Perch Fishing - In Session with Ian and Cheryl Tomline
In the first of a new ‘In Session’ series Mark Barrett spends a day afloat in search of perch with husband and wife team Ian and Cheryl Tomline.
Every all-round angler must surely have a style or a type of fishing that they prefer to any other. Well, if someone waved their magic wand and said to me: “Mr Barrett you can only fish one way for the rest of your life” I know what my answer would be - long trotting livebaits for perch; although I should qualify that by saying trotting from a boat with friends on the middle stretches of the Great Ouse.
You see it’s not just about the fish. Although there are now loads of perch throughout the length of the Great Ouse it’s the combination of the company, the scenery and the method itself. There can be few ways of fishing which are so constantly altered by the angler; a touch of the thumb here and there will cause the bait move in a different plane, at a different pace and in a different manner - all of which can make the difference when trying to tempt a wary, big perch.
So what then of my brother and indeed sister in piscatorial arms for this session? Well, there are surprisingly few husband and wife fishing teams for whatever reason but Ian and Cheryl Tomline break that mould. They have fished together for many years, with their particular passion being predators: perch, pike and zander in particular. They have also been regional organisers for the Pike Anglers’ Club in the past, running an active region in their home county of Bedfordshire so well that they won the “RO of the Year award”.
Both Cheryl and Ian are very accomplished anglers and have a particular fondness for lure fishing, though with our session taking place in early autumn the weed growth was likely to be a bit too high to fish these effectively; thankfully both Ian and Cheryl both enjoy trotting the river as much as I do too and that was to be the method we would employ for our day.
I ought to add here that the last time Cheryl and I fished together was at Rutland Water after zander on jigs. I mention this because I never knew that a lady could swear so much as Cheryl did that day as zander after zander either fell off or hit the jig without getting hooked up, whilst I was catching steadily and reminding her of the fact at every possible opportunity - such is the way with good fishing friends!
So it was then that at around mid-morning I arrived in the boatyard to find Ian already launching the boat, whilst Cheryl was catching some bleak from the moorings. The river has seen an explosion of bleak in recent seasons, which is not a bad thing if you’re a greedy perch. With a bit of assistance from me we soon had a bucketful and so we jumped into the Tomline's custom built aluminium Seastrike boat to see if we could find a few feeding fish.
First impressions once we were on the river were that the conditions didn’t look that great. The sun was shining and warm, though the wind carried with it the first of the autumnal chill. Couple that with a river that we could, for the greater part, see the bottom of in over six feet of water and you had far from perfect conditions for perch.
The flip side though is that Ian and Cheryl have fished the river for many years and know by now all the areas of the river where the current has scoured deep holes, just the type of place that perch love to hide away in on a bright day. Couple that to the many overhanging trees that line the river on both sides and you have perfect habitat for big sergeants.
Our tackle for the day was pretty similar: 1lb test curve Avon rods were matched to a centrepin in my case and fixed spool reels for both Ian and Cheryl. Our rigs were also similar in so much as Ian and I were using large (4 swan) chubber floats whilst Cheryl elected to use a small Drennan Zeppler pike float so that she could put in a longer trot and still see the float easily. One little trick worth passing on is that both Ian and Cheryl use the floats slightly undershotted so that the actions of the livebait don’t keep pulling the float under.
The first swim was just downstream from a small weir on a sweeping bend which had scoured out the bottom underneath a large overhanging bramble bush; this spot looked so good that it ought to have had a large neon sign above it saying “perch live here”!
So it proved as on her first trot Cheryl’s zeppler shot across the river and sank from view. A firm strike to take up the slack saw her connected to what was obviously a pretty reasonable fish.
There was always the possibility of a pike, but as the fish drew closer to the boat the tell-tale thumping of a fighting perch was very obvious and so it proved to be as I lifted the net under a fine fish of around 2lb 8oz - a very nice start.
Sadly the first fish was either a loner or had spooked the shoal because there were no further takes from that spot and so once we had navigated the lock by the weir Ian had us motoring further up river. Our next few stops were pretty uneventful with just a handful of moderate perch to show for it.
With the sun now burning bright and still a couple of hours until it began to set we took the opportunity to catch a few more baits from the weir pool as we headed back down the river to a long run between streamer weed beds that had been kind to us in the past.
Cheryl in particular was very confident in this swim as she had taken top honours from here on a visit last year with a string of two pounders. With the sun now starting to sink behind the horizon, if there ever was a time when we were going to catch a perch it was now.
Cheryl was once again quickly into action with a fish around the pound mark, quickly followed up by all of us getting fish of a similar stamp. Often you will find that perch group together in shoals of a similar size and so it was very likely that a shoal of this size was sitting over our spot. It was decision time, should we stay or should we go? With a past track record for producing fish, staying on a bit longer was the unanimous vote.
I had good reason to be grateful for that decision as on my very next cast my chubber disappeared with a plop and my strike met with the solid thump-thump of a big perch. I must have been 30 yards down the trot when the take occurred and was now winding like crazy to get a better contact but before I could the perch made the sanctuary of the streamer weed.
In a normal bankside situation this would probably be the end of the story, but being on a boat we simply up anchored and drifted down so that I was right on top of the snagged fish. This had the desired effect and quickly it became free and started to scrap it out under the rod tip, just when a nice soft specimen rod comes into its own. With no further drama Ian slid the net under a lovely perch a little over 2lb 8oz.
With the fish weighed and photographed it was time to try the spot again and as my float hit the taking spot it buried once again. The fight, the fish and the getting snagged were almost identical to the first fish and so I had a lovely brace. Sadly though, probably due to our efforts to free the snagged fish, we spooked the rest of the shoal and with the light really fading we headed back to the boatyard to have one last try around the stagings and moorings on the river.
Unfortunately fate was to conspire against us here in the shape of Ian hooking into a decent pike that thrashed its way through the swim spooking everything before throwing the hook. Sometimes you have to hate fishing!
So it was then that our session came to a close in somewhat damp squib fashion! It’s always a good day out fishing in the company of good friends and let’s face it when you are confined to the interior of a boat you really do need to get along! Thankfully we did and despite the perch not really being hard on the munch we managed a respectable day’s perching.
I am counting the days to the next one!
By the Same Author
- The Angling Trust, an ‘Unbelievably Weak Governing Body’ - Not Just Teeth: December
- Fishing in Sickness and in Health - Not Just Teeth: November
- Jigging for Zander and Deadbaiting for Pike - Not Just Teeth: October
- Autumn perch and catfish - Not Just Teeth: September
- Catfish, Carp and Kids – Not Just Teeth: August
- Paying your Dues?
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight: Part 3
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight: Part 2
- Sounding Off
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight