BRITISH NATURE, CANAL FISHING, PHOTO-SHOOT (Blog entry 673)

I added twelve new birds to my year list while on vacation recently. It’s all about location. Back home on a sunny lunchtime I went for a walk with my wife down the local lane. It’s great to see birds when you know they’re there but you can’t beat a self-found one in a place where you are not expecting it. That happened to me when I scanned one of the fields and saw a spotted flycatcher perched in a hawthorn bush. I walk the area a lot (Turls Hill, Sedgley) and have never seen another birder.

Theres nothing wrong with following leads and reports, of course not, but there’s far more personal satisfaction with a self-found bird. It took me to 98, as I close in on 100 species for the year. It’s not just birds for me though, I love the whole British nature scene. Although I’ve made numerous visits to Africa and seen the ‘big five’ in their native environment, I still get a great buzz from what we have here in the UK. I’ve always had a conservation-minded mentality and that’s reflected in my garden pond at home.

My amphibian pond gets busy
My amphibian pond gets busy

As an angler you’d expect it to be full of fish wouldn’t you? In fact, they’re banned as it’s exclusively for amphibians. I’ve got a healthy colony of smooth newts and common frogs and the occasional common toad, although I’d love to see more of the latter. Why not give our wildlife a helping hand and build a pond of your own? It doesn’t need to be big but the impact that you make will be amazing. You can see more of my own pond in this week’s video.

The video kicks off though with a visit to the canal at first light. This is the time of the year when that means getting up very early indeed, and as I’m always in bed well after midnight anyway, I don’t get too much sleep in that particular twenty-four hour cycle. Not that I’m complaining though, far from it. Like anything in life, successful angling requires dedication and if that means rising when most of the world is still tucked up in bed, then so be it. After all, the early bird catches the worm, or in my case the early angler that uses the worm catches the perch. That was the plan anyway.

The plan was for perch this week
The plan was for perch this week

I did catch perch, nothing of any size though but that’s angling for you. Regardless of what your agenda is you can never say for sure it will be accomplished. As I said in a recent video, it’s not like going into a restaurant, putting your order in and then twenty minutes later it’s delivered to your table. I’ve had some great perch from the local canal system in recent years but I’ve also put lots of time in.

I fished with a size 6 hook and a big worm with the intention of eliminating smaller fish. That’s not always possible though as even tiny perch have big mouths, that combined with their eyes-bigger-than-their-stomach-attitude, means you’ll catch fish of all sizes. Regarding weight you have to be realistic as well. You can’t look at photos in the national angling press and then get disappointed if you don’t match them on your local venue. Always remember, you can only catch what’s in there.

I also caught bream and chub this week
I also caught bream and chub this week

That’s why, on the canal network I target, a fish of a pound is good and a 2lb perch is a specimen. I’ve also noticed in the last year or so that the bream have been coming out at much better weights than ever before as well. As you can see from the fish in the video (and here in a photograph) it’s decent enough for a canal. Not the size that I’m after when I’m on a gravel pit specifically pursuing them but as a bonus fish on the local canal, very welcome indeed.

With an hour or so free up to dark, the next session saw me dusting off the drop-shot gear. With the rod already made up, it’s a great way to squeeze an outing in when time is tight. I usually fish with a Berkley minnow but this time I swapped that for a live worm. It worked, with small chub on the bank and a new fish for me on the method, an eel. It joins pike, chub but predominantly perch that have fallen for the charms of a drop-shot presented bait.

The drop-shot gear put in an appearance
The drop-shot gear put in an appearance

There’s no reason why you couldn’t catch any fish on it – including sea species. A bit of tinkering and adaption and you could build up a pretty decent drop-shot tick list. I was back on the canal the very next day, again a very short session at dusk and once more I caught chub. Talking of adapting, although the general set-up would be considered pretty standard drop-shotting in terms of palomar knot, rig layout etc, I used a size 8 Drennan Super Specialist hook.

It certainly worked and that’s the thing I would say about the method – don’t be afraid to experiment and think outside the box. The final session of the week was ideal for this style of angling in terms of time. I took someone for an appointment at New Cross Hospital in Wolvethampton and while they waited, courtesy of the rod in the boot, I fished. I only had an hour, but again with the bait and rig as per the previous sessions, it was non-stop action all the way.

An urban canal session in Wolverhampton
An urban canal session in Wolverhampton

This time it was just perch that made the bank, which apart from being my favourite species anyway, were the target. They were just small but had lovely colouration. This was urban fishing at its best and although the area may put some people off I struck up some good conversations with the locals. I even had one man on a bench invite me to stay and share his bottle of vodka with him. Although I never feel intimidated I’m not sure I’d want to bivvie up for the night there though.

Of course, my week also involves football as well and so it’s only natural that TNS features in my blog. This week I interviewed our latest signing, Jon Routledge. Having had ten years as a youngster at Liverpool’s Academy, he then went on to play for teams such as Wigan, Hamilton and Dumbarton. I enjoy this side of my involvement with the club very much, with the results of the interviews finding their way through to TNS TV and the weekly podcast, the TNS Radio Football Show.

Photo-shoot at Park Hall and the new signing
Photo-shoot at Park Hall and the new signing

I visit Park Hall a couple of times a week, the rest of the time I’m able to work from home – or even from the water’s edge. That’s the beauty of working in media in the 21st Century. I have a 10G mobile data ipad and it goes with me on fishing trips, mostly though the longer waiting-game ones, where I’m able to do some work. I live a very busy life and the on-the-go internet connection allows me to squeeze a lot more goodness out of it. Busy, but blessed, that’s how I see it.

There was also a photo-shoot at TNS in advance of the new season. With The New Saints, TNS Ladies and FC Oswestry Town winning ten trophies between them there’s a big event coming up soon and I was honoured to be in on the photograph, along with the managers and the mayor of Oswestry. The club is very blessed to have an incredible photographer, Brian Jones, and you can see some of his work in the shots above. Enjoy your week and I’ll see you next Saturday. (Published June 4 2016)