Sunday, 3 March 2013

Canal Roach — Enigma Code

Friday evening I met up with local angler, Norman (AKA Reggy Perrin) a man who knows a thing or two about the inner city Coventry Canal. Intimate with those reaches from the terminal basin in the city and out past Courtaulds, his knowledge of what was once one of the country's finest match fisheries is nothing short of encyclopedic

 Last year we spent a few hours fishing together on my Manor, which starts where the old and sadly disused match pegs finally stop after number three hundred odd (and nigh on four miles of towpath!) and continues out into the country. We both did OK then, Norm's pole tactics showing me things I never knew where there in such numbers — a continual catch of immature silver bream for instance, fish of a few ounces at most that would never have bothered my usual big bait approach. I fished double caster and had a pound and half roach that day, a fine fish but of a size that comes along once in a while rather than once a chuck.

Last summer, Norm fishing the pole and my roach
We both decided to go for the monster lobworm tactics that work for me in the coloured water at the edge of the city. Those familiar with the Coventry Canal will know in the city basin the water appears almost jet black because it's so crystal clear, then as you walk out past Electric Wharf a slight tinge appears. Every few hundred yards you'll notice that the water clarity becoming more and more coloured and thickens by the mile till five miles out it reaches the busy junction with the Oxford canal where it's the colour of a breakfast cuppa during the hectic times of high summer. 

We fished near Cash's famous early 19th Century 'top-shop' ribbon weaver's houses (I live in similar) where the water is only slightly coloured and reputedly still full of the huge shoals of roach that these parts were so famous for in the past. I've fished it once only before and for just a few hours but I had more bites on lobworms that day than any other so I expected similar results today.

Two feet of useful space with a perpetual footfall behind demands interesting ledgering solutions! 

Norm fished the same way with one rod only but within a few minutes of casting out had an unusual bite. The tip began to tremble and finally looped around where the strike met not with a splashy roach but a big pike! It was lost to a hook pull, unfortunately.

I didn't get a single tremble in two hours but Norm had a pristine half-pound roach, his first ever on a whole lobworm I believe, and cause for a little faith in the approach. however nothing else came by so eventually we moved along but not before witnessing one of the pair of Peregrine falcons who nest on the city spires wheeling around high, high in the air — something I've never seen in my life.

The next choice of swims were public. Asian youths appeared from the nearby houses from time to time  to smoke a little weed and who were oddly fascinated by a dead pigeon dangling from a string high up in the top of a tree. Cars raced up and down the nearby street, walkers and bikers passed by, and as always there were the inevitable conversations with those towpath gentlemen who may look to be the kinds of people you'd ordinarily avoid but on contact you discover have a remarkable depth of knowledge of the canal, its fish and its fishing history. 

Tight, compact, small, neat. The urban canal fishing set-up of one who knows full well the high cost of complacency when fishing from a thoroughfare. I love fishing alongside other experienced canal anglers. 
Worms didn't work here either. It was really mucky on the canal bed too, and that's not something I'm used to where I usually fish with the terminal tackle coming back time after time smothered in rotting leaves. After an hour I decided to try bread on one rod, so I finely mashed a slice of crustless bread and pitched it in where it slowly spread into a milky cloud and sank away from sight. 

Look into my eyes... look into my eyes...

I didn't expect a bite straight away but within a few minutes the rod top was nodding. Next cast brought the same result but I failed to hook up. This was remarkable stuff! I've never had bites come along that fast in wintertime and rarely even in summer. The third cast was made just as a walker appeared with a siberian husky. Two rare and remarkable creatures in the same day then!

The tip twitched, I struck and was attached to what I thought just had to be a two-pound roach when I saw a broad silver flash because we were roach fishing in roach fishing territory and I hadn't even considered the possibility that anything but would appear at the surface...

A 2lb bream! 

Hey ho...

First canal capture of the year though, so I'm not complaining. It had been a fascinating session because of those bites to bread coming along so fast and that alone will make me return to try again with float tactics where the feed and fishing over it is far more precisely controlled. I might even get myself a pole at some point but first I think locating the shoals is more important and that is best accomplished by going light and leap frogging, we both think. 

Oddly both our PB's for canal roach are the same at 1:15. That's a good enough reason to return and we'll be back soon enough to have another go at cracking the enigma code of the Coventry Canal.


  1. Congrats then Jeff.Bit of a relief I suppose?I remember once going from January till June on the Lea( approx 7 trips) without a knock! I suppose I could gone and bagged up on a £ driven commercial( and I have nothing against them) But my bubble was burst on a 4 in redfin out the Navigation canal at Dobbs weir.

    Its why we love to fish I suppose

    1. John, if it was always easy we wouldn't do it, would we? Then again it's been so difficult lately that long spell of easy would be nice!

  2. Glad to see a fish in hand jeff & your mojo rekindled with the coventry canal....The starting to crack under your imeness pressure...i knew bread would be the winner ... As always....youv started jeff....So Strike whilst the iron is hot!

    1. Bread will win out, I reckon. It's a different kind of canal near the City though Ivan — nothing like the GU or the Oxford — no boats going through and very clear water. I reckon silence and keeping well back from the edge might be a good idea

  3. Boy have I been willing those non-roach over 1-4-0 to be roach lately Jeff, but they just will not! (Last pound roach from a canal was 16th December). Nothing over 12oz in 2013.

  4. They'll come George. Thing is all that water that fell over winter has completely replaced what was in there before. I suppose that would make a quite difference, don't you think? It has been really tough and the river roach are really hard to catch too even where they should be relatively easy. Blog about that coming up next!