Vale Farm with Stu Harris

Last weekend I continued the search for big perch, only this time it was to be on a lake I’ve fished many times before, but only for the carp. Vale Farm Fishery near Andover is one of my favourite venues when it’s a prolific days angling I want. A day ticket affair that boasts 3 picturesque mature lakes with plenty of hard fighting carp that can be caught on a variety of methods all year round.

Nick, the friendly owner, has been telling me about the big perch, sergeants to over 4lb which have shown up during nettings but nobody ever fishes for. It’s all about the popups and pellets for the vast majority who angle at Vale Farm, and up until last weekend it was pretty much the same for me too. I had spoken with Matt about the prospect and fire myself up for a visit.

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I asked Bill if he fancied a bash at them, and we arranged to meet there on Saturday morning at 7am. We headed for the old trout pool, the left most pool on the complex and reputedly the trickier of the 3. Nick had told me there were perch in all of the pools, so we opted for the one with no one else fishing it. There was some deep water directly under a big willow, the long fronds trailed and a root system made this look the perfect place to start.

We positioned ourselves either side of the tree and began tackling and baiting up. I opted to fish 2 float rods with king prawns and Bill fish one the same and the other on a ledgered worm on the far bank under another overhanging tree. With the rods out we made tea and toasties and waited for the first of the perch to show up. We waited a while too, longer than we’d hoped.

The main reason I thought prawns would be deadly was because I knew the venue to have a healthy population of crayfish. When Nick arrived for his ticket money I quizzed him some and it was revealed that this particular pool held very small amounts of crafts compared to the furthest right hand pool. This made me question our swim choice, but he went on to inform me that fairly recently someone fishing worms had caught some to over 3lbs. Confidence was immediately restored.

After our second pot of tea, Bill’s ledger rod was away. It was clear from the off that it was a carp, but it was some excitement and a beautiful winter common that brightened an otherwise fairly dull morning. We took a few photos and released the carp to those icy waters. With the rod back on its spot we relaxed and continued to enjoy the long overdue catch up and hoped a perch would be along soon.

At 11am Bill had an hour left before he’d have to get going. The swim was dead so we moved to the opposite bank where he’d caught the carp, in the hope of catching something. For the last hour we chatted some more but other than a few dips on the float, no more fish came our way. I walked with Bill back to the car park, and as I bade him farewell I put a few non essentials in my car and now more mobile set off for that right hand pool.

I picked a spot between two small bushy trees, perfect hiding spots for the perch, and after plumbing the depth began fishing. A chap opposite was having great fun catching lots of carp, after a biteless hour I began to get somewhat envious. But, true to my words I stuck to my plan, I was just slightly bemused as to why the carp didn’t like prawns. They were clearly down there, I’d been scattering a few pellets onto the spots and the float was waving around as the carp fed, they just ignored the prawns.

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It was close to 3pm when I finally gave in, I had to catch something, I simply had to get a bend in the old cane. I rummaged through what I had, but the majority of the carp gear I’d put in the car when I downsized my kit for the afternoon session. I did however have bread and cheese. I tried freelinining bread, but every time the float dipped and I struck I failed to connect and the bread came off. This was when I sprinkled some pellets right in close to the bank.

I then chose to freeline a chunk of vintage cheddar, which after a while seemed to do the trick. A slow pull on the rod tip, a strike and a carp hooked and charging around the swim. It felt good, but was short lived and the hook soon popped out. Next cast the same thing happened resulting in another hook pull. Then I noticed some disturbance close in where I’d sprinkled the pellets. Upon closer inspection I saw 3 commons and 2 mirrors upended troughing on the free offerings.

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The light was beginning to fade, I gently lowered a piece of hooked cheese among the fish, held the line between my fingers and waited. A minute or so later another slow pull came and another carp was hooked. The fight was great, the cunning fish trying to reach the snags either side of me, but I soon engulfed my prize in the net. I took a quick photo and with the fish released started to pack away and set of home.

The question is, when I return, do I fish for perch, or carp?

Stu

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