Thursday, 29 November 2018

Autumn 2018

Warning! Swearing occurs

The water was eerily still and tap-water clear. A thick blanket of cloud dominated the sky and a fine mist hung in the frigid Autumn air. Andy struck and almost immediately he sighed a heavy sigh. After several similar occurrences that morning I knew what the sigh meant. We were Perch fishing, quite successfully but interspersed with the occasional Pike. I was standing in the boat and I looked across at Andy who was seated with his rod impossibly misshapen, distorted by a toothy gatecrasher. "Pike," Andy said as he strained to lift his rod. I looked into the water and a large shape appeared from the depths, a shape that took my brain a couple of seconds to decipher, before I blurted out- "It's not, it's a fucking massive Zander!"

Don't believe the hype

Paddy is a busy man. I was rather taken aback when he said he would be up for a day out. The following Thursday we arranged to meet up. Paddy checked the weather forecast the next day and we decided Friday would be a much better. I was sceptical because even on the most accurate weather sites the forecast can change. In my experience the closer to your date the more accurate the forecast. Anyway, Friday- light winds, bit overcast, almost perfect for a day on the boat. 

Friday morning came and as I drove down the track to the river I could just make out Paddy huddled in his Land Rover through the almost horizontal rain. We were both a long way from home and luckily the rain subsided long enough for us to get afloat reasonably comfortably. Fish wise we caught loads. Perch up to around two pounds but in big numbers on a variety of methods. We also found some massive Roach which we failed to catch. The weather was dreadful though, especially in the afternoon. To add insult to injury the day before had been lovely. 

Paddy with one of the better ones

Angle of attack

A week later I was at a new venue, again a long way from home. An invite from our friend Martin to bring the boat to one of his semi-regular haunts. Even though it was first light there was already someone else there. No matter we'll give him a wide berth we decided as we unloaded all our gear and were soon out on the water. We anchored up below an obvious feature and fished worms and lures. Martin was catching a few Perch albeit very small while I really struggled for a bite. I had almost convinced myself it was down to my presentation, more specifically the colour of my braid- dark green. I usually use a light colour and was just about to change my reel when I looked across at Martin's outfit. Sure enough he had the same dark green braid on. That couldn't be it. Had I been on my own I'd have changed reels and never used dark green braid again, completely without foundation. We fished on for very little reward and Martin started to get despondent. We took a break and I drove to the local shop. It was still early but on my return the other angler had left so we motored upstream of the feature, where he had been standing.

The next few hours were a bit of a blur. Even though we were fishing much the same area the angle of attack made all the difference. I use a fairly big floating net, 36 inches and we emptied it three times. Martin, being a stickler for detail weighed anything that looked over two pounds. He had fourteen fish over that weight. I was keeping up with him so it's reasonable to assume I had much the same. I had a big fish which I thought must be threatening three pounds, "Two pounds fourteen ounces," came the reply from the man on the scales. Bugger. No matter, the next one must be three pounds I thought as I slid it over the net. "Two pounds fifteen ounces," Martin declared as he read from the scales. Luckily he had a couple of fish the same weight so we were both in the same boat, literally and figuratively. 

If this one isn't three pounds I'm checking his scales I thought as he zeroed them in preparation for my latest fish. ".........". He paused irritatingly. Like they do on the telly on Bake Off and X 
Factor. "Three pounds five ounces". At bloody last. 

It's been a while now so let me explain what happened that day without the haze of elation. We had nearly thirty Perch over two pounds including two threes. We both think we had over a hundred pounds of fish. Quite remarkable. When we were taking photo's of the threes you couldn't visibly tell them apart from the big twos. The significance of this was that in the clear water we were fishing you could see the fish early in the fight and they all fought well so every battle was visually exhilarating. I've rambled enough, here's some images......

Big 2's.

3lb 5oz

2lb 15oz


One of my email friends Jez (hi Jez) told me he would be going to the a river a bit closer to home and as I had the day off I thought I'd go and see him. With the middle stretches of the river still very weedy I wedged the wife's Kayak in the car with a view to exploring the otherwise inaccessible lower reaches. After a catch up with Jez we went to look downstream. He didn't fancy it but I decided to go afloat. Much to Jez's disgust I managed launch my not inconsiderable bulk with little drama. 

