Perch, Carp, Big Tench, Oh – and Stillwater Barbel - Not Just Teeth: May
Mark Barrett enjoys an abundance of riches this month (And isn’t it about time too...)
‘There’s more to fishing than catching fish’
Now just how often do we use that old line when we aren’t catching or when we are having a bad day? Probably a whole lot more than we would like at times and, whilst I will always agree with the sentiments of that statement, catching fish does make the whole process a damn sight sweeter - and boy have I caught some fish this month!
Usually at this time of year I would be full-on into the tench fishing at Bawburgh Lakes in Norfolk but with the cold spring we have been having the lake just hasn’t woken up at all and very few tench were being reported, though the big bream were having a bit of a feed. However with finances very tight this year I decided to keep my powder dry for a little while longer and opted instead for some fun fishing with friends closer to home.
A local commercial fishery had come onto my radar as it had a reputation for producing some decent perch. Nothing truly monstrous as yet, but supposedly a three pounder was a distinct possibility - and the day I get sick of catching three pound perch will be the day I pack in fishing! So it was then that myself and a pike fishing mate of mine, Rick Wesley, decided to have a go for the perch. Rick has decided to give species other than pike a go this year and I have been helping out a bit here and there with some advice and so we teamed up for the day to hopefully break his perch PB but also for me to pass on a few pointers on certain methods of fishing. I had already sent him in the direction of our local tackle shop – ‘Hooked’ in Newmarket - to get the essential if somewhat unfamiliar (to him) bits of terminal gear that he would need and so off a-perching we went.
In common with a lot of days in May we arrived to find a grey, dank day with a cold wind blowing across the lake. Usually I would have fished on the back of a cold wind like this, but occasional appearances from the sun and the fact that the only appreciable features were on the windward side of the lake, made it bearable - and necessary to - fish into the wind.
I started off trying to use my favourite long commercial float rod and a centrepin but the strong wind made the long rod a nightmare to use and I ended up using a little 11ft Warrior pellet waggler rod which is just great for big perch and really ideal for where we were fishing.
The water itself was a pretty standard looking commercial fishery, probably just over an acre in size with an island in the middle and water from about 3ft to 6ft deep. As well as the target perch, there were also roach, rudd, tench, carp, barbel, bream and chub so we were pretty sure we would catch something and indeed we did.
To cut a long story short despite trying lobworms and live and deadbaits for the perch all we caught were a succession of very small, very anaemic looking perch in the 1oz to 8oz size range until Rick’s float buried and he hooked into something far more substantial which ran him up and down the pool. Myself and Mike the ‘Swamp Monster’, who had come over to see how we were getting on, both suspected a carp, but low and behold what should pop up but a stillwater barbel of 5.15oz! Rick was dead chuffed having never caught a barbel of any type before and though I am fully of the opinion that barbel belong in running water, I have to say that this fish was in perfect condition and fighting fit. My mate Mr Pope is going to be spinning on his centrepin there, sorry Steve!
This first fish opened the floodgates and from there on in we had a great time catching anything and everything – apart from what we had actually gone there to catch in the first place! Rick added another four barbel and upped his PB to 7lb 4oz in the process whilst I added a few small carp and two tench before Rick too started getting the odd carp. Just as we were about to pack up I hooked into something altogether in a different league from that which I had already banked, the pellet waggler rod bending to the butt and the fish charging all over the place. This fish really didn’t want to give u, but after around ten minutes a ghost carp of 13lb was my final prize for the day.
Unsurprisingly, as he had witnessed a great deal of the captures, the Swamp Monster was keen to get down there and have a go himself and so it as that less than a week later we were back, joined by another Richard - this time of the Pike bloodline and by Mike’s girlfriend, Lydia. Mike was keen to get a barbel having only caught a very small one in the past from another commercial water and as we arrived before Richard he dived into the swim that Rick had fished the week before and I went back into mine whilst Richard, when he arrived, went down the bank from me to the right leaving me singing the old Stealers Wheel classic, ‘Stuck in the middle with you’!
Despite deciding not to bother with the perch this time around I did realise that I had every chance of catching one as I had opted for floatfished prawn as my tactic. I was soon into a hard fighting fish that was actually taking line off the clutch, so you can imagine I was pretty surprised when a perch popped up - boy did it go for one of its kind – and it weighed in at just under the 2lb mark.
