Saturday, 29 June 2013
Flies on the Towpath
Whenever the unthinkable happens and it actually looks like summer at this point in the year, I start to crave clear water and canal fishing. It's remarkable how quickly our beautiful rural cuts are dismissed as "unfishable" in the Westcountry. Sure, you might struggle with a pole rig. But that rich, abundant weed is absolutely teeming with life- and the rudd, my absolute summer favourite on the canals, will eat both the green stuff as well as the things hiding in it, not to mention the bug life hatching in and around the towpath. A dry or slow sinking fly can be presented in the slightest gap in the undergrowth.
On the Taunton to Bridgwater Canal, I must have walked six miles or so with Russ Hilton, who opted for free-lined bread in the weedy spots while I cast flies. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be mobile if you want to find the interesting spots and better fish here. A 10ft 3/4 weight rod, long handled net and fly vest are all I need to fish (and in fact the heaviest part by a mile is my Nikon camera plus lenses!).
It was Russ who made the quicker start using bread- although I missed two really positive takes from chub where I watched the line pull away before striking my Spider Sedge right out of their mouths. I really should learn to wait another split second! Not to worry though, because the beauty of this fishing is that there's always another chance a few yards on- and I was soon adding roach to the cute rudd I was getting on my wet flies:
Incidentally, when it comes to fly choice I still rely heavily on either my "Rudd Bugs" (basically soft hackled flies with buggy, loose dubbed bodies that sink really slowly) or the good old Black and Peacock. To cater for different conditions I tend to tie the favourites three ways: totally unweighted, with a glass bead or with a tiny gold bead. If there's a steady breeze or tow on the water, beaded flies offer better control. The tip of using lighter beads made of glass and other materials is something I borrowed from my friend urban fly angler Theo Pike. These sink slower than brass or tungsten, but still cut through surface movement well. After all, canals are changeable. The fish, especially roach, cannot always be persuaded to nick the fly in the top few inches and finding a steady tow is not uncommon at all. At other periods of the day, a small buzzer or bloodworm also worked for the roach.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the capture of a silver bream (above) of around 6oz. These take a fly well, but are usually much smaller. It took a gold beaded spider, fairly well sunk down. It was a great day for visual fishing in fact. Winds were gentle and visibility improved greatly once the sun came out. Fish like rudd turn the usual "fish early and late" logic on its' head in fact; a sunny afternoon is an excellent time both to spot and tempt them on flies.
It was a day of top viewing pleasure in fact. We saw everything from tench and bream to a few pike. One of these jacks stole a rudd directly from Russ as he played it and we watched the thing sit there with jaws working and a tail sticking out of its' mouth! He also has this happy knack of catching a fish I've just missed. I'd had my eye on a vividly coloured golden rudd but managed to miss the take when it sucked my fly in. About two minutes later the swine had it on a piece of bread. Bah! (To give Russ his dues, he also had the best rudd of the day at around a pound and a quarter- which I'm sure you'll see soon on his "Tales From the Towpath" blog).
When it got too hot to play we also enjoyed the shade of one of the "pill boxes" dotted around. These were built as air raid shelters during WW2 I believe. Not exactly sure why the Luftwaffe would want to bomb the canal, but there you go. Our own raids continued in the sun, We both had plenty of takes and missed some other really chunky fish. For anyone keen to sample a day on the fly in these beautiful locations, I can offer guided days and half days which include a set of "canal special" flies to take home with you. Can't say fairer than that! I've yet to have a guest who didn't finish with several quality roach and rudd.