Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A Quest for Canal Carp — Signs

I've been waiting for the right weather conditions for some time, the kinds of weather conditions that carp like, and I like to catch carp under. Still, warm, and with a nice clear evening sky is what I associate good carp fishing with, I always have, and always will. I like that calm mirror smooth water surface you get around evening time because it tells you things about carp that wind and ripple obscure; if they are there or not, and if they are, whether they are cruising about or rooting around, making bubbles or bashing about in the reeds. Carp don't seem to be able to hide away when the weather is right, and advertise their presence with every flick of their tails.

I would need these conditions where I was going if I was to be in with any real chance, because I wanted to go and try after that great broad-backed bulk I'd seen charging up the near bank whilst fishing for silvers up the local cut a month ago. I know she's around, her and her mates, but whereabouts exactly would only be found out by observation, or sheer luck. At least with nothing obscuring those crucial surface signs, I would have at least a chance of spotting them if they were in the right mood. My weather eye said that the breeze would fall away to nothing by dusk, and that would be the time when spotting conditions would be at their best.

I tackled up accordingly. Firm rods with plenty of reserve in the butt, but not stiff pokers likely to pull hooks at close range, and 12lb mainline to take the strain of what I have been told will be the fight of my life, when, and if, I ever hook that fish, because canal carp are reckoned to be one of the hardest fish of all to put on the bank, with their unbridled power and wild, snag seeking instincts.

I almost feared a run!

Bait was corn, because I trust corn on canals. Wild fish who have never been caught before, and that is the majority of canal fish, take to corn without having to be educated in any way. It's an instant bait, with instant appeal even to fish who have ever seen it, smelt it, or tasted it before in their lives. I mounted three grains on the hair of each hook, packed the open end feeders with loose corn, and cast each to gaps in the lilies, and about a yard or so off the far bank.

The first run came to the right had rod after just half an hour, and what a belter it was. Unfortunately, it failed to hook up well and the fish, which didn't feel that large, was bumped off after a couple of seconds. Nevertheless, it was an exciting moment, knowing that it could well have been that big carp making off with the bait on my first cast after her.

The left hander zipped out fast ten minutes later, then fell slack with a fish moving off the bank and into open water. No weight and punch here, but a gliding fish that turned out to be a roach x bream hybrid a few ounces over a pound. As I was taking a picture of this fish, the right hander screamed off, so I picked up the rod, pulled back to feel the fish, decided it was strong but small so nothing to worry myself about, picked up the hybrid and flipped it back in the water, and then proceeded to land my first canal tench of the year. Hooray! I love canal tench, of any size.

Coventry Canal tench

A couple of pounds at most, but male, so the usual trouble! The strongest coarse fish swimming I reckon, cock tench, and they never know when to quit, do they?

Around 8:30pm the breeze tailed off as predicted, the temperature dropped, and then I saw my first sign. A smooth back emerged half an inch from the water, followed by a boil of water and a trail of bubbles as the fish hit the deck. The fish was moving toward my right hand bait but ten minutes later, hadn't picked it up. Along the far bank I could now see similar activity far off amongst the lilies. None of these surface signs looked large enough to be made by carp, though, and I fancied they were caused by tench.

As I pondered this, the bait that had been ignored, was picked up and a stuttery run met with a larger force than the first tench, but it was clearly no large carp. Nevertheless, the fish gave a good account of itself before finally shedding the hook at the net. Another tench, of course.

I recast and went to put the bobbin on, only to find the line being pulled out of my fingers by a fish that had picked up the bait almost the instant it had landed. Again, a strong fish, but not a large carp. I wasn't exactly unhappy about this though, because when banked, the fish proved to be a new personal best for canal tench, at 4lbs 2oz.

Coventry Canal tench

I was made up by this, as Coventry Canal tench are not at all easy to find and catch, my sum total for four years fishing previously standing at just six fish and a best of 3lb 6oz. Today, I'd already had two and lost another, added three quarters of a pound to my canal PB, and there was no sign of the swirling and bubbling signs abating yet, so perhaps there'd be another along soon...

By now I'd forgotten all about the carp, of course!

