I moved to Reading in 1980 to be closer to my favourite fishing venue at the time which was the Kennet. In fact, I couldn't have got much closer as my house backed onto the river and I spent many happy evenings catching roach, chub and barbel from my garden steps.
Angler's name: Martin Salter
Current club, team or sponsor: Angling Trust National Campaigns Manager
Age started fishing: ten
Favourite fish species: roach
Favourite fishing bait: bread
Greatest angling achievement: five river roach over two pounds in an afternoon
Angling ambition: to catch a three pound river roach - my best is 2.14.08lb!
Angling hero: I don't have heroes but the best angler I've ever fished with is the Avon roach legend Dave Howes.
"Nowadays it's the canal rather than the river which excites me as winter approaches and time comes to target the big perch."
The Kennet system comprises natural river and canalised river below Newbury and the Kennet & Avon canal (known as the K&A) which links Bristol with London via Bath and Reading. Nowadays it's the canal rather than the river which excites me as winter approaches and time comes to target the big perch that live here in such abundance.
The K&A is a superb fishery with plenty of roach and skimmers to keep the match anglers busy and happy, some socking great carp for the specimen hunters and perch and pike of all sizes that provide great sport for everyone.
After a surge in big perch catches throughout the system, with specimens from both the river and the canal gracing the pages of the angling press with some regularity about 15 years back, there was a definite tailing off in catches. However, the last few years have seen a real revival in the numbers of specimen perch with plenty of fit two pounders coming through and a smattering of threes and occasional fours showing up on my favourite stretches.
I favour the canal over the river as I find it more reliable and of course it is immune to the winter floods. In fact, it is during the periods of high coloured water that I find it fishes best. Particularly on those pounds that are close to the confluence with the river. The bait fish pile in here and the big, predatory perch are seldom far behind. They can be caught on live baits, but jack pike can be a problem, and drop shorting with small soft plastic lures is also a fabulous method which catches many fish. However, when there's colour in the canal there's nothing to beat the humble lobworm and that has become my preferred winter method.
Soft quiver tips are essential as big perch are averse to any resistance and I've recently purchased the relaunched 10 ft wand from Shakespeare - a popular bit of kit in the 80s - which is perfect for the job. I fish a simple paternoster rig with a light bomb and either a whole or half a lob on a No 8 hook tipped with another piece of broken worm and a red maggot.
Two tips that will catch you more and bigger fish: always keep moving the bait. I twitch my worm back through the swim every 30 seconds or so once I've got the perch feeding over a bed of chopped worm and caster. Secondly, by all means look for pegs with cover but remember that big perch prefer to hunt in the deeper water of the boat channel, so that's where you should place your loose feed and then twitch your worm back through the area.
Deploying precisely these tactics gave me my most memorable haul last winter. A two hour session after work saw me land five perch over two pounds, including a brace of three pounders and a bonus four pound bream, from a peg close to where the K&A joins the Kennet. I'm not going to give the exact spot away but an Ordnance Survey map and a Reading & District Angling Association ticket will serve you well if it's big canal perch you are after.