Little & Often
The ‘little and often’ rule is a good one for feeding bait on most canals, but especially so where boats regularly pass and churn up the bottom, dispersing your bait in the process. Instead of baiting up heavily, try doing so more gradually, adding a small ball of groundbait or pouch of maggots every few minutes. Do the same every time a boat or two pass, to concentrate the fish again.
Where boat traffic can suddenly appear and lock gates crank open, the stillest water can start to ‘tow’ through, so the angler must be adaptable. This might mean changing the depth to cope with a new influx of water (canals can rise or drop several inches while you’re fishing!) or switching to a heavier, more stable float rig.
Map Of Uk Canal System Photo Gallery
Boats are by no means the curse some of us take them for. Creatures such as bloodworm and shrimp are stirred up when boats pass, prompting fish to feed. Predators will sometimes use the temporary commotion to go on the attack.
Birds can offer further canal clues. Where locals feed them, you can be sure roach and bream will also find bread.
Fish know exactly what boats are. Moored vessels, especially those which are lived on or static for days on end, are often real havens for fish – and this is especially true where predators such as cormorants patrol. You should avoid casting heavy leads or firing bait close to boats however – the pole is a much safer way to fish and feed bait, or you could even try clipping your line and making gentle underarm casts. Above all, it is vital for anglers and boat users to get along in harmony: both parties benefit.
Light angling pressure often means beautifully-conditioned fish.
Seasonal variations also come into play on busy canals too. Holiday periods can be hectic unless you plan to fish at the crack of dawn or into evening. But even the busiest waterway will slow down in the winter, when the water often clears and tactics change again. Other methods such as bread punch and lure fishing come to the fore as clarity improves. The fish will also shoal tighter and seek out deep and sheltered spots, making bumper catches possible if you can find them
Sometimes your best canal fishing assets are your eyes and feet. Polarising glasses also help you spot fish. Above: this basking pike could easily have gone unnoticed.