Wye Perch – Gatecrashers

The Wye has been well up over the last fortnight after remaining very low and clear through the winter. In the low conditions the fish tend to shoal up tightly and even productive stretches can become very ‘peggy’.

The extra water sees the fish spread out and with the water warming up I expect some really good fish to be caught before the close season.

I ventured out for an afternoon last week on a warm, sunny day as the river was beginning to fine down. Armed with maggots, worms and meat, the plan was to try the float or maggot feeder and get a few bites before switching to worm at dusk in the hope of a perch.

I had a few dace and a chublet over the first couple of hours, but it was quiet and I wasn’t getting many bites. I decided to flick out a chunk of spam while I enjoyed a late lunch in the sunshine. Just as I was about to tuck into a Kit Kat, the rod flung round and I found myself attached to an angry barbel – the first of the day’s gatecrashers!

The afternoon was very quiet and as is so often the case on the Wye, I knew dusk would offer the best chance of a perch.

I’d tried a few swims without luck, and with the light fading fast I was starting to think it wasn’t going to happen. However a final move saw me connect with a perch first cast, to a worm presented tight under a tree. And it was one a chuck. Until it went quiet. I selected the largest lob and flicked it to the zone.

The bite came and I thought I’d hooked a giant perch at first. But then it absolutely tore off into the middle of the river and I presumed it was a barbel. But then it started coming up in the water and I thought it may be a nice pike… For a while an odd kind of stalemate ensued with the fish holding mid river, me not giving any line and the rod stuck in a dramatic curve. Slowly but surely I managed to get the fish closer and it wasn’t too long until I got a glimpse of an enormous trout or salmon.

I got it just a few inches from the net before it bolted down to my left and bit through the line. Damn. I think it was certainly seven pounds, maybe bigger, and though I’m rubbish at identifying game species, I think it was a very big trout. Still it made for an exciting end to the session and I suppose you can’t rely on gatecrashers to behave as you’d like them to!

 

Wye Perch – Perseverance

It was a pleasant morning on Saturday with just a hint of spring in the air. After a slow, steady rise in temperature through the week and with the now noticeable extra daylight, I was sure the Wye perch shoals would be starting to spread out and get on the feed in preparation for their imminent spawning rituals.

We’d had a decent amount of rain earlier in the week and I was confident the river would be in good shape. I arrived shortly after lunchtime, just as the sun burnt away the last of the cloud cover and warmed the valley. The river was very low and very clear – not what I was hoping for!

bridge-reflection-web

I opted to try trotting a few swims with maggots in an effort to at least find a few fish, but it was desperate … I must have tried half a dozen before I managed a tentative bite from a micro grayling – my first from the Wye.  I had a couple more, both small, but eventually they disappeared. On a previous trip a local angler explained grayling are the kiss of death on the Wye, as he felt coarse species would simply be elsewhere and never with the grayling. An interesting theory.

A mini Wye grayling
A mini Wye grayling

I persevered with the trotting for a while, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I set up a link ledger and moved upstream to my favorite perch spots with the idea of trying a few swims leading into dusk and settling into one once I’d located them…

After an hour or so I knew the perch simply weren’t in the area. Even in difficult conditions, they normally give themselves away once a lively lob worm is presented tight to their snaggy refuge.

I probably had three-quarters of an hour left, but instead of settling for a perch blank, I went for a walk.

And it was worth it. First cast into a new swim, well away from the usually productive areas, fishing tight to a smallish bush, I hooked into a good perch. And in the space of half an hour or so I had five, as well as losing a couple. All were lovely, fat fish with the best two weighing 2lbs 3ozs and 2lbs 4ozs. Magic.

2_4-2-web

2_3-web

returning-a-wye-perch-web

Perch fishing with Russell

I spent a really enjoyable day fishing with erstwhile angling blogger and top bloke Russell Hilton on his local canal patch recently.

We had perch in mind. Russell’s had some really good perch from his local canal network and despite the prospect of a cold, bright day, enthusiasm was high as we met at dawn on a section that was alive with small fish topping under the pale pink skies.

Russell’s strategy involved building a swim by feeding liquidised bread and then waggler fishing bread punch or maggot over the top. Bites from roach, rudd, silver bream and perch came every cast. A bigger bait was then presented nearby in the hope a big perch may be attracted by the commotion.

I was content to reap the rewards of these carefully laid plans by simply sitting next to him!

Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch
Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch

We had a really good day with plenty of big, colourful perch, a pike each and all sorts of other fish on the waggler – including some serious rudd. Russell managed a special perch after a flurry of activity just after lunch. Frustratingly, the majority of big perch we hooked during this particular feeding spell came off. I had a decent one not too far from the net when the hook pinged out and Russel also lost a couple of good ‘uns… But of course it didn’t really matter a jot.

My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
Slick-sense
Slick-sense
X marks the spot?
X marks the spot?

