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,



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