Well what an abysmal few months we’ve had for fishing recently, if it wasn’t biblical levels of rainfall turning the rivers from meandering streams into raging torrents bursting their banks and flooding the surrounding countryside, it was the eternal biting cold winds blowing across the land with a daily occurrence. It was in fact this weather trouble that has caused the delay in this article, I would have liked to have had it in for last month’s magazine, but sadly when we last tried to do it, we made the long trek at silly o’clock down to Alderwood Ponds just outside Brighton, only to find the water in question with a bank to bank layer of ice, preventing us from even attempting to fish. So for that I would like to start by saying sorry to each and every one of my fans and followers who wait patiently for my articles. Apologies to you both!
On a serious note though, it does highlight just how important it is to take advantage of the small windows of opportunity as and when we do get them. We had again arranged to fish this venue for perch, but a quick look at the weather forecast looked like we were once again going to be doing eskimo impressions, so after a quick few phone calls and frantic rearrangements, Alan Stagg and I found ourselves heading back down for an early morning assault a couple of days earlier than planned. We were a touch worried as we were surrounded by sleet and snow as we left Surrey, but by the time we got there, we just had rain coming down and it felt a fair bit milder. After a quick look around the Island Lake at Alderwood we soon settled on a couple of likely looking swims, and retrieved the gear from the van.
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First thing off the quiver was my float rod, I was planning to use this down the inside margins, whilst using leger tactics further out. I set my rod up with a tiny pole float, ideal for showing up the little dainty infuriating bites that perch can give us at times. Mainline on this rod was 4lb Gardner Hydro Flo line with a size 20 Gardner Target Kwik Lok Swivel attaching my hook length of 3lb Gardner Target fluorocarbon. This was finished off with a size 16 barbless hook, again from the excellent range of terminal tackle in the Target range. After a quick plumb around, I had my float set at just over four feet, with the hook just touching the bottom. This then had half a krill soaked prawn attached to it, before carefully flicking it out underarm to settle next to some very perchy looking marginal reeds. Next job was to get some feed around the float to attract the fish, this consisted of a mix of chopped prawns, liquidised prawns, Sonubaits krill powder, Marukyu krill concentrate and Carp Company Aminol. This was all mixed together into a yucky gloopy mess, and fed around the float. With a drier firmer mix, this can be either thrown in or catapulted, but as this particular mix was so sloppy, and because I wanted the feed to be very accurate, I poured it into one of the new Gardner Bait Shuttles. This is the first time I have tried these, and by leaving the removable inner sleeve in place, it proved to be absolutely perfect for lowering through the bushes and introducing a lovely cloud of smelly glop into the water over my float without having it spill out all over the place as you would with a normal spod. With that done, it was time to sort out the other rods.
With this being a venue where three rods are allowed, I was going to fish one rod along my other margin, and one out into open water, next to an aerator where the water was a bit deeper, thinking that the extra depth over their heads might hold an extra degree or two of warmth. Both these rods were set up with identical rigs, consisting of 6lb Hydro Flo mainline, a size 12 Target Kwik Lok Swivel, and 5lb Target Fluorocarbon with a size 10 Target barbless hook, basically exactly the same set up as my float rig, just slightly stepping up the strength and replacing the float with a 1oz running ledger.
One rod was flicked just along my right hand margin, with a krill soaked prawn on the hook and a small scattering of krilly prawn bits in the rough vicinity. Rather than keeping all the bait in a tight area like my float set up, I wanted to keep each rod different to see if any patterns or methods seemed to be working better. With this rod done, I attached a bright red unflavoured prawn to the third rod and with a gentle underarm flick, I placed it next to the aerator. Around this, I then introduced half a dozen whole red prawns. It was time to sit back and hopefully await some bites.
It wasn’t long at all until I started to get a few indications of fish activity around my float, and before too long, after a few hesitant trembles, the float slowly slid away. A firm strike was met with an even firmer resistance, which initially had me thinking I had hooked a root or something, but after a second or so, it started to move off and plod around hugging the bottom. It quickly became apparent that this was no perch, and after about five minutes of hairy moments of the fish trying to find sanctuary in every reed stem and tree root it could find, I soon had nice little mirror carp of about 12lb in the net. Not the intended species, but welcome evidence that it wasn’t too cold for the fish to be feeding, and a good test of the strength and durability of the Target tackle to land a fish like that on such light gear. After a couple of quick snaps, it was returned to its watery home, and I was sat back awaiting the next fish. It took a while for the swim to settle back down after the disturbance of the carp, but after a while I started getting a few wobbles on the float again. I would like to say that I then hooked more fish, but alas after a couple of totally unmissable bites that I somehow managed to miss, the float went quiet.
