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Featured on Fisherman's Blues - Talksport2

Introduction

It’s been a tough few weeks on the bank. We’ve been hitting the canals hard, trying everything we can to bank a few fish and get a head start in the UK Lure Series while also practising our technique before the river season begins. It’s been a real slog with little to show for our efforts—until our latest session.

I began my perch hunt about five weeks ago and have had around five sessions on local canals, ranging from Rotherham to Wakefield. Our latest session took place in London during some downtime on a work trip.

My First Session

My first session started on the local canal in Swinton, Rotherham, on the first really hot day since spring began. It was perfect t-shirt weather, but I ended up with a serious sunburn. The sudden change in temperature seemed to shock the fish. I spotted multiple dead fish, including perch and carp, floating about. It was a sad sight. However, plenty of roach and rudd were swimming around, appearing quite active, which was a good sign.

I stumbled across a nice little swim with a bunch of freshly bloomed lily pads and spotted about 3-4 large perch beneath them, sitting in the shade. I set up with a small Savage Gear Cannibal Shad in silver. I cast out, bringing the lure towards the first perch’s face, but it wasn’t phased and slowly swam off into the deep, ignoring the lure. I recast to the second perch, with no reaction again. These fish looked big, around 35-45cm. They may have just fed, but I suspected the heat was the biggest factor in their lethargic behaviour.

I switched up the bait and tried various techniques, including chatter baits, jerk baits, and spinners, to entice a reaction strike, but nothing worked. As time went on, the heat was burning, and frustration was setting in. After walking about 1.5 miles along the canal, seeing plenty of fish but not landing any, I switched to the Savage Gear Gravity Twitch in 6.5cm. The erratic movements and loud rattle drew some attention, resulting in some follows but still no bites. I was working my way back up the canal and spotted some surface action. I cast out, hoping this time would save me from the blank. A couple of twitches later, HIT! Finally, I hooked a nice little perch. I finished the session with a sign of relief yet frustration, having saved myself from the blank but still unable to land the big perch I had seen. I knew I had to come back here.

Session Two: Back to the Same Spot

I decided to give the spot from the first session another try. Those big perch were too good to pass up, so I had to go back. This time, I was up at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures. I went straight to the swim where I had seen the large perch beneath the lily pads. Armed again with the Savage Gear Gravity Twitch, I cast in, hopeful. Twitch, reel, twitch, reel, then… Bang! Fish on! The adrenaline kicked in, but then instant disappointment—it was a tiny perch, nowhere near the size of the big ones I had previously seen. Somehow, this little fish managed to engulf the entire treble hook with all three points piercing its lips. I removed the hooks and let him go speedily.

Later that day, I realized my day had been cursed by catching a fish on the first cast (an old folks tale, I believe). The late morning and afternoon turned out to be another frustrating session. Once again, I came across multiple large perch and even the odd pike, basking beneath the lily pads, gazing up at the surface. It felt as though they were laughing at me as I cast my lures with hope and optimism, only to be ignored. The day passed without another catch, so I packed up and called it a day.

I Need a Break from Perch: Time for Some Trout

After the last two sessions, I craved landing something bigger than the ‘wasps’ I’d been pulling from the canal. So, I ventured to a local weir, hoping to catch a nice big trout. My go-to lure for trout is the Savage Gear Sticklebait Twitch. I’ve had many decent trout with this lure, especially from this particular spot, so I was pretty much guaranteed a nice fish. It’s not a big weir, but there are key spots just down from the weir where the flow narrows into a fast yet deep rapid. There are also great slacks immediately off the weir before the narrow sections where fish tend to lie in wait for their prey.

I arrived at the weir and hopped across the islands towards the center of the river. I dropped my bag, unhooked the lure from my rod, and opened the bail arm. First cast in, quick retrieve, rapid twitches, no bite. Second cast in, quick twitches, and a sudden bang! A big hit on the Sticklebait Twitch and some good weight to the fish too. It was a good fight, and the fish only showed itself at the last minute—a nice chub, pristine and around 35cm in length. I unhooked, released, and continued on, awaiting the aggressive take of a trout. I tried various swims and pools before moving further down the river. I ventured into a secluded spot where I’d seen a couple of blow-ups from further up the river. One long cast later, around 20m upstream, my lure hit the water, and I closed the bail arm. The line went slack. It seemed strange until I looked up and saw another chub jumping a full foot out of the water, landing with a splash, and taking up the slack line. It swam straight towards me, forcing me to reel in as fast as I could on my 3000-sized reel. I banked it. Another good chub. I unhooked and released it. After a few more casts, I noticed all the blow-ups I’d seen were actually from chub. I saw a couple more fish in different swims, all chub. It was a chub haven. At this point, I realised the trout simply wasn’t there today, and with it being closed season, I didn’t want to risk hooking up another chub, so I decided to call it a day. Let’s hope the chub are still here when the rivers open!

