Indeed, I nearly gave up on the lake until, at the very last attempt after flogging its banks for a dozen days, a 2lb perch followed a retrieving bait to my rod tip ring. With dorsal fin erect, he basked in all his glory for what seemed like an eternity, eyes changing between lobworm and me, then suddenly he slowly turned, flicking his tail, before moving off at snail pace in a display of utter contempt to the angler for insulting him. Although I was impressed by this performance it gave me all the encouragement needed to return the next day, where I duly caught his mother at 4lb 8oz. It was the start of a perch journey I shall never forget.
That experience culminated in the five which, for the record, measured 20” (from mouth to tail tip) x 15 ½” inches, and was caught with another at 2lb 10oz 8drms. It was the highlight of a memorable week that saw me go through the card with perch in every pound division right up to five, including another brace of 4lb 0oz 8drms and 3lb 9oz 8drms. My initial cool when landing the fish was probably due to recognising it on the unhooking mat as a big four from the previous season. Naturally, I assumed it was a four - I fished for fours, 5lb perch were just never considered! On the scales for the third time and only when it confirmed the previous readings, which was actually a shade over the 1oz mark, did my knees go.
Composure was soon restored when I needed some pictures. A dog walker I befriended would do the honours and I knew when he’d be around on my short sessions. Except this day he didn’t show so as dusk arrived I put my old 35mm camera on a bankstick and took 6 shots, all were out of focus apart from one here which is slightly so and dull. Thankfully I decided, in the age when you had to wait for your prints back from the chemists, to call my wife, Alison. In pitch black darkness the photo shoot was a bit like the ‘Golden Shot’ (younger readers may need to ‘Google’ that once popular TV programme) with me going “Up a bit, left a bit, down a bit.....fire!”. It did give me peace of mind and I could include the 2lb 10oz which also gave a reference of scale to the size of the biggun. Sometimes the easiest part is catching the fish!
We went home and got on with the routines of everyday domestic life, the only time I gave it thought was for a few seconds laying there in bed before falling asleep. Back then a 4lb perch was a rare beast and it was only the following morning, when reflecting on that season and previous, that it all began to sink in. I remember saying “No one is gonna believe this – it’s off the bloody radar!”.
For sheer fun I went the following Saturday knowing other members would be present. I just sat down after returning a 3lb 6oz and caught the end of the Grand National only to hear my horse from the work’s sweepstake win the race! Talk about when your luck’s in! Then the following day life became really surreal when my team, Millwall, reached the FA Cup final for the first time in their history! The world had gone crazy!
Today’s young generation of specialist anglers may find it difficult to comprehend the dark ages when a 2lb perch was hard to find. Don’t take these peak weight productive times for granted though has characteristically they have been rapidly followed by decimation. Enduring those entire bleak years, hungry for decent perch, all the effort, anguish, miles and blind alleys, was momentarily forgotten after that one capture.