I’m in a busy London Wetherspoons, having decided on a quick pint before heading home.
There’s an old guy in front of me, clearly struggling with the concept of a drink coming ‘free’ with his meal, let alone the table numbers and cold Guinness. I help him out and he’s soon enjoying his pre-meal pint of almost-room-temperature beer. He thanks me and says: “You’re patient – I wouldn’t have been that patient when I was your age. I would’ve been mouthing off after a minute.” I tell him I’m a fisherman. “Well that explains it son, you’re a bloody garden gnome!” He shuffles off, laughing quietly to himself.
The funny thing is that I’m not really a patient fisherman at all. I rarely fish for more than a few hours at a time and I tend to move around looking for chances rather than sitting and waiting for them to come to me. I really can’t sit still for too long. I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing, though. There are plenty of times when I think chopping, changing and moving have cost me. But on balance, I think fishing in this way does result in the odd extra fish.
At the beginning of February I had to go and collect an Ebay purchase (a TV cabinet, in case you’re wondering). Fortunately the pick-up location was right by a productive stretch of the Wye, giving me enough time for three or so hours by the river. It was cold and the river was low and clear, but it was nice and overcast after a few days of bright sunshine.
By the time I’d settled into a great looking spot – a nice, deep slack with a big, perchy snag to my left – there were only a couple of hours of daylight left. I started flicking a few maggots upstream of the snag and had a cup of coffee. I positioned a nice, big lobworm close-in. I sat and thought about what fish may be lurking in the area – perch were my target, but it looked to be great chub territory too and an ideal spot for a giant pike to lurk. Then my thoughts turned to the football games that had just kicked off and Ipswich’s slump since a glorious December. Then, all of 30 minutes since I’d started fishing, I decided to move. I was feeling restless.
I tried a second spot. I drank another cup of coffee. I recast. I felt impatient.
I can’t deny by that point I was already thinking about maybe grabbing a bite to eat somewhere warm before collecting my cabinet. There were no other anglers around. Why not? Did they know something I didn’t? It was cold. It was February. “What are you doing out in this, Hennessy?” I thought to myself.
I moved down again and peered into the cold, green and gloomy depths. I settled into a less obvious looking spot, but one with a lovely depth of water right under the rod tip.
Out went a pouchful of maggots, followed by a fresh worm. 3.20pm. 3.22pm – the tip goes round steadily, I hit it, fish-on! The big, strong head shakes gave away the fishes identity, but it was the first glimpse of those black stripes, deep down in the bottle green water that made my legs start going a bit wobbly.
A good tussle ensued, but I soon had the big perch in the net – what a fish. I knew it was a personal best and the scales revealed it to be just that! A long fish of 2lbs 12ozs and a truly stunning example of river perch.
I took some photos and had one last admiring look at the prehistoric beast, before releasing it back into the river.
Astonishingly, the very next cast saw the same thing happen again – and another super perch was hooked and landed. An equal of my old personal best of 2lbs 8ozs this time. Amazing!
I cast out another worm. A bit of a wait this time, but soon enough another bite and another good perch thumping away in the depths of the swim. And it was another cracker at 2lbs 6ozs this time – what a session this was turning out to be.
After releasing my third two pounder, I realised I had no more than ten or fifteen minutes of daylight left. Another worm was placed in the hotspot. A short while later and again another perch was hooked – but a much smaller fish this time of around a pound. I cast again, impatiently, hurridly, the excitement getting to me and the rig went just a few inches too far and into a small overhanging branch.
I had to pull for a break, but I didn’t mind. I tackled down there and then, content with a mad 45 minutes of the best perch fishing I’d ever experienced. But then I decided to be impatient. Maybe, just maybe there were still perch down there and perhaps one of them may be my target, my long-term aim – a three pounder. I set up again and carefully positioned the biggest worm I could find back in the zone.
And I waited. I didn’t feel impatient now, I felt focused. And when the bite came I was ready. Upon hooking the fish, it pulled back just a bit more fiercely and a bit more aggressively than the others. In the gloom I could see it was another big perch. But it wasn’t until I lifted her clear of the water, making my old net handle creak that I could see it was a big perch. 3lbs 1oz. Perhaps impatience really is a virtue.