Turn your canal re­sults around – Mark Pol­lard

When it comes to canal fish­ing, you’ll strug­gle to find bet­ter sport than that pro­vided by boat turn­ing bays, says Mark Pol­lard

Improve Your Coarse Fishing (UK) - - Contents - Words & Pho­tog­ra­phy Tony Grig­or­jevs

WE’RE cur­rently in the throes of the closed sea­son, and with that thou­sands of an­glers come search­ing for ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties while the rivers are out of bounds. A large per­cent­age of these nat­u­ral wa­ter en­thu­si­asts wouldn’t even dream of be­com­ing com­mer­cial fish­ery reg­u­lars, and of­ten see canals as the ideal al­ter­na­tive to rivers. But if they have one crit­i­cism of their closed sea­son com­fort it is the lack of mystery. Visit a bub­bling weir pool on a river and it’s any­one’s guess what lies be­neath the tur­bu­lent sur­face. Hard-fight­ing bar­bel, gi­ant chub and even big shoals of bream are all a pos­si­bil­ity. It’s a very dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion on canals, though, and the long and of­ten bar­ren straights can be some­what pre­dictable. A fea­ture­less swim is likely to only hold sil­ver­fish with a few hun­gry preda­tors lurk­ing nearby, while an over­hang­ing bush or sub­merged tree is a banker for bonus fish such as carp, bream and tench. But there is an ex­cep­tion to this rule, and it comes in the form of boat turn­ing bays. A nar­row canal that is per­haps only 13m from bank to bank sud­denly springs open and can be more than five times wider than the rest of the venue, al­low­ing nar­row boats to ma­noeu­vre. These un­usual ar­eas are a mag­net for fish, and have the po­ten­tial to hold lit­er­ally ev­ery species present in the canal. Dy­na­mite Baits and Ma­trix-backed an­gler Mark Pol­lard made his name on the na­tion’s canals and ex­pe­ri­enced some of his finest-ever ses­sions on ‘the cut’ when pitch­ing up on the banks of a turn­ing bay. “You re­ally don’t know what you are go­ing to catch, and in the past I’ve caught every­thing from good nets of roach right the way through to big carp,” ex­plained Mark. “There is so much wa­ter to go at and each area of the swim can hold a dif­fer­ent species due to the vary­ing depths and level of cover.”

Bag­ging on a bud­get

As with most types of canal fish­ing, your bait bill isn’t go­ing to cost you an arm and a leg, and ‘Polly’ be­lieves that three or four dif­fer­ent baits are all that are re­quired to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity. “You need to pick baits that will give you a chance of catch­ing fish of all sizes and species. The first thing I use is bread­punch as a hook­bait, feed­ing Dy­na­mite Baits Pure White Crumb. “This is ideal for roach of all sizes and also picks up skim­mers. Pinkies are great for roach as well, and are a bet­ter op­tion if there are a few perch present in the swim. “Fi­nally, a pint of cast­ers is worth car­ry­ing just in case you are on a lot of bonus fish such as bream, tench and big perch and you want to avoid the small sil­vers. “You don’t need large quan­ti­ties of each bait and you’ll prob­a­bly spend around a ten­ner and have ev­ery op­tion cov­ered.”

Fond mem­o­ries

When I first got into a con­ver­sa­tion with Mark about just how pro­lific turn­ing bays can be it didn’t take him long to men­tion the Grand Union Canal with an air of gid­di­ness in his voice. “I re­mem­ber hav­ing some fan­tas­tic days at Fenny Strat­ford in Mil­ton Keynes – it used to be full of fish. How about we go down and see how good it is these days?” said Mark, as we dis­cussed the topic over the phone. Lo­cated close to a busy main road, it has all the hall­marks of a typ­i­cal ur­ban hotspot, with a modern hous­ing development be­hind it and an in­dus­trial estate on the far bank.

Day tick­ets are priced at £5 and are avail­able on the bank, with nearby hous­ing es­tates the place to park the car for the day. A date was swiftly pen­cilled in, and on a typ­i­cal spring day with a light breeze and warm­ing sun­shine peer­ing through the clouds, Mark set about show­ing that turn­ing bays have a knack of pro­duc­ing the un­ex­pected. Chuck­ing a feeder over to the far side could have been an op­tion, but Mark stuck to the pole, util­is­ing two lines. “I’m go­ing to fish around 13m out in about 4ft of wa­ter with bread, and I am also go­ing to fish down the edge to­wards a bridge which goes into a small ma­rina with pinkies,” he said. “I’d ex­pect to catch small fish and a few big­ger stamp bonus fish close in on this peg.” It was an ap­proach that had served him so well in yes­ter­year on the venue, but would the fish stocks that helped him fall in love with this canal sys­tem still linger in the area? Only time would tell...

The end re­sult

A tan­ger­ine-sized ball of Pure White Crumb was fed on the long line and a light rig shot­ted with a strung-out pat­tern was low­ered in. The float sat mo­tion­less for around 15 min­utes be­fore it even­tu­ally dipped and a small roach came to hand. The slight gri­mace that had been de­vel­op­ing on Mark’s face was quickly ex­changed for a re­lieved puff of the cheeks as the dreaded blank was averted. When one roach turns up there’s usu­ally a shed­load more to plun­der, but that the­ory proved to be off point in this case, with just a few more small sil­vers re­spond­ing in the first hour. A change of tac­tics was needed to stir a re­sponse and Mark started fir­ing pinkies in via a cat­a­pult down his edge and also on the long pole line. Shortly after mak­ing that move it was as if a switch had been flicked and the swim came alive, with the float dip­ping un­der on ev­ery drop-in. Roach from 1oz to 4oz came thick and fast, with chunky perch and qual­ity skim­mers get­ting in on the act from time to time to pro­duce the mixed bag turn­ing bays have a rep­u­ta­tion for. “It’s amaz­ing how a sim­ple change of hook­bait can trans­form things. The fish were there all along, they are just in the mood for a mov­ing bait to­day as op­posed to a static one,” Mark said. The swim was also clearly alive with preda­tors, as hun­gry zan­der made their pres­ence felt. Many times, a huge swirl saw hun­dreds of tiny fish break the sur­face in uni­son as they made a dash for free­dom. It was clear the swim was alive with fish, and after a dull start Mark bounced back in style to end up with more than 15lb in the net. “There was never any doubt in my mind at the be­gin­ning that the swim wouldn’t come good – hon­est!” he said. “But on a se­ri­ous note, there’s some­thing about turn­ing bays that draws fish in like there’s no to­mor­row. If you are look­ing to put the mystery back into your canal fish­ing, they should be your first port of call this month,” con­cluded Mark.

Bread­punch on the hook and white crumb feed pulls in the canal’s roach

Turn­ing bays hold ev­ery species you’d ex­pect to find in other ar­eas of the canal

Sur­pris­ingly big bonus fish can be caught right down the edge on the pole

Pinkies fired in over both pole lines got sport back on track after a quiet spell

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