Another almost universal species on man-made waters everywhere, bream are a timeless favourite of the canal angler. For the weekend visitor glued to a float or quiver tip, a bream is so often the best fish of the day to grace the landing net; for match anglers, their presence offers the chance to build a winning weight.
In some quarters these fish are currently rather taken for granted, even maligned. Bream are slimy and docile looking, admittedly. Nor do they fight especially hard, and in fact that bronze, lumbering frame and dozy eye only add to the impression that they live their entire lives in slow motion.
Populations of bream can vary immensely, from small pods of large fish to shoals numbering dozens. Smaller bream which have yet to turn fully bronze also proliferate on many waters and provide excellent sport. And while Britain’s canal networks rarely provide huge individual fish, double figure ‘slabs have been caught on several waterways such as the Lee Navigation and Exeter Canal.
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Lessons in Bream
My first infatuation with canal bream began on a wide lock pool. The sight of rolling backs on summer evenings had my brother and I transfixed. The first lesson was simple: you wouldn’t get a bite unless you were in the deep, central track of water. Either the fish were very savvy or our tackle was too crude at the time, because they gave only the most gentle of plucks on a quiver tip. canal fish types We caught so many eels trying for them that a switch to corn was made. It took us a long time to land one and I can still remember the disappointment after the first was hooked and lost, a huge-looking fish that wallowed at the surface before slipping free, agonisingly close to the net.
These wily monsters were probably several years older than my tender age at the time, and provided a tough schooling in the art of bream fishing on the Cut. Looking back on the episode, a few lessons emerge. Bream will sometimes graze over long distances on canals, but there are always key areas that seem to produce fish time and again. Shallows margins are a waste of time, but if you can find any wide, deep areas you will almost certainly find bream. Boatyards and turning bays are capital.
On fairly uniform stretches of water, your best bet is in the deepest water, either at the bottom of the slope each side, or slap bang in the central ‘track’. If in any doubt, take a walk on a mild evening in likely areas and you’re more than likely to see fish roll. Why they do this is a mystery, but along with bubbles or churned-up silt, those turning backs mean feeding fish.
This dark and ancient-looking specimen of over six pounds came right down the central boat track.
As dopey as bream look, they can be tricky feeders. This is especially true where fishing is popular, and they are no suckers for crude presentation. canal fishing rigs Because bream fight only moderately for their size, it is safe to use relatively fine tackle and with balanced tackle, low diameter hooklengths of 2-3lbs are generally adequate. Perhaps the bigger risk is that you’ll often find tench and other bonus fish in similar areas.