The area’s many canals often steal attention from its delightful small rivers and coastal fishing. But the pride of Cheshire is its meres, each with its own, individual, reputation.
Between the grey-brown Pennine uplands and the hills of North Wales is a red sandstone country known by anglers for the big bream spawned in and caught from the Cheshire meres, and for the canals and small rivers which provide sport for fishermen from the industrial area of Greater Manchester. It is also a development ground for many future leading match anglers.
This area is a mixture of industry, farmland, pasture, and woodland, with small rivers winding across the rich meadows of the Cheshire Plain. It is also a gently rolling region with an identity very different from that of the northern part of Lancashire.
The Bridgewater Canal The canal network is a major fishing outlet. The Bridgewater Canal, one of the better known, has yielded perch to nearly 4 lb, roach over 2lb and has a match record well into double figures. It is one of the few privately owned canals in the coun-try, and runs from Leigh, through Manchester, to Runcorn. From the top locks through Crawley Bridge to the bridge at Preston Brook the water is controlled by the Halton Joint Anglers, with season tickets obtainable from the secretary. The following six miles of towpath fishing from Preston Brook to Broadheath belongs to the Warrington Anglers’ Association and is for members only. Then, from near Sale through Broadheath and Dover Lock, Leigh, Plank Lane, and as far as the Worsley motorway bridge, tickets can be obtained on the bank from the Leigh and District Association of Anglers. Fishing on this canal is improving, though still patchy, and it would pay to enquire at local tackle shops where the current hotspots are.
Bolton and Bury Canal
The short Bolton and Bury Canal offers permit fishing for a moderate head of coarse fish. Most are small roach, but larger specimens are to be found, and local tactics are to fish fine with small baits (pinkies or bloodworm), which encourages the capture of smaller fish. Bury and District Angling Society has some permit fishing from Bury to Withins, while in the Bolton district, the local association controls water and tackle dealers can give details about the open membership. The privately owned Rochdale Canal falls into a similar category. It is a well match-fished water. From Slattocks Bridge to Manchester, the water is controlled by the Greenall Whitley Angling Association and day tickets are issued on the towpath. A lengthy stretch is then administered by the Todmorden Angling Society for members only. Bream to 7lb have been caught, and pike topping 20lb have been caught near Slattocks Bridge in recent years. There are also some hotspots for tench.
The Macclesfield Canal is also a much-contested water. It holds large specimens of roach and bream, and one has the possibility of catching an 8-9lb carp. Most are caught with light tackle and small baits. The canal runs from Manchester through Macclesfield to join the Trent and Mersey Canal in th, CheshireStaffs border area not f from near Kidsgrove.
‘The Grand Trunk’ at Macclesfield, the Prince Albert Angling Association controls water and day tickets are available at tackle shops. Then from Bridge 61 to Bridge 65 near Congleton, a 9-mile section is controlled by the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society with day tickets available on the bank. From the Hardings Wood Junction to Hall Green Lock, the North Staffordshire Angling Association has about three miles of very good fishing with day tickets available on the bank, and they also have a fair stretch of the Trent and Mersey Canal from Weston Lock to Hardcastle. Along most of the 16 miles of the Canal from Northwich, day tickets are issued on the bank. Once known by Midland bargees as ‘The Grand Trunk’, this canal was until recent years left alone by local anglers because of salt pollution. Now, it is fast recovering and yielding fair catches, which are mainly of roach.
Most of the 10-mile-long Middlewich Branch Canal, connecting the Trent and Mersey Canal with the Shropshire Union Canal, is under the control of the Shropshire Union Canal Angling Association.
Most of the sport is with small roach, although larger fish are sometimes caught. Day tickets are available along the bank.
The Shropshire Union Canal in this region often yields very good general sport, plus a few exceptional specimens like the 3lb roach caught in 1976 and a 7lb 1oz eel caught in 1957, both from the Powys branch arm near Llanymynech. In the Cheshire area, most of the canal fishing is controlled by the Shrop-shire Union Canal Angling Association which has rights along many miles of towpath, most of which has day tickets obtainable at points along the bank.
Fishing this canal can create unusual problems, however, as it passes through areas controlled by the North West Water Authority, the Severn-Trent Water Authority and the Welsh National Water Development Authority. Check before fishing that you have the correct licence.
Many of England’s best canal anglers originate from this region, where there are many other smaller canals. The Caldon Canal holds some fair tench and roach fishing and is under control of the North Staffs Angling Association. The Huddersfield Narrow Canal runs part of its path north of the area and has day tickets available along the bank from the Oldham and District Angling Association for sections from Lock 24 at Saddleworth to Bridge 85 at Greenfield, and for about three miles from Ward Lane to Hatshead.
Skimmers and belters
The Rufford Canal also has tickets available on the bank for a section from Burscough to Tartleton. It is an arm of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and holds mainly small roach and skimmer bream with the odd ‘belter’ to liven things up. Also with tickets available along the bank, the Peak Forest Canal has great potential now that re-stocking has been completed in the section from Mar-pie to Ashton.
Surprisingly, there is not much river fishing in terms of large waterways like the nottoo-distant Severn or Trent. The River Weaver, with its tributary the Dane, is among the major local waters. Subjected to heavy boat traffic in the lower, navigable section, it has good fishing around Northwich and upstream. It is an easy-flowing water, averaging 5-7ft in depth, and has good roach and bream fishing which is improving each season. It is also an excellent trout water in the upper reaches around Audlem and for a considerable distance downstream from there, and is for the most part preserved. Near Middlewich the local angling association has fishing at Hulses Island, Vale Royal and Wimboldsley with tickets available. Upstream of Worleston is a good stretch of water belonging to the Nantwich Angling Society. From Newbridge to Saltersfield fishing is controlled by the Northwich Angling Association, and from Newbridge to Ashbrook by the Winsford and District Angling Association. They all issue tickets along the bank.
Much of the River Dane is available on permit. At Byeley, good chub and dace fishing is found along the Middlewich Angling Society section, and the Northwich Angling Association also has a lengthy stretch in this area.
Not too far away, there is excellent trout and grayling fishing in the Derbyshire Derwent and along the River Dove — known as ‘Walton’s Water’. Most of the upper Dove is preserved, but a number of c hotels such as the famous ‘Charles 5 Cotton’ at Hartington and the Izaak Walton at Thorpe Cloud have excellent fishing for guests. On the River Derwent