There are a few old canal haunts of mine that I had been thinking about getting back to for a long while now, but the only thing is that these old haunts have in recent years been acquired by a new fishing club. Now truthfully I have never been big on joining clubs to fish on canals. I think it's a bit of a grey area regarding clubs laying claim to canals, as generally they make no effort whatsoever to bailiff or look after them and as anyone can just tootle on up and fish without being approached, then in my mind it's basically a free for all.
That was until the Lure Anglers Canal Club came along. This relatively new club seems to be a new, different sort of club, unlike the stuffy old relics that cling on to their old canal stretches just in case the river is out of sorts or they've got a match on their one and only pool. Online membership, regular fish-ins and a well organized lure league. If all of that wasn't appealing enough to make me purchase the bargain £20 membership, the fact that they have under their control some twenty five miles of prime canal that will never get electro fished to remove zander, certainly is. So after joining up via the Internet and harassing the chairman with a few questions, my membership pack arrived and I added a Crimewatch classic photo to my membership card ready to hit some old haunts.
|Wanted in connection to crimes against fishing lures.|
My first short foray was to a section of the Grand Union that used to be a quality bit of water. Apart from the fact that it was late in the afternoon and the boats were thumping down the canal, it turned out to be an interesting return. Straight away I found a couple of small schoolie zander lying in the deeper water where the locks raging water had scoured away the silt. I moved away from the lock after it was opened and targeted a deep section of cover small a red spikey shad on a three gram jig tight into the cover, where I picked up a slightly bigger than average schoolie.
Along with the boats one other thing was proving to be a bit problematic; large swathes of the canal surface was littered with hundreds of thousands of spent catkins that had been blown from the trees lining the banks. Although pretty innocuous, these little buggers made casting the lures a nightmare. They got hung up on line and leader knots, they were so thick in some cases that the line could even get through them and the lure didn't sink. Even moving spots didn't help that much as when the locks opened up the collections of them moved on mass along the canal.
I finished up having to really pick where I was casting carefully, but even doing that I still managed to root out a few more small zeds fishing tight to the concrete structures above and below the many locks dotted along this section of canal, using curly tailed grubs.
A couple of days later I was back on the same canal but few miles downstream to meet up with Mick for a session. It had been a dreadful night weather-wise, with storms battering the south of the country. Although we seemed to have been spared much of the wind, the rain had really come down and was predicted for a large part of the morning.
Given that my faithful waterproof smock has grown a little tighter of late I had to make do with a stinky old poncho that has been lingering in my car boot where I'd dumped it since last year and looking like a proper old bank tramp I wandered off into the rain to find Mick.
Not long after hooking up with my accomplice for the morning I got the first tentative signs of action. Having brought a dead bait rod for this session which I had flicked out onto the edge of the trench as I was searching around for a tug on the lure. The small float sprang to life first when a tiny zander thought his luck was in and found my roach head. That one came off, but in the next spot I hooked and landed a slightly better one which objected to being photographed and made a slippery escape back into the canal as I fumbled with my camera.
As we moved down the canal we came across a slightly sticky situation. A pair of swans had decided to nest literally right next to the tow path. With what looked like Mum on the nest and Dad lurking on the canal, slipping between them was done quickly with a definite squeak of the arse as you went. I've seen how aggressive nesting swans can be and this set up has got 'attacked dog walker' written all over it.
Worst of all was the fact that after doing the swan slip once, the pounding wind and rain turned us back for a second pass as we backtracked into the cover. Once cast out between some boats, Mick had a couple of small zeds and lost a better one on his dead bait rod, before I snagged a very spawn filled perch on the jig from the centre of the canal. Obviously still to spawn, the perch have me a bit confused as I would of thought with them being predators they would have spawned already.
The highlight of the session was still to come though. After fishing a few fruitless areas we came to a heavy bit of cover which looked right to both of us. Mick cast his dead bait out on the right hand side of what is now called 'Mick's bush' and I cast mine to the left. As we searched around with small jigs, Mick's dead rod showed signs of life. His strike was met with a good bend in the rod and straight away we both knew it was a good fish. I barely got hold of the net before he was doing the F*~# F*~# F*~# zander lament into the sky knowing he'd lost a big one. Then within ten minutes my float sank off like a U boat submerging. I struck and my rod bent round as another big fish shook its head. It was on long enough for me to see a long light shape under the water then it too came off leaving me cursing the sky like a mad man.
Really I thought that was it until after a little while Mick's recast float did a few different movements. He held that rod for ages waiting for some kind of definite movement. After watching the float move like a crayfish was doing one with the bait for ages, he finally struck and once again a big fish was on. This time it never got away and elated by the sight of a new PB zander, Mick was all smiles. We both thought it was bigger than it turned out to be, but even a pound and a half lighter than originally predicted it was still a brilliant fish of 7.6lb which I was really happy to see become Micks new PB.
I don't think either of us will ever be sure if we stumbled onto the land of the giants in the 'Mick's bush' swim or if it was the same fish that struck thrice. I've personally seen the same zander caught and landed twice in the same session, as well as the same fish pick up, come off and come back again a few times, so part of me says it was the same fish on all three runs. But then there is part of me that loves the idea of a rogue pack of big zander mooching around like they own the cut.
That was it for the action for the day and considering the weather conditions weren't exactly enjoyable, we did have a good session in the end. The old haunts seem to be as good as they ever where and hopefully any skills and knowledge I've learnt since I last fished these stretches will help me stick some nice fish in the net. I can't wait to get out again and have already made plans to get on another tasty looking bit of new canal on the LACC waters as soon as I can to try and find myself a big old Grand Union monster zed.