Catching fish on the surface has always held a special place in the hearts of fly fishermen, especially on the Faro River. It is ingrained in the culture to the extent that it is not uncommon to find streams where only dry flies are permitted. With that in mind, you can imagine the excitement and satisfaction when Blaede and I, both trout stream fishermen at heart, worked out that under the right conditions, perch can be caught on the surface.
The Distinctive Sound of Surface-Feeding Perch: How to Listen for Them
From the beginning of the season, we were convinced that we were hearing the occasional perch feeding on the surface. With something like 72 different fish species in the Faro, it was hard to be certain that what we were hearing were perch, but the distinctive sound that they made was pretty good evidence. Perch, much like bass, have massive mouths without proper teeth. Their method of feeding seems to be to amble up to a large fish (we saw 6lb barbs inhaled by them) and suddenly expand their cavernous buccal cavity and suck it in. The sudden expansion of their buccal cavity is done with a lot of force and displaces a lot of water. You can imagine, then, that a surface feeding perch would make a sound very unlike an arawana, catfish or tiger. It is a deep, powerful thumping noise overlaid with a crack, not unlike a firearm, as the water cavitates under the immense negative pressure. Throughout the season, we had heard this noise occasionally, but never often enough to put in some effort to investigate. That is until we found the very top of Marais du Croco.
Exploring Marais du Croco: A Surprising Location for Surface Fishing
We were fishing Marais du Croco without any success, and I was bored. I was sure that I had heard some surface feeding perch in the distance, but just assumed that they were wide-spread and occasional. My boredom led me to investigate and so I started walking up the beat, light off using just the minimal moonlight to find my way, stopping occasionally to listen for either perch or hippos out of the water. As I approached the top of the beat, it became apparent that the surface feeding had not been widespread at all. It was concentrated in the 2-3ft fast water right at the head of the pool where we would never dream of fishing for perch usually. Every 10-30 seconds it sounded like a shotgun going off in the shallows. Using the usual buoyant perch peanut, this time on an intermediate line and long leader, I flicked a cast across the channel and stripped slowly as it swung round. Immediately I got a hit. Four hits and 5 minutes later, I finally connected to a small, 70cm perch. This was enough to confirm that it was definitely perch we were hearing. At this point I called Blaede to have a go and he was immediately smashed 3 or 4 metres from his rod tip. It honestly sounded like a shotgun going off. Now, to put this into perspective, you fish the Faro in the dark, with