Patience, panic, respect, reward (Entry 197)

It certainly was pleasant to be doing something different, in the Autumn sun that beamed down. I thought about the perch I had chosen to ignore this week, the conditions certainly wouldn’t have suited them, which went some way in making my absence from the canal a little easier to justify. Today I was fishing for carp, using a waggler setup, on an intimate and interesting water. It wasn’t just any old carp I was after. Today I was after a carp of the grass variety, though for now I’d had precious little interest from anything at all. Still, the sun continued to warm my back and the fish would turn up, eventually. I was quite sure of that.


If I do say so myself, I was fishing the waggler pretty damn well. One of those days when it seemed I could do no wrong. There was never any danger of a cast sailing into branch city. No tangles were waiting in the wings. I was able to get into a steady rhythm; cast, feed one or two grains of corn, twitch the rig after a time, leave for a bit longer, then repeat. Really relaxing and super simple. Two hours zoomed by without any sign of a bite, but I felt confident that there was nothing more I needed to do, other than wait. For the sun to swing around and the water to warm. The carp would follow. As predictable as finding a cat in a sun trap.


As soon as any shadow had been dissolved, I had my first fish. Illuminated by the bright light, I could tell immediately this wasn’t a grass carp, a broad and deep flank flashing in the depths ,as it powered away for the sanctuary of an overhanging tree. A common carp; fin perfect and a very strong fighter. It certainly got my heart racing. The very next cast my cup of celebratory tea was interrupted by another bite, this time from a grass carp, and so began a much more sedate fight. Without much incident, the fish wallowed and lunged near the surface, making it quite easy for me to lead into the landing net. It was a great fish to catch and one I was really pleased with. Less so could be said about my next encounter.


After releasing the fish, I topped up my half full cup of tea, and settled back down to fish. From the corner of my eye I glanced a mouse, with wings, hovering a few feet away. Except, obviously this wasn’t a mouse. This was the biggest hornet I have ever seen. I thought about screaming and running to the sanctuary of my car. I had visions of it, and hundreds of its friends, in pursuit of an angler, hurriedly heading for the barren fields distant horizon. The product of one too many horror films I dare say. I didn’t know too much about them at the time but the wise words of a friend have since put me right (thanks, Kev)! Turns out they are quite sedate. this one certainly was. It buzzed around for a bit, prospecting for a place to overwinter before eventually, five minutes or so later, flying off over my head and into the surrounding trees. A quite incredible insect really.


It was now well into the afternoon, and with the sun less fierce, the fishing became much busier. A number of feisty commons found the sweetcorn too tempting. As did a rogue tench and another five grass carp. Today it seemed, the slower the hookbait sank, the better the chance of getting a bite. Bread attracted a smaller stamp of fish and the few pellets I had with me, ones I found stowed in the bait cupboard, didn’t even make it onto the hook. I had a fantastic time catching up with this not so widespread of fish species and I had caught plenty of better known ones along the way. Once you get past their ‘just a little bit off’ kind of look, they’re actually quite a sleek, and attractive fish. Embossed medallions for scales and pearly golden-brown hues. A worthy Autumn adversary, thats for sure.


A quick note to finish for any perch reading; I have not forgotten about you just yet.

Thanks for reading,


Close, but not yet (Entry 196)

Well, here we go again, down the rabbit hole into perch madness. It’s my yearly grounding. A time to reappraise any notions I have of understanding a specific quarry. In quite a perverse way I do kind of enjoy it. At least for a time, but I’m now at the point where I need to step back, and let a week or two pass. Theres some very good reasons for doing this too. Let me explain whilst I tell you how I faired back once more on the canal.


I had arrived at a lovely looking stretch, one I had fished before but not for some time, and with memories of big sergeants caught here from yesteryear, I set about my task with renewed enthusiasm. The conditions were far from ideal, bright sunshine, but with only one day to choose from and a very perchy itch that needed relieving, I carried on regardless. I mean, even in this bright light, surely that undercut bank and overhanging tree would hold a few fish?


Doing something for too long, at least from my point of view, puts you dangerously in the scopes of ‘burning out’ fast, your mojo teeters on the edge, and worst of all, any enjoyment you are clinging onto comes close to being snatched away. A very loud echo seems to be resonating from somewhere, circa October 2015, a familiar voice offers, ‘you’re doing it again, maybe its time for a break’ or something like that.


I’d been building a swim in the deep water of the boat channel, hoping that in the depth a big perch may be hiding, eyeing up the gudgeon and quite plump roach that were finding red maggot irresistible. Today was going to be a numbers game, keep catching and hope that something large falls foul to one of the the tiny red morsels falling from the sky. A hope that would fade throughout the session whilst ironically the sport did the opposite. I caught over a hundred fish, nothing bigger than 10oz, even when I presented worm instead of the usual maggot. Still, it was more active than ‘sitting it out’ something thats been the backbone of the last few sessions. It was quite enjoyable.


