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Your face lights up as you spontaneously plan a trip to a prolific fishery that is showcased in a magazine only for your hopes to be dashed when you find out access is restricted.

Waters holding huge specimen fish are often the culprits for installing the ‘closed shop’ mentality but numerous commercials have also moved to reserve pools solely for match anglers.

In fairness to the owners of these venues, almost all of them make sure pleasure anglers have plenty of other options where the action is just as good but that won’t remove the feeling of discontent once you had set your eyes set on that particular lake.

Somerset’s Viaduct Fishery is made up of six beautifully landscaped waters, with Campbell Lake put aside just for competitions.

Viaduct was the venue

The 200lb plus carp hauls that are regularly flaunted in the headlines are what many anglers wish they could get a piece of but the lake has uncovered a very special secret that the management are allowing pleasure anglers to take advantage of for a limited period.

Garbolino and Spotted Fin’s Dan White enters numerous events on Campbell each year and while mirrors and commons make up the mainstay of the action, there is another species that makes a surprise yet very welcome appearance.

“You can be catching lots of carp and then all of a sudden the float will dip and a giant perch will be in the net minutes later,”explained Dan.

“Fish of 2lb are caught in most matches, 3lb plus specimens are not out of the question and the biggest ever landed was over 4lb!”

With fewer match bookings in the depths of winter, owner Steve Long has now temporarily opened the water up to budding perch anglers on week days when no competitions are taking place.

To celebrate the decision, Improve Your Coarse Fishing caught up with Dan to find out just how special the untapped perch fishing is.

Carp avoidance

Rectangular in shape, many of the pegs on Campbell have a very similar feel to them although there are a few that will probably catch your eye.

These likely looking spots are either located in the corners or have shrubbery protruding into the margins. There is all a large ‘spit’ on the far bank that pushes several metres into the water and it’s easy to see why you’d think large perch would linger close to the vegetation at the end of it.

But the best way to pick a peg is to look at the match results…and then head to the pegs where no fish are being caught!

“If you fish a peg that has lots of carp in it you won’t stand a chance of catching any perch as they will just get bullied out of the area.

“The perch tend to sit in areas where there are no carp so a peg that looks like a no hoper on paper will probably have stacks of potential for your target species.”

With most of the carp tightly shoaled at the end closest to the entrance, Dan deciding to get as far away from there as possible and headed to the final swim at the bottom end.

Weeds and branches congregated in the corner making it look ideal for predators but this spot would only come into play later in the day.

Target zones

In many waters perch would permanently hug any overhanging cover but in Campbell Lake they have developed a completely different routine that is driven by the match anglers.

Find the perch in snags

“Most matchmen would start fishing either on a long pole or feeder and then work their way in as the day goes on, finishing in the margins late in the session.

“As a result, the perch have worked out they have to sit further out in the lake during the day if they want to feed and come in the margins from 2pm or so which is usually the final hour or two of a competition.”

Three lines would be attacked on the day – a maggot feeder, long pole and the margins – and Dan expected to taste action on at least one of them.

“You have to remember that it isn’t going to be a bite every chuck as there are maybe a couple of hundred big perch at best so you need to be patient and wait for them to turn up.”

A small maggot feeder packed with casters, maggots and small pieces of chopped prawn was launched out to the middle, the rod went on the rest and Dan sat back, almost certainly daydreaming about what he could add to the net in the coming hours.

Patience tested

Despite being confident that he could perform for the cameras, the early stages didn’t provide much encouragement, with the tip not even trembling in the first hour.

Chucking to a few different spots with half a prawn hookbait didn’t work and neither did switching to maggots or caster hookbaits.

Surely a change to the long pole that had been primed with a few freebies would kick-start things? Nope, not a sniff!

“It’s challenging today but when it is like this you just have to keep in mind that one bite can bring a very special fish.”

Three hours in and Dan was staring down the barrel of a blank but he still hadn’t enquired what was down the margins.

Shipping 13m down to the snags, he dropped his rig in. The instant bite we had our fingers and toes firmly crossed for didn’t materialise though.

The grimace on Dan’s face suggested even he thought we were bang out of luck and he stated: “I’d have bet money I would have…..”

It all came good in the end

But before the sentence could even be finished, the float dipped and around 5ft of Garbolino 1.8mm Fighter elastic zipped out of the tip.

It sounds like something a journalist would spin up to create a bit of drama but hand on heart that is exactly how the moment unfolded!

Stood on top of the bank, I watched on as Dan tentatively shipped back, fully aware a big perch was on the other end.

“I think this could be a real lump – let’s hope everything holds in place.”

As it rose to the surface with the pole almost at full length, its size became clear and a few expletives came out of my mouth before I uttered the words under my breath “Please don’t lose this mate”.

It’s head nodded side to side, doing its best to rid the hook. But Dan’s rig was more than up to the test and a full framed stripey was soon beaten.

“What a relief!” exclaimed Dan.

“I had a horrible feeling we were in for ‘one of those days’ but this fish is typical of what the lake can produce.”

Weighing in at 3lb 1oz, it was followed by three others around the 2lb mark in an action-packed half hour period, with the dipping light seemingly switching the fish on to the feed.

“We’ve gone from absolutely nothing to having four big perch in no time at all.

“A lot of pleasure anglers thought they would never get a shot at Campbell Lake but now is the time to take advantage while they are allowed and catch some amazing fish that other venues can’t provide,” concluded Dan.

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