Just use bread straight from the packet,medium or thick sliced. Feed a walnut of liquidised from your cupping kit and fish over it with your smallest punch. Increase the size of punch and hook if bites are quick.
Microwaving bread makes the bread doughy so it holds on the hook better and not at all necessary, start small and increase the size if you are catching regularly.
Be careful how much liquidised bread you feed, less is best and always bear in mind that bread is an instant bait, we used to try it for 30 minutes and if there was no action forget if for the match, straight away or not at all is the way to go.
Hemp needs to be trickled in a bit at a time at regular intervals but it can take an hour or longer before they start to take it. Try it at regular intervals until they come on - or not as the case may be.
Main attack in winter on canals is squats, the colder the weather the more vital they are, Pinkie on the hook can bring results too and don't think you only catch small fish with squat, all sizes of fish will readily take them. Caster for the roach is something all canal anglers should have at all times, just turn a few maggots yourself for the few days before you go unless you can persuade your tackle shop to supply in half pints or by the dozen if you are like Woody
You've had the best advice from Peter and Graham there Steph, the only other couple of things I'd add is:
Don't squeeze the liquidized bread too tightly (if at all) as the tighter you squeeze the longer it will float.
Keep what you don't use and freeze it, it gets better each time it's brought out.
Feed a couple of grains of hemp every 30 secs or so, don't try fishing it for at least an hour but keep it trickling in (pick some elderberries too if there's a bush near by and try it on the hook after the fish show on the hemp).
Definately food for thought there (excuse the pun)
Another quick one, if you don't mind.
Would you use a strung out shotting pattern or would you use a small bulk of shot and then two small dropper say in the last 18 inches.
The float i have for the near shelf has a very fine Bristle and only weighs 0.20g and has a wire stem and a thin body.
The float i have for the far shelf, has a thicker bristle (just so i can see it) weighs 0.30g and also has a wire stem but the body is slightly thicker.
Very basic,strung out if they are having it on the drop,bulk if they are on the deck. I would use the smaller float for the far shelf,if you cant see it paint the bristle white ,tippex, or black for white water.
I struggle to see the far bank, never mind the float hahahahaha
I do have some very slim body pole floats with a slightly thicker bristle, but they don't have a wire stem they have a carbon stem, will it make much difference to my overall presentation.
Perhaps i could use a caster style pole float and just fish casters on the far bank shelf.
Yes i do have glasses but i still struggle to see them really fine pole tips, perhaps binoculars taped to my eyes would be sufficient.
You are fishing the pole on the far shelf so float weight has no bearing.
If you want the best out of a canal you really need to feed 5 places regularly with dribbles of bait never try to put all your bait in at once it can have the opposite affect to what you think. In all feeding on a canal less is better, think little and often. Make sure you plumb each position accurately and mark the depths with tippex on your pole this enables you to vary your presentation i.e. half inch off the bottom, one inch overdepth etc. Hemp is usually best presented half inch off the bottom as a starting point but some days they want it laying on a couple of inches, experiment. Do the same with other baits and remember accuracy is even more vital on a canal than a lake or river, fishing can be hard in winter conditions on a canal. Places to concentrate your attack.
1. The near shelf.
2. The bottom of the near shelf
3. The track.
4. The bottom of the far shelf.
5. The far shelf.
Sometimes half way down the shelf can be productive but remember your feed may roll to the bottom of the shelf. Use any feature on the far bank as a good indicator of where to fish i.e. overhanging bushes, trees and best of all a boat.
Oh! and one thing I forgot, groundbait is almost an essential on a canal, with cloudy being the best, you want to attract fish not feed them but again little but not as often as your feed, marble size is adequate. Think of it as a cloud where the fish feel safe to swim rather than as a feed.