Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Monday 29 April 2024

Canal Roach - The Sisyphean Task ? Pt.6

I've seen plenty of drained pounds over the years as a gongoozler but this one on the South Stratford was a bit of an eye-opener I must admit. Firstly where the heck were the fish and secondly you can see why the canal is coloured 99% of the time.

The fish must have been stranded at either lock entrance I'd imagine and I did think about going home to get the deeper fish finder and see if my suspicions were correct. I had some fishing to do though, I wanted a decent roach. 


Thankfully the pound I was fishing was a good 10 minute walk from here where there was actual water. It was a nippy morning and I decided to see what the water temperature was like, wow, quite a drop only 10.5 degrees. I'd switched to a set-up that can withstand the tow better, so the sensitive antenna float was ditched (for now) and was replaced with a 4bb insert waggler, with two of those bb's anchored on the bottom.
 
What I didn't expect that the float on the sleeper deadbait rod was off on a run literally 5 minutes of getting the frozen deadbait out.

I didn't connect in to anything mind you I can only assume it was a small zedlet with eyes bigger than its belly.

The new float set-up worked rather well I must admit but a good hour in one swim without any enquiries whatsoever I got bored and went on the move to fish some more swims.

The first was my usually reedy swim where I picked up some roach from the other day but apart from a missed bite because I was premature on the strike, there was nothing doing in that swim either.

And the next and the next. So 4 swims fished with nothing to show for it, even the sleeper deadbait rod didn't have any more takes.

Fishing bread this way is very selective I must admit and is certainly a patience tester when I know if I fished groundbait and maggots instead I would have likely got more bites.

With the lack of action I dumped the gear back in the car and walked the whole length and back of a stretch of canal where you need a small mortgage just to become a member.  

66 minutes of walking at least that was enjoyable the fishing could do one 😀. Anyway as usual that was deserted of anglers, and to be honest also no fished showed either. It's a lovely stretch mind you. Very peaceful indeed however one big problem it's a very popular walking stretch so sees lots of foot traffic.


So one of those wasted sessions really and those I hate, because my spare time is limited and I need to make sessions count. When I was catching those lovely Zander yesterday on the Grand Union the water was a lovely dark green colour not turd brown like the South Stratford is, so I might drown some maggots over there next time and see if I'm missing anything.

There could well be a reason why the Zander are hanging about around there, yeap I wonder if there is a decent head of bait fish to be caught. Only one way to find out I suppose, but come on, can we have better weather please, I'm getting a little fed up of it at the moment. 

Friday 26 April 2024

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.102 (Canal Zander 8lb 9oz beauty)

Well the grass need mowing, spring is definitely here, it's just a shame it's not a bit warmer. I really do hate gardening, it's just not for me. 

Thankfully I've not got a great deal to look after, although saying that having landscaped it when we moved in back in 2008 (I think) and replacing the deck sice, the sleepers could do with replacing. Now, for a start gardening has got nothing to do with looking after the bit of mud and grass and trees outside your back door. That's just such a narrow view of what a garden is. So you can just forget it.


And it's got nothing to do with those shops where you can get green plastic fencing and peat and flowers and plants and growbags (growbags not grotbags !!) and things, although I quite like the little concrete gnomes.The worst experience I ever had at a so-called 'gardening centre' was when I once bought a growbag.

I took it home and watered it for like months but nothing grew out of it. Nothing at all. Someone told me that you had to plant something in it but that was stupid if you have to go to all that hassle, why bother to get a growbag in the first place? 

I decided it was a rip-off until one day I looked at it and realised that, although nothing had grown in it, the bag itself was ever so slightly bigger than it had been. And I thought, 'So that's what they mean by a growbag!'

I stopped watering it at once. I mean, I didn't like the idea of killing a living thing but who knows how big it could have grown? I think that's really dangerous-they should put a warning on the side of the packet: A GROWBAG IS FOR LIFE NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS.

Oh no, I just thought! What if it gets really angry that I haven't watered it for ages and decides to eat me instead? What if it's a killer growbag? There might be killer growbags everywhere. Watch out for killer growbags, everybody. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the greenhouse! The Growbags That Ate Paris! Invasion of the Growbags!


