Uk Canal System Map

Clear, Weedy Canals

In complete contrast to busy, muddy-looking waterways, Britain is also blessed with some glorious open countryside and canals every bit as pretty as rivers. This can be down to the simple fact that the water may no longer be navigable by boats. Such canals are beautiful, if sometimes overgrown places.

It always makes me smile when I hear clear, overgrown waters described as ‘unfishable’. This is very rarely the case and in fact these waters represent some of the richest habitats of all. Clear water and an abundance of natural food equate to healthy fish in superb condition. Roach, rudd, tench and pike do especially well in such conditions.

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There are particular challenges to fishing wilder canals. Not least of all is the weed. The angler might have to get stuck into a cramped, overgrown swim or even clear some space. They might even need to bring a weed rake to cut a pitch for fishing. Tactics also change.

Besides abundant weed, silt can be thick on wild, neglected waters which are often the shallowest of all canals. Legering for any species can be rendered impractical, with float tackle much preferred. Baits must also be chosen carefully. Offerings such as bread that will fall slowly and not sink into the vegetation or silt are useful, while dead baits, worms and boilies can be popped up so the fish can still easily find them.

Catches can vary greatly – as a puzzled author demonstrates on the Sheffield & Tinsley.

With visibility so superb, these waters also make excellent places to try alternative tactics. Free-lined baits such as floating crust are exciting and effective in weedy swims. Lure fishing also works excellently in clear water, although floating or even weedless lures might be the most practical solution. Last but not least, the fly rod is a delightful alternative where the water is clear and invertebrate life abundant. This is especially true on warm summer days when a small dark dry or slow sinking wet fly can be excellent for rudd, roach and chub.

It can be fantastic fun just watching the fish on a wild, clear canal, but new challenges also come into play. The fish will find it much easier to spot the angler, hence spooking them becomes an issue. Stalking the banks quietly and carefully can be important, using any bankside cover to conceal one’s presence. Sunny, still days in particular can be a test of stealth, where putting a shadow over the water or making a clumsy cast could easily scare the fish.

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