It would be worth taking out a year's subscription to one of the magazines, as this will give you a steady diet of useful advice and give you a chance to put it into practice between issues. Improve your Coarse Fishing or some of the David Hall titles are good. As far as canals go, they tend to be fished a lot and the fish can be quite canny. You need to be looking at what the match anglers do. As a general rule, everything (tackle/line strengths, baiting, etc.) needs to be scaled down from the techniques you would use on lakes or stillwaters. A pole, if you don't already have one, is a good investment if you intend to fish canals regularly. Method of striking needs thought. It depends on flow, wind, line strength and species, among other things. For example, if you're fishing for soft-mouthed skimmers on the local cut with an 0.08 bottom, you need to lift into the fish or risk cracking off/pulling the hook out. On the other hand, you need to strike hard if you're trotting at distance on a river in a wind and have to pick up a large bow in the line. You need to read as much and widely as you can. Good luck.
A few things I've done, with varying degrees of success.
1) The general shape of a canal is sort of "U" shaped. Generally the best places to fish are the downside of the ledges. A bit of careful plumbing of the depths should sort out where they are (sometimes where you least expect them).
2) The farside away from the towpath generally produces better fish. It's usually quieter and has more plant life for cover. But I would start fishing close in first,whilst steadily feeding the far swim at the same time. If you think about it dragging hooked fish and tackle (if your on rod and reel) through the near side will spook the fish that are there. I remember being on the Bridgewater a couple of years ago and getting into a shoal of 12oz - 1lb roach six feet away from the bank.
3) Obviously look for features - but I guess you'll know that anyway.
4) If a boat goes through your swim its worth casting into its wake as the boat sometimes stirs up the bottom attracting fish.
Hope some of this helps. Best of luck.
Preston Innovations Zyrium at under ?200 got a lot of "Best inexpensive pole" reviews last year. Most of the big firms have reasonably priced poles, but do try them out for weight and balance before buying. It's worth paying a bit more for something which doesn't give you a hernia by the end of the day! If you can afford a pole, get one rather than a whip. You can use a flick tip in one of the spare top kits as a whip, anyway.
Louis, if the canal has a lot of boat traffic the fish will gradually move closer and closer to the far bank to get some respite from both boaters and anglers. Therefore, it's worth baiting a swim right across the far side, on the top of the far shelf, even if there's no more than 12 inches of water. However, don't fish this for at least a couple of hours or more in order to let the fish gain confidence. You'll be surprised at the size of some of the fish you can catch from this swim.