Shropshire Canal & River Dane 20th September 2014
This week I fished a canal for the first time in 30 years, the canals on my club card are generally under fished but one or two photo’s of specimen sized fish accompanied by tall tales of monster residents are enough to get the juices flowing in any angler and although I didn’t have a target species in mind I did fancy a few hours in the company of fellow piscator Vinny also known as The Northwest Fisherman.
I arrived around 8:30am and found Vinny already set-up on the tow path just along from the boats moored opposite the pub. We hadn’t arranged a start time as, like me, Vinny has an understanding of when it’s time to fish and ‘in the morning’ is sufficient to allow for an early or late start depending on how you feel although his understanding of when to stop fishing is much more honed than mine as I never really know when it’s time to give up and go home!!
As I’d not really decided what I would target I’d taken every conceivable bait known to man apart from boilies, in addition to the usual pellets, meat, corn and chick peas (an impulse buy at 20p a tin but I figured they’d be worth a go) I also had two new pastes to try from Laguna which looked and smelt superb. For the afternoon session on the Dane I’d made a new batch of cheese paste the night before and had bread flake and crumb for the feeder.
Vinny was off to a flying start on caster and worm, his target species was perch and he’d already had a few out prior to my arrival but, as I was shortly to learn, his main advantage was fishing the pole.
I set-up on the next peg which was marked with a mooring ring, I wondered how many years ago that was set into the stone edging and how many boats had used it to steady their barge as they loaded or off loaded their wares for the local village. These days of course the boats are used mostly for pleasure and, for some, a lifestyle change once retired and as the world passes by at a maximum pace of 4mph on a canal I can fully appreciate the desire to do that once you’ve escaped the daily grind of working life.
The trusty Hardy rod and centre pin were soon assembled with a duck quill float for a quick plumb around and, as you’d expect, the depths varied being around 5 foot in the boat channel to less than 2 foot in the reed lined bay on the far side, under my feet was a good 4 foot which I found useful later on once the boat traffic started. I started off on pellet which was banded on a size 14 and as usual coated in the banana Laguna SAC juice, the first cast was woefully short of target and I soon realised that canals have a natural tow meaning the float made it’s way to my right so whilst Vinny explained the basics of locks and subsequent tow I upgraded to a heavier goose quill and added more shot to aid casting, I also brought one of the ‘Mitchell Bruvvers’ out to help with accuracy as my casting is still ‘under development’ with the pin. This set-up did the job well and fishing a little over depth it held station in the desired spot.
Meanwhile Vinny was shipping in his pole on a far to frequent basis, small perch and skimmer bream his prize, at one point he unhooked a perch that had not only taken a worm that was longer than itself but was also in the process of swallowing a small roach at the time.
After a hour we had a well earned cup of tea and Vinny, obviously feeling sorry for my complete lack of canal angling skills, offered me a few of his worms one of which was duly hooked and cast out to the small bay on the far side, shortly after the float disappeared and a small perch reeled in, no blank and my first canal fish in a very long time, result!!
We continued until lunchtime and called it a day, I’d had one more perch whilst Vinny continued to bag up on perch and bream, a nice roach and even a jack pike but I’m sure he’ll tell all in his own weekly Blog later on.
Next stop for me was the Dane and 40 minutes later I was parked up and boiling the kettle for a flask. Back on home territory I was in a confident mood as descended the hill but on arrival at the waters edge the confidence dwindled as the lack of rain mean’t the level had dropped even further over the past two weeks in fact I had this mad thought that if it didn’t rain soon would this now tiny river run dry leaving nothing but pools of specimen fish flapping about making easy pickings for the predators. It apparently happened in April 2012 when drought took its toll on many a water, the worst drought since 1976 it was reported…
The thought sent a shudder down my spine but a fish topped right in front of me restoring my faith in this mighty river. I continued to set up the rod and hastily cast a free lined lump of halibut paste along with the last four worms into the swim, with little flow it soon found it’s spot and settled in between two runs of streamer weed.
The line immediately started to tremble so I waited for the pronounced tug….and I waited and waited until in the end I reeled in a bare hook, eels had no doubt been the culprit stripping the barbless size 6 hook of all it’s goodies.
The bankside vegetation seemed to have had a growth spurt since my last visit and apart from the worm snatchers everything was set for a good days chubbing.