I bet the guy who invented growbags feels really guilty now. Maybe he's had to get himself a new identity so that he can live with himself and the ugly, evil thing that he created. The growbags that turned out to be far bigger and more powerful than man's ability to control them. 
 
The Growbag Syndrome. Hey, maybe someone should make a film about it before it's all too late and get Kate Beckindale to be in it, and Emily Blunt could get a load of people together to do a benefit for it. GROWBAGS AT DRURY LANE. But, even then, it might be too late.

Well, that's definitely the last time I visit a garden centre for anything. No, there's more to a garden than that. Because a garden can be anywhere. In your mind. In the fridge. 

In your shoe. In-fact, if you have your head together, life is a garden. This blog of mine could just be a lovely little rock garden, with coloured stones and pixies with fishing rods and psychedelic kingfishers freaking out among the marigolds. 



Mick, have you lost your mind ? , quite possibly but No !! this was a dream I had post some rather nice stilton cheese !!. An extremely vivid one as well which was nice because Emily Blunt was in it. Anyway to the fishing, a much needed roving session this away from the CAD screen where I hoped to tick off circa 15k steps. So Zander were the target naturally and leapfrogging those sections of cover where I was hoping they would be laying up. 

Now where there are herons there are bait fish to be had and I scared a couple off when walking to the area to fish, and there was another one when I fished the first bit of cover.



A lure angler was already there and he was asking what I was doing, so I showed him the ways and means to catch Zander using the float. It didn't take long to get a bite either the float going on a confident run with a 3-4lb Zander taking the bait.

After a natter we went our separate ways and first cast of the crankbait in the next swim he managed a small jack pike that engulfed his lure.

An 8lb 9oz Grand Union Canal Zander 🆒

What I didn't expect was that fifteen minutes or so after he left another confident bite but then this time I've tightened up to a solid lump that was hanging low and not doing much. Till that is from the first bend of the rod which then it went off on a mad run. This was giving me a fight, a proper fight so much so I was waiting for that moment when it came off.

The circle hook had a good hold though and after following it down the canal for twenty yards I managed to turn it where I saw it's flanks. A cracking fish I didn't want to lose and luckily after it realised the battle was up I managed to net it. The scales went 8lb and 9oz's what a fantastic fish that fought like a right beast. Those that say they don't fight are mistaken. 


I managed another 4 Zander so they were definitely on it with the rest being schoolies. Now Nic from Avon Angling had fished another stretch earlier not that far away, the stretch I caught 2 6 lber's on consecutive sessions but he never has a nibble. I was keeping him in the loop of what was happening with my trip out and he decided to head over after picking up his daughter from school and continue where I left off. 

I had to get back sadly and we crossed paths when my curfew was up. I certainly didn't expect that session today and to catch another big Zander from the canal just makes me appreciate the fish we are lucky to have in this neck of the woods.  The length weight relationship graph I created a while ago stacked up as well because the stocky fish measured 71cm's giving 140oz and 8.75lb on the graph.

Thursday 25 April 2024

Canal Roach - The Sisyphean Task ? Pt.5

Canal angling (was) synonymous with fine-line fishing. The average angler would shudder at any suggestion that he could use a line of greater breaking-strain than two pounds. For many, a one-pound to one-and-a-half-pound breaking-strain line is regarded as a necessity. My own experience has taught me otherwise. 

Fine lines may be essential for certain styles of fishing, but they are not always indispensable. In fact, in some cases the use of a fine line could be disastrous. Nevertheless, strongly held opinions about the necessity for fine lines cannot be dismissed lightly.

I think there are several reasons for this belief in them. One of these must be the influence of habit and tradition. Canal fishing has always been associated with angling for small fish with fine tackle, and once an idea has become universally accepted its veracity is seldom challenged. 

Another reason is that fine lines usually result in more bites when the slow-sinking style of fishing is used. Objections to stronger lines are usually based mainly upon the fear that the fish will see the line and will be put off from taking the bait. 

