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Bright Lights, Big City

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Last Updated: 29th November 2016

“During the winter months I love to pioneer the small canals in Belgium,” starts Alain. “It’s exactly what we did last year in the city of Gent, and the result was some great cold-water carping and something a bit special.”

“The city of Gent in East Flanders, Belgium, is about an hour and a half from Calais,” says Wesley.  “We have a big canal network where three large canal systems are connected to each other. It runs through the city of Gent and quite a few carp have been caught in the city canals near the factories, not all big uns’, they are mostly doubles and low twenties, but one or two forties have been caught in that area. They’re mostly commons and well worth targeting in the winter.

“We start on the canals at the end of November when the fishing on most of the lakes is over for the winter, and fish them through until spring.”

“One day last October I was searching for some new spots for the coming winter,” continues Alain. I’d found out that there was a factory where they make paper right on the edge of Gent and next to the factory there was a warm water pipe coming out into the canal. Knowing that could be a holding area for the carp during the winter I gave it try. On the 3rd overnight session I landed 2 commons, the biggest being 20lb, both falling to a small pop up that I’d soaked in some Squid & Octopus liquid.

 “Let’s be honest, winter carping can be hard work. It might sound a good idea in the warmer months when sitting on the bank with some friends and making plans, but when the reality kicks in with the cold, muddy, dark, short days it’s easy for the gear to stay in the shed and to sit in front off the Tele watching movies.

“Not for me because winter is one of my favorite times of the year. Few other anglers around and no one who can see you on the new spots! What is important for winter carping is to make sure that you have a realistic chance of catching. A fish on the bank in winter is more important than chasing a new PB.

“Even though I’d caught from the factory area, I wanted to try a new part off the canal right in the middle of my home town of Gent. I hadn’t heard of anyone ever having tried to fish this particular area, so I give it a chance. I baited up for a few days before setting up for a quick overnighter on the concrete.

“During the first night I landed 4 carp, all small ones, but what a start! I put some bait in before leaving and was already looking forward to the next weekend, before bringing Wesley up to speed on the new area.

“Between us we started trickling a little bait in to the area of the canal Alain had located,” explains Wesley. “We’d spread less than half a kilo of Solar’s Candy Floss boilies around, three times a week and then fish the Friday night through to Saturday morning. Usually we’d have one or two fish on the bank each trip too!

“Along with the surrounding factories and building there were a few boats moored up, which the carp loved to hide beneath and we concentrated on these spots.”

“Our plan was working nicely and action was pretty consistent, which for winter carping is a feat in itself,” says Alain. “Arriving one Friday evening I set the rods up and dropped them along the margin while I got everything ready and soon enough, the left-hand rod screamed off. A nice common that was a little bigger than the ones I’d had previously. No sooner had that carp been returned than the right-hand rod screamed off, again resulting in a nice common… action on city-center canals can be that quick, even in December!”

“There are quite a few snags in the canal, shopping trollies, bicycles and the like, so we have to use quite heavy tackle, but nothing complicated and it’s good fishing, particularly if you’re happy to put a bit of effort in,” says Wesley. “Simple boilie tactics are all that’s needed and the great thing is, they’re all public waters. You just have to pick up a permit in the post office for about €10 and you’re on your way.

“It’s strange fishing, sat there with busses passing behind you, the Gent nightlife just over your shoulder. It’s great for a quick meal though as there are the take-aways and things on the street nearby… it’s certainly a different experience. You do get quite a few people walking about in the night, but we have never had any problems with the Friday-night Gent partygoers.

“We found it better to fish the nights only, because obviously the city becomes far more busy during the days, and that can be pain when fishing right in the center. The spot we chose though wasn’t far from a few good winter waters, which, thankfully, are known for fishing well during the days. So we’d sometimes fish the night on the canal and then head to a local lake for the day to make the most of our time.

“If you do your research there are canals all over Holland and Belgium in particular, and parts of the UK too. What we are seeing over here now though is that the water quality in the canals in getting better and better and that is helping the fishing to improve massively as well.

“Canal fishing is extremely exciting too. Not only is it great for winter action, but you never really know what you’re fishing for an surprises can happen. There is a big, known common that was caught miles away from Gent, and then a few months later caught in the city of Gent. It must have gone from a canal, into a river system, into another canal system and into the city of Gent to get here, so they certainly move around a lot which definitely makes it more interesting.”

“In the early part of the winter Alain fished the city center canal far more than me and did very well. He had 10 to 15 fish, the biggest being a 24lb common in the space of a just few trips. There aren’t many lakes that we know of that will produce that kind of action in mid winter when just fishing overnighters!”