A fine line between (Entry 193)

The fish did its best to find some sanctuary. Out over the nearside ledge and down into the depths of the boat channel. A hand sized perch soon found its way back toward the towpath via some gentle persuasion and swift netting. A lovely fish, and a good start to the day, although I anticipated I would have to wait a little longer for its bigger brothers and sisters to show up. At least until the boat traffic decreased and the evening gloom drew in.


I was on a different stretch to last week and had found the fish to be holding very close in, not the just the perch, but the gudgeon and roach that had already entertained me for an hour or two. Of course a few of these fish were kept back for fishing into dusk with; the perfect snack for a big canal stripey. I didn’t want to waste these fish, and it was clear that no brutes were present as yet, so instead of casting straight back out I poured a cup of tea and waited. A heron landed in a tree a short way down from me. They do look ungainly in trees. There’s something about a bird that big and gangly, wreaking havoc in the branches, that always amuses me.

A short time later another cast was made, actually it was just inches from my own bank, so more a drop in than a cast. I had to wait mere seconds for the float to be snatched under. On the other end a heavy fish. It plodded out and down, into the deeper water, just as its smaller cousin had done a short while earlier. This fish however, made best its escape, the line giving was a short way above the hook. Pike, I told myself, but I didn’t truly believe so. I re-rigged, noticing I had just one hook left in the packet, and cursing my lack of preparation, cast once more. Within minutes I had hooked another heavy fish. It too headed out into the deep, lunging and boring, before before coming off also. I was gutted! Even more so because this time I saw the fish. It was indeed a perch, a very, very big perch. It’s head was colossal and, upon coming to the surface, shook its head violently. The rod catapulted back and the line hung limply between the eyes. Time for the examination. A short way above the hook the line had given way. A line I had so much faith in. A faulty spool perhaps*? Either way, with just one bait left and no hooks in the size I wanted, I had to make do and mend. On went a tiny hook tied to a different hooklength material; a last gasp attempt at saving the session.


It was a good job I was fishing close in as by now the light had all but gone. One last bite developed and I cautiously connected with another angry, plodding fish. It fought in the same way as the others but dare I say didn’t feel quite as big. As it surfaced I could see it was a good sized perch, and I was very relieved when it slid over the frame of the net, though I couldn’t help feeling that the fish I’d lost previously could have eaten it for dinner.


Still, it was another two pound canal fish, very long, but quite lean and empty. In really lovely condition otherwise. It’s great to have found a few areas with a good fish present. I hope they stick around over the coming months, and gorge on the prey fish that live here in abundance. Pile on the ounces, don’t do your daily exercise, it’s really not necessary. I insist.

Until next time,


* On closer inspection it seems that the spool of line (with less than ten metres left), was indeed compromised, at roughly five inch intervals. Typical. 

Swimming in shadow (Entry 192)

I had another go on the ‘crayfish canal’ during the week, travelling light with lures this time, as I’d promised myself. For twenty minutes everything was going well. That was until all hell broke lose. Sadly it wasn’t on the fish front but simply because it seemed every single barge in the UK had decided to descend the locks. All at the same time. They must have got wind of me being there. It made lure fishing in an already coloured canal pretty much pointless. So instead, I resigned to simply walking the banks and taking things in, waiting for the sun to set and the air to cool. In quite lovely surroundings, all thoughts of the perch I wanted to catch became distant. There would always be next time.


That next time was a few days later, on a different canal this time, but one with a similar coloured quality. After looking at one or two stretches I returned to more familiar grounds. My plan was to build a swim, fish with worm, and try to pick up a big perch whilst waiting for the sun to sink behind the trees. That is when plan B could begin, when the section I sat on became veiled in shadow, and I had a handful of gudgeon in the net.


Its funny how doing one thing can highlight a situation that would otherwise go unnoticed. Whilst scaling down to catch the bait for plan B, I landed numerous sunbleak, a non-native species currently on the ‘invasive’ list. They’re tiny bleak-like fish and can cause damage to fisheries by competing with the young of any native species such as roach. Once you tune into their existence, you soon realise that there are thousands of them, dimpling the surface, in this case snatching maggot after maggot meant for gudgeon. Different canal, similar problem. Sunbleak. Crayfish. Zebra mussels and mitten crabs. It really is a worrying time for the UK and its habitats.