But I doubt very much whether fish are capable of such fine discrimination. If they can see one line, they can see another. I doubt if there is any line they cannot see, in normal conditions.The true reason why less fish are caught with a slow-sinking bait fished on a strong line might rather be that it is not as pliable as a line of lower breaking strain. 

Consequently, the bait does not fall through the water as naturally as one fished on a fine line. Since the majority of canal anglers use a slow- sinking style, an undeserved prejudice has grown up against the strong line.

A hard fighting 4lb Roach Bream Hybrid
It would be true to say that even this legitimate objection to the strong line can be overcome to a great extent by using a larger hook and a bigger bait. 

This can be proved by experiment. If a small hook is tied to a strong line and baited with a maggot, its sinking action in a vessel of water will appear slow and unnatural, but tie on a large hook and bait it with a lobworm or a knob of cheese, and the bait will fall through the water in a much more natural manner. 

It increases the chance that the bait will be taken, and the supposed scaring effect that the line has on the fish will be largely negated. This I have proved to myself over and over again by catching numerous canal roach and other fish while using strong lines and large hooks. 

The strong line is really most suitable for bottom fishing, though. Since the bait and part of the line are lying along the bottom, the question of unnatural action of the bait does not arise. Fine lines are most suitable for catching small fish, stronger lines for catching the larger ones. I have a place for both in my tackle stash. 

The colour of the line is of some importance, too, I think. Transparent or pearl-coloured lines seem to reflect too much light, and when the sun is on the water they can often be seen quite clearly. Does this unnatural glint of reflected light have a scaring effect on the fish? I feel that it does on certain clear water venues , I tend to use green-coloured lines. 

The canal I'm fishing for this session, well it's coloured proper coloured, so to be honest you can get away with anything really, that ever takes your fancy. One thing for certain though if you hook a 4lb hybrid you don't want to be undergunned. 

Not all lines react the same in different breaking strains either the Korum Glide for example works really well for my relatively heavy trotting line for barbel but only a couple of pound less, for floating fish the canal it tends to get more curls in it than Screech from Saved by the Bell. 

A small point, perhaps, but if it leads to more fish in the net, then it is worth thinking about. The successful angler is often successful because he attends to small points that others neglect. 

Now my blog name is for good reason, because not only do I love to tinker, but I also love to do whatever takes my fancy. My rod collection is testament to that, a jack of all trades, master of none, that's me to a tee, I catch fish though, more luck than judgement mind you, works for me, but it's surprising what little tweaks here and there can do.  



For this session after roach I was scaling down the bits of bread I've been fishing, not hugely but I wanted to be a little more selective with the canal fish I've been catching. Maggots fished over groundbait seems to work rather quite well but those bigger roach I'm after just having been showing whatsoever.

That's one of the reason why I thought I'd try fishing in to dusk for this short trip out where I'd arrive at 6.30pm and be off when I couldn't see the float(s). Float(s) yes because I'd also have a sleeper rod out for Zander as well. 


There was a constant underlying tow on the canal which meant it was frustrating trying to fish in the track, the sensitive set-up just a pain as it was being dragged off line all the time. My insert waggler set-up is ideal for this with a couple of large shot anchoring it to the bottom. 

So in the end I decided to fish right by some reeds the towpath side. There was indications there was fish in the swim half an hour or so after adding the bread mash and then sure enough, the classic lift bite and a fish was on.


 I knew it was a roach from the fight but not exactly the size I was after. One twice the size would be nice. When they get to this size though their mouths are bigger than you think so they can easily suck in a decent piece of bread.

I thought I was in for a few more fish but oddly all went quiet but then I noticed the sleeper rod was off down the canal. I tightened up to a solid lump but after the first couple of pulls realised it wasn't a big fish at all. It was pulling back well mind you however it was soon in the net.


I missed another bite soon after where I pulled the bait out of the zanders mouth and then I managed a tiny waspers delight, so the zander were certainly on the move. During the splurge of activity I'd removed the float rod from the water and fed some more bread mash and it didn't take long to get another bite again.

