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With the alarm set for 4.30am I was up bright and early ready to hit the local canal in pursuit of my favourite species the perch. Of course I’m not complaining as I could fish for them every day of the week if I had to, but I was hoping to be after canal carp or pit tench by now (as I was in March!) But with overnight temperatures falling to zero and below, it was a case of matching the species with the weather. That’s my set-up (photo 1) and as you can see it looks like I am carp fishing, apart from everything being on a smaller scale.
I don’t know if you have a loyalty to a particular manufacturer but as I sat there watching the hangers and the alarms I counted a number of names that I was directly in touch with that morning. Fox, Nash, ATT, Maxima, Okuma, Dinsmores, Drennan, ESP and Chub. And if you include my clothing then you can add Wychwood, BAA and SBS Baits to that list! And that’s just for a short basic perch session on the local cut! Next time you’re out fishing and waiting for a take, have a count yourself and see what you come up with. You may be surprised.
Now that I’ve changed the video format to a monthly one and so not showing rigs on camera I will include more information in the articles. This time round it was really simple as you can see (photo 2). My line was Maxima 4lb straight through with the hook length created simply by nipping on a size 6 shot and a 5mm bead. The hook itself was a size 10 and on one rod I fished worm and on the other prawn. As far as rig approach is concerned, my own attitude is to keep it simple and only tinker and develop if needs be. But on the canal where you are just flicking the bait out a few yards, simplicity is the key.
Fishing with the set-up I do as opposed to float fishing enables me to present a bait under far bank trees and overhanging vegetation, which at this time of the year is a great feature as the growth season is well under way. Not only does the protruding greenery offer cover but also food as insects will invariably fall into the water. You could fish with a pole of course, but that’s not my style, although if it’s yours that’s great. If a guy wants to sit with a pole and fish that’s his business. Just as much as if someone wants to position himself behind a pod. Live and let live I say!
I’ve mentioned my hook baits and these were fished over a mix of brown crumb and predator mix (4:1) with casters and dead maggots. I put a few balls out on arrival and then on a trickle basis throughout the four-hour session. I did catch perch (photo 3) although not any big ones. But as one of my recent articles stated ‘They don’t have to be big to be beautiful’. Regardless of size I just love perch. I did think I had hooked into a decent one though during the session as the strike saw me connect with more resistance than that which a small perch offers.
Almost immediately it came to the surface on the far side and I was really surprised to find I was playing a fish that looked like a koi/goldfish hybrid (photo 4). The back markings were definitely like a koi (should have done an ‘ariel’ shot) and that’s what I thought it was at first. But then, as you can see from the side-on photo it was more goldfish-like. In these days of commercial fisheries no doubt many of you catch these sort of fish on a regular basis. But as I fish ‘wild’ and ‘natural’ venues it is a surprise when I get something like this.
The canal in question ticks the wild and natural boxes, it isn’t stocked at all. In fact it’s one of those places where you never see another angler. The bankside vegetation is untouched. It obviously didn’t come in via floods as you sometimes get on rivers, so although it could have been a bird drop or an escaped livebait that had grown on, the most likely explanation is someone had got bored with their garden pond and emptied the inhabitants into the canal. If I catch a terrapin next outing then that will explain why!
Session number two, while on the same canal, saw me hit a different stretch (photo 5) a few miles away. If you look closely at the image you will notice that a wide swathe has been cut into the vegetation either side of the towpath, and then if that isn’t bad enough, right up to the water’s edge after that. I never understand why British Waterways want to do it, certainly in these days of financial limitations. The financial savings by leaving nature to itself must be quite significant when you consider the miles of canal that we have in the country.
Then there’s the environmental cost. I mean, do we really want nice manicured lawn-like edges to our canals? Leave them as they are, not only are they corridors for wildlife such as shrews and mice but they look much nicer when natural and wild. And they allow a whole range of our native wildflowers to flourish, such as the garlic mustard (photo 6) which was in the hedge behind the swim safe from the destruction of man and his machine. And if you don’t sympathise with my points, surely as an angler, the last thing you want is for loads of vegetation to be sprayed onto the canal to ultimately sink and decay on the bottom?
Anyway, the fishing! Well on that front it went well, certainly better than of late. I caught a few perch and even a bonus roach. My approach was exactly the same as for session one other than there were no casters in the mix and that was just down to what I had available in my bait freezer. It was nice to catch perch big enough to pose with (photo 7) as my recent ones have been hand-held shots only.
I really enjoyed the session and couldn’t wait to get back out again. And although only a couple of days later I set the alarm half an hour earlier which meant I was able to extend my session before the boats started to disrupt things. We are fast approaching the time of the year where true darkness is quite limited. When it becomes properly dark, it seems like no time at all before the beginnings of the new day start to show. And once we hit the summer holiday period fishing very early is the only guaranteed way to beat the boating tourists!
I headed to a stretch where I have fished before but a couple of years ago. It has lots of overhanging vegetation (photo 8) and therefore is as good a place as any to target perch. I did catch last time, although nothing big, so a return was always on the cards. You need to fish somewhere a few times before you can even begin to make a judgement. I had a decent fish on first cast but a hook pull meant I didn’t get to see it. It was on long enough though to know it was a good canal perch.
The next fish was a good half an hour later, but after that there was a steady trickle of fish (photos 9, 10) that although not particularly big, all needed the net. Aside from the fish, because I love all perch regardless of size, the highlight was a tawny owl that at 6.37am in full daylight flew along the canal and perched on a tree just a few metres away. The songbirds in the area, who had already given their all in the earlier dawn chorus, found a second wind to let the intruder know that it wasn’t welcome. I don’t know whether I will see the owl again but I will definitely be back to explore the potential further on that stretch. Watch this space!
And finally, if the name Mr Crabtree means anything to you then there’s a good chance you are from the same generation as me. Just a book, but it played a big part in my very early angling days back in the 60’s in terms of inspiration. Even now I go all nostalgic and the memories come flooding back – and that’s just looking at the cover! Well, there is currently the opportunity of a lifetime for a young angler (8-14 years) to get involved in a modern version. Check out the website below and all I can say is I wish I were a kid again, my application would be in for sure!
Check out my angling website and here’s the May angling video. Make sure you keep in touch with my angling news by liking my facebook page and don’t forget to take a look at the Mr Crabtree site. See you next week when I will be on a pit after specimen tench. (article published May 19 2012)