Carl Nicholls: Tame Valley Canal

Canal & River Trust Fisheries Manager Carl Nicholls reveals his favourite canal peg on the Tame Valley Canal.

Carl Nicholls and his favourite peg Carl Nicholls and his favourite peg

Anglers name:    Carl Nicholls

Current club, team or sponsor:   Canal & River Trust Angling Club

How old were you when you started fishing?:   About 11

Which was the first canal/location you ever fished?:   Coventry Canal at Whittington

Which is your favourite species of fish?:   Roach

If you had to choose just one, which would be your favourite fishing bait?:   Pinkies

What do you consider your greatest fisheries or angling achievement?:   Captaining the Trusts angling team to a 15th place finish in the 2016 Division Two national the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal where I also managed a top 3 section finish.

What is your remaining biggest single ambition in fisheries/angling?:   To see thousands of young people fishing canals as a result of our Let’s Fish campaign

Who is your all time fisheries or angling hero and why?:   Has to be my dad for introducing me to this sport, spending a lot of my childhood with my dad and brother fishing together and giving me a taste for a career in fisheries.

On sunny days, the pike can often be seen basking in the clear water, just waiting for right time to strike. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a 20lb+ pike being caught at some point in the future.

Carl Nicholls, fisheries manager, Canal & River Trust

Spoilt for choice

Living in the West Midlands I’m blessed by miles and miles of canals that are available to me and I have fished pretty much all the Birmingham Canal Network (BCN) canals at some point over the years. Some days have been red letter days where you can’t seem to go wrong and others, well, I rather try to forget about those.

Lightly boated

The Tame Valley Canal runs from the Junction with the Walsall Canal at Ocker Hill, Tipton through to Salford junction under the M6 at Spaghetti junction. It is urban running through suburbs, industrial and city landscapes. It’s also infrequently boated meaning it is generally clear with good amounts of in channel weed growth. While most coarse fish species are present, the habitat and water clarity particularly seems to suit tench, bream, roach, perch and pike.

Bread and butter

When I fish here, I tend to go with specific species in mind. If its roach  and skimmers, then liquidised bread groundbait with bread punch on the hook never seems to fail to bring fish straight away. I typically fish right down the middle of slightly over to the far side. Two or three small balls of liquidised bread fed initially will usually last a couple of hours before requiring small tops which then seem to need putting in every two or three fish.

Targeting bigger fish

Tench and Bream are my next go to species. I always fish either casters on their own, or mixture of chopped worm and caster and alternate the hook baits between the two. The tench can go to a fair size, up to 5lb and along with the weed, you need to make sure you are geared up keep them out or pull them out :). 4-6lb line fished straight through is what I would typically use to a 16 or 14 hook. The bream are so bad for diving in the weed, but they too will go to 4lb and are happy to pull the elastic out. The bream on the Tame Valley frequent the wider areas of the canal as they tend to do on any canal. They are also happy to come right up on to the far shelf of the canal in water that is so shallow they must swim in sideways to pick up the bait.

Chasing the predators

Pike, courtesy of Jack Perks

While I don’t confess to being a proficient predator angler or have much in the way of predator fishing skills, I am happy to chuck small mepps spinners and lures around and spend a half day covering a couple of miles of canal in search of perch and pike.

Both the perch and pike that I have caught have all been small, perch to 1lb and pike to 4lb, but I know there are much larger specimens around. On sunny days, the pike can often be seen basking in the clear water, just waiting for right time to strike. I’ve seen fish that must have been mid to upper doubles and with the number of bream around, which is probably what they mainly feed upon, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a 20lb+ pike being caught at some point in the future.

My favourite areas

Areas I have fished include through Wednesbury off Holloway Bank and Old College Road. Perry Barr off Appleton Avenue and off the A34 Walsall Road. I have yet to fish further in closer to Birmingham but I am aware of good reports off College Road (A453) and behind Fosters of Birmingham fishing tackle shop where Angling Trust held a Lets Fish event in 2016.