Firstly, I’d like to apologise for the lack of blogs from us recently, we have been out on the bank a bit but I’ve just lost track of doing the blogs, so I apologise, however WE ARE BACKKK!!
So, for the first blog back we are going to go back a couple weekends ago to my Birthday weekend where myself, my wife and my 2 little monkeys went to a little local lake to have a little bit of fun in the sun!
Upon arriving, the swim we ideally wanted had been taken so we decided to jump on the match lake for the day to try our hand at a bit of float fishing to try and keep the kids entertained whilst waiting for bites from the carp on the method feeder.
It wasn’t long before we were met with our first few fish on the float, some lovely Roach and Rudd, defiantly the biggest ones I’ve ever caught and a very cool start to our day
It wasn’t long before we were introduced to our first carp of the day, but just like buses instead of 1 at a time we had a triple take over 3 of our rods, this was honestly the most stressful time ever! But with all 3 fish landed safely the opportunity for photos was here, my son wasn’t the most impressed but my daughter soaked up the opportunity and I believe I have found my future fishing buddy!
So, with a few more fish under our belts and the sun beaming down with my wife slowly being cooked bless her we decided to wind in and call it a day, so with the last rod screaming off I handed the rod to my daughter and got this very awesome video of her playing and landing her first ever carp (A smaller 6ft/9ft rod is being purchased in the pipeline ready for her!)
With the day coming to an end, we finished on 16 fish within roughly 5 hours, both on float tactics and method feeders so an awesome trip and to celebrate my birthday with my loving family doing the thing I love the most is just amazing.
Thanks for tuning into another JT Carpers blog, where next time we will be telling you how we have been getting on at our syndicate lake, trust us you don’t want to miss it!
Up at 4.45 on a frosty late March morning. Tackle packed into my trusty Volvo the night before, lunch and flask prepared, and Indy my dog poised and alert: he knows we’re going fishing. It took me almost all of the previous afternoon to prepare for today’s session. My wife said “you spend more time sorting your tackle out than you do fishing, “ with a little grin and a Finbar Saunders “fnarr, fnarr” thrown in for good measure.
But that was because I had to do the big change over, that long-winded but ever so slightly exciting process of breaking down your winter fishing kit: the roving chub kit, the piking kit, to convert to your spring tench and bream kit. Once it’s done, further session prep is half the chore.
The destination was the sensational St Ives fishery, about a fifty minute drive from home. Specifically the pit named “Ivo” after the alternative name for St Ives, the patron saint for, amongst other things, the poor and needy. And given the current economic climate, a disciple of whom I’m swiftly becoming.
The drive to St Ives was made resplendent by the sun’s fiery orb on the eastern horizon, casting a Sauron-like glare at the new day. I arrived at around seven and the four lake complex was wreathed in an ethereal shroud of morning mist, it looked perfect but the chill conditions had me doubting the possibility of an early fish. I’d probably have to wait for the air and water to warm for a bite, if a bite was forthcoming.
I opted for a familiar swim, slightly off the beaten track where, the previous spring and early summer, I’d had one tench to 7.2lb, an old battered warrior of a male and a new PB, plus a few chunky bream to 7.9lb.
I was aware of two gravel bars, one at ten yards, the other at thirty five, so I plumbed around for them, clipped up and did the distance stick thing with my two rods to enable me to cast accurately to both bars. In went some feed and two PVA bags, one with popped up maggot the other a worm kebab. The water thermometer read 10.7 C so still chilly. I sat back to take in the ambiance. The mist was gradually lifting as grebes and mallards glided back and forth, already paired up for the coming spring shenanigans.
I played fetch the stick with Indy for a bit as sticks were aplenty after all the recents storms. The water temperature had risen to 11.5C. It was midday. Suddenly, the right hand rod burst into life and I lifted into…nothing. I was baffled. Maybe the hair-rig was too long? Maybe it was small fish mucking about? No, that was a proper run, a flyer. I shortened the hair anyway, just in case and cast out again.
