Conquering your Canal- Alex Grice
For a number of years now, I have always tried to explore as many avenues of carp angling as I can. Working within the industry, I spend a lot of time out on the bank, doing features and witnessing many angling approaches and venues. When it comes to my own personal carp angling, I prefer to mix it up and experience a multitude of waters and put into practice different approaches to keep my outlook fresh and inspiring. For probably the best part of a decade now, the canal’s in and around my hometown in south Nottingham have been a real draw; not only because they provide a different outlook to many of the gravel pit venues that I visit, but they can provide great sport at times when many other pressured waters just seem to switch off. Although the outset on canals are changing, with many venues now suffering with predation and water management problems, there are still stretches about that contain good numbers of carp and other species, of which I feel it is our responsibility to protect and make people aware of. In this feature, I give you the low down on my approach to fishing canals and what I feel can really stand you in good stead of gaining results from them.
Without doubt the first and always the most important aspect of succeeding is location. This is spoken about a lot, but I would also like to combine this into two sections which I feel are important. Canals can be much like rivers, in the fact that the numbers of carp present can vary greatly between stretches. My first port of call when looking to approach canals would be to do some solid background research; look online, go for a good walk or approach it by bike. You really need to ensure that if you are going to go to any degree of effort with your fishing that you can 100% be certain you are fishing for carp that actually exist in the canal you choose to target. If you are making plans to fish a canal, try and visit the stretch during the summer, on those warm days you will be able to see exactly what is present armed with a good pair of polaroid sunglasses.
Once you have confirmed that there are carp present, the second most important factor is to locate them, or in my opinion, begin to understand and build a picture of where they like to spend time and more importantly eat. The stretch of canal that I regularly fish has an old turning basin which is connected to the main section of canal, a real obvious feature that the carp simply love to use as an area to hold up in. During the colder months, they use this basin to shoal up in, but as we move into spring, the fish migrate into the shallower water down the canal and return to the basin during the night to feed. Having watched these fish, I have learnt their exact habits and I know that daytime bites can often be had down the towpath, with night time action occurring in the main holding area. The same can be applied to any canal, it is simply a case of learning their habits and understanding what areas they are confident or conditioned to feed in. Look for those obvious features, such as boats, trees or marginal areas.
For me, pre-baiting is a big aspect when fishing the canal, but by this I certainly do not mean great quantities of bait but more that little and often baiting like a match angler would do. Once you have pinpointed those areas of the canal where the fish are confident feeding, you can then begin to introduce some bait on a little and often basis. I always try to pick a couple of spots to introduce bait, these may be obvious features on the canal, but the key here is to make the effort to bait up regularly. The canal that I fish regularly is reasonably turbid, mainly due to water run-off from the surrounding fields. Due to this, I choose a bait that is highly visual, such as The Live System and I boost it up with the addition of a liquid. In general, I choose to use whole baits, in order to combat any nuisance species, but with the water being so cloudy, I do try to increase the attraction in the swim when I come to fish with the use of boilie crumb soaked in liquids.
I may introduce the crumb alongside my baited rig using the pole, not only does the pole create very little disturbance, but it allows me to present in areas that are often very difficult to do by casting. The crumb acts as an instant release of attractors, flooding the swim with food signals that draw fish into the area. In fact, the crumb will bring all the species to the party, which will no doubt draw the attention of passing carp. I am not concerned about this, as I will use conventional style baits on the rig and around the crumb to ensure there are enough food items present for when the carp do turn up for a feed.
With regards to hookbait choice, I again opt to fish bright ones, these could be yellow, pinks or whites, I have had great success on them all. The main reason I do this once again is down to the water clarity and to increase the overall visual appeal. The second reason I choose to use a bright hookbait is to mimic the bread that is often fed into the canals by the general public.
Canals can be demanding places to fish in terms of snaggy structures and areas of heavy debris, which is why when it comes to my end tackle, I place faith in my strong, adaptable helicopter setup. For starters, I fish heavy mainlines, a strong, abrasion resistant line is important and with not having to cast distances, you can get away with heavy. The helicopter rig I use allows me to stay adaptable, with the ability to alter the top bead to suit varying lakebeds. Certain spots will contain larger quantities of leaf matter, such as those close to overhanging trees, but by using a helicopter and adjusting the top bead, you can present effectively on those types of spot.
The use of backleads on canals can be a real advantage when there are boats or heavy birdlife present. Back leads are suited to canal use, as many of the waterways are very uniform, with a marginal shelf either side and a channel directly down the middle. By positioning the backlead right at the bottom of the shelf, you can rest assure your line is fully out the way from any passing boats and birds. In order to achieve a better line angle, I set my rods right back from the bank, with only the tips hanging over the margin.
Over the years, I have had great success fishing on canals right in the edge. Now, when I say in the edge, I mean tight to the margin. How many times have you seen match anglers throw away their remaining maggots, pellets or meat before packing away. One season, I remember doing well catching right in the edge from a number of spots and throughout the night, I would get action off each rod one after another, signalling to me that the carp were moving around the edge in search of food. When fishing at such close quarters, I have found that donking the lead around on the lakebed on a tight line from the tip will soon reveal those slightly firmer areas where fish have previously fed. When I have the exact dinner plate spot I am looking for, I can then with pinpoint accuracy.
One final point that I feel is important when fishing canals is to be respectful of all water users, dog walkers, canal boaters, cyclist alike. Everyone is entitled to share the waterways and enjoy what they provide, so when fishing, be mindful of other users. The canals can provide enjoyable sport and a different angle on the normal carp fishing scenarios that many others wish to fish, but the only way you will find out is by getting out there and doing it! Hopefully, with a few of the key points explored above, you should be well on your way to catching your first canal carp.