It was a pleasure simply sitting and chatting. From angling blogging to angling blaggers; from bureaucracy to bream via politics and perch – we discussed a range of subjects, interspersed with some lovely fish and regular enquiries from passers-by. Russell was even called into action to help a guy, who explained in broken English that he’d lost his bag by the water. He failed to grasp the notion that the police were unwilling to treat this as an emergency and come out immediately to root around for his bag!

A cracking day all-round. Hopefully we’ll find the time to do something similar again soon.

Freelined Chips

Ah, June the… well, 20th. Surely the time to hit the Wye and bag up on barbel? No! Time to hit the M4 and the M25, in the relentless rain and travel to… Hemel Hempstead.

I was off to visit my mate Rob on his home patch. He has a wealth of water available locally and while the Grand Union Canal or the River Gade may not have quite the same pull to the travelling angler as the Wye, there really is some superb fishing available in and around this bustling Hertfordshire town.

Rob’s had all sorts from the Grand Union since he’s lived over here. Carp to just shy of 20lbs, 3lbs perch, big bream, numerous chub over 5lbs and even one over 6. Big fish for anywhere.

He had a few spots for us to try and a couple of wild cards up his sleeve. We started off on the canal, just as the rain subsided on the Monday. I was hoping to try for a carp at some stage and perhaps a chub on the river. We also wanted to have a go at the big bream shoals that patrol the canal.

It was pretty tough going though. We did get some nice roach on lobs and a few quick, violent bites –probably chub – that we failed to connect with.

A move to a renowned perch section saw us get a few decent stripeys, but it was fairly quiet for the most part. We snuck off at 7pm to catch watch England against Slovakia and by full time, wished we’d stayed out fishing! Still the beer was cold and the sun was shining…

The next morning we made an early(ish) start on the canal, but it was even slower than the previous day. The bright sun wasn’t helping and we moved onto the river. By mid-morning the cloud had moved over and we began to get a few bites. We soon had a bream each and plenty of good dace on the stick float. But it wasn’t easy and the fish would arrive in bursts before drifting off for periods of time. We all know early season river fishing can be very hit-and-miss and so we agreed, following a bit of lunch, to make a final move to another stretch of canal, via a quick stop on a much shallower, faster flowing stretch of the river Bulbourne.

canal web

And that’s when the day got interesting! Straight away we found some good chub on the river, cautious but clearly up for a lump of Spam rolled gently through the swim.

I tied on a size 8 and impaled a chunk of meat. And first run through, just as the Spam bumped past that most classic of chub features (an enormous tractor tyre) a good chub dashed out and literally grabbed the bait from under the nose of a smaller fish. I saw the bait in its mouth, waited that agonizing couple of seconds for the fish to turn, and… wallop!

I was buzzing after that. I’ve not stalked a chub in that way since the back end of the season before last. Raw, exciting fishing.

But the best was yet to come! A feral canal carp is something I’ve wanted to catch for a long time. I’ve been especially inspired by Jeff’s writing on his mission for a canal carp a couple of years ago, and Rob has done well fishing for them, ever since he landed his first from the canal the last time I was in town.

So, every moment relating to the capture of this canal mirror will long remain etched in the memory. My springy, unruly line; watching the carp – finally – slurp down the floating crust; the initial minute of absolutely brutal power; quietly helping the fish regain its energy; watching it swim away back into the deep, cool canal. I can’t really take much credit in catching the carp, as Rob had found them previously, but it was a memorable moment and fish. I just need to find my own, local one now…

We then sat down in another area to have a good go for some bream. And we had a few. And just as it was time for me to think about heading back, we found some more carp – warily sampling the odd bread crust.

I left Rob to it – I’d had my carp – and decided to scatter a few of my chips into a snaggy swim up from where Rob was. And it was a freelined chip, over a chippy groundbait, that produced not one, but two big bream, including the biggest of our trip by far. A great afternoon, in the end. Cheers mate.

Rob in one of his favourite canal spots
Rob in one of his favourite canal spots
Returning a truly memorable canal carp.
Returning a truly memorable canal carp.

13_8 Canal Carp 2 web

River Bulbourne chub web

bream and chips

Bloggers Challenge – Aiming for Europe

While Leicester continue to confound expectations in the Premier League, I don’t think it’s any surprise to see James Dennison running away with the Bloggers Challenge 15/16. A very good angler indeed.

I think Russell and George have second and third place tied up respectively, but beyond that I think there are Champions League and Europa League places up for grabs!

I’m quite pleased with my current seventh place position. And I’ll try and squeeze in two or three more short trips before the 1st May in an effort to find a few more points.

My one shot at real glory came a few weeks back on the Wye. A tricky day came to life as dusk arrived and I hooked a succession of good fish on worms. A surprise 1lbs 8oz roach / bream hybrid had me convinced I’d hooked a special roach in the gloom (and earned me an invaluable ten challenge points) and was accompanied by a number of good perch to 2lbs exactly.

Tintern gulls
Tintern gulls
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A decent roach/bream hybrid and the only river example recorded in the bloggers challenge.
A nice perch of two pounds - how I wish I'd landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!
A nice perch of two pounds – how I wish I’d landed the fish I hooked a few minutes later!

