With my roach campaign well underway it was difficult to want to be anywhere else other than the reservoir, however there was one other venue that I’m always keen to fish around spring time and that’s the canal. The weather in March is sometimes warm enough to make the carp very active and mobile after holding up under snags and boats all winter but it’s still early enough in the year for boat traffic to be at its absolute minimum.
I grew up fishing the Grand Union canal and since I was very young I have always been aware of how productive yet under fished they are. There is something really exciting about catching carp from such small and narrow stretches and I especially like the fact that the fish have so much character and you really don’t know what’s coming along next.
This particular spring session saw me heading up north of the M25 with Tom Forman and meeting up with Jack Brown along the way. The initial session was only to be an overnighter and on the Sunday we would pack the majority of gear away and spend the rest of the day trying to hunt out some better fish. We all met up and before deciding where to fish had a good walk along some different sections. To say I was horrified was an understatement – I’m not in a position to comment on where I was or what I believed was the purpose or benefit of what I saw, but I will briefly outline it to you. All the sections I walked (around 2 miles in total) were being. 'et’s call it – 'worked on’. By that, I mean they either had VERY little water in them, had been dredged (all silt and bottom debris removed) OR had ALL bankside cover obliterated 'til it was NO more (in some cases, some of the areas had all three of the described carried out).
Now I am sure whoever made the decision that this was the required route to take (from either a fishery management point of view or for the benefit of all the other water users), but I’m sure he or she knew exactly what they were doing so at no point am I criticising what they have done, BUT from someone who loves going along to what was the beautiful canal it really had ruined the magic for me. If the way the canal had been ‘transformed’ wasn’t enough, we were also lucky enough to come across numerous dead carp that in some cases had been completely cut in half with the machinery used OR simply died probably due to the large amount of silt that had been disturbed and later clogged up their gills. As I said, I was sure it was all for the best, but very disappointing all the same.
As you can see from this photo below, it hadn’t all been destroyed. However, I did have a lasting impression that this type of ‘work’ is also going to be carried out on ALL stretches at some point in time. Desperately wanting to fish, we decided to drop onto an area that has done lots of bites for all of us in the past, although the thought of going stalking all day Sunday no longer seemed that appealing.
The area we had decided to fish had lost a lot of its cover with regards to far bank overhangs, but at least there was still a decent level of water. Coupled with the fact that we had a deep lock and a turning bay, I hoped there would still be a few fish knocking about.
We all fished a couple of rods each and I opted to go down the white bait route (canal carp are suckers for anything white, due to the large volume of bread they have consumed over the years and usually without the fear of associating it with getting caught), so decided on simple snowman rigs with Amber Strawberry boilies, which I fished in conjunction with a bread PVA stick that I had also boosted up with Strawberry Oil Pallatant.
By simply lowering my rig onto a marginal shelf, I could gently ‘bob’ it along the bottom to ensure the area was clean and everything was presented nicely.
That evening saw the temperatures drop to well below zero!! Jack and myself had both brought brollies with us, but Tom opted to ‘keep it real’ and do the night under the stars – slightly mental but I totally believe him when he commented that he still had a pleasant night tucked up in his Indulgence Sleep System with both the duvet layers attached.
I was lucky enough to catch two carp – not monsters but a result in the cold conditions all the same. Sadly, Tom and Jack didn’t catch, but that can’t be put down to their angling – more to do with the sudden cold snap and the fact the fish were all over the place with the huge amount of recent work that had just been carried out. Sometimes, luck is on your side or do you ALWAYS create your own luck (I certainly wasn’t prepared to blank)?
We awoke very early on the Sunday and very quickly concluded that we had seen enough of the canal and that although all of us would have liked to not only stay the day but also venture back over the next few weeks, it was probably best left till the Autumn now once everything had settled down a bit. Shame, really.
Jack decided that he was going to head back to the Cotswold to keep hunting monsters, whereas Tom and myself knew there was only a few days left before the river shut for the close season and, with being so close to the river Lea, that we would spend our day stalking this instead with the hope of lots of chub action and maybe even a barbel or two. We decided to head to the upper stretches where the river is extremely narrow, fast, wild and gin clear, even in the deepest of pools. There are lots of free fishing stretches that run through the many towns and villages, as well as some local farmers who are always happy to nick a fiver day ticket off you.
With just the most basic of tackle (rod, centre pin, net and rucksack), we scoured the banks for lurking chub and glimmers of gold flashes from the barbel. It’s such an enjoyable way of spending a day and, after quickly finding fish, we both set to with clocking up a mega haul of chub by simply trundling meat or a small boilie under any possible snags or undercut banks where the rod would be simply snatched away from you by the ravenous fish. To get the fish in the spirit we also fed the runs and pools with a mixture of halibut pellet, hemp seed and broken boilies, all of which had been doused in the Fish Frenzy Magic Mix – my all-time favourite attractor for chub and barbel and, although I keep saying it, I’ve got to give it a go for some other species, too, because I genuinely believe its going to be irresistible to everything.
The rig was as simple as a knotless knotted Fang Uni hook with a short hair keeping the bait tight to the shank of the hook. In a lot of cases, the river was so shallow that it could be simply free lined and rolled, but there was the odd swim where, by adding some Cling On Putty to the loop to loop, it was enough to get the bait down and hold in the vicinity of the fish. Every Peg we would drop into would produce a fish, with some of the better covered areas producing multiple catches.
Honestly, there are fish in there...
Rigs and baits were kept simple
Fish Frenzy Magic Attractor - my fave!
Cling On Putty keeps it down
We probably fished for a good four hours and between us caught well in excess of 50 chub – nothing massive, with the largest probably just scraping 3lb, but it was GREAT fun. The barbel were proving elusive in the bright sunshine, but Tom was desperate to catch his first fish, so we couldn’t stop just yet. Searching out those deeper holes and using more halibut pellet and hemp to really pull the fish out from the snags, Tom eventually managed to snag himself a couple of cracking little barbel and I even managed to trip up a little beauty myself. I also hooked and lost a low 20lb common carp, which was completely unstoppable as it charged upstream for the best part of 30 metres – such an exciting little place and just a shame that I would have to wait 'til the start of the season to have another go.
Tom gets his prize!
Me with my little beauty
To cap off what had been an enjoyable 24 hours, I decided to drop onto the roach reservoir on my way home. Initially it was to just pre-bait for the week nights ahead, but with the sun setting and fish dimpling the surface, I couldn’t resist chucking a waggler about for the last hour of the day, catching numerous roach and perch up to about 12oz – I was ‘in the zone’ and ready for some after work session in search of a 3lb dream!
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