For fashion conscious anglers the perch is certainly the fish to target during the winter months and a few big stripeys on your Facebook profile will get you a wave of likes. I think I’m too old now to be cool but I fully understand how perch have grabbed the nation’s attention, because of all the specimens I have been lucky enough to tempt few can match the awe inspiring appearance of a big Billie and it’s wonderful that more fishermen are now having their breath taken away each season. On the downside this means new venues are at a premium so I was particularly excited to hear from Adrian Phipps about his Dynamite Oakfield complex situated between Aylesbury and Bicester in a small village called Kingswood. A complex of lakes there was one he felt would be of interest to me called Brook and with a population of approximately 50 perch between 2 and 4lbs he was certainly correct! Even though it coincided with the coldest period of the winter yet I made arrangements to visit as it was just too good an opportunity to miss.
I never rush my arrival with winter perch knowing that lunchtime until dusk is by far and away the prime period to get a bite. This allowed me to miss the dreaded Oxford ring road rush hour and still enter the complex with plenty of time to spare. Brook’s small acreage and only 30 pegs could seem like an easy challenge to find my quarry in but with 7 islands providing a maze of channels it would have been very easy to make a mistake if I relied on guesswork. So instead my first task was to search every inch of the lake with a small rubber jig, even if I didn’t find a perch it would provide me with an understanding of depth although I hoped the bright yellow body and red tail would cut through the stained water common with commercials and tempt a strike.
On instinct the top end of the venue seemed the most likely spot, a combination of both islands and reeds but when search thoroughly with the jig where wasn’t a sign of life. Working down the lake I diligently covered every inch but alas to no avail until I reached, in my opinion, the least fishy end of the water. However I was keen to not judge a book by its cover and immediately became aware of 2 things; firstly it seemed a fraction deeper and secondly there was weed present. A few turns of the handle and the lure was hit seeing me playing a perch of approximately 2½lbs. Unfortunately I wasn’t destined to put an exact weight on it because as I drew a flank filled with tiger stripes to the net it suddenly fell off leaving me to curse my luck. A few seconds of turning the air blue and then I made another cast to be promptly hit by another perch that was successfully landed, albeit weighing only about half a pound. I now knew where the shoal was hiding and could deploy a more effective method of catching them. This could have been with the worm as I had the tackle in my truck but here’s where a little luck fell into my lap. Adrian had been netting and kept a few small roach back on the off chance that I might want them, perfect for my favourite perch tactic – live baiting.
Two Drennan tench float rods were combined with 6lb mainline that both had 2½ swan shot crystal loafers attached to. Next I tied a simple overhand loop in the mono leaving a tag end below of approximately 2 feet to which 2 x 2 swan shot were lightly pinched onto. I then created a 6-inch hooklength from 4.4lb fluorocarbon Supplex that had a loop at one end and a size 4 Kamasan B983, which had its barb flattened, at the other. This was then connected via a loop-to-loop arrangement onto the mainline.
The last thing to do, which would take place in the swim, was to plumb up very accurately so the loafer sat at dead depth with half its body above the surface. This is very critical to maximise the bait’s movement because every time it tried to dive to the bottom the float’s buoyancy would act against it pulling it upwards the moment it relaxed. In my experience the bigger the vibrations the more likely a bite would occur. Satisfied with how I would be approaching the perch I had found I made my way back to the swim.
The area was on the back of the wind, a small island in front of me and the corner of the lake to my right with a depth of approximately 5 feet. A rod length out I could see a bit of patchy weed, which was unusual given that the lack of clarity would never normally allow this view. Maybe it was due to the lake being frozen over the previous day which I had found out on my arrival and this would have certainly put the fish off feeding and stirring the bottom up. Yes, the water was cold but importantly the perch would now be able to hunt visually and see my roach, making the first casts confident ones. The moment the float cocked 20 feet out from the bank they were on the move again bobbing in rhythm to the silver flank fluttering beneath. Sat in amongst a gang of perch, no matter how chilled the water, was temptation that proved too much for them and my bait soon became encircled before the inevitable strike came sending scales everywhere and a savage stab on the float. Happy that its meal was secure the perch then drew away slowly pulling the loafer behind it. I spotted the attack immediately but waited for this moment to strike. The hook found a connection in the bony mouth causing the perch’s dorsal to bristle and a smile to cross my face.
I hooked 8 perch in an all too short 3-hour window landing 6 with the best going to 3lbs 6ozs. Great fishing with the ‘biggest fish of all’ or maybe even the ‘trendiest fish of all’?!
Top 5 Tips
1. All my tackle for live baiting for perch fits into a small ESP lead bag – you only need a basic rig and a few loafers, silicon rubber, size 4 and 6 Kamasan B983s plus fluorocarbon which doesn’t take up much room!
2. For unhooking perch I prefer a big disgorger rather than forceps as it’s far easier and better for the fish.
3. Try to locate your quarry before becoming fixed in a swim – lure fishing is perfect for this even if you intend to bait fish.
4. In coloured water often found in commercial style venues early afternoon is often better than traditional dusk.
5. When attaching a live bait simply pass the hook through the top lip – straightforward and nothing fancy.