It was Sunday afternoon before a precious few hours presented themselves. I hurriedly packed for a trip to the canal with perch being my target. The stretch in question, which I have fished before, would undoubtedly be busy with boats so the late time I would arrive should prove perfect. I planned to rove with lures and see if I could find a hungry mouth or two. With my relative inexperience of the method, at least catching perch, mid week I asked a group of friends for a little guidance. It seemed there was a few things I could add to what I was doing but there was plenty I was doing right. Ultimately, these opinions proved a great tonic for my confidence, and isn’t that half the battle in this pursuit of ours? Believe you will fail and fail you probably will. Turn that sentiment around, however, and you are laughing.
The day couldn’t have been better for perch fishing. For any fishing thinking about it. Overcast, a little cooler than late, a slight breeze and dampness in the air. The vegetation, though still lush, was showing signs of giving up on another year. Grasses yellowed and balsam stems browning. There was an absence of birdsong, which only went to emphasise the chugging of the barges, plenty of which made their way past me over the first two hours. So much for arriving late. I had walked a good length of the canal in that time, casting into likely looking areas, retrieving the bait in different ways, attempting to work out just how these perch wanted the bait presented today. If there was any perch there at all? Of course there was, big ones too, and whenever the tiniest element of doubt materialised in my thoughts, I was on it like a shot, ridding it from my mind. The suggestions of friends ringing louder than ever.
I wondered how many times a lure is cast out over four or five hours? It must be a fair few. I bet it travels a vast amount of cumulative distance too. Consider not just a straight retrieve but its elevation. Up and down and side to side. That must add metres onto the distance over a day. It was as the lure was nearing the end of one journey that I felt a sudden weight. A dead weight at first, at least before I struck, a jagging defiance afterward. Typically perch. I can think of very few other styles of angling where the take of a fish can be felt so plainly. Seemingly out of nowhere. Pleasant and serene contemplation, rhythmic and monotonous activity, interrupted so ferociously. Nought to sixty in milliseconds. Or at least the bodies equivalent. It was indeed a perch, having just caught sight of its flank, a good sized one too. A fantastic Autumn account opener.
After that fish I heard the familiar chugging of yet another barge, it soon descended the lock and passed me, churning the water, kicking up silt and all manner of other nasties found lurking on the bottom of canals. This was not the time to fish on. No, I thought, best to leave any perch down there to settle for an hour, go and explore some other areas and return as the boat traffic begins to die along with the light. The great thing about canals and rivers is that there is a lot water to explore.
I spent longer than an hour exploring narrower sections, bridges, lock cuts and areas of dense weed growth but my lure was not taken. I was keen to get back to the spot where I had taken my only fish of the session, so after a quick tea break, I made an about turn. The canal was noticeably more still now that the barges had moored up for the evening. My confidence was brimming. Everything felt right. The first cast tempted a bite, a fish slightly bigger than the first, and every bit as hard a fighter. The second cast came back slightly too fast, adrenalin more than likely, but the third cast, well on that, the lure was hit by a substantial more powerful fish. In disbelief I uttered the word ‘pike’. I couldn’t let myself think this heavy weight was a perch. On light gear the fish refused to be brought to the surface, diving aggressively, making yards of line in what seemed like singe tail strokes. With time, and a little grimacing on my part, the fish tired and unceremoniously floated upward out of the murk. It was a perch. A bloody big perch. Nought to sixty, and back again, once the fish was safely in the net.
Three perch over a pound topped by this fish at 2lb 8oz had certainly helped make this a great session. With the fish photographed and returned it was time to leave. Half a mile or more to reflect upon the day as I made my way back to the car and maybe, just maybe, a few more casts as the light faded.
Thanks for reading,