DESPITE the essential restrictions imposed because of the foot and mouth disease outbreak most anglers are managing to get fishing.

It was difficult in the extreme last weekend due to the dramatic fall in temperature on Saturday. A return to milder weather should improve matters, but there can be no guarantee.

Spring, the period which was once a very formal closed season for coarse fishing, is notoriously unpredictable.

It really is very much a matter of good luck overriding good judgement in many instances.

Very much in the way you cannot win the lottery without buying a ticket, you have no chance of catching fish unless you give it a go. Wherever you go, you must be prepared to be disappointed though it is possible you will not be.

There were dry nets last weekend at one or two commercial fisheries, despite the quantity of fish in them. Places like Bradshaw Hall for example, produced some big weights on Saturday, but very little on Sunday when an astonishing weight of just 4lbs won a match marred by the frost.

Pool Three is the one to choose it seems, with pole and corn tactics outscoring maggot. Ring 01204 307197 for latest details.

Greenhalgh Lodge is open for business and has fished well. Maggot feeder is tops here for pleasure anglers and 30lbs of carp is the target to aim for. Pole anglers will score, using pellet, if conditions remain fairly calm.

Though much of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal is out of bounds, the Hyndburn and Blackburn Winter League took advantage of a relaxation of the ban in urban sections, to hold the fourth round.

Quality fish were very noticeable by their absence, with winner Andrew Shirtliffe (Rochdale GTI) finding some of the best available and they were only three ounces or so. Breadpunch, at eight and nine metres, was Andrew's choice for his peg behind the Graham & Brown works. He managed to put a decent 6-0-8 on the scales.

Organiser Dezzy Forrest worked much harder for his 5-12-0 with his fish averaging only an ounce each. His disappointment with runners-up spot was tempered by his team, Teams Hyndburn & Blackburn Black, topping the list.

That has cemented their position at the top of the league. They have taken over from Robins and it really looks to be a two-horse race for the championship.

You will recall that the Irish Government had banned ALL fishing in Ireland, for those of you with Irish trips planned. They announced last weekend that a relaxation of that would take place from March 23, when some angling would be allowed.

For now that is.

The first case of foot and mouth in Southern Ireland has been confirmed. It may have been close to the border, in County Louth, but I am sure the Government will react. You are strongly advised to check on the latest situation before travelling. Ring Paul Harris on 01788 833203 for the latest.

The advice to check before travelling to Ireland applies also to any trip you plan, even locally. The local tackle dealer should know, but best check with the club concerned. The 10 miles of Bridgewater Canal through Manchester is open and will remain so. There are some big tench, plenty of pike, decent roach and loads of bream. Catches have however, been very poor and I cannot recommend a visit.

If you want canal action I would consider the St Helens Waterway, at Warrington, where catches are much better. It is day ticket water, with tench the usual target as the weather warms up. For now anglers are satisfying themselves with double figures of skimmers, to breadpunch.

It is worth keeping your eyes peeled elsewhere for spawning bream. They are now gathering and will show themselves where reeds or weeds soften the urban landscape.

When you spot them keep it to yourself. You will catch them both before and after spawning, in quantity. Once you do word will soon get round, without your help. Meanwhile enjoy it, with any bait or method that suits you best -- they are not fussy at this time.