You know it’s a funny old game this fishing because as much as we tried the week before we couldn’t catch a perch at all, this time Richard and I couldn’t stop catching them. Richard ended up with four big perch, the best being just an ounce away from the magical 3lb mark, whilst I had five good perch all around the 2lb mark, topped by one of 2lbs 4ozs. As these fish were all long and lean and spawned out the prospects for next spring look really good.
Meanwhile whilst Richard and I were having a whale of a time Mike and Lydia were having a bit of a nightmare and whilst Lydia did finally get a couple of small carp, everything that Mike hooked - and some that never even got to that stage - fell off. It was a very grumpy Swamp Monster that I left to go home later that night. I had a great day all told. Along with the perch I also added a hatful of carp to low double figures, the biggest being another ghostie. I also added to that my first ever stillwater barbel, which gave me top points so far in our Great Rod Race competition that we are having between our little group of angling buddies.
How the competition works is that there are points awarded for the biggest fish of each species down to third place with only your biggest of each species going through. There are also twenty bonus points available, ten for the captor of the biggest fish as a percentage of its record weight and ten for anyone who catches every one of the species. At the end of the season the winner is the one with the most points and his prize is being taken out to our local all you can eat Indian restaurant by the others!
There were other trips in the month with a few fish to show for them too, plus an early morning Sunday session where I nearly caught hypothermia, but then, thankfully came the news that we had all been waiting for: ‘The weather next week will be mainly unbroken sunshine from Tuesday onwards with temperatures in the mid to upper twenties’. As soon as the weather forecaster on the TV finished the summary I was clearing the decks for a session at Bawburgh. With a heatwave forecast it would surely spur the tench to have a bit of a feed wouldn’t it? Well, there was only one way to find out.
I arrived on Monday at mid afternoon and the weather was anything but a heatwave. In fact it was bloody cold again, with a stiff breeze blowing from the North West onto the far end of what is known as the Caravan Bank. On the whole this is not one of the most fancied tench spots, but I have done well in the past in the very first swim on the bank as this one, as it was now, was protected from the worst of a north or north-westerly wind by a headland that formed a bay to the left of the swim. The wind was also due to change and blow into my face when the weather was at its hottest so I jumped into this swim.
Having fished the swim before I knew where the main feature in the swim was in the shape of a large plateau at around forty yards. This can easily be found with a marker float but it was a bit of a shock this year to find that there were only the slopes of the plateau that were not covered in either Canadian Pondweed or eel grass. I guess that this was because nobody had fished the swim much, so I baited the slope with a mixture of hemp, mixed particles, casters and maggots via a bait boat that I had borrowed from the Swamp Monster that was all a bit new to me.
To cut a long story short the warm weather was a wee bit slower to hit Norfolk thanks to its coastal proximity and it wasn’t until late Tuesday that the heat started to rise. By Wednesday evening the wind had started to quarter into my face and the temperature had risen to the low twenties and at 8pm that evening the Micron sang out its war cry for the first time.
On reaching the rod the fish had got stuck slightly in the eel grass growing on top of the plateau but a bit of steady pressure soon had it on the move and though it didn’t feel that big it was a welcome start. In common with most of the tench here it looked to find every snag going on the way in but eventually it was circling the margins and feeling quite heavy too. It took a while to get the fish up to the surface but as I saw it I thought it looked a pretty big and when she finally gave in she looked it too.
Onto the mat, up on the scales and a weight of 10lb 11oz was recorded and I was walking on air. There have been only a couple of doubles out of the lake so far this year and so to get one first up was very lucky. I soon had the Bawburgh hotline up and running before getting the rods back in for the evening. The next morning yielded two more tench of 8lb 14oz and an 8lb male and a lost fish which didn’t feel very big when a piece of terminal tackle let me down.
With the better part of two days to go my confidence was high but oh-so-typical of Colney Lake she just shut up shop and there were no more tench caught between any of the anglers on there - and there were some very good anglers, and plenty of them, fishing at the time.
Still it was great to spend some time at my favourite fishery in glorious weather and with a trio of whacking great tench, what better way is there to end the month?
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