel these days, if you fish as much as I do, particularly as I do lots of short sessions, then you definitely need something local. And you never know, the venue that you’ve ignored in the past may well have something special within waiting for you. That’s exactly what I found a few years back when I started to target the canal.
Not having fished it regularly for some time I discovered a variety of pleasant surprises, one of them being some nice perch. Now when I say nice, bear in mind everything is relative. I consider a fish of 1lb from the canal a good one while anything over 2lb is a specimen. And that’s important, I believe, that as anglers we don’t just focus on the weight alone but rather take into account the venue. On this occasion I headed back to a spot that I came across some time ago while walking the towpath. You can’t beat something as old-fashioned as going for a walk with your watercraft head on eyeing up potential places to fish!
And anywhere that involves a walk of more than five minutes is likely to put you in some virgin territory. And I know that from my own experiences on the canal, as I very rarely see another angler. Therefore it was no surprise that I had the place to myself. I decided to float fish worm on a size 10 hook and fish it over brown crumb/predator mix with red maggots. I was there not much after first light and although the air was chilly, the water temperature was 10.7C, and that’s what really counts.
I didn’t catch anything of size on the perch front (photo 4) but I did get a bonus chub (photo 5) that until I saw it had me thinking it could be one of the specimen fish mentioned earlier. But as soon as it came from the murky depths to the visibility level of about a foot from the surface, I could see of course that it wasn’t a perch. Not that I was disappointed, because as I often say, there is no such thing as a nuisance fish. I was back again the next morning, this time on a different stretch some miles away. (photo 6)
I do a lot of exploring on the canal. Sometimes it comes together and sometimes it doesn’t. But the reality is you never know until you give it a go. And if you do that sort of thing yourself then it pays, as I tend, to play your cards close to your chest. When other anglers want to know your swims, in effect they are wanting you to do the hard work and then pass the benefits on to them.
They don’t want to know the spots where you blanked, just the ones where you caught the big fish so they can go there, without any effort for themselves and catch! So when you think about it, if you’re a so-called ‘secret squirrel’ then it’s not you that’s being selfish! Certainly from my own perspective, having a weekly blog entry that has a good readership, I just need to be careful. But I still get caught out. I made the mistake some time back of giving out some information on a swim to an individual in confidence. All I will say is I wished I hadn’t!
So back to the canal and how did I get on? There pretty much at first light, my float fished worm had a few plucks from roach but no confident take that indicated a perch was about to engulf it. Not until the end anyway, and right at the time when I was due to pack away. Not a big fish but it needed the net and as you can see (photo 7) it was hooked in the mouth. Often perch will swallow the bait and that’s why you always need to carry a disgorger (photo 8) when fishing for them. Actually you need one anyway, regardless of species, so if you’re a novice and building up your tackle then make sure you don’t compromise by leaving out what is an essential item.
One thing about these short visits to the local canal is I can get a lot of them in, particularly when I’m focused as I was this week. With the weather not being too clever I knew that even more than usual I’d have the pick of swims, and so heading off for a three hour session up to dark I settled in one where I have caught decent perch before. But once again the biggies eluded me. I did catch fish (photo 9) but not the size that I would really like. Not that I’m complaining of course, I’m sure you understand where I’m coming from. Perch don’t have to be big to be beautiful.
As well as my target species I picked up a bream (photo 10). If you haven’t seen the photos yet then don’t look if you’re eating! It had obviously been attacked by a predator as both sides were identical. I felt sorry for it; I don’t know whether it will live but it was feeding and put up a fight once hooked. Funnily enough I had seen a dead bream on the far bank earlier and a three-way tussle over it between a carrion crow, a lesser black-backed gull and a grey heron. The latter won the ultimate fight but all of them had a share of the spoils to some extent.
My final outing on the canal saw me blank. In horrendous conditions, but that’s no excuse and I’m not making one. In a three hour session up to dark I did hook one decent fish but a hook pull after seconds was the only action of the evening. So all in all a tough week, and although I did catch my target species, nothing of any size really. But that’s fishing for you, and as always I record the whole lot.
As anglers we do have times when we struggle and the fishing isn’t too good and I think it’s important if you write that you don’t withhold the ‘bad’ and only focus on the ‘good’. As for me, I don’t have an image or ego to uphold so it’s not an issue at all to include the blanks and tough sessions. And finally, if you do want to keep up to date with my angling updates then make sure you ‘like’ my facebook page. You’ll get the weekly article link in your news feed so you won’t miss anything. You can get the link on the home page of my website. (article published May 5 2012)