Not all canals are grim strips of soupy water plied by an endless succession of boats. Some are undisturbed ribbons of crystal clear water, where all manner of fish sport among lush weedbeds.
Where in summer
On most canals, weedbeds are the obvious starting places in your search for fish. On this type of canal, however, whole stretches can be lined with weedbeds on both sides, so you have to look closer.
An early morning or late evening visit gives the most clues. Wearing polarized glasses and walking stealthily, you can often spot fish feeding away from the weeds in the clear, open water.
Look out for fish rolling or jumping. A large area of coloured water is a sure sign of feeding bream. Bubbles or small patches of colour can mean tench or carp rooting about
At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, from about the middle of the 18th century, thousands of miles of canals were built to move raw materials around the country by horse-drawn barge. Then came the age of the railway and a rapid and widespread decline in canal barge traffic. In the years that followed, many canals became disused and derelict.
Since World War II, many canals have been restored and re-opened for leisure boats and barges. Many, however, remain abandoned and almost – or completely -unused. With no boats or barges to stir up the silt, these neglected canals are typically crystal clear and heavily weeded. Havens for fish, these waters can provide excellent sport for the angler with the right approach.
Summer offers the best sport on these canals for tench, carp, bream and rudd. Pike, roach and perch can be caught throughout the year. But as always, water craft is the key to success. for food. Remember exactly where you see these signs so you know where to fish when you return with your tackle.
Look too for overhanging trees. In the shade they cast there are often clear patches in the weed. Note any clear patches out in the open as well. Such spots allow you to fish almost behind the weed. Close to fallen branches and sunken boats or barges – if you’re lucky enough to find any – are also good places to fish.
When in summer
In the heat of the day fish hide under the weed or very close to it. Early in the morning and late in the evening the security or low light levels prompts them to ventui,_ out and forage in the open water. Dawn and dusk sessions therefore offer the best sport. Night fishing, if allowed, can also be good but the weed can make fishing in the dark very awkward.
There’s no need to despair if the middle of the day is the only time you can manage, because good bags of fish can still be taken-though you must usually scale down your tackle and fish tight to the weeds.
A DISUSED CANAL IN SUMMER
Clearing a summer swim
Blanket weed is often a problem. You can’t see it but it can grow up to 30cm (1ft) or so from the bottom and completely hide your bait.
So it’s very important to find a clear patch before introducing any bait. Do this by dragging a plummet along the bottom -where the plummet comes back free of weed you’ve found a clear patch.
A long pole makes this easier and more accurate because you simply lift the plummet out to check for weed. With a rod you have to reel in each time.
If you can’t find a clear patch you can drag a swim with a rake head on a rope. Do this some time before you start fishing, because the commotion scares fish away.
The rake head also stirs up the silt and uncovers food items, attracting fish back into the swim. It’s therefore sometimes worth raking even where blanket weed isn’t a problem, and prebaiting the swim at the same time.
Tackling your swim
Having found or cleared a patch – preferably close to a weedbed – try legering sweet-corn, casters, worms or bread for tench, carp and bream. For perch, try legering or floatfishing worms, maggots or casters. Roach, rudd and small bream can be suckers for floatfished breadpunch, while floatfished hempseed and tares can be unbeatable for roach.
If you can’t find or create a clear patch, stick with breadflake on the hook, because breadfiake rests on top of the blanket weed – unlike other baits which sink or wriggle into it. Groundbait with liquidised bread -fed dry it sinks slowly and settles on top of the blanket weed.
Alternatively, try to get the fish feeding up in the water by constantly throwing in a few maggots, pinkies or squatts or a little cloudbait. Waggler or pole tackle with light shotting can then score.
In the early morning or late evening, when light levels are low and fish feed confidently, you get plenty of bites on tackl that is strong enough to keep big fish out of the weed. As the sun comes up and visibility improves, strong lines and big hooks reduce the number of bites you get. The trouble is, if you go too fine you have little chance of landing big fish and risk leaving fish trailing hooks and line.
A hair rig can help solve the problem, as can double-strength line. What you must never do is fish for carp and tench on very frail tackle. Better to hook one fish and land it than hook five and lose them all.
Pike and perch Pike tend to be very common, if rarely very big, in undisturbed canals. The weedbeds give them plenty of points of ambush and their superb eyesight makes food relatively easy to come by in the clear water.
A floating or shallow-diving plug worked alongside the weedbeds or a small deadbait fished sink-and-draw are both excellent ways to catch pike, and also tempt the occasional big perch.
Pike, perch and roach are the fish most likely to feed in winter. A floatfished or leg-ered deadbait works best for pike. Breadpunch, maggots and casters score for roach, but keep feed to the minimum. Casters and maggots also take perch.
On frosty days, perch are often the only fish feeding. A deadly method then is to floatfish worm over loosefed chopped worms.
The deepest water is usually best in winter because it tends to be a bit warmer, so try fishing straight down the middle of the canal. The deepest water of all is often found in disused locks, so if you don’t catch in the main canal give these a try as well.