DURING THE LAST 20 years or so a major feature of the angling scene in this country has been the development of special skills related to particular species of fish. One result is that we now have a choice of rods purpose-built for the capture of different species: thus we have Mr. X’s roach rod; Mr. Y’s carp rod and Mr. Z’s pike rod. All this is admirable, often giving great choice to the fisherman, but as far as I know there has never been a special perch rod. The reason is not hard to find. Perch usually weigh up to three or four pounds at the most, and while many other species exceed this at their top weights (tench, bream, chub), three or four pound fish are run-of-the-mill and any rod which will take these will suffice for perch. Actually the whole business of specialist rods has now become a little extreme, particularly since modern materials such as fibreglass are extremely versatile. For perch fishing I use rods which I also use for a great deal of my other fishing, but I have enough variety to give me considerable flexibility of approach.
My longest rod for example is a 14 ft., three piece, hollow glass fibretube, and this is really excellent for dropping baits into holes in the weed and for keeping the line off the water when trotting against the far bank of a stream. I should think a long rod like this would be a fine tool for fishing the upper reaches of the Great Ouse, where it is often necessary to place a lobworm or brandling worm very very close to the bullrush beds along the far bank. I have used it successfully for perch in similar swims on a gravel pit. Personally I also find a rod of this length useful for stret-pegging. Instead of allowing the dragging bait to work right round to my own bank, I stick the rod well out over the water and allow the bait to swing round to the same distance out as the rod tip. This is particularly useful when fishing some of the fenland drains or northern canals which may have very dirty margins strewn with dying weed, autumn leaves, and silt.
On the other hand a great deal of winter perching is done by legering at long range and for this a long rod of the above type is quite unsuitable. What I use for this kind of fishing is a Mark IV carp rod designed by Richard Walker – either the full carp rod or the lighter Mk IV Avon depending upon the weight to be cast. These rods are 10 ft. long, of built cane (although very similar glass rods are now available), and with a progressive or relatively soft action. The Mark IV Avon will, for example, throw light baits, such as a lobworm without lead, considerable distances. At the same time leads up to 1-½ oz. are quite suitable for this rod, and leads of 1 ½-2 oz. for the Mk. IV proper.
I use both rods for spinning for perch, and these two rods plus the long one account for most of my fishing time. I would be prepared to accept that a short bait caster and small multiplier might give great enjoyment to some anglers using artificials, but personally I hate to go shorter than 10 ft. even when fishing from a boat.
Reels and lines suitable for perch fishing are numerous and easy to find. Any reasonable quality monofil nylon line of three to four pounds breaking strain for use with the long rod and close range work, and of four to six pounds breaking strain for use with the short rod, is suitable for most perch fishing. Occasionally it may be necessary to use very small hooks, baits, and finer lines than three pounds, but generally the above lines used in conjunction with any reasonable fixed spool or centre pin reel is perfectly satisfactory. Personally I tend to use the following lines: Platil, Maxima, and Intrepid Superline, and the following reels: Mitchells and Intrepid Elite, and Supertwins. The choice of satisfactory reel and lines is, however, quite wide.
I do not understand hooks, I may as well confess. I know what I want, but usually find very few in the shops that do not have too rank a barb, too big an eye (with the eye not closed up properly), a barb in the wrong position, a point that is blunt, and wire that is too soft. The best compromises I can find are the following brands: Stilletto, Richard Walker carp hooks,
Octopus, and Goldstrike. Always test them for temper, and sharpen them with a stone, reducing the size of the barb if necessary. I prefer eyed hooks but have no reasonable objection to anglers tying their own spade-end hooks.
The above rods, reels, lines and hooks will cover most aspects of perch fishing except fly fishing and other items of tackle pertaining to perch fishing are exactly the same as used in other angl ing.
What about baits? Perch, being basically predators but also quite cosmopolitan in their choice of food, can be caught on a variety of baits. Obviously fish, whether artificial or natural, are likely to be successful, and of all the natural livebaits I find the minnow by far the most successful. Gudgeon and loach of almost any size are the only other baits which I feel even approach the minnow as really successful baits, but small roach, rudd, and sticklebacks also succeed often enough to make them very useful. It is of interest that minnow, gudgeon and loach are relatively soft, fat fish, unlike the harder roach, rudd or perch, and I am sure that this is the main reason for their success.
I have depicted a swim from which I took many perch on float-fished livebaits. The two baits available to me were minnows and sticklebacks, and I had about twice as many runs on the minnows. While a fair proportion of the runs on stickleback failed to materialise, the perch dropping the bait, very few runs on minnows were dropped. I suppose the sticklebacks erected their dorsal and pelvic spines giving the perch’s jaw a sharp stab. Since perch themselves are past masters at this art it is not surprising that they took the hint and let go.
Using roach and rudd livebaits I noticed that baits of 1 oz. or less were better than baits around the 2 oz. mark, for although 2 oz. fish were just as attractive initially to the perch they were also more difficult to mouth, and resulted in a greater number of dropped runs or missed bites. Even so it is not worth staying at home just because the only live- baits available to you are 2 oz. roach or rudd! Worms come high on any percher’s list of baits. Lobworms, dark and bluish earthworms, redworms and brandlings all succeed at times. Everyone has his favourite and mine is a big lobworm. As in chub fishing the only thing better than a big lobworm is a pair of big lobworms. In winter, on small streams like the upper Great Ouse, small redworms and brandlings come into their own as excellent .baits, but even here a sizeable lob is often deadly. I was never very fond of small pieces of lobworm, or lobworm tails so beloved of angling writers, but in fact the 30 lb. plus bags which I took recently on a fenland gravel pit were caught mostly on 2 in. long fragments of very large, snake-like lobs.
On other occasions, usually during much colder weather, maggots were much more successful than worms of any kind. Single maggots fished on hook sizes 16 or smaller can be quite deadly in the depths of winter, and the whole style of fishing begins to approach that of the most delicate roach or dace fishing. Some of my best catches have fallen to a single maggot on a size 20 or 22 spade-end hook tied on for me by that indefatigable Sheffield matchman Bill Bartles. A tiny, strong hook tied to good nylon has a tendency to pull free of the perch’s jaw and when fishing such tackle great care and stealth is needed during netting.
Although perch will occasionally take cereal baits such as bread flake, paste, wheat and so on, both on the retrieve and stationary on the bottom, these are not good baits. But perch, like that more omnivorous predator the chub, will take many other baits of an animal nature: crayfish, caterpillar, shrimps, caddis, leeches and others. Personally I find livebaits, artificials (plugs, spinners and flies), worms and maggots cover the vast majority of angling situations, although the last thing I should want to discourage is originality in the newcomer to perch angling.