Friday, 27 February 2015


a perfect perch for a cold winters day, 'only' 3/11 but still beautiful

We’re running out of time … we should be on the river I thought … only two weeks to go ... but if you end up with a perch as perfect as this one then maybe the decision to fish a lake isn’t so bad after all.

Sway on a cold and breezy day
The plan was to fish the Hampshire Avon at Britford but after heavy rain raised and coloured the river and a call to river keeper Stuart confirmed conditions were hopeless, Sway Lakes stood in as the alternative.

Great friend and ultimate Man U supporter Gerry Higham was coming down for an end of season get together so it was important I tried to put him on some fish, though I didn't want to put him in the best swim just in case he caught more than me. After all, I had to keep the Saints above Man U, even if only in the fishing contests. 

Sway can usually be relied upon to produce a few perch, even if a water temperature of 40 didn’t bode well for a roach. Add to that a cold wind blowing down the lake and the ‘banker’ swim too wild to consider, Gerry hid in a bit of shelter and struggled for a bite.

Gerry trying to make it happen
I tried roaching with a waggler and hemp and tares … yes I know it’s a summer technique but this time last year it produced plenty of big roach, so I ignored the rule book and failed to raise a bite!

My back up was perching, using a lovely delicate Drennan IM8 bomb rod with a swan shot paternoster to 1.8 line and an 18 hook baited with two red maggots, dusted in turmeric of course. Trickling just four to six free samples on a regular basis I soon started catching perch, all over a pound to close to two but if I strayed from my baited spot – nothing. The cold weather had shoaled the perch up tightly.

looked like a good 'un

Then at about lunch time it happened, the tip wrapped round and the rod bent double to the fierce head shakes of a good ‘un. I had to backwind as what was obviously a big perch ran for cover but eventually it succumbed to the pressure and I had a lump in the bottom of the landing net.

Weighing in at 3/11, I was told by the owner later that it was not only the largest perch in Sway but a lake record, so how lucky can you get. … [and how do I know it’s the biggest in the lake? Well, the management here net the lake to control stock levels every two years or so and only two months ago completely drained the lake to remove all the pumpkinseed and thin out most of the small roach and perch. One perch that was far bigger than the others was netted and I’d just caught it.] What a jammy sod.

what a cracking perch - they don't get any better looking than this do they?
Gerry did a lovely job with the camera before we settled down for a few more and I ended up with a dozen perch, all over a pound. The big ‘un isn’t big by modern standards but I was well pleased to see such a beautiful creature and it was my second biggest ever, a 4/6 from the Gt. Ouse caught while filming “Catching the Impossible” being my PB.

This fish was more memorable because when the light was too poor for filming I poached it from the tail of Mr.Yates’s swim, much to his chagrin. Chris was joining Gerry and I for one of Sue’s tasty dinners so we had plenty of time to commiserate about our respective teams losing at the weekend’s football while celebrating the capture of such a splendid perch with some excellent French wines. Gerry certainly knows how to pick’ em.

There was plenty of football banter, particularly when Chris reminded Gerry about our team Southampton beating his at Old Trafford. Chris even sent Gerry a sympathy card and to add insult to injury, didn’t put enough postage on it and cost him £1.11!

the shallow end at Sway
looking towards the Lightening Tree

Next day Gerry wanted to have another go for the big roach at Sway and I had a hunch that they might be in the shallower and maybe warmer end. 

Gerry concentrating on catching
I was right, for he caught several nice fat roach and some good perch. 

Gerry with one of several good perch
I also caught a few big roach to a best of 1/15. I need some new scales.

'only' 1/15 and I'm wondering if Gerry has the camera in the right place - of course he did

It had been a most enjoyable get-together … in spite of Gerry’s long drive from Manchester and back. You can’t beat sharing a couple of days on a waterside with a good friend and I hope to do so again at Britford before the end of the season. But until then, I’ll linger a little on the memory of a perfect perch.

the perfect perch and a happy Hugh
Thank you for the company and the splendid happy snaps Gerry … and if any of you are fortunate enough to be out there before March 14th – be lucky.


  1. What a wonderful perch. The roach aren't bad either! Hope you get a chance to fish the wilder waters before the season is over.
    All the best x

  2. Hello Hugh
    My name is Alastair Walker; I am the grandson of Patricia Crow from whom you bought Chilbrook, I guess, about 35 years ago. It was very interesting for me to see the pictures of the house and garden after all these years; I had many happy summer holidays exploring that garden. My mother mentioned to me that there is a Turkey Oak planted in your lower garden on my birth - I am 43 now, so I imagine it is quite large! I will be on holiday with my own young family in Dorset from 26 June for a couple of weeks. It would be lovely if it would be possible to have a very quick look around the garden to show my sons the house that "Granny Pat" used to live in. If that is inconvenient for you, I fully understand. If it would be possible, please let me know how to contact you. I apologise for the unothodox way of getting in touch. I will keep an eye on this blog!