Author Mick Parkinson with a double figure bag of roach taken on seed in December.

WHAT makes the ultimate venue? How about free fishing for a start, a place where kids and grown ups can learn the sport and be guaranteed bites without paying for a day ticket. Welcome to the Town Welland.

The town stretch was once a shipping lane for the busy market town of Spalding and it was prone to flooding, which led to the building of the nearby Coronation Channel.

These days the Welland sees little in the way of boat activity, with quite shallow water and low bridges making it difficult for big vessels to navigate. Only the odd lure angler out on his small boat or pleasure boater on a small craft is seen now.

The free stretch is from Spalding Yacht Club through the town centre to where the Welland reaches the lock gates outside the Geest factory. Here the water becomes salty.

The big chub you once saw from the footbridge near the town centre have long gone. This venue is now noted for its roach fishing in winter… and for the predators that follow the roach into the stretch.

Early season
At the start of the season it’s a shallow, weedy, clear river that runs through the town. You might see the odd tench lolling around in among the weed but it’s a few perch and the odd small shoal of roach that’s enough to spark an interest with local children.

Around the entrance to Coronation Channel, early season catches of bream and tench can be had and, sometimes, some quite hefty bags too.

From the entrance to Coronation Channel up to the yacht club there is some great predator action all year round and particularly in winter. There are big pike, with plenty of high doubles to be had, plus zander to double figures and perch to over 3lb.

Look out too for kingfishers darting in and out of the bankside vegetation around Little London Bridge and also for some big carp that can sometimes be seen cruising the area. Big fish, some around 20lb, are present but need to be targeted by the patient angler because they are few and far between.

The venue really comes into its own from early winter when the first frosts hit and the water begins to hold colour.

Roach migrate in large numbers to the area, from the entrance to Coronation Channel right through to the lock gates near the Geest factory.

Part of the bank along the town stretch does need a good, steady platform or well-placed seatbox positioned on the ‘tricky’ rocks that line it in certain places. A few areas may also require you to use a secured rope to aid getting to the bottom of the bank or to help you make your way back up, although it’s not that bad in most areas.

Other parts have a flat bank, built for pedestrians and anglers to share. When fishing it has to be taken into consideration that others use the bank too. On market days it can be a pain to park, and care must be taken not to upset the residents as too many complaints from them could see the stretch ultimately taken away from the angler.

Stunning roach sport
Yet, with all these problems, anglers flock here in winter to enjoy the stunning roach sport, which is as good as anywhere in the country. When the river is right and carrying a tinge of colour nearly anyone can catch a netful of roach, the like of which they might never catch again in their lifetimes. Catches of over 30lb in five hours are taken regularly and in matches nearly everyone weighs in double figures when the river is in good condition.

Some years, the roach are of a very high average size and when there are 1lb fish about it may be possible to get a 60lb bag when pleasure fishing. That said, when the water is gin clear the roach shoal up more tightly and one angler can weigh in 25lb, while the angler next to him might struggle.

Small pike can be a nuisance in the clear water, and the short whip is a good method for getting your catch out and away from them more quickly, although this method does tend to pick out the smaller fish.

Going to seed
One of my favourite methods on the town stretch is to use hemp and tares. When roach are in front of you the seed certainly sorts out the bigger specimens.

Try fishing the bait halfway to three-quarters of the way across. I like to cup in a load of hemp at the start and feed regularly with a few grains.

Sometimes, it’s possible to catch fish straightaway with hemp on the hook… and there are not many places in the country where that happens.

Breadpunch is also successful bait that gets used a lot close in on the whip.

After a 26lb 13oz catch recently, Dave Vincent said that pike trouble is kept to a minimum by fishing the punch close in on clear-water days. In this way fish caught are taken from the water more quickly and are not teased in front of the noses of predators.

Match water
Fish spread out more when the water is carrying more ‘colour’ and this makes it an ideal match fishing venue.

In the depth of winter there can be at least 100 anglers fishing the big open matches on this water and it’s probably the fairest match water in the country when it’s on form. In many matches the average weight is well over 10lb.

There is also a charity pairs match held here every year just after Christmas that attracts some of the best roach anglers in the country, including Bob Nudd, Derek Willan, Neil Parkinson, Dave Vincent and Mark Pollard.

From a spectator’s viewpoint it’s perfect, and this has to be good for our sport. I wonder how many possible new recruits to the sport have watched these top anglers fishing here and been influenced enough to start fishing themselves.

That said, the venue is not booked for club matches. So, apart from the days of big opens, pleasure anglers have things their own way. The matches always sell out and an angler has to be quick to obtain a ticket. If you have Internet access, the place to find out about these matches first is on the ‘Coarse’ discussion board of the website: . I use this site all the time and I try to keep anglers up to date with upcoming matches and the river’s current form, so you don’t have to waste time on a trip to the venue if you’re thinking of visiting here from a long way away.

• Mick Parkinson

Fact File
River Welland, Spalding, Lincolnshire

Contact: Tidswell’s Tackle, Spalding on 01775 723640

Day tickets: None. It’s free fishing between Spalding Yacht Club and the lock gates close to the Geest factory on West Marsh Road


Matches: Big opens take place here and they usually sell out. Bourne Winter League runs during Christmas and some practice opens are held prior to league matches. Because it’s free fishing, pegs cannot be booked and the matches that do take place are pegged so that pleasure anglers also have a chance to fish. The venue cannot be booked for club matches

Facilities: Car parking on market days is difficult and care must be taken not to block any driveways, private parking spaces or vehicle loading areas. There is a large car park next to the tax office that charges a small fee to park for the day. Although there are public toilets, they are in the town centre and are well away from the banks. The advice is not to drink too much tea during the day, as people gather here frequently to feed the ducks!

Restrictions: This is a natural waterway and a close season is imposed

Nearby pub: There are loads along the riverbank, especially close to the town centre. The Old White Horse at high bridge in the town centre is recommended as it has bundles of character

How to get there: Take the turning off the A16 in Spalding and follow the signs to Spalding town centre. The tax office area and Castle Leisure Centre are good areas to head for. Many of the roads are one way, so if you’re not careful you could be driving right around the river to get back to where you want to fish