If you’re in any way in to urban angling then the picture above will almost certainly be getting you hot under the collar. It isn’t often that an aerial image of Brentford stirs the synapses but the first time I noticed this place on Google maps I realised that I was going to have to go and check it out. The “River Brent” here is actually the Grand Union Canal and these side streams looked at first glance to be deflecting extra flow around a lock which means that at some point it has to drop very quickly.This quick drop in level will cause oxygenated water which makes for great fish habitat while there will certainly be man-made structure . My Perch senses were tingling.
An after-work effort seemed appropriate, the (now not-so) secret spot is only 40 minutes from my flat. Approaching the area from the wrong side of the canal all seemed exactly as I expected. The drop appeared to be a fairly significant one judging by the level of the lock in the distance as well as the sound of the falling water from the opposite bank. What wasn’t immediately obvious was how to access the area.
I skipped across the lock to the other bank to be greeted by a particularly unwelcoming looking iron and steel gate. The razor wire at the top didn’t exactly give an inviting and homely feel to the entrance. I had however just taken nearly an hour to get here and the prospect of a potential perch hotspot was too much to turn back from. A wiggle on the latch and a solid shoulder barge and I was through the “Lodge Gate” and on my way.
The Google map, whilst accurate with regards water and structure, didn’t give away just how dense the little area of woodland here actually is, and the initial path that initially seemed fairly well trodden and used suddenly became less accessible and far less welcoming…
Urban fishing had never felt so rural! This bizarre juxtaposition of aeroplanes soaring overhead, the M4 traffic roaring across the flyover against the thick, humid and isolated little woodland gave way to a sense that this is a place that is seldom visited by anybody at all – let alone a solitary perch angler. It was at this moment that the little after-work jaunt became increasingly unsettling.
Eventually the thicket gave way to an almost lunar area of wasteland directly below the M4. I immediately noticed the scorch marks on the barren ground which on closer inspection was littered with used needles and tin foil. An abandoned mattress lay damp and forlorn and all around was a menacing and unsettling atmosphere. The paths through the woodland clearly weren’t carved out by foolhardy fishermen…
For the first time ever I sent a message to a trustworthy friend letting them know exactly where I was, that I didn’t feel particularly comfortable being there and that I would be checking in with them every 20 minutes.
Beneath the M4 may not be the first place that springs to mind when considering new areas to fish but the side stream was everything I hoped for. The mixture of clean, clear and well oxygenated water as well as an abundance of hard structure was everything I had hoped for, and sure enough I immediately began catching fish.
A procession of smaller perch to around 12oz made for some exceptionally entertaining fishing. The excellent Fox Warrior Micro Shad was the downfall of most of the fish – earlier in the day the stickleback colour was effective whilst the Chartreuse colour worked as the light faded.
I fished until gone 10pm, spending nearly two hours catching a fish a cast and trying my hardest to enjoy it but in truth the atmosphere of the place had gotten the better of me. By the end of the evening I found myself hidden in a bush twenty yards downstream valuing each cast, each fish and each breath as if it could have been my last. The warm afternoon sun was hidden away for the night and below that contemptible concrete structure the air was cool and damp and thick. The unending dull drone of tyre on tarmac above my head diminished whilst the rustle of rodents running and rattling through the reeds nearby reminded me that even in the most isolated and fabricated parts of nature there are little eyes on you.
I decided at 10pm that the little perch I had been catching just weren’t worth the risk. With dark drawing in fast the possibility of undesirable night-time visitors grew and grew. I spent twenty minutes hopelessly lost in the little woodland without a torch or a clue which way in I took. A fiesty fox barked at me before skittling away in to the scrub, crows cackled from the treetops and the world of darkness dominated. The walk home was a long, cold and hungry experience but such matters are a trifle after a successful trip, which this undoubtedly had been.
Following a hunch seems to pay off regularly for me, whether it’s a hunch on what fly to tie on, which cast to make or which water to fish. As fisherman we can do little more than follow our instincts – even if it does lead you down a path you wouldn’t usually tread. Just stay safe!