Friday, 8 May 2015

Pole Fishing the Bridgewater Canal and Monster Pond Perch

A warm welcome to this weeks blog update i hope i find you all well and your nets wet.  I have to say from the outset these past few weeks getting back on the canals has really saw me having a great time on the bank.  I am not currently fishing the old haunts i fished as a kid but just being on the canal has brought back so many memories for me and at the moment the only thing that is missing is the sight of the bark black and bronze flanks of a big canal bream breaking the surface.  Hopefully i will experience this before the rivers open again.

This weeks blog update introduction See's me giving my thoughts on the lack of kids fishing on the canals and ponds and my thoughts behind what is to blame.  As a result of that i will be covering all aspects of my approach to fishing canals in the coming weeks and we finish the introduction with a little on the pike review going live.   The fishing this weeks See's me fishing on a private pond called Curlston mere where the swim dies and for once i find out why and the second trips sees a morning session on the Bridge water that i hope shows anyone reading who is fed up with the rat race that goes with commercials that the canals are a live and well and are great places to fish.

on to the update..

Bite A Chuck But The Banks Are Barren....

It is safe to say we are living in the Golden era of fishing, never before have fish grown to such large proportions, never before have our rivers and waterways been so clear and unpolluted and never before have we had such a wealth of places to fish with commercials dotted all over mixed with the lakes, canals and rivers we are literally spoilt for choice. 

That is the good news story of the times we live in but i also feel we are living and witnessing the demise of old school fishing as we know all remember it.  I first started to feel like this when i was fishing on the banks of the River Dee and noticed that i was by far the youngest angler on the bank.  Many excuses not to fish rivers are presented from rivers being muddy and dirty uncomfortable to people saying walking endless fields and lugging their gear was not up their street.  That may well have been the case but the river i was fishing was the River Dee at Farndon where you can park your car at the back of your peg and you fish off sturdy relatively clean EA pegs so this kind of blows that out of the water.  The simple fact is that the art of trotting a float and fishing rivers is dying, not all over the country but certainly in the areas i fish.

At the time i thought it was just rivers that where quiet but the past few weeks fishing on the canal and local ponds has genuinely shocked me.  I would say i have been fishing 5-6 times on canals and ponds the past few weeks and i think i have seen 4 anglers in that time, not counting the same ones on different visits.  The fishing on all the trips has been steady with regular bites and some nice fish to boot yet on most trips i have not seen a single angler wetting a line.  I drive along miles of the canal to get to where i fish and pass it every day on my commute to work and see the empty banks.

As a kid growing up i remember the sights of 100-200 pegged matches on the canal and the local ponds where always a rate race to get their before your mates to get a peg.  I now think the canal and the local ponds sit below rivers in the pecking order.  Are we slowly losing canals and ponds as a place where young anglers are born and skills are learnt? I don't fish commercials regular but have there fish filled commercial ponds now become the place to go because you are guaranteed to catch something?  or is it that kids growing up are no longer in love with angling as we where as kids and we are facing a gap in years to come of new anglers coming through?  I am a Strong believer that if you can fish a canal you can fish anywhere as the refined skills you learn fishing a canal and feeding truly wild fish that don't need our baits to survive are being lost for the generic 5lb line to 4lb hook length attached to a pole and a pellet on the end fishing for a carp a chuck?.

It is also possible that with the rise in popularity of carp fishing that we are facing a scenario where dads have only ever carp fished so then their children are naturally shown carp fishing so you are left with anglers that may only know one way to fish.  Either way i hope the tables turn and the canals and ponds are discovered by youths its such a crying shame that the banks are so empty and i will be trying to include as much as i can about canal fishing in my blogs in the coming weeks to try and help as much as i can for people wanting to try it but now knowing how.

Where To Fish On A Canal...

Canals are very similar to rivers in the way that they can be quite long in length and location plays such an important key in catching fish.  When i am looking for places to fish on both rivers and canals i always start off at my computer screen with a A4 pad of paper and slowly work along the length of canal to find certain features and areas that require further investigation.

Initially i am looking for any type of features that provide cover for the fish such as reed beds, bridges supports that come across the canal and wides in the canal where the canal is naturally wider.  On google maps you can sometimes even see the stretch before you visit as you can view it from the street view where roads go over the canal or along side so Google Maps is the place where i start and pin point a few key areas.

While on the Internet its also worth doing some searches on the canal you are going to fish as you can guarantee someone will have posted some kind of report from a session on the Internet somewhere.  Don't always read these as gospel as they may be a few years old but use them as a pointer to what the canal can hold.  Another good avenue is to look for where the club that owns your canal fishing has matches and the type of weights that are winning them, chances are these people have fished matches for years and invariably hold matches in the good spots on the canal.

All said and done though there is no substitute for getting out there on the canal yourself and looking at the canal first hand.  Summer is a great time to get on the canal as in the blistering heat you can count on the fish to be up on top showing themselves and this is where you find out where on the canal your better fish like bream and carp are holding up as in the blistering heat you are bound to come across this sight.

