Saturday, 22 March 2014

Big river perch, in fact monster perch!

For the majority of the country's river anglers the winter just gone was incredibly frustrating, I kept telling myself that it was selfish to moan about not being able to fish while elsewhere in the country lives were being ruined by the incessant rain but deep down that didn't help, What compounded things was that my chub fishing had been going really well and I knew that I had located a group of fish that stood a good chance of giving me my target, but I just couldn't put a bait anywhere near them for week after week.

I mostly filled my time with short lure sessions with perch in mind and I mostly caught pike, lots of pike with a handful of small perch thrown in. To be honest I really started to enjoy the style of fishing and I'm sure that I'll be spending more time doing it in future. I bought a lovely little rod which opened my eyes to fishing light lures and I would strongly recommend that if you are making do with a standard spinning rod for this kind of fishing that you do the same as you don't realise the difference it makes until you try it. I've got the 3 to 12 gram rated Tronix Pro Rockfish which is only about £30 but it has a spliced in solid tip that makes all the difference, a brilliant value for money. I even used it for thrashing out some 15 gram spoons on the reservoir with no problems at all though at 7ft 6 I'll concede that it is never going to be a tool for the long casting that water can require.

soft rubber perch lures

Nories shad perch lure
Great fun
We spent the middle two weeks of January out in Goa, a blast of sunshine mid winter does you the world of good and it has become a regular thing for us to get away somewhere to break up the long drag that the spell between Xmas and spring often becomes. This year I was keener than ever to escape this more than soggy island of ours and though a week is normally enough for me before I'm itching to get home I was more than happy to book a fortnight on this occasion. As the days drifted by with not much to worry about other than what curry to order next I got chatting to a few blokes who fished from the beach each day. They offered me the use of their fishing kit but I declined, no thanks I said, a week on Monday I shall be sitting next to the river behind a pair of glowing isotopes. A few days later the owner of the shack that we spent most days at asked me if I fancied a trip out on his boat but I wasn't really that bothered to be honest.

We landed at Gatwick on the Sunday evening and within ten minutes of driving out of the airport I had the wipers on full speed and had to slow down due to torrential rain, that should have given me a clue that things hadn't improved much. The next morning I turned on my phone and went straight to the local EA river level sites. Oh my god, not only had it not improved it had bloody well got worse! A week later I was seriously kicking myself for not taking up those offers whilst away because I was fast running out of options. I had spent a few hours driving around canals and stillwaters that might have given me some interesting fishing but every one was either filthy brown in colour or flooded. Three weeks without wetting a line is a long time for me and it does me no good at all. I get tetchy and irritable without my fix and as the weather had pretty much written off work too I was worse than ever, stuck indoors and bored.

My ray of hope came a week into February when the Derwent showed some signs of being fishable but a recce showed that my chub swims were a non starter, the vegetation that I would normally be sitting amongst was still semi submerged. My other target of choice was perch and although the river was carrying extra water it was fairly clear, not as clear as I would like it but worth a go. If I could find a bit of slack water perhaps there was some hope. I was back the next day with a pint of maggots and a tub of lobworms, One thing the copious amount of rain does help with is getting hold of the worms and ten minutes digging had given me plenty and as a bonus my Dad got his garden turned over free of charge. Two rods were soon out in the lee of a suitably perchy looking tree, one fishing itself on the alarm and bobbin while I kept a closer eye on the tip rod, both were rigged with feeders. Three hours later I was fast losing all confidence, I kept glancing into the margin trying to estimate how far I could see and a little voice in my head was telling me that the answer was not far enough!

Two things that have a great bearing on your fishing are confidence and persistence, the first was draining fast but I was out fishing for the first time in ages and my stubborn side was bolstered by that fact, packing up early was not an option. Having said that the last thing that I expected was a bite so when the alarm beeped a couple of times I was jolted out of a daydream. Blimey, I was actually playing a fish, my first since New Years Eve! My new stripey friend was never going to hit the headlines but dear me was it welcome, had the tide finally turned?

river perch fishing
Small but very welcome
Well the thing with tides is yes they do turn, but then they flood back in again and guess what, the flaming rain returned with a vengeance, I could have cried. Any hope of getting on a river for anything but barbel was lost and I really had no urge to go barbelling whatsoever. I needed to get out and my thoughts turned to a commercial that I knew had the potential to throw up a big perch. Armed with a bag of prawns I set off on the half hour's drive which ended up taking the best part of an hour, I was off on the wrong foot before I even started to be honest. As I expected mid week and in less than delightful conditions I had the lake to myself and I knew pretty much where I needed to be having spent a considerable amount of time on the water in previous years.