I added another 4 roach to the tally but they ranged from 6 or 7 ounces to the biggest which was nudging a pound. Proper fat fish too which was nice to see. 



I thought heading up to dusk I'd be on for the better fish but sadly the swim went dead, even the zander rod remained oddly quiet so when I couldn't see either floats it was time to call it a day.

Some nice fish caught though, and the intended target so I wasn't complaining I just need some larger ones now to turn up that required some scales. I'm sure they are here though, I don't want it that easy now do I, I'm after a 2lb roach after all, they don't give up easily.  

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Canal Roach - The Sisyphean Task ? Pt.4

I had a small window of opportunity as usual and to honest it wasn't the best time to go fishing because the narrowboats would likely be a pain (fingers crossed I'd be ok), but I planned to fish close in anyway where hopefully the dreaded tow would be less of an issue, oh and do give Wild Garlic Way a much needed rest.

A while ago now out of the blue I caught some nice roach on this particular stretch of canal using maggots as bait and I'd always wondered if I upscaled the bait abit and if the roach were still around, were there any biggun's lurking in these turbid shallow depths. So it was back to the bread fishing and lift method that George has successfully shown to work really well, and my best canal roach to date of 1lb and 12oz also came on similar tactics. 


The thought process is to feed those spritely smaller roach on the bread mash smörgåsbord until they are full which then will leave those bigger specimen roach in the swim which then can get their fill. You can see why it would work to be honest, even though it goes against convention. 

However no canal is the same and the fish decision makers can react differently that's for sure, a little like those making the VAR decisions in football 💩, you see the other day I fished without even a nudge or a bobble on the bread, then I switched to maggots and it was a fish a chuck.



Now I rigged up one of the future contraband Drennan Glow Tip Antenna floats and would give it a couple of hours in two different swims to see if I could snare a roach or two. I've had some nice hybrids on this stretch as well to be fair, so those would be most welcome if the roach were not playing ball. 

Those that haven't fished this canal would be amazed just how coloured it is, I'm talking milk chocolate brown when the boats have been moving throughout the day. You would wonder if it was ever worth bothering for anything other than Zander if it's that coloured, but there are still fish to be caught if you know where to look.



These reeds for example, there is a nice gap between them and even when the canal is flowing left to right like it was for most of the time here, fish are often tucked up away in here for sanctuary, away from the boat track and also those Zeds.

The first swim was fruitless though so after about an hour it was on to the next as you can see here. Easy enough to drop the float right next to those reeds.



Nice and simple fishing this and the float couldn't be more sensitive. It still took a while to get the first bite mind you after baiting the swim with bread mash that put a scent trail down. The classic lift bite where I thought I'd hooked a nice roach but it was actually a roach bream hybrid.

Still I'm not complaining with a blank avoided and the spare bottle of Champion I had laying around in the garage only helped with that, especially when the sun was rather pleasant too. 





A number of fish were caught until curfew called time however nothing big sadly, the 25 minute walk back to the car didn't help, however I did stop to watch a duck with her 12 ducklings. They seemed to be chilled too rather than in manic mode like they usually are.

I can stack up a few sessions now and I'm lucky despite the long walk to this spot, there are many more convenient stretches where I can get my fix. 

Sunday 21 April 2024

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.101 (Maggots)

Now match angling in canals is a specialized form of angling. The matchman's aim is quite different from that of ordinary anglers. His object is to catch a higher weight of fish than his opponents within a limited time. He cannot prebait his swim, nor will he usually risk angling for big fish. He angles for the kind of fish which will enable him to build up a winning catch quickly. 

Time wasted may mean fish missed. Consequently, everything has to be speeded up. Casting, striking, retrieving the fish, groundbaiting all must be done quickly and efficiently. A few ounces, or even drams, can swing the balance in his favour. To lose is not a disgrace. But to win or to be placed is an achievement. Reputations are at stake. Names can be made overnight. The competitive spirit is paramount.