The time soon came to put the worms into retirement and switch to paternostered gudgeon. Plumbing up at the base of the nearside shelf would position the gudgeon in a great location from which an ambush predator could strike from; a sharp depth change. The rig had been in position for roughly fifteen minutes when the float began to dance franticly. For a few seconds this continued before it solidly plunged under and held true. I struck quickly and decisively. The rod lurched into a pleasant arch. A powerful fish ran to my right, along the line of the shelf, keeping deep. A few snarly head shakes were thrown in for good measure. I had an inkling this was more perch than jack pike, but even so when that deep flank and spiked dorsal fin came into view, all attitude and anger, I couldn’t help but breathe a little easier. It’s fulfilling when a plan comes together.


Thankfully the fish came the way of the landing net on the first attempt. A beautifully marked fish lay resting in the margin, hooked perfectly just inside the top lip, a fish that would set my new PB. A photo was taken as a lasting reminder, for the days when my mind can’t quite recall the details, and then it was back to its murky and shadowy home.

Go and chomp on some sunbleak, friend.

Until next time,


Swimming in milk (Entry 191)

A grey sky turned dark, toward rich blue, the ambient light depleting with every subtle colour change and passing second. I was fishing at close range now, just a few feet from the metal pilings at my feet, but previously I had been casting to the far side. The float could not be seen at this range anymore. Not for the last twenty minutes. So here I sat, a last ditch effort to land a big perch, mere inches from where I had been returning all the fish I’d caught over the past few hours. Two big dendrobaenas were wriggling beneath my float in the murky, boat churned water. Vibrations and tempting smells being sent out. It would appear, however, that the fish in the vicinity were blind, anosmic, or perhaps it would be far easier just to say, absolutely senseless. A bit like the angler sat in the gloom, miles from anyone, a little lost in just what it was he was doing.


I had caught plenty of fish in the few hours I’d been here, little baby perch, ruffe, and even the odd skimmer but the bigger perch had evaded me. Twelve ounces or so seemed to be the limit. How often I’ve been in this situation before. I had caught some peculiar coloured perch though. These fish intrigued me. Their ventral fins, usually burning with orange and red had been replaced, by ones of white with only the merest a hint of warmth. Like koi carp swimming in milk. The colour was not washed out due to environmental factors more than it was simply absent. And I had caught two like this. One of half a pound and one of an ounce. I wondered if they were related.


One thing I had no problems catching had been crayfish. Some big ones too. An explosion of the swines meant that anything with the slightest hint of smell saw cursed words following the stuttered movements of my float. They really are a pain and cannot be good for the canal in the longterm. Sadly, they’re here to stay and the only benefit is that when the bigger perch learn that they are tasty and filling, there should be some brutish perch in the making. Ones that may help in keeping the crayfish numbers at bay. Maybe, just maybe.


By now I had packed away, even at a few feet I could not see the float tip, and didn’t really fancy my chances anymore. A big perch had not came my way. I mused on the matter whilst I made sure I’d not left anything in the darkness. The fish are probably quite localised so it will be best for me to go to them rather than wait for them to come to me. Next time I will pack the lure rod and cover a few miles. I’ll avoid the crayfish at least. Maybe I’ll pack the crayfish imitations. If you can’t beat the join them. Or something like that.

Thanks for reading and until next time,


Supercharged / superforgetful (Entry 190)

What a turn around the river had made; a red-brown torrent streamed. Down the centre of the river, foam from an upstream rapid section collected, a white stripe where the current flowed its most fierce. The place where I sat last week was out of view and off limits, drowning under at least three feet of extra water. In front of me, deep water eddied creating a slack section, central to the bank I stood upon and the main flow. In these types of conditions its such places I like to look for. Havens for barbel to take a few moments refuge. Chub too. I’ve caught some big chub from similar swims in the past. Today though, I’d set my sights on barbel, a safer bet in flooded conditions.

Boilies for the win!

The rig was different to last week. As was the bait choice. Heavy line and a strong hook would be paramount in helping to land a hard fighting barbel in the strong flow, and bait needed to be heavier and less round. I halved some old boilies that I’d had hanging around for months. I needed to get rid of them more than anything and this seemed an opportune time. Everything would be fed via a PVA bag, and a paste wrap around the boilie hookbait would finish everything off. Half an hour passed and in that time I made three casts, the first two were ended by debris collecting and dislodging the ledger, whilst on the third the rod hooped over. My first barbel of the day and it fought like a madman.