Directly behind my swim on the Ivo is another small pit named “Lowries” after who or what I don’t know. It’s an exceptionally weedy pit in the summer and is rarely fished, its piscine population an intriguing mystery. I decided to have a plumb around in the nearest swim for future reference. First cast and twang! I’d forgotten to unclip the braid from the spool from when I was plumbing up Ivo. Now the spool was devoid of its clip, a tiny little plastic stump, like a broken tooth, in its place.
While I remonstrated myself in no uncertain terms, the right hand rod tore off again. It was 1pm. This time I was in, and a good fish too. I knew it was a tench by its muscular fight, it was a job to control it. With my attention duly distracted, I failed to notice that the firm bank I was standing on had to end somewhere. With a splash and a gasp I found myself thigh deep in water. The fish was still on despite my dunking, and I managed to hold the rod up high with one arm and drag myself out of the drink with the other. During this entire debacle Indy just stared at me, in fact he barely moved, offering no assistance whatsoever; no more fetch the stick for him, the lazy so and so. Back on dry land I eventually managed to land the fish, a gorgeous fin perfect female tench. She went 7.6lb, a new PB. Soaked from the thighs down but mightily happy, I took a photo or two, rested her in the margins for a spell and slipped her back in, fighting fit.
After wringing myself out and placing a bank stick at the water’s edge to act as a marker should I venture too close again, I sat down for a coffee, moist but content.
I missed another flyer at about 3.30 and that was it for the day, but I wasn’t complaining, although slightly perplexed about the two missed runs. I’d planned to fish into dusk but a chill was beginning to creep through me, courtesy of my damp nether regions, so as the early spring sun began to set in the west, me and Indy headed for home, already planning our next visit to the St Ives, with a mental note to self to make sure I pack the Speedos.
With lure fishing we can catch pretty much every species that swims, from Grayling, Roach to Catfish. But which is best? The most common 3 are perch, pike and chub. Pike despite getting big, fighting hard and being pretty common they are only a winter and autumn species as its dangerous to fish for them in summer. Perch, being stunning, growing big and the grind to find big perch are all brilliant being an all year round target and very fun fighters. perch really are up there as some of my favourites to catch. Chub, challenging but strong, hard fighting and stunning are another brilliant target, their weariness makes them hard to fool but when you do you know your in for something good. Again being safe to catch all year round if you haven’t targetted these on lures yet, what are you playing at! I cant speak on literally every species as we wil be here all day so im only gonna cover one more. That is the catfish, big, strong, awesome and rare these make for a fantastic catch. Catfish are mostly spring to summer fish however their size and power gives them a pass!
For me light fishing is king with strong fights and big fish feeling gigantic on a light set up. And as much as i hate fishing with rods built like broomsticks you cant deny the chance of a 30lber makes it all worth it. I haven’t had the opportunity to target catfish on lures thats coming very soon. So for me its defo the light fishing on small chalk streams for big chub and trout. In conclusion for me the best fish for lure fishing is chub due to their versatility. Whats your favourite?
Winter is all about predator fishing for me, although I did partake of a couple of short sessions on my local river, the Suffolk Stour, trotting for the numerous dace and chub that inhabit this jungly, overgrown stretch, which I’m happy to say is free-fishing and only a five minute walk from my house. It was great fun using my 10.5 ft Shakespeare match rod, trotting a light stick through and enjoying regular bites using maggots and bread for bait. The bread was less consistent than maggots but seemed to tease out the better fish. That little stretch has become even more jungly and overgrown now following the ravages of Storm Eunice and I may have to wander down there with a chainsaw during the close season to re-establish some swims.
But as I say winter fishing is all about the preds for me, especially pike. In 2021 I joined a couple of clubs that afforded me access to some potentially exciting fishing in The Fens, chiefly on the Great Ouse through Ely and Littleport in Cambridgeshire. In October 2021, I made the hour long drive across the Fenland skyscape to Littleport, armed with a lure rod. I surmised that the best way to get to grips with the Great Ouse there was to walk its banks, casting a jig around as I did so. Saying that, I only walked about a mile and a half. It was hard going, trudging on top of the floodbank fully exposed to frigid autumnal winds the Fens are famous for. Nonetheless, I managed a couple of jacks casting along the near bank reed-line, and a nice perch of over a pound. I had a follow from a bigger fish too but fluffed the retrieve in my excitement and off he went, too wiley for my amateurish jig control.
