The 30th December 1997. For most people, just a day of no significance, but for me, it was a very important one in my fishing. It was very good for me in that it was the day I caught my first 4lb plus perch from the River Kennet in Berkshire, but at the same time it was also a bad day for me, as it also the day I caught my last 4lb plus perch, being that it is to date, my only 4lb perch.
Another annoying thing about that particular perch, was the fact that in those days, we didn't have digital cameras, so had no way of knowing what the photos looked like until we got the film developed, hence the only pictures I have are from a passerby who managed to take some very blurry photos with me looking like a tiny ant about three miles away in the distance, hence my ongoing quest to catch another perch of over that magical 4lb mark so I can get some decent images again.
I have also had to change my tactics since that last capture, as that fish was caught on a freelined signal crayfish, which whilst a fantastic method, it is now illegal to use them as bait, so I have had to find some totally new methods to adopt.
Thankfully for the modern perch angler, there are now a multitude of venues across the country that have some very big perch in them, in fact, I know of at least four different venues within half an hour of my front door that have fish weighing over 5lb, and probably another ten within the same distance that have them over 4lb, so hopefully that elusive second 4lber won’t be too long in the catching (he says with fingers and toes crossed).
So how does one approach these venues with the intention of catching a big perch. My bait of choice now, with the crayfish option being unfortunately no longer allowed, are the standard three that need no introduction, being worms, prawns or live baits (where allowed).
If using worms, these will just be bog standard lobworms, I know some anglers who like to use dendrobenas and brandlings, but I have no confidence in them, and just stick to good old lobs, with a whole one on the hook. This is tipped off with either a red maggot or a tiny sliver of red postie rubber band to keep them on the hook on barbless venues, and some chopped ones fed regularly around it. For both float and ledgering, I will use a size 8 or 10 Gardner Covert Wide Gape Talon Tip tied direct to either 3lb or 5lb Gardner Target Fluorocarbon, depending on how weedy the swim is. For my main line I prefer to use 6lb clear Hydro-Flo as this offers just the right trade off of abrasion resistance and finesse. I will also mix up small amounts of chopped worm, chopped maggot and molehill earth, this then having a nice glug of Carp Company Aminol added into it. When introduced to the swim in little golf ball sized balls, this creates a lovely dark smelly cloud which hangs in the water and pulls in fish from a distance, especially in clear water.
I am also using prawns more and more in my perch fishing and as such was going to be trying them exclusively on this session, as from talking to other anglers who have caught well from here, the prawn approach seemed to be the most successful. Whilst the use of these is nothing new, and there have been many great captures using them, for the first few times I used them, I had no joy at all apart from greedy chub stealing them on rivers. I have found though as I use them more and more, that by glugging them in Aminol, it greatly increases their attraction for perch. Not only does it darken them up nicely and give them a lovely smell of amino acids, it also toughens them up so they don't get destroyed by smaller fish.
For float fishing with worms or prawns, I will use a standard waggler set up. I fish a couple of inches over depth, but when using worms I prefer to fish with the hook an inch or two off bottom, so the bait wriggles enticingly for the fish to see. Whereas if I am ledgering, I will use a size 12 Covert Flexi-Ring swivel as a run ring, with a Target Mini Buffer Bead over a size 12 Target Kwik Lok swivel. I will then trap the hook link on this with one of the new Gardner Mini Anti-Tangle sleeves.
For both ledgered prawns and for live baiting, I will use 5lb Target Fluorocarbon and a Covert Talon Tip hook, size 8 for prawns and a 6 or 4 for live baits, unless of course there are pike present, in which case I would use a wire trace for live baits. That said, I generally don't find live baiting for perch as successful as the other two baits if there are pike in the water, so I normally stick to worms and prawns on those venues.
Due to time restraints this was only going to be a short hit and run session in the afternoon after a morning in the office, and as we only had a few hours to play with, we decided to go to a local venue about a mile away from us to maximise our time. When we arrived, there was only one other angler on the lake, typically though he was sat right in the swim I was hoping to get, so we had to opt for my second choice. Having caught perch from both of these swims though, I was still quietly confident despite the fact that all the conditions were against us, having had a few nights of high frost and bright sunlight.
This end of the lake though does see lots of general public feeding of the ducks and geese, something that I know from previous experience can be of benefit, as when they munch on all the bread, loads of tiny bread particles drop through the water, which attracts the silver fish, and this in turn then attracts the perch.
I set my first rod up on a light link leger, using a size 8 Covert Wide Gape Talon Tip hook attached to a short length of 5lb Target Fluorocarbon, with 3SSG running on a size 12 Flexi Ring swivel. On this, I added one of my stinky Aminol glugged king prawns and gently lobbed it under an overhanging bush to my right, then placed it on the alarm and attached a tiny lightweight Nano bobbin. I then threw in a small handful of chopped prawns over the top to attach any unsuspecting stripey marauders into the swim.
On the other rod, I set up a light 2AA waggler and after a quick plumb of the swim, soon had it ready to go. For the bait on this one, I attached a smaller section of glugged prawn onto a size 12 Covert Wide Gape Talon Tip. This was tied to a hook link of 3lb Target Fluorocarbon, the perfect combination for shy biting fish, which I was expecting them to be in these conditions. This too was cast under a nice overhanging bush, this time to the left of the swim, and similar to the other rod, I introduced a small amount of chopped prawns, though on this rod as I was using a smaller hook bait, I chopped the prawns into a much finer mush, wanted to only really get the smell into the water and leave only the one actual food morsel for them to home in on. Another trick I have used in the past, though unfortunately due to me not having my pole with me I couldn't on the day, is to fill a small pole cup with Carp Company Aminol and carefully pour it all around the float, this creates a lovely big smell cloud on venues where ground bait (and therefore my molehill trick) are not allowed.
After about 30 minutes of no action, I decided to have a recast of both rods, as takes are normally fairly quickly forthcoming on this lake. Despite recasting and tweaking the baits and rigs around a few times, it seemed that the fish just weren't feeding.
With dusk and that all important witching hour rapidly approaching, I was hoping that the reduction of light levels might switch the perch on and I would be able to nobble one and save the day, as up until that point, we had been sitting in bright sunlight, hardly the best perching conditions.
Rather annoyingly though, I was unable to get even a bite for the cameras, as I was hoping to catch a few and get some nice pics, though this does highlight the fact that whilst perch sizes and numbers are steadily growing throughout Great Britain, there are plenty of days when no matter how hard you fish, sometimes they just don't want to play ball. That said though, I have caught many perch in far worse conditions than I was fishing in for the feature, so maybe I am just getting rubbish in my old age!
Not that that has put me off though, in fact totally the opposite and it has made me even more determined to crack that magical 4lb mark, and hopefully I can finally say I have had a brace of them, albeit 15 years apart.
Another reason for wanting to catch a perch to beat my pb of 4lb 1oz, is to move up the office rankings, as whilst mine is a fantastic fish, there are four other anglers here at Gardner Tackle who have had bigger, with specimens of 4lb 2oz, 5lb 1oz, 5lb 4oz and 5lb 9oz to their names. Again all fantastic fish of a lifetime, but if lady luck is looking down on me, all fish I could beat with the venues available on the right day.