The first barbel of the day

The next cast and another barbel decided that my hookbait was the new must have snack. The same brute strength and ferocious speed as the first. I rested each fish I caught for at least fifteen minutes before returning them. It’s always important to make sure barbel have recovered but even more so with increased flow. Especially given how hard these particular fish were fighting. A lull in activity then ensued, giving me plenty of time to watch the wildlife; A pair of kingfishers and a grey heron. Even a little owl fleetingly made a daylight appearance. Two hours passed without any further fish. The river dropped over a foot and a half in that time, and I found that casting a little further out, chasing that ‘walking pace’ water as the flow decreased helped to get my next bite.

And the last barbel of the dayThough I did miss it and the next one. Chub more than likely. I convinced myself they were the smallest chub in the river just to make my failure easier to stomach. Then the weather took a turn for the worse. The rain came, the wind blew, the landscape became that of slate but another two barbel made all that secondary. The last fish stripped twenty yards off the reel with ease. I thought I’d hooked a salmon. These fish are so healthy. My plan was to stay into dark and I probably should have done but with an hour to go, my flask drained, sandwiches still in the fridge at home (I’m getting so forgetful – might be time to start doing Sudoku’s), I retreated and left the barbel in peace. Happy of course. Very happy indeed. And I’d got rid of the boilies.

Thanks for reading,


Something a little different (Entry 189)

It must be getting on for a year since I last fished a river. A staggering statistic considering they are, without doubt, my favourite type of water to fish. Big or small, low and clear or up and coloured, I just love the challenge flowing water brings. Their ever changing quality and the fact there is no way of knowing just what fish are in front of you. They are certainly intriguing places. I arrived at midday to a low, clear river, but I still felt quite confident of a bite or two. Maybe enthusiasm was masking better judgement. Fellow anglers were thin on the ground, and the ones that were there, all talking of how tricky the river was fishing. I really hoped they were wrong.

Their thoughts and opinions were not ignored however and whilst I tackled up, just one rod to make my presence less intrusive, I opted to fish fine and cautiously. Barbel would still be my target but the tactics would be less ‘heavy’ than usual. It would be interesting to see if this softly-softly approach worked and what would be tempted in amongst the barbel. I rigged up a light bomb rig, just capable of holding position in the faster water, three quarters of the way across the river. Instead of feeding with a feeder or suchlike, I would feed the small pellets with a catapult, little and often, just like I was trotting a float. My plan was to cast more frequently too, searching the swim for pockets of fish, instead of sitting idly for periods of time and simply waiting.

A barbel to start

It didn’t take long to get that first bite. Twenty minutes or so since my first pouch of bait settled, the rod tip lurched over in a most familiar way, a barbel had to be the culprit. My light rod soaked up the fishes lunges, which instead of powerful, surging runs, were moderate nods and head shakes. Dare I say, more of bream, than barbel. I calmly led the fish into the shallower margin of my own bank, and here the fish made a few runs, ones that were easily cushioned by the rod blank. At the end of one such run a moderate sized whiskery head popped above the surface. Under controlled strain I rolled the fish backwards and over the net. That will do just fine!

A 'choach' amongst the chub

After the barbel, I had a run of small chub, nothing bigger than two pound, but it was great to see so many smaller fish present. Mixed in with them I had a roach/chub hybrid that, when still a distance from the bank, had me nervous for a time as I thought I had hooked a big roach. Not so, but a beautiful fish, a little under two pounds. After a small lull in activity some very fast, hard to hit bites plagued me. A shoal of dace, attacking the bait on the drop and after one or two of them were caught, a small brown trout made an appearance. Five species and counting. I couldn’t stay until dusk today, so come early evening, I made my last cast. The reward was another bottom feeding ‘monster’ of the river; a two ounce gudgeon. Four barbules to start with and two to end.

A gudgeon to finishThanks for reading,


Tench fishing sunset (Entry 188)

The nip in the air made it feel like I should perhaps have been heading to a river rather than to the banks of an intimate cheshire pool. Surely, it wouldn’t be long before the tench put on their winter coats, and sit it out until next spring. Yes, I thought as I headed through evening rush hour traffic, I’ll definitely make this my last tench trip of the year. I found the pool empty upon arrival so headed for a peg I have done well on in the past. It just so happens that on my way around I saw the unmistakable signs of tench feeding, in a swim I had never fished before. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and being a firm believer that you can only catch whats in front of you, in this case quite literally, my plan was quickly changed and I made myself comfortable in the unfamiliar peg.