Once you have a fair idea where the fish are make a note of the amount of boat traffic your canal has, blistering hot days are great for this as you see how many boats use the canal at peak time.  Most canals will have some form of boat traffic and you should never as an angler see these as totally bad as although the canals do pollute the waterways they also impart movement and colour into the water that the fish need to feed and also get used too.  The canal i fish on the Bridge water does have a bit of boat traffic so if this is the case you need to take this into account when picking a swim.

So you are stood there on the canal and it all looks the same and picking where to fish can be a hard task.  The boats on the canal will all normally follow a same line so what i look for in a swim is an area where i can feed away from this main boat line where i know my bait will not be disturbed.  I walked the local canal after work today and these are the features i would fish on one section of canal.

Up the side of the bridge will no doubt be shallow as no boats will have been able to go though there and as such the silt will have built up.  This area is a great area for fishing as you know any feed going over there will not be disturbed by the boats.  The stone work also offers a feature that species like roach and perch love. 

Reeds are fantastic areas of canal and the places i always head too as they offer you so many options.  Up the front of the reeds will be deep for you early line and up the ride of the reeds offers a line again where you can feed and not be disturbed by boats.  Reeds are naturally areas where fish come to spawn in the warmer months and the very nature of the reeds attracts all manner of insects and invertebrates which in turn attract the fish that feed on them a great natural area to find fish on a canal.

On this picture you can see the canal widens slightly, no boat is ever going to go over there naturally as it moves along the canal and any fish following the far bank wall will also be pushed into your swim as they move along.  Great places for bream but be careful as areas like this are also prime areas for boats to turn round and believe me some will think nothing of turning round in front of you.

As a rule i generally avoid turning circles, marinas, boat yards and ends of canals for this very reason as although boats generally do not effect the fishing a barge turning round pumping its engine turning really does ruin the fishing and can do for a good hour or so.

So that is location covered in the next blog we i will look at where at baits i use on the canal and preparing your ground bait.

Pike Season Review Goes Live

Finally before we get into the meat and potatoes of this update this week the content of the "First Pike Season" went live.  This page documents the whole pike season through all the months of autumn and Winter.  I have tried to explain the journey as i saw it and the lessons i learnt along the way.  It was a season where there was certainly more highs than lows and in reflection it will be a season i will never forget. What an adventure it was as fish from 2lb to nearly 22lb made an appearance.  A link to the page is at the top of the blog or can be found on the following link.

My First Pike Season

Please take a second the read the blog as it did take me some time to put it together and feel free to share it on your pages.

on with the Fishing..

Morning Session on Curlston Mere...

With a day booked off work and no commitments till the afternoon i decided to give the canal a rest and head off to a little slice of fishing heaven called Curlston mere.  Its a old pond situated on farmers land that we have been aloud to fish for a number of years after my uncle did some work on his farm.  The pond is proper old school pond fishing and it contains a decent number of silvers as well as some really old looking wild carp that when you get on the bank are like bars of buttery gold.

On a recent trip in early Jan i think it was myself and my uncle has a surprise capture of a very nice perch, we should not have been so surprised as the amount of roach fry in this venue is more than enough for such a predator to grown to a nice size.  My plan for the session was simply to fish maggot in the margin while feeding up a 11 metre line hoping to latch onto some of the big roach i knew can show on this venue.

Feeding pinkie on my inside line i was soon getting regular bites and plenty of activity to suggest a few fish in the swim.  The main of the fish where only small roach like the one below.

The swim was ticking over nicely with the odd small perch also starting to show and then like a light switch going off the swim died.  I moved over to the far line and picked up the odd fish on the drop but holding out 11 metres of pole is never fun when your not getting a bite so it was back onto the near line.  Not a knock for a good half hour not even a knock and i was on the verge of calling it a day and heading home to get ready for the jobs i had planned when the float shot under and instantly blue hydro elastic was oozing from the top of the pole.

The fish bolted for the safety of the snags but with carp being around i had been prepared and had my extra sections to hand.  Quickly adding sections i obviously thought carp as i dipped the tip under the water to increase the drag on the fish.  At this point i was convinced carp and then the fish stopped and turned and it was not the normal actions of the carp that keep going till you get over them.  Getting the fish in the edge i saw it was a big perch and not a fish i wanted to lose.  Straight away i was praying don't come off and thankfully i slid the net under the green flanks of an immaculate perch that went 2lb 5oz on the scales and the scary part was it was spawned out.

The fish turned the session around for me and i headed off home with the songs in the car playing loud i was buzzing.

Bridgewater Canal Fishing on the Pole..

