Lure Fishing with Robbie Northman #3

Hard vs Soft Lures

A GREAT RUN OF SESSIONS

The balance between hard and soft lure fishing has flipped on its head this season. In past years I have found myself fishing primarily with soft plastics, switching between shads, ned rigs & creature baits. However, the weather this winter has been unusual. We have had my favourite moody, low-pressure days, but this winter has been bright, high pressure and mild. The usual approach has been hit-and-miss, but pulling all the stops out this season, fishing techniques I neglect, has kept the fishing consistent on what could easily be blank days.

NED RIG SUCCESS

Encountering those tough days, when fish seem unwilling to move or hunt – the solution? the ned rig. Shads, creatures and hard lures, I’ll go straight to these first, but when all else fails you can count on a ned to sort out a quality fish. Small flat jig heads, and stand-up or buoyant baits. Hopping a ned rig along the bottom is appealing to finicky fish, both big and small.

My 2-10g ned set-up. Hand fillers like this are great fun on balanced tackle

NED SESSION

Met with a brief cold front, the water temperature dropped by 3ºC almost overnight. The fish did not like this, retreating to shelter and cover, feeding in very brief spells. Usually dawn and dusk are considered prime time for predators, but when night-time temperatures drop rapidly, I often find the fish switch on mid-morning. I set off to my busy local river at dawn, for a quick fishing fix. Surprisingly, the banks were quiet, just a few keen pike anglers setting up for the day. Starting with the Gravity Twitch and a 3 inch creature bait, I covered ground. An hour passed by, and not so much as a touch. I decided to slow everything down.

I picked up the ned set-up, casting around with a 2g head and buoyant lure. Many ned-designed lures are streamlined, enabling a lighter presentation. Pair that with a medium-actioned 2-10g rod, and those finicky feeders can become slamming takes. I placed a cast into a productive area and began working my lure. A single hop, followed by a 10 second pause. You could almost call it legering. I carried on the process and whack! The tip bounced round and I stuck into a solid weight. The typical thumps of a quality perch began, with little runs between. A very dogged fight on light tackle. I quickly netted my prize. A pristine upper two pounder, glowing in the morning sunlight. I slipped her back, by which time the bank had become very busy. So I packed up and headed home for a well-deserved coffee. 

A chunky perch battles beneath the surface

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DEGREE MAKES

Another day and a fresh session. Conditions almost mirrored the first, with the exception of temperature. The air temp had raised significantly, and the water temp another degree or so. 

I had full confidence that the ned rig would work. Once again, I was met with a biteless hour, so it was time to change. I decided to pull out the hard lure box, with some new additions. While rummaging through the shed I found one of my old tackle boxes from my teens. Loaded with a few original Rapalas and selection of cheap Big S cranks. Most were shallow divers, with the exception of a Countdown, which I had a lot of fun with, tempting a few perch. With the fish active, I decided to go up in size, opting for a 9.5cm twitch bait, to single out a larger fish. Very quickly I found success, banking a scraper 2. A really pretty, golden flanked fish.

Yellow belly – this one reminds me of its American cousins

The rest of the session proved uneventful, the odd jack pike keeping the confidence up. The light began to shift, so I moved to the next swim. I went straight in with the Gravity Twitch 95, and covered the area for around ten minutes. Suddenly I was met with a smashing bite. Such a ferocious hit, I never needed to set the hook. There was a dead weight for a moment, then the powerful fish used the current to kite off to the side. The rod lunged over, with clicks of the drag as the fish ran. Surely a pike.

My suspicion was wrong as a large flank broke the surface, a quality perch that had managed to roll on the line. Perch are brilliant at throwing the hook. Seeing a large one floundering on the surface way beyond netting range, is a knee-weakening experience. I backed the drag right off, gently easing the fish towards the bank. Suddenly she rolled, untangling from the braid, free to run again. The loose drag absorbed the sudden run and after a few moments I guided her to the net. The lure slipped free as soon as the resistance was gone. What a fish, a beautiful tall-flanked perch in the 3s. A perfect end to the session. I still carried on for another hour, enjoying the sport of some very aggressive wasps, on the classic Countdown. Ending the session with a huge smile on my face. 

Deep-flanked, this low 3 put up an amazing fight

The season’s grinding to a close, and the perch sessions are coming to an end. It will soon be time to move on to my next lure fishing targets. Thanks for all your lovely responses. I would like to write some tutorials covering techniques and species. I would love to hear your suggestions on styles you would like to see covered. 

MY TOP 3 LURES FOR THE WEEK

#1 Rapala Countdown Bringing this little beauty out of the box bought back many good memories. I find it fascinating that a lure twice my age works just as well today. 

#2 Z-man Tickler Z-man dominate the ned rig market at the moment and the Tickler is by far my favourite. It’s just a little different, making it a great choice for pressured perch. The stretchy material is extremely reactive with other plastics and lures, so it’s best to keep them in the original packaging. 

#3 Gravity Twitch 95 It’s been consistent this winter, used most sessions. A good hard lure to start with, tempting perch and pike. 

My tackle box find. A very old Rapala Countdown, floating minnow, and a modern X-Rap
More Stories
Marker peg from the 2010 Fly Fishing World Championships
Fishing on the Frontier – Part 32