I think most anglers like the perch and it’s got to be my favourite of all the different species that we can fish for.
Perhaps it’s a reminder of those early days when out on the bank with your first rod, a single maggot on the hook, waiting for the float to bob up and down before slipping away and then bringing in a small roach, gudgeon, or minnow.
And every now and again something would pull that little bit harder, with a ‘jagging’ tug on the line you’d steer it into your net, and there would be a perch all proud and bristling. In my memory they were never more than a few ounces unless you landed one of half a pound, then that was a monster.
So here’s a round up of my perch fishing over the last few decades, and be warned it contains some very big fish!
Well over the years as my own angling has progressed, and I met with fishing pals Bob and Gary, I was soon targeting single species with them in what would be almost season long campaigns to catch decent sized specimens of our chosen quarry.
This has proved very successful with us landing big carp, pike, zander, bream, barbel, crucians, eels, grayling, and some that have even nudged the records including several years back when I came within an ounce of the silver bream record, and more recently Bob getting very close to the British chub record.
Going back to the start of the 80s when I was in my early twenties I’d been lucky enough to catch a 2lb 12oz perch (a reasonable size at the time) one afternoon on a very short session on the Lea Navigation near Dobb’s Weir.
I seem to remember heading home afterwards to shower and shave, then rushing off out to the local nightclub with my mates… those were the days!
But it probably wasn’t until about a dozen years ago that Bob, Gary and myself made a concerted effort to improve our perch PB’s.
Choosing a slow flowing section of the River Lea Navigation not that far from where we all lived, we started an autumn of discovery. Moving to new areas every session and then trying different spots within that area. At one point we were leapfrogging each other along the bank, giving it a couple of hours in each swim before moving down below the last man then trying again.
We covered every feature we could find such as bridges, above and below weirs, reed lined banks, anywhere that might hold big perch, and obviously we were catching them, but nothing of any real size.
It wasn’t until the beginning of October 2007 when we fished a section with plenty of overhanging trees and bushes that we finally found the fish.
During several trips that month I believe we all ended up catching 3lb+ perch. With fish of 3lb 2ozs, 3lb 5ozs, 3lb 6ozs, and 3lb 10ozs, being caught it showed there was a resident pod of good sized fish in that area. In fact one in particular, with a distinctive ‘chewed’ tail came out fairly regularly.
And as October came to an end Bob then surpassed us all by landing a 3lb 15oz 8drm perch from the same spot, what a clonker.
A year or two later around 2008 and our next 'campaign' saw us move about three quarters of a mile upstream. This stretch of the river was not as picturesque, as it ran alongside a housing estate and also had a fair amount of boat traffic.
But you got used to dipping the tips of your rods if a canal boat got to close, and fishing just off some of the moored boats proved quite successful as they were great holding spots for the perch.
Again with our first visits we were trying to find the fish and gradually two or three spots became favourites, as we started catching reasonable perch from them. Initially we had some big 2lb'ers, then the first 3's started to show.
On one occasion Gary and myself fished the spot and I ended up having a red letter day, landing a plump 3lb 7oz fish during the afternoon. We stayed until dusk to hopefully let Gary get some action but it was my rod that pulled round again and this time I brought a belting 3lb 14oz perch to the net, my new PB. Not a day I'll easily forget.
Moving on to 2010 and it’s Bob who again sets a new benchmark visiting a still water we’d all been fishing for pike. In the midst of a cold January with the lake half frozen over he decides to have a go for a perch, and boy what an inspired choice that turns out to be with him banking a whopping 4lb 2oz beauty! It was the first 4lb+ perch any of us had caught.
We fished the area with the boats for a few more seasons but finally it became almost unfishable due to the amount of water traffic in the area, they were being pushed up from the lower Lea around the Olympic Park in Stratford because of the upcoming 2012 games.
In the years between these campaigns other species became the priority, not that the perching was totally forgotten, with plenty of days out at local waters and venues like Blenheim Palace. Here you can enjoy a great days fishing aboard you own punt, rowing up to your chosen spot, then flicking out a bait. One outing with the Osprey Specimen Group produced a number of 3lb perch for the lads, with myself only managing a 2lb 12oz fish, on what must have been the wettest day ever... I would have been drier laying down fully clothed in a full bath!
In recent seasons we've tried another fairly local water, Rib Valley in Hertfordshire. This venue has a reasonable head of big perch and on separate occasions both Gary and myself have banked fish over 3lb.
The 2015 season saw Bob and myself return to wedge ourselves between the canal boats, even though it was really hit or miss whether we'd have a swim when we arrived. We caught a few perch but nothing special, and I got distracted by a few social events which left Bob to carry on alone. His perseverance paid off and he claimed a handful of good fish up to 3lb 10ozs.
This brings us to 2016, and last autumn. After some discussion we settled on Carthagena Weir Fishery, run by good friend and carp ace Jerry Hammond.
This wasn't a new venue either as we've fished here for a number of species over the years, but now the word was spreading about the quality of the perch coming out recently.
Bob and myself began our weekly sessions in September working our way around the different swims searching for the perch and also the best places to catch bait. At the beginning it seemed like we only caught when the other one wasn't there, Bob banking a cracking 3lb 9oz fish and a 2lb 10oz. Whereas I had only managed a 2lb'er so far.
As we moved into October, I’m back up there on my own.
Arriving early I catch a couple of baits and quickly set up my perch rod and flick one out. It’s not long before I have a drop back on my indicator, and my line goes slack. I slowly tighten up half expecting to feel something there, but nothing pulls back so I leave it.
Then ten minutes later the bite arrives, my alarm screams and the rod tip pulls round, I’m playing something heavy. As I reel in I see a pile of weed and twigs break the surface along with the stripey flank of a huge perch.
Plunging my landing net under the weed and the fish I scoop up the whole lot!
Onto the unhooking mat and I’ve soon removed all the muck and there lays a monster perch, it’s on the scales and it goes 4lb 4ozs.
I finally have my own 4lb+ fish and Bob’s the first to congratulate me and says it’s well deserved after all the hard work of the previous seasons. That’s true but then we’ve all put in a lot of time for these rewards.
And to prove a point Bob returns the following week and banks another huge perch of 4lb 6oz 8drm.
Initially through the early sessions we used live baits mounted on Dyson rigs, to keep them off the bottom and at set depths, and this has definitely accounted for most of our big fish including many of our recent captures. But along the way we've also tried worms, presented either on ledger set-ups, or float, or by stret-pegging. If any of you guys are interested I can always do a piece to cover the different set-ups.
So with two massive perch out in just over a week, I wonder what the Lea will give us later this year?