Blimey, it’s New Years Eve already and time to reflect on 2012. It’s been a good year. We relocated to Chepstow from London at the end of 2011 and our second son arrived at the beginning of 2012 – it’s certainly been a busy, exciting and rewarding 12 months.
Fishing-wise, it’s been great fun getting to know the river Wye. It’s a special place; powerful, wild and at times moody – far removed from the venue I grew up fishing, the sedate Suffolk Stour.
After a great couple of days fishing with my mate Rob at the end of July, when we managed over 20 barbel and a similar number of chub between us over the two days, results on the same stretch later in the summer and into autumn were far less spectacular. But I’ve enjoyed some great pike fishing and the Wye is a venue where I can realistically expect to beat my near decade-old personal best pike of 22lbs 14ozs.
I usually aim to break at least one personal best each season and on my first visit to a local club water I managed a new, best crucian of 2lbs 6ozs, a lovely fish. I also had my first conger eel of 7lbs from the Bristol Channel in the summer.
This year I’d love to get a three pound perch, ideally from a river and perhaps a sustained pike campaign could yield a new best. I’d also like to finally tempt a 20 pound carp, but such fish usually take quite a bit of work in locating and catching and I’m not sure I can justify a sustained campaign, but you never know…
I do miss having a small river close to home and the opportunity to simply spend a summer evening stalking chub at close quarters. Next year I plan to explore some of the less celebrated venues in my local area. I’ve walked by an overgrown canal that is only 15 or so minutes from my home and heard tales of big bream, feral carp and some serious chub. I’ve also come across a secluded and forgotten lake which holds nothing but stunted roach and rudd – at least that’s what I’d heard until I saw a blurry camera phone picture of a very nice perch from the lake that had obviously been feeding on those little silver fish.
I’d also like to have a proper go on the river Taff and the docks around Cardiff. It was on a sea fishing trip with Rob when the skipper of our little charter mentioned he’d been catching some perch from the system and not just little ones…
I actually managed a few hours’ perch fishing yesterday on a local commercial fishery. I’d planned to be on the water at dawn and to pick up some maggots and worms the day before and generally be super organised. Of course, I wasn’t. I didn’t start fishing until well after 11 and had to make do with a few king prawns that I’d dug out from the freezer as bait.
Perch and prawns. Until the mini-boom in commercial perch fishing, worms, maggots, lures or small fish were the baits for targeting Perca fluviatilis. Using what is essentially a sea deadbait would have been unthinkable, but on some waters the perch have really taken to eating these little crustaceans.
I’d only dabbled with using them once before on this water and on a warm and clear May morning I succeeded only in tempting a large eel before the inevitable carp moved in.
But today, with no alternative, I stuck it out with sections of king prawn fished on light running ledger rig finished with a size 8 Drennan specimen hook. It was too windy to float fish effectively and combined with the regular downpours, sitting under the brolly watching a ‘tip seemed the only sensible choice.
It took a while for the first bite to arrive but by steadily feeding tiny, walnut sized balls of sloppy groundbait into the swim the desired small, silver fish eventually arrived and just as I was tying a spare hooklength, the tip went round firmly. I struck late, but still found myself attached to what was obviously a nice perch. I didn’t get to see how nice though as I paid the price for the late strike and the barbless hook pulled.
Luckily it wasn’t too long until a second chance presented itself and this time, despite some nervous moments as the fish splashed about on the surface, after a short scrap I netted what was obviously a good perch.
As I lifted it from the water, I knew it was my target ‘two’. At 2lbs and 6ozs it was my second best ever perch and I was delighted. Commercial water perch aren’t nearly as attractive as their river cousins, but I still find them a fascinating, challenging and worthwhile target when the rivers are out of sorts.
I added a second good fish of 1.14 before a heavy and prolonged spell of rain killed things dead and I headed home well before darkness began to envelop the valley.
I’d only spent around three and a half hours fishing, but it had been an enjoyable end to my 2012 fishing year.
Tight lines in 2013 to all the great people I’ve conversed with both on and offline as a result of writing this blog!