This change in tactics reminded me that occasionally the best ideas come from the least likely situations. In the shower. Whilst stuck in traffic. That being, thinking passively can sometimes be better than slogging it out, like it’s starting to feel I’ve been doing. Maybe a few trips on the river after dace or a days carp fishing are in needed. They could just spark an idea about these perch, or lack of them, that would otherwise lay dormant if fully focussed. And speaking of laying dormant there was still one thing that needed exploring before I headed home from my session.


The far bank swim had been untouched all day, slowly fed with worm sections and left alone, for the smells and vibrations to entice any predators nearby. I wondered if anything was waiting for me. It was time to look. For five minutes my lobworm sat pretty. Then a small tremble on the float. Interest that turned into another ten minutes of nervous anticipation. The float then did its most brilliant thing without any further warning and sailed under. On the strike elastic was stripped from the pole. This was certainly a powerful fish but not one carrying any significant weight. It was my target fish though, and quite a looker. Yes, this was a much better term to part company with the canal on. Much better than actually catching a monster. Close, but not yet. I’ll be back.

Thanks for reading,


Ramble on (Entry 195)

12:30pm. This is the week.

2:37pm. Or maybe not. I’m struggling again. The perch are not giving themselves up too easily. A quite annoying pattern is starting to rear its ugly head. I’ve made a good start to the autumn perch fishing, but it is quickly turning into hair pulling frustration, with no recompense in sight. I’m sure there’s some of you out there reading this who think, why the hell don’t you just go to a commercial and have done with it? There’s no doubt there are plenty of big perch swimming around in these types of venues, but for now at least, I really want to catch the wildest perch I can. And that means canal or river.

4:10pm. I’m not taking the high horse in the matter, nor am I derogating anyone who chooses to fish for perch on commercial type venues, hell, I will more than likely do it myself one day and you still have to catch the fish. But for now there is a strange kind of lure over me when it comes to these wild, aqueous veins that divide up our country. A grebe has just swam past me. I can’t ever recall seeing a grebe on a canal before. Earlier a pheasant jumped out from behind the hedge behind me, half scaring me to death. The world our side of the divide neatly providing all the reason I need to keep fishing here, barren session after barren session. There’s no way of knowing just what is going to happen next.


4:56pm. Fish I caught a few weeks ago may now be miles from where I’m sitting. With no lock gates why wouldn’t they turn into nomads? Following the bait fish. Seeking out more sheltered areas away from a strong tow or endless boat traffic. Equally, a fish that was nowhere near casting range, even just a few hours ago, could now be swimming ever closer to my bait. Ready to make a memory. Good or bad. Just like the gudgeon I caught at the start of this session, in a different league to all the others, almost as long as my hand. A mini canal monster in its own right.


5:27pm. The pennywort is really starting to get on my nerves. I can hardly put a float in between it. Forever clumping on the line, the float or well, anything in its way. In a week or two it will be leaves doing the annoying but at least they are more colourful and varied. I should stop moaning. Its not that bad, and as soon as the boats ease, the flow will decrease putting an end to this leafy rampage. And at least I have caught a few perch this week. Not the really big one I hoped for but certainly not fish to be sniffed at.


5:42: A few moments ago the float sprung into life and my heart rate did something similar. I struck into heavy weight. Weight that ran so speedily up to the surface. A new PB. My very first grebe, gudgeon clutched tightly at right angles, in between its dart like beak. Thankfully the hook was not in contact and a short, sharp pull saw the grebe begrudgingly give me back my bait. More proof, I guess, that on the next cast, anything could happen.

7:55pm. But not today.

Thanks for reading and until next time,


Washout (Entry 194)

What a difference a day makes. Twenty four little hours. If you are someone who concurs with these lyrics then just think of the difference seven days make. A hell of a lot thats for sure. And this week I have proof. Real (fishing) world, conclusive proof.

With the luxury of two trips to the canal this week, my excitement was sky high, images of perch marauding in its murky waters, crystal clear, at least in my mind. The weather had turned a notch away from summer, with autumnal winds blowing in, a dip in air temperature, it seemed the perfect scenario for my perch plans to play out. I was sure that the smaller fish would start to bunch a little tighter, unwittingly creating tempting opportunities for predators. Find, or attract a shoal of them, and it would only be a matter of time before a big Perch came along. Right?


