Hobnobbing with the angling royalty
This article begins with a visit to a commercial water. If you’re a regular reader of my Angling Journal then you may be surprised at that choice of venue, particularly if I tell you that it is a typical site consisting of three holes dug in the ground and stuffed with small carp. So what was I doing there? Targeting big perch is the answer. It’s hardly a secret that so many commercial waters now contain big perch, and it was those that took me to Willow Marsh fishery in Worcestershire. They say it’s not what you know, but who you know.
And being invited by Lawrence Breakspear, via Des Taylor, meant that we had the place to ourselves as it was closed to the general public. The only other angler on there was Andy Walker, who works for Des’ bait company – and I’ve already done a video featuring his successful carp session that you can watch on my YouTube channel. So back to the perch, which both Lawrence and I were targeting.
There are a number of reasons why they are growing big in commercial waters. They are not being targeted, as most anglers are fishing with pellets, corn etc which are all baits that perch generally don’t take. And like many other fish, they thrive on neglect. Secondly they are top of the predator chain (although don’t get thinking that carp aren’t averse to a spot of cannibalism!) and so there is no competition from pike, as these aren’t stocked by fishery owners. And finally they have a plentiful supply of food in the form of stunted small silver fish. Combine these factors and you have a healthy stock of big perch. Des himself had caught a few reasonable fish from there, which is where the lead came from in the first place.
Given special permission to catch some livebaits, this didn’t quite work out for us. Following Des’ instructions to the letter, we ended up with nothing more than bits of gravel as we scraped the margins. And even when the man himself turned up around lunchtime, he had to concede that the small fry weren’t playing ball. But not to be outdone, we resorted to plan b, which was to fish worm over maggots. Lawrence fished float, I went for a leger set up.
Caught right at the very end
We had a very slow day, with both of us blanking as far as perch were concerned and just one silver fish apiece. Mine (above, and netted by Des and photographed by Lawrence) came right at the very end as I was packing away, testament to the fact that it’s good to keep on going even when the going is tough. But we enjoyed ourselves, and that’s what really counts. The headline this week comes directly from a text I received from Steve Williams in the week. Maybe I should call this article ‘name dropping’! And Steve himself will be featuring in a future article and video, because as soon as the rivers look good we are off for a session in his boat! Anyway after all the hobnobbing of session one, my next visit saw me back to my usual solo visit to the local canal.
The cold weather of late meant that the average water temperatures this week were in the low 5’s. I managed to get amongst the fish though, catching perch, chub and roach but none of them what I would call ‘big’. But the biggest surprise, wasn’t that the fish were feeding but that a red campion was still in bloom. I thought that it had died, but just like Lazarus it had come back to life. However, my second trip to the canal saw it finally give up the ghost after still further bad weather. Although the leaves were still alive, the buds were mushy and ready to drop. I had become very attached to that particular plant, checking on it every time I fished that section. When you consider that they are normally dead and buried by the end of summer, it has done incredibly well to go on right up to the Christmas period.
A roach from the canal
I was due to finish the week off as I started – fishing with Lawrence. However, a sudden downturn in the weather saw us postpone the perch fishing trip we had arranged. But, like some crazed addict after his next fix, I couldn’t stay away from the species and so whilst Lol was eyeing up the pike, I had to get back on the canal after perch. I knew it was going to be an uphill struggle as soon as my digital thermometer started to hit free fall the moment the sensor made contact with the water. Settling at 4.7C, it was no surprise that my few hours in the afternoon resulted in a blank. Added to that the constant flow on the canal that had me forever retrieving my line to remove debris from around the hook, and it was a pretty dismal few hours really. But forever the optimist, right until my final winding in I was still hopeful of a fish.
With the weather forecasters predicting an even harsher time ahead, on the way back to the car I was thinking a change in species was on the cards. Not that I am a defeatist, far from it. I will still go fishing, even in the most adverse of conditions; but particularly in the harsh winter spells you have to be switched on and target the fish that are going to give you an increased chance of putting something on the bank. It’s no good having a crucian carp campaign at the moment. There’s dedication and there’s madness…
(click icon above for this week’s video)
(Originally posted December 2009)