But the last fish I hooked was, I’m 99% sure, a very special perch indeed. I never got a glimpse of it, but having had the two pounder just previously on the same gear, this fish felt easily twice as heavy, with my 6lbs line and medium feeder rod at times feeling seriously under-gunned. I finally steered it away from the nasty snags downstream, got it to the relative safety of the near bank and out of the flow, only for it to do me on a totally innocuous looking twig right under my feet.

I went back for a couple of hours at dusk a week later – but the river had dropped and was cold and lifeless.

I finished the river season in traditional fashion – at the wonderful Britford fishery with my friend, Mike. Mike’s getting hitched this summer, so we had a mini stag-do of sorts, fishing followed by beers in Salisbury.

It wasn’t easy, but a couple of swims on the old river produced the goods. I was hoping for a decent grayling for the challenge points, but also as I’d not had one in a few years. I think third trot down I had a lovely fish around a pound, followed by one a shade bigger at 1lbs 1oz.

A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
A stunning Hampshire Avon grayling, beautiful fish.
An Avon perch
An Avon perch

We had dace, trout, perch and minnows – all great fun on the float. After a good few beers in town and an overnight stay, we awoke to the most horrid weather. Very wet, very windy and bitingly cold. ‘Orrible. We put it off for as long as we could, but eventually trudged down at 1pm. The river was rising rapidly and to be honest we toyed with the idea of heading straight home. Still, at least it hadn’t burst its banks – yet. We headed to the sluice to hide in there for a bit, have a coffee and see if things might improve.

We decided to flick out big baits from the sluice and see if a suicidal trout or chub might oblige. None did, so Mike went wondering and I set up a maggot feeder and began casting from the sluice again. Half an hour later I had, during the briefest of lulls in the wind, a subtle pluck. Next cast and I was in. I just presumed it’d be a small chub or trout, so when a big roach rolled on the surface I eased right off!

It was a stunner of 1lbs 9oz and a best of the season for me. Neither of us had another bite, but it’d been a good couple of days in great company.

1lb 9oz Avon roach
1lb 9oz Avon roach
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike hiding from the elements
Mike braving the elements!
Mike braving the elements!
Couldn't resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.
Couldn’t resist getting a few night shots of Bath on the way home.

Perch Fishing – Impatience is a Virtue

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.

A 2lbs 12oz river perch.
A 2lbs 12oz 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.

Another big Wye perch.
Another big Wye perch.

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.

The perch I've been waiting for - a 3lbs 1oz river beauty. What a fish!
The perch I’ve been waiting for – a 3lbs 1oz river beauty. What a fish!

Perch and Portman Road

It was my birthday just recently. And as it was my birthday and because I really do enjoy float fishing for perch more than any other type of fishing at the moment, I went float fishing for perch.

I decided on my usual short session and arrived just after lunch. The lake was clear of ice, even if the water was extremely cold. I tacked up my new Drennan Red Range 13ft silver fish float rod (a brilliant tool, by the way – slim, responsive and a pleasure to use and only fifty quid or so!) with an insert waggler, three pound mainline and a two-and-three-quarter pound hooklink and finished with a size 18 hook. I had a feeling a maggot approach would pay off with the water so cold, so I started off feeding just ten or so every cast and used a double red offering on the hook.

A few small roach came quickly before it all went ominously quiet. But it was for good reason that those little roach disappeared as no more than 30 or 40 minutes into the session, I had the bite I was hoping for. Upon striking the solid resistance and firm, angry headshakes told me a big perch had arrived early. And she was a beauty – 2lbs 5ozs of stripy perfection.

After such a quick result, I was hoping there may be a few other perch around, but by the time I’d cast back out the small roach had returned and the perch had gone. I had plenty of roach, skimmers and even a pretty little linear mirror carp, but by about three o’clock it all switched off and I never had another bite – I expect the fish are feeding in patches during the warmest part of the day.

A big cold water perch.
A big cold water perch.

Then on Saturday I travelled back to see the folks. I was thinking of sneaking in a couple hours on the Suffolk Stour after a chub, but the sleet put me off to be honest. And anyway I had more important matters to attend to – Ipswich vs Wigan with the old man. Terrible game, but it was fantastic being back at Portman Road. We had season tickets for years, but being in London and now out West as well as having a young family has limited the opportunities I get to go and see them.

Great to be back at Portman Road with the old man.
Great to be back at Portman Road with the old man.

McCarthy has worked wonders and we’re finally seeing a bit of positivity around the club after the dark days of Keane and, particularly, Jewell. It was great to see young Tyrone Mings in action too. Always a split second ahead of the others on the pitch, he is genuinely comfortable on the ball – unlike the majority playing on Saturday who when they received a pass simply wanted rid as soon as possible – and incredibly strong, yet graceful. Things didn’t always work out for him on the day, but he got over it quickly and moved on without fuss. A class act, I’m sure he’ll go far.

The close season is looming. Lots of ideas and plans – another crack at the perch, a trotting trip or two and maybe another go for a big pike – quite which of those I’ll get around to before the 15th remains to be seen.