22nd September

The tranquility of canal fishing

Brendan Connolly

One great benefit of angling is that it takes you to beauty spots full of atmosphere, capable of affecting your mood.
Fishing on wind-swept rocky seashores is bracing as you tackle the slippery rocks covered in seaweed and inhale deep breaths of salty sea air – all with the power of the crashing surf in front of you. On the other hand, fly-fishing from a boat on a lake is more leisurely as you drift passed unspoiled islands, savouring the expanses of water. And casting a flyline on a salmon river is yet another experience with its own feel and atmosphere.

One of the most tranquil and relaxing fishing locations however must surely be along the banks of Ireland’s canals. No more than 8-10 metres wide they surreptitiously wend their way across the midlands, mostly hidden from sight.

Winding ribbons

Obscured by high bridge parapets where they meet a road, the canals exist largely unnoticed by the hustle and bustle of modern life. Build in the 1700s and early 1800s, the canals stretch like ribbons of unspoiled habitat for water birds, aquatic insects, and a variety of fish species; long and narrow havens of tranquility.
Fish species include perch; roach; rudd; bream; eels; pike; tench; and carp. There are also hybrids of rudd, roach, and bream. Water in stretches can be crystal clear or cloudy. For angling it is usually better to pick a cloudy stretch; you are, after all, no more than a few metres from the fish.

One sunny July afternoon, an angler set up his fishing gear on the Grand Canal near Edenderry along a stretch of cloudy water. He first mixed breadcrumb groundbait with a little water which he kneaded into balls the size of an orange and threw into the canal in front of him. He also had about a half pint of mixed red and white maggots.

He used a telescopic rod 4.5 metres long to lift the small quill float and a number 14 Kamasan hook on 2lb breaking line over the side vegetation.
Lead shot weighted down the float so that its tip just protruded above the water surface. The float was adjusted so that the hook hung just above the canal bed which was baited with two maggots, one red and one white.

Canal calmness
Casting in, the angler settled back in his chair to enjoy the calm surroundings and to listen to the clucks of a water hen nearby. The float slowly drifted from left to right, moved by the slight water movement in the canal.
After a while the angler noticed bubbles coming to the surface from fish feeding on the ground bait. He put a pinch of maggots into the leather pouch of his angling catapult which he shot out in a scatter.

Watching the float intently and sure enough, the tip bobbed up and down and was then pulled under. The angler lifted the rod and felt the tug of a fish which he slid along the water surface into the landing net. It was a medium sized perch. Using a fish disgorger he carefully removed the hook from the mouth and put the fish in the keepnet.

Once more a few bubbles appeared at the surface and the float began to bob up and down before being resolutely pulled down. Another perch came into view, and duly joined the other in the keepnet.

Fishing in this very relaxed manner the afternoon soon passed, and a few more perch joined the first two in the keepnet. He caught no bream, rudd, or roach but feeling rested and refreshed the angler promised himself he would return to fish the canal again, but this time for an entire day.

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