Archie Braddock: How to Catch Big Perch

Another insightful submission from veteran angler Archie Braddock who reveals his year-round approach to catching big perch…


            For some years now my summer fishing has been stick float and long rod, maggot trotting,  with a second rod set up with my perch paternoster presenting a livebait well off the bottom. Good catches on the stick, interspersed with odd big perch to the paternoster, and occasionally a big pike or zander. The year of 2022 spoiled all that.

It started in April with lots of dry weather, causing my local Trent to fall steadily, and soon I was experiencing record low levels and I’ve been checking those levels for upwards of forty years. By the opening of the river season water temperatures were starting to climb due to the relentless sunshine, and with the very slow flow stick float fishing became a waste of time. There had also been a perch explosion; everywhere I fished there were multitudes of 2-4oz perch making maggots and worms impossible to use. Pal Steve fishing six days a week wasn’t doing much either, with his feeder/pellet roach tactics only intermittently succeeding. When the first heatwave hit in July the water temperature reached 20ºc (70ºf) and the level hit a new low. By the end of July it was hopeless, with some local anglers not even bothering to turn out in the stifling conditions, so I felt I had to find livelier shallower water which hopefully would be more oxygenated:  but my maggot feeder found only small perch wherever I cast. On top of that the extreme heat was really getting to me. Another move was called for, still aiming for a swifter flow but also for a swim with shade. I found one under large willows where the sun didn’t penetrate after 12 noon, so I gave it a go – and my season was totally transformed!

I have written many times about large river perch taking livebaits well off the bottom, and stated that they feed best in the summer when the sun is bright and at it’s highest. Now, in such extreme conditions, that assertion would really be put to the test: but first livebaits have to be caught, and I had managed to come up with a rig that really did the business. Rather than go into details here I’ve preceded this article with an in depth description of the setup. I wrote it for the Dynamite website, but its not simply a plug for their products. I only ever write about groundbaits, bait etc when I’ve successfully used them. So I suggest you have a look at that feature, The Best of Both Worlds, as I’m sure you will find it useful for more than just catching livebaits.

Ok, baits sorted so onto the big perch. On my first trip to the new swim I used a ten inch hooklink and a two and a half foot bomb link, which probably anchored my bait around eighteen inches off the bottom, fished just into the main flow about fifteen yards out. The day proved to be both an eye-opener and a disaster. Under a blazing sun I had no less than five screaming runs but only caught one perch, at 2¾lbs. The takes all came to dace livebaits and each one followed the same pattern. A bouncing rod top alerted me to possible predators about, followed by a suddenly spinning spool as line was ripped off the bait-runner. This had been set to counteract the pull of the current and the action of the bait. Bobbins are no use in a good flow. My reaction was the same with the four missed runs as it had been with the single capture. I lifted the rod, engaged the clutch, and leaned hard into the fish. In each case there was a couple of savage head shakes followed by a burst of speed – and the perch came off. The recovered baits showed no bite marks, just missing scales; certainly perch. I was devastated. Some serious thought had to be given to my setup.

My normal double hook hair arrangement has been subject to minor adjustments for many years and I’ve come to accept that I will always miss a percentage of takes due to the way a perch takes the bait, but not four out of five. So, inturned point hooks were replaced with straight ones, Drennan Super Specialists. The bait holding hook became a size 8, up one size, and the main hook became a 4, also up one size. The hooklink stayed the same, 15lb Daiwa Sensor.

Archie’s double hook hair arrangement for perch


The above photo shows my current hook arrangement. My main line is 12lb Sufix, and my rod is a 12 foot 2¾lb test curve through action model. Necessary gear when you are casting 5½oz composed of a 2½oz anchor lead and a 3oz bait. Yes, a 3oz bait: anything much smaller and you start catching perch of 1½lbs and less. Incidentally sorry about the lack of photos: in such hot conditions I had to return all my fish to the water immediately.

Armed with my updated rig I returned a week later. A cloudy morning meant  I caught lots of dace easily, but it was only after the sun broke through at about 4pm that I had my first fast take on the livebait, at 4.30pm.  And it came off again!! My spirits sank: was the rig still not right? Salvation! At 5pm I had another take and this time I landed it – 3lbs 7oz. My jubilation was soon dashed. At 5.30pm another fast run found me attached to a very powerful fish which scorched out to mid river, gave two mighty head shakes, and came off — again. I got the bait back, no bite marks, just a lot of missing scales; clearly a big perch. Oh well, at least I’d landed a good fish this time out.

My next trip coincided with one of the hottest days of August, air temperature in the mid thirties centigrade, a water temperature at 22ºc (71ºf), and a new record low river level. I arrived expecting a blank, had five runs, and landed five perch, so I now knew my rig changes had done the trick. The perch weighed 1lb.15oz, 2lb.8oz, 3lb.4oz, 3lb 9oz, and 3lb.10oz. Apart from being my best ever perch catch from the Trent, they all came between 12 noon and 4.30pm,  reconfirming what I’ve been saying and writing about for many years: big river perch feed up in the water in full sunshine, and its never been fuller than it was that day.

