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A Bitter-Sweet Experience.


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A Bitter-Sweet Experience.

Cliff Hatton revels in a catch of half a lifetime, a marvellous 3½lbs perch!

Half a century wielding an expensive stick has rewarded me – at one time or another – with most of those delicious sensations a resisting fish can give: with the right rod and fitting line the roach has had me truly worried, 2lb mono cutting fizzy lines through the dross of a chocolate winter flow; tooled-up and less generous of spirit, teeth clenched and knuckles white, I’ve laid into distant carp and felt the awesome bulk move off like a locomotive.

Tench, too, have torn me from my chair, their new-found authority still shocking and shaking my expectations of a round or two with a brown sugar-bag. Pike? Them too: from the splashiest jack to the un-nerving power of a big fish determined to reach the snags. But perch?? Well, they kick about a bit, don’t they…they put up a ‘spirited tussle’, and even the 2-plussers only thump a few times before they’re in the net.

Last Sunday saw me acting on a telephoned tip-off: a boat-yard somewhere in the County of Norfolk, frequented – in the literal sense – by a notoriously stroppy owner predisposed to saying bugger-off, but I chanced it, the prospect of a ‘fat footballer’… a big ‘stripey’ just too tempting to resist. Swinging out a five inch roach under a one inch bob-float, memories of vibrant, bristling scraps with perchlets and the better, livelier bouts with the two-pounders would have occupied my subconscious – experience teaches us what to expect, and in decades as an angler I’d never had a lob provoked by a really plump sergeant; for all his bombast and chutzpah, percia fluviatilis rarely grows big enough to really get the blood pumping…eh?

But today it was live-bait, and within half an hour down it went, sharply, and with a little splash. Heading for the gloom of a barge’s hull, the float drew to a halt against the tightening line then eased toward the curving rod as the hook took hold. “Pike” said brother, Barry, and I probably thought him right; but on bringing the fish to mid-stream it bashed-out a most unfamiliar tune on the ol’ carbon – not quite the theme from ‘Jaws’ but certainly something involving a little light cello and, perhaps, a hint of kettle-drum.

“More like a zander” I eventually replied “It’s certainly not a perch”. My suspicions were confirmed for me after four or five determined lunges brought the tip-eye down to meet the water then compelled the reel to yield a yard or two. On seeing the ripples flatten I just knew a bug-eyed ‘Zed’ was on the cards and asked Barry to have the forceps handy.

After a long minute and a half, the fish was coaxed to the top of his world, there to reveal his true colours: bars of black on yellow-green, trimmed with scarlet and a crown of thorns!

Three and a half pounds doesn’t put a perch up there in the monster class, I know, and a fair few are caught every week, but this fish of mine ‘did it’ for me! Barry had already landed a couple of ‘twos’ so the morning was, at this precise point, rather ‘sweet’…but then the wholly predictable ‘bitter’ turned-up and read the wholly predictable riot-act: I do wish these people would take a little time to compose something a little more original.

But I couldn’t complain too much: a personal best that had afforded me a brand-new fishing experience – a perch big enough to really fight!


Cliff Hatton.

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