Friday, 16 October 2015

A pugnacity of perch

The first fish I ever caught was a perch. A boldly striped, wriggling thing of wonder that took my float fished worm, the culmination of four solid weeks of trying to catch a fish. From that time forward, it was not only the fish that had been hooked, but me too, although I never consider my passion for fishing an "addiction" - an addiction is something you're trying to give up. Ever since that first perch was swung in to my eager hand I have had a particular fondness for the species. Obliging when small, challenging when big and always beautiful to behold.
The late Bernard Venables, angler, artist and wordsmith declared that the collective noun for a shoal of perch should be " a swagger". I would humbly offer as an alternative "a pugnacity" of perch. It has the advantage of alliteration, but also perfectly conveys the bravado of a fish that knows that it has looks on its side, likes to pose with its impressive spikey dorsal proudly erect and exhibits bullying tendencies as it harasses and harries the smaller piscine inhabitants of its watery environs.
Among the attractions of perch fishing is the catholicity of methods that can successfully be employed to angle for them. The fish above, caught by Louie a member of our church's fishing club, came while fishing with light tackle and a pole, many of my perch have fallen prey to the duplicitous trickery of a small spinner with a flash of red wool tassle, legering with swimfeeders and livebaiting also have their day, and my favourite method of catching them is with my ubiquitous centre pin reel and a float, a method which accounted for my biggest ever perch of 2 pound 5 ounces.
The colouration on this fish, as on the picture of my fishing partner Pete's fish below, is the typical less vivid example common in fish caught in clay bottomed and heavily coloured commercial Stillwater venues. While it may be fashionable to deride such "carp puddles", the reality is there are some very big and rarely fished for perch in such places, and, in fishing as in life, there's no place for snobbery! There's something enjoyably counter-cultural about pitching up at a "commercial" and sitting on a whicker basket and fishing with a centre pin reel .... the majority of hardened carpers conclude that you are either (a) mad or (b) an irredeemable "noddy" and you find yourself left alone to enjoy your sport without interruption.
If I were forced to elect to fish for only one species of fish for the rest of my life (and what a cruel, invidious choice that would be to have forced upon oneself!) I would choose the perch. With its stripes, eagerness to please and bombastic personality the perch is a totemic fish, loved by small boys and the best sort of men ..... those who- at heart- remain boys.

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