Carping on the canal

First session - A good start

Gary chooses his swim, and pops a boilie under the 'refuges'

Gary chooses his swim, and pops a boilie under the 'refuges'

With the regular season now finished Gary suggested it might be interesting to try a stretch of the Lea navigation near Enfield... sounded good to me, and so a bit of carping was on the cards!

So the week leading up to our first session Gary gets busy checking out possible swims and popping in a few boilies to see if he can attract a few fish to the area. We arrived at 5.30 in the morning, loaded up the barrows and trundelled off down the towpath.

As Gary had done the pre-baiting I thought it only fair to let him choose which swim he fancied, which he did, and I settled in the one below.

We were using standard carp set-ups, short braided hooklinks to lead clips, then I had a few feet of lead core, whereas Gary chose to use a couple of feet of tubing to protect his mainline from the pilings and refuges that run along the back of the stretch.

These refuges are rectangular floating boxes that are fastened at regular intervals along the far bank. They're a few feet deep, full of growing reeds and give protection to small fish from predators, including the dreaded cormorants. Of course the carp love to patrol in and around them too!

Bait wise, on the business end we were both fishing hair rigged boilies. On one rod I used a popped up 'tutti frutti' boilie, as Gary had pre-baited with them, on the other I chose a 'milky toffee' flavour pop-up.

We both use back leads, as even at this time of year you can expect a few boats to chug past giving you a cheery wave as they catch your line and slowly strip yards of line off your reel if you don't.. not the best way to check the breaking strain of your line!

So all baits out and our buzzers are switched on. The darkness melts away as the sun comes up and we've not had a touch, perhaps the carp here aren't morning feeders? It was time for the kettle to go on again. The tea was made and we were chatting about a new cooker Gary had just got hold of, when a couple of 'beeps' and the familiar ticking of the baitrunner letting line peel off told us that I was now connected to something.

I lift the rod and wind into the fish, a short fight and Gary does the honours with the landing net. It's on the unhooking mat, and we have a nice common, so out with the scales and it makes 14lb 14ozs.

Yes! Our target species. Kept itself under the pilings though

Yes! Our target species. Kept itself under the pilings though

Well it's always a good confidence boost to get an early fish and we watched our rods with heightened interest, hoping more fish might find our bait to their taste.

But that was to be the highlight of the day, and the hours drifted by.. pleasant enough with good company, but we were there to catch carp!

Late afternoon and a couple of lads turn up and stop for a chat, we hear tales of a 22 and 29lb'er being caught recently, suddenly I can't wait for next week!

Session 2 - Back down to earth!

Back the following week, and as I chat to Gary while we unload the gear, I find out he'd slipped in a sneaky session the day before.

Not that he had any luck, but it did allow him time to pop a few more baits in and to find out that we were not the only ones targetting this stretch of water, with a couple of bivvies pitched upstream of where we started and a few lads trying different areas further down the bank.

So we end up slightly downstream of where we'd tried last week. Not a real problem as most canals can be, by their very nature, a bit featureless... and I'm not talking about shopping trolleys, old fridges, and bike frames! But moving down did give Gary access to some overhanging trees that looked like they could hold a fish or two.

Out came the rods, with Gary carrying on with boilie hookbaits, and me... well I kept one rod out with the toffee pop-up that had done the business last week, but on the other I went the pellet route. I'd made up a small tub of groundbait, using a fishmeal mix, a tin of tuna and a few handfulls of 3mm pellet, then mixed them all in. I made some small 'sticks' from the groundbait and threaded them on the hooklink with a large halibut pellet hair rigged on the hook... how could they resist!

The pilings on the opposite side of the canal seemed to hold the carp

The pilings on the opposite side of the canal seemed to hold the carp

But they did! And we spent a very quiet morning without much interruption. Plenty of tea was made, and drunk, and conversation about life, the universe, and most things in between, were had.

The afternoon's peace was broken when our good friend Bob turned up to see if we'd caught any 'carps'. It was good to see him up and about as he's been recovering from a recent operation. We got to chat about how quiet the water was, and that the fish didn't seem to show much here, but we also chewed over the thought that the fish may well be keeping a low profile after a bit of pressure over the weekend... with better weather, more lads out... it made sense?

The afternoon wore on, and nothing worried our baits... except for a lone coot that got Gary jumping around a few times! Then suddenly a fish topped, right out in front of us, mid-channel and created quite a swell, so I couldn't resist cupping a few balls of groundbait and lobbing them into my nearby swim, not that it did much good.

The afternoon turned into early evening and we started to think about packing up, especially as Gary had to go out later on. Then it happened again... a fish rolled right in my swim, just where the groundbait had gone in! Now that was taking the... !!!

It sure made the last half hour a bit more interesting, but nothing spoiled the calm atmosphere, and so we finished packing up and strolled back along the towpath wondering what we had to do to get a bite here!

Session 3 - Frustration!

Well here we are into our third go on the navigation. We're back to roughly the same swims we started on and looking forward to a pleasant days fishing. 

