You have to be in it to win it (perch article, entry 395)

Having missed so much perch fishing during the recent ice age, getting back on track the last couple of weeks has more than whetted my appetite, and it has given me a hunger that extends deep down in my soul. Well as we know, when we’re starving there’s only one thing to do and that’s to pig out. So with a couple of slots available to me this week I filled them with the pursuit of my favourite species. The first of my sessions was the shortest time-wise so I headed for the local Staffs/Worcs Canal. Like all other times I go fishing I had already worked out the finer details of the session, including the peg. However I very quickly had to re-think everything as a couple of overnight minus temperatures had resulted in an ice blanket on the canal.


Fortunately though there were still a few free spots around the locks where the overflow pipes had kept the advancing sheet of ice at bay. As they say, beggars can’t be choosers, so I settled down opposite a clump of far bank bushes. It was a swim I have passed many times before and thought it may be productive, so at least I was able to put my theory to the test. I would have preferred the conditions to be more positive though, as the water temperature was not ideal. But they also say you have to be in it to win it. I wonder who ‘they’ are by the way? I thought to myself as I cast out that it would be an achievement just to catch a fish and if that fish was a perch then I’d be happy, regardless of size. Although I’m a specimen angler, sometimes we just have to be realistic and any capture is job well done. And this was one of those days, particularly as the conditions deteriorated even further and short, sharp showers became the order of the day. The great thing though was that I managed to catch perch, two of which are pictured. The wet weather is also captured on a misty lens.

My tactics on the canal was to fish a worm on a size 10 hook over dead and live maggots. I fished off a bite alarm and banksticks with my Fox Duo Specialist 1lb test curve rods. Line was 4lb straight through and the short hooklength was created by a size 6 shot and a 5mm bead. Nash Featherlite hangers with no added lead completed the set-up. A simple approach but one that works very well for me on the canal. I used brown crumb as the carrier and mixed in some SBS predator mix (after all, what are perch if not predators?) with some ACE liquid lobworm added, also from SBS. And yes, my Angling Journal is sponsored by SBS but I wouldn’t use something just because of that. Bait is a key ingredient in the angler’s recipe for success and anything less than full confidence in what’s on our hook (or hair rig!) means we are always going to be second best.


My second angling trip of the week was a little further afield to the River Severn. Although a nice day had been forecasted, as I set up at first light there was still plenty of ice around. Basically if there wasn’t a flow it was frozen. Putting my thermometer in the water it was again well below what I really wanted. So I fished a little further out than I would have done otherwise. Float fishing in ten feet of water with a twelve foot rod was just about the limit of being able to fish comfortably. The bait approach was the same as on the canal – perch are perch wherever they live. I got amongst the fish from the beginning and although bites weren’t prolific, nevertheless I managed a steady trickle of perch throughout the day. I didn’t have any ‘monsters’ but perch like the one on the right certainly made it a worthwhile session. And taking the conditions into account it was actually quite a decent day really. As I just love perch anyway though, all fish are really appreciated and welcomed. It’s always great to catch your target fish and especially when they are your favourite species.

On the bird front I saw siskin (c twenty), goosander (three in flight) and a flock of eighteen pied wagtail while on the canal but the highlight came while on the Severn. Most of us as anglers have had experiences of robins taking maggots from our bait boxes, but what about a wren? They are usually quite wary of people and so when I caught a glimpse of a small brown creature moving between my feet I thought it was a cheeky mouse. Looking down however I saw a wren eating maggots that had fallen on the ground. Once it had finished them off it tried to get into my tub but that was too deep so I dropped a few in my worm box and it hopped in to help itself. I managed to capture it on camera as you can see from the accompanying photograph. It was not bothered in the slightest by my presence, which is certainly unusual for a wren. I was just happy to help it stock up through a difficult time. Birds need as much help as we can give them. I also saw two flocks of siskin, one of about forty birds, the other about sixty. But the wren was the star of the day.


In spite of the severe weather over the last few months there is lots of new plant growth beginning to come through. Wherever I am, not just out fishing, I am switched on to the natural world around. British wild flowers are a special interest of mine and it won’t be long now till the early ones start to bloom in numbers. Several of my regular canal haunts have lesser celandine and they will be adding some colour to the proceedings soon. It may be winter but spring isn’t that far away.

The fish on the right were part of the Severn catch and taken at the end of the day as I emptied my keep net. Like many of the perch I caught during the day, they weren’t massive but put up a great fight. I used the landing net a number of times so at least that’s something. It’s been dry more often that not over the last couple of months. February has been kind to me so far though, two angling sessions and no blanks. I’ll settle for that after the numerous fish-less trips I have had of late.

My plans over the next few weeks will be determined very much by the weather. If we get reasonable conditions then I will be continuing for perch. The next few days heavy rain is forecast so that will probably mean no river perching. It may even be a barbel window of opportunity. Then there are stillwater pike to pursue not to mention some big girls from the Severn I want to chase. Lots of options, so let’s see what ‘mother nature’ has to throw at us. You can’t dictate to her you have to let her have her own way and just go with the flow.

 (Originally published February 2011)

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