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Richard Gibbs: Aylesbury Arm

A long hard think about ‘my favourite canal peg’ had me wondering whether to put pen to paper or not; the reason being that I have had so many favourite canal pegs over the years.

Bridge 8 on the Aylesbury Arm Bridge 8 on the Aylesbury Arm

Angler's name: Richard Gibbs

Current club, team or sponsor: President of The Tring Anglers

Age started fishing: Probably around four. My Grandad Harry Rose would take me to the end of his garden at 44 Caledonian Road, New Bradwell, now part of Milton Keynes. We fished what everyone called ‘The Brook’, a small stream created from the canal overflow on ‘the cut’ above the old allotments at New Bradwell. It eventually ran into the Great Ouse at the back of Bradwell recreation ground. It was full of three types of fish, sticklebacks, minnows, and real quality roach. Grandad armed me with a 6ft long bamboo cane to which was tied a basic cheap plastic float rig, size 14 ready-tied gold coloured hook with bread paste for bait. Looking back on it, it would have been the forerunner of what we now call a ‘whip’. 

Favourite fish species: I love to catch all fish especially tench, crucian’s and barbel, but the favourite has to be roach, especially good sized canal roach. Anything over the size of your hand on the canal is a beautiful and special creature. 

Favourite fishing bait: hempseed

Greatest angling achievement: at Club level, I am proud to have been part of a small group in angling who have strived, and achieved, a huge improvement in relations with what was then BW (now the Trust), the Environment Agency and other canal users. On a personal level, it would be the outright winner of, so far, the one and only fishing match held on three of the four Tring Reservoirs back in the eighties. 

Angling ambition: to continue in the promotion of angling on our Canal, and wherever possible promote the very positive mental, physical, and environmental benefits angling offers to all

Angling hero: the one and only Leicestershire Likely Lad, the legend that is Ivan Marks.

"What I do have is utter and complete confidence that I’m going to catch some fish, and I have certainly experienced a few ‘red letter’ days on this peg."

A long hard think about ‘my favourite canal peg’ had me wondering whether to put pen to paper or not; the reason being that I have had so many favourite canal pegs over the years. Unfortunately, many of them are no more, having been lost to overhead power cables, new marinas or towpath linear moorings. 

The thought crossed my mind that I may even be jinxing my current favourite peg, perhaps sealing its fate and subjecting it to the graveyard of yet another popular piece of canal bank on the list of ‘places we used to be able to fish’!

I have decided to ignore pegs from the past, if you can no longer fish them. They are hardly relevant now. I eventually narrowed things down to a choice of three, a peg at Tring Station, one at Cooks Wharf and one on the Aylesbury Arm. It’s the latter that I’ve decided on; a certain peg on what we call ‘Buckland Short Pound’. Actually it’s not a pound at all but the short section of canal between Bridge No 8 and Lock 12. 

On a personal level there is nothing remarkable about this peg. I last visited the swim on 21 April where I caught up with Ray Ellis. He was fishing to one side of the swim and  informed me he already had a 4lb bream in the net. He reminded me that I had actually won a Club match from the peg and told him how I was catching, but only with 10 minutes to go before the final whistle! I’ve certainly never won an open match or indeed had regular huge catches from this peg. What I do have is utter and complete confidence that I’m going to catch some fish, and I have certainly experienced a few ‘red letter’ days on this peg with weights ranging from 10lbs to 30lbs which for a canal are fantastic weights.  

An appealing place to be

I find it’s an especially appealing place to be, particularly in the summertime. It’s in the middle of nowhere and remarkably peaceful. Even with the ARLA milk processing site behind you, the sounds and sights of the canal side wildlife just make it special.

Couple this with a nod or smile from an occasional friendly boater or walker and just for a brief moment there is a bond, a knowing unspoken agreement and appreciation by all of the splendid isolation this area affords.
  

"For a brief moment there is a bond, a knowing unspoken agreement and appreciation by all of the splendid isolation this area affords."

Pleasingly, it’s one of the few areas where the offside bank vegetation hasn’t been needlessly ripped out so it retains a far bank environment and haven for fish. Fish are an animal like any other when it comes to finding a place to live.  If the environment isn’t right, they feel threatened, so removing overhanging vegetation completely leaves them vulnerable thus forcing them to move until they find safer areas.

The towpath here is wide and even, thus making it comfortable for fishing with plenty of room for other towpath users to pass by. The trees enable you to ship your pole back, and upwards, away from walkers and cyclists, or if you prefer, parallel to the bank. The peg in question has overhanging tree branches and a weed bed to its right in the summer. I am reliably informed that some years ago a narrowboat accidentally steered into the far bank leaving a kind of bow shaped dent in both the far bank and the canal bed. This has led to this peg being something of a fish holding area. There are usually plenty of fish on the nearside, especially gudgeon, small roach and perch, with the odd half decent ‘stripey’ ever present. 

The better fish, unsurprisingly, are on the far bank, and you will need at least 13 metres, and more, to get right in there. Stout tackle, strong elastic, and a ‘who dares wins’ attitude are the order of the day with caster or small worm as hookbait.  There are decent roach up to a pound, bream or chub up to 5lbs, hard fighting perch, and carp into double figures. A steady hand and nerves of steel are required as catching any line or elastic on the branches is certain to end in lost line, tackle, or at worst, a broken pole section.   

Access and permits

Access here is easy and cars may be parked on the verge near to Bridge 8.  The controlling Club is The Tring Anglers with day tickets available on the bank. Bait and information can be obtained at Gosford Tackle and Pet shop in Tring High Street or at www.tringanglers.org.uk.