Due to clashes in the domestic calendar and the unfortunate clash of dates for the UK Canal Pairs Final with the Home International on the River Severn in Shrewsbury, attendance at this Angling Trust & River & Canal Trust Canal Pairs qualifier held on the Forth & Clyde on Saturday 27th August 2016 was significantly down on what had been expected with only 7 pairs actually fishing on the day.

The match was moved to the Stables stretch of the Forth and Clyde Canal to the west of Kirkintilloch, following significant organized illegal netting of the planned stretch at Banknock to Castlecarey which has sadly decimated fish stocks.

Despite some goods nets from the match length during practice sessions in the weeks leading up to the qualifier, on the morning of the match the competitors arrived to find a completely flat calm canal without a ripple on it.  On a very warm and bright day everyone knew these condition were going to make the fishing very difficult.  This is also a very busy stretch of the canal and towpath and the beautiful day brought literally hundreds of cyclist, dog walkers and pedestrians out onto the towpath and regular boat trips up and down the match length.  At one point I counted 23 cyclists in a group go past in a mini peloton and almost as fast!

Main target species on the Forth & Clyde Canal are roach and perch and most competitors opted for an approach centered around either bread punch or chopped worm, or a combination of both.  For the first hour most anglers were able to string together a few bites on punched bread on the inside line but this soon died off along the entire length.  A switch to the 13mtr line at the bottom of the far shelf worked for some, but the boat trips soon started and after the first three boats came past one behind each other and then returned back through the length about 10 minutes later, the roach seemed unwilling to settle on this line and the punch fishing was virtually over.  Those who switched to chopped worm and pinkie managed to keep the odd perch coming and there were a few tiny roach to be had close to the far bank vegetation, still 5 foot deep on the Forth & Clyde Canal, but with so many cyclists and walkers out enjoying the sunshine it was almost impossible to fish this line effectively.

The successful anglers were those who manage to keep chopping and changing and working their lines to keep the odd fish coming. End pegs dominated as usual on the Forth and Clyde Canal and Scott McGhee made best use of his end peg in A Section getting joint 1st in section to add to his partner, Craig Hammond’s section 3rd from the second from end peg in B Section. This was enough to comfortably take them through to the final with 4 points.  In second place were Gus Brindle and Colin McKerrell with 6 points, bucking the trend from the middle of their respective sections, but unfortunately due to the final clashing with the Home International they will be unable to take their place.  The second qualifying pair were therefore Derek Brady, who’s joint 1st from the other end peg in A Section, was enough to see him and his partner, Mark Lyons, go through on weight in front of Darrin Fergusson and Colin Williamson in 4th.

In summary a difficult and frustrating match for many but despite this the results were very even on what again proved to be an extremely fair venue.  The SFCA would like to wish the qualifying pairs every success in the final.