It seems a great pity that all this effort so often reaps such a poor reward in terms of fish caught. Occasionally, an angler catches some good roach, bream, chub or tench, and the win- ning weight takes a spectacular upward leap. But more often than not, the weights returned are low and seldom give a true reflection of the quality of the canal's fishing. 

Some matches are won with a meagre two pounds or so of roach, or even with a mere ounce or two of small fish. One match fished on the Lancaster Canal, in which no less than 1,300 competitors took part, was won with less than four pounds of fish. In another match, fished in the Worcester Canal, the winner out of 164 competitors weighed in four pounds fourteen ounces of small roach. 

But one of the most fantastic match results of all must be the occasion when 200 sticklebacks earned an angler third place and £34 in prize money. The sticklebacks weighed six and a half ounces and were taken on a bloodworm fished on a size 22 hook. Results of this kind are quite common when the catch is composed of small fish. 

Yet individual anglers often take hefty catches of fish, and sometimes large specimens, from these same waters when fishing alone. I can remember taking over thirty pounds of quality roach during an early morning session in the Alrewas Canal a well-known Midlands match venue. This catch was witnessed by a bailiff and a few of the match anglers. Yet the match that was fished later in the day was won with only two pounds of small roach. Many anglers caught nothing.



It would be unwise to jump to conclusions about experiences such as this, though. Comparisons of the respective results in terms of fish caught can be misleading. I had the advantage of an early start in an undisturbed water. Most match anglers are not prepared to take a chance with different baits but prefer those which have proved themselves over the years: maggots, casters and bread.

Other factors often weigh heavily against them, too. They cannot choose their time or place, but must fish when and where the luck of the draw places them quite often in most unfavourable conditions. To get the best from most canals, it is essential to be quiet and still. 


In this sense, the match angler commences at a disadvantage. The unavoidable amount of noise on the banks, and the fact that he is virtually rubbing shoulders with his fellow-competitors, creates adverse conditions which he must accept and strive to overcome. It is to his credit that he catches fish at all.

You do wonder why those matches on the canals seem to rarely happen these days, especially in these neck of the woods where matches were common places even during the river season. There is always those that would blame the Zander but the fact is many matches anglers have now moved to commercial fisheries instead to apply their trade. Easy pickings isn't it !! and with all the gear the modern match anglers seems to carry these days, often convenient as you can park behind your peg. 


Anyway I was back for more early morning canal fishing where I got off to a flyer with a bite first chuck before even any cloud groundbait went out. I only fished maggots today, three of them on a size 16 hook actually, where as back in the day that would have got a WTF 👀😅.

I was catching steadily till the first boat came through at 7.30am, yes on Sunday, after that sport died off where I only managed to get the odd bite or two. In the end with so much crud on the surface and the two got a pain I decided to venture to where I was yesterday morning but this time fish near some reeds to see if I was missing something.


I forgot just how much I like fishing the centre-pin in this type of fishing where you don't need to cast far even if fishing over at the far margin, but it's playing the fish that is so nice. The control over the fish when using relatively fine tackle is unbeatable I'd say. 

Anyway both areas produced a wide variety of fish with the biggest fish this nice bream that gave a decent fight. So an an enjoyable near 4 hour session and the weather was kind as well and it definitely felt spring in the sun, very pleasant indeed.  

The maggots certainly did the trick today and not the freshest of bait either probably a good 7-8 weeks old and kept in my bait fridge in the garage from turning in to casters. A lovely mornings fishing and as expected I had it all to myself too.

Now I need to try and few more spots methinks to see if I'm missing out on some hot-spots and next time I might just fish bread and also feed bread to try and improve the size of the fish, and also the species, because I fancy some decent roach. I have been feeding fishmeal groundbait and small pellets and that could well dictate what I've been attracting in to the swim. 

Oh and I forgot to mention I had a carp sleeper rod put for the first part of the session, where sadly nothing was doing whatsoever up snag alley. I might stick to the Zander sleeper rod next time and wait until it warms up nicely where hopefully the carp will get off their lazy backsides and start moving about. 

That's when the bike will come out to play to try and do some carp spotting because that's what worked last time. The best way to catch them is to find out where they are hiding first.

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