As the temperatures are dropping and trees are beginning to go up in flames of yellows and oranges, I’m again developing the familiar itch - perch and pike. I’m sure there are tens of thousands of anglers around the country feeling the same call. Without a car at the moment, my access to our local waters is very limited, which made planning for the latest trip very straightforward - my local, semi-urban canal beat. Some other time I would’ve probably felt forced to resign myself to this option but in this instance I tried to embrace it. It aligns well with my current angling appetites - to simplify my efforts in the form of lure fishing, almost to the exclusion of all other methods. That is with a quiet hope of picking up fly for the first time in the not-too -distant future. On the way there, my Uber driver asked me - why do people go fishing? Is it to relax? I simply agreed although later on as I was standing there sore from casting all day, my hands freezing, stomach rumbling, his question did come back to me. I suppose we are into a rather strange form of relaxation ha!

My relationship with the canals since my arrival in the UK has been bitter sweet. They have always appeared to me as a marvel of engineering and a living historical artifact. From an angling perspective they do have that air of mystery about them - you just never know what’s really swimming in these waters 200 years later. On the other hand they can appear quite uniform and so obviously man made. This can rub my soft spot for rivers the wrong way sometimes. Canals like to remind you regularly that they’ve been built to serve the city and its people - only on this trip I’ve seen a floating condom wrapper, a lost sneaker (at least not next to each other), a takeaway box and a couple of poo bags. Being the link between the urban zone and the countryside, they do provide us with a quick escape route into some greenery and a dose of nature not too far away from home - a welcome blessing. I’ll admit that when fishing canals, at times I do experience knee-jerk frustration caused by the boat traffic and countless joggers and cyclists - that’s my loner nature with its uglier side. I do try my best to counter it - to smile, chat and give space as we’re all using this humble common resource.

Canal grouper - if you’re one of these people (not that they read nature blogs) - the 7th circle of hell is waiting for you

Armed with my box of small lures I began the jigging, twitching, vertical fishing, retrieving fast and slow and somewhere in between. As hours went by with only fallen leaves and occasional snags bending the rod tip I knew it was going to be one of those days...a blank. I also know from experience that in angling you always have to leave some space for surprises, which motivated me to stay for around six hours in total. I won’t hold you in suspense any longer dear reader - there were no surprises that day. 

One experiment which I shall remember for future visits - it was the first time I stayed at the canal after dark and I noticed something peculiar. Around 20 minutes after sunset, when the last diffused light in the sky still allows you to see without a torch - the canal's surface came alive with fry, small roach would be my guess. Previously lifeless, mirror-like surface of the water was now stirred with dozens of circles everywhere I looked, small fish jumping and nibbling away at detritus floating on top. I had a gut feeling that this should bring out big perch for the last hunt of the day. I didn’t manage to confirm this theory on Tuesday but I shall be testing it again - dusk might be the ticket. This reminded me of a chat I had with a dog walker a few months back - he told me that while walking his pooch after dark with a headlamp, he once came across a cloud of fry so dense that it made it look like you could cross to the other side by walking on the shoal of fish. Perhaps even more so than ever time and location are of utmost importance on canals. This will require return visits and further study - I’m happy to do just that.
A short interlude while canal fishing - a quick visit to a tiny pool nearby for a few chucks and a picnic

On the way back I met a rare specimen of an angler. A young man setting up his overnight camp, hunting for wild canal carp. I can’t help but admire someone who appreciates this kind of fishing - a late October night alone, searching for the few elusive fish which are near-guaranteed to be much smaller than their hand-fed commercial cousins who live just a mile or two away. I could say a lot about modern carp glamping but it goes to show that it's all in the approach and the heart. It’s refreshing to see that there are people out there who haven’t forgotten about what matters. The blog is still too light on content for me to be mentioning it on the bank but this is exactly the type of person I’d be hoping to invite for a visit in the future. 

With sights like these not catching doesn’t really matter