I returned a couple more times during November to give deadbaiting a crack. My plan was to fish into darkness to see if the odd zander might oblige. But all I managed was a couple of pike just shy of double figures and an interesting tête-à-tête with a group of Eastern European anglers who were fishing in a swim fairly close to mine. It looked like an entire family: a couple of teenage kids, a youngish woman and three (very large) guys. The swim was a mini encampment with two tents and an elaborate BBQ/dining area. It was utterly spotless with not a hint of litter or unkemptness. The very moment I landed one of the pike, the three large guys descended on me, each one a potential Bond villain.
“What you catch there”?, one of them barked. “Only a small pike mate”, I replied. And I immediately thought, “bloody hell he’s going to nab it for his BBQ!” But thankfully my fears were unfounded as they were very congratulatory, saying, “we fish all day for no fish and you come and catch fish, what are we do wrong!” (I paraphrase but that was the general gist).
So I gave them a few hints on how to float fish for pike and a couple of sardine and mackerel deadbaits. I’ve no idea if they were there illegally or not but they were making no attempt to conceal themselves and were extremely friendly and good natured, I’m very glad to say!
The Ouse through Ely is somehow a more welcoming stretch of river than Littleport, which I found slightly desolate and barren. At Ely the landscape is altogether more bucolic with water meadows and gnarled old willows to admire. The only drawback is the people and their dogs, which seem to drift by in a constant stream, with the occasional canine raid on my deadbait bucket or lunch bag. Also, there’s nowhere to have a crafty pee so I learnt quite quickly to lay off the bankside tea. I had a few nice pike during my sessions at Ely, the biggest around 15lb. But the icing on the cake was my first zander for many years, nabbed on a small roach deadbait whilst fishing the well-known town centre stretch, an area where the prey fish congregate during the winter creating a predator hotspot.
The Suffolk Stour is a river that has a reputation for consistent pike fishing and I’m happy to say I’ve had some of my best sessions on this lovely waterway, specifically through Sudbury. With the river and air temperature still relatively warm, I had an early season Red-Letter Day in late October, banking six fish and losing two, all on float-fished sardine and mackerel. Most were low doubles and the fish were in fine fettle, still powerful and sleek, yet to succumb to cold-induced lethargy. But that was to be my only pike session on that stretch of river. Whilst I was playing my final fish, an otter swirled just a couple of metres from the struggling pike and I nearly had a cardiac arrest. Visions of me having to unhook an angry, frightened otter had me bully that fish to the net and call an end to the session pronto. I did return on a few occasions as there are a couple of deeper, near-side swims with overhanging vegetation that scream perch and chub, and this proved the case as I managed to catch perch to 2.2lb and chub to 5.2lb. Remarkably, during an evening session, another otter porpoised through my swim and I thought, “that’s that then.” But the second he disappeared I had a decisive bite on the tip and landed the 5.2lb chub! What that’s all about I don’t know, but that otter didn’t deter the fish from feeding, on that occasion anyway.
The re-introduction of otter’s has become deeply controversial amongst anglers and I can understand why. But I for one love to see these animals and I’m sure that before too long nature with prevail and a balance between predators and prey fish will be achieved. Although to see one swirl at a pike I was in the process of playing was disturbing and put an end to my deadbait fishing on that section of the Stour.
I did fish a couple of stillwaters too, with mixed results, but by far the best session was just before Christmas on a lake managed by Clare Golf Club in Suffolk. There’s only a couple of fishable swims, the best in my opinion is directly alongside the course itself, in a sheltered corner. I fished three rods for a change as I had the room to do so but it became apparent quite early on that that was a mistake as bites were coming thick and fast. At one point, I was unhooking a fish when the alarm shrieked and I had to quickly return the fish on the mat to attend to the new run! I wasn’t complaining as frantic sessions like this are infrequent to say the least but fish safety is paramount so I opted for two rods only. Even then I was kept busy. In the afternoon, a couple of golfers wandered by, one of whom had obviously overindulged in the Christmas festivities. First, he offered to land a fish I was playing, only to become tangled in the mesh as he picked the net up. Over he went. His mate picked him up, giggling as he did so. I was giggling too, it was slapstick at its best. I landed the fish myself only to see the same golfer topple into a bunker. His mate was hysterical by this time and too weak with laughter to offer any assistance. So all in all I had a brilliant day. Nine pike to 12lb and impromptu, side-splitting comedy Laurel and Hardy would have been proud of.
