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Perch and Pope

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The Perch is a thick and broad fish, very high on the upper part of the back, with a fine bright eye, small head and large mouth, well furnished with small teeth in addition to others in the throat. The tail and belly fins are a bright Vermillion, the pectoral and dorsal fins brown. It has two fins on the back, the one nearer the head being armed with strong spikes, having extremely sharp points which it erects when alarmed or attacked. The angler should lie careful when unhooking a Perch, not to have his hands pricked by this sharp dorsal defence; I have sometimes known it to have unpleasant results. The Perch is covered with strong scales and is of a bronzy green on the back and down the sides; on these are several dark stripes or shades reaching from the back nearly to the belly. They appear to spawn at various times; in some places in March, in others not till May or June, and are in season the remainder of the year, though they seldom feed well in frosty weather; but when the weather is mild they may be taken all through the winter months.

The Perch is a peculiar exception to the general rule that fish of prey are of a solitary nature, he on the contrary is socially gregarious, and as regards taking a bait, remarkably imitative; it being well known that where you have taken one, you should invariably remain some time, and fishing with the ordinary amount of attention, you will in all probability get all there are in the hole. "But, lose one, and although he is naturally a bold biter, the chances are ten to one that he communicates his fright to all the rest, and that they will disappear with him; leaving the angler no other resource than to try a fresh place with more skill. Perch are to be found in the eddies of milltails, and weirs, also in deep still holes, about bridges, and in deep quiet corners of rivers as well as in ponds. I have known them to grow to between five and six pounds weight, but from a quarter of a pound to a pound is the ordinary size.

The Rod for Perch-fishing should be light, about twelve feet in length, of mottled cane, with upright rings, not too stiff, but sufficiently so to strike sharp from the top. In ponds and small rivers forty or fifty yards of prepared plaited silk line will be enough; on a winch of proportionate size; but in the Thames it will be safer to have a longer line, from sixty to a hundred yards. For in Perch-fishing from a weir you are extremely likely to hook a Trout or vice versa.

One of the most successful modes of fishing is with the Paternoster. This is used properly without a float although some prefer it with; in length is about, a yard and a half, of gut not too stout, with a Paternoster lead fastened to the. bottom of it by a fine silk loop. This loop is made of tine silk, so that should the lead foul amongst the large stones at bottom, it may be broken off, without endangering the rest of the tackle. On the gut are looped three hooks, size No. 4 or 5, which are tied to short pieces of gut about five inches in length. The bottom hook should be six or seven inches above the lead, the next about a foot above the bottom hook and the next a foot above that, as in the sketch.

To use the Paternoster fasten the loop to the running lino as usual, and bait with very small gudgeons or large minnows, varying them with marsh or red worms; such as a marsh worm on the bottom hook, minnow or gudgeon on the middle and red worm at the top. Some prefer all minnows, hooked through the side of the lips. Commence by dropping in near the side of the river or pond, but if there is one place more likely than another, by all means try it first. Let the Paternoster sink till the lead touches the bottom, keeping the line rather tight to it. After a few minutes if you have no success, work it towards you by raising the point of the rod and drawing in a yard or so, of line slowly, still touching the bottom with the lead. When you have a touch, slacken your line and give him a minute or two before striking, which should be done rather sharply, then play and land him secundum arten. It is not an uncommon occurrence to take two at once with this tackle; when well on the feed, you may have one on each hook at the same time.

Another killing way at times is by means of the Spinning-bait. In this manner I have taken some very large Perch in the Thames, using the same rod and tackle as recommended for Trout: gut traces properly shotted and small gut flights of hooks. I have also found the artificial minnow and Alfred's Sensation Bait extremely killing. Close to the camp-sheeting at the side of a weir and in the eddies or backwater at the foot of the spurs of it, are very desirable localities in which to use the spinning bait; mind however that the under-current does not carry the bait down too deep, causing it to foul the sill of the weir. I have had good sport in this way when sitting on the corner of a weir spinning for Trout; I have observed a shoal of Perch working their way up after Bleak and other small baits, among the rocks on the shallow below a tumbling bay, Dying between the end of the weir and the shore) and over which there was not quite so much rough water as usual. Proceeding cautiously to work without moving from my position, I dropped the spinning-bait lightly in front of one tine old fellow, who seeing the glittering temptation, pounced on it and was off into the deep in a moment. With the assistance of my puntman who descended one of the spurs of the weir with the landing-net, I soon had him in the well of the punt, together with about a score of the largest of his companions, who fell victims one after the other to their insatiable predatory disposition.

For a description of the manner of throwing the spinning bait, and the various minutiae of putting on baits, &c.. &c., as well as the various kinds of artificial baits, I must beg to refer the reader to Chapter III, in which they will be found described as fully as possible.

Large Perch are also taken when live-baiting for Pike with small Dace, &c., for a description of which see Chapter IV.

The easiest way of Perch-fishing is with a float; this may be either cork, reed or quill, the first is the best: have it as small as possible, with due regard to the amount of current in the stream you are going to fish; a three yard gut line, stained blue, and a No. 6 hook. Bait with a marsh worm or minnow, the latter may be hooked through the back fin or through the lip; and fish a foot from the bottom at least. The depth of the water may be ascertained sufficiently near for the purpose without a plummet, by setting the float, at what you consider the average depth; on trying it, if the float swims properly, set it deeper, and so on till the float rises a little or lays on one side, which it will do as soon as the shots touch the ground; when it does so, about a foot less will be the depth of the water; that being about the distance from the shots to the hook. When you see a bite, give time, and allow the float to go well under before you strike.

Sinking and Drawing for Perch, as it is termed, is practised without a float, and with two or three shots on the gut line to sink the bait; which should be a marsh-worm, or two bright red-worms. The bait is dropped into holes and eddies, among the roots of trees growing in the water, or close to piles, &c., let it sink nearly to the bottom, then draw it up gradually; and so on, sinking and drawing up, till you feel a bite, when proceed as already- directed.

The Pope or Ruffe is much like the Perch in habits and shape, also in the first dorsal-fin which it erects when alarmed, in a similar manner; the body is thickly spotted with small dark spots; and the tail and tail end of body is shaped and spotted in the same manner as a Gudgeon. They are occasionally taken in the Thames when fishing for Gudgeon; spawning about April and seldom growing longer than six inches. Use a small hook and bait with a red-worm.

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