|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.