Canal Carp & Pike

When time is short & you cannot get out fishing as a result of family, social or work commitments, why not try prioritising your time with short roving sessions? You don't need a lot of tackle with this approach as you want to be able to move in & out of swims in minutes whilst looking for fish, plus it's a great bit of exercise depending on how far you walk. Canals & rivers are perfect for this type of fishing & I can't think of a better way than spending a couple of hours on the move hunting fish.

For this short session I decided to fish the Leeds Liverpool canal with the hope of taking some carp off the top using either bread or pop up boillies as bait. I didn't want to limit myself to just one fish species, so I also took a few spinners & shads in case I came across any perch & pike.

I got to the canal just after 6am & could see the water was calm with no breeze, the sun was also high enough in the sky that its warmth could be felt. With no wind, bright sunshine & a pair of polarised sunglasses, I felt confident I would soon find some fish to have a go at.

I set up a 7ft Savagegear Road Runner rod which breaks down into an incredibly small rod case. Even though it's designed for lure work, I find it just as capable when casting out a floating bait on a narrow canal. I used a small Shimano 750 reel loaded with 10lb mono line tied straight through to a Fox S3B size 10 barbless hook.

With rod in one hand, landing net in the other & small tackle bag over my shoulder, I set off along the towpath paying constant attention to the water & in particular the far bank which had an unbroken line of reeds. After a couple of hundred yards I soon came across a shoal of bream along a short tree lined section of canal. They were cruising the surface intercepting insects & didn't seem spooked by my presence - I assume they have become accustomed to the constant trickle of walkers & cyclists who also use the towpath. They seemed to follow me along the canal as they kept up pace with me for another few hundred yards as I scanned the water looking for larger dark shapes.

As I left the tree lined section of canal there was a lot more sunlight hitting the water & it made it much easier for me to see the far bank & that is when I spotted a carp. It didn't look a massive carp, but it looked like it could be provoked into feeding so I quickly tore off a few small pieces of bread & threw one about 2 or 3 feet away from its nose. As the bread hit the water I was expecting the fish to either shoot off as a result of the splash or turn itself slightly to take a look, but it did neither, it just sat there seemingly motionless as the flake of bread swelled in size & slowly moved away from it. I presumed that this carp was still waking up and wasn't really concentrating on its surroundings, so I decided to stay put and watch it for 10 minutes. Time ticked on & still it hadn't moved, so I chucked in another piece of bread which landed inches away from its nose, I thought I had scuppered my chances by throwing it so close, instead it lifted its head slightly & engulfed the bread in one go, game on!

Not wanting to ruin my chances I decided to build this carp's confidence, so I left it a couple of minutes before I threw another piece of bread which landed two feet to its left, it wasn't ignoring this one either, as it turned slowly to engulf the bread with a loud slurp. I thought about introducing another flake of bread, but I was far too eager to watch it eat again, so I took a gamble & gently cast out a freelined side hooked boilie pop up to give me the weight I needed to cast.

I knew when the pop up hit the water it would make a louder splash than the flake, so I made sure I cast it a good 6 - 8 feet away. Once it plopped in, the carp turned to face the direction of the baited hook, but it did not move, so I gave it a good few minutes until I introduced another piece of bread flake in between the hook & fish, with an aim of leading the beast to the trap!

The carp soon inched its way gracefully up to the bread & sucked in the free offering, it hadn't taken its foot off the pedal either, as it kept the same speed whilst moving directly towards the hook bait. My hand clenched tighter on the rod in anticipation,  It was only a foot away from the hook & was moving ever closer. I began to hold my breath as it lifted its head to take the bait & heard the slurp as it tried to suck the bait in, but the pop ups buoyancy was too much for it take in. It lowered its head & slowly veered away, it looked like I had blown my chance.

A couple of agonising minutes had now passed & the carp had its back to me, in what seemed to be a position of proud defiance. With nothing to lose I threw another piece of bread near to my hook in the hope it might provoke a response & sure enough, once the ripples had subsided I could see the carp slowly moving a fin to rotate itself. It was at this point I began to mutter words of encouragement to the carp under my breath "eat it, eat it" in the vain hope that it would somehow help.

The carp had now bypassed the floating bread & was on collision course with my hook bait, time appeared to slow down as the lips came out of the water, I could hear myself say "go on" & splash, the line tightened as an explosion of water signalled fish on!

It shot off to the right keeping itself towards the far bank diving as deep as it could go. Not sure of the underwater snags, I decided to try and end its run & bring it closer to the surface, it didn't like this and decided to change direction as it headed straight for me! I cranked the reel handle quickly to take up the rapidly slackening line & soon had the fish about six feet out kiting from left to right.  After a couple of minutes of steady pressure it was soon in the landing net & boy did it look a stunner, it was in immaculate condition, scale & fin perfect. It wasn't tired from the battle either as it took every opportunity to flap about. After a quick picture I put it into a wetted sling & the scales showed nine & a half pounds - It was in such good condition I could easily see that fish attaining a fair bit of weight over the next couple of years, what a cracking fish.

Less than an hour in, with one carp in the net, I was feeling confident I could find another. I set off along the towpath looking out for shapes near moored boats, tree branches & reeds, but I could only find shoals of roach & bream. At this point I was a couple of miles up the canal from where I started & was conscious of the time on the clock, so I decided to turn around & head back the way I had came with a lure attached.

I quickly took the spool of mono off the reel & replaced it with a spool of Fox 20lb braid. I connected the main line to the wire trace with a grinner knot tied to the swivel. I opted to use a Mepps spinner to begin with, as previous trips on this stretch had yielded perch to around 2lbs using this spinner.

I began by making five casts in each swim, first cast was to the left along the margin, second a diagonal to the left, third to the middle, fourth diagonal right & the final cast along the right hand side margin. This fan shape enabled me to cover the majority of the swim. Once I had made all five casts I would move along 30yds & repeat the process. I was also looking out for any signs that predators were feeding such as silvers scattering & jumping.

Twenty minutes into lure fishing, I had my first fish which was a spirited jack pike of a few pounds hooked lightly in the scissors, which fell to a Mepps spinner I had cast towards a moored boat. I carried on working the fan shape for another half a mile without a take. I did however get some interest from a couple of sizeable perch that followed the spinner for half the width of the canal, but neither of them seemed confident in taking the lure, which was a real shame as they both looked colourful fish.

Undeterred, I decided to try a small rubber shad & bounce it along the bottom towards me, & it soon brought a response, as I was soon jostling with another small jack. I continued back along the towpath towards the starting point casting fan style in each swim, but didn't get any further takes, I presume the sun was too bright on the day to provoke confident feeding from the predators.

This was an enjoyable short session lasting no more than two & a half hours & within that time I had managed to grab a nice carp just shy of double figures & a couple of lively jack pike. If you add to that the nice four mile walk & the fact I would be back home in time for breakfast, it meant I had managed to achieve my fishing fix before the day had even started.

Adam - HC