Back in March, April and May of this year, my angling mate Glenn Drennan and I dedicated a great deal of time and effort in the hunt for a specimen perch. Amongst dozens of waters targeted, we hunted around many border area loughs and several stretches of the Erne, the famous lough that still holds the perch Irish record of 5lbs 8oz set way back in 1946! The considerable time and effort we afforded in our attempts to achieve our goal was rewarded with many fabulous angling memories amid superb scenery and of course, plenty of perch and pike. We spun, drop-shotted, trolled and bait-fished on countless venues, over many hours. However, despite the enjoyment of it all, we failed to crack that magical three-pound barrier on each occasion.
On a recent trip, and yet another new venue, we were able to pull out all the stops! There were very few pike in this water, with perch being the main predator. “Popped-up” worm baits and small dead-baits were the order of the day, hopefully without fear of destruction from old esox! Being able to legally fish two rods each, one rod each would be set up on an alarm and swinger system with air-injected rudd or perch as bait. This would hover just above the weed beds in full view of passing perch shoals. A “run” or “drop-back” would be instantly detected with this sensitive equipment. The other rod would entail “popped-up” worm baits on quiver-tip and swim-feeder gear over a bed of ground-bait, chopped worms, frozen maggots and fresh caster and hempseed. What self respecting perch could ignore such a tempting feast?
We decided to drop the dead-bait rods in first, as this would mean two rods were “fishing” on the alarms while we set up quiver-tip gear and ground-bait preparation etc. We opted for small perch dead-baits and Glenn was first in the water, alarm on and weighted swinger attached. Before he had a chance to remove the quiver-tip from the rod-holdall, the alarm signalled and Glenn was into a fish. This was obviously a small jack pike that had intervened and grabbed the popped-up dead-bait, or so we thought! It fought well on light tackle and as it neared the net, Glenn yelled out “bloody hell, it’s an effing perch, and a lump at that”!
After searching for so long, it was un-believable to see this fabulous fish in all its glory, caught so quickly and easy on our first visit. I cursed myself for not having rigged up and cast in faster! Glenn soon had his prize in the weigh-sling, which put the fish at two pounds eight ounces. Just shy of the specimen mark but what a glorious sight, as this is the nearest we had come yet to cracking the three-pound bench mark.
Wasting no time, my air-injected perch dead-bait hit the water and I carefully felt the line as the rig dropped to the lake bed. With rod on rests, I attached the “drop-off” swinger, but before I could let go of the line, it ripped back through my fingers! This was ridiculous, as I hadn’t even had the chance to switch the bite alarm on! I remember striking into the fish and praying that it wasn’t a pike, a scenario that had plagued us on so many occasions over the season. Again, as with Glenn’s fish, this put up a spirited fight and a flash of black stripes and red fins at the edge of the landing net told me I had managed to find a sizeable perch as well! At two pounds and ten ounces, we were creeping ever nearer to the magical three pound barrier, but simply could not believe the two fish before us, tremendous stuff, with all previous perch failures temporarily dissolving from the memory banks.
This amazing start to the day was more than we could have hoped for, but the drama ended almost as fast as it had started. Common sense would dictate that it was a passing shoal, right place, right time, but it gave us a chance to re-assess, leave the dead-baits on the alarms, and continue with the quiver-tip and ground-bait plan. Hopefully, if the shoal passes by again, the pre-baiting and “popped-up” worm tactics would hold them long enough to tempt another stripey “lump”.
As the day wore on, we tempted another brace of perch each through dead-bait tactics, ranging from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-quarter pounds. The quiver-tip, popped-up worm method produced sizeable roach and perch, enough to keep us interested through-out the day. By late afternoon, whilst going through the motions of packing up after such a successful day, I looked around to see the quiver-tip pulling off the rod-rest and on its way into the lake! Carefully lifting into the fish, this felt a great deal more powerful than anything previous, and instantly backed the clutch off a little further!
The fish fought extremely well, and buried into under-water weed banks on two separate occasions, but steady pressure won through. Eventually at the landing net, I was delighted to see this was another perch, and larger still! Quickly to the weigh sling Glenn’s grin said it all. Bang on three pounds, the barrier crossed and the life-long dream achieved! What a way to finish the day, a memorable and extremely satisfying adventure and one that will join the many that I have been lucky enough to experience through-out my angling career.