The Midlands are criss-crossed by a huge network of canals that stand testament to the Industrial Revolution which began and flourished in this area. Today, the canals are as popular as ever, although it is leisure craft that ply these waters, rather than the working craft they were originally designed for. Most of us probably have a canal within east reach and they can provide some interesting and productive fishing right on our doorstep. 

I tend to specialise in fishing these canals, and have refined my approach to fit the demands of these venues. Make no mistake, they can vary in size, layout, and type of fishing massively, but today I want to look at a tactic that will work on a large number of different venues, with only very minor adaptions. 

I am talking about fishing the long-line, across to any far bank features, and at the base of the far shelf. Here there is often cover for the fish; perhaps overhanging trees, weedbeds, or most likely moored boats. Even in the turbid waters of the canal, these are fish-holding features that need to be targeted. 

Truth be told, I will fish several different lines in a match situation, but fishing across is often the most consistent. Here you will find predominantly silverfish, the size and species depending upon the stretch, but with perch and perhaps bonus fish mixed in. My tactics are designed to give a soft-touch approach, hopefully keeping the bites coming for as long as possible. 

Fishing at around 14 metres with my Xitan Z16 L Advance pole puts on the edge of the far bank moored boats, with the option to push across a little further later on in search of a few more bites. The bank here is piled, so there is less of a distinct shelf, compared to other canals. I have set up a 4×10 float with a wire through body. It is a quite delicate pencil shape that allows me to spot delicate bites. The shotting is spread out no. 10’s with the bait fished on the deck in teh hope of picking up a better stamp of fish. 

Cenex Classic Mono is my choice for for rigs and hooklengths.

I use a strung-out shotting pattern.

A slim float with a wire stem shows delicate bites.

"Introduce a tiny pot of feed every put-in"

I am introducing a tiny pot of groundbait with a pinch of pinkies each put in. The roach prefer a dark-coloured groundbait so I am using the Champion’s Feeder Black Roach, which I mixed at home the day before. In fact, I will keep any leftover groundbait and freeze it, ready for future sessions. I’ve mixed the groundbait so that it is fairly dry, but will get down without breaking up too much. You don’t get through much bait using this frugal approach, the aim is to keep the fish interested without giving them too much to eat and feeding them off. 

Bonus fish are likely to be better roach, perhaps a perch or a bream, but the bulk of the fish will be small silvers. To extract as many of possible it pays to fish relatively light. A 0.07mm hooklength of Cenex Classic mono to a size 22 hook is the order of the day. My rig line is 0.10mm Cenex Classic, and I have a no.3 solid elastic through the top kit. 

It doesn’t take long to start getting bites, but the average size of the fish is quite small. Probably around 20-30 to the pound, but at least the bites are coming regularly. As it is a Saturday there is quite a lot of boat traffic about today, and that means the canal keeps pushing through for a few minutes as the locks are used. I find it pays to stop feeding whilst the canal is flowing hard, as any bait will not end up where I want it. Instead, wait for the pace to die-down and then feed when you can be sure that the bait is staying put. 

The other problem today are leaves on the water surface. It has been quite windy and, as it is autumn, the water surface is covered with them. It is a bit frustrating, but by lowering the rig in as vertically as possible I am able to find small gaps and keep fishing. 

By alternating between maggot and pinkie hookbaits I have kept the bites coming all morning and despite the fish being on the small side have put together a decent catch. Searching around the far bank brought a few extra fish after the main line dried up. In a match situation I would feed several lines and rotate them to keep the fish coming as long as possible, but today it has been interesting just to see how many fish I can catch on the one line. 

A really enjoyable day, with plenty of bites, which just goes to show the quality of fishing on our amazing canal network. Why not give it a try?

Tight lines! 

Mark Roberson

The average stamp of roach on this canal.

Champion’s Feeder Black Roach is my groundbait of choice.

Most of the Midlands canals are a comfortable width. Here I can fish at 14m easily with my Z16 L Advance pole.

Mark’s Tackle

Xitan Z16 L Advance Pole

Cenex 0.10mm Rig Line

Cenex 0.07mm hooklength

Size 22 fine wire hook

4×10 wire stem, pencil float


Mark’s Bait

Champion’s Feeder Black Roach Groundbait

Pint of maggots

Pint of pinkies

Pint of squatts


Introduce a tiny pot of groundbait and a few pinkies every put-in.