Featured on Fisherman's Blues - Talksport2
I’d just taken a fresh delivery of a variety of suspending crank baits covering a few sizes and patterns that caught my eye and was very keen to get out for a few hours, even if it meant getting out nearer lunchtime rather than my favoured times of morning and evening.
Luckily – fishing prospects-wise at least, it was a particularly overcast and dreary day, compared to the recent run of unseasonably warm and bright weather we’d been experiencing in the South. Regardless, you won’t catch any sitting on your sofa and any opportunity to have a dangle is an opportunity not wasted!
Being in deepest Berkshire and spoilt for choice with the Thames, Kennet (river & canal), Loddon and Blackwater just a short drive in any direction, it’s always a dilemma which to choose for a short session. If I can get out for a full day I might hit up a few different rivers in rotation, but today was going to be a smash-and-grab lunchtime affair. With that in mind I chose a section of the Kennet & Avon that had some interesting canal sections and river confluences to mix things up and hopefully target both perch and chub.
A short drive found me parked up right by my first spot and after walking down to a nice bridge/lock feature on the canal I was pleased to see the water clarity being favourable. A slight tinge of colour meant the boat traffic had been low. Always confidence-inspiring.
I flicked a small suspending crank in a muted perch pattern toward a leaky lock gate, deep into a cutting. I find these inlets always hold a fish or two and I wasn’t surprised when first chuck in I had a sharp pluck at the Westin BuzzBite. It felt incredibly wasp-like and throughout the rest of the retrieve another series of small taps occurred all the way back to the edge where I could visibly see a group of maybe 8-10 small perch ganging up on my crank. Always a fantastic sight to see them bristling with aggression and usually a sign that you will find other groups fired up.
The pluckiest one at the front nailed the crank under the rod tip and I swung the probably 2oz perch to hand. A first cast fish can spell disaster for the rest of the session but I’m not particularly superstitious… Am I?
A few pulls over the same and surrounding area only yielded a follow from a suspiciously brown trout looking creature that wouldn’t commit, so it was off upstream to search them out. This particular stretch is a canal but river influenced and can carry some flow, depending on the sluices upstream. Today it was as still as could be observed and still carrying a little colour, perhaps with around 2-3 feet of visibility.
Moving up the stretch and particularly targeting areas with evident fry activity, I managed a few more small perch to around hand-size, by cycling through a few patterns and sizes of cranks. After a few moments and knocking my confidence I noticed the sudden tow effect pushing through that could only mean a boater working the lock sluices.
It’s not always the kiss of death but I find it’ll take at least a few minutes for things to settle after a boat chugs through. With this in mind, I set off downstream to see if I could beat it through a few locks and swing bridges and increase my chances.
I was down into a stretch that hasn’t been particularly kind to me over the years but one I’d always thought looked absolutely the stereotypical perch paradise. Lots of structures, deep and steep margin shelves and some tasty snags and overhangs on the far margin. Despite the flow in this section being relatively low for the time of year, I targeted the slacker areas, hoping to find the bigger perch lying in wait.
A few more small perch graced the bank and on one particular cast, nailing the far bank overhang I felt a solid bang from a good fish. It bumped off after a few seconds and unsighted I’d be confident to say it was a pike, but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve sworn I’ve been attached to a small pike and it’s turned out to be a big perch when it first breaks the surface! Two boats passed in each direction and time was running out for me. I decided to head back up toward the car and target the upstream section, above the lock where I’d started out.
On getting there I could see the residual colour from the earliest boat activity, but it still looked good for a fish or two. I clipped on a smaller 5cm crank, in a natural roach pattern that suspends deliciously on the pause. After flicking it into the margin and pulling it back as a test, I wondered if there was a big perch in the land that could resist this morsel!
Well, the smaller perch definitely enjoyed it as another handful of smaller perch visited the bank. It was crunch time now as the boats had entered the lock and it was slowly filling for their slow march upstream. I was lost in a daze when I looked up and saw a big chub just ambling along perhaps 8 inches below the surface.
Quickly and discreetly I flicked the crank a few feet in front of its nose and gingerly tugged it right in its line-of-sight. In a literal split second all hell broke loose and she was hooked. A short but hard fight ensued on my light but balanced BFS outfit. 6lb fluorocarbon straight-through down to a short and light wire trace. Leading back up to a 1-7g JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) casting outfit that can handle bigger fish like this with the respect they deserve.
The usual manic affair of getting the flick net unfolded and shipped out happened with relative ease and what was obviously a big chub was safely in the net.
Unrolling the mat and zeroing the scales prudently, with the chub resting safely in the net. A few passers-by commented the usual “do you eat them?”, “is it going back?” Once they’d cleared off I gave her a quick weighing and was happy to see a solid 5lb15oz register on the digital scale. A few snaps on the mat and she slipped back into her watery domain.
The boats navigated the lock and feeling satisfied and with time marching on I retired to the car. Net and mat soaking and smelly, but with a wide grin and recognition of a job well done. Until next time.