Fishing for silvers and bonus fish on canals pt. 1 (Entry 15)

The past few weeks I’ve been after perch on a canal. I have always loved canals. My first fishing experiences taking place on the Bridgewater canal behind Old Trafford where catches of big bream and roach were common at the time. Well they were if you knew how to fish for them and this is what this post will be about. I thought that this week I would share how I would approach a canal when fishing for nets of quality roach with the chance of some bigger bonus fish.

Before I go into it I am aware that this is not the only way to go about tackling canals for bigger fish. Of course tactics will vary from season to season, or from venue to venue, but what I have outlined is something that in my experience will never fail to catch a few fish and will turn up the odd bigger fish, even from venues I have never fished before. From then you can tailor your approach to suit.


Lets take a typical canal swim and see what it has to offer. Usually the canals I fish offer widths of around 11-14 metres and depth in the range of 2-5 foot. These depths vary along the canals cross section. Taking the picture above as the diagram, the deepest part of any canal swim will usually be the boat channel indicated by the yellow circle. This can be a deadly area to fish in winter, the deeper water offering sanctuary for fish and because of the decreased boat traffic, swims can be slowly built up. I generally find that the boat channel offers an average stamp of fish. Of course this may be different on canals I have never fished and sometimes the odd better fish does turn up here, but for me the key areas regularly giving up bigger fish more constantly are the blue and red circles.

The blue swim I find is a good one for bream and skimmers as well as roach. It is fished normally about two thirds of the way down the shelf. I usually feed the line a few inches past the distance I’m fishing at as the bait will naturally fall down the slope towards, and past, where your hookbait is being presented. This will draw fish from both directions and if you can get a swim going here and keep the fish interested then a lot of bites can be expected.

The red circle is at the top of the far shelf and will be the shallowest water, in amongst any tree roots, overhanging brambles, iron pilings or stone walls is usually home to the larger fish. Fish such as big perch, chub, tench and even big carp are usually drawn to these areas. Its advisable to build up this swim as you are fishing another so as to gain the confidence of any specimen fish. I try to leave it as long as I can before having a look on this line. Usually bites happen pretty quickly.

Floats and Rigs

For the three areas of a typical canal swim I have already mentioned I have three patterns of float that I use almost exclusively. I will take you through them and give an outline of why I use them and also a typical shotting pattern for each. Lets start with the boat channel which if you remember is the yellow circle. For this I use the body up float, the black one to the left of the picture. I has a long glass stem and a slightly thicker glass tip. the long stem gives the float stability as does the body up design, allowing me to hold back when the canal is towing or the wind is blowing, and stops the float riding to high out of the water. I usually fish this float an inch on the bottom to allow the spotting of shy bites. Because of the depth of water, I usually space out the shots into a ‘shirt button’ style. This not only allows a more naturally descent through the water but also gives you the opportunity to spot bites on the drop, when roach intercept the bait as they often do. Mainline woud typically be 0.11mm with hooklengths to suit conditions.

The next pattern, the short pencil float in the middle of the picture I use to fish on the shelf and as I am usually after fish feeding on the bottom, or up the shelf, I shot with a simple bulk and two droppers. I want to get the bait quickly to the bottom where I have the greatest chance of a big bream or roach taking the hookbait. I also like to hold this bait as still as I can, and I would usually use a no9 backshot, or two if needed, to allow great presentation. Mainline would be 0.11mm again with hooklengths again to suit conditions or species.

For the far bank swim a small dibber float is used. You are usually fishing bigger baits and as such finesse isn’t usually required, you will know when a big chub or carp has taken the bait, so the more buoyant tip is there to simply support the weight of a bigger bait and the hook and mainline should be stepped up accordingly. If very snaggy I would thinking nothing of using 0.17mm with a 0.15mm hooklength a strong forged hook pattern. I usually have all the shot bulked about 12 inches from the hook. Once you have a bite you need to play them hard and away from any danger areas as quickly as possible.

Next time I will go through the baits I use and what to feed with them to get the most from these swims. I will also take a recent session I had on a local canal to demonstrate that these methods work.

Until next time,



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