Down she goes... any sec­ond now

A ‘life­less’ pit pro­duces among the lilies

Angling Times (UK) - - TIPS & TACTICS -

THE wa­ter lily blooms were long gone and now the pads, too, were show­ing shades of am­ber and brown where the cold had hit like a ham­mer.

For now, though, there was enough cover for perch to call the place home, and amid the maze of stems run­ning up from the tough rhi­zomes a shoal of stripeys had found a refuge from the gin-clear, open wa­ter.

From the banks the pit seemed life­less, and yet in ev­ery ves­tige of veg­e­ta­tion a band of perch had moved in.

Hid­ing from larger preda­tors, some of them their own kind, was one mo­tive, but the real draw was the am­bush point such cover of­fered. From here a shoal could launch a rapid at­tack on a group of fry.

These lit­tle fish, too, were drawn to the lilies, vul­ner­a­ble to beak, tooth and claw now that early win­ter had stripped the pit of colour. So were the de­cay­ing pads re­ally such a safe haven? The perch had other ideas.

Once the at­tack was launched the mini roach and the smaller perch were cor­ralled into a mini bait ball. A few would es­cape but the fate of most was sealed.

To an ob­server on the bank all this ac­tiv­ity would be barely no­tice­able – maybe a flick of a pad or a boil on the sur­face as the prey fish tried to leap clear of pur­su­ing mouths.

It would be all too easy to miss a feed­ing frenzy last­ing just a mat­ter

of min­utes at each end of the day.

For now perch were the apex preda­tors – but armed with a rod and reel I was hop­ing to change all that.

A lucky sight­ing while tench fish­ing in the spring had alerted me to the perch’s pres­ence, but now, af­ter a few hours of cast­ing out into open wa­ter on this bright and seem­ingly hope­less day, I was left scratch­ing my head. It was then that the lily-choked mar­gins caught my at­ten­tion.

At first glance the wa­ter here seemed too shal­low, no more than waist-deep, and the perch were hold­ing sta­tion above the mar­ginal shelf and not lower down, as I would have pre­ferred.

Could they re­ally have moved so close in at this time of the year? I would have my an­swer shortly.

For most of the trip I had been us­ing an Esox pad­dle­tail jig in pearl red, bounc­ing it over bars and down gravel slopes to no avail. I be­gan in sim­i­lar fashion at my new pitch, but as I drew the jig to­wards the pads I knew there was limited time I could keep the lure in the tak­ing zone.

The sun may have been weak, but it was still bright enough to en­sure that if any perch were present they would be deep un­der cover. Time for a re­think!

First job was to get a set of chest

“There was enough lily cover for the perch to call home”

waders out of the truck so that the tip of the 8ft 6ins Esox Drop Shot rod could touch the open wa­ter on the outer edge of the pads.

I loaded 6lb fluoro­car­bon line di­rectly on to a Dren­nan FD3000 reel – I can’t un­der­stand why some an­glers pre­fer braid with a flu­oro leader for drop shot­ting. It may add a few yards to the cast, but this is a rel­a­tively close-range tac­tic any­way.

The lack of stretch in braid, to help with clean hook­ing, is of lit­tle ex­tra ben­e­fit at such short dis­tances, and by fish­ing the line di­rect my drop shot rig was far quicker and eas­ier to con­struct, with one less weak link to po­ten­tially fail.

On to the flu­oro I tied a size 4 Esox drop shot hook via a Palo­mar knot, leav­ing a long tail. This was tucked back through the up­turned eye, mak­ing the hook stand off

the line at 90 de­grees. My lure of choice could be mounted on to this, but first a small 8g lead was pulled on to the tag end and se­cured with a clever keeper clip that meant no knot was re­quired.

I had no in­ten­tion of cast­ing the weight, just drop­ping it to the bot­tom on the edge of the lilies. This would give a fixed point from which I could move the lure up and down, but not into the veg­e­ta­tion. Now I could stay in the tak­ing zone for as long as I wanted. It seemed a good plan, even for an an­gler like me who prefers to bait fish.

First up I mounted a small holo­graphic min­now that would repli­cate the perch’s prey. I opened the bail-arm, al­low­ing it and the lead to fall into the pit. Mo­men­tar­ily it held sta­tion and then, by gen­tly flick­ing the fine-tipped rod, I brought the im­i­ta­tion to life as it darted to and fro around a foot off the bot­tom. Oc­ca­sion­ally I would shift the lead to search out an­other area, but I didn’t get a sin­gle strike.

There were two pos­si­ble rea­sons

for this – ei­ther the lure hadn’t grabbed the perch’s in­ter­est or there were none there to be im­pressed!

A change of lure might be the an­swer, so I swapped the min­now for a 5ins Char­treuse Lime Curly Worm that no preda­tor could miss. The re­sponse to its er­ratic move­ment was im­me­di­ate, and the perch went mad. A seem­ingly empty pit sud­denly had a group of stripeys sit­ting un­der ev­ery set of pads, and I plun­dered their num­bers with the same ruth­less­ness that they had shown the fry. None were huge, but a bad day had been turned on its head.

In the clear wa­ter each perch’s mark­ings were won­der­fully strik­ing, and I filled my boots.

Pre­dictably, a cou­ple of days later, I wanted an­other fix but for an hour no perch joined the party. In des­per­a­tion I nicked on the same pearl red pad­dle­tail that I had first used, this time on a drop shot rig. Amaz­ingly, I started catch­ing again! Twice I had saved a blank when it would have been so easy to just walk away.

I low­ered my drop shot lure over the dy­ing lily pads.

The perch weren’t huge, but look at those colours... con­tin­ued DOWN SHE GOES... ANY SEC­OND NOW!

Drop shot leads with in­ge­nious clips.

A Curly Worm was met with en­thu­si­asm.

A pearl red pad­dle­tail – deadly on its day.

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