Canal Zander - First Session Of The New Campaign - A Slow Start - 18/3/19 - 3:45pm

I think it's fair to say that my first experience of the Midlands canals, during the last coarse fishing closed season, did not have me enamoured with their charms or productivity...with a couple of notable exceptional sessions.

I'm sure it may well have been my lack of knowledge of locations or suitable tactics which did little to helps things.  Being a creature of habit I found it difficult to shrug-off my river fishing garb. 

However, help was at hand in the shape of Mick from Piscatorial Quagswagging who has immense experience on these tricky waterways and did his utmost to put me on the right track.  I will be eternally grateful to him for sharing his hard-earned knowledge with a canal novice such as myself. 

I eventually began to get to grips with these murky waterways, but, after the mandatory three months of abstinence from my beloved Avon I could not wait to return to the flowing water on 16th June.

I have not returned to the canals since.
However, 14th March has come and gone again and it is more out of necessity to stave-off the angling cold turkey than love of the canals that has me treading the turd-ridden towpaths again.  This year though I have some experience under my belt and knowledge of what and what not to do (more not what to do in all honesty).

So it was with less trepidation and more focus that I embarked on the first session of this campaign.  My targets were, in the first instance, to be the zander that frequent these waterways.  I love these prehistoric-looking creatures and find I can't leave them alone for too long before the itch becomes unbearable and I have to get after them again.
My second target would be a decent canal roach.  Spurred on by a couple of decent sessions after the roach, bream and hybrids last year and my enjoyment of catching a few modest roach from the small river in the winter I think it's an achievable target.  Help and encouragement came in the form of a youtube video that Mick suggested I watch.  It is a collaboration by local blogger George from Float Flight Flannel and is a wonderful and informative film of his exploits seeking and catching redfins from the canal network.  It brought to mind that fantastic series "A Passion For Angling".  I thoroughly recommend viewing Big Canal Roach In Winter when you have a few minutes.  Being a vlogger myself I can fully appreciate the hours and hours of effort that goes into producing such a fantastic piece of work.

So, onto the first session.

I decided, and I'm not sure exactly why, to start my campaign on a section I had not fished or even walked before.  Google maps being my only source of information but it looked perfect.  Long stretches of tree-lined canal which would provide cover, hopefully holding zander, punctuated by a couple of locks with their associated bypasses and oxygenated water.  I knew before I started that it would be tough going with the water still being cold.  Mick had fished the previous day and had had just one zander replete with leeches which showed the fish were lying up.  I would have to find them.
I walked to the far end of the stretch in the drizzle and began fishing.  Tactics would be two float-legered deadbaits, one smelt and one roach, both of which would be regularly boosted with an injection of smelt oil, something which I have found to be very beneficial on the Avon and I figured there would be no reason it shouldn't do the same on the cut.

I would leap-frog the rods back down the stretch towards the car, flicking the deadbaits into likely fish-holding areas in the hope of dropping on a fish or two who could be tempted from their stupor by the offer of a free lunch.
After two hours the stretch had been walked and every likely looking area covered but I had not had a single bob on the floats, absolutely nothing.  I was back at the bridge where the car was parked just as darkness fell and I begrudgingly lowered my gear over the style, resigned to a blank.

"No, I can't go home just yet.  It's zander'o'clock.  I'd be daft to leave now".  I thought to myself.  Ten more minutes below the bridge in the dark, just with the rods, net and last cast.

Obviously, being dark now, I would not be able to see the floats, so I have developed a float-leger setup which, within seconds and the minimum of fuss, can be converted to an effective straight leger rig (not quite as easy as just taking off the float) for just this eventuality.  This was done and the rods deployed.  One cast to cover on my left and the other right under the road bridge.  Bite indication would be baitrunners only with the rods pointed directly at the baits.  On these reels they back off so there is literally no resistance.  The rig and lead setup means there would be zero chance of receiving a drop-back bite as heavy leads were being used, therefore, whichever way a taking fish swam line would be taken from the reel, the lead forming a pivot/anchor point. 

This was the first time I had used this set-up and after a couple of hours of previously unproductive fishing with the floats I had no confidence that it would be tested.  Until, from the darkness, and with slight reverb provided by the bridge I heard ", click, click".  Wow a take, fantastic.  I lifted the rod and wound down to the fish.  It had indeed moved towards me but the 2.5oz lead had held firm and provided the required anchor point.  A short scrap ensued but the schoolie was soon resting in the landing net.
"He's not down there on his own is he" I thought and the other rod was hastily wound in and flicked under the bridge before I unhooked the mini zed.  Within seconds the unmistakable "" started again.  I chuckled as an image popped into my head.  The sound had my brain recollecting the scene from Jaws when the ratchet on the multiplier made a similar noise.  I lifted into the zander, this one even smaller than the first and barely would have made a toothpick for the Great White but I was happy.

Two in the net, blank avoided and rigs functioning as intended.

I can't wait for the next session later in the week.  Hopefully the big ones will be hungry.

Tight lines,


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