The forecast said rain coming in mid morning but I'd come prepared with the Korum day shelter which gives a lot more cover than a traditional brolly, I fully intended to get tucked in and sit it out no matter what. Not long after settling down the wind started to pick up a bit, fair enough that was predicted and I had positioned the shelter just right to give me maximum wind break. Then a mate sent a message to say that he hoped I wasn't out in the weather he was experiencing over Birmingham way, no problem here I said, bit of a draught but perfectly alright. Over the next hour the wind really started to gather strength and the bobbins were bouncing about all over the place. Another message told me that it was now snowing to the west and coming down thick so it's fair to say that I did expect to be on the receiving end of some nasty stuff but like I say, I was all tucked up under the shelter.

Half an hour after the owner had been round to declare me mentally unstable before relieving me of my money it started to rain and the gusting wind was becoming a real pain with the alarms bleeping away merrily to the point of distraction. I was starting to wish that I had cut and run before getting collared for my cash but the very fact that I hadn't gave me a reason to hang on. No more than a minute after I had made that decision I noticed the rain start to turn to sleet and I popped out into the elements to quickly adjust one of my bobbins before it got worse. "Got worse" happened thirty seconds later. In an instant the wind did a complete about turn and drove everything that was falling from the sky straight into my temporary house. I made some kind of vain attempt to move things about but there was no chance, I was getting well and truly battered. I took one look at my ice encrusted chair and made the decision, I was out of there. The sleet had no given way to hoofing great snow flakes that came at me horizontally and my hands were stinging like hell, there was nothing for it but to bundle everything up as quickly as possible and throw it in the van still covered in muck and ice. With that job done I sat in the motor with the engine running for twenty minutes trying to get some feeling back in my fingers and seriously questioning my sanity. You don't have to be mad to be a compulsive angler but it certainly helps, or does it!

extreme fishing winter
What can you say to that?
My next outing was to a carp syndicate, still with perch in mind, I'd lay good money on the fact that a lobworm hadn't been cast into that place for years. Sharply plunging margins into deep water along one bank had to be worth a try but the bobbins hung motionless until it was time to go home. I was set up on a bank between two pits and the one at my rear was at one with the Trent. The margins that should have been a good fifty yards away were now lapping against the bund and I heard that one angler had nearly become stuck while attempting to access the far bank swims. I would have loved to have packed my bags and got back on that plane.

So where should I suffer next, oh I know, let's go to Chew! That isn't fair to be honest, I never go to Chew expecting to catch, I go hoping to catch and the blanks are all part of it. I had failed miserably in getting any tickets this year but my mate Carl kindly offered me temporary accommodation at the blunt end of his boat so we were off. The weather was looking iffy right up to use leaving and we still weren't sure if the wind would mean that the boats were cancelled as I drove down on the Sunday evening.  After a few pints, a bit of banter and from memory what looked like a pint of whisky, in the Stoke Inn that worry was forgotten and I stumbled off to my luxury mobile home for the night.

The wind didn't stop us getting afloat, in fact the first half of the day saw the water very calm and we covered some likely looking areas in peace as most other boats had chosen a different tactic. Early afternoon saw us head north and that coincided with the wind getting a bit frisky. We actually saw a fish caught no more than fifty yards from us though it was nearer bait sized than our intended quarry. Eventually we ended up in the lee of Denny island and here we saw a much more man sized pike come to another boat, encouraging but no cigar for us. Soon enough our time was up and we had to get back to the jetty, all was well until I passed the point of the island and the rollers started coming in at us side on. I haven't done a great deal of boat fishing and this was my first time on the motor, I was getting a tad concerned! After some tactical zig zagging we made it to dry land eventually and as we tied up one of the boat lads informed us that three 30lb plus fish had been out, figures like that never cease to amaze me it certainly is one incredible piece of water.

chew valley pike fishing
It was this big
Another evening of hospitality in the pub was in order with a good curry to line the stomach first, the whisky's didn't seem quite as big but when I got out of the van to go to the loo in the night I found one of my socks in a puddle so perhaps my estimations were wrong! We were quickly away from the jetty and headed straight up to the north shore where we had ended the previous day, we knew there were fish in the area and had decided to stay put there all day. Not long after we anchored up we saw a bank angler land a small pike which boosted the confidence a bit more and a few hours later Carl spotted one strike at the surface behind the boat, strange behaviour considering the conditions but again a sign that we were close.Close we may have been but as always the line between success and failure in this game can be a fine one and we made the long drive home without a memory card bulging with monster pike.

