Friday, 5 April 2013

Big river perch - the grand finale, kind of

After the cracking brace of stripeys shown in my last blog my end of season plans were set, I was just going to go hell for leather at the perch and see what happened. The nasty easterly wind was seemingly relentless and even when there was some sight of respite it came from the north, hardly worthy of digging the shorts and flip flops out for that's for sure. One saving grace was that the rain did hold off, mostly, and the river was more often than not fishable, which after the last twelve months was something to be grateful for at least.

During the penultimate week of the season I fished four sessions which again included one overnight stay in the van to fit in a dawn assault. Apart from finding what could quite possibly be the best chippy in Notts the week was a complete right off, it's a good job I'm so easily pleased isn't it!

So that left me with four days to play with up to March the 14th and I could fit in another three short sessions. One side effect of the lousy weather is that the gardening year is miles behind, in fact I'm writing this on April the 1st and we've just taken the dog for a walk and seen someone skiing, I kid you not! Fishing wise that meant that I had time to spare, unfortunately though fishing doesn't pay the bills but when opportunity knocks I'll not refuse.

Monday afternoon saw me setting up in a swim that I had fished last autumn but which had only produced one small perch to me in three previous attempts. When I arrived I had stood behind the swim contemplating whether or not I should give it a go and reflecting back on the winter's results. I had certainly had a perch season beyond anything I had imagined but it is easy to gloss over the journey and just pick out the destination. I have had a lot of blanks and done a lot of travelling for those fish not to mention putting up with what can only be described as an awful few months weather. The way I look at this perch fishing is that it is all about being on the fish, you are either on them or you aren't and from my experience it isn't always a case of dropping in a previously productive swim, I now think they move around a bit more than I had previously considered. If the conditions are right, meaning the water level and clarity are good, then I am pretty confident of getting a bite from any perch that lurks in front of me. Water temperature doesn't bother me too much other than sharp decreases and let's face it this year the water has been cold constantly, after all they catch perch through holes in the ice in Scandinavia don't they. As a rule I rate them as easy fish to catch, it's everything else that has to fall into place that causes the difficulties. So the question was were they in this swim today, only one way to find out.

Now I've fished in some cold conditions this winter but that afternoon took top spot in the brass monkey awards, the wind was absolutely evil and cut straight through several layers of clothing without trying. It's rare that I resort to a waterproof coat on top of my Snugpak jacket but it was essential in this case though once sat down I found that I did actually have an unexpected bit of shelter caused by a small hump behind me, which was nice. Being positioned between two near bank trees allowed me to fish a rod to each, the upstream one was set up on the bite alarm and bobbin while downstream I would concentrate on the quiver tip. As usual I got the bait dropper into action straight away and deposited a mixture of maggot and chopped lobworm and dendrobaena onto each spot.

With the upstream rod in position and fishing for itself I set about dropping the other rod into the same spot that I had fished previously only to find that the floods had dumped a snag there resulting in a lost rig straight away, not good. I tried casting a hookless rig slightly to one side and the other to check the extent of the problem but could still feel it clipping some structure so ended up fishing directly off the rod tip, not a complete disaster with a good ten feet of water under my feet.

The afternoon drifted by quickly, the sun was beaming down but slipped behind the tree I was fishing to well before dusk and so cast shade upon the area which made it look a whole lot more promising but that didn't do the trick. The light was fading fast when I had a single bleep on the bobbin rod, I took my eyes off the quiver tip but the bobbin hadn't budged at all. I then looked along the rod and noticed the tip was tapping so struck straight away and was into a fish. Why hadn't the bobbin moved? Because the rings had frozen up that's why. Unbelievable, in January ok sometimes I can accept that glycerine may be needed to keep the guide's ice free, this was supposedly spring!

After a brief scrap I bundled a chunky looking stripey into the net, fat as butter with spawn, the scales went to 3lb 6oz. I left it in the net in the margins for a minute or two while I set up the camera and then lifted it back out and into the weigh sling to carry up to the top of the bank for a few pictures. The change in temperature as I poked my head above that hump of bank was unbelievable, I'd go as far as to say physically shocking in fact! I put the tripod down and flicked the camera on, knelt down with the fish and was amazed to find that the weigh sling had actually started to freeze in my hands, I can assure that I wasted no time in getting those pictures done my hands felt like they were going to drop off.

Big river perch

That was my one and only bite of the session, on packing up I found that my landing net handle was frozen solid at ten feet long and it was touch and go as to if I would have to hide it in a bush until a later date. I can honestly say that I have seen enough cold weather now.

The next day saw me in another swim I had tried before, this one with more success. It was certainly a more pleasant day to be next to the water that's for sure. Once again I only had one bite and it was from a fish of 2lb 14oz, not to be sniffed at and this time last year it would have been a fish I was very pleased with but now the bar has been raised. My final attempt was on the Wednesday and was a complete blank, not a sign of a bite and in a way a bit of an anti climax but you can't book the productive days in advance and if you could who would go on the blank days eh?

And so that was my perch season over. I've had a great winter and have really enjoyed my fishing but I'm now ready for a change and that's the beauty of fishing for lots of different species, there's never time to get stuck in a rut and become bored.

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