Dave Harrell’s guide to river perch
Now is the time to net yourself a bag of big river stripeys!
IT’S never been better, or indeed easier, to catch a bag of big river perch!
All around the country, on a host of different rivers, people are reporting personal-best single fish and, in the case of match anglers, best-ever match weights.
A few weeks ago I fished the first round of the ABC Baits Wye Winter League, and after weighing in 26-10-0 of mainly small chub plus a few dace and perch I felt confident of getting good points for my team. How wrong I was!
I followed the scales all the way down to the end peg and was amazed to witness mainly perch weights of 44lb and 43lb, plus a couple of 30lb catches and a bigger 26lb than mine. My weight was only good enough for sixth in section, quite phenomenal when you consider the river was low, clear and hardly moving.
I also witnessed some very big perch at Shrewsbury during the three-day festival there, and over the past few years there have been some real monsters landed from the Thames, Warwickshire Avon and Trent.
Big perch can show up almost anywhere on any river but if you really want to target them properly, my advice would be to choose a swim with a fair bit of depth (more than 6ft) and then search out the bottom of the nearside ledge, if there is one.
In the same way that roach like to hold up on the ‘crease line’ that I told you about recently, perch love it there too – maybe because they have easy rich pickings if the silverfish are living there.
Other obvious places to find perch are swims where there’s a lot of overhanging tree or weed cover. I can recall back in my childhood days being told by my dad to fish ‘just over the weed’ and the advice still holds good.
POLE OR RUNNING LINE?
While a bait presented on pole gear can often be the best way to target big perch, I think many anglers miss out on better catches by ignoring a running line approach as well.
A pole will put you in the same place every time, which is fine as long as the perch are playing ball and staying in the same place.
Be prepared to put sections on and work your way down the swim as the session progresses and fish are being caught.
On the matches I fish, many anglers have now switched on to the fact that you can sometimes catch more perch by presenting a lobworm or a bunch of maggots under a Bolo rig.
If there is flow, you can search the swim better and run the rig all the way through it. Once you’ve caught the early mug fish, this is a ploy well worth trying.
I’ve experimented with all sorts of elastics for perch fishing and now I use mainly white or black Daiwa Hydrolastic. If the black sounds a bit harsh, bear in mind that when I’m using it I’m often fishing with a 6g float and a big hook, so everything is in balance. It’s a great feeling when you lift into a 2lb-plus perch on black Hydro too as the elastic is very forgiving. This is something you need, even when you’re using a big hook, as it’s so easy to pull out of the fish if it’s not hooked properly.
While maggots and casters will catch all sizes of perch, when
I’m targeting big ones there is no finer bait than chopped worm and caster for feed, and lobworms, whole or in chunks, on the hook.
I fish venues where there is a big head of stripeys on many of the pegs, so for that reason I always take a kilo of dendrobaenas and at least 100 lobworms with me on every match or pleasure session.
I won’t necessarily use them all every time, of course, but if I don’t they will always keep for the next session.
I’d hate to arrive at a good perch swim and not do it justice, simply because I hadn’t bothered to bring enough bait with me.
Two or three pints of casters are added to the worms that are chopped. I rarely chop worms finely, as I think big perch prefer large pieces of worm, and even small ones can scoff a load.
HOW TO FEED THE SWIM
There are a few different ways to feed chopped worm and casters. Probably the most common is via a bait dropper, which you can buy in various sizes. Think about where the dropper hits bottom, as you need to be able to present your rig over the top – always lower the dropper in downstream.
Another way to introduce the feed is with groundbait and soil. I use a 50/50 mix of Bait-Tech Pro Natural and soil, and cup or throw this in – again, always downstream to ensure I can fish over the feed when it’s on the riverbed.
On rivers like the Thames there is little flow, and I’ve had success there by just cupping the chopped worm and caster in.
A fourth way is to just feed small chunks of lobworm by hand and
fish over these with running line.
This can actually result in some very big catches of perch when the river is running clear but not too fast.
Use chopped worm and caster for feed.
Perch have been winning lots of river contests.
Dave with a fine catch of big perch.