Thursday, 27 October 2016

A First Love Rekindled

When your children are young I guess it's quite normal to expose them to your own hobbies and pastimes in the hope that they might share your interest. Both my sons went through this process. Birding-wise, I'm afraid too much twitching shrivelled any nascent enthusiasm there might ever have been. It is difficult to convince a child exactly why it was worth standing around in the freezing cold and wet to see the little brown thing. Angling, though, was another matter. My eldest, Rob, loved it...

Rob in 1995, aged 12, with a hefty perch from Startops Reservoir, Tring

Rob is still mad keen today, and his enthusiasm very infectious. His current circumstances find him working right here in Bridport, so I'm not surprised that he's rekindled my passion for an old flame and got me involved in planning a little fishing 'campaign' with him.

Decent coarse fishing venues near Bridport are non-existent; there are a few commercial day-ticket ponds and little else. You have go east to the Stour and Avon valleys to find the good stuff. Or, in the opposite direction, there is the Exeter Canal...

If the word 'canal' conjures images of picturesque and intimate little waterways dotted with moored narrowboats, think again. This is the Exeter Ship Canal; it is mostly rather large and deep for a canal. About six miles long, it runs from the city centre to Turf Lock*. The major attractions from an angler's perspective are twofold: 1) it is relatively underfished, and 2) it contains some very big carp and pike, or, more specifically, some very big unknown carp and pike. This latter point is so important - to fish such a water adds that crucial element of mystery. Mystery is part of what I loved about fishing as a kid, the notion that your next bite might come from some huge, unanticipated Leviathan. If you search the internet for clues as to what the Exeter Canal has produced in recent years you find scant information. This suggests to me that those who fish there do not particularly publicise their captures. Good. I know the place has serious big-fish history though, with pike to over 30lb and carp to 43lb 2oz, and that's good enough for me!

So in recent weeks we have walked the bank a couple of times in preliminary exploration. On Wednesday afternoon we covered about two miles from Turf Lock, up to just beyond the Topsham Ferry. Overlooking the RSPB reserve of Exminster Marshes this is a very scenic stretch, which is a big plus. Another big plus: not a single angler.

A weedcutter in action. The canal is very weedy right now, which all adds to the challenge of fishing it.

Alongside Exminster Marshes

The River Exe runs parallel to the canal. That's Topsham over there. Obviously.

This was as far as we walked. The elevated M5 in the distance, perhaps half a mile away.

I don't think we're going to fish it properly until January, but I do foresee one or two investigative efforts for pike before then, armed with some plugs, spinners and a bag of sprats maybe. Normally I would say "Watch this space" but I'm wondering just how much I ought to publicise any success we might have. After all, anyone can google 'exeter canal carp pike' and I wouldn't want inadvertantly to give away all our hotspots. Ha! What am I saying? Before I go all Secret Squirrel I should remember that I am expert at Blanking for England, and will probably catch nothing. In which case expect to read all about it!

* If you twitched the Devon American Robin then you've been to Turf Lock.

11 comments:

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    1. A review of the many and varied places twitching takes you has got to be the subject of a blog post one day.

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  2. Pfftt. You want to come to the Tivvy Canal on a balmy summer evening fishing for the prettiest of all fish, Tench!

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    1. Andrew - you should be ashamed of yourself! Tench are not pretty, they're handsome? They're a proper mans' fish, not some jessie carp, mud pig. Pretty is a girlie adjective - Tench are far more worthy quarry than that! Exquisite is a word which sums them up, in my opinion. But as Gavin has set his sights on the Pike of this esteemed waterway - our points of view are of little relevance? Where is that canal of which you speak? - Dylan

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    2. The Tiverton Canal, Andrew. Yet another place I've never been. I do like tench, and have spent a bit of time in their pursuit over the years, but I am rather drawn to the mud pigs and pike. With carp it's nothing more complicated than their potential hugeness I think. And pike-wise, I've never caught a twenty pounder.

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    3. I believe there are some big carp on the Tivvy now and it has it's fair share of pike anglers. Usually, they are roving anglers with lures and one uses a fly fishing set up.

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    4. Andrew, your comment prompted me to do a bit of research and I even found some videos featuring Tiverton Canal carp and pike. Not sure quite how big they grow, but if I lived a bit nearer I could well have been tempted.

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  3. I'll be getting the rods out myself soon Gav. First a warm up with some Croxley fare and then maybe further afield.
    Glad my identity as a man has been validated via a species which I had dealings with. Thanks Dyl.

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    1. I look forward to hearing how you get on, Ric. If I was still living up that way I'd rather like to join you on the Gade at Croxley. That really would be a trip down Memory Lane!

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  4. I'll keep you posted Gav.
    There's possibilities not least on account of how overgrown bankside sedges and the like have created a roof-like effect over much of the river. Check Google earth to see how a river disappears underground.
    Now, where would a chub or barbell hide around here?

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    1. Mind you, there were no Gade barbel (that I'm aware of!) in the early 70s!

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