Mirror, Mirror, on the wall
I think it’s true to say that generally, from a specimen angler’s perspective at least, the bigger the fish the more interest there is in pursuing it. Carp and pike have long had a dedicated hardcore following amongst fishermen, and in recent years the barbel has more than muscled in on the action. And I understand why all three are passionately pursued week after week by committed anglers. After all I target them myself. But where I would then split paths is that not only am I am all-rounder but I also get as much pleasure from catching specimen fish of the smaller species.
In fact, more than half of my 65 sessions this year have been after perch and almost fifty percent of the remainder have seen me out and about with the roach gear. And that’s what I was doing this week, fishing the local Staffs/Worcs Canal in search of hungry redfins! Whilst a barbel, carp or pike that weighed 2lb wouldn’t even increase the pulse by one rate per minute, a roach or perch of that size is definitely something to get the heart pumping faster. And on the venue in question they are certainly top quality specimens.
Arriving at the water’s edge on session one it was a pleasant, dry day. Showers had been predicted but nothing at all to worry about. And then suddenly and without any warning whatsoever, the heavens opened and the deluge of rain turned into a hailstorm as the sky above blackened. I did all I could to hold on to the umbrella as the wind picked up, threatening to claim its third victim in recent months. But I weathered the storm and eventually the thunder and lightning became less vocal and less visible as it moved on to torment some other poor souls and leave me in peace. No wonder we talk so much about the weather in the British Isles. In the space of a few minutes I experienced it all.
My chosen line of attack for the week was to fish a leger rod, and I used my recently purchased Fox Duo-lite with a 0.5 ounce glass top. I find that glass is more sensitive than carbon and so in stillwater conditions after roach would prefer it every time. My line was 2.5lb Maxima straight through to a size 14 Drennan Super Specialist hook. I used a tiny 1/8 ounce flat lead with a shot covered by a small bead creating a hooklength of about 10 – 12 inches. Bait was a single grain of sweetcorn – I find this separates the bigger fish from the pack and loose grains were thrown in by hand at regular intervals, dictated to by the amount of action I saw.
I caught a few nice roach
The fishing could hardly be described as fast and furious though, in fact session one saw me catch just the one roach. But it was a nice fish and any roach that you can actually pose with has to be worth catching. Session two was the same but again it was a nice enough roach that I was able to connect with. The conditions were great and with water temperature reading 16.8C and air temperature showing 23.9C at 7.00pm that tells just what a beautiful day it was weather-wise. I thought the fish would be fighting each other to get at my bait. But how wrong I was!
But as I headed to the canal for the third and final trip of the week, I was filled with optimism. I hadn’t been fishing for a few days, and whilst that is nothing for most anglers, for me it is enough to get me really fired up and ready to go. Air temperature was down slightly but the water was up to 19.7C. Even before I cast out though my day was made as I heard a raven calling. Making my way to a gap in the dense hedgerow behind me, I had a brief glimpse of as pair of birds in lazy soaring flight as they disappeared over a distant tree-lined ridge. Having to watch the quiver tip meant that I didn’t get too much time to focus on the natural world around me, but I did notice that since my last visit to the peg large numbers of white clover were now in bloom.
It was another slow evening, with just a couple of roach. But again they were all ones that needed the net so don’t think I am complaining because I’m not. I would sooner catch one 1lb roach than a hundred 2oz fish – unless I’m after bait for the freezer of course! It was so slow that once darkness drew near (which at this time of the year is 10.00pm) and it started to get chilly I contemplated packing away and going home. But as my tip just slightly moved and then stopped I thought that the chance to finish with a fish had finally gone. But then it moved again, very roach-like, I thought to myself. Striking into the fish though it was anything but a roach. In fact for the second time in a few weeks I found myself trying to stop a big carp on 2.5lb line!
It was just like playing a big barbel as it plodded very deep rather than going off like the proverbial express train. Fortunately I was able to apply just enough pressure to keep it away from the far bank overhanging trees. But when it decided to move horizontally along the canal there was nothing I could do except to go after it. After a fight that lasted a full 15 minutes I eventually managed to get it into my net 50 metres from where I had hooked it. It was a very fat and round fish and although I have never seen anyone fishing in that area before it had what looked very much like it had keepnet damage on its dorsal fin. I could be wrong but that’s what it looked like to me. And if that is correct it doesn’t surprise me because it must have been wedged into a net due to its size.
This week’s video (click icon above)
(Originally published June 2009)