Having lived in the Fens for the past 26 years, it has been a long time since I regularly fished on my favourite stretch of the Grand Union Canal around Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire on the well-known waters controlled by Luton Angling Club.
Angler's name: Rob Hewison
Current club, team or sponsor: Sensas Mark One
Age started fishing: ten
Favourite fish species: roach
Favourite fishing bait: bread punch
Greatest angling achievement: individual winner of the National Winter League Final 2007on the Nene in Peterborough
Angling ambition: to try to be seelcted to fish for England Veteran's team in three years when I am old enough
Angling hero: Ian Heaps, I fished with Ian in the late eighties in my then team Image Blackhorse, an ex world champion and brilliant angler
"Eventually I realised that favourite pegs are often dictated by an individual catch or a memorable win."
In the early years of my match fishing career I cut my teeth on this venue, fishing at least one match a week on the fishery from the age of about 13. I was fortunate to have been amongst some of the best anglers I have ever known at that time. Fishing with the old Image Blackhorse Squad with the likes of Mark Pollard in our ranks you couldn’t help but learn.
But along with weekend matches, we also used to pleasure fish on the canal. In some respects it is these pleasure sessions that have influenced what could be my favourite peg on the venue. Eventually I realised that favourite pegs are often dictated by an individual catch or a memorable win. This article is about my favourite canal peg or should I say area on the canal, the mudflats at Chelmscote Bridge, just south of the Three Locks Pub near Stoke Hammond in Buckinghamshire.
I consider this as my favourite area on the canal because it very rarely failed to produce good weights in matches and on pleasure sessions we often caught large weights of bream. It’s worth remembering that the long pole was barely making an impact on the canal back in the mid 1980’s, and our catches back then were almost all caught on the waggler.
Probably my best memory of the mudflats was a pleasure session early one Saturday, prior to packing up late morning to go on to fish an afternoon club match elsewhere on the canal. This particular morning I was fishing with my mate Nigel Bass. He used to drive me around before I had a car. On that particular morning, Nigel and I fished the last two pegs on the mudflats. We had a fabulous session catching bream on waggler and caster over groundbait. At one point I seem to remember we were both playing three pound bream at the same time, which I can assure you was a really rare occurrence in those days. I think in the end we both had between thirty and forty pounds of bream. It was a real struggle to get ourselves packed up to go and fish for gudgeon further down the canal in a club match.
The area was noted for bream when I was fishing it regularly. I returned there recently just to view the pegs, as it has been at least 25 years since I last visited them. Walking the 400 yards or so from the bridge at Chelmscote brought back happy memories of matches that I fished through the section right back to the age of 12, which I can assure you is a long time ago!
We used to call the area the mudflats because of the state of the towpath in that area, with a thick clay being piled up behind the metal piling on the bank. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the towpath has been concreted and that the mud has all but disappeared. You have to set your seatbox high up to fish properly as the metal piling is at least a foot above the towpath now. Fortunately modern seatboxes do help with this.
So what about the fishing in 2016? Well this year I know that a good friend of mine Dan Webb who fishes for my old team Blackhorse had a fabulous 31lb 5 oz’s winning weight of bream on the mudflats so they still live there or at least their grandchildren do. In fact the result of that match with 1st Dan Webb 31-05, 2nd Jim Gibbs 21-07, 3rd Simon Drew 19-08 showed that there are still plenty of bream in the area.
It still amazes me that these fish are still there. With the increase in boat traffic over the last 25 years the water must be in fabulous condition to support so many fish. Parts of the canal in this area resemble commercial fisheries as there are so many fish. This is made even more remarkable as Dan was catching these bream in little more than a foot of water across the canal. I do wonder how many bream live there in total. For a pleasure session, it would still be a great place to make an early morning start before the boat traffic really got going.
I actually drew at Chelmscote back towards the Three Locks in last year’s Drennan knockout so I did stand a chance of being drawn on my favourite pegs. Alas it wasn’t to be, but a lot of the framing weights that day came from my favourite pegs from the mudflats down to the hole in the wall, so nothing much changes!
My fishing these days doesn’t take in the Grand Union Canal circuit very often. Walking along the pound to get the photographs did make me think I ought to try and build the venue back into my fishing itinerary more often. I still have the memories of some fabulous days on the canal, not just on my favourite mudflats but also throughout the Luton Angling Club controlled waters, that are still producing some fabulous fishing. For locally based anglers, their season permit offers excellent value.