Arresting a few sergeants on the canal (perch article and video, entry 315)


Arresting a few sergeants on the canal

We recently had a power cut at home and although, like most areas in the UK, we get the occasional loss of electric from time to time, not since 1972 has the lack of power been so prolonged. Concerning the early 70’s, I’m talking about the miners’ strike and although it’s thirty seven years ago, I can recall very clearly sitting in the kitchen of our home with candles as the lights went out. In those days the cuts lasted for up to nine hours, but very recently we had a marathon session that saw us without electricity for a whopping seventeen. And talking about getting your priorities right, all I was thinking was that I hope the contents of my bait freezer were ok!

With hemp, dead maggots, pigeon conditioner seeds and packs of dead fish, I was concerned that I might have to start again, with the fish being my main concern. But my fears were unfounded and everything was fine. Oh, and the food in the family freezer was ok as well! Just thought I’d get that in to show that I am not totally obsessed with my angling! Actually, on a serious note, I would describe myself as extremely passionate about my fishing, but not obsessive. There is a massive difference between the two and whilst one is healthy, the other isn’t.

I love perch, they are great!


And with the freezer fish being fine, I was able to go ahead with a perch session on the Staffs/Worcs Canal that I had planned. There are numerous ways of fishing for perch and the one that I have been enjoying in my recent trips for the species has been deadbaiting. So I selected a few small gudgeon from the freezer, loaded the car and set off for an evening on the canal. As we are now in the school summer holiday period, the first thing I noticed as I walked the towpath was the increased boat traffic. And not only that, but later in the day than normal. I guess people are enthusiastic and so want to make the most of the day. Some of them made me smile though as I watched them make very hard work of navigating bends which an experienced boater would do with their eyes closed.

But eventually even the most determined of holiday makers needs to moor up for the night, and so after my first thirty minutes of disturbed angling, I had two full hours of quiet. Fishing off bank sticks with a bite alarm and hanger, my approach was to cast towards far bank overhanging vegetation. I had a gudgeon head section on one rod and a tail on the other, baiting up with dead maggots and brown crumb. The line was 4lb Maxima and I fished this straight through to a Drennan Super Specialist size 6 hook. The hooklength of about twelve inches was created by pinching a small shot and bead on the line. A small free running lead completed the set-up.

The biggest fish of the week

Although there are pike in the Staffs/Worcs Canal, they are (at the moment at least!) in pockets rather than being well spread throughout the waterway. In the section I fished I have never encountered them, which is why I wasn’t using a wire trace. The problem is though, that if you do use a wire trace then you can’t fish with 4lb line, so you have to step up your line strength. And then, who wants to fish for perch with 15lb line? Where the chances of connecting with a pike are very remote, I think it’s preferable to run the risk of a bite-off on the gear I fished with rather than a mainline breakage and the fish towing a wire trace around. So that’s why I fished the way I did, just in case eyebrows were raised!

I had a hectic period with a total of four runs in less than thirty minutes. I landed three of the fish, with two of them being what I would call good fish for the venue. Admiring the fish I thought to myself how beautiful big perch are. And with this stretch not being fished, they were also in perfect condition. I can confidently make the comment about the fishing because the vegetation had not been flattened and in the times I have been there, I’ve always had it to myself. This is what happens when you walk further than the first few pegs beyond the access point! It’s starting to get darker earlier now though and the long days of mid-June are behind us. So by 9.30pm I was packing away and heading back to the car.


Greater burdock flower heads


Given the choice I would sooner avoid very early starts, but if it’s a case of getting out of bed at 4.00am or not going fishing at all, then there’s no contest. So that’s the time I arose for the second and final visit of the week to the canal. It was actually a very pleasant morning and I did the whole session in shirt as the fleece jacket stayed in my bag. I had another hectic period at the beginning of the session, with the first fish coming before I had even cast out the second rod. This time though the fish weren’t that big. Although fish baits will generally sort out the better quality perch, there are no real guarantees and often the predator is not much bigger than the pursued. If ever the saying ‘You eyes are bigger than your stomach’ applied to a fish, then it must be the perch that fits the bill.

Since my last visit to this particular peg the flowers have changed as the season has moved on. The spring days of lesser celandine covering the meadow behind are but a distant memory, and although the butterbur leaves are still going strong, the flowers have long since died. But now other plants are taking over and dominating the water’s edge such as the numerous greater burdock that I came across. In a short time the green flower head will have developed to the stage where beautiful purple breaks through. White clover was everywhere, Himalayan balsam seems to be more numerous than ever before and of course the common nettle is now going full steam ahead.


(click icon above for this week’s video)


(Originally published August 2009)

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