I’m talking about large perch, of course. Not large in the Angling Times or Angler’s Mail sense – I’m talking large in relative terms. It would make sense that the canal holds perch of a decent size, as it does currently hold a large head of roach, all the way from fry up to (and probably beyond) 1lb mature specimens. It also has an abundance of features, unlike some other canals which consist of miles and miles of seemingly identical sections. Along its whole length, from its confluence with the Don on the edge of Rotherham to its conclusion in Sheffield city centre, there’s barely a fifty metre stretch without a bend, or a bridge, a turning bay or a basin – it stands to reason that there should be some proper striped lumps in there. The thing is, up until last week, I hadn’t seen any.
Last week, armed with my drop shotting gear, I happened to fish one of the many curious narrowings on this once busy waterway. By narrowings I mean the sections where the canal’s width reduces to that of a single barge – a bit like a lock, but without the actual lock(?!) if you follow what I mean. There seems no obvious purpose for some of these narrowings, but maybe back in the days of coal and steel transportation, these were loading sites? This particular narrowing is a little easier to explain, as quite clearly the reduction in canal width at this point is due to the proximity of a foot bridge. Or maybe the narrowing was already present, and therefore was an ideal position to erect said bridge at a later date?! Anyway, regardless of why they are there, the narrowings do present an excellent habitat for perch. Constructed from large deeply formed steel sheet sides, and often supplemented with wooden piles, overhanging cross beams and buffers, they are the ideal perch hangout from which to ambush the passing roach shoals.
For whatever reason, I’d never seriously targeted this area before. On this particular session though, armed with the perfect setup to exploit the features, I gave it a go. Thinking that any residents would surely be on the larger side, I offered up a three inch long imitation bleak – a much larger lure than I would normally use for drop shotting. Whilst teasing the lure along the steel wall I received an aggressive pull, and all of a sudden I was into something decent. A short fight ensued, and the lure rod took on a nice bend as every lunge and head shake was transmitted through the braid. Then, as my prize reached the surface, things went slack. With my end tackle now emerging from the water, the unmistakable dark profile of a large perch was seen making its way back to the depths. Bugger!
I thought back to a few weeks previous, when a similar thing had happened a mile upstream (if such a term can be used when referring to a canal?). On that occasion I had been fishing down the edge of one of the marina’s high-sided walls beside a bush (which had taken root in one of the mortar lines of the wall and grown, over the years, to quite a size). A take, followed by a short aggressive fight, culminating in a slack line. The difference was, I couldn’t identify the culprit back then – maybe it was a pike, or maybe a large perch? All I know is that the two events bore close resemblance to one another. So, back at the narrowing, I was thinking that maybe the larger than usual lure had adversely affected the hook-size to lure-size ratio. Although it didn’t look particularly “wrong”, the size 10 hook did look appreciably smaller than when planted inside the usual 1.5” Yakimoshikayo-thingy type lure. Maybe the cheeky monkeys had hold of the lure but hadn’t fully “inhaled” it, in the way perch normally do? I was in no position to remedy this, however, having inexplicably left my spare hooks at home – d’oh! I tried the feature again with a succession of smaller lures, but perhaps unsurprisingly, my chance had gone.
However, in moving half a mile upstream (there I go again), I happened upon a small group of juvenile perch right in the edge, in around two feet of very clear water. The fish I could see were surely only of a few ounces in weight, but with a small lure already mounted on the size 10, I decided to see if I could tempt one. As it happened, they were not interested in the slightest, but in the clear conditions I was shocked to see a much larger perch lurking amongst them. It was only a brief sighting, as it turned tail and sped off into the deeper water, but it was quite clearly over a pound in weight, perhaps even approaching two. Who’d have thunk it? After finding no evidence of them at all previously, I had now seen, with my own eyes, two such specimens in one day.
Furthermore, revelation two was about to occur…..
Slightly further down the bank, a juvenile perch could clearly be seen having a right go at my rig. Not at the lure, though. He’d taken a shine to my drop shot weight – “shine” being the operative word! You see, I’m currently using HTO weights which happen to be chrome plated. I think they’re actually polished, not plated, but you get the idea.
In a most uncharacteristic moment of uncheapskatedness some time ago, I had chosen to purchase these rather expensive weights thinking that their quality would surely match their price, therefore ensuring a good prolonged period of sterling service. Indeed, their quality is beyond question, and very nice they look too – maybe too nice, and that is the point! Thinking back, I did wonder at the time of purchase whether they would attract fish in their own right, owing to their splendid shininess. Anyways, stood on the bank, only moments after spotting the second striped monster of the day, the penny had dropped…..
Revelation number two: the monster from the narrowing encountered just one hour previous, the mysterious and substantial fish I had tussled with by the mortar line bush in the marina several weeks since, and probably the well camouflaged jack pike I had unintentionally disturbed down the edge a couple of weeks prior to that – had all engulfed my reassuringly expensive shiny drop shot weight in preference to the lure. All felt as if they were hooked, but upon realising that they were losing the fight, they had simply let go of the weight.
Thinking back to the incident at the narrowing, I distinctly remember seeing the lure emerging from the water whilst still being somehow connected to the substantial lump beneath. How could this possibly be the case if the perch in question was not in the act of scoffing the weight?
Yes, am I now convinced that this has been occurring, and as a progressive splodger of South Yorkshire origin, I now have a heart-braking decision to make: do I discard all three packets of these “reassuringly expensive” supposed investments in the interests of increasing my catch rate (an act, effectively, akin to flushing a crisp tenner down the shitter), or do I take the default stance of, “I’ve paid for the buggers, so I’m bloody well gonna use ‘em”?Of course, I’ll choose the former – but ye gods, it’ll be through gritted teeth.