Next up for a try was a lump of luncheon meat which I’d pre-soaked in the rather effective Laguna Blue Cheese Special Edition SAC juice, the meat had taken some of the bait activator in and looked like a sick bag after a good night out.
I continued to trickle pellets into the swim and free lined meat for the next two hours, of course I had purposeful takes some even stretching to a full on wrap around but usually when I’d put the rod down to pour a cup of tea or reach for a sandwich or take a glance at my phone to check the time, chub as we know use periscopes to see when you’ve taken your eye off the ball or at least that’s how it seems!!
I had to move swims, two hours in the one swim is far too long but when you’ve got your comfy slippers on and everything to hand there is always the temptation to stay put. I peered over the cover occasionally almost like waiting for the last bus but as 6pm arrived I gathered the bare minimum and headed of into the lower field to a swim I knew contained some decent sized fish.
The problem I had and the reason this field is rarely fished by anglers at this time of year was negotiating the line of crops, sweetcorn again this year was towering over my head and with the bankside collapsing in places it was precarious at times but as Del-boy once said “He who dares Rodders” I pressed on and was soon enduring the painful sting of nettles as I reached the swim. I shouldn’t have been surprised but the previously water covered margin had been devoid of water for so long that 4″ of fresh grass had grown and with no trampled foot prints visible I was clearly the first angler to step foot onto the outcrop in months.
I’d only brought paste, meat and bread flake in my bait pouch so I cast in a chunk of flake and watched it flutter to a standstill just under the tree line. Sitting down on my unhooking mat I supported the rod on the rod rest and hooked an autumn leaf over the line to indicate an imminent bite.
A minute or so passed and then wallop the rod was almost pulled off the rest, of course I reacted about 3 weeks too late with the strike and again reeled in a bare hook but my gut feeling was right there was definitely fish in the locality!!
Cheese paste was next and, from the seated position, I was able to do a sideways cast right under the overhanging branches and straight into the deeper pool. This time I held onto the rod and again within a minute I felt the line pull gently on my finger, STRIKE… but nothing there, undeterred I rebaited this time moulding the paste around the hook and leaving the point exposed.
Again I managed the perfect cast and again, a minute later, the line started to tighten STRIKE…. and this time a fish was on, I scrambled to my feet and watched the line dart straight back towards me reeling in to keep a bend in the rod. The chub appeared from under the tree line and in clear view beached itself under my feet!! It must have realised it had just performed a complete ‘angling fail’ because it flapped it’s tail furiously and launched back into the shallow water, I applied the pressure again trying not to laugh out loud and turned the chub back towards the net.
I let him rest in the shallows whilst I unfolded the mat, camera ready and scales….. I’d left my scales back at base, it looked a good chub too but never mind it was a great result and was happy not to put an accurate number on it, well OK a good 3lb and possibly 4lb was my guestimate.
The mat shot duly taken I studied him for a moment, pristine condition and although short he was well proportioned and most definately worth the trouble I’d gone to locate him.
I continued to cast cheese paste for the next half an hour and apart from this very unusual fry that came in on the retrieve perfectly lip hooked on a size 6 I had no further takers for this magical Laguna bait so realising I’d also forgotten my head torch I reluctantly gathered my gear and retraced my steps back to safety.
It was 8pm and most ‘normal’ anglers would have packed up and gone home but not Grazy, no Grazy doesn’t do an early bath so I settled back into my chair, threw another log on the open fire (metaphorically speaking) made a cup of tea and recast the cheese paste. At 10pm the clouds parted and crispness descended in the swim, the stars shone brightly and I zipped up my fleece, 3 biteless hours later I thanked the fish gods for their earlier gift and trudged up the hill back to the car and headed home.
Next weekend I’m not fishing, no that’s a complete fabrication of the truth, I’m not fishing on Saturday instead, on Saturday, I’ll be celebrating my daughters 16th birthday and yes that does make me feel old but fear not I will be heading back to the Dane on Sunday for an early morning assault on that crop field where, travelling light, I’m certain the ‘5lber’ is hiding in a secret swim or at least that’s the plan!!
If you want to follow Bob aka Grazy and his mates on their fishing exploits as they unfold I usually put a post up on Facebook when I’m out so click the button below.