This month, Turrall blogger and fly designer Dom Garnett provides timely advice, tips and fly patterns for perch.
They’re beautiful yet common as muck. They take a fly gamely and fight well on light tackle. So why isn’t every man and his dog fly fishing for perch this season? Across waters all over Britain and Europe, you’ll find perch an absorbing quarry. The smaller ones can be seriously greedy, while the big ones are a genuine challenge. Here are some handy perch fishing tips for your next trip:
- Key locations: Almost every angler in the UK will have perch within striking distance of where they live. And while the big reservoirs might hold large fish, smaller waters such as canals, drains and rivers are an easier place to start.
Perch are one of those reassuringly predictably fish when it comes to feature finding. Snags, overhangs, bridges and walls are all worth searching thoroughly. But also look out for any concentrations of fry or small fish. Any areas where you have a sudden drop off are less visible but can also be key.
- Tackle & Leaders: Perch don’t demand the heaviest tackle, but with bigger than average flies and often the risk of pike, it’s unwise to go too light. Some of my friends have fished with as light as three or four weight tackle on waters where there are no pike! A more common starting point would be a six or seven weight outfit on most waters, but go heavier if pike are common.
You can use a floating line on many shallower waters, along with a leader of 7-8 feet. But where greater depths exist, a fast intermediate or a full sinker will often serve you well too, with a shorter leader of as little as five feet.
Where pike are not an issue, fluorocarbon is fine to use as leader- but there’s no need to go lighter than about 8lbs. If there are pike, step up to at least 12lbs strength and add a wire trace. Small, unobtrusive snap links and fine, knottable wires are subtlest option- avoid thick wire and bulky swivels and hardware.
3. Flies for Perch: Various designs will work for perch, but my own have plenty of flash and movement, and are rather bigger than the lures you’d typically use for trout. The Perch Special and Drop Shot Minnow Flies are ideal for shallower water and useful where you want a slow sinking fly to keep above weed or cover.
For a lot of structure fishing or deeper water however, weighted patterns such as my Perch Jig Flies will get down better. Flies that fish “point up” are also handy to lessen the risk of snagging.
If you tie your own, you can also have some fun. Typically, I would recommend hooks in sizes 1-4 and my absolute favourite colours for perch would be white and yellow, often with a hint of red in the mix, plus a few strands of pearl, silver or gold flash material (Krinkleflash or Multi Flash are both very good).
- The Right Retrieve
Perch are not as quick or as willing to move several feet to grab a fly as pike, so the key is often in getting the fly close to the fish. My retrieve tends to be twitchy and “busy” but not overly fast, unless the fish are obviously scattering fry near the surface.
More often it’s a case of keeping your perch fly moving, but not stripping so fast that your artificial lifts up in the water, out of the strike zone. If it’s really cold or challenging though, another useful trick with the jig flies is to twitch or “hop” them across the bottom.
Don’t always feel that you need to cast far for perch. The other advantage with weighted flies is that you can work them right under the rod tip along structures or around cover.
- Striking and Playing Fish: Perch don’t always give the biggest bites and nor will they always hook themselves. Keep your rod tip low while retrieving and be alert for any little nips or picks on the line. Strike at any decisive movement, but do so with the line, only lifting if you feel contact. Quite often you will get a nip or two, but by continuing the retrieve or having another shot you will get a second or third chance and a solid hook up.
Perch fight well on light tackle, but can quite easily come adrift. A forgiving rod is ideal to play fish smoothly and cushion those head shakes that often betray a hooked perch. I like to use a nice through actioned 9ft 6/7 weight- although if pike are a regular threat an eight might need to come out to play.
6. Change your clock and your mindset! The unwritten rule in so much of perch fishing is that it becomes a tough exercise at the wrong time or in the wrong conditions. Find the right time and local feeding spells and you will catch in a fraction of the time.
On big, deep waters or those that are murky, sunny weather can work. But more commonly, on small clear drains, rivers and canals, an overcast or downright grotty day will serve you much better (the specimen perch pictured at the top of this post was caught during a drizzly day with winds consistently over 20mph!) .
The first and last hours of light are very often peaks of activity- so do be prepared to make an early start or have your excuses ready for a late finish.
For more on the subject of perch fishing on the fly, Dom Garnett’s book Flyfishing For Coarse Fish has more handy information, tips and fly patterns to try. You can order this, along with ideal fly patterns for perch at www.dgfishing.co.uk