Monday, 11 November 2013

Gale Force On The Bridgewater Canal

A warm welcome to this week's blog update.  This week the rivers have again been in flood and any thoughts of a trip to the bank saw any river where thwarted by a constant deluge of rain on Friday.  This extra rain saw the river Dee tantalisingly close to bursting her banks in certain locations and although water levels where fishable further upstream the ferocity of the flow and the water been a thick wall of muddy soup meant any chance of us getting on the river was gone.  We of course would still get on the banks of a water somewhere in this glorious country but where still remained a mystery.

Before we get onto to this week's Fishy Fact of Fiction it is with great sadness I announce that my uncle will not be joining me on the banks this week, last I heard he went fishing at Chester weir.  I went down and recovered his camera and there was only one picture on it shown below :-)

So to the popular Fishy Fact or Fiction, I posted this question up on a forum and it got some really good feedback and responses form anglers.   The majority of comments confirmed what I was saying in my update in that the amount of boat traffic a canal receives generally determines how the fish react and fish in a canal that has heavy boat pressure will naturally not be as effected by boats as fish in a canal that has very few boats.  One user did make an interesting point that it was the movement in locks that caused the problems and ruined the fishing not the actual boats going through the swim, an interesting point and one that could prove interesting to debate in the future.  How long this series can last I don’t know as it's really hard to think of topics that I can relate too,  thankfully this week's came to me on the actual bank whilst fishing so on to this week's instalment of Fishy Fact or Fiction.

“Are fish Clever"

Scientists for years have told us not to worry about the mental state of the goldfish in our living rooms as their short term memory is so short that by the time they have swam back round the bowl they have forgot they have seen the same scenery twice, but how true is this of wild natural fish? Do fish that are fished for heavily remember that they were caught on a certain bait before so avoid it? Do fish even think danger when they see a bait or is it all down to no arousing a fish's suspicions and prey on the philosophy that any fish if it senses no danger and is hungry will be caught on any bait on any method?

I start my input on this topic by using one of the most obliging fish that swim in our waters, chub.  The fish with an incessant appetite for any food material that enters it watery habitat and a fish that, like all fish, is either very easy to catch or anger inducing hard to catch.  I take you to the banks of the River Dane where I have spent many an hour catching chub and over that time I have learnt a thing or two about these chub that leads me to believe that fish do have a certain amount of short term memory but also makes me feel that it is more to do with their long term memory banks why they don’t take the bait.

Many a time on the river Dane I have approached a swim and found the chub settled, moving across the gravel bars picking up morsels of food.  The first fish normally comes quite quick to any method for this we will say trotted corn but the second fish never ever falls for trotted corn but a quick change over to corn presented static on the bottom with a lead leads to an instant bite, same bait different method or presentation, so why is this the case? It could be down to bad presentation on the trotting part but is certainly not down to a fear of that bait or else the second chub would not eat it.  I believe the fish sees the bait coming through the swim as dangerous but does not associate danger with the static one, so in essence in this situation are fish "clever" in my opinion no its all down to the state they are in and if they suspect danger.

Of course in these Fishy Fact or Fictions I am not oblivious to the other side of the argument that could come from the carp branch of the sport where it could be said that fish are clever and they do remember a lot more than we give them respect for, for instance when a bait is taking a venue apart, say white pop ups and fish after fish come to anglers using it then all of a sudden no one is catching on it as the fish wise up.  This I think is down to the long term memory of the fish and them storing what they associate with danger for example with birds as a general rule, red berries are a sign of danger and not to eat them and I guess the fish adapt that in built mechanism in themselves to remember and associate certain food baits as danger over time and not to eat them.   The carp world and of course the barbel and chub world overcome these fears in a number of ways such as feeding the swim up without actually putting a bait in the water and being ultra-careful not to spook the fish when moving into and around a swim.

In summary I think that the answer to are fish clever? is fiction, the amount of work you have to put in to catch a fish is, in my opinion all down to the state the fish is in, if it is hungry and suspects no danger the fish can be caught but sometimes changes need to be made to overcome and fear that fish feels whether that be through change of presentation or building the fishes confidence over time by feeding the swim without fishing for the fish.   The whole debate about fish being clever comes down to an inbuilt fight nor flight mechanism in built into any wild animals and the fear of certain foodstuffs is built up over time by association behave, basically the fish associates that food with danger.

