35 - Fly Fishing For Perch

Fly Fishing for Perch

With more of us fishing local than ever lately, fly anglers are increasingly setting their sights on alternative target species. But which is the most viable and commonplace fish to go for with game tackle? The perch has to be right up there! Found in locations from city-rivers to urban canals and ponds, this obliging fish offers some of the cheapest fly fishing in the UK! Here are seven great bits of advice to sink the net under one this month.  

  1. Location, location, location 

Canals offer some excellent and cheap fishing

Perch are often quite willing biters, especially the smaller ones. But you still have to find them. On smaller waters with obvious features, they are reassuringly predictable! Besides trees, bushes and any snag with a bit of depth under it, they also love manmade features like boat jetties, lock gates and walls. On running water, any slack area is worth a go.  

Slack water on a river; another likely place to find perch.

Bigger waters like reservoirs can be a trickier battle, however. You might find them smashing fry in the shallows at certain times of year, like autumn, but in the winter the depths are key. Be prepared to search at different intervals from the bank and use fast sink lines! The dreaded fish finder is also useful if you can buy or borrow one. 

Perch love cover of all kinds- but the golden rule to keep searching different spots until you find some fish. Don’t lose heart if it’s slow because sometimes they will all be bunched up in just a handful of spots.

  1. Suitable fly fishing tackle for perch

The first note on this topic is not to sweat it thinking you need any special gear to catch perch. You don’t! Something like a five, six or seven weight would be fine. The only slight hitch is that you might find pike, too. In which case you could go a bit heavier. 

With typical run-of-the-mill perch ranging from an ounce to around the pound mark, you want tackle that will still provide a fight.

For most canals, smaller lakes and rivers, a floating fly line is fine, along with a simple rod’s length of 8lb fluorocarbon for leader. Again, pike are the only snag! If you find lots of jacks, it might be sensible to step up strengths and use a light wire trace as “insurance”. 

  1. Retrieves: keep it lively but not too fast

Perch are not always as energetic as pike, or indeed trout, when it comes to charging down prey. In warmer months, yes, you might find them on the fin and chasing actively. But when less active, or during winter and early spring, you might need to slow down. 

Regardless of size, perch are fun! 

Mixing it up is therefore the way to go, but save the fast stripping for when you can see prey panicking. A good way to start is with a short plucks and strips but not racing the fly in. If the fish aren’t very cooperative or glued to the bottom another good trick is to let the fly sink right to the bottom and then give it a little twitch or three, before letting it sink again. 

  1. Do I need special flies for perch? 

The short answer to this is no, not necessarily. They will indeed take trout lures, and many are caught accidentally each season, especially on flashy flies with a good dash of tinsel in them. Favourites include the Humungous and Woolly Bugger. 

Black Woolly Bugger   Humungus              Perch Jigs           Terrestrials          

While perch will take a variety of lure-type flies, little beats having exactly the right tool for the job. CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR PERCH PATTERNS

However, there is also a good argument to try flies specifically tailored to perch. The bigger fish definitely like a slightly larger target at times (think sizes 2-6 rather than the standard 8-10 of trout flies), while flies with weighted heads can also be good for teasing deeper lying fish.

We stock special jig flies that have a tempting up-and-down motion that is a killer for this inquisitive species! These can also be hopped along the bottom, if the perch need to be teased into making a grab on tricky days. 

  1. Other tips and gear 

The best further advice we can give you is simply to get out there and try your luck! So many coarse fishing clubs have perch fishing at bargain cost. You might also need to suss out the best times to fish for perch (dawn is great in summer, but the opposite can be true in winter).

Nor are all conditions equal, with overcast days often best in shallow water- although clear, deep waters can produce in bright sunshine. Again, you’ll only suss these lessons out by trying your local waters. Even the most unappetising little drain or canal can produce the odd two-pounder!

A fine fish is returned with care- as all perch deserve to be!

Do also take a long handled landing net and unhooking mat. Most coarse fishing clubs insist on these- and a lot of good urban fisheries won’t have much soft grass to place your catch down. Indeed, these fish might look like bruisers, but should be given the same respect as any trout. Please release them with care- and if you do need to get a picture or weigh a big one, you can always carefully retain for a minute or two in a submerged landing net.  

Further info 

For more on the art of catching perch and other coarse fish on the fly, perhaps the best source of information is Dom Garnett’s book Flyfishing For Coarse Fish. Packed with tips, tactics and recommended flies for all the major coarse fish, it’s a must have for any species hunter!