Now, with the pike and river season drawing to a close it’s time to focus on my favourite fish-the tench.
Lure fishing is the most exciting method of fishing known to man, with explosive takes when the rods in your hands and light tackle helping you to feel every bite and head shake. Theres often times when you will be able to just grab your rod, rig up a drop-shot, find a boat. boom, perch. If it was that way every time we’d fall out of love with the sport. And despite the hard days being stressful they help us keep the hunger and wanting more!
My favourite lure fishing conditions are a low pressure, cloudy, little drizzly. But with a busy schedule you cant always pick and choose on days. this is why its important to be fishing in all conditions and learn how to fish, this will make you a much better all rounder angler. From what ive found (everyone will most likely find different) a high pressure affects the aggressiveness and active status of your quarry. I should say this is on rivers around me i haven’t tested this theory on reservoirs and lakes. In a high pressure the fish will be much harder to find and ive found trying to get a reaction bite rather than a feeding bite will result in finding perch and will make your life a hell of a lot easier. The best way i do this is by annoying the target into biting, IE bright colours, rattles, vibrations etc etc.
For this reason i like to pick bright loud crank baits when applicable. In winter ive found just using bright colours works well. The depth the fish hold up in will also be affected by the pressure. My theory is that the reason perch fishing is soo good in low pressure is because all of the perch rigs are on the bottom where the perch will be in low pressure. Following this same idea in a high pressure they are more suspended in the water, and as much as i hate the drop-shot its a very viable rig for high pressure situations. Rigging a lemon tiger slick shad on the drop-shot was a lethal method when i met up with Ben Smith.
Let me know what you’ve found with your fishing and any patterns you’ve managed to home in on.
I think I’ve grown to love chub. It wasn’t an immediate infatuation, like my experience with tench and pike, more a slow-burn, a gradual awakening of admiration, prompted by Matt Hayes and ably assisted by the river Roding.
One crisp winters morning about twenty years ago, I was driving to work down the M11 when I noticed a river meandering through the farmland adjacent to the motorway. It was the Roding, glistening in the low winter sun.
I knew it was there, it makes its presence known most years when winter rain causes the river to break its banks and saturate the surrounding fields. But I’d never fished it, never given it a thought really, despite it being practically on my doorstep. But this was soon to change, thanks to Matt Hayes.
Obviously John Wilson had the edge when it came to compulsive viewing fishing shows with ‘Go Fishing’, but Matt’s ‘Total Fishing’ came a close second in my book. One episode featured him stalking chub on a tiny river, fishing link legered breadflake amongst the numerous rafts, overhanging trees and snags; crawling along on all fours avoiding the cowpats and nettles, “jungle warfare” as he christened it. He caught a couple of pristine chub, tussling with them as they dived for the snags.
I had to have me some of that, it looked a lot of fun and it was a style of fishing I’d never attempted before. So, after securing the appropriate ticket, I found myself on the banks of the aforementioned Roding with a newly purchased ultra light quiver rod and a loaf.
Conditions were spot-on; mild and overcast with a slight tinge to the river after recent rain. I was excited. I had a huge choice of overhanging trees, undercut banks, rafts and slacks to cast a fluffy lump of bread at. I chose a far bank raft of debris beneath a willow, slightly downstream and a relatively easy cast. Much to my deep joy, the flake had hardly settled when the tip dinked twice and then pulled round. A lively chub of about 3.5lb. What followed was a rarity, certainly as far as my angling experience is concerned anyway: a Red Letter Day. Six chub in the space of an hour, biggest nearly five pound. When that swim died I moved to another and caught another three. Then I ran out of bread and switched to lobworm, and caught another two. What a day. I’ve stalked many small rivers for chub since and have nowhere near equalled that very first session.
