Far from the Madding Crowd

With new anglers joining the sport every week, many old hands and newcomers alike, who prefer something a little quieter, are looking for new waters where they can get away from it all. I receive correspondence nearly every week from anglers hoping I can point them in the direction of a nice quiet water, with unknown potential to provide a new challenge in tranquil surroundings. You might think that in today’s carp-boom society, finding such untapped waters is nigh on impossible, but the irony is that in many cases, such waters are right on your doorstep!

Canal fishing for carp is nothing new, but it amazes me just how few think of the region's canals as viable carp waters. It used to be the case that nearly every angling club would control a number of canal stretches, predominantly used for matches, but as the desire for bigger and better match weights continued, many canal stretches lost favour with the clubs and many relinquished leases in the pursuit of highly stocked stillwaters. The result is that many of these canal stretches have been left to mature and now offer the adventurous carp angler with unlimited potential.

I remember on my own local canal how, over a period of many years, a constant stream of club competitions stripped away many stretches of their character, as bankside vegetation and features were endlessly whittled down to leave long barren stretches, but much has now changed. I’ve fished a number of canal stretches over the last few years and have to say, they offer some of the most breathtaking scenery you will ever find, and as for fish weights, well let’s just say that some of the largest carp have come from underrated canals and rivers! Some of the better known stretches are club controlled but there are just as many that have hardly seen a line in years - and in these stretches the fish have been left completely unpressured, resulting is some phenomenal growth rates - there are several stretches I have been targeting myself where I have not seen another angler all year, and you very often have the stretch completely to yourself, bar the odd dog walker!

Canal Carp FishingMy current canal stretch; as stunning as any estate lake you will find

How do you find such stretches? Well that’s where British Waterways come in to the equation. There are literally hundreds of canal miles throughout the UK, indeed British Waterways state that most of the population of Great Britain live within five miles of one of its waterways! To make better use of its unleased canals and rivers in the British Waterways North West introduced a ‘Waterway Wanderers’ scheme a few years back. The idea is that by paying a yearly, monthly or daily fee, you can fish any of its unleased stretches across the region – and there’s a lot to go at; forty-three miles of the Shropshire Union Canal, forty miles of the Llangollen Canal, forty-five miles of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, fifty-five miles of the Lancaster Canal, together with parts of eight other additional waterways totalling another thirty miles, including stretches of the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey, both well known for producing carp of specimen proportions!

Where do you start? Well, that depends on what you are after. If you want to target known big fish, then just ask around. There are several stretches that have produced consistently over the years, but my preference is to take a step into the unknown. The stretches I have been targeting this past year are not renowned carp stretches, although homework has tracked down the odd capture to just under twenty pounds going back some fifteen years or more, and to be honest, it would appear nobody has targeted the carp since then, and that’s just the way I like it. Apparently, they were old fish at the time, so the first challenge was to find out if they were still in there. I started walking various stretches several times a week in the hope of spotting something. What struck me immediately was how stunning some of our regional canals really are, many waterways have matured to such an extent that they now resemble narrow twisting estate lakes, often flanked by yew, alder and rhododendrons. And as for features, you’ll find some of the most appetising spots you’ve ever come across, many of which I’m sure have never seen a rig in pursuit of carp!

There are several stretches close to my home, particularly the Trent and Mersey, where I knew good fish held up, but I wanted to find virgin carp territory, irrespective of size, and ultimately it proved a highly rewarding challenge just to prove that carp were in the actual stretch I selected!

If, like me, you are looking to target untapped areas, where should you begin your search? First you need to think about the carp's main requirements for food and shelter. The basic principles of Stillwater fishing still apply and a feature that produces carp on your local lake could well have the same effect on your local canal. Overhanging features, sweeping bends where there are undisturbed far bank features, areas where boats are moored, winding holes near to locks or marinas. Most of these spots will hold carp, but often it’s a case of being in the right place at the right time.

I’ve found that early morning sessions are best and this is certainly when I’ve observed most fish, but feeding times may vary from water to water so it’s a case of trial and error.

For more information on the Waterway Wanderers permit for the north west, and countless other free to fish river and canal locations around the rest of the country, visit: http://www.waterscape.com

Happy adventuring…

Julian Grattidge
January 2011