Of course this is just my thoughts on the matter, they may be right or wrong in your eyes so why not get involved on the blogs Facebook page, twitter feed or the comments section to leave your thoughts on this subject. Remember it is just a bit of fun and my views are never ever intended to be the be all and end all answer.

On to this week’s fishing:

                                    Chasing Rumours on the Bridgewater Canal

  During last week’s session on the Bridgewater canal I had an angler stop off behind me peg and the conversation flowed about all our experiences on the Bridgewater canal, from pike to perch stories where exchanged and snippets of information and the odd rumour where banded around and it was one of these stories that stuck in my head, a story about a group of anglers that had caught some big nets of chub from an area of the canal further along the canal. 

This had me thinking all week and with the rivers again unfishable we decided to investigate this rumour a little further and set our sights on the Bridgewater canal for our weekend’s trip.  Now we could have gone to our old productive areas where we knew that catching was almost a certainty but angling, for me at least, has to be a journey I can only fish the same areas for a few weeks or so before my mind starts wondering what is around that next bend.

Not knowing the exact swim or tactic is just the way I like it I only ever ask for help on tactics or knowing if the fish are in a certain location as I love the whole challenge that goes with catching fish.  I know its each to their own but if someone told me the exact swim, bait and time of day to fish a swim to be guaranteed a big fish I would get no sense of achievement from that the fish would be worthless to me as I had not earned it, so travelling to the canal on Saturday all I knew was chub had come out from around Preston brook and that was it.

The picture above is the standard image we all associate with canals but I feel the one below offers a better idea of what a canal is like, it contains the beauty and industry of a canal but also shows how societies laziness and attitude to nature has had its effect on the look of the canal as most canals now around urban areas are littered with trolleys, traffic cones, wheelie bins and carrier bags.  Why people feel the need to do this is beyond me, what enjoyment can you get from throwing a bin in a canal? I guess it’s a thrill I will never ever understand.

I had done some work in the week on Google Earth and found an area to target where I thought a chub might like to live, of course this this is no river so I guess the fish adapt to their conditions but I was hoping that inbuilt nature for a chub to love the cover of snags was still imbedded in these Stillwater chub.

My tactic for the day was the same as any other canal trip in that I set up a line on the inside shelf till the boats come and pinged bait over against the reeds on the far bank.  I did have a small clump of reed to my right hand margin and plumbing the depth I found a nice depth so I also fed here as a line that I could fish as a nothing line.

I started off down the middle and one thing that was apparent here was how much the canal was towing, no wonder it is popular with chub I was even considering popping on a stick float! The tow here was down to no boat traffic but the fact the Bridgewater canal and the Trent and Mersey all converge just further along the canal and the tow from these canals was really strong and this was the case all day.  The tow down the middle of the canal was really tough to fish tactics wise as to hold bottom meant laying a good two float lengths on bottom yet anything between this and dead depth say the float moving through the swim and dragging under as it moved along, very tough indeed but I did manage a few small skimmers on this line, but it was slow going.

I then moved onto my line just off the reeds to see if it was any easier here and was rewarded with an instant bite from a small skimmer followed by a small perch but that was it from this swim but in hindsight this early success saw me wasting too much time on this line when I should have moved to the far side although my thinking on the canal is always to leave my far line as long as possible so maybe that line would not have been so good had I gone straight over.

My uncle further along the canal was first to go over the far side and he was instantly into small skimmers which I must admit perked my attention up.  My uncle is a very good angler indeed and I am always learning when we are on the bank together and the good thing is about fishing with someone like who is not only good at fishing but willing to share information is that you can go up to him and ask him the most valuable question of all when learning, “but why did you just do that”. 

It is all well and good just sitting there copying someone but the real learning comes when you know why they have done it, for example my uncle on the day had his ground bait mixed dry but then made it like slop and was rewarded with better stamp of fish but why did he decide to do that? And what did he think it would achieve? This is when you can begin incorporating that thinking into your own fishing so you can then make decisions on your own when faced with similar situations.  I have learnt so much over the past two years fishing with my uncle.  This brought better fish to his line which saw me not holding back and I went right over on all 13m of my pole.