A return two days later found the water temperature at 72ºf, and I felt that it was nearing the point where de-oxygenization of the water might affect results. Yet I still had a take from a powerful fish which came off, and another take which produced a perch of 3¼lbs. I continued fishing the same swim to the end of August, catching perch, but also experiencing blank days in seemingly ideal conditions; days when there was temporary relief from the fierce sun and a slight fall in the water temperature. This puzzled me, but I put it on the back burner until this fabulous fishing was finished, which I knew it would be when the temperatures came down and the levels came up.

In early September I had a shock. The area I was fishing was generally deserted, but,  there was an angler in my regular swim, with the rest of the river vacant. Disgruntled, I looked for another spot and eventually settled in some 150 yards away. The inline maggot feeder scored again with good dace; too good, as most of them were too big for baits. Eventually I caught a smaller fish, paternostered it, and within half an hour it gave me a perch of exactly 3½lbs! Was I going to find them all along the stretch?

No, next time out I blanked in my favourite swim, and then blanked again when I tried a new swim altogether. So back to my favourite spot to take two more threes in a day, plus plus other odd fish to the end of the month. The last fish went 3lb 14oz: if only it had eaten my bait first!

Archie with a chunky 3lb-plus perch

I was now expecting the fishing to fall away, as with the water temperature down to the mid fifties, plus the consequent recovery in oxygen levels, there was no need for the fish to congregate in the faster water. However, on my first October trip I did lose a fish of probably 2½lbs at the net, with the water at 55º f. I was now spacing my visits out a little as I had worked out which were the best conditions for feeding spells, and which weren’t. (see Summary) Another blank trip in October, with the water down to 52ºf, told me the perch were now going into winter mode; this wonderful summer fishing was over.


            Apart from giving me the best summer perching I’ve ever had, this period taught me invaluable lessons about perch behaviour and preferred habitats. But first, here are the numbers. I fished  that shallower area 21 times between August 1st and mid October. Seven of those trips were blanks, which proved just as instructive as the catches did. I had 13 perch between 3lb 1oz and 3lb 14oz, averaging out at about 3½lbs. I also had 5 two’s up to 2lbz 15oz. All the takes were fast full blooded runs, but regrettably I had another 10 takes which didn’t produce a fish: in each case some heavy head shaking was experienced before the perch came adrift. Deducting the seven blank sessions meant I had a total of 28 takes in just 14 trips. That’s outstanding results by any standards.

Before continuing I’d like to take you back twenty two years to the year 2000. That was the year I devoted a whole season to catching river perch. My aim was to try to catch thirty 3lb perch in one season, as I didn’t think it had ever been done before. Ultimately I caught 88 fish over 2lbs of which 34 were over 3lbs. Only about a dozen were Trent fish, the rest were from the Derbyshire Derwent. The majority of those were perch in winter mode, i.e taken on worms in the last two hours of daylight.        Long before the angling media pundits started telling us what was the best time of day for winter perch I had discovered that light levels were the trigger, with the fish waiting for the falling light and feeding until that light was gone; occasionally even a half hour into darkness. I also fished through a period of rapidly falling water temperatures, starting at 41ºf (5ºc). I kept on catching as it got steadily colder, getting good perch at all temperatures down to 36ºf (just over 2ºc). Below that I blanked, so I now knew the limits.

The point of this trip down memory lane was that catching so many fish made it possible to sort out the winter behaviour of river perch in just one season. Now, all these years later the Trent catches (and blanks) have taught me the same lesson. Perch will feed in very high water temperatures right up to 70ºf, with the cut off point around 72ºf (approximately 22ºc). The biggest step forward I made concerned light levels again, this time the other way round. I’ve been catching big perch in bright sunshine for many years, but very few of them were taken before 1pm, and none at all in the evening; say after 5.30pm. That’s because the fish wait until the sun is high enough for their preferred light penetration, and then cease feeding when the angle of that light gets too low: the exact opposite of winter perch. I have still never caught a big perch on a summers evening.

The most significant discovery of all concerned the importance of weather conditions, and their effect on those light levels. Go back in this article to where I caught five perch in a session and you’ll find that it was full sunshine, with the key feeding times between noon and 4.30pm. Go back further to my first ‘three’, 3lb 7oz, and it came well after 4pm when the sun finally broke through after a cloudy day. I had two other missed takes, but it was all over by 5.30pm. In effect, I’d only had a one and a half hour window.

This prompted me to recheck the weather patterns and the catching time – and it all fell into place. Even those seven blanks helped to show where I’d gone wrong: one of them was a totally wrong swim, the others were cloudy days – no suitable light levels.  What the perch do on a sunless day I don’t know, but they don’t often take my baits.

So, here I am, armed with the knowledge of the best days to fish, the likeliest feeding times, and the type of swims to look for. I know that my future summer perch hunting will be more successful than its ever been; but – isn’t there always a but. During those preceding twenty two years I fished generally deeper and slower swims, and fished in any weather that presented itself. In other words I probably wasted dozens of days during all those years.

As all of this happened in my 85th year, then yes, I’m getting on a bit, but no, I’m not ready to shuffle off just yet. There’s still a lot to do, and a lot to learn. I’m already making plans for next summer, and hoping we’ll have a heatwave or two.


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The post Archie Braddock: How to Catch Big Perch first appeared on Dynamite Baits.

The post Archie Braddock: How to Catch Big Perch appeared first on Dynamite Baits.

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Archie Braddock: How to Catch Big Perch
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