Friday, 21 April 2017

Canal carp - a crisis of confidence.

Everyone who fishes canals will have some kind of tale or tome of canal carp to tell. I suspect it's the linear nature of canals that helps information travel down them to be dribbled like honey into people's ears by passing travellers. Personally with all the time I've spent on canals I reckon I must have heard thousands of stories about monsters hiding on the far bank cover over the years. The truth of the matter is that all canals contain carp, be them born or bred, dumpers, stockies or escapes, they are there and beyond all the bluff and bluster you hear about how to catch them there is one single box to tick in order to attain success as far as I am concerned; location. Quite frankly you could fish in a carpy looking location for the rest of your life and not catch a single fish if it is simply not their chosen home.

With regards to location, I can think of six spots on three different sections of canal that I have either seen or caught carp from. I have spent a fair bit of time on these spots in years past and as much as I reckon the fish have probably grown, I'd like to find a few unknown fish to me, so I have started looking at few more likely spots with supposed form to target. The first is a very well known supposed carp haunt of the Grand union were fish of preposterous sizes are reported to swim and I gave it a look on an evening session recently when the weather was fine enough for carp.

I like to keep things simple when carp fishing and on the canal, rigs hidden in PVA bags are always the way to go. Firstly you can cast them into any tiny space you want with little fear of tangles, secondly they sink slowly without the lead burying in the deep silt that can line the bottom and thirdly they are great for fishing for one bite by presenting a concentrated pile of smelly bait. All that said it seemed on this occasion my simple tactics might not have been reliable, as I did not generate anything near a bite in five hours. I had a few liners but definitely no contact with the rigs, which was concerning. Without dwelling on a blank I moved on to the next session along with my new compact kit.

I feel I should mention the new set up I am using this season for carp. You know I've always felt taking twelve foot carp rods and big reels down the cut to a bit of overkill. Then a while ago I bought a 9ft Nash dwarf rod for stalking carp and after seeing how great this little rod was I invested in a second one and matched them up with a pair of Korum KXI reels. I then bought a specific rod bag for the Dwarf rods which is not much over three feet long and also carries my 36" carp net with handle that splits into two. All the rest of the stuff I might need packs into my Korum day sack which leaves me with a kit so compact that no spot is too far away.

My next canal session was a disaster and that was pretty much all my fault. I agreed to meet Mick on a very reliable section of canal where he was going to fish for zander and I for carp. Anyway to cut a long story short I decided to hang out with Mick and have a chat rather than head straight down to the banker spot. As nice as it was catching up with Mick, it allowed some else to get on my spot. Frankly I was shocked as I have never seen another carp angler there ever and here was one right where I wanted to be. When I arrived and after chatting to the other angler I set up shop a little way up the canal  in a spot of lesser quality which produced zip all once again.

Confidence in any sort of angling is key in my opinion and at this point I had none. Worst of all though I had opted to use a new bait for this canal carp caper and as good as it smelt to me I wasn't sure it was doing the business. I expected those starving canal bream to be on it like a tramp on chips and so far I was saving a fortune on bite alarm batteries. With this crisis of confidence in both bait and me I had no choice but to have a session on somewhere a little easier. So with a spare afternoon off work I went over to fish Jubilee pools, or specifically horseshoe pool.

These pools suffer a bit of an image problem if you ask me and some of that is down to their name I reckon. Though referred to as pools they are in fact pits where sand and gravel were extracted from along with Ryton pool and Meadow lands. Should they be referred to a jubilee pits then certainly in carp fishing circle they would command a bit more respect than a lowly old pool. That aside Horseshoe for one looks like a gravel pit if you look beyond the wooden stages that line the lip of the pool like teeth. And the fish do behave more like gravel pit fish as they swim around the clear weedy water. The only way this pool differs from most gravel pits is in stock density. Being the coffer fillers they are, the controlling club keeps them well overstocked with fish as to please the day ticket paying masses. Weirdly though the fish seem to exhibit different habits. The small carp are nearly always lingering in the upper layers of the water, where as a totally different size class patrol the margins like nervous submarines, and it was those nervous submarines that I wanted to test my confidence out on.

After walking round the lake a bit and finding most of it empty of anglers, I fed four swims on one bank where I had seen a few groups of bigger fish nosing around. These bigger fish love nothing more than coming into the margins in the evening and mopping up all the discarded bait, and that's exactly what I wanted my freebies to look like. After putting out a handful of corn in each swim along with a few broken boilies and whole boilies I waited and watched to see which of the four swims offered the batter chance. Random fish kept coming into all of them but one swim had a couple of groups of fish the others didn't repeatedly stopping by, so thats where I decided to set my trap. Once all the bait was gone I quickly nipped in and set up my rods and alarms on the path leading into the swim. There was a large clear area all around the platform so carefully placed one rig on the further edge of the clear spot and the second right under the platform. After making sure my line was pinned down tight to the bottom by a few blobs of tungsten putty and a small back weight I re-baited with more broken boilies and corn and retreated well away from the peg. 

The fish were soon back and I waited a good hour before the water finally erupted and the alarm screamed as a fish found my sneaky two halves of boilie bait and sucked it in. It took a while for the fish to fully get its head round its circumstance and when it did the rod really started to bend.

After an epic tussle which destroyed the swim and my other rod, I finally dragged the net out of the brambles and slipped it under a stunning little common which filled my confidence jar close to the brim.

After I released that low double a few swims away I returned to carnage. In the panic of the fight everything had gone everywhere. My second rod was lying on the floor with the line still over the buzzer. There were mats, selfie sticks and half the contents of my bags strewn all over the floor. As I walked towards the second rod on the floor the alarm beeped once and thinking it was about to go off I froze. From just at the edge of the swim I could see a real strange group of fish had drifted into swim and were picking up odd bit here and there. There was a golden tench, a tiny common carp and a huge mirror. I would have said they had all arrived separately until the golden tench moved off and its buddies followed it. Quickly I got both rods out a again this time with a PVA bag on each. Both were in same positions as before when I saw the golden tench reappear followed by its two carpy friends. None of them dipped onto the baits but they all paused a moment as they passed over them. I watched those three fish drift in and out again and again, each time the mirror seemed bigger.

Soon my time was running out and worst of all their confidence was building with the more time they spent in the swim. With little over thirty minutes till I had to be off the water I watched as the two carp homed in on my close in bait. I watched willing them to dip down towards it... then Bleeeeeeeeeep the moment was shattered by the bite alarm I watched confused as the two carp shot off to the left and my line on my right had rod surged out into the lake. Whilst watching the fish I wanted to catch near one line someone had snuck in and taken the other. It turned out to be a very boisterous common not to dissimilar to the other apart from this one was rushed in a bit which meant it was very lively on the mat hence the crap selfie with it.

This trip to Jubilee pits was well served to boost my confidence in both what I was doing and in the bait I have decided to use. Now all I need is the weather to warm up a bit and I should be able to start homing in on a few canal targets myself.


  1. I bumped in to the carp angler last weekend too albeit in a different location, he stays ALL day, 12 hours would test me that's for sure....lovely looking carp those, love there dark colourings.

  2. Mick, Was it you i quickly bumped into whilst easter egg hunting round ryton last week ?

  3. Great read, good luck with your future attempts

  4. unlucky mate, I can relate to stopping and chatting only to lose out on a swim, that made me smile as it happens to me a lot.