This week I want to avoid starting with the usual cliches about cold conditions, closed season, blah blah blah, and salute two absolute stalwarts of the fishing scene: the perch and your local tackle shop. Both are an essential part of the sport. They're always there for you, making that fishing trip possible whether the going is good or bloody awful.
In gloomy times it's refreshing to see a tackle shop getting a revamp. The big mail order companies are all well and good for a quick bargain, but where would fishing be without the local tackle dealer? Who knows the latest scoop on your neck of the woods? Who makes sure you have fresh bait? Who gets you the right ticket, puts you onto the fish with that personal touch? Someone on a mail order line 200 miles away? Didn't think so. Which is why it's great news that Cullompton Carp and Coarse has just moved to a new, bigger premesis just off the M5, junction 28. This is also the ideal location for the travelling angler, as it's en route for countless destinations. There are few anglers with a better knowledge of local waters and current form than manager Ian Nadin either, who has worked his wotsits off to transform a bare space into a cracking new shop. Well worth a visit- and for every tenner spent currently you'll also get a free prize draw ticket! More details at: http:www.cullomptoncarpandcoarse.com
In fact, I hope for the sake of so many people connected with fishing that 2013 is a settled year. Something as simple as the weather has a huge impact on fishing. Sure, the addicts will always fish. But many, many more people fish only infrequently when the weather is poor. A bit of sunshine and suddenly everything looks more appetising. That bloke walking along the river sees a man fishing and thinks to himself "that looks really relaxing, I could try that." A mild month and suddenly new rods are desired, flies and baits are bought; magazines sell and visitors book local guides. Is that really so surprising? Even the die hards are craving some sunshine and milder climes at this point.
But anyway, enough of my rambling and onto the fishing. Yes, it has been icy. Thank goodness therefore for the obliging species like perch and skimmers that play ball on any given day. Not that they get easier to catch- quite the reverse. Hoping to overcome the elements, I had a testing day's fishing on a remote little stillwater with Russ Hilton. Where exactly you set up is the first sticking point. Usually my first option after weeks of biting cold would be deep water- but on this occasion we avoided the deepest bank as it had been totally lashed by virtually two whole weeks of easterly winds. Two calmer spots offered more sheltered water, but would there be enough depth?
On plumbing up, we were relieved to find four feet or so, even close to cover. It was to be a day to demonstrate the value of patient feeding and relatively fine presentation. I really mixed the baits up. I based my attack on three lines: a maggot spot, a chopped worm line and a pellet swim. I also mixed up a large bait tub of groundbait (50/50 mix of Bait Factory Bio Bloodworm/ VDE Supercup) which was carefully riddled to remove the lumps. The beauty of a varied menu is that you always have a plan B and C to fall back on.
Careful feeding was the watchword. It's tempting to feed and then stop when things don't take off, but I intended to keep trickling bait on three lines. The maggot line worked straight away- but the pellet line to ok ages and my chopped worm swim seemed to be raided by tiny silvers rather than perch. Nevertheless, every 10-15 minutes in went another little ball of groundbait containing two chopped dendrobenas, using the pole cup for accuracy. A similar feed rate was employed for the pellet line, while I flicked 4-5 maggots into the near side every other minute. I was just starting to wonder if anything better would turn up, when a switch to a 6mm pellet produced the first bream of the day- a better skimmer and a proper pull in the elastic:
If ever a day illustrated the value of persistent, light feeding, this was it. Russ started hitting into some better perch, including a 2.06 pounder, but neither of us was really flying. Finally however, well over four hours into our feeding regime, the fishery really woke up. I had a solid 3lb bream on the pellet before my next worm fish really took the pole for a dance- other than the fly rod, there really isn't a more exciting way to play tug of war with fish like this 2.03lb perch.
Russ was also now storming away, landing a PB perch, but I don't want to steal his thunder (and his "Tales from the Towpath" blog is always worth a read). So, with literally hours of light, regular feeding the machine started paying out. It begs a question really: were these better fish always right there but not in the mood? Or did they begin to patrol once the water warmed up a little in the sun? To really emphasize the point, I then tried a worm on the inside line at last knockings. I had trickled maggots here for literally the whole damned day. Over six hours after that first helping, the float settled and just kept going. The fish plunged hard on a light hollow elastic, heading for some sunken branches initially, before steady pressure took the fight to more open water. I thought this was a good one, but once in the net it looked especially broad and thick. A very respectable 2.12lbs made this a great finish to the day, not to mention a reward for persistence.