Will rates the GUC at West Drayton as one of the Uk’s fairest team venues.

WEST Drayton on the Grand Union Canal has been a regular winter league haunt of mine for several years, writes Will Rason, although it’s a venue that only usually features in my calendar between September and Christmas, when most of the matches are held.

After the turn of the year the circuit moves on to other venues. I like it because it’s an even and fair venue, perfect for team matches, and that’s why it has also hosted some winter league semi-finals. Obviously there are good and bad bits but generally it’s even because you are only really fishing for smaller roach and perch. There used to be a few bonus skimmers in previous years but they really don’t seem to be around in numbers anymore. The roach can run up to 8oz on the better pegs but it is quite rare to find yourself on good numbers of this stamp of redfin.

Most of the roach are in fact half-ounce fish up to 3oz while the perch are anything up to 4oz. There are some big bream up by West Drayton station but they rarely show in matches, particularly in the past season or two, and what makes this a good venue, in my opinion, is that basically each angler is fishing for the same species and sizes of fish. I would be looking for 3lb to 4lb for a section win from most areas with double figures required to frame. Among the better sections are the wides at Blue Anchor and, if the bream feed, the sheds near West Drayton railway station.

When it comes to success with roach on canals in winter, location is key. They are a migratory species and at certain times of the year they can be found in great numbers in some sections, while in others they can be thinner on the ground. After Christmas it is a locally known fact that the roach tend to migrate to the Slough Arm section of the cut, so it could be hard to catch the roach today. I have had a walk along the canal towpath, hoping to spot fish topping, but didn’t see any. This is a bad sign but I have decided to start off at the Ironbridge Road South section, just up from the cement works, which has been good in the past.

The basic approach to this canal involves a bloodworm and joker attack. In the warmer weather I would go for a more positive balling approach on one line with a neat-joker back-up line. However, when it’s colder and clearer, feeding raw joker on all lines is a better bet. Feeding raw can be more productive for a couple of reasons. One is that, in the clear water, the target fish prefer to feed over a bed of joker, plus the cloud from the groundbait could attract very small perch, of which there are loads in this canal. Raw joker is also ideal when you do not want to make a noise while introducing feed, as it goes in nice and quietly without a fuss. Obviously in the warmer weather of autumn and early winter, balling it and making a noise deliberately can be attractive to the fish. But when they’ve had a good few matches to put up with and it’s gone cold and clear, raw is often the way.

To feed raw joker you can either put it in the pole cup straight from the newspaper it came in, without having separated it. In this form you will note that its natural dampness holds it all together but when in the water they separate as they sink. If the canal is towing – and you need to check this before fishing with a baitless rig – I would add just a small amount of grey leam before feeding.

Grey leam has powerful binding properties and a little goes a long way, so just sprinkle a small amount onto the joker to be fed. I use Sensas Joker Fix, which comes in a canister, and find a couple of puffs enough. Roll it around and the Joker Fix will soon bind the joker into a ball that, when fed, will sink to the bottom before the joker separates. It helps you to be accurate and confident that your rig is right over the feed. As for the amount to feed, you can be quite positive at West Drayton, even when it’s hard, and I reckon a 200ml cupful on the longer line – that is at 12.5 metres today – to start with is okay.

It pays to have two lines on the go. In warmer weather, and when the water is coloured, I would feed right across into the shallower far-bank water. When it’s clearer, down towards the bottom of the far shelf is a better bet and a shorter line near the bottom of the near shelf too, say at about six metres, can produce a lot of fish. I’d feed less on the shorter line but look to feed it with smaller but regular helpings of joker after that if bites are forthcoming.

Float sizes are generally 0.2g to 0.4g and I like the Sensas Jean Francois pattern. The deepest bit of the cut is no more than five feet, so these are all you need. Shotting is usually three to four droppers, No12s on the shallower, lighter rigs, or No10s on the heavier, deeper rigs. Above the droppers sit bulk shot, which are either 10s for the lighter floats or 9s on the heavier ones. Line diameters are 0.10mm for the main line with 0.06mm traces. This is okay because due to the lack of big fish there really is no need to go any heavier. I use the Green Gamakatsu hook pattern in either size 20 or 22. It’s a pattern proven as superb for joker fishing when you must take care about hooking the bait. They are long shanked with a long, barbless point that can be passed through a joker without bursting it. If you do burst a joker take it off and start again. A pink No2 Kamasan elastic is ideal as the shock absorber for the expected stamp of fish.

A hard-earned winter catch for the England ace.

I set the rigs to start presenting the hook bait just off bottom then, if I catch, I’ll try nearer the bottom to see if it speeds things up by increasing the bite ratio. Working the rig is very important, lifting the hook bait regularly and letting the rig settle again. It really does attract bites, so don’t leave it still for long. If it catches you another 10 to 12 fish it helps and could be the difference between winning and being an also-ran.

I find this type of fishing interesting and catching 1lb to 2lb to win a tough section can be just as rewarding as catching 10lb to 12lb of roach in a good section. Joker is by far the best hook bait once the winter sets in, although bloodworm, or even squatts, play their part in warmer weather. Single or double joker will work but sometimes three or four on the hook is better and more visible. Perch, especially, like the multiples of hook bait.

To show just how important location is, after an hour at my first swim it was obvious it was going to be dire. So, I moved to the Blue Anchor stretch and sat on the very peg where I won my section during a Drennan Super League match with 13lb 8oz of roach in October. It was a very important match that day as it was the final round and we wanted to qualify. I caught across but a lot of my fish came at just four metres where I had balled it in. My balling mix comprised Sensas Damp Leam and Sensas Black Canal, although I fed the joker raw on the far line. There was a lot more colour that day although joker was still the best hook bait. I did actually have some fish on hemp but with joker I found that I was getting bites from the same stamp of fish but much quicker.

When that happens there really is no point in sitting it out with selective baits like hemp or casters. This area has been the scene of a number of memorable days and another one that sticks in my mind goes back to when I was 18. I drew the peg 50 yards away, nearer the bridge, and had 12lb including about 8lb of ruffe!

However, back to the present and how things change. Today I have fed both a far line and a short line with raw joker but this part of the canal is towing quite aggressively, so I have used grey leam to bind the joker. I fed 200ml on the far line and left it while I started on the inside, where I fed less. I started to catch small perch early on and kept them interested by flicking small pea-sized balls of grey-leamed joker onto the short line. When it tows it pays to let the rig go with the tow, working it over the baited area.

It was pretty obvious that the roach had already migrated, as it was only perch that were showing. Most were very small but the odd slightly better one appeared among them. The far line produced a similar stamp of fish, so it was easier to catch short. In a few hours I managed 59 perch, which would have been worth good points had I been in a match.

Venue Fact File
Grand Union Canal, West Drayton

Controlled by: LAA – Hayes Bridge to Uxbridge; Calpac – Hayes to West Drayton

Day ticket prices: £4 (2005)

Pegs: 200

Where situated: Hayes town to St Stephen’s Road at West Drayton

Hot pegs: High wall above Hayes Bridge, wides at the Blue Anchor pub, Hayes Town Bridge, bend above the yellow sheds, scrap yard, St Stephen’s Road. 

Pegging price: On application (reductions for affiliated clubs)

Club bookings: Calpac 0208 395 3939, LAA 020 8207477.

Bans: None

Match Fishing