DESPITE the dramatic drop in temperatures last weekend, there were some decent catches from the canal locally, but none could compare with Darwen's Dave Connell who pulled off a match-winning haul at Church.

The canal has been frozen for much of this week but, however, you should be able to find somewhere to fish tomorrow and I see no reason why you will not catch.

The selection of peg, or stretch, is all-important. If last week's pattern is repeated the fish will certainly be shoaled tightly, and you will have to trust to luck (generally) to land on them.

Fortunately, unlike match anglers, most of you have the option of moving if your chosen peg is not producing. In this respect you should not hesitate to exercise that option.

The only match of note last weekend was a Hyndburn and Blackburn AA Open, which attracted 72 hardy souls to the Leeds and Liverpool canal at Church.

Connell is an excellent match angler under any circumstances. Nevertheless, I am sure he would be first to agree he drew a "plum" peg, right in the middle of the length between Blyth's and the Hare and Hounds.

Each of the top six weights came from this length, with roach to 12oz a feature. Dave had significantly more of them than the rest to finish a clear winner with a very impressive 9-15-8 (you don't get much closer to double figures than that). Nelson's John Fallows was just four pegs away and also put together a nice net of roach, for second spot, which totalled 7-14-8 at the scales. Mick Aldrew, Keighley, took 6-7-0 to edge out Todmorden's John Irving with 6-3-6. Hyndburn's own Dave Pickering was next with 5-3-10 and Pete Taylor (Shooting Stars) completed the frame with 4-9-0.

As I have been predicting, caster is the premier bait on the canal right now, for quality roach. It came as no surprise to me, therefore, that all these top weights featured "caster" fish, though bread punch accounted for smaller samples. Once quality fish are evident in your swim the use of caster is a must. Dave Connell collected £100 for knowing when to change.

I am not going to predict where decent nets of quality roach will be taken this weekend, even Mystic Meg would struggle.

Nevertheless, it is possible to improve our chances by using our common sense. Having taken account of recent match results, and considering the knowledge built up over the years, we should be able to exclude areas which have no history of fishing well at all at this time of year.

That limits our choice, and the list can then be reduced further by the weather conditions on the day.

Take with you only punched bread slices, liquidised bread, a little cooked hempseed and half a pint of nice casters.

The stretch at Church just mentioned may not be readily available tomorrow - but it may be worth a look. The town stretch (Blackburn) behind Tesco is definitely on my list and, though no recent history is available, the library length should be a decent "reserve." In Burnley the straight mile is one to eliminate (even though the odd decent weight is a possibility, recent form makes it too unpredictable). Barden Lane, along the straight (and on the corner) behind Barden Mill shop, has been producing. Wilkinson's length (Daneshouse) is worth a try and some sheltered pegs at Finsley Gate (Haworths/Weaver's Triangle) should be worth the effort.

The Hebden Bridge stretch of Rochdale Canal will not be considered at all (unless you fancy a day blank or with a single decent perch).

Yorkshire, however, does figure on the list, and high up as well, with the stretch at Siloden continuing to produce decent skimmer bream nets into double figures and quality roach (if you can't get a peg in or near the boatyard). I reckon Skipton town centre is always worth a try at this time of year, with bread punch tops here, though dog mess is always a put off. At least here there is excellent choice of fish and chips if the roach aren't playing.

I think the Ribble is probably the best bet, however, if you are that way inclined.

Though Preston Church Deeps, Tickled Trout, Samlesbury, Red Scar, Elston etc will produce some fish, even decent weights, I prefer to look a little higher up the river at this time of year. Very simple leger tactics, with breadflake on a size 6 or 8 hook to 4lbs bs line, should produce decent chub from swims at Dinkley, Ribchester, Hodder Foot and Clitheroe. In addition to a nice uncut white loaf for hook bait, take some pre soaked mashed bread to use to "entice" them.

Travel light and move from swim to swim (you won't find too many anglers on the water to prevent this). Take a fish, two at the most, from a swim and then move on. Having introduced a little feed during your stay, each unproductive swim should be earmarked for a return visit later. Even if you have caught from a swim, put in a little feed before you leave - you never know.

Remember, you have only until March 15 to have a go at the Ribble (with bread anyway), and you should take advantage whenever you can.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.