A few weeks ago I made the hard decision that with a trip to the coast looming, joining the rest of the crazy crew on a jaunt to Hanningfield reservoir was financially unfeasible for me. It turned out Baz from Return to Ryton was in the same predicament, so I suggested we get together on the weekend in question for a perch session on one of the local commercial fisheries on my hit list.
My previous midweek trip out had actually been to check out this new lake and as I had bumped off a good Sargent early on, it seemed the rumours of big perch may of had some credence. So this seemed to be the perfect place for us to spend our Saturday searching for something special.
A week of bright sunny skies meant my confidence was not high. Even though the lake in question was far from clear. The sun had hampered even the small perches feeding in the week but when I awoke Saturday morning half the country was shrouded in fog and it seemed fate was at hand.
After Baz picked me up and we had one small disaster where my much needed net was left outside my front door, we finally arrived in rural Warwickshire and drove between newly planted fields towards the fog cloaked lake.
It was quite eerie making our way to the lake. The fog as always dampened all sound and all I could hear was the occasional ribbet of toads from the reed beds where the spring orgy was well underway.
On my last visit I had fished only one rod over a bed of chopped worms and prawns. This had lead me to keep swapping from one the other as hook baits, as when fishing worm I felt I should have been fishing prawn and vice versa. This time though, even knowing how hard it is to fish two float rods and watch both floats efficiently, I went for identical rigs with a different bait on each one and fished them a meter apart.
This was not easy as I had opted to fish the most awkward swim on the entire lake. The slight breeze blowing onto my rigs meant they had to be fished eight inches over depth to hold bottom. But they were under tension, so even the slightest bite was detected. So that problem turned into a bonus.
It was the overhanging tree that hung so low that I could not even raise my rod which caused the most problems. All casts had to be flicked under deftly from my right and all strikes had to go out the same way. The casting I knew would not be a problem but in the panic of a fight I worried I could find myself tangled on the branches. A few hits at slight bites from silvers worrying my baits got me on the right track soon enough.
The glorious fog was not going to last all day. So with that in mind both Baz and myself worked hard to make the most of the lack of sun, but all too soon I could feel the rays burning away our cover.
I like to think any change can help when you aren't getting the right bites and even when light levels go from good to bad, fish sometimes feed just as that light changes.
If I learnt one thing last year fishing for perch using floats on the canal, it was what a bite from a good perch looks like. At least that's what I thought when my float did a little bob before sliding off. But what I was attached to felt like a small carp trying to bore into my own bank. With my trusty new John Wilson Avon rod bent nicely I confidently pulled the little bugger into open water where it rolled once before I went white as a sheet and scrabbled for the net. I forgot that the rest of the world existed! Only one thing mattered - getting this fish in my net at all cost. Everything held, I managed not to flap and she was mine.
With it safely in the net I stood shaking and whistled over to Baz. I knew it was new PB before I even lifted it from the water, but I never expected the sheer size and girth of it. I have to thank Baz at this point because my composure had just vaporised and whilst I held the net in the edge he organised scales and cameras.
When I picked up those scales with a bulging carrier bag hanging beneath, I could not have put a weight on it. The moment the dial moved, it went confidently round to 4lb.
On the mat it looked like it could eat the flipping scales, it was that big. Still it had no anger in it like perch sometimes do, and for the life of me I could not get that fin to stand proud but that did not matter to me as I had a fish in my hands that most anglers go there entire lives without catching.
The thickness of this fish was probably around five inches and a six ounce roach would go in it's mouth no problems. In fact I remember thinking clearly at the time that two golf balls would easy go in it's mouth, it was that big.
Neither Baz or myself had ever seen a perch like this in the flesh and I wonder if I ever will again. After taking loads of photos she was treated with the utmost respect. I crouched on the waters edge cradling her gently in the water as I took one last look before she swam back under the bank.
I must have sat, rods out the water smiling like a goon for ages before I snapped round and thought, what the hell do I do now. I just caught the biggest perch of my life and it's only ten in the morning.
Then the most insane thing sprang to mind! Who's to say that the biggest one in the lake. So I spent the rest of the day hunting for something bigger. Honestly...
I did actually hook and lose a smaller fish of maybe 2lb, which on any other day would have had me screaming but not today after having held a true giant.
All day I kept flicking on my camera and looking through the pictures, as I have done ever since. On the way home we chatted. I won't go back to this lake until autumn when they are feeding up for winter. And when I do I will follow up another tip off I got from a local, regarding a second hot spot on the lake where the capture of four fish over three pounds in one session was meant to have taken place.