Options once winter sets in round these parts can become very limited, the formation of ice being the singular reason. Last winter every bit of water in the UK that did not move fast enough had a lid on it for a good long while. For me and every other angler in the UK this meant we became a rather dedicated bunch of chub anglers. Now I do love catching chub, and last week I did just that. Since then though something occurred to me; with the worst of the weather still to come there will be plenty of opportunity for cheese paste shenanigans when no still waters are fish-able, so any opportunites to fish non-running water should be grabbed with both hands before those opportunites freeze up. Luckily my epiphany came just before what could be one of last windows arrived, and just as a new stretch of canal had opened up to me.
For the longest time I have been doing some work for a company whose premises are not far away from a very nice looking bit of canal. Every time I have passed over it on my way, no matter what time of year, the sight of it has made me salivate. The worst thing was there was literally nowhere to park my car as the road which I have viewed it from is narrow and fast. This was until the other week when I took my normal route, only to find the business that was next to the company I was working for had shut down and a large car park had appeared in its place. I will not deny actually cheering and maybe jumping up and down a bit upon seeing this wondrous and beautiful bit of freshly laid tarmac. Hence a plan began to formulate!
From fishing the same canal many miles away from this new section I knew that it could have a fine pedigree. Everything in this canal seems to grow big, and carp especially thrive in it. Though it was not them that interested me on this occasion. Zander, of which I can say with some certainty grow to very respectable sizes, were more the order of my visit and boy did this place look like zed heaven.
Arriving at first light I knew the weather for once was on my side. Cloudy skies and a nice ripple on the water to impart a little movement on my baits. It was racking up to be just right. I hit the tow path passing a group of residential boats close to the bridge. In the past I would have targeted such an area thinking it would definitely hold fish, but a while ago whilst grubbing around on a different canal whilst the water was very clear, I was able to see under some permanently moored boats only to find the lack of movement had caused the sediment to build up under them, leaving only inches of water beneath. Ever since seeing that I have never been quite convinced of these areas.
Moving on I came to an area of hard banked canal; by this I mean both sides have the metal retaining sheets on both banks. This sort of area always seems to me a bit stark cover wise and just does not give me the confidence to sit and wait for a fish to pass by, so I moved on looking for something a little more fishy.
What I saw next though was like an oasis. After a small reed bed the hard bank ended and a mixture of hawthorns, dog rose hips and brambles spilled out over the canal. Beyond it the hard bank started again and created a hundred metre long section of cover.
The other thing I liked about this cover was the distance it over hung the water. Most overhanging plant life barely gets over the marginal shelf. This however protruded five feet in places right into the boat track, giving both depth and cover, which as a far as I am concerned are perfect winter Zander haunts.
Should I of had any previous knowledge of the Zander hot spots I would of had no problem digging in and waiting out the entire session on one spot. But this being my first probing attempt here I reverted to that technique so common amongst canal Zander anglers, swim hopping. Thirty to forty five minutes spent in one fishy looking spot after another is usually enough to get a hint of any fish present. Doing this can have some very interesting results. I have in the past spent an entire morning roving from one swim to the next getting zero interest. Then on the first cast into a new area, and before I've even got a second rod out, the first one has shot off. I have even very occasionally found large numbers of mixed sized fish shoaled very tightly in one small area which has resulted in multiple runs and some absolutely insane sport.
Today however this was not to be the case. Swim after swim was tried. The far ledge boat track and near side shelf were all fished. I found three or four other sweet looking spots which all convinced me that zander would be at home, but for the whole session my floats spent their time in that most cruelest of places, above the water!
It was kind of killing me by the end of the morning, as for more than ten swims fished all I had received was one single bit of interest where my float moved all of a a foot and a half then stopped dead. This stretch looked just right, the conditions were spot on with low light, coloured water and the likes. I too had done my part! The bait was fresh, my rigs were good and on any known bit of cut I know I should of smashed them up.
Maybe this was just one of those places to good to be true, but by the time I was getting ready to go all sorts of clandestine things were going through my mind. Had British waterways been up to their old tricks or had the local migrant workers been pulling double shifts in the area. Though I know at this point I can't make any snap judgements about unknown fish populations and whether I should come back again, what I do know is that a bit more research may be in order before I do come back as right now my fishing time is a highly valuable to me, and I am not sure if I can afford to waste it on such whims.