Thursday, 24 March 2016

Unexplored areas and canal trolling

My young son BB and his growing teeth have no respect for my fishing plans as yet. I was all keen to get out for a decent session after a few poorly executed trips prior to this. The day before I had diligently readied my kit for an early start and went to bed anticipating going to a far off spot that has form for better than average fish. Needless to say after spending most of the night taking it in turns getting up to settle our disturbed little one, both me and JB looked much as we did on the way back from Glastonbury festival in ninety seven, only without having any of the fun.

By the time I had grabbed enough unbroken sleep and done the decent thing and got the now radiant little munchkin up, dressed and fed there seemed little point travelling half way across the county to find the dog walkers had taken all the parking spots at the initial venue. So still half dazed I settled to instead go and check out a bit of the Grand union canal I haven't fished before above Hatton locks.

It's weird but I've done a fair bit of zander fishing on the locks themselves and below them, but have never once been above them. I must have crossed the bridge to go to Hatton country world a hundred times and it's always looked nice. A few friends have fished it and said it's not bad up there, but for some reason I've not yet been. So this seemed a perfect opportunity for a bit of an explore.

Even though I am not big on paying to park when fishing, the paltry £1.20 is a bargain and I happily left my car there whilst I tabbed off up the lock flight. It was on my way up that I came across something I've never seen before first hand. Someone had left  the upper gate of one of the locks open and with the ubiquitous leak the lower gates seem to have, most of the water had leaked from the pound, draining it down to the small pool at the bottom of the picture which was being kept topped up by the leaking gate above. Gravity and a night of flowing water passing over it had carved the soft silt quickly down to a nice gravel run into the open gate at the top of the picture.

I could have spent all day just peering into the drained pound at the various detritus collected and at the topography of the bottom. There must have been a few thousand snails on the marginal shelf alone, never mind on the huge silt bank at the back of the pound. I had my suspicions that the pool at my feet contained any other residents of the pound and tempting as it was to have a poke around in there, I left well alone knowing full and well how stressed any occupants of the little left water would be.

Once I actually got fishing I quickly caught a couple of small zander casting small salt and pepper zander shads around above the first lock in the brown tinted clear water.

Once a local barge enthusiast came reversing into the area I was fishing a little too enthusiastically, I decided it was time to get off and explore the new to me tow path.

Canal trolling

Features play an important part in all types of fishing and personally I have always tried to find something that might attract predators and me alike when I am fishing for them. The unseen underwater features are obviously problematic to locate, but the obvious ones like good far bank cover or big reed beds are always the first targets on new waters and a good starting place. 

These tempting target spots can sometimes be spaced out and the travelling between them has always felt a little of a waste of fishing time to me. So I recently concluded to do a bit of canal trolling as I was travelling down the tow path between spots. When I was a kid we used to do this to little avail using shiny silver spinners, now though having a few years and a lot more experience under my belt I realize that I was doing it all wrong. 

As a kid I naively thought a pike would chase any lure fished in the canal. Now I know that sometimes you have to drag it right across their noses in many cases to provoke a response. So after a bit of fine tuning and figuring how much line to pay out I have begun trolling baits along the marginal shelf as I walk between spots. This enables me to fish whilst travelling and why not, as a lot of fish lie up on the nearside shelf and I reckon I might find a few nice surprises by using this time a bit better.

It was as I passed under a bridge and past a row of barges on the far bank that my rod which was sticking out over the canal bent round. Either I'd found another branch lingering on the shelf or something had grabbed the white shad as it passed by. It turned out to be the latter as the line shot out into the centre trench. This wasn't a perch or even a zander, this was something much bigger and rarer than those spiky finned culprits.
My light lure rod was bent alarmingly over as the yellow braided line cut across the surface towards the boats. It had to be a pike which had snatched the trolled lure as it went by, as not much else bar a carp would pull my string this hard. Praying my fluro leader would hold, I followed the fish off up the canal hoping it wouldn't bite me off. I must have played it for five minutes before I caught a glimpse of a dull spotted tail in the boil in the centre of the canal. It wasn't a humongous pike but it certainly looked like it could be around ten pounds. I really thought I was getting the better of the fish and was fumbling to open up my folded net went the fish came up and turned back in a massive boil and sent my lure flying through the air.

That one experience with a decent canal pike has proved my theory valid enough to certainly continue this practice whenever I find myself travelling between fishing features on the canal, and given the stature of this validating fish I feel I might well have to give some shallow running plugs a run out along with a wire trace just in case.


  1. Interesting stuff Dan. Doesn't work here as our marginal shelves are shallow, clear, reedy and extend too far, so it's impossible to walk and fish the lure in a fish holding area. I have tried it where the canal is steeper sided but always feel I'm walking too fast!

  2. On this occasion I was actually walking quite fast and it still worked. Although I did cover quite a lot of tow path for one hit. All I've been doing to get the lure to fish in what I think at the right depth for the speed I am walking at is keep paying out line till it's bumping bottom at the speed your walking at, then reel it back in till it just stops and you should be fishing within that last six inches of the bottom. Well that's my theory ;)

  3. "...passed under a bride...?" Do you not have enough on your hands with the littl'un?!