Continuing on track with a personal best (perch article, entry 189)

After my turn-around in fortunes last week, I couldn’t wait to get back on the canal in pursuit of perch. Even when I was struggling for pike, I was still enjoying it, so imagine what it was like when I actually caught something decent for a change. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve the night before I was back out again.

I only had a couple of hours, so I again packed the spinning rod, and set off on the short journey to the ‘cut’ as it is known locally. One big advantage of spinning is that you have a minimal amount of gear to carry and you don’t have to bait a swim. All you need to do is tie a spinner on the end of your line, cast out and you are away. (A trace is needed if pike are present, of course)

I am a fan of Mepps Aglia spinners, and I’ve been using bronze number two. They weigh 4.5g and are ideal for canals. If you’ve never used a spinner before it’s a good idea to fish a venue that is clear until you get used to it. That way you can observe the lure as it moves through the water and experience variations as you use the rod and reel movements to make it work.

I’m fishing the Staffs/Worcs canal, which is a good all-round perch venue. The canal itself has massive shoals of gudgeon and with no pike present, perch find themselves at the head of the food chain. Concerning pike, in all the years I have fished the canal, I have never encountered one in the numerous stretches I have been on. The result is that the perch become bold – and big.

The fish were feeding well as I had a take almost straight away. It wasn’t a big fish but it’s always nice to get off the mark. However, the next perch was a good one. A good guide of what is a decent fish is whether the landing has to be used or not, and for this fish I definitely was not taking any chances.

In order to remain as flexible as possible, I attach the landing net to a bank stick, which I then slide through the straps on my Fox Royale Rover rucksack. It then frees my hands completely, all I have to transport is the rod, and when you are on the move, the less you have to worry about the better. The only downside is that a bank stick does not have the same reach as a conventional pole, so there is that little bit further for the fish to come before it is safely in the net.

However, you do have the comfort of knowing that the fish is attached to treble hooks rather than a single size 16, which could pull at any time. I find with spinning that you do get numerous lunges that don’t develop into anything else, but once a fish is on, then it is pretty much a safe bet that it won’t be lost, particularly if the hooks have penetrated well.

And I’m glad that the next fish proved that point, as I knew from the way it battled that it was a very good one. And as it broke the surface of the water and edged to the net, I was particularly relieved as the mesh enveloped it. I can remember once as a kid fishing a contest on the River Teme and after a lengthy fight, I lost a good barbel right at the net. It would have won me the contest hands-down.

And although I don’t match fish any longer (haven’t done so since I was a teenager) I always recall that fish whenever I find myself bringing something decent to the net. Weighing the fish, the digital read-out showed 2lb 8oz. Due to the fact that I have a) never had a serious and prolonged spell for perch and b) never targeted waters that are known big perch venues, it was a new personal best.

One of the problems I have is that I want to do everything as far as angling is concerned, and so species like perch have taken a back seat to the extent that I have hardly fished for them at all. But I do want to change that, and so whilst fish of that size are not particularly big to many anglers, to me and on the waters I fish, they are.

I added a few more small perch and a small chub, and left the canal to get back home for Columbo, which was on TV that evening. Yes, I am sad I know! I hardly ever watch any TV, but having SKY means that I do get to take in certain programmes, including of course, some fishing ones.

The next session on the canal saw the conditions looking really good. It was more like a May day than a February one. And guess what? I blanked. That’s fishing really though isn’t it? Yet rather than that becoming a source of frustration, it is that element of total unpredictability that makes angling so attractive. Imagine if we knew prior to venturing out, what we would catch, when we would catch it, and how big it would be. It would most definitely take the shine off everything.

Managing a third trip before the week was out, it was once more back to the canal with the spinning gear for a couple of hours. Well, I didn’t blank, so that was one positive to draw from the visit. It was just a small perch though, but that didn’t really matter, as the fish from earlier in the week had more than made up for the final couple of trips. And after the run-around that pike had given me during January and early February, it couldn’t have got any worse. So it was nice to continue on track, after last week’s decent fish, with a personal best.

 (Originally published February 2007)

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