The temperature rose again. A quiet spell interrupted by occasional line bites followed on. I thought it was over when the surface signs ceased too but just on dusk the right-hander was off again, and on a terrifically fast run at that! 'One-toners' is what the carp boys call them, and when I felt the fish, that's exactly what I thought I had on the other end -- not a fish quite the size I'd seen, but a carp nonetheless.

It would be my first ever canal carp it it were, so every moment of the fight was nerve wracking. It was strong, and doggedly refused to be shifted up in the water, but as time passed, it became clear it wasn't going to be much into double-figures, and probably less, but that didn't matter, it would be a first.

I was almost disappointed to see the green flank of a tench break surface near the net, but that evaporated in an instant when I realised it was going to be the second canal PB of the evening. After a miss, where the fish made a lunge for freedom that I thought she'd achieve, she was finally beaten and slipped over the frame and into the meshes.

Coventry Canal tench

I had been chuffed to have broken my previous canal record by three-quarters of a pound, but this fish broke that same record by well over two pounds, pulling the dial around to five-pounds eight-ounces. And she was a glorious fish too, with not a split in any fin, nor a scale out of place. Perfection!

For a canal, this is a really big tench. It's not from a gravel pit where such fish are bread and butter, it's from a cut where tench are very uncommon at this size. However, I have heard of larger still, though I don't know how far to trust the story of a nine-pounder from a spot not so very far away. Wouldn't it be rich if they did run to that, though? Here's me running out to gravel pits in search of whackers, when possibly, they are on my doorstep...

Resting the fish in the net while I readied the camera, the left hander was off too, but in came the least forceful fish of the evening, though it actually put up quite a scrap for what it was, and what it was was a three pound bream. Two ups.

Then it seemed over, the liners, twitches and the bites ceased, and the life seemed to go out of the water. The temperature had risen another notch. A local boat lady made me a cup of tea and we stood and talked about this and that for a while, whilst I drank it down. As we talked, an enormous boil of water erupted right under the top of the left hand rod. Needless to say, I had a bait on the very spot in seconds!

Coventry Canal tench

She retired with my empty cup and I sat down to watch the water, convinced that at any moment that left-hander was about to spring into life...

It twitched once, and I jumped clear out of my skin. It never came though, that jerk, jerk, then blurred flight of bobbin into butt ring, the screaming buzzer, and all hell breaking loose under the rod top as the pricked carp bolts, line flying out the whirring spool.


  1. Steve in Colorado19 June 2012 at 03:26

    Magic. Lack of carp notwithstanding, a double PB is better than I've had lately, mate!

  2. Sounds like a fantastic session mate, those tench are gorgeous, and you just know the carp will come.

  3. Steve, I've gone so long without a red letter day I'd forgotten how it felt. This was, and any canal angler would tell you why. Hard fishing, but the rewards are there...

    Gurn, it was. The canal is hardly ever this generous. Glad you have confidence that carp will come. What starts well, ends well!

  4. Some great looking Tench there Jeff, being from a canal I highly doubt they've seen a hook before either, great stuff!

  5. No they haven't, Leo. That's why they fight above their weight. I never knew there were so many of them, but there must have been at least thirty fish out there, possibly more. Bit of an eye opener, now I'm wondering, as you would, or anyone would, what do they go to ? !

  6. hi where on coventry canal do you find these monsters , ive only fished by tusses and the junction ... you should give details for us canal anglers tips on finding them...

  7. cracking crucians at hawkesbury fishery i liked your piece onthem

  8. Jonathan, the tench are everywhere at the moment, but the trick is to find lilies, reeds, and the like, but right up the far bank. two yards out is too far out. Cast right into them, in a foot of water sometimes, and don't worry about getting hooked up in them, the tench will get to the bait, no problem.

    At Tusses, fish right under the brambles and bushes out into the country. You might just get a real whacker of a tench

  9. My,that was evocative. It's lunchtime, I'm at work but tonight...

  10. i was always told since 15 yrs ago the canal is full of fish i still think there are more now you just need the leg work to find them i think.... oh another note pike fishing on canal seems hard i was only spinning tho around the gallagher bit had a couple of nice jacks but not much there seem like theve dissapeard to (dinner plate)... any tips on this ... thanks for the reply tho