Day 1. I arrived mid afternoon and promptly caught some gudgeon for use later on. In the meantime I fished with prawn down the edge. Tight down the edge too. With the canal having good depth, and many, many boats passing through during the day, I’ve found perch of all sizes tend to hold here away from all the disturbance, tucked under any overhang or in between the slightest structure. They may not be in full feeding mode, and they may not all be monsters, but if an opportunity presents itself they usually oblige. Only today they didn’t and dusk was soon knocking on the door. I switched to livebait, cast now toward overhanging brambles, and settled down for the wait. The float twitched nervously. On several occasions it darted evasively as the livebait did its best to escape danger. Unfortunately for me, either the unseen perch was old and blind, or the gudgeon had super powers. It survived the ordeal, and once darkness set in, I resigned to defeat. Even the prawn down the edge survived. Kind of.


Day 2. Overnight the rain fell, heavy and unrelenting, and I arrived to much more coloured water. To make matters worse, this particular canal also turns river-like after a good bout of rain, and pushed hard from right to left. This did not bode well at all. Certainly not for perch. If you are after the resident roach it’s everything you could hope for, and it did not surprise me that several 10oz examples were taken, whilst I fished with red maggot ‘gudgeon gathering’. I hooked and lost a bream, that I thought for a moment was a big stripey, and was admittedly a little disappointed when its pale bronze side ghosted into view. Even more so when it spat the hook. Thankfully the gudgeon finally fed and I began to prime a second swim in more perch like territory. Lots of chopped worm and red maggot was trickled in at regular intervals, whilst two big dendrobaenas tempted hungry mouths to the hook. A short way away the livebait rod fished itself. Boat traffic was lighter today, but bites were hard to come by, not even the tiny perch seemed to be feeding, and even the roach had gone AWOL. All day the livebait rod sat pretty but not once did it look remotely concerned for its well being. Even the dendrobaenas survived. Kind of.


I had an enjoyable two days on the banks of the canal, and although it was a little frustrating, I felt relieved to have got the ‘bad session’ out of the way. Time for some positivity. Next week is such a long time away, one hundred and twenty of those ‘little’ hours in fact. Time enough for every detail and nuance to start to align. For my path and a big perchs to begin a journey that will hopefully come to cross.

Thanks for reading and until next time,


A fine line between (Entry 193)

The fish did its best to find some sanctuary. Out over the nearside ledge and down into the depths of the boat channel. A hand sized perch soon found its way back toward the towpath via some gentle persuasion and swift netting. A lovely fish, and a good start to the day, although I anticipated I would have to wait a little longer for its bigger brothers and sisters to show up. At least until the boat traffic decreased and the evening gloom drew in.


I was on a different stretch to last week and had found the fish to be holding very close in, not the just the perch, but the gudgeon and roach that had already entertained me for an hour or two. Of course a few of these fish were kept back for fishing into dusk with; the perfect snack for a big canal stripey. I didn’t want to waste these fish, and it was clear that no brutes were present as yet, so instead of casting straight back out I poured a cup of tea and waited. A heron landed in a tree a short way down from me. They do look ungainly in trees. There’s something about a bird that big and gangly, wreaking havoc in the branches, that always amuses me.

A short time later another cast was made, actually it was just inches from my own bank, so more a drop in than a cast. I had to wait mere seconds for the float to be snatched under. On the other end a heavy fish. It plodded out and down, into the deeper water, just as its smaller cousin had done a short while earlier. This fish however, made best its escape, the line giving was a short way above the hook. Pike, I told myself, but I didn’t truly believe so. I re-rigged, noticing I had just one hook left in the packet, and cursing my lack of preparation, cast once more. Within minutes I had hooked another heavy fish. It too headed out into the deep, lunging and boring, before before coming off also. I was gutted! Even more so because this time I saw the fish. It was indeed a perch, a very, very big perch. It’s head was colossal and, upon coming to the surface, shook its head violently. The rod catapulted back and the line hung limply between the eyes. Time for the examination. A short way above the hook the line had given way. A line I had so much faith in. A faulty spool perhaps*? Either way, with just one bait left and no hooks in the size I wanted, I had to make do and mend. On went a tiny hook tied to a different hooklength material; a last gasp attempt at saving the session.


It was a good job I was fishing close in as by now the light had all but gone. One last bite developed and I cautiously connected with another angry, plodding fish. It fought in the same way as the others but dare I say didn’t feel quite as big. As it surfaced I could see it was a good sized perch, and I was very relieved when it slid over the frame of the net, though I couldn’t help feeling that the fish I’d lost previously could have eaten it for dinner.


Still, it was another two pound canal fish, very long, but quite lean and empty. In really lovely condition otherwise. It’s great to have found a few areas with a good fish present. I hope they stick around over the coming months, and gorge on the prey fish that live here in abundance. Pile on the ounces, don’t do your daily exercise, it’s really not necessary. I insist.

Until next time,


* On closer inspection it seems that the spool of line (with less than ten metres left), was indeed compromised, at roughly five inch intervals. Typical. 

