My first experience of canal fishing was as a young boy. I had the idea I wanted to go fishing. After asking for some tackle I received a 9ft DAM minor ledger rod and quick reel. I had no clue how to set it up, neither did my Dad who had never fished and it took over an hour to set up, plumb up and actually get fishing!
Angler's name: Phil Mattock
Current club, team or sponsor: Leamington Anglers Association
Age started fishing: eight
Favourite fish species: roach
Favourite fishing bait: pinkies
Greatest angling achievement: creating and running the Stratford Classic open match and obtaining several stockings of chub, barbel, roach and dace in the River Avon
Angling ambition: to qualify for the Evesham Festival Final and then to win it!
Angling hero: I respect many anglers, but guys such as Leamington's Bob Taylor and Coventry trio Richie Barker, Tony Wareham and Pat Brewerton are who I admire most. Good solid anglers who all go out of their way to help and encourage others.
"One thing is for sure, you won't find a more diverse fishery than your local cut."
Our chosen venue, on that first ever fishing trip, was the Grand Union at Stockton in Warwickshire next to the Blue Lias pub. Putting a large maggot on with a pair of tweezers (as suggested by my non-angling father) was tricky and I soon gave up and got my hands dirty. After much waiting, a plump roach of about 3oz's hung itself on my size 18. That was my first ever fish and thus that spot became my favourite ever canal peg.
I've only ever been back to that precise peg once since. When I was a teenager I took a friend there.
He had an Argos rod (as did I) and his reel seat was two plastic loops. When he went to cast out his reel fell off the rod with the bail arm open, so he had to hand line his reel back through several hundred meters of line. I thought it was very funny, he didn't quite feel the same way.
I began fishing the new commercials such as Makin’s that were springing up locally. I pleasure fished for many years but I wasn't really learning anything new. Not long after, I took up fishing matches with Stoneleigh Park AC who had some stretches of Warwickshire Avon and lots of canal around Rowington and Lapworth. I thought I could learn a little and it would be fun.
I did this for some years but things really weren't clicking as I'd hoped. There were some characters in the club who told incredibly tall tales. Some just loved to argue and enjoyed a drink. There were of course some genuinely good guys and good anglers who remain friends to this day.
I eventually moved to the open match scene. I soon learned all about venue experts and meagre financial returns. I soon tired of small carp and went onto the rivers looking for roach and dace.
After seeing an article in a magazine by veteran and local legend 'maggot Bob Taylor' I decided to compete in Warwick & District AA matches. After some small success and after speaking at length to Bob and others I was suddenly making progress and actually winning- a novelty for me!
I was asked to go on the committee with Warwick and did that for a couple of years before Leamington AA asked me to join their committee. After a few months I agreed to become their match secretary. During this time, I was fishing the river circuit and hadn’t fished the canal for almost ten years.
It was through chatting to Bob, who runs Jets MG canal team on the Barford Spring league, that I decided to get back on the cut and give it another go. One day we went together to the Barford controlled stretch of the Grand Union at Knowle.
I fished peg 12 with Bob to my left on lucky number 13. After a few tangles and silly mistakes with elastic that was too heavy, I began catching gudgeon on the far shelf. I hadn't caught gudgeon in years and never in these numbers. Over the next few hours. I learnt so much and really enjoyed it even though I only had three pounds or so of fish. We fed squatts with a pinkie over the top and a little fine groundbait. I had 37 gonks, a handful of pristine roach a few perch and a bonus daddy ruffe! Another rare fish for me. Bob weighed around 6lb using similar method
That trip relit a long extinguished canal fishing fire! Looking back, my love of canal fishing all started the day when the eight year old Phil Mattock visited the canal for the very first time. Once again, I’m fishing regularly all along the Grand Union. I've had some outstanding double figure catches of roach to 1lb 8oz and bream to around three pounds. Interestingly with all these catches I've only had one or two perch and wasps at that.
I’m not the only one who has caught the canal fishing bug. After talking to other local anglers I was surprised how many still do fish the canals and have a real affinity for them. Fellow anglers report catching large skimmer bags, roach, eels (some of the bootlaces are huge) ,perch, silver bream, rudd, carp, chub and I'm also aware of a local stretch with a barbel in!
One thing is for sure, you won't find a more diverse fishery than your local cut.
For the cost-conscious angler, the bait bill on the canal is manageable. Bread punch, pinkies, squatts, big maggot and worm are all potential winning techniques used in conjunction with moderate amounts of groundbait or liquidised bread. In the last year or so I've noticed so many more club and open matches taking place to their local canal.
The Canal Pairs Championship is proving very popular and both Angling Trust Nationals in 2017 are to be held on canals. It seems to me canal fishing is back with a bang!