The City of Wakefield in west Yorkshire is generally associated with the production of rhubarb and rugby, but for me it is the home of some brilliant urban canal fishing! As I have family based there we make regular trips from Edinburgh down to Yorkshire and while my kids are getting spoiled by granny and granddad I get to go fishing.

My most recent visit was back at the start of April and my first port of call when arriving in Yorkshire is to renew my yearly membership to Wakefield Angling club . The club has the fishing rights to many great waters but my main focus is the Calder and Hebble navigation canal.

I tend to fish a stretch at Horbury as it is the closest stretch to where we are based. Most of the sessions I do on this stretch are short , a couple of hours at a time and I tend to be using 2 rods . One geared up for pike  and the other with a drop-shot rig for the perch. Although my main focus is on perch and pike there are also good bream and chub in the canal and both can be persuaded to take a lure!.

On the first session it had been raining heavily overnight and when I arrived at the canal in the morning it was pretty murky. I was armed with my dropshotting gear, HTO 0.5-7g Rockfish T ( tube tip), PE0.6 braid, 8lb Fluro leader, size 4 sab polo wormer hook and 7 g drop-shot  weight. Also my heavier Lure gear, which was the Hart Boushido 7’3  7-28gm rod, 3000 size reel,  20lb braid and 20lb HTO Titanium trace.

As I hadn’t fished it for a year the first session is always a bit of a recce, so I wandered along a mile stretch of the canal. I was looking for structure and cover to target, tree roots, branches in the water, small inlets where streams come in. All these areas tend to hold fish But it wasn’t until I found an area where a stream ran into the canal creating a small sandbank that I started to catch.

This area has thrown up good fish in the past but it was very quiet when working a drop-shot rig through there.  When the water is cloudy like this I like to use Gulp! Sand worm as a scented bait can give you an edge in these conditions. The fish are used to finding large worms getting carried down the canal ,especially after rain. Even though it is a ragworm style lure the fish don’t mind, and the little legs along the side of the lure give off extra vibration.

I was surprised that there were no bites on this in a normally productive spot and sometimes the fish won’t feed as there is a predator about. With this in mind I decide to run a bigger lure through the swim. This was a  Westin Jatte Teeztail which is a hybrid lure, half crank bait half soft plastic. The lure comes with two interchangeable styles of tail. A paddle tail which gives an aggressive action and can randomly dart about when cranked. And a curl tail which gives a much subtler rolling action. As the water was cloudy I went for the noisier option of the paddle tail. The lure can work from 1-3 meters but a slowish retrieve had it working about 5 feet.  I cast diagonally across the canal and as the lure worked down the slope it was hit by a nice pike. I love pike takes and this one just slammed into the lure and put up a lively fight before I brought it to the net.


After lunch it stopped raining and the sun came out and I concentrated on the same area. With the pike moved out the swim the perch came on the feed and the sport really kicked off.   casting across the canal with the drop-shot rigged gulp and working it back down the slope was the best method. As the weight hit the gulley at the bottom of the slope the fish would suck in the lure. Most of the perch were over a pound and really put a bend in the ultra light lure rod.




The next day I had less time but still managed a couple of hours at the hotspot. By now the water was fairly clear and after a few fish less casts with the Gulp! Sandworm I swapped over to the perch magnet the HTO Midi stick in margarita colour. I like to work these with a twitch, twitch, pause style retrieve and within a couple of casts the perch were on them! These guys were smaller than yesterdays perch but still enormous fun on the HTO Rockfish Tube tip. After a while the fish went quiet again and I saw a dark torpedo like shape lurking in the shadows on the far bank. I quickly grabbed the Hart Boushido rod and clipped on a 15cm Hart Absolut shad in roach colour onto the trace. This shad is by far one of my most successful pike soft plastics , it looks so real in the water and the pike absolutely hammer it. This pike was no exception and as the lure got with in about 6 foot from the fish it accelerated to top speed and engulfed  the lure! Seeing the fish take the lure is a reward in itself but it put up a dogged fight as well! That was the last fish of the session .


Next  day  I was down for another short session, the water had clouded up a bit due to increased boat traffic. I decided to go with a lure with a bit more vibration and scent than the HTO Midi stick and went with the Hart M minnow. These wee lures have a great wee paddle tail they are very soft and heavily scented. They are also all luminous and all this combined makes it a great lure for the canal. Sure enough a stack of wee perch were attacking it and it was good fun catching numbers. I was busy playing with these wee perch when I saw a shoal of fry scattering on the surface. I quickly grabbed the Hart Pike set up and sent a Hart absolut shad over to where the fish were. I slowly hopped it back across the bottom of the canal, where it was grabbed by a fish. But it was no pike! Instead a real lump of a perch had grabbed the lure, however it just didn’t feel like it was hooked properly. I played the fish as it rolled around , the line pinging off its dorsal as it fought. Sure enough just as I was drawing it towards the waiting net it gave a slow roll and threw the hook. I was disappointed but there was not alot else  I could have done to land the fish. I carried on hopping the Hart Absolut shad and got hit by another big perch. This time the fish took at the end of the retrieve right under my feet I was so surprised I didn’t re act quick enough with the strike and it shook its head and spat the lure. That signalled the end of the session but I vowed to come back the next day to extract revenge!


Sure enough on the final day I only had an hour to spare, so it was straight back to the scene of the lost fish. I didn’t bother with the drop-shot rig and went straight to the Hart Absolut shad.  I concentrated on working the margins beneath my feet , hopping the lure across the bottom  against the wall I was standing on. Sure enough I was soon hit by a good sized stripey and this time I was ready for him! I made sure I set the hook and then played him on a loose drag while I readied the net. Being caught right under my feet the fight was over very quickly but I was very pleased to have finished the job and got my revenge!


Tight Lines



2 responses to “Wakefield – It’s not so grim up north!”

  1. Graham Wilson says:

    Hi Jake, Interesting article on Horbury Canal. I live just up the road and so fish it regularly. Im not too keen on the stocked waters we have, preferring the wild fish approach. I’ve caught some very decent perch here where the Marine entrance is opposite the “stream” (Waggler & Bomb)There is supposed to be large chub all along the canal but only ever seem to catch Chublets. This season I am starting to use lures ie. Dropshot and jig to see if I can improve the size of Perch and hopefully catch a decent chub or two. Pike turn up all the time, especially when you release fish as you catch them. You must look at your feet to make sure you dont drop a roach into the waiting jaws! Very under rated piece of water, though takes more reading than a commercial. This summer it is stacked with fish not withstanding the severe flooding the canal experienced around Christmas time. maybe you can give me some tips next time your down there. Im going to see how I do on the Isle of wight next week LRF when I see the Grandchildren. Good luck with the fishing

    • David Hall says:

      Hi Graham, glad you enjoyed the blog. I really like that canal and it is a great venue for lure fishing especially as it can throw up different species. Likewise I havent managed a chub from there yet but I will keep trying! For sure it would be good to meet up one time I am down. Sorry for the late reply, I hope the LRFing went well.

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