I paddled a long way, too far really. Every corner promised a new vista and fishing opportunities but in reality it was all very samey. Thick reeds on both banks, largely unfished and very wild. Sadly in these remote places a lot of the small fish had been preyed upon by our avian friends. I knew stocks were low so I'd have to get lucky. As I rounded one particular bend there was a clearing in the reeds on the near side and sat right by the waters edge was indeed a fat Cormorant airing his wings. As he struggled to take off I stopped paddling and dropped in a big lobworm by the reeds on the far bank. He was here for a reason I thought. It was instantly taken and I was amazed to see an angry Perch come stubbornly towards the boat. I dropped in again and had another straight away. This one slightly bigger. With the Perch safely in my floating net I fished on.

 Sure enough after a short time I had another bite. After a slightly odd fight the fish came into view.......a bloody flounder, on a dropshotted worm. I went to clearing to take some photo's. Upon landing I realised I'd forgotten my bankstick adaptor for my camera. In addition to this my scales had become damaged so I can't give you any weights. Not massive but I've been back twice since and not caught a single perch so they really are very special fish indeed, some of favourites this year and I managed to balance the camera on my bag.......

Back from the dead

The river Witham suffered from a catastrophic pollution event in March of this year. According to the environment agency not less than a hundred thousand fish perished. If you listen to the keyboard warriors on social media the EA and Angling Trust have stood idly by while counting our licence and membership money. Do yourself a favour, ignore these clowns. I'm absolutely sick of people who only ever lift a finger to criticise official bodies they know the sum total of nothing about. I never see these people when I'm out doing my very small bit for the environment. Drives me mad. People that complain the most usually do the least.

Back to the fishing. On my way back from a reasonably successful Perch session I drove by the Witham. I slowed down and was amazed to see some fish scattering. I spun around and parked up. There were fish everywhere. Straight away I started catching Perch among the bait fish. I even got the Kayak out and had a paddle around just to marvel at the abundance of life below me. The biggest was a modest two pounds nine ounces.....

As luck would have it I had a magazine feature to do the following week so where better to do it than a river that most thought would take many years to recover? They took a bit of finding on the day but when I did they were once again very obliging. Not only that but I made the cover, well the fish did, I was just holding them. It has only been on sale a short time so make sure you get yourself a copy.......

Round up

A brief trip back to my old stomping ground the river Soar in Leicestershire was incredibly hard but I was eventually rewarded with another fish of two pounds nine ounces.....

Another boat trip with Martin on a different venue saw us take another bumper catch of Perch with a two pound thirteen ounce fish the best of the day........

Some more from various other rivers this autumn......


Physical size of a 3lb 2oz fish....

2lb 14oz

Typical boat caught worm eater

Another highlight of the Autumn was this six pound four ounce Sea Trout taken on a Quantum battleshad while after Perch. I netted it fairly quickly at which point it realised it was hooked, jumped back in and went ballistic. After a few nerve racking minutes I eventually landed it again for a quick photo.......

The Zander

Andy and I were having a great time catching Perch on TRD's, a method Paddy had introduced me to at the start of Autumn. We had taken them to about two and a half pounds. I really want to drive home the context of this next fish. I've never seen a picture of a Zander from it, not one. I've never heard of one from the venue. I know local anglers that have and still travel miles and miles away for fish of a similar size often for days on end with little or no success. If I told you where he caught it you wouldn't believe me. I was there and I still can't believe it. My favourite capture by someone else ever and I'm a selfish sod, normally I would have loved to have caught it myself but it was amazing just being witness to it. I've altered the background, not normal practice but this venue is staying secret for now. Nationally not huge, locally unbelievable......

10lb 14oz Lincolnshire Zander

Some Advice

I watched a video on social media recently about top three Perch tips and I can't not mention it. Beautifully shot but complete and utter nonsense. Be stealthy? I've lobbed a 5kg anchor in a crystal clear river, stood up in my bright red outfit and watched fifty Perch come around me and see what's going on. Being stealthy wouldn't make my top hundred.

My top three tips are Location, location, location. Forget everything else for now just find them. A couple of venues I know you have to be accurate, within six feet. They won't move. On some venues you can get away with sitting all day and waiting for the fish to move through but these are quite rare. After Barbel (get over it, mug fish) Perch are the easiest fish to catch. Worms, lures, TRD's, ledgering, float fishing, feeder, dropshot all have their day. Lures are great for finding fish but for numbers of big fish worms take some beating. We've recently found a venue where TRD's will trick as many Perch but it's early days.


One other capture that is worth mentioning this time around is my friend and Specimen Hunting UK member Jamie Potts and his Pike from Rutland Water. Caught on a tiny lure it weighed 36 pounds 2ounces. Amazing fish. Lovely bloke.

