With the rivers now closed until the 16th of June I made the choice to give Sway another go. The weather was still cold so I suspected that the perch wouldn’t have spawned yet, but I hoped that the roach would be waking up and starting to feed. Because of this, I covered most bases and travelled down with a wide selection of tackle and baits.
After a steady drive down I arrived to find just one carp angler fishing the lake. I’d have thought there’d have been a few more anglers present with it being a Sunday. Still, it was a pleasant surprise. I stopped for a chat and asked him if he’d seen any large roach rolling, or indeed caught any ‘nuisance’ redfins’ The answer was promising, as he told me he’d landed a huge roach on a 20mm boilie in the night. Of course, in true carp angler style, it was not weighed! But according to him “it was huge”
This set my mind ticking over. The big roach had been tricky to catch for me so far, with only 2 fish over 2lbs in four days fishing. Perhaps they were mainly feeding at night, like they sometimes do in gravel pits I have previously fished. I had this in my mind as I flogged the water for a couple of hours trying to catch some roach. The writing was on the wall. I hadn’t even had a bite, nor seen any fish move. I decided on a move to where I’d lost the big perch on my previous visit. If I wasn’t going to catch roach, I’d have a go for the big perch.
Chopped worms and casters were catapulted into a deep hole in my new swim. I set the bait so it was just off the bottom, and rotated baits to see what they preferred. Bites soon came, a slow, steady sinking of the waggler tip resulted in some fine perch, mostly between 1.8 and 2lbs. It was clear that they preferred the casters too, as a few fish sent numbers cascading through the clearish water when they flared their gills in anger. As it was a lovely clear day, I took some photos of perch around the 2lbs mark
Some of the better fish deserved a weigh, with the best 2 going 2.7 and 2.9. After netting the lake in November / December only 50 of the perch were put back into the lake, selling the rest on. It seemed like I was on course to catch every perch in the lake, as my total crept past the 20 mark!
As the light started to fade I again played a good fish to the net. It felt a decent weight and I hoped a big roach had muscled in on the perch party. It did a little run for some tree roots, but was easily turned unlike some of the other perch that put up some great fights on light tackle. As a big perch mouth, surfaced, opened and went into the net I was a tad cheesed off that it hadn’t been a big roach. As I went to lift the net I thought it was stuck on something, but no, it was still moving. It was at this point I realised it was the big girl, the one I’d lost in February. As I placed my hand under the net to feel her immense girth, I thought to myself that this fish had to be 4lbs, despite me knowing it was last caught at 3.11 by Hugh Miles in February. There was only one way to find out. It was time to spin the wheel of fortune!
The fish was placed into a carrier bag, then placed on the carefully zeroed Rueben’s. The needle flickered either side of the 4lb mark, but before it could settle, I had to stop. The perch thrashed in the bag, slicing a big hole into it with it’s razor sharp gill covers. With it’s head hanging out I had to repeat the process, this time after zeroing the sling onto the dial. Again, the weight flickered either side of 4lbs, before settling exactly on the mark. I was chuffed to bits, a 4lb perch and it was a stunning fish too. To top things off she put on a fantastic display for the camera, raising her dorsal in defiance!
Later, talking to one of the guys who’d netted the lake a few months earlier, it turned out she was 3lb 8oz back then, not the 3.12 that I’d been told. That made sense, as she’d been steadily putting on weight prior to spawning. I’ve heard some people describe a perch as being as fat as a football, but this fish was like a rugby ball. Deep, long, broad and solid. What a fish.
After that, there was only one thing to do. Make a coffee and prepare the roach tackle for night time. Any purists who are reading, skip a few lines of this blog now, as the bolt rigs came out to play! Soft Avon rods were teamed with 4lb line direct to 40 gram black cap feeders. 4 inches above this sat the nifty Korum heli rig kit, which saves a lot of hassle with the helicopter bolt rig, and allows you to change hook links quickly. On the 3 inch hook link of 3lb line was a size 16 wide gape hook, baited with 2 white maggots that had been flavoured with geranium oil.
The feeders were filled with maggots then cast out to their spots. The lines were clipped up to ensure accuracy, then I catapulted 3 pouches of hemp and maggots over each feeder. That was the traps set, it was time to see if my theory of the roach feeding at night was right. The alarms were switched on and the bobbins placed onto the tight lines, but everything was still. No roach rolling or anything. Very unusual for this lake.
It had been dark for about an hour when one of my alarms screeched into life. A fish was on and after a steady battle, the head torch illuminated the flank of a lovely roach. Lovely it was, but the scales were cruel as a weight of 1lb 15oz was recorded. Still, it was nice to get a decent redfin.
Soon after, I was in again with roach of 2lbs exactly, and one estimated at about 1.8. After a pause of about 45 minutes, I was into another roach, this time my first decent ‘2’ of the year at 2lbs 8oz. I noticed when I placed it on the unhooking mat that the water left from the previous roach had turned to solid ice! no wonder I was feeling cold.
After another 90 minutes without a bite, I reeled the feeders in and went to the car to warm up and get some sleep. The long drive takes more out of me every year. Maybe that’s because each year there’s more and more road works that add almost 45 minutes to the journey!
After a night were the temperature dipped well below freezing, I was surprised to wake up to an outside temperature of a balmy 7 degrees. As dawn broke I skipped down to the lake to see if I could see any roach priming or rolling. Again, all was quiet, I just hoped I could tempt some to feed through the day. I didn’t really want to target the perch as I’d already landed my target fish.
As it turned out, I did get a roach in the day, although at about 6oz it wasn’t going to get me excited. I also landed somewhere into double figures of perch again, but with nothing special this day. I did hook one good fish which I had to play hard before landing it. I was shocked to see a smallish common carp in the net. The first I’ve ever caught from Sway, and probably the smallest in the lake.
Despite a long drive home and having to be at work early the next morning, I decided to stay a few hours into dark to see if any big roach turned up again. Sure enough, as darkness fell, I landed a fish of about 1.10. I had to wait about an hour for my next bite which resulted in another good roach of 2lbs 5oz. Just as I was weighing this fish the other rod was away, talk about chaos. I ended up landing this fish with the first roach back in the landing net. A tricky and risky thing to do. Anyway, the second fish was a beauty, but I knew it wouldn’t make 2lbs. I unhooked it and put it straight back, leaving me with the 2.5 for another photo.
I waited another hour, but with no further action. It was time to tackle down and get the car heading towards Gods county again (Yorkshire!) What a session though, I just wish those roach had fed in the day.