The weather forecast is for a warmer day, not that we're worried for ourselves, but we want that water temp to start rising and get those carp moving about!

Our tactics remain the same, with baits cast into the gaps between the cages, and lines kept tight on the bottom with back leading. Bait wise it's mostly boilies as before, I'm persevering with the 'milky toffee' pop-ups on one rod, and Gary carries on with a 'tutti frutti' flavour on one of his. With our second rods we're both using a boilie flavour from All Seasons Bait Developements that Gary and myself found pretty useful last season.

So now we settle down and wait, the kettle goes on and the tea is made... it's hard going this carping lark! 

Morning passes, and a little later our mate Bob pops down again to see how many we've had... ha, bloomin' ha! After some good natured remarks about how useless we are - and it's hard to argue at this time - he strolls off down the towpath leaving us to ponder on how long it'll be before we get a 'run'!

It's midday now and after another cuppa I needed to have a pee, Gary minds all the rods while I find a convenient tree. Now how many times have you been sorting out your bag, baiting your other rod, going for a pee... when beep, beep, beeeeep!

Yep, you guessed it, at least I'd finished my business and was walking back when one of my buzzers screams into life! But Gary's on the rod in a flash and lifts into, and holds the fish, he then passes the rod to me. I play it for all of a few seconds, as it kites under one of the refuges, and I feel the horrible grating sensation of my line rubbing the underneath of the refuge before its cut and everything goes limp.

A few choice words are uttered, then I wind in my line still cursing my luck. Gary tries to make me feel better by saying that at least I've had a run as he's not even had a touch, I'm not sure I feel any better.

As I re-tackle we try to be positive and encourage each other with the fact that the fish are definitely in the area, and this is enforced by the number of fish we've seen 'topping'. Surely it's just a matter of time before we get some more action?

A couple of hours drift by, another fish 'tops' further down the stretch, Gary's buzzer lets out a single beep, but it's been doing this all morning, we just look at his indicator then return to making the tea.

Then a little later it's a real pull, this time on my other rod. I'm out of my seat and watching my indicator shoot up, but as I go to grab my rod it all stops. No beeps, the indicator is still... what's going on? But Gary says your rod tips still moving, and it was, so I strike and feel a fish on. But there's no strong run, just a dogged resistance and the occasional tug on the line. I don't feel any grating so I bend into the fish and there's a little movement.. another tug, then I gain some ground, and soon I'm winding hard... but somethings wrong, there's no resistance at all!

I don't believe it, but it looks like it's happened again. I wind in and find my end tackle all there, but on closer inspection notice that my hook has straightened! More foul language follows, Gary's chuckling away... it's really not my day.

My only thought after is that the fish had made it around one of the pilings and I was pulling against that, I suppose we'll never know.

We fish till almost dusk, a few more fish show but nothing bothers us, so it's three sessions here now and one catch to our name... not good!

Session Four - Slow start?

After a week off, because of the May Bank holiday, it was back out on the bank for another try at those canal carp. Gary and myself could be out of luck though, as weather reports were saying that temperatures were unseasonably like that of early March instead of a Spring-like day in mid-May!

A picturesque spot, and I fancied a bait under those overhanging bushes

A picturesque spot, and I fancied a bait under those overhanging bushes

We pitched up a little downstream of where we'd been a couple of weeks ago, allowing us access to areas of overhanging trees and bushes that we felt might give cover to patrolling fish.

No surprise on bait, and both of us put out the faithful milky toffee boilies, which seem to have brought me most of the action so far (sorry Gary!). Why they work, well we both feel its not really the flavour that's the attractor, but the visual side, with them being bright white... a great quote from Gary when he was once asked what flavour boilies he was using, 'I'm using brown ones' came his straight reply!

So our baits are positioned, Gary hooks small PVA bags of pellet on his and I try a small amount of groundbait around mine... we're still trying to find out what gets these fish going.

It turns out to be a busy day on the river with a fair number of boats cruising past, and I'm glad to say most slow as they pass. We have no trouble with our lines as we're both back leading. The boats churn up a lot of sediment, as the channel is only around 6-7ft deep at its middle, but we hope this only tempts the fish to nose about further!

But the bad news is, none of our baits tempt a fish. The day rolls by and as with the last few weeks our mate Bob joins us during the afternoon for a chat and a 'cuppa'. On a little stroll up the channel Bob spots a large common, but it spooks as he passes, but he lets us know its location. 

This becomes more significant as once Bob has left Gary gets a call from him saying on his way back he'd seen a group of carp including a big common sheltering under a nearside bush... so it's decision time, do we move?

We chat over more tea and decide we have to give it a go. A hasty packing up, a quick move up the bank, then a stealthy creep up to the bush and our baits carefully lowered in on either side.

Well there's no happy ending as we spend the last couple of hours keeping very quiet and finally freezing our bits off, for no reward. These carp may be moving about but they don't seem to be feeding much at the moment... have we been unlucky with the weather? Have you guys found it slow so far? Love to hear what's going on at waters near you.