Angling News - June 07

Lingering on Long Boats with a Rod

Boating holidays on our wonderful canal waterways are the perfect holiday, not only for the dedicated angler, but for family's and couples a combination of the joys, adventure and freedom of this extensive canal system, angling where ever and when ever you want, along with having your own personal floating hotel, that can be moored in the most spectacular scenery and I heartily recommend such a holiday and can't wait until I venture again with tiller and rod in hand, till then will have to make do with the ole matchstick and tails of worms, catching Gudgeon on my local canal.

The glorious 16th of June was at one time, the day that all coarse anglers used to look forward to, in their angling year, this magical date heralded the start of the coarse fishing season.

This however a few years ago changed and apart from rivers, canals and lakes were opened up to anglers to fish the year round and while the river close season prevailed, more and more anglers discovered the joys of fishing on the many thousands of miles, of canal network that this fair country has to offer, often at a fraction of the cost of fishing the rivers.

Indeed my fishing career began at a tender young age, on the Leeds and Liverpool canal near to my previous family home in Leeds, with my dear late Grand Pappy, who taught me so much. My first experience using a matchstick as a float and tails of garden worms, gathered from his beloved allotment and catching the much maligned Gudgeon.

Those formative and ensuing years, found me adventuring and exploring, more of the canals on my trusted sit up and beg bicycle, discovering hidden areas, redundant and neglected stretches of wild and wonderful reed strewn and overgrown sections of canals, the fascinating old locks, where little streams cascaded into the canal, that time had forgotten, the long boats had not travelled these waterways for many a year.

As a young lad I was captivated by the peace, beauty, solitude and often the great fish I caught along this journey of discovery, never knowing what was round the next corner, as I pedalled furiously along the nettle lined towpath and what denizens of this mystical waterway would I encounter next.

During those halcyon days I developed a great empathy, a fondest, along with marvelling at how those amazing engineers and builders from a bygone age, had toiled so long and hard to create, such magnificent waterways, that so many lay fallow, unused, un-cared for and un-loved, only appreciated by the odd enthusiastic angler like myself.

That was nearly 50 years ago and so pleased I have borne witness, to see the regeneration of these stunning canals and see many of them being brought back to life, opened to the boating fraternity, for all to enjoy, the walkers, cyclist and of course the angler, all enjoying the joys and pleasures that the canal has to offer, in many cases communities, shops, pubs and marinas have been developed in and around these wonderful waterways, sympathetically blending into the ethos of our canals.

For the last 30 years or so as an angling journalist, reporter and broadcaster, I have been tempted and succumbed to fishing in many far away countries, for species like the mighty Marlin and terrifying Sharks, along with catching countless other exotic species, enjoying amazing experiences and adventures, too many tales and adventures to re-tell.

But I have never forgotten my roots and those early days, idling my time away, fishing on those forgotten canals and still today, I often venture to fish the local canals near to my home in North Shropshire. Where ever you live in England we are never too far away from a canal and for me to relive those youthful days.

So when Lindy Foster Weinreb of Castle Wharf Promotions, offered me the opportunity of a few days press trip on one of there pristine long boats, at a destination of my choice, I didn't hesitate at jumping at the chance of renewing my love affair with not only canals, but boats, angling and the joy of gliding along a serine peaceful canal, stopping of and fishing where ever I so wanted.

After much searching on their excellent and well-informed web site, I chose the nearby Anderton boat yard as my starting point, not too far from my home and renowned not only for the stunning scenery along the Lymm connection canal, running alongside the river Weaver, but also the famous Anderton boat lift, a technological marvel and of course I had heard that this section of the canal was home to some huge carp along with many other species.

Such a friendly greeting did I receive on arrival, help with my excessive luggage, all my fishing tackle, enough to last a month, as we anglers are prone to! Along with the loading onto the boat of the copious amounts of wine and food to sustain me while fishing and cruising, then a safe area for my car to be parked was found.

Ensued then was a very professional familiarisation of the boat, by their well-trained staff, training on how to operate and safely navigate this amazing craft, all the safety measures pointed out and the little limited maintenance checks needed to be done, a kind offer of demonstrating how to negotiate the locks and gently steer my chosen boat along the first mile or two of my journey, I gracefully declined as after such a comprehensive briefing I felt confident to be able to admirably cope.

A word of advice however if in doubt let the experts teach you, but for me my years of being a charter boat skipper in Kenya held me in good stead.

