Whilst watching the float, somewhat casually, I began to think about the first time I caught a good sized perch from a canal. It wasn’t the canal that I was on today. No, this canal was probably 40 or so miles away, nestled on the west side of the Pennines. I was around around 14 or so and had made it my goal to catch a carp from the canal. It being November, at the time I didn’t really think I had the best opportunity, but this extra ‘handicap’ would make the catch even more special. The walk up to the area I was to fish was a long one. Seven sections of canal away in fact. Uphill, of course. As you would expect, no one really bothered to walk to this stretch and I was sure that the extra effort would be worth it. If only to have peace and solitude as I began fishing for my target. I was brought back to the present day by the sound of a barge chugging its way toward me. Time to ship the pole in and pour a cup of tea for consuming whilst it passed. Oh wait a minute, make that while all five of them passed. The tea went down far to quickly but the canal had settled somewhat after the regatta had sailed through. Time to re feed the swim with some more chopped up worm and groundbait slop and a pouch full of casters. I followed back in with the rig and resumed my day dream. As luck would have it there wasn’t a single angler on the stretch. I chose a spot near the mouth of the lock. At the time the canal was not navigable so fishing into the lock itself gave a good depth of water and some very carpy features to inspire. In went a mixture of caster, hemp, and a few chopped worms. I had some small cubes of meat with me too for use on the hook. I was bathed in glorious autumn sunshine and there was hardly a breathe of wind. Apart from the odd rambler the only other visitor I remember seeing was deer that crossed the towpath, jump the fence and ran off onto the moors behind. On the fish front however, I sat there for the majority of the day. Biteless. I struck seemingly on autopilot. A lively fish did its best to make it’s escape but was soon in my hand. A plump roach that had taken half a lobworm hookbait. In the blink of an eye the rig was back out, caster catapulted swim-ward, and then it was back to my reflection. The sun had begun to descend towards the top of the distant hills. It would’t be long before its weak rays would be lost. Left to sit for the final hour in shadow. It was time for a change. The meat and the worms had not tempted any carp so far so three casters were duly mounted onto the size 14 hook. I cast into the lock mouth, as close as I dared to the trailing brambles. Utter disbelief. The float settled, stuttered and aggressively sank from view. Disbelief replaced with sheer excitement, I struck. Not into a heavy weight. Certainly not a carp. But what was it? Doggedly thumping in the deep water, head shaking and tail kicking. When I caught sight of the fish I was over the moon. It was a huge perch. Well over two pound. In a blur the fish was netted. My eyes fixed on its unique beauty. I remember feeling almost afraid to unhook it. I’d seen pictures of big perch but in the flesh they somehow looked even bigger. It wasn’t just its size but how proud it looked. Dorsal and pectoral fins spread; the weakening rays of the autumn sun illuminated them. What a bonus it was. And to cap the day off on my next cast, again on triple caster, I hooked into a canal carp. A deep, golden common of just over ten pounds. The walk back down the seven lengths of canal felt much shorter after those two fish. My target achieved. But its the perch that I remember more vividly. Today I didn’t catch a perch. But I did have a bonus fish. It came in the form of a two pound tench. I have never caught a tench from this canal in all my years of fishing it. A part of me can’t help wishing it was just a bit rounder, more stripey, sporting a sharper dorsal fin with a few flecks of red in it’s ventral fins. But who could be disappointed with a fish like that from a canal? In November. Not me. In truth the session was very slow besides those two bites. I did have plenty of fun recounting days gone by though. When surprise fish have written lasting memories.
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