Like most men I have the potential to drive my other half potty, and after a few hours of frantic Christmas shopping followed by a stop off at the local European style super market I was guilty of doing just this. I hate that snippy state we all get into at this time of year, and I for one often end up getting so frustrated over all the fervour for just one day, that I just have to escape. Luckily Jacky felt the same and suggested I maybe should go off for a few hours and leave her in peace. Me being the obedient type, she did not have repeat herself before I was pulling on my coat and slipping out the door with rod and bag in tow.
Two hours till dusk, a selection of juicy lob worms in my bag and the river was calling. I knew we had a bit of rain the day before but honestly never thought the effect would be as bad as it turned out. The land everywhere is sodden and it doesn't take much to get the rivers rising, but this takes the mick.
It looked like a weeks worth of rain was charging through the river as I crossed the field, and I won't deny almost turning tail, but truthfully I actually fancied having a crack at this familiar area when it was flooded out. I have an intimate knowledge of the banks and thought a couple of the areas where I normally sit might actually have turned from pegs to swims.
Getting close to the river though turned out to be a monumental effort alone. I hopped from island to island trying to avoid the deeper water, and after a detour probably equivalent to ten times the length of my normal route, I was sitting atop a mound in front of a nice slack water.
There is little need to go into the ins and outs of two hours of debris catching on my line. What I can say is there was certainly fish in the slack and I did receive one tentative bite. More of this little session was spent watching the river rise out of the corner of my eye. For safety's sake I had earmarked a couple of tufts of grass a little up the bank, and as the minutes ticked away, they slowly disappeared from view under the rising water.
I eventually came to the conclusion that this was just not worth the risk, and decided to make a move towards home. This was the point when I realised that although I had be watching the water rise to my right I had neglected to watch it flanking me from the left. The water had risen up a drainage ditch along the edge of the field and spilled over in a old trench which dissected the field, and had left me very much marooned.
Landing net pole in hand, I carefully felt my way through the shallowest water, or so I thought. One step a little off course and my right boot went fully under the water, and trying to correct my mistake the left one got the same treatment. Feeling water now seeping through my thermal boots, my feet were certain to get a soaking, so off I went double time trudging through the water as a quick as possible.
Looking back over the now flooded field I could see the river had covered at least a quarter more of the low lying field than it had when I arrived. Even with a soaking wet feet I still think it was worth checking out that slack water, as there was always a chance that the heavy flow could of forced a lot of the rivers population into that tiny little area.
That following morning had been when I was really expecting to get out onto the river, but my experience the night before had luckily confirmed it would more than likely be a waste of my time, so a change of tack was in order. Having only thirty something lob worms as bait my only real option was to go and continue testing the waters on the tiny woodland fishery which I suspect might hold some decent perch.
Nestled in a spinney surrounded by trees this fishery has, as far as I am concerned, all the right ingredients for monster perch; no competition from other predators in or out of the water, huge amounts of prey fish and not too big. Partly the reason for targeting this water is that more than five years ago I myself caught a three pounder here, and then the following winter a fishing buddy of mine did the same. I was never to sure if it was the same fish but either way it proved the water more than capable of such fish.
I know the fishery's owner very well, and when I spoke to him on the subject of perch he firstly confirmed that from time to time big perch do turn up in matches, and secondly that this spring just past was a bumper year for spawning, or as he put it "the water were black wi fry". On a visit earlier this month I landed two perch of one and half and two pounds on a freezing cold day when the water was still muddied up from the feeder stream flooding over, so now it was clearing I really fancied my chances.
Maggots would have been a good addition to my bait as they would have concentrated the smaller fish and drawn in the perch, but with only limited worms at my disposal I opted to use a technique that has worked for me before. Fishing a whole split worm on the hook and flicking out a chopped up worm every twenty minutes to half an hour seems to be enough to attract perch via the scent of those chopped worms, whilst not quite being enough to attract to many swim ruining carp of which this lake has many.
With all my best efforts it seemed that still thawing pool was proving to be frigid in more ways than one. Through the morning there had been some intermittent topping by the silvers but that seemed the full extent of the activity. I stuck with the plan and concentrated all my attentions of the single orange top which slipped in and out of the shadows on the mirror like surface.
My first bite came two hours in when my float buried instantly, leaving me connected to a powerful fish which was at least double the size of the current UK perch record. It didn't take too long to get off my hook either - three powerful runs towards the last vestiges of the lily pads and it was free. Happy with a little action the loss was not that hurtful, as carp held no interest today.
After the swim had settled and another two hours passed, out of now where I got a single stern bob on the float before it headed out into the lake. I must of hit hundreds of these classic perch bite this year alone but this one when struck contacted nothing. Both halves of my worm were gone though, which hinted a perch was somewhere scoffing its free meal.
A quick recast and that magic moment came again exactly as before, and as I watched it sink away I paused giving this one a little more time to engulf the bait before I struck into a certain perch good perch. Whether it was the contrast of little activity or whether I am growing in appreciation of the perch's fight I don't know, but the the scrappy battle was a joy, and the first glimpse of that spiky dorsal was breathtaking.
Nowhere near the biggest perch I have caught this year but certainly one of the most appreciated It was maybe a pound and a half or more, but more importantly it was the right sort of perch; big head, deep body and young. I have come to look for this sort of perch in these more commercial lakes as I think they are a good measure of what the water could hold. Even if they are still a few years off becoming a monster, there could be fish with the same genetics a few years older hanging around, and not just that, there's always the ones that spawned them.