Armed with extensive navigation maps, pubs and shops highlighted on my proposed journey and along with many hints and tips, all my gear and food stowed away and a cheery wave from the base manager and staff, I was ready to slip the mooring ropes and get underway.

Others were heading of at a similar time, several I had spoken to, many with agendas of getting as far along the system as they could in as short a time as possible, they disappeared into the distance leaving me in their wake. For me the canal boat holiday was not only about the joint pleasure of angling, boating and sight seeing, but for a few days to get of the treadmill, leave the hurried and frantic world and life we all live in behind.

I believe the true essence of this type of holiday is to be completely un-hurried, let the world go by, to slow right down, not to rush, appreciate every twist, turn and feature of the canal, admire the wild life and the gorgeous scenery, to be able to moor up when ever, where ever you want.

As these are slow boats then so should life be on the canal, an easygoing pace in your own time, chatting to the other friendly boaters, gossiping with anglers on the bank, the walkers and cyclists as they pass by, engaging with the lock keepers, such tales they have to tell, then you realise that time is almost standing still and the lazy days just exquisitely slip by and you have truly entered the charming world of the canal and its many communities.

I lazily left the marina and watched as the other long boats, chugged of into the distance, leaving me well behind in their wakes, straight past the incredibly impressive Anderton boat lift, a marvel of engineering.

Maybe I am far too inquisitive, but the temptation to linger there moored up for a while and watch the workings of this amazing water lifting contraption was far too great, school kids and other folk go on days trips to gaze at this wonder of science, fascinating and wondrous, two or so hours had gone by and I was still within sight of the marina, for me this was not only about the fishing the canal had to offer but the whole experience and wondered why the other boats had cruised on past with barley a glance, maybe later, they were to learn the true meaning of what the canal and the secrets it has to offer, if they slowed down enough to find them, I hope so.

The days just lazily slipped by and a routine if you could call it that was established, a late start after a hearty breakfast and of course an early morning requisite fish wherever I happened to be, then with checks made was underway, would always stop for elevenses at a fishy looking place, the same again for lunch and of course afternoon tea and eventually find an appropriate place for my overnight stay and often as I rounded a bend in the canal, it just looked too fishy to resist and linger for a while dangling my rod over the side.

Cruising on the canal offered many opportunities in places to moor up, either social or isolation, I personally preferred the isolation, moored well away from any other boats or civilisation, I just loved the peace and quiet and often a very good place to fish, the beauty was that there were so many places to just pull over and moor the boat, well away from the maddening crowd, however there were some really good pretty pubs that I might just have occasionally frequented!, as a treat along the way, serving excellent food. Oh yes the fishing, the reason I was there, could not have been better, with the boat moored it was like having your own private fishing jetty and floating hotel. I caught some really good Carp into double figures but my limited skill meant the ones that grew over thirty pounds eluded me, but not other fishermen I came across. Many species came to my rod, including some rather large Pike, Eels, Perch, Roach, Rudd, Bream, Bleak and even my old friend the Gudgeon.

The boat, such luxury, so well appointed and basically everything you needed on board, in perfect condition and well maintained, some of them even have dishwashers! After a couple of hours at the helm, I became the veritable expert captain and so enjoyed steering this floating hotel along the peaceful waterway.

Am still not so sure how far I got along this particular stretch of the canal, but know I never made it as far as Lymm, lingering is such a good word and practise and that's precociously what I did, I lingered, fished and lazed my way along the canal and then sadly made my way back to the marina, from whence I came, where a warm welcome home awaited me. I just loved the experience, time lost, time spent and getting off the proverbial frenetic treadmill, be it for a short time, which seemed a long time.

My mission was to find out about the fishing, but I found so much more, the camaraderie of fellow boaters, other friendly canal users, peace, tranquillity, isolation along with the true meaning of lingering and the joy of boating and angling on the canal.

I dispelled my previous misconception that canal boats disrupted the fishing and anglers, after talking with so many anglers along my journey and adventure, they will tell you that as the boat gently slips by, the bottom of the canal is disturbed and stirs up much needed food for the fish and when the boat has slipped by, this sometimes brings on a feeding frenzy and often many fish are caught in the wake of a boat going by, they say you should learn something new each day and I most certainly did.

My advice and that of the experienced staff at the marina, is when passing an angler fishing on the tow path, if possible, to give a wide berth and slow down, give a cheery wave and pass the time of day, this way any old grudges of anglers and boaters can be repaired and bridges re-built.