Mr tench

Feeding a small amount of pellets and hemp whilst I set up, the fish bubbles temporarily abated, but much to my delight begun again, pretty much on top of where I had fed not minutes before. I had a bite on my first cast, a very tentative one, which I missed. I debated setting up a more sensitive waggler rig, but the novelty of simply being in with a chance of catching something on the lift method, won over. There will be none of this happeneing until next April, I thought, best enjoy it whilst I can. My mantra for the session. The next cast produced an unmissable bite, the float dragged under with such determined effort, that there was no way on earth I could fail to connect with it.  A lovely, fighting fit four pound tench, though it fought like twice its size.

A prize and a fiery sky

As is the case at this time of year, the evenings begin to draw in. A soon as the sun dropped behind the trees, the temperature was noticeably cooler. The clouds began to roll in too, always threatening rain but never quite delivering. They took on a most incredible colour as the sun began to set; orange fringes around shades of purple. It was fitting then that amidst this reflection another tench had just dislodged the shot, making the float rise like a beacon, a lighthouse out at sea amidst stormy skies. The tench this time was a little smaller and soon rested in the net. I poured a tea and took in the moment before bringing her to ground to unhook.


This sleek, well proportioned tench of around three pounds, would more than likely be my last of the year. She was ready to go back now, into the sunset, both of the day and of the summer. I cast out once more, with little need to catch anything else, the rig in the water perhaps simply giving legitimacy to my being there. I sipped slowly at my tea and waited for the daylight to end. It wasn’t long before night took over.

Thanks for reading and until next time,


Ratchet (Entry 187)

With a warm westerly wind blowing, it was the east bank where I found the carp, some basking in the last shafts of evening sun, others beginning to root around on the bottom, disturbing gasses and clouding the water. A swim with overhanging trees either side of me, but at a great enough distance not to offer too much danger, seemed like the perfect place to begin. In went a palmful of sweetcorn just a rod length out. Even though it doesn’t work on this particular venue, apparently. Often, baits that don’t work on venues, don’t work because people hear they don’t work, so never try them. At least thats my theory.

I retreated behind one of the trees. I’d left my tackle there, well, I’d left my Avon rod and landing net, everything else was in my pocket. A few pieces of quill, some split shot and a packet of hooks. The makings of a classic setup; the lift method. Another palmful of sweetcorn went into the swim whilst I quickly set up the rig. Once complete I re-checked the only knot I’d tied, guesstimated the depth, fed another helping of sweetcorn and cast in. The pleasing plop of a swan shot breaking the surface is one I’ll never tire of. Especially when below the surface lurk hungry monsters. I tightened the line, cocking the float most pleasingly, and time began to tick by. The finches chattered. A buzzard circled above. The ratchet screamed into life. That didn’t take long. I hung on as a powerful carp surged out into the lake, muttering under my breath to the fish, to not come off. ‘Please don’t come off’.

I piled on the pressure. The rods forgiving action tested to its limit. Out in the lake the carp began to arch round, back towards my bank, hell bent on finding one of the overhanging trees. At this point I heard a tiny plop in the margins at my feet. Not enough to warrant more attention but too unusual to miss. I thought nothing of it and the fight continued. The carp had just about made it to the canopy of the tree. I couldn’t allow the fish an inch, and with a grimace and a prayer, managed to turn it, the carps tree-ward arch turning into full circle as it headed back out into open water. This time, though, its run was strangely silent. The ratchet did not scream. For a moment I though the line had been severed but looking down I noticed the ratchet was no longer there. That tiny plop I’d heard moments before. That was my ratchet falling off. And what a time to do it!

It wasn’t the end of the world though. It made playing the fish more tense but a whole lot quieter. Second by second, inch by inch, the carp came closer. The tree no longer seemed within its reach and soon it wallowed within netting range. I steadied my nerves and scooped up my prize. With the fish safely cradled I dropped the rod on the reeds. The centrepin spun. Line spilling off. An ever growing birds nest formed. But none of that mattered now. What a fish I had to admire. What a story. A worthy adversary on light tackle. In fact, this carp could now boast, when back amongst its lake mates, to being a bonafide tackle breaker. A centrepin crunching, ratchet wrecking, brute. In ten minutes the session had been made. In ten minutes the session had come to an end. A great fish had been caught on one of my favourite methods. And on a bait that doesn’t work.

A bonafide tackle breaking mirror carp

Thanks for reading and until next time,