I came close on the river Wye last July whilst barbel fishing. I caught eleven chub over three sessions but to be honest they became a mild annoyance as barbel was the target fish. Only one managed to fight it way through the chevin to my hookbait and I was very pleased to make its acquaintance, a good looking fish of about 6lb.
One afternoon session found me, my wife Cath and my dog Indy perched atop a precipitous bank for which the Wye is famous. They picnicked on a sunny plateau while I risked my neck trying to fish from a cliff face. Nonetheless I managed a couple of chub, one of which created a temporary but major rift in my marriage. The chub in question felt a lot like a barbel when I hooked it, and tore off downstream. Then it reverted to norm and headed for a very snaggy willow overhanging the bank. I could do nothing to stop it and before I knew it had crocheted its way around the tree’s lower branches. There was only one thing for it: I had to go in. Off came the kecks and into the Wye I waded, but I forget my landing net, the only appropriate tool for getting at the line wrapped around the tree and ultimately the fish. Wife Cath was summoned and as she lent over the cliff edge to hand me the net (in hindsight she could have just thrown it) she slipped down the bank, through a jungle of nettles and joined me for a swim. As you can imagine she wasn’t best pleased, scratched, stung and soaked as she was. I told her to tread water for a minute while I got at the fish, a really nice chub that would have warranted weighing in less trying circumstances. I eventually managed to clamber up the bank and extract the wife on the way, treating her to yet another nettle anointing for good measure. Needless to say showering was a trial for Cath for a couple of days, such was the extent of the nettle-rash. But apart from that we had a good holiday.
As a boy I fished the river Lea Navigation at Cook’s Ferry in Edmonton, usually with my fishing pal Gary. I’d bus it to Chingford Mount where he lived and we’d walk to the river via the service roads that provided access to the reservoirs and pumping stations, where the Lea departed from the Navigation into ugly concrete water channels that emitted a dystopian dreariness we couldn’t wait to leave behind. The Cook’s Ferry stretch itself wasn’t exactly a bucolic idyll either, what with the North Circular Road’s traffic thundering past and the nearby incineration plant’s colossal chimney belching out toxic fumes all day, but if you walked a half mile or so down river you’d come to a great swathe of far bank willows that we often fished opposite. We’d knock out the usual schoolboy fare of tiny perch, gudgeon and bleak, with the occasional unlucky roach, but one day we were treated to an angling masterclass, which became an epiphany to me in terms of what the river really had to offer and the skill required to harvest it.
A middle-aged man was fishing a few swims up from us, casting a long, slim float with pin-point accuracy in what looked to be an impossibly tiny gap between the far-bank willow branches. As soon as the float settled he’d catapult maggots around his float; repeating every thirty seconds or so. Fish were falling to his tactics at an alarming rate, and they were big, silver-backed fish the likes of which we’d never seen before. We had to have a closer look so we went and stood near him; he didn’t seem to mind. “What fish are those” I said. “Chub, mate”, he replied. He didn’t talk much but showed us a chub before he slipped it into his net, and we were enthralled by its sheer size and beauty. Suddenly, our six foot Woolworths starter rods and “Black Prince” reels seemed wholly inadequate. This man fished with a long, elegant match rod and a reel with line filled to the spool’s rim. His tackle was neatly arranged around him, with a bait tray close to hand brimming with bronze, red and white maggots all in separate boxes. Witnessing a real angler at work was a double-edged sword for me. It enlightened me to the sheer potential that fishing had to offer, but also made me painfully aware of the gaping chasm in my own skill-set.
Every winter nowadays I look forward to chubbing sessions. I’m very lucky to live near the Suffolk Stour, the upper stretches and the middle. It’s not the easiest of rivers but the rewards are there if you’re willing to make an effort. A number of times now I’ve fished the upper reaches, either legering breadflake or trotting maggots. I’ve never blanked and have caught chub to 3lb and some huge dace. On one occasion, when I was a scout leader over- seeing the fishing badge, a young scout called Patrick caught a 4.5lb chub on breadflake. None of us could believe it! Needless to say Patrick got his badge!