My reward was a succession of skimmers from small ones to some really nice ones like the one shown above and on number 4 elastic it was a great sight to see this elastic working so well, I must admit since I have down sized to a lighter elastic from blue hydro elastic I have not lost hardly any fish on the way in, this elastic keeps the tension whilst being supple enough to cushion the head thrust from the skimmers as the “flap” in.

This canal has really surprised me this year with the quality of the roach it holds they have shown themselves on all the stretches we have fished on there over a good 2-3 mile stretch.  There is certainly a year class on there that has come through and thrived that are now up and over the 8oz bracket and I am sure this will see some really stinking roach show on this canal in years to come, if there is no interference form us humans cutting back the reeds and over handing trees that provide these silver fish with the must needed cover they need to evade being eaten by the growing number of predators seen flying along this canal.  

The quality of fish on the far bank was much improved on the small skimmers down the middle with palm sized and above skimmers coming to the net with great regularity.  It was during the early morning I had my first of two anglers from the blogs Facebook page and it was great to catch up with Ade an angler who I have crossed paths with a few times on my travels around Warrington waters, a very good angler on both still waters and rivers and an angler I must arrange to get out on the bank with sometime this winter on his lovely stretch of the River wye.  Whilst he was at my peg we talked about all aspects of the fishing we do and it was great to chat with an angler that is so passionate about his fishing and an angler who, in my exchanges with him is as honest as the days long, wilfully sharing information on any new fishing he does and always polite when I have helped him out. 

This fishing while he was at my peg was probably the best it was all day as fish after fish came on the far bank line, mostly only small skimmers but the odd better “netter” come to the net and I felt like I was well on my way to a really special net of fishing and was thoroughly enjoying my days fishing on the long pole.  It is not very often I fish with the whole length of the pole so I was really enjoying it.

It was not long after Ade left that the wind, that to this point was manageable really started to build up, only a gentle breeze to begin with but the odd gust had me worrying about what was coming in. When the second visitor of the day, Garry, Garry is a really good pike angler on the canal and during his time at our peg it was clear he loved his fishing, in any conditions, he was already talking about his winter campaign’s and you could just tell he loved his fishing.  His eyes all the time looking at features and in the end the angler inside got too much and he ran and got his lure rod to have a few casts.  Proper decent, dedicated angler and really helped me out with a few tips for my piking this winter, cheers mate much appreciated although I feel short of the 50lb you demanded from this session ha-ha.   

It was during Garry’s time on the bank with us the wind got up to gust proportions also known as pole snapping weather.

The wind made it really hard to fish on the pole so I reduced down a section so I had less to hold out and continued to pick up fish when the wind allowed.  The fish where there that was for sure as every time I got over there for ling enough for the float to settle quality fish where coming like the fish full of skimmer below but these forays where becoming increasingly difficult and she sheer pressure to hold the pole out there was making it not only hard to fish but uncomfortable.

I set up the waggler rod hoping to overcome this incessant wind that was now well up to gale proportions that saw the tall trees on the far bank bent double.  Fishing the pole was not possible and the fish just were not there on the closer in lines, even on the reed line that I had fed throughout the day.  The waggler was unfortunately not working out for me as sinking your line took you too close in and the tow just cleared it out of the swim, really frustrating.  The end of the session was approaching so I guess I had my eye on that rather than focusing on getting to grips with the waggler and took to the easy option to bare it out on the pole and put in a few more fish to the tally.

My uncle ended the day with a net of 7lb 14oz

And my net went 9lb 6oz.

Both fantastic weights from the canal and with them being mostly skimmers really good signs for the populations of all fish in the canal including predators as there is more than enough for them to eat in this section alone.  These fish will no doubt disperse as the weather closes in as they shoal up in their winter haunts but one thing is for sure we have a quality canal right on our doorstep.

Till next time its tight lines form me and I leave you with a picture of the River Mersey I visited on Sunday with my daughter as we took her to jelly beans, spotted a few pegs as well so might well be worth a trip in the near future.  5 cormorants perched on a snag mid river, where there are predators there are prey.

Tight lines



  1. Interesting: I wrote something on fish intelligence a few months ago, only half tongue-in cheek. It much depends on how you measure intelligence: you chose its ability to not get hooked. But maybe it is more appropriate to ask how well a fish copes with its everyday life? link to my drivel here: