“Stainforth and Keadby Canal – Thorne individual league” by Alan Scotthorne

This league has been running for a few years now and attracts a field of good anglers all keen to enjoy brilliant Roach & Skimmer fishing and with weights in the past of 20lb it really is second to none. League organiser Mark Silman does great making this event run smoothly: it’s a job with little recognition and not easy, so we all owe him big thanks for his patience!

This year the fishing has been a little harder than normal and where in the past all the bigger weights have been taken at short range around six to seven meters with bloodworm tactics this year has been more long pole fishing, but still you needed to catch in excess of one hundred fish to have any chance at all.

The league is run on weight and I must admit that I am not a big fan of this but it still makes for a very close match with four pound separating the top six anglers overall so you can’t afford to make any mistakes with four matches counting from the five fished.

For me it’s been a campaign that started well with a win on the first match with 14lb 12oz but some difficult matches through the middle and then rounding off the league with another win with 10lb 14oz to make me third overall with a total weight of 38lb. Again the Barnsley team young guns putting in a superb display with Lee Kerry winning with 41lb and young James Dent second with 39lb, Lee is the man at the moment and really is putting some superb results together, he didn’t win a match but consistency is the name of the game on weight so well done Lee.

Rather than boring you with the finer details of all my matches I thought it would be nice to pick out six points that I think were very important to achieve a top three finish, so here goes:

  1. Groundbait or no Groundbait?

This was a major decision as every match was different with conditions changing from match to match. I made one mistake on match three when we had a big influx of coloured water from the River Don that had been pushed through the canal to help with flooding problems downstream of Doncaster. With the excess colour I went for an out and out Groundbait attack, but never really considered that the water temperature was very low with a big frost on the morning of the match. I never gave myself an option just feeding two lines very positively one short at six sections of my Drennan prototype pole and one at 14.50m. This was to be my drop result day as 2lb 13oz was way off the pace and a big lesson learnt: Always give yourself an alternative and feeding two lines long one with GB and one with Leam and soil would have given me chance to retrieve the situation. One tip when feeding groundbait via a cup in deep water is always add some extra weight to your Groundbait so that it travels directly to the bottom when leaving the cup. I achieve this by adding three pints of black soil to two kilos of GB thus making the formed ball much heavier, you would be amazed how far a ball can spin off with no weight added.

  1. Keep Rigs Simple

I still see anglers on the canal with rigs set up with strung out shots and shots all over the place, this makes no sense to me at all! The fed bait is on the bottom, so this is where I want to target catching the fish and when you need to catch 200 fish like on the first league match, you need to arrive there quickly to keep your catch rate up. With this in mind all my rigs are shotted the same way with a simple bulk and two drop shots below, the droppers being no10s on the smaller rigs and no9s on floats above 0.06gram. The spacing is identical on each rig with the bulk set 21centimeters above the hook length loop and the first dropper on top of the loop and the other dropper equally spaced between. The only thing that changes is the size of the float on any given day, I have set rigs from 0.02g up to 1gram all have been used but which is right on the day can only be formulated from how the fish are feeding or the conditions, wind speed flow etc.

  1. Short Float Bristles

All of my floats for bloodworm fishing on the canal support short bristles, I use both plastic bristles and fibre bristles but they are both cut down to about 15mm, this is simply because I want the float to settle really quickly so that bites can be spotted immediately. Often bites come on the drop and with longer bristles the fish can intercept the hook bait without you seeing the bite at all so you could be sat there with done bait without even knowing this.

  1. Elastic for Fast Fishing

This may surprise you that I fish with the equivalent of three sections of no4 elastic on the canal for Roach when fishing the long pole. On my new Drennan Pole this is just a top two as the number one is extra-long like a top two of most poles. This makes the elastic very soft but I findthat I can ship back very fast but because the fish are small with a 3ouncer being a big fish I can still swing most of the fish with no problems. With shorter elastic you cannot simply ship back as quickly as you pull fish off the hook but with the extra stretch you can up the pace which all counts on a fish race.

  1. Feeding in the Right Spot

This is so important on the canal and I spend a good amount of time plumbing up before I decide where to feed. This varies from peg to peg on the entire canal but I have a simple rule of thumb for every swim. On my short pole line I find the full depth of the canal and work back until I find 15cm out of the full depth and this is where I cup in my first lot of bait. I then work across the canal until I come 15cm out of the full depth on the far side swim for my next spot, this is normally right in front of my sitting position. I then move down to the right of the peg about 4 meters and try to find the same depth in this spot to feed my third line, this allows you to use the same rig on both spots on the long pole line. I rarely feed more than these three spots as I don’t believe I have enough bait to feed a fourth spot and do it right on the other three lines with the bait limitation. The only time I deviate from this line of attack is if the wind speed is too strong to fish the long pole line correctly and I may feed two short swims and one long to give myself a rest line short.

  1. Hook Lengths

I have become a big fan of Drennan Polemaster Fluoro carbon line and used this throughout the series of matches, swinging large numbers of fish in I can say that not once did I get broken despite using just 0.07 diameter hook lengths. It is almost invisible in water and I am convinced it brings more bites in clear water conditions so any advantage I like to employ. I have used slightly longer hook lengths than when we were fishing for bigger weights but still only 12 centimeters allowed me to spot the bites quickly.

Mark Sillman is running a six match pairs league this month, so let’s hope the fishing is still in great form.

Happy New Year!