I fish the middle reaches of the Stour through Sudbury as much as possibly. It’s taught me a thing or two and has enabled me to witness the evolution of angling theory into angling practice. One phenomenon in particular springs to mind, namely the importance of deeper than average marginal water coupled with vegetative cover, providing sanctuary for young fish, especially in the colder months. I’ve fished, on maybe five or six occasions, a swim with all the above attributes and have reaped the rewards, particularly when targeting predators. It really is a sight to behold, at dusk, watching this swim come alive as pike, perch and chub take advantage of the burgeoning food source. On a good day, the water literally teems with fleeing fry as the preds strike. I’ve been lucky enough to catch pike to 14.5lb, perch to 2.2lb and this lovely old chevin of 5.2lb. What a swim!
Today me and a few mates decided to go to bury hill to complete a dream we’d had for years. Bury Hill is an awesome venue with a stunning lake and big toothy angry predators! We decided to go early morning to increase the amount of hours with baits in the water even tho the zander are a night fish and thats when they come alive, when driving hours to the mark you may as well make the most of it.
I missed an absolute thumper of a take in the daylight but forgot to free spool my rod so as soon s the zd felt the resistance it dropped the bait! The rigs were single barbless size 6 hooks with half a roach and a running 1oz weight. NO BOBBINS put the reels on free spool and wait for line to start being ripped out. I put oil in which i think is very important and a few freebys to draw them in and have added scent.
As the day got older and the light dropped the bite went mental first seeing the line run off the spool i gave it a few seconds then lifted the rod, you cant set the hook with circle hooks as you’ll rip them right out, just lift the rod and reel her in!
My mate had 2 in 20 mins with me only getting one but im happy with this as its a hard venue and my first time going there with barely any advice or help.
Welcome back everyone to another JT Carpers blog, we hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Years and are looking forward to the year ahead, we know we are!
So, unfortunately, we have not had the chance to hit the bank so far this year 🙁 So this will be a little blog just for a recap of our last year and a look forward to the next year.
So let us start off with a look over a few nice surprises we had last year, from capturing new species, to some stunning carp and finally 2 brand new P. B’s.
The next few images are of the new species we managed to catch last year, we do not venture away from carp fishing much so when we do and we are met with something new we really enjoy it, last year we finally managed to get on our annual sea fishing trip as it was cancelled several times due to Covid restrictions, we managed a few new species for myself and Jack including, Bass, Flounder, Pouting and finally a very strange sea anemone.
Also, to top it off, with a short carp session at Waldegraves Holiday Park planned whilst on a weekend away with our families I managed to capture my first ever Gudgeon, awesome little fish and that was a very enjoyable day, chill time with the families and to really top it off Jack managed this awesome looking carp last knockings, honestly one of the most beautiful carp I have seen with amazing colours and looks!
Following on with awesome looking carp Jack managed to grab this beautiful Koi from a lake we loved to visit when we could that had a fair few Koi in its waters, unfortunately this lake has now changed to a membership lake and we do not fish it enough to warrant becoming members so as of right now we may never return to that lake, but I hope we do in some shape because it is an awesome little lake with some cracking fish like below.
Finally, as I could never miss these 2 absolute beauties out, here we have mine and Jack’s current U.K P.B. carp, mine going an awesome 31lb and Jacks spinning the needle a little further round to 31.8lb, whilst I will not go over the whole trip (If you are interested, please read the whole blog here Red Letter Session – Essex Anglers & Dreamland Continues – Essex Anglers)
So, with that little recap complete I want to touch on our targets for this year, we both would love to catch a 30lb+ mirror carp from our club lake and personally I would love to catch a 30lb carp from the guest lake on the complex too as we aim to visit that a few times this year with some guests, there is an awesome 30lb+ Ghostie which resides in the guest lake which would be the tip of the iceberg for myself!
I personally would love to start taking up other forms of fishing in lure fishing/predator fishing and fishing for some crucian carp as I have a water not too far from where I live that offers awesome Crucian Carp fishing so fingers crossed.
Well, that is all for our first blog of 2022, the next one will defiantly have more recent fishing trips in it, so until then, good luck all.
There’s been a bit of a perch bonanza amongst fellow Essex Anglers bloggers lately, so I thought I’d show my appreciation for this magnificent fish too.
