Down the canal, flying for coarse

It’s been a few weeks since my last fishing trip thanks to the white noise that is a wife and kids. Now I love them really but they do get in the way of fly fishing. Anyhoo over the last month while I’ve been walking the dog along the old canal I’ve noticed lots of fishy activity. Big fish swimming just under the surface in groups of two or three, and schools of smaller fish taking insects of the surface. Well now that’s just too tempting isn’t it?

So Tuesday rolls around, a night that’s known in the house as the ‘ironing night’ which means she wants me out-of-the-way so that she can catch up on her soaps and get the ironing done with minimal fuss. “Hey why don’t you help her?” I hear you say. Well that’s a good question, and one I will choose to ignore for now. Anyway it was 19:30, the kids were in bed, the dog was walked, the iron was on, and I was out the front door and off fishing down the canal.

This canal was disconnected from the rest of the old canal network in the 1960’s so no boats have been through it in 50 years, so as such it’s now full of plant life, coarse fish, and the occasional dog out for walk. It is however in a very nice condition and well stocked. The fishing rights are owned and managed by a local club who luckily for me allow day tickets which are bought from the bank. Gear wise I set up with my small stream trout outfit of an 8ft 4wt rod & reel with floating line, small box of small flies in sizes 10 – 16, small scoop net (just in case), and various other bits and bobs all neatly packed away in my Vision Love Handles.

I’d walked the dog along the canal not more than two hours earlier so I already had an idea in my mind where I was going to fish and what tactics I was going to use, and I was pleased to see that not much had changed when I got to my first spot on the bank. I set the rod up, picked a small black gnat dry-fly, degreased the tippet and dressed the fly. Hang on where’s my gink? This isn’t gink this is xink, curses I’d left my floatant in my other bag. Ah well I’ll just have to hope that fly is small enough to sit on the water by itself, but I’ll add a couple extra false casts to dry it out when I cast. Soooooo first cast out and … a hit … but I missed it. Still a promising start none the less. Second cast and … a hit … and the hook was set. Ahhh look it’s like a fish but smaller I thought to myself as I unhooked it, but a fish is a fish is a fish so was happy with my little Rudd (or Roach or whatever it was).

Small Rudd or Roach taken on a dry gnat fly. Maybe just a shade under 6lbs

Small Rudd or Roach taken on a dry gnat fly. Maybe just a shade under 6lbs

I cast out again, hit again, missed again. Cast out, hit again, missed again. Cast out, hit again, missed ag … well you get the idea. I must have missed twenty or so takes from these little fish, they were just so fast. I tried striking immediately, I tried pausing, I tried lifting into them with the rod, tried drawing the line back, but nope I couldn’t get them on. So I switched to slightly larger fly to try to force a bigger take from the fish but I had the same results, lots of hits but no hook ups. A new personal challenge has been presented to me now: how to get the hook set in a very small and very fast mouth.

Time rolled on and the light was starting to fade and I was struggling to see the dry-fly on the water so switched to a small wet spider pattern. Second cast and I was hooked into another fish, a bigger Roach or Rudd. Nice fish, unhooked and away he went. A few more casts and a few more fish before I decided it was too dark to carry on so I packed up and went home quite happy with my two hours work. Happy days.

Rudd or Roach taken on a wet spider. No records were broken.

Rudd or Roach taken on a wet spider. No records were broken.

The next day I was back walking the dog along the canal when I spotted a new target. I’m not sure what it was but it was about the size of a 2 lb Trout, it was dark in colour and slim in shape. Definitely not a Pike but maybe a Tench or a Carp, anyway it swam alongside me at my walking pace for a good ten seconds. I’m watching you I thought to myself I’m gonna have you. It was almost sinister how it was swimming next to me as I walked, I wonder if he was thinking the same about me in some sort of ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ scenario. Maybe I need a bigger boat?

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