Saturday saw me back on the banks of the Bridgewater canal looking for some steady action on the pole.  Knowing from previous sessions the amount of fish in the area there was no rush setting up i took my time getting my gear sorted and peg comfortable.  I knew where in the peg i would be feeding so before i set up my gear i fed two balls of ground bait and pinkie on my middle line and fired over some maggot on the far bank line.

With the peg fed and already accumulating fish on them i plumed up the swims.  I will go more into different tactics in coming blogs but on this session i set the float so the my number 10 dropper was just touching bottom.  The swims plumed up and each top kit to hand i began to fish over my middle line on a single pinkie.  The time 6am and straight away soon as i put in the float slid away as the fish moved onto the ground bait and pinkie.

When canal fishing you have to be realistic about the fish you are going to catch, 85% of your bites if you are fishing like i do for everything that swims of any size are going to be canal sized fish like this up to around 5-6oz although if the session goes to plan they will not make up that percentage of the final weight as the better fish on the sesison should be between 6oz to 2lb. 

The middle line i always feed with the pole pot mixing the pinkie in with the ground bait.  The canal being so deep this ensures all the bait gets to the bottom and reduces the risk of the fish moving up in the water as this can lead to problems with the swim.  The far bank line was still being fed by the catapult with loose offerings and no ground bait.

As the middle swim develops and you catch a few of the early fish that have moved in on the bait it does eventually attract other fish in and that species is normally the perch and it was not long till the first billy of the sesison made an appearance.

At 8am the bites on the middle line dried up, this often happens on the canal but in my experience it happens a lot quicker on this canal and i think it can be attributed to a number of things, either i am not getting my feeding right and I'm underestimating the head of fish down the middle and feeding too much, bigger fish are moving in and i am not giving them long enough to fall for my bait or finally and i think this is the real reason the swim is dying, Mr pike moving in.   The pike on the canal often sit down the marginal shelves and this activity of fish feeding surely would not be going ignored.

Waiting 1`0 minutes without a bite down the middle i knew the time to go over the far side was coming so i fed a large pouch of maggots and concentrated on trying to get a bite down the middle.  Eventually one came but it was a tiny tiny gudgeon and i knew there and then it was time to move and the skimmers or perch where not around.

Fishing every week of the year i have learnt the hard way that its always best to have a pike rod with you whether it be summer winter or fall as although we associate these fish with winter these fish can be very active all year round.  I had a feeling Mr pike was about so before i went over the far side i had a little try for a pike.  Knowing if one was in ambush it would not take long i only gave the bait 2-3 minutes over my middle line before i pulled out my far bank top kit, obviously Mr pike was not about.

Straight over the far bank on maggot the first bite was instant as the float fished over depth slid away and the elastic was showing that erratic action of the fight of a roach.  In my head i thought "well if my pike is about this might be it for this roach"  Thankfully no such brutality happened and my palm was graced with a silver anglers delight of a nice canal roach, i am sure there are better to be had but it was nice to see these around.

My confidence was up after this as i knew from experience that fish of a similar size on canals seem to shoal together.  It is very noticeable when you fish a swim from scratch, first of all the small fish are there and then once the better fish move in they all seem to be of a similar size.  This hunch was proven correct as a few plump roach followed this fish into the onion sack.

The early morning fishing down the middle is as much to keep myself occupied while this far bank line attracts fish as the far bank is where the better fish feel comfortable to feed with plenty of cover and away from any noise on the tow path so i knew this part of the session would be where my main weight would come from and after a hour or so fishing catching roach and the odd better skimmer i knew i was putting a few pound together.

I don't really feed in a tight pattern on my far bank line as i find with bigger fish like bream and roach its best to keep them spread over an area and set your float so its over depth at the back of the swim and dead depth closer in.  This way you can move all over the swim picking up bites and i don't think you spook the fish as much.  The skimmer above was picked up doing this as was a few of his brothers and sisters who were showing signs of getting ready for spawning.   These fish for me on the canal are certainly the bonus fish along with the big dark bronze bream but these can be very very hard to track down/

The session coming to a close a few better bream moved in amongst the fish and it literally was a bite a chuck.  The over cast conditions kept the fish feeding all morning and it was great fishing on the canal.

The time to call it a day came and i was literally gutted to pack in.  The final net went just under 12.5lb.

Well that it is for this weeks blog i hope you enjoyed reading it and if you have any questions around fishing canals or fishing in general or you want to share your canal fishing pictures feel free to contact me.

till next time

Tight lines



  1. Every hobby that I enjoy I try to learn from it and figure out how it may best fit into to my life situation. Other than a kayak, I do not own a boat and almost all of my fishing is done from shore. For many years I have enjoyed fishing small streams for trout. In recent years the quality of the trout fishing seems to have diminished in many of the streams that are in my area.

  2. Awesome post ! Sit on top or sit in kayak. You will be able to move around more easily in a sit on top kayak but you can keep warmer and dryer in a sit in kayak. What you choose will depend on the time of year you plan to go fishing and of course the location.Thanks !!!!!!!!!