Like most anglers, my very first fish was a perch, in fact I think I caught about nine, at the age of nine, from Highams Park Lake in Woodford Green, Essex, an estate lake originally part of a landscape designed by Humphrey Repton in the eighteenth century. That first session had a profound effect on me, and I was utterly hooked from that moment. Part of the allure was the fish itself; they were tiny but they fought like tigers, flashing back and forth in the pellucid shallows, all spikes and stripes with great, gaping mouths and huge, predator eyes. They certainly put a bend in my six foot Woolworths fibre glass rod. I’ve still got the folding, red fishing stool I used on that day and the Golden Virginia tobacco tin my dad gave me for my hooks and bits.
Perch loomed large in subsequent trips to the lake, as I’d yet to hone my angling skills enough to tempt any of the more wiley tench, roach and carp that lived amongst those kamikaze stripeys. Eventually, after discovering the revered books of tench guru Fred J Taylor, I managed to bank a tench or two, plus a 1lb roach. But that was a couple of years away, and me and my best friend and angling pal Gary were content to hoik out “wasp” perch on line thick enough to hang your clothes on.
Gary was a street-wise kid who’s personality contrasted with my laid-back, mild manner but our mutual appreciation of wildlife and fishing forged a strong bond. We once witnessed an older group of boys catching perch after perch and dashing them to bits on nearby rocks, laughing as they did so. We were utterly appalled and shouted at them to stop, from a safe distance obviously. Thankfully they did stop, despite hurling threats and abuse, but the shocking sight of those poor, eviscerated perch is still emblazoned on my mind.
Later on, after I left college and moved back to London, I discovered what was at the time one of the best big-fish rivers in the south-east: Coppermill Stream, Walthamstow. A short, two mile tributary of the river Lea it is nowadays a shadow of its former self but when I fished it was renown for specimen fish of many species including barbel, roach, chub, and perch.
I enjoyed good sport from all the above, apart from (and despite my best efforts) the perch.
I knew they were there, I’d heard the fishy tales from fellow anglers of giant stripeys, either caught or spotted skulking amongst the streamer weed. My own personal experience of these gorgeous giants was to be bitter sweet; to be truthful more the former than the latter! But nonetheless I’m glad I had it. One evening in the late summer I was fishing for barbel with no success. A few swims up was another young angler fishing hard up against concrete bridge pilings. He was hoiking out perch after perch, whooping with delight as he did so, every cast produced another fish. And they were massive, the biggest perch I’d ever seen. He was carefully placing them in a keep net and after a while my curiosity got the better of me and I walked up to him to witness his remarkable catch. He was a humble, good natured bloke and appeared almost embarrassed by his success. He asked me to take some photos for him and I was happy to oblige, a bit jealous of course but very pleased for him and in awe of his catch: six specimen perch to 3.8lb; not fresh, clean-skinned, fin-perfect youngsters these but old, muscular warriors, with scarred flanks, blood-red fins and bristling spikes. If there had been smart phones at the time I’d have asked him to text me a photo or two, but this was the late eighties and mobile phones resembled house bricks. I’ve still got some vivid memories of those perch though. The fella packed up shortly after, a very happy angler. I asked if he’d mind me poaching his swim and he graciously obliged, but although I fished into darkness I had not a touch, despite replicating his tactics: legered lobworm against the concrete pilings, feeding maggot over the top.
Over a decade later, I would employ the same approach to catch my own big old stripey. Not a 3lb monster but a beautiful fish nonetheless. One autumn evening in 2004 at Dobbs Weir on the river Lea in Hertfordshire, I took the advice of a friendly bailiff I’d met at the weir the day before, and fished hard against the concrete bridge pilings adjacent to the weir. I had two perch, the biggest 2.12lb. Luckily, that same bailiff turned up again, and with a smile and an “I told you so” took a couple of photos for me.
Here’s one of them.
Nowadays, perch fishing is enjoying an amazing revolution. The opportunity to catch specimen fish from a wide variety of venues using a wide variety of tactics are legion. I have myself been bitten by the lure fishing bug, and in the space of a year have bought numerous multicoloured, jelly-like lures; some resembling fish, others the “Bugs” from Starship Trooper movies. But to be honest, although I’ve enjoyed fishing with them, I’ve not caught many perch! Plenty of jack pike though, which on light gear are a joy.
