Canals have always occupied an important position in my angling, largely because it was there that I cut my fishing teeth. Even as I've grown older and have looked to fish different types of waters I still find myself attracted to them. For most part it was the allure of zander and carp fishing on these untapped waters, but more recently the copious amounts of large perch on one particular section have drawn me back time and time again.
It was a case of checking in prior to autumn that called me back just now. I wanted to see where those fish were at after a summer of fry bashing, so as I might know what to expect when I returned in two months time. Two pound fish are almost disgustingly common on this section and the odd fish among them stands out as getting ever closer to the three pound mark. And it is those odd fish which intrigue me; just how big do they grow, or how big could they grow given the unusual dynamic of this perch sanctuary.
On this occasion though, the normally predictable sport was unusually difficult. I began just after first light in what I would normally consider to be a banker of a swim, fishing as I always do just off the inside self. Doing this in conjunction with the slow trickling of whatever feed I should desire to use, can normally bring in the fish and coax some decent bites, even on a slow day. But today the most I could seem to tempt was small sub pound billies.
After two hours my efforts had begun to seem rather futile. That these fish were not in the mood seemed to be the obvious answer, considering my normal fruitful approach wasn't working. I decided a change to a second banker swim might confirm my theory, and once in place with another hour passed it did seem I was correct in my assumption. Only the fact that the little ones were feeding stopped me walking away early. Maybe the fish were just not in their regular haunts, and by haunts, I mean where I have in a blinkered manner become accustomed to catching them.
In a last ditch attempt to unlock this quandry I discarded my finely honed under-the-rod-tip rig in favour of a more suitable rig, which would allow me to lay my bait on hard on in the slow but persistent tow. The whole idea was that maybe the bigger fish were reluctant to leave the deeper water of the main trench. So I set up with a medium crystal waggler set over depth by some twelve inches, I cast my lob worm bait into new territory and waited...
Less than five minutes later the float dipped and I proved to myself its not what you think you know, but in fact what you are prepared to try that often makes the difference!
The first perch was just under two pounds, as were the next five. Even with the odd boat ploughing straight overhead these perch were more than happy to feed; but they would not venture out of the boat track for love nor money. You know when perch are having it, as you start having to really search through the bait tub that was once crawling with worms just to find one. Having just done a quick count when a barge passed and found my fifty worms were now seven, I re-baited and dropped the float back into the small area I had been sparingly baiting.
The next bite was different from the rest... Perch being perch generally just bury the float after a quick dip. Personally I have always thought that the dip is when they suck the worm in and the bury is as the move. But this bite lifted the float as the two small shot that I had placed to help hold bottom and then the float began gentle moving with the tow. Believing a fish was causing this I struck and found a small roach was the culprit. This was quite unusual as I have literally in hundreds of hour fishing this stretch, never caught one other roach and that was at least a pound bigger than this one.
Wondering if there might be more, I dropped the bait exactly were the last one had come from and straight away there was interest. An identical bite as before was hit, and I was expecting another little silver thing to come splashing in, but no, this fish bent the rod well over and began flying around the swim. One single flash of silver and my heart was pounding. The second flash and I was begging out loud for it not to come off... And then it was in the net.
Looking down at the fish resting in the net I truly and honestly thought I had a two pound fish. Just seeing the length of it as it lay on the soft grass I was convinced it was a two. Over twelve inches long and as perfect of a roach as I have ever seen in my life. This one looked like it had never been caught ever before.
My second big roach from this amazing little bit of canal and it was only three ounces shy of two pounds. If one pound thirteen ounces is summer condition, surely that can only mean that this fish will be two pounds once its stored up the necessary supplies of fat for winter. Even though I intend to go back to try and break that special weight later in the year, it was truly a high point of my angling life to have been lucky enough to catch such a wonderfully perfect roach as this, and I thank old Isaac that I changed from my normal tactics as I don't think I would have caught this otherwise.