What follows is a short article that covers my winter of 2017 perch fishing in the Lea Valley on the River Lea and the River Stort. Last years perch fishing had been fantastic and I was more than ready when October came round, the temperatures started dropping and the lure rods started calling!
Above: Getting prepared with numerous deliveries of hooks, jigs and lures!
Above: Just a few of the lures that did well for me last year!
I couldn’t wait and so popped out early in September for a random perch session on the River Lea. A month before planned but got lucky on this short session and nailed a 3 pounder on my first trip out!
Above: A cracking 3lb 2oz perch from the Lea drop shotting.
A couple of weeks later I was out on the river, this time I was drop shotting but had started to experiment with Salt Shakers and Squirrel Tails with instant success in the form of a nice 2 pounder.
Above: 2lb and a few ounce. So great to be perch fishing again!
Above: Salt Shakers and Squirrel Tails.
Just a week later I was out again. When the fish are up for it you gotta make the most of these windows – they can go off the boil pretty quick. The worm style lures weren’t working and so I reached for a Zman Punch Craw, a fantastic lure. It was grabbed first chuck before it had even hit the deck!
Above: A cracking creature caught perch of 3lb on the nose.
Above: The fish with the ZMan Punch Craw.
I was consistently catching on the Lea but I had hit it pretty hard last year too and decided that I wanted a change of scenery. I started to stretch my legs and ventured into Essex on the River Stort and one particular area that had form for some very big perch. It was early October and I’d turned up at around 3:30pm, which was standard for me. The last two years I have fished this way, only really doing a couple of hours at dawn or dusk and for me dusk was best. I headed for an area I’ve had a few from before and the drop shot had been in the water for about 5 minutes when it was hit by what was clearly a decent fish. I’m preying it’s a perch and it was tempting to bring it up out the deep water to get a look but it was diving hard and I had to be patient. Eventually it broke the surface and I could see it was a very decent perch, possibly the 4 pounder I’ve been after! So pleased to see it go in the net – it looked really big. A big framed fish, not fat – just big! On the scales it went 3lb 12oz, a new PB. Not the 4 pounder but I couldn’t care less – what a perch!
Above: A carp with stripes! 3lb 12oz.
Above: Another shot of my new PB.
The fishing was going to be tougher simply because the area was new to me but I wanted a new challenge. I was moving around and catching a lot of small fish but I was enjoying being more mobile and trying to find the next hot spot! On one short session I’d covered a lot of water before hitting some swims on the way back to the car. I struck gold in the very last swim of the day with a drop shot cast to a near marginal bush. The fish hit it hard and fought as hard as any perch I’d hooked. There’s a lot of jacks in there and quite often you think ‘if this isn’t a pike then it’s a good perch‘! I was definitely pleased to see this one go in the net!
Above: 3lb 8oz split tail perch.
Above: One you’d definitely recognise again.
By now it was mid October and my perch fishing was in full swing. I had started to focus on one particular area that had produced some really good fish for me. The fishing was hard but the rewards were worth it. The average size of the perch was very good. I avoided the smaller perch by using quite big lures no less than 3.5″ / 4″. One morning something big hit the lure which was obviously not the perch that I was after. It was a bit of a dead weight and it was a pike hooked right on the edge of its jaw which was just as well – very sketchy on a 6lb leader!
Above: A mid double figured pike – on a 3.5″ pin tail lure.
On my next trip, about a week or so later, something crazy happened. I was trying new spots and had about 6 small perch. One of these was hit by a much bigger perch. The water was so clear, I could see everything! It was bashing into the smaller perch but there’s no way it was going to fit in it’s mouth! Eventually it knocked the smaller fish off the lure. I kept the lure in the water and I watched the big perch as it grabbed it! The rod bend over, it was on for about 10 seconds before slipping the hook! A crazy thing to see at your feet in gin clear water!
Above: The perch that was attacked was around this size. Taken on same session. Definitely the biggie that got away!
It was a couple of weeks before I could get out again. It was my birthday, 2nd November and I gifted myself a proper birthday treat with a couple of hours away from the tough fishing I’d been experiencing on the Stort and was back out on a familiar section the River Lea. It proved to be a very productive session with five fish in quick succession! A couple of them were really nice 2 pounders.
Above: Well, what else would I want on my birthday 🙂
Above: Another decent 2 from the same session. Nice bronze colours.
Within a week the fish has stopped chasing lures. There was quite a sudden drop in temperature and so I wanted to fish on the deck, super slow. I decided to play around with the Ned Rig. 6lb leader to a Shroomz jig head and TRDs in a range of colours and sizes. Nothing was working until I switched to this and had almost instant success.
Above: A range of floating style lures for Ned Rig fishing.
Above: The ZMan Finesse TRD and TRD Tubes.
Above: The big TRD in the water.
Check out how the TRD floats. When coupled with a Shroomz jig head it sits nose down on the deck like a bait fish feeding. In fact, this year I played around quite a lot with floating lures. With the right jig head you can get them to drop through the water quite slowly. You’ll be amazed at how many hits you’ll get when a lure is on the drop – a floating lure extends that ‘drop time’. Other floating baits that I played with included Crazy Fish Gliders and ZMan Punch Craws.
Above: Absolutely nailed on a TRD!
Above: In all its glory and just a few ounces short of 3lb.
