GET HOOKED by Cotswold angler Jon Berry
I WAS chatting last week to Brian, the chap who runs our carp syndicate. We were watching a shoal of big specimens cruising in the warm upper layers, wholly indifferent to my baits, when he mentioned that the lake once had a reputation for good perch fishing.
He didn’t say how big they grew, only that there had been plenty of them – even during the 1970s, when disease saw them disappear from waters all over England.
"They might still be here," he suggested. "Nobody fishes for them." I know now that I will.
The angling writer Dick Walker once described big perch as 'the largest fish of all', and I think I know what he meant; two and three-pounders are wonderful to behold, bristling and arrogant with a dorsal fin that can slice your hand like a switchblade. Four and five-pounders just look too big to be true. In a long angling life, you won’t see many of them, but you’ll remember every one that you do.
If you want to pursue perch, the Cotswolds is a fine place to do so. Many of the Water Park pits hold them, so too our rivers.
From old estate lakes to neglected farm ponds, the inland seas of the Spine Road to forgotten streams, there is no shortage of water where large perch could be hiding.
Perch can be fished for in all manner of ways, too, and that is doubtless part of their appeal. Fly fishing, spinning and the traditional coarse methods all have their day. My favourite technique is float-fished worm, but a pal is urging me to try ‘drop shotting’. I will, when I find out what it is.
My best perch weighed just shy of four pounds, but predatory fish thrive on neglect, and on a water like the syndicate where they have been forgotten there is every chance of bettering that. I certainly intend to try.
And if the monsters have disappeared and there are only tiddlers left, it won’t matter. Small perch have a charm of their own; they are, for the English angler, a totem fish for all that we do. So many of us began our fishing lives with the capture of a finger-long stripey, after all.
I may not break my record, but I might just remind myself why I started all this in the first place – and that would be a result, too.
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