Peering through the mist, I trudged on looking for the shape of a man on the tow path. It looked a perfect morning for a spot of perch fishing, but first I needed to locate my companion for the session. Jeff had been mysterious about his instructions and said little more than "walk down the canal". He was right in saying this spot was a bit out there, as I'd been walking for what seemed like ages along the tow path and was getting worried I may soon arrive in Oxford.
Finally, what looked like a hunched figure appeared in the mist sitting on the edge of a bend. As always the banker swim looked exactly like every other bit of canal you ever see, tow path, twenty four inches of patchy dog shit infested grass, sixteen meters of questionable water and a hawthorn covered far bank. The only difference between this spot and any other was the presence of Jeff and as he like me is a avid canal lingerer, it must mean there was a reason for him being here setting up his fishing pole.
It's weird seeing Jeff pole fishing! I am far more used to him sitting behind rods pondering the water whilst twiddling his moustache, rather than him sitting upright staring down a pole waiting for whisp of a pole float to dip momentarily. I suppose the best comparison I can make to seeing him pole fishing is it's like seeing a donkey smoke a cigar. Saying that after watching him do it for a couple of hours I can't deny thinking he has really taken to it, so much so that I can picture him clad head to toe in matching sponsors clothing, sitting atop a fishing box not dissimilar to the Tardis wielding five grands worth of carbon fibre; then again there's probably more chance of Jeff becoming the next Doctor Who than turning into a match man.
Bar Jeff starting to put a match winning weight together and me catching a very cute little ruffe, the banker swim was not really producing any dividends. Once I got itchy feet it wasn't hard talking Jeff into a move and after a short jaunt we found a little bit of far bank cover we both fancied.
A pot of worm chopped fish heroin later and the session turned into a blur. I remember thinking Jeff was in the hot spot when he instantly hooked a skimmer followed by two big perch off the hull of a moored boat, but then the square meter I was concentrating on sparked into life.
I've fished my own secret perch squirrel hole enough to know when you've struck gold and this was gold, pure gold. I quickly realized it wasn't the odd nugget either when I hooked a really chunky near two pounder.
Then followed it with another...
This area was alive with big perch and amazingly none of them seemed to be small at all. Quickly it became a case of adding more bait, waiting a while and then another hard fighting perch came along. Then somewhere amongst the perch insanity the zander turned up to the party and the bulbous zeppler float toddled off along the canal.
We had only been in this new spot for an hour or more and we both looked like we were in shock. Probably the only thing that was more shocking that the amount of action we were getting would be what the underwater scene must have looked like, with big perch mooching everywhere and a shoal of zander marauding around. No wonder we weren't getting any small fish with that lot down there, as anything less half a pound with half a brain was far away from this predator orgy. As long as we had worm to hold them the perch just kept coming.
With barely a feed worth of worm left I got myself in a right old mess. I'd had a very fast run where the float was literally shooting across the surface of the canal. After connecting with a spirited zander and fighting it for only seconds the hook had pulled, sending my float back onto the bank along with a load of line. As I tried to make sense of the mess the trace and hook found their way into my lap. Draped in line I noticed the float on my perch line spring to life. I struck out of instinct but was still trying to clear the line from around me and as I did somehow pulled the hook right into the groin of my trousers. Still playing a fish covered in line with a hook uncomfortably close to my genitals I did my best to keep my cool. But when a huge stripy flank rolled mid water I panicked. Luckily Jeff had also seen the fish and was already grabbing for my net. After a short but careful fight a big perch skimmed over the cord of the net. It turned out to be the biggest of the day at 2.6lb and given its young appearance it won't be long before it's a three.