The Last Haul: Canary Wharf, London

Five weeks have passed since I started this adventure, and I felt as though I had achieved nothing. It doesn’t usually go like this, but this is fishing, I guess. Anyway, I had to be in London for work and recently watched a YouTube video of a couple of great perch being pulled from Canary Wharf. Although the video was around three years old, I decided to try my luck anyway.

My first evening in London took me to the Regent’s Canal, which terminated at the Limehouse Basin. I was about a mile from the basin, so I had a good stretch of canal to fish. I took both ultra-light and medium rods and tackled up with Savage Gear Cannibal Shads—a small one on the UL rod and a larger one on the medium rod. It took me around two hours to make my way down the canal, stopping, casting, walking, and so on. I didn’t see a single decent fish, only tiny 2-3cm baitfish hugging weed bunches in little schools. I thought to myself, “Not again…” as I anticipated the frustrations of the previous sessions continuing into this one.

I eventually reached the basin and was greeted by a large open marina and obvious signs of good-sized fish. There were fish topping, erratic baitfish movements on the surface, splashing, and so on. I was filled with excitement, which was unfortunately short-lived. I cast out into schools of baitfish being forced to the surface by the predators below, varying my retrieve between slow and fast, letting the lure sink between 1-3 feet from the surface. A couple of casts in, and I was on. The bite was faint, but I felt it and began to reel in. It slipped the hook. I was gutted but persevered. I switched up the bait, changing colour to something more like the baitfish I had seen in the water—a silver bottom, grey top with a shiny fleck. With my confidence back, I cast again. A couple of casts later, on a slow retrieve, Bang! It was a good hit. I reeled in quickly, giving the fish no time to shake itself from the hook, and swung the fish up to where I was standing. It was a little 20cm perch. A good catch compared to my previous sessions and one not to be frowned upon. This fish marked my first submission for the UK Lure Series.

The fish were biting, I’d matched the hatch, and I was full of confidence, but then, “Good evening sir.” A voice came from behind me. It was the security guard for the basin. He politely informed me that this area was private property, and I wasn’t allowed to fish there. My heart sank. He was a nice bloke and kind with his words. It was getting late, so I thought there was no point in finding somewhere else when all the fish in London seemed to be in this basin (an exaggeration in my head). So, I packed up and went back to my room for a Chinese takeaway and bed.

The next evening, I made the trip to Canary Wharf, targeting a big perch like the ones I’d seen in the YouTube video. It was a long evening. I started on the South Docks and worked my way up to the top side of Canary Wharf. The water was clear, so I used similar colours to those at the Limehouse Basin. The water was much deeper than I was used to, so I changed the weight of the jig heads from 3g to 5g on the smaller setup as it was difficult to feel the bottom on the lighter weights, and the drop took forever.

It took me around two hours to get to the top side of Canary Wharf without a single bite. The wind was picking up, and it had been drizzling on and off. What am I doing wrong? I had used a variety of techniques and retrieves, all of which had proved successful for other anglers at this venue. It really wasn’t my day. As the light started to fade, I switched to super bright, dark water mixed colours—the infamous fire tiger, a mixture of bright green, yellow, orange, and red.

I made my way back, stopping only a couple of times until I reached a sheltered basin-like area in a corner with a couple of grass beds floating around—perfect structure for fish to sit beneath. I had fished this spot on my first pass with no joy but had to give it another try. If the clear water colours weren’t tempting the fish, the bright colours might at least tempt a reaction strike. I started with my light setup, casting in, letting the lure drop (not right to the bottom), and started the slow retrieve. After about 20 casts, I switched to my medium setup with the larger shad. I cast out as far as I could to cover as much ground as possible. It was a slow process—reeling in, letting it drop, reeling in, trying to keep the lure moving as slowly as possible. Three-quarters into my retrieve, I felt the pull. The rod tip bent, and I knew it was a fish, a heavy fish. I started to reel in, full of excitement. I felt the head shakes, but they weren’t crazy like perch normally are.

At first, I saw the underbelly of the fish and thought it was a zander, but I was wrong. It thrashed about, showing its red fins—it was a big perch. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I netted the fish and pulled it from the water. It was long, with slightly tattered fins. I measured the fish at a whopping 38cm and weighed it at 1.32lbs. It was a trophy fish, one I’d been waiting for the last five weeks. After unhooking the fish, I gave it a nice long rest in the net before releasing it back into the dark depths of the London waterways.

After the long slog I’d had on this adventure, catching something worthwhile was the perfect way to wrap it up. As I packed up, the relief and joy I felt walking back to my car were second to none. This is why we do it, folks. This is why we fish.

See you on our next epic adventure.

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Thomas Greenwood
Thomas Greenwood

Thomas is from the Youtube channel T+T Fishing - where he and also Thomas are two amateur anglers from Yorkshire here to take you on their fishing journey.