Thankfully during this time, I had been getting the odd little bleep and twitch on the leger rod out by the aerator, only tiny indications, but enough to get the dinky little Nano Bug (and me) jumping. Eventually, one of these twitches became a long steady pull, and a quick strike was met with the tell-tale jagged head shaking of a perch. After a brief battle, with a rather worrying moment when the fish bolted into the roots under my feet and got caught on a clump of sticks, a nice perch was drawn into the waiting net. What a lovely plump example it was too. After quickly wetting the sling and zeroing the scales, the fish was lifted onto the mat, unhooked and lifted up for weighing. The needle bounced a couple of times, and soon settled on 3lb 1oz. The biggest perch I have had for a couple of years, and even more pleasing to catch it in such grim unfriendly conditions. Alan soon had me holding my prize aloft whilst he clicked away with the camera, and with the pictures done, I slipped her back into the water.
I quickly had another red prawn flying through the air to land with a plop next to the aerator. I fired a couple more freebies around it and sat back. It wasn’t long before I started getting a few more indications on this rod, and after a few tentative pulls, I had another steady lift on the bobbin and I struck into another perch. After another quick spirited fight, a second perch was soon in the net and being lifted onto the mat. This one was a bit smaller at around 1lb 8oz, but again very welcome and once more falling to the red prawn. During this time, Alan had been getting lots of very quick indications on his open water rods, and after a while he finally managed to get a strikable bite and hooked into a fish of his own. We were both expecting another perch from the fight it gave, so were both surprised when a nice roach of around 1lb 4oz surfaced. This was soon followed by another one of around 1lb 8oz, again not the intended species, but at least they were keeping the blank away.
After this the bites dried up as the cloud lifted and the day got a bit brighter, so Alan took the opportunity to put his pinny on and cook up some bacon sarnies. These were very welcome on such a cold and damp day and were soon gratefully consumed. Around mid-afternoon, we started to get thick cloud cover coming over, and with the skies becoming ever more overcast, things looked good for a few more bites. As is very often the case, with this lowering of the light levels, the perch started to feed once more. I was again getting indications on the open water rod, and as I hadn’t had a twitch on the legered margin rod, I wound it in, and after replacing the krilled prawn with a red one, as these certainly seemed to be getting far more attention, I flicked it out to by the aerator as well. I soon started receiving lots of very fast unhittable twitches, and when the baits were retrieved, as expected the prawns had been whittled away by the roach.
Alan at this point though, was starting to get a few indications on his margin rod, and before long he struck into his first perch of the day. As it surfaced it looked another good fish, and with the scales and sling duly readied, he hoisted her aloft and the needle settled on 3lb 4oz. Two 3lb+ perch on a feature is always welcome, but especially in the conditions. With the photos again done, Alan then went on to nail another couple of perch in the 1lb 8oz bracket to take his tally to three perch to my two. With us having to be off at 6pm, there were only a couple of hours left to even up the score, and as the light levels lowered a touch more, I started getting a few more knocks on the float. Every time I flicked half a dozen maggots in next to it, the float would tap and jiggle about as all the roach fought for them, and I was sure that this would in turn bring in a stripey beast or two, but alas the only thing apart from the roach that seemed to be feeding in my swim then, were a couple of fat chested robins who eagerly devoured my maggots, and a very bold and friendly Canada goose, that decided he wanted to climb up the bank and eat from my hand.
So, with sadly no more fish coming to either of us, the final tally was three perch and two roach to Alan, and two perch and a carp to myself. It would have been nice to get some more, but in reality with it having been so cold for so long of late, a brace of 3lb+ perch was very welcome. It also highlighted the importance of taking a variety of baits with you. I have had many occasions on the past when a krill flavoured prawn would out fish a plain unflavoured one, but on this occasion, I didn’t get a touch on the flavoured one, with all my fish coming to the plain ones. Whether this was down to the flavour or the fact I had coloured them red, I am not sure, but I shall certainly be trying coloured and uncoloured prawns against each other again and see if any patterns emerge. After all, we all know about adding a flash of red to a lure to attract the perch, so I am sure there must be something in the red coloured prawns that tempted them. We shall definitely be returning again soon, and next time I am determined to redress the balance and out fish Alan, you have been warned Staggy.
Mike’s guide to Colouring Prawns.
Step 1 – What you need…
Step 2 – Place the prawns in a air tight bag and add a small amount of chosen food colouring.
Step 3 – Shake the prawns so the colouring is evenly distributed over the prawns.
Step 4 – Leave the prawns overnight to absorb the colouring and you have the perfect red hookbaits.