I went belly boating into a shallow bay in early Aug with the thought of tossing streamers in to the reeds for pike. Immediately I started getting hits, little hits, tap tap hits that perch make. Perch on the fly? Why not? I switch to a Mickey Fin fly to see what would happen. More hits, then more, then more of the tap tap perch bites. With a few hook sets, I pulled in a couple Perch, a beautiful little fish, very colorful. They had been hooked on the outside of the mouth. Hmmmmm….., hook to big? I think so. What do Perch love, and walleye for that matter? They love the leaches. I switched to a leach imitation fly and the quest for Perch was on!
Obviously I had the wrong gear, but I needed to improvise. To throw the streamers to the big toothy pike I had imagined, I had brought out my 8 weight fly rod equipped with a steel leader and snap hook. Too much for the 1/2 pound Perch? Well, ya, it was, but when I switched the steel leader to 4 feet of 1X tippet followed by some 4X tippet, I had a better feel for the tapping action and made more consistent hook up with the perch. In the next 2 hours, I caught 25+ fish in 2 hours. 4 or 5 of these Perch of 7 plus inches and a few 9 inchers that would have been keepers for anyone fishing on the docks nearby. For each perch I released there were 3 that I hooked but lost. While I had improvised with tippet as a leader, I was still too heavy on the gear. An 8 weight is appropriate for a nice sized pike, or the Idaho steelhead I was catching last April. Tomorrow I would go lighter. A 4 weight rod would be ideal, but a 6 weight is the lightest fly rod I own.
The next two mornings I was up early, but in no rush. A cup of coffee then me and the dog headed down to the same bay, minus the boat, flippers and waders. It is August, the water temperature in the bay was a comfortable 71 degrees. Waders were just making me sweat the day before and the bay was shallow enough to stand in nearly everywhere I had paddled my way to the day before. My 6 weight fly rod was set up with a 7-1/2 foot floating leader followed by a few feet of 4X tippet and size 14 hook with a leach pattern tied the night before. A smaller hook did exactly what it should, it caught more fish, including the tiny ones. It also increased the bite to land ratio where I was now releasing at least half of the Perch that bit the hook. How many on that day? Maybe 50 fish for the first two hours of the morning. My dog came swimming to me each time I hooked a fish, ready to chase it away upon release. She’s really good at that. Eventually she tired and laid on shore watching, wishing I would flip a fish her way.
I changed my plan again for the last day, deciding to target only the larger Perch with an egg sucking leach, a #10 hook size. The result was many hits but only fish big enough to get the hook in their mouth were hooked and landed. After catching over 100 fish the previous 3 days, I had a pretty good feel now for the TAP TAP of a seven inch plus Perch compared to the tap tap of a smaller fish and generally when I set the hook it was worth it.
I realized on the drive home, that originally I had set out to hook up with some pike on a fly rod from by belly boat but ended up just wading and yanking out Perch after Perch. The Pike can wait, the Perch were a blast. I’ll be back for the big ones later in the year.