Swimming in shadow (Entry 192)

I had another go on the ‘crayfish canal’ during the week, travelling light with lures this time, as I’d promised myself. For twenty minutes everything was going well. That was until all hell broke lose. Sadly it wasn’t on the fish front but simply because it seemed every single barge in the UK had decided to descend the locks. All at the same time. They must have got wind of me being there. It made lure fishing in an already coloured canal pretty much pointless. So instead, I resigned to simply walking the banks and taking things in, waiting for the sun to set and the air to cool. In quite lovely surroundings, all thoughts of the perch I wanted to catch became distant. There would always be next time.


That next time was a few days later, on a different canal this time, but one with a similar coloured quality. After looking at one or two stretches I returned to more familiar grounds. My plan was to build a swim, fish with worm, and try to pick up a big perch whilst waiting for the sun to sink behind the trees. That is when plan B could begin, when the section I sat on became veiled in shadow, and I had a handful of gudgeon in the net.


Its funny how doing one thing can highlight a situation that would otherwise go unnoticed. Whilst scaling down to catch the bait for plan B, I landed numerous sunbleak, a non-native species currently on the ‘invasive’ list. They’re tiny bleak-like fish and can cause damage to fisheries by competing with the young of any native species such as roach. Once you tune into their existence, you soon realise that there are thousands of them, dimpling the surface, in this case snatching maggot after maggot meant for gudgeon. Different canal, similar problem. Sunbleak. Crayfish. Zebra mussels and mitten crabs. It really is a worrying time for the UK and its habitats.


The time soon came to put the worms into retirement and switch to paternostered gudgeon. Plumbing up at the base of the nearside shelf would position the gudgeon in a great location from which an ambush predator could strike from; a sharp depth change. The rig had been in position for roughly fifteen minutes when the float began to dance franticly. For a few seconds this continued before it solidly plunged under and held true. I struck quickly and decisively. The rod lurched into a pleasant arch. A powerful fish ran to my right, along the line of the shelf, keeping deep. A few snarly head shakes were thrown in for good measure. I had an inkling this was more perch than jack pike, but even so when that deep flank and spiked dorsal fin came into view, all attitude and anger, I couldn’t help but breathe a little easier. It’s fulfilling when a plan comes together.


Thankfully the fish came the way of the landing net on the first attempt. A beautifully marked fish lay resting in the margin, hooked perfectly just inside the top lip, a fish that would set my new PB. A photo was taken as a lasting reminder, for the days when my mind can’t quite recall the details, and then it was back to its murky and shadowy home.

Go and chomp on some sunbleak, friend.

Until next time,


Swimming in milk (Entry 191)

A grey sky turned dark, toward rich blue, the ambient light depleting with every subtle colour change and passing second. I was fishing at close range now, just a few feet from the metal pilings at my feet, but previously I had been casting to the far side. The float could not be seen at this range anymore. Not for the last twenty minutes. So here I sat, a last ditch effort to land a big perch, mere inches from where I had been returning all the fish I’d caught over the past few hours. Two big dendrobaenas were wriggling beneath my float in the murky, boat churned water. Vibrations and tempting smells being sent out. It would appear, however, that the fish in the vicinity were blind, anosmic, or perhaps it would be far easier just to say, absolutely senseless. A bit like the angler sat in the gloom, miles from anyone, a little lost in just what it was he was doing.


I had caught plenty of fish in the few hours I’d been here, little baby perch, ruffe, and even the odd skimmer but the bigger perch had evaded me. Twelve ounces or so seemed to be the limit. How often I’ve been in this situation before. I had caught some peculiar coloured perch though. These fish intrigued me. Their ventral fins, usually burning with orange and red had been replaced, by ones of white with only the merest a hint of warmth. Like koi carp swimming in milk. The colour was not washed out due to environmental factors more than it was simply absent. And I had caught two like this. One of half a pound and one of an ounce. I wondered if they were related.


One thing I had no problems catching had been crayfish. Some big ones too. An explosion of the swines meant that anything with the slightest hint of smell saw cursed words following the stuttered movements of my float. They really are a pain and cannot be good for the canal in the longterm. Sadly, they’re here to stay and the only benefit is that when the bigger perch learn that they are tasty and filling, there should be some brutish perch in the making. Ones that may help in keeping the crayfish numbers at bay. Maybe, just maybe.


By now I had packed away, even at a few feet I could not see the float tip, and didn’t really fancy my chances anymore. A big perch had not came my way. I mused on the matter whilst I made sure I’d not left anything in the darkness. The fish are probably quite localised so it will be best for me to go to them rather than wait for them to come to me. Next time I will pack the lure rod and cover a few miles. I’ll avoid the crayfish at least. Maybe I’ll pack the crayfish imitations. If you can’t beat the join them. Or something like that.

Thanks for reading and until next time,