The belly dominates the brain when fish are hungry (perch article and video, entry 414)

Click images above to enlarge

One of the great benefits of being an all-rounder, as I class myself, is that there is such variety to throw into the mix, with not only species but also venues. I fish for a range of fish and when you take into account the options from brooks to vast gravel pits, no wonder I keep such freshness in my approach. Not that I’m saying single-species anglers are wrong, or even people that only fish one venue; I’m a great believer in the ‘live-and-let-live’ philosophy. But on a personal level the constant variety most definitely keeps my enthusiasm bubbling away nicely.

In this week’s article I am concentrating on perch. Although I do tend to fish in ‘blocks’ anyway as I find that enables me to focus and concentrate better, if for example over a two-week period I alternated between say, barbel and carp, I would put them in as two distinct written pieces. It helps to keep things compartmentalised, which is good for the single species anglers who like to read articles on their chosen quarry. And I know this happens as anglers say to me things such as ‘I always read your barbel articles’ or whatever.

It certainly fits in with my style of angling, as I don’t multi-task well. You know the sort of thing, a float rod after roach and a pike rod out down the side. I fish better with one rod after one species rather than plural rods after a variety of fish. But what I do sometimes on particular venues is to split my time. I target, say, perch up till dark and then go for carp during the hours of darkness. This tactic is particularly helpful when you consider the cost of fuel these days. It is cost-effective to take this approach when possible. Although on the same venue, and indeed often the same peg, I can cope with that as when one door closes the other opens. Two ajar would confuse me!

The place is question is somewhere I fished last year for the first time and caught some nice perch, but also lost a really big one through a hook-pull. I intended to fish it right through the winter but of course like all other stillwaters, not to mention rivers, it was frozen solid. But it’s always been there on my ‘to-do’ list, hence I returned there on a sunny, windy and showery afternoon, where apart from one other angler, I had the whole place to myself. I fished one quiver tip rod, using a small cage feeder to get the live red maggots and brown crumb down to the bottom. In with the mix went some liquid lobworm.

It was into evening when I had my first indication of life, as the tip gently pulled round, indicating something had picked up the three red maggots on a size 14 Drennan Super Specialist hook. After the initial second or two not realising it had been trapped, the fish went crazy. I knew that it wasn’t a perch from the way it fought. In fact there are a few trout in the venue and I thought it must be one of those, so imagine my pleasant surprise when I finally caught sight of a nice looking tench. Although I was using 4lb line straight through, I have every confidence in Maxima, and it didn’t let me down. I eventually found myself landing the fish that you can see in photograph 1.

Although I didn’t have any more fish I did have several taps so I knew they were out there. It’s nice to fish a venue that doesn’t have millions of small roach that suck the maggots the moment they hit the water. Fish that you strike at but never hit – I’d make a lousy match angler. But one that I did connect with was anything but a tiny fish, in fact it was a monster perch. Does lightning strike twice? Well sadly, in this case yes, as I had another hook pull. Was I disappointed? Well of course. Defeated or discouraged though? No way! It just merely strengthened my resolve to get back on the water as I have the feeling, just like the magician pulling a rabbit from his hat, that if I put the time in I can produce something very special indeed from there.

The nature clips that are on the video from session one are of a rabbit feeding on the field behind me, and one of common frog tadpoles in the margins. As bits of crumb dropped in I noticed how they homed and you can see that in the video. As a keen naturalist I certainly enjoy capturing the wider world around me and including that in the videos.

I was really looking forward to getting back on the venue and after perch, and my wish was granted as I made my way from the car to the water’s edge on a sunny but windy day. As per my first session, there was just one other angler on there, so I was able to drop into my swim of choice. My tactic and approach were identical apart from using a bigger hook, as I moved up to a size 10 and threaded four maggots instead of three. I don’t have enough experience of the venue to state facts, but certainly from my observations so far, it looks like it’s an evening slot that is most productive for the perch.

However, although I didn’t catch any perch, I once more found myself playing – and landing – tench. You can see both fish in action on the accompanying video. On 4lb line they certainly gave me the runaround, but with no snags, and every confidence in my tackle and knot etc, I knew that other than a hook pull I would eventually run out the winner. After the commotion of the first fish as it ploughed up and down the swim, I thought that may have been the end of the fishing for the day. But where there’s food and hungry fish, the belly will always dominate the brain, and I had the second one on some time later. They are both pictured above in shots 2 and 3.

On the nature front I had swifts, swallows, house martins and sand martins over the lake together. I call it my ‘full house’ when that happens and it’s the first time this year I’ve had that. And talking of nature, check out my YouTube channel for a video featuring the common poppy, or to be precise, thousands of them. On one of my several trips to the Staffs/Worcs Canal that I made to conclude my time after perch, I stopped by to get some footage of the amazing sight. Of course, as with so many things in life, the camcorder doesn’t quite capture what you see when you’re there in the flesh. But it’s a good second best.

My fishing on the canal was done on a stretch where I have fished before. As you can see from the photograph above, it is quite green and overgrown and the far bank in particular has lots of overhanging vegetation, which is a magnet for fish, including perch. However, my first visit saw me struggling to get amongst any decent perch, landing just a few small ones. My set-up was quite simple. A small bomb free-running on the line, stopped by a size 6 shot and a 5mm bead. This created a ‘hook length’ of about 4 inches, ending in a size 10 Drennan Super Specialist hook. Bait was a worm and I fed brown crumb and maggots and to the water added liquid lobworm.

My second trip to the canal saw lots of roach plucks on the worm during the short evening session up to dark. However it was quite late in the day when I connected with my first fish. It definitely felt like a perch but within a few seconds I had a hook pull. This was followed by not only one but two breaks where I lost the hook. This is really unusual and something I put down to ‘just one of those days’. All three fish felt like good perch as well. I know there are some decent ones in there because I’ve had my fair share from the stretch. My plans changed somewhat, and hardly surprisingly, I shelved a carp session the next day to return. There’s nothing like a lost fish to draw you back, and when it’s three you’re talking about, well, there’s no contest.

I caught a number of perch and also a small bream. The perch weren’t big, as you can see one of them from photograph 5 at the top of the article. However, this is the local canal and everything is relative. A 1lb perch may not be headline news from many venues, but it’s a decent enough fish for the Staffs/Worcs, with a 2lb’er being a specimen. I really enjoyed myself on the canal. Even though I’ve been fishing all over the place this year – and for a variety of species – I always have a soft spot for canal perch. Plus with the cost of fuel, you really do need a local venue to head for when you get out as much as I do. This week sees me clock up 76 sessions this year. It sounds a lot – and of course it is – but many of them are short outings timed to peak fish-feeding times. It’s better to do 3 hours at the right time than sit there all day when you haven’t got much chance. (Published June 2011)

 

Check out the accompanying video here:

 

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