Clear Water Canal Observations in Winter

Robwooly

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Jun 8, 2020
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I've been spending the last few weeks down my local canal and it's amazing what can be observed this time of year, doing a mix of walking and fishing (details of the latter can be found in the blog section with extra waffle) Trying to be as stealthy as I can which is easier said than done I've spotted quite a few fish and feel I've learned more than I have in all the years fishing down there, weird eh? Maybe it's a post lockdown thing, it makes you look more, think more. who knows.

Canals offer ideal vantage points due to the endless towpath, not to mention the many road and footbridges plus lock gates too, another good place to spot fish is close in where the canal narrows near the bridges and locks. Also worth noting is how the light changes the visibility and it only takes an hour for a spot to be impossible for fish spotting, depending on the angle of the sun or indeed if it is cloudy, at other times it's like looking through an underwater camera if the light is right and you are in the right spot.

What I've picked up so far is...

How shallow the canal can be in places, despite seeing a lot of bottom in certain areas these are often fish holding areas, if there's cover nearby they don't mind shallow water.
Some areas are silty, some gravel and even the water colour can change in different parts of the same canal. Some silty parts look really silt deep and on the whole the fish seem to prefer cleaner areas this time of year.

The fish can be up in the water feeding dead shallow, which begs the question are we obsessed at times fishing dead depth or finding deeper water in winter?

Fish can be seen sunning themselves on the surface in February, like the above a few maggots gently pinged in usually sees a bit of action.

How active the fish are, many of the fish I watched could be seen moving about even on the coldest mornings. I observed a couple of carp the other year roaming around their tree under the ice, they were koi so I could see them through the ice and they sure were moving well and were very shallow, the other species seem just as active.

Looking at something lighter on the bottom for a few minutes can reveal a good holding spot but the fish seem to be drawn to objects that stick out, like old trolleys, chairs etc rather than flat things. Once again it is surprising how high in the water the fish go over these revealing objects.

Even seemingly featureless pounds can be peggy and moving 20 yards could put you on to fish

Keeping low when fishing keeps the fish in the area better and they can be quicker to spook off in the clear water, could this be why matches can be hard when everyone rocks up with loads of gear and they sit high up, poles over the water, keepnets in etc?

Stalking fish is a possibility if you can see them, whilst not really traditional canal angling could it catch more than staying in one spot?

How can I apply this to other waters like rivers and lakes? We'll small rivers are built for roaming and stalking and it pays to change depths and try anywhere so what about big deep rivers and lakes, could they be temperamental because the fish simply aren't in the area you are fishing? Have they moved to an area of cover perhaps near an island or a warmer thermocline in the water somewhere? If they are near the surface quite far out presenting a bait to them would be hard. We all fish shallow in summer but why not winter? Are they all glued to the bottom?

I could probably add more but it's been an eye opener so far, learning a stretch of canal like you would a river, it's been surprising to see so many fish at this time of year and great to learn from them, I'm not sure what my overall point is if indeed I have one other than to think outside the box I suppose. I seem to still have as many questions as answers but I thought I'd share and look forward to hearing your thoughts and observations on those clear winter waters wherever they are.
 

Zerkalo

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Interesting thoughts. The canal near me is lined with trees and it blocks out the sun near enough all day. I've noticed big shoals of fish basking in the few pegs that do get sun due to a meadow on the far bank rather than trees. Unfortunately this is a no fishing area.

My only real experience of fishing clear canals in Winter is in matches, and most of that was on the bottom with B&J. There weren't many silvers where we used to fish, only Gudgeon which are a known bottom hugger so that might have something to do with it.

Similarly I've never really fished up in the water in winter so don't really have much to say about thermoclines, especially on shallow venues, have always thought they're more prevalent on deeper more expansive waters and that the clarity of water is as big a factor for where the fish will be.
 

mickthechippy

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good post

a walk in the company of tuppence worth a day or so before a session on the military canal can be an eye opener, as to where the fish are, especially as you say this time of year when the water is far clearer
 

rudd

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Good observations, in the specimen world walking, obersvation and watching a water from water fowl habits, wind direction, climbing trees etc is much more productive than just plonking in a swim and leading about.
Spent many many hours reccing waters and watching fish behaviour.
I do wonder how we manage to catch at times after watching species in clear shallow water and reactions to baits and rigs.
Latest being tiny perch having a go at a tiny swivel that is in between braid and yellow fluro.
Tiny lure on end of fluro totally ignored?
This now has me thinking how many times do shot get hit and what do they look like.
 

Robwooly

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Jun 8, 2020
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Another observation or two from yesterdays short trip where the sun was out and the canal was the clearest yet,

Managed to get two nice chub first off fishing dead shallow, my waggler bulk shot was up to the hooklength, only by casting diagonally and staying out of view I reckon, biggest was well over 5lb - happy days!

Moved to another swim, the chub clocked me so didn't want to know. Loads of shoal fish about sunning themselves in all layers, most of which avoided my feed, hooked one small bleak and they disappeared but I was really skylining them there.

Another spot I get a call from dad so just sit there. I spot fish almost coming up to me close in, once again really shallow, I feed further out whilst chatting and when I do get fishing I get four quality roach fairly shallow, then it goes completely dead with nothing to be seen either, this coincided with me landing the last roach and the nearest barge spurting out some water and the guy going up top, 20 ft away. Not sure which did it but no more bites were had there and a tried all depths.

Took a walk back and spotted some good fish passing over something white really close to the bank another new spot found, I think if I spend too much time working out the 'whys' and 'hows' i'd go mad but finding the 'wheres' is really helping (y)
 
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