You can't just sit down and write a book. Even these tawdry blog entries take a couple of days. An incredible amount of work goes in to a book and it is hard to proof read your own writing. As soon as I publish these blog entries I get someone to check them over. Anyway specimen hunting superstar Dai Gribble asked me to cast a critical eye over his autobiography script mainly to check the chronology as it was written over a number of months. I did my bit and several others have helped him along the way and it is finally on sale. You can buy your copy here.....

A few of the lads from SHUK have been targeting Perch at Farmoor. It's been tough going but they are all making steady progress. Dave Owen has caught the most striking one so far.....

As ever when he gets the chance he takes his son out. Jack is a superstar in the making.....

 SHUK has the odd Carp angler knocking about. Thankfully our fish for everything mantra has inspired James Edwards to branch out. It took him some time to get his first 5 and then caught three on the same day......

Tackle Talk

Z-Man TRD Lures

On our day together Paddy introduced me to these strange looking lures. I've been lure fishing a long time, I'd heard of them but never used them. It wasn't until I was getting another battering from Martin on a shallowish venue where I wasn't very happy dropshotting worms that they really showed their worth. The 'Ned' rig as I now understand it isn't a rig at all. Just a stand up jig head and a strange looking worm type thingy- the TRD. That's it. Fished static with the occasional twitch they proved devastating that day. Neither Martin or I could work out why. I still can't. I've been using them ever since. Andy had his Zander on one. They work, that's it. I like them in white or 'the deal'. The chartreuse ones for some reason can be a bit too effective at attracting small Perch. Around £5 per pack and keep them in the bag, they can melt normal lures for some reason. Please, please be careful on venues with Pike present. If you get bitten off and the Pike manages to get rid of the lure it will still fish. There are no good outcomes to this scenario.

Shimano Poison Adrena 6ft 4in Ultra Light

I was curious more than anything. You'll know by now I'm a champion of cheap tackle that performs admirably. I've had most of my biggest fish on rods that cost considerably south of £50. When one of these Poison Adrena's came up for less than half of the £300 retail price I decided to see if I was missing out. I could always sell it on if I didn't like it.

Straight out of the bag I was instantly disappointed. I was one piece. Having broken a remarkable number of rods (don't ask) over Autumn I wasn't relishing having six feet four inches of delicate carbon about my person. The finish seemed faultless though and it is oh-my-god light. I've used it exclusively with TRD's and it is a delight to use. It has a really fast tip recovery and lovely action. It isn't perfect for what I do. Dare I say the fish I'm aiming to catch are a little too big for the rod? I've had it maxed out a few times and although it has coped it isn't particularly happy bullying really big Perch. So far it has proved a tough little thing though and the lightness still makes using it a novelty. It fishes longer than its six and a bit feet because it has a really short handle but fishing range wise it is still fairly limited. If your target fish are mostly under two pounds and you want a genuinely lovely rod for close in work then have a look at one. Would I pay £300? Not a chance, I'm still lamenting the loss of £120 from my wallet. Luckily I'd sold some other gear to pay for it.

Leeda Icon Light Lure 7ft

Leeda Icon rods are well thought of in the Sea fishing world. This light lure rod intrigued me for another very attractive reason- it has replaceable tips. If you picked up one of these rods after the Poison Adrena you'd put it straight down again. It feels really lazy, almost floppy. In use though you really don't notice it. I've used it with lures up to five grams but mainly for dropshotting worms. It has enough backbone to set hooks and quite the most remarkable playing action. It's almost like a no-lock blank, it just keeps bending, no flat spots just a lovely curve. It is communicative too. I really like it. Replacement tips are £6.99 and after few rods recently I can tell you that's a lot cheaper than a top section for a normal dropshot rod. Aim to pay around £45 with two tips included.

Drennan Flourocarbon

I've been using this line for a while now and it's pretty much faultless. I like the 5lb 6oz version for Perch fishing. That said all my lure PB's have still come when using braid straight through which if I told anyone they'd think I was mad. Luckily I haven't. Pay around £5 a spool.....

Till next time...............


  1. Caught more Perch over the duration of this blog than I ever have ! Top bombing Phil!

  2. The Witham was such a rich environment with a dense population of fish to start with that I believe the pollution didn't put such a large dent into the stocks as everyone believed. I fished it intensely over this summer and saw some amazing fish. A bonus is after a pollution incident you have the whole river to yourself. The fish have have changed their habits though and at times I struggled to locate them.

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