Saying that, I had two nice fish of around 1.5lb from the Great Ouse near Ely, on a jig resembling another perch! The little cannibals…
I had to resort to the time honoured perch catching marvel that are lobworms to get amongst something bigger. On a favourite stretch of the Suffolk Stour is an old railway bridge and a very deep pool with perch, (and chub), written all over it. One evening in December last year I decided to give the pool a crack. As dusk settled in numerous fry were making their presence known, their tiny bodies iridescent in the margins. In went a link-legered lobworm and within twenty minutes out came a beautiful perch that pulled hard and shook its head all the way to the net. She went 2.2lb, again not a monster but a fish that had me buzzing for days after.
Last weekend I took part in a lure fishing competition on the Lancaster canal. Somehow I ended up coming second out of over 20 people which was a complete shock for me. I’ve only been lure fishing for a couple years and before last month I’d only ever dabbled in it. I never entered to win, for me it was about meeting people and learning. I met some great guys on the day and one of them, James, offered to take me barbel fishing.
I’d never been barbel fishing before but it was always something I’ve wanted to do. The stories I’d heard about how hard they fight had me set on catching one but the opportunity had never arose. James and I both had Thursday free and he offered to take me barbel fishing on the River Ribble. The Ribble runs through Preston which is only half an hour from Lancaster where I am at university. Apparently, the best barbel fishing comes in the evening and night so we left around 3pm.
We arrived at the river and it was surprisingly low. Just the previous week it was in flood however James thought that it still looked really good for a fish or two. We chose a couple of swims next to each other and got the rods out. I only brought limited gear to uni with me so my rod of choice was a 6ft 2lb stalking rod. I hoped that the length wouldn’t hinder my casting too much or put too much line in the water. Thankfully the river wasn’t flowing too fast and I was managing to hold bottom with 3oz.
As suggested by James, I opted to use a simple hair rig of about 18 inches on a running ledger set up. My first bait of choice was 2 14mm halibut pellets however after the first cast they had fallen off. I subsequently decided to use just 1 pellet topped with a small piece of buoyant fake corn. I hoped this would prevent the pellet falling off. We also used small pva bags of pellet on each cast as well as catapulting a few handfuls of pellet over our spots.
The sun set below the horizon and cloud cover prevented the moon from shining down on us. It was a dry night with a slight breeze. The weather was really nice. We’d been there for nearly two hours and I was in James’s swim having a chat. A friend rang me to discuss some coursework so I headed back to my swim.
We were talking for no longer than 2 minutes when a fish picked up my bait and line slowly peeled off my reel. I ran to my rod before telling my mate I’d call him back in a minute. I shouted down the bank to James and he came running over. The fish felt good and my rod was coping nicely. The fish went on a few runs before James scooped it up in the net and we exchanged high 5’s. The fish looked really big and James said it looked like it could be double figures. My heart was racing, there was no way my first barbel was going to be a double.
We weighed it in the net and the scales tipped around to 12lb 8oz. The question now was how much did the net weigh? I was ecstatic and we took some photos before allowing the fish to rest in the net. The fish swam off strong and it was time to weigh the net and see if I’d just done the unimaginable. The net came in at 2lb 4oz meaning I’d gone and caught a 10lber as my first barbel. I was over the moon.
The rods went back out and we waited, and waited. Nearly 2 hours had passed and we were both getting restless. I was in James’s swim and he suggested we could try somewhere further upstream with deeper water. We decided to give it another half an hour as we’d both had a couple knocks. As if on que, James had a savage bite. The result was another great barbel which weighed in just a few ounces under 10lb.
We decided it would be best to stay where we were for the rest of the night. Unfortunately I didn’t catch anything else however James caught a lovely 5lb chub. Even though I had just the one fish I cant complain at all. It was more than I could ever have hoped for. It was great to get to know my new friend James a bit better too and I can’t thank him enough for putting me on some fish. Hopefully there’s some more barbel in store for me this year and if not, I’ll definitely be giving them a good go next year when hopefully I’ll have passed my driving test.