Kennet & Avon Canal - Thatcham
1300 - 1730
Mild, overcast with some 'milky' sunshine at times. 10ºC. WT bouncing between 44/45ºF when I arrived rising to 46ºF when I packed up.
1 Perch; 4lb 2oz! (New PB ), 1 Chub; 5lb 10oz.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! It is a quest that started in 2005 with an eavesdropped conversation in Tony's tackle emporium when a guy at the till was describing in some detail the capture of a 4lb 11oz perch from the canal while I hung on his every word. I have never stared at wagglers so intently!! Whilst he didn't go on to descibe the swim the general area was given away - and I resolved to give the stretch some serious attention. At the time I'd been following up rumours of 4lbers from Speen and whilst I'd had a smattering of 3s and pushed my PB to 3lb8oz, I'd come to the conclusion that low 3s appeared to be the top weight I could realsitically hope for from there.
So it is somewhat ironic that this season has seen me switch back a little bit to Speen and to the canal at Enborne for my perching. In the 8 years since that piece of intelligence I have had 38 perch over the 3lb mark from the Thatcham stretch (I've just looked back in my diaries counting them!) and my PB had edged up to 3lb 14oz - a mark I've achieved twice. But last winter the canal authorities saw fit to rip out ALL the swims on this stretch. Every overhanging bush, branch and tree has been cut down and grubbed out - every holding area for big stripeys gone. Consequently finding the fish this winter has been a real challenge and whilst I have few decent fish - I was still going into the last month of the season not having caught a 3lb perch for the first time in over a decade.
So part 2 of yesterday's adventure was to try and make up for the fact I hadn't had a 3lb perch this season (which now I come to think of it I still haven't! ). My season's best before today being a 2lb 14oz fish from Speen back in Oct (see blog for entry 13 October). The swim I had in mind is one that Paul has 'discovered'. He's fished it a couple of times and had a 3lb 8oz perch just the day before. It's also not a million miles away from where Rusty has been catching 3lbers this winter too - so if you can't beat them.....
I arrived in quite bright sunshine and the first puzzle was to find the swim - it wasn't at all apparent I was in the right spot - little evidence on the bank so a quick call to Paul to get my barings. I was also surprised that Chris wasn't in his swim - I would have bet money on him perching today - and sure enough a couple of hours or so after I arrived he showed up!
I wasn't expecting much action until late afternoon - so the first couple of hours were quite lesuirely - despite arriving at 1 o'clock it was gone 2 before I put a lob out into the swim. The time was spent having some lunch, trickling some maggot into the swim - and even trotting maggot to see if there were any bait fish around (there wasn't!) Eventually I cast a worm out but really wasn't expecting much - in fact sitting on the mossy bank I was actually starting to nod off (the result of a lunchtime beer no doubt) when suddenly my float disappeared and my rod tip wrapped around as a fish headed for the tree roots. This was clearly no perch - I briefly thought it might be a tench before I saw those lips surface - a big chub - by far and away my best ever from the canal - and my biggest of the season. Most unexpected.
An hour after this Rusty arrived and shortly after he was installed in his swim I had my second bite of the afternoon - this alas didn't meet with success - a pike, whose love of lobs I have oft chronicled, shot off across the canal with the line parting as I gave it some resistance.
And then it happened. Bob, bob, under, strike. It's happened a hundred times before and thankfully it didn't enter my head that this was any different. It did feel like a good un and I was simply feeling pleased that I would have my 3 for the season. As I netted it I even shouted 'a big 3' in response to the enquiry from the angler fishing downstream on the opposite bank.
On the bank though it was clearly bigger than any perch I'd ever seen in the flesh, deep and incredibly fat the needle on my scales initially bounced down to nearly 4½lbs before settling on just over 2oz above the 4lb mark - I'd done it!
Even better I had Chris on hand to act as official photographer.
There was still an hour of daylight left and with Chris quickly getting a decent stripey too we thought we might be in for something really outstanding - especially as there was fry scattering in the margins next to my swim. Alas our floats remained stationary and the surface activity quickly died down so whilst I could have fished on for another 20 minutes or so I reasoned that perch dinner time had come and gone and it was time for my dinner and a celebratory glass or three of Rioja!