THEY say you should never return to the scene of something special in your life, but in this instance a visit to the Staffs/Worcs canal did nothing but bring back very happy memories.

It was the Bratch lock in Wombourne that provided me with my very first fish over thirty years ago! And even now I can still remember the thrill that I got from that tiny gudgeon. If only that fish realised just what an impact it would have on my life, I’m sure it would be gob-smacked. Or should that be gobio smacked! Anyway, onto the venue itself…

Controlled by Wolverhampton AA, the Bratch is about halfway in a stretch of canal run by the club that goes from Swindon to Lower Penn. The Bratch is a very pleasant place, and being on the edge of Wombourne there is nearly always someone walking or cycling along the towpath.

Although for some anglers this may be considered a nuisance, nevertheless for others it provides a feeling of assurance that people are around.

The venue is not that far from the busy A449, so access is very good. Coming from that direction, there is a car park just before the canal bridge itself. But bear in mind that this is locked in the evenings, so take note of the times should you park there.

Other than that, parking is along the road, although your car will be in a residential area. That’s a plus these days, as anglers like to know that there will be something to go back to after a session. In addition it’s not what you would call a ‘bad’ area, so you can park up, walk to the canal and enjoy your fishing without worrying about your vehicle.

Right by the lock itself, the canal widens, as is often the case. This is the place where I caught my first fish. Although the area is now geared up for mooring barges, and there are ‘no fishing’ signs for the first few metres, this shouldn’t present any problems during the colder months. The mooring allocations are not long-term so on my visit for example, there weren’t any boats in sight. Plus a gentle cast and you can fish into the prohibited area should you wish to.

As in the days of my youth, the canal had a massive head of gudgeon. And when I say ‘massive’ I mean it. There must be literally hundreds of thousands of them all along the length of the waterway.

And the great news for the angler – particularly in winter when bites are hard to come by – is that they are always eager to wolf down a bait with a hook in it!

The Staffs/Worcs canal is one venue that I would guarantee (in as much as you can do in angling) that an angler would catch a fish, even in the middle of the winter.

The gudgeon can be picked up anywhere – inches away from the towpath, the far shelf or the boat channel down the middle. Nowadays the pole is a popular method of fishing, and nowhere more evident is this than on the canal in question. But don’t neglect the traditional rod and reel either, which incidentally is my style of fishing.

Although there are plenty of reed beds and overhanging trees along the Bratch length of the canal, you don’t need to fish too heavy. Certainly in the winter, then fine is the order of the day. I would suggest a 1lb 6oz hooklength with a size 20 hook, which will not deter the gudgeon, but if you do manage to hook something bigger, then you will at least have a chance of landing it.

Apart from the gudgeon, there are large numbers of roach present, and although we are not talking ‘monster’ sizes, nevertheless there is always a good chance of catching fish over the 1lb mark, definitely worth catching, particularly from a canal.

Whilst maggot is an excellent all-round bait (certainly for the gudgeon) I have found that switching to bread not only cuts down on the numbers of gudgeon that you catch, but also increases the average size of the roach. And that’s the beauty of angling, it can be whatever you want it to be.

On the Bratch you can have a net full of small fish or you can be selective and target something bigger.

And if it’s ‘big’ you want then bear in mind that this stretch of the canal has some nice carp present.

I can remember when they were stocked, back in the days when I used to cycle, as a boy, the four miles each way from nearby Sedgley to fish there. Now that they have grown on, then they are definitely worth targeting. The usual carp baits will all work, and if you really want to focus and eliminate other species as much as possible, then boilies are your best bet. But whatever takes your fancy, the Bratch is worth a visit.

Venue Fact File
The Bratch, Staffs/Worcs canal. Wombourne, Staffordshire

Controlling Club: Wolverhampton AA

Tickets: A year long (Jan–Dec) ticket is just £15 which is excellent value for money. Day tickets are available, contact Beddows’

Local tackle shop: G Beddow, Planks Lane, Wombourne. Telephone: 01902 – 896432

Facilities: None

Restrictions: None that we are aware of

Directions: At Wombourne island on the A449 (the intersection with the A463) turn into Billy Buns lane. This continues into Bratch Lane, which goes over the canal, so you know when you get there! The canal is about 1 mile from the A449