What followed is a very difficult period towards the end of the year. The perch fishing was tricky. The river was in flood. The water was chocolate brown and pushing through really hard. So in December I had a few sessions trying to catch a large pike from a big Lea Valley pit.
Christmas came and went. I’d failed in my attempt for a big pit pike and in January I decided to refocus on the perch. I love perch fishing and had really missed chasing these stripy creatures!
The river had settled down and I was able to get back on the River Lea. The first trip was a short session at dusk and I managed to catch one of the best looking perch I’ve ever had. Such an epic shape, big shoulders and just an awesome fish.
Above: Early January and a perfect looking 3lb 4oz River Lea perch. On a creature bait.
Above: Pulling back the mesh to reveal another stunning 3 pounder.
By the middle of January I was back on the Stort looking for a real biggie. I knew that the perch would be at their biggest in February / March and so I decided to go for gold – gamble quantity for quality. I was after my 4lber which had eluded me so far.
Above: Time for a change and I decided to try Spikey Shads to provide more vibration in the water.
Above: A short video about the Spikey Shad.
After meeting Callum at the office, to talk a bit of business, we headed to the Stort. With this specific spot – if they’re there you’ll have them quite quickly and that’s exactly what happened on this occasion. We had a good cast around covering lots of water. I was fishing a bright Spikey Shad and it was hit hard out in open water. We usually get our fish in the edge here so when it was hit in open water I thought that it was likely to be a pike but when it broke the surface we could see it was a big perch. At that point Callum sprung into action and grabbed the net. After a really good scrap it was ours and it looked big, very big!
I had gone a bit scatty at this point. Jibbering and glancing at the beast whilst trying to get my head together! Callum was asking what my PB was and so he knew it was something a bit special – could this be the 4!?
Unbelievably the scales read 3lb 15oz. I’d come within 1oz of my 4lb prize. To be honest this didn’t bother me too much. In fact a sick part of me liked the fact that the chase was still on! Besides I didn’t want any element of doubt on my first 4, a few ounces over to be sure would be nice!
Above: 3lb 15oz perch on a Spikey Shad. What an amazing photo, the sun going down behind an absolutely awesome perch!
Above: Returning the big girl to her home. Nice to see them swim away in clear water.
Experience told us that we needed to get the fish back and hit that exact open water spot. These fish swim in small shoals and sure enough a few casts later Callum had another decent perch of 3lb 4oz on the Jika Rig. We’d been fishing all of about 45mins. For half of that time we’d been weighing and photographing fish. After Callum’s fish we lost the light and we decided that we should probably go and have a beer to celebrate our success. This venue handed out plenty of blanks so you gotta celebrate your success when it comes along!
Above: Within minutes of each other. Callum with a 3lb 4oz and my new PB, 3lb 15oz.
Above: Another pic of the awesome perch that came so close to breaking the 4 pound barrier.
Callum sent a few pics off to the mags and it was nice to feature in the press again. Callum lost out on page space slightly 🙂 What a memorable session though. This happened to me in the same spot last year too – loads of blanks and then suddenly they’re like buses. It just shows that sometimes you just simply gotta keep going, keep being there and it will eventually come good. Callum even returned the next morning for another 3lber before they moved off, capitalising on the opportunity.
Above: Nice to get in the press again this year. Details of our epic little session in Anglers Mail.
Shortly after this we were hit by snow. The rivers seemed to be really affected by it this year and I wasn’t the only one struggling. Again the river was coloured and trying to fish it became virtually impossible at times. The conditions eventually improved by mid February and now was the time to bag a very big fish. Perch start to carry a bit of spawn and I hit the venue off the Stort again in a last ditch effort to bag something a bit special.
Above: Creatures were playing a big role in my large perch game. The ZMan Hogz.
Over the next month I tried really hard. I stuck it out on this tough venue because I know it has form for very big perch. I personally knew other anglers that had bagged 4 pounders up to 4lb 7oz and heard rumours of 5 pounders. I was fishing for a monster. This was made even more crippling as I watched other anglers starting to enjoy other parts of the Lea and the Stort and were catching some fantastic fish but I’m a stubborn old bugger and I dug my heels in and kept going. Unfortunately there is no happy ending and I felt the opportunity slipping away from me – not that I’m grumbling. I’d sacrificed numbers of fish to try and catch a fish of a lifetime. A challenge that will have to wait until I do this all over again later in the year.
The season didn’t end too badly, when I had an after work session early March on a completely new stretch of the River Stort. To be fair I’d been tipped off by another angler and was desperate to catch something before the end of the river season in mid March. Conditions were perfect and we got there just before dusk and only fished for an hour. The stretch had a few boats and a bridge. The weather had become mild and the fish had switched on. I slowly bumped a Berkley Havoc Rocket Craw along the bottom, mounted on a Cheb rig. It was picked up just a couple of rod lengths out and we knew it was a decent fish, taking line and fighting hard. I was so pleased to catch this one after what had been a very tough month or so.
Above: 3lb 4oz perch from a new spot on the River Stort. A great end to the season.
Above: Success on creatures again. This time the Berkley Havoc Rocket Craw.
The end of the season came and that pretty much signalled the end of my winter campaign for big perch fishing in the Lea Valley on the River Lea and the River Stort. I don’t hang the lure rods up entirely but I certainly start to think about other species once the rivers close. I’ll leave you with another awesome photo of the 3lb 12oz perch from the Stort.