Friday, 28 March 2014
No matter how much or how far I travel in my fishing, there's something incredibly endearing about smaller adventures closer to home. I shudder to think how many interesting (and usually cheap) waters there must be in my own surrounding area, let alone the country.
The Ilminster Canal is a particular oddity I've wanted to try for a while. It was my right hand man on the forthcoming Canal Fishing book, Russ Hilton, who tipped me off about the place- and joined me for a cast yesterday. Remarkable for it's tiny size, the history alone is curious: a colossal failure in commercial terms, the Chard Canal was a case of poor timing and bad investment. It was meant to stretch for many miles, but after severe decline, the two hundred yards or so of water known as the Ilminster Canal which you can see today are all that remain.
Not that this is so unusual. There are various little isolated remnants of canal dotted around Britain- many of which feature in the new book. For the angler, a these little dead ends also have advantages: with no boat traffic and effectively no joining waters for fish to go missing, fishing clubs can and do have some real fun with fish stocks. The Ilminster is no exception, holding carp, goldfish, tench and even chub. It was the roach and perch we were after on a morning session however.
It was a cold day in the end. The bigger fish weren't active, although I started to make up a tidy little net of roach on maggots. Russ comfortably must have doubled this on bread however, catching plenty in just a few short hours. Actually, it's always interesting comparing notes with a pal on an unfamiliar water. In hindsight, I rather went for broke trying to catch some different species- but just couldn't find many bonus fish, even trying chopped worm or corn. Even so, this handsome perch gave me an epic tussle on delicate tackle intended for roach:
Other highlights included the rather friendly park cat, Sam. A bit of an attention seeker this one, he's so popular with the locals I reckon the old devil probably eats about five dinners each day:
Considering it was bitterly cold at times -and we also had a dose of thick hail- this was a really enjoyable little session. But for the sake of variety we also hit Dillington Pond in the afternoon:
This is another good looking venue with a genuine surprise element. Russ set up lighter tackle and tried tares for the roach and rudd while I went rather less classical, using a stepped up pole rig to tackle the snags with large baits including worms and prawns in the hope of a bonus.
Nor did it take long to arrive! My rig would give Bob Nudd nightmares: a large dibber float, five pound line straight through and a forged size six hook. Going for broke with a whole king prawn, I hooked something strong that needed wrestling from cover in no uncertain terms. Imagine my surprise when a three pound plus chub surfaced!
Otherwise the fish were in slightly iffy mood. Nor can you blame them- the perch, in particular can't be too far off spawning, although I had a couple around the pound mark for good measure, while soaking in the slightly regal surroundings. The stately home here looks so old time, you half expect the Adams Family to emerge from the front door as the light goes:
I do love spring. If the temperatures are still a bit fresh, so are the colours! And we still have the whole summer to waste in style. My friends will readily tell you, I'm not really a target-setting angler, and my main aim this year is simply to soak it all in and find some fun detours. Talking of which, you can read about "Britains Secret Canals" in my current Angling Times series, which features the Bude Canal this week.