I would rather catch a fish, any fish, on a fly rod. A big pike, head shaking, pulling line, is tons of fun on a spin cast rod and reel. Catch the same pike on a fly rod (pic below) and it feels completely different. The pull is different, the fight is different, and of course the technique of casting and hooking a fish is very different. I like to fly fish for pike from my boat, either anchoring or drifting through pike waters.
But now let’s talk about fly fishing for Perch. Most people associate fly fishing with casting dry flies on a river for trout. It’s also a great way of fishing for trout in lakes. But fly fishing is also a tremendous way to catch Perch, lots and lots of Perch. So I have decided to compare fly fishing for trout in still water (lakes and reservoirs) with fly fishing for Perch on a lake.
First of all, like any fishing, go where the fish are likely to be. Perch will hang out in weed structure and under the shadows of above water structure, such as docks and fallen trees so these are great areas to target. If you have access to a dock on a lake in the southern half of Saskatchewan, you probably have Perch around. Where there is one Perch, there are likely many.
I have realized, but trying every method I could think of, that you can catch Perch as long you put something attractive in front of them with some movement. I have had success with all of the following fishing techniques:
- by wading out into the water and casting back to the weeds
- casting from a dock over weed structure
- casting from a boat back over weeds
- from a kayak positioned to cast along the edge of the weeds or beside the shady edge of a dock
- from a belly boat beyond the weeds, casting back to shore
So, just about any method that let’s you get a fly to the weeds, within a couple feet of where the fish are.
Fly’s that work:
- Mickey Finn
- Caddis Fly
- Egg Sucking Leach
- Bead Head Nymph
- Muddler Minnow
When I fly fish for trout and they are actively rising to feed at the surface, I will try to cast to the rise, bringing the same fish back up to the surface for another bite. While that has worked with rainbow trout on lakes, ponds, and rivers, it’s rarely successful with Perch. But a similar technique will work, cast beyond the rise and strip line to pull the fly back over where the rise occurred. When doing this, I have often seen Perch nipping at my fly line, right at the tip where I have my fly line looped and secured with black thread. I think the Perch are mistaking the black thread for a leach or other small black worm. So when I then drag my leader followed by an egg sucking leach across the same spot, I often have a bite.
Perch are very aggressive feeders and because they hand around in schools of many fish, it’s quite common to see fish moving in small groups of anywhere from 2 to 10 fish at once, chasing a fly. There is competition among the fish in the group to take a run at the fly/food so if one misses, it’s often followed by another. So because I’m often casting beyond the rise, it’s not critical to land the fly softly (which you MUST do fishing to the rise with trout). But it is important not to let the fly line slap the water, or you will spook away the whole group of Perch at the spot of the rise.
Now for the best part, catching a Perch on a fly rod makes them feel bigger. I catch Perch off my dock (boat, kayak, belly boat), from sun up to sun down, as many as 30 in an hour. Most of them are small, less than half a pound (and smaller) but I use a 4 weight fly rod with very light tippet so when I hook the little Perch, they actually can put a little bend in the rod and a one pounder can strip line from the reel. Perch don’t really run much but they shake constantly when hooked so if you let up on the line tension, they are going to shake themselves off. So it’s not the fight, it’s the thrill of the hook set, and the release, that make Perch on the fly a lot of fun.