The wood fronted steps seemed to go on forever. Especially given the fact the distance between them meant every time I went ‘up’ I was using the same leg. Right thigh burning, left thigh fresh as a daisy. Eventually the horizon which started well above head height, got lower and lower and I could make out the clay coloured water of the canal. A familiar chugging sound in the distance. A barge had no doubt just been through. It was late afternoon and I expected this to be the case until evening well and truly set in.
For now, I set the gear down and had a wander. I had fished the stretch before but always in autumn and winter. It looked very different in its summer guise. The harsh looking brambles covered to some degree by reeds extending from the margins. The trees looked alive, their leaves hiding angular skeletons underneath. I found a spot where the canal widened a little. Here I hoped to fish past the boat channel. This would give me some confidence of my bait not being disturbed too much when the barges pushed through. With rumours of good sized roach, plenty of skimmer bream and the odd carp I had brought with me just one bait today. A gamble but one I felt was worthwhile. That bait was sweetcorn.
I love fishing canals. So many rumours and stories from the locals. Just what is swimming in their busy waters? Just like rivers, you never truly know. You are fishing for, and could well encounter, the unknown on the cut. I remember briefly how I once caught a small barbel from a stretch of canal. I wondered what I would catch today. If I would catch at all. Maybe these fish wouldn’t like the jolly green giants produce. There was only one to find out. I plumbed a spot a good few metres past the boat channel and began by feeding two good pinches of corn. Another gamble. Not time for a softly softly approach. I wanted to get some bait down there where I hoped the bigger fish picked up on its sweet scent. For the first hour I hardly had the float in the water. Barge after barge came past me and every time I fed. Once the water had stopped pulling strongly that is. When their frequency lessened I felt it was time to make a cast. The float settled pleasingly and pulled through very slowly with the draw of the canal. It looked perfect for a bite. Nothing materialised that time so I cast again.This time the float was hung dead still. For thirty seconds it never moved before the canal began to draw once more. The float began to move then slowly sank from sight. Had it simply dragged under? I was unsure so I struck. No, this was definitely a fish. A jag-jag-jag sensation on the other end. The fish surged towards the far bank taking me by surprise. The clutch sang and came to my rescue. I had it set lightly for this very reason. On light line I didn’t want any mishaps. In the shallow water the fish turned and came to the surface. A roach! A huge roach. Dark blue-grey back and a deep crimson dorsal. I tried to remain calm and edged the fish closer. It came to the surface once more. I was almost positive this was a roach. By now my legs had turned to jelly as the adrenalin took over. But the roach had other plans. As it turned to once more make a run away from me, the fish and the hook, parted company. The rig pinged disappointingly back toward me and for five minutes I sat and stared.
For the next two hours only one barge came through and I began to build up a good net of skimmer bream, all a round the size in the picture above. I couldn’t get the image of the fish I lost out of my head. Just before dusk the bites dried up and as the light began to fade I thought this was my best chance to hook another of the canals unknown residents. But lightning did not strike twice and as night took over from the day I packed away. Not too disappointed though. If the loss proved one thing it was that canals really can hide monsters.
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Until Next time tight lines