The only thing biting freely was the east wind (perch article, entry 394)

There is one topic that consistently finds its way into the conversation of people from the British Isles, and that’s the weather. Whether (no pun intended) it be a casual chat at the bus stop or a more deeper exchange between friends, sooner or later the climatic conditions get an airing (maybe one there though). Of course for us as anglers, the weather is more than just a conversation starter, it is a vital factor in the pursuit of the noble pastime that we engage in. And while we need to keep an eye on things all year round, it’s during the winter that we particularly need to be switched on to what’s happening. A degree or two in the summer is generally neither here nor there, but during the extreme conditions we’ve had as of late, it can mean the difference between catching and blanking. And I speak from personal experience.


Following my previous session where everything came together, my next trip saw me have a few hours on the local canal (pictured left). The water temperature was down, as the yo-yo weather descended after its recent rise. I fished a couple of leger rods carp-style off banksticks with hangers and bite alarms, all scaled down though. With 4lb line, Nash featherlite hangers with no lead, size 10 hook and a small bomb, although it may have looked like I was carp fishing, a closer inspection would have revealed otherwise. In certain swims with lots of overhanging vegetation I find the leger set-up allows me to put a bait right under the branches of the far bank tree. Of course this is where a pole comes into its own, but it’s not my style. Not that I’m against pole fishing of course, but it’s just not for me. I would never condemn it though, why should I? There are too many in the angling world who are quick to hand out verdicts, when in fact at the very most, an opinion is called for. Live and let live, that’s my motto.

This was my first session on the canal since November last year as they have more or less been frozen solid for two months. I didn’t like the look of it either, as it appeared so lifeless. You usually get small fish topping at the very least, but it was like a piscatorial graveyard. Not surprisingly, I blanked. I did have an enquiry mid-session though and a few roach plucks later on. But as for perch on the bank, they were nowhere to be seen. I don’t make new year resolutions, but what I do say to myself every January is that I will do as much fishing as I can – and that’s one promise I don’t struggle to keep. Even if it’s just a few hours, like this session, I will head for the local canal and fish.


My hook bait was a worm and this was fished over red maggots using brown crumb as the carrier. I used a combination of live and dead maggots. The dead ones sit there on the silt and the live ones add that extra movement, and of course will encourage fish to feed confidently as they become preoccupied with rooting out food that is trying to escape them. That’s the theory of course, and it does work most of the time. It was also the gist of my feeding plan on my next session, although I switched to a float rod as my line of attack. It was a case of leaving the canal alone and heading for the River Severn. The two nights of sharp overnight frost had produced a layer of ice anyway on them. It was a freezing day as you can see from my headgear in one of the photographs below. If you are going to winter fish then you need the proper gear. I was so padded that when a pike angler (equally covered up) spoke to me from across the water, it was only after a few exchanges that he said ‘It’s Stewart isn’t it?’. It was Des Taylor and we only recognised each other by voices as items of clothing enveloped us otherwise.


It was so slow, fishing from dawn onwards, that I decided to put a second leger rod out at 10.30am. As I tweeted, ‘It’s not like I’m desperate or anything’. The constant action of my previous session on the Severn was a distant memory as the fish played hard to get in the harsh conditions. The only thing that was biting freely was the wind from the east. But perseverance was the order of the day and I fished right through till dusk. I ended up with a few perch, no real monsters and not a netful like my last river session. But considering the conditions I was more than happy with the day.

Anyway, as an angler who fully appreciates the wider package, sometimes just being there is enough. As well as the perch I caught a ruffe and a small pike, pictured left. In fact Des was piking and at that point neither he nor his companions had anything. Des did catch a small one later though, so as I shouted across to him, that at least he wasn’t a blanker. He replied, well, he replied…..


Anyone who reads my Angling Journal even on a casual basis will no doubt be aware that the perch is my favourite species. In the course of an average recent year I do almost as many sessions for them as I do for all other species combined. But not so as we complete month one of 2011. In fact I have managed just three outings, and the reason for that has been because of the weather. I will make up for it later though, that’s a fact.


Before returning the fish at the end of the session I took a photograph of a few of them. Actually they were decent enough, but in my book even a tiny perch is a beautiful fish. I love big ones of course – I’m a specimen angler after all – but the small ones are everything that their bigger brothers are, just in miniature. By the time I packed away as my eyes could no longer see my yellow tipped float, it was really cold. My landing net had frozen solid along with the towel that I had wiped my hands on during the day. Yet if I could have stayed longer I would have done. The worst part of angling for me is definitely when it’s time to go home. Not that I have a problem with home but rather that I love my fishing. In fact I am very blessed to have a wife who understands just how much my angling means to me. She has never stood in the way of my fishing; maybe she’s just glad to get rid of me. Who knows? At least I can go and that’s all I need to know. (Article published January 31 2011)


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