With not much more than a fortnight of the season left the rain finally abated and gave some hope of some river angling. That chub swim that I had my heart set on was still out of sorts and again I turned to the perch with my preference being to get back after those Trent monsters. With the van loaded up I headed north in hope though I knew deep down that I may have to change my plan on seeing the river. That prediction was proved to be correct as the river was still holding too much colour for my liking and so the Derwent it was. The extended wait for this opportunity had instilled an almost manic urgency in me and even setting up the tackle at the waters edge was done in a rush. Once that job was done I sat on the edge of my seat eyes glued to the quiver tip for three hours with such concentration that I could almost make it sweep around by will power alone. As you may have guessed it didn't budge even a fraction due to fishy interference. Perch wise this winter had been a non event for me. I lost a big fish on the Trent early on in November and spent something like nine sessions in that same swim subsequently without an indication. The sight of that big old stripey frame turning on the surface before it plunged back into the depths and slipped the hook was ingrained in my mind for weeks afterwards, if it wasn't a four pounder it was very close and it had been almost within my grasp. Fortunately losses like that are rare, lose them without catching sight and you can talk yourself out of it being something special but when they stick two fins up at you before doing the off it can be a painful experience. However if there is one thing that will catch you big fish it is perseverance and that is something that I have, I will be back.

A few days later I had the chance of a dusk session and as the Trent was still carrying it was to be the Derwent again. I had some jobs to clear up so I expected to leave home at about three pm but things didn't go to plan and it was well beyond three thirty when I finally set off. I was approaching the motorway roundabout near home when I saw the speed limit signs flashing up, not a good start. I kept in the right hand lane with the intention of doing a full lap to check the state of the traffic and was soon glad that I did as all three lanes were static. I went back the way I had come and suddenly found myself in a long queue, this wasn't going well at all. Once that was out of the way I took a few back roads that would bypass where I expected the next crunch point to be but this was not going to be a quick journey. Meandering down the country lanes it suddenly occurred to me that I was being very relaxed about all of this despite the fact that the clock was ticking and my fishing time was going to be short. More often than not I would be getting wound up by now but I've had that blanket of calmness descend on me before in similar situations and I had this strange feeling that all was well in the world and that there was no rush.

I eventually pulled the car park gates shut behind me and made my way along the bank to a spot dominated by a pair of willows overhanging the river with a slack between them which had produced fish for me before. I put my kit down and then picked it up again and walked back towards the van and then on upstream. This was getting to be a bit silly now and I was in danger of going to great lengths to find a good dollop of egg on my face at the end of the day but hey ho, in for a penny and all that. I settled down in what you could take to be a pretty tasty looking barbel swim. A snaggy nearside margin extending out maybe twenty feet with a steady flow pushing into the woodwork increasing to a quite pacey current on its outer reaches.

As usual my first job was to get the bait dropper out and in went six drops of maggots followed by three of chopped worm. I then sat down and tied up a simple feeder rig and by the time I had made my first cast it was getting on for five pm, it would be dark in not much more than an hours time. I leant back in my chair with the rod butt resting against my knee and gazed semi consciously at the tip very gently swaying as the flow pushed and pulled at the line. After maybe twenty minutes that rhythm was interrupted by a little pluck and my right hand automatically made sure that it was right above the reel fitting. A second or two later the tip violently jabbed round repeatedly giving me a chance that it would have been hard to miss. I struck hard to my right and at the same time stood up and took a pace in the same direction to get some distance between snag and fish. Whatever I was attached to just felt like a heavy weight and my first thought was bream, though it didn't look like bream water and I'd never seen one there before. It certainly wasn't a chub as it would have been pulling for that snag so what was it? I soon got my answer as the most enormous perch I had ever set eyes on rolled directly under my rod tip. I openly admit that I lost it a bit at that point and performed a less than text book piece of work with the landing net, thrusting it out and under the still splashing fish before envelopping it safely in the mesh. What lay before me was quite simply the most amazing fish that I have ever seen. Having held a 4lb 3oz perch twelve months previously this creature quite honestly made that one look small. The scales read 4lb 11oz and I would have never of believed that half a pound could have such an effect on the sheer bulk of a perch it was an honour just to look at it.

4lb river perch monster
Simply huge
With photo's taken I held her in the margins for a moment, still not quite believing what I was seeing, before she slipped off down the shelf out of sight. I had to have a sit down for five minutes to try and take in what had just happened and then I packed up. There was still plenty of light in the sky but there is no way on this earth that I could have had another cast at that moment, why would I want to?

Of course I was back for another go before much longer and it was pretty much a repeat performance. Never would I of imagined that I would look at a perch three ounces shy of 4lb's and think that it looked small but in comparison to the big girl it did. What an incredible bit of fishing and made all that much more special because of the hard times that preceded it. I've always said the longer you wait the better the reward when it comes and never had that rang so true as it did that week.

big river perch fishing
3lb 13oz


  1. Awesome Perch Rob, no wonder a couple of friends of mine are looking at a couple of tickets/clubs on the Derwent!

    1. I'd of been on the Trent by choice mate ;) But there's a big perch upsurge in general all over I reckon, never been a better time to bag a biggie

  2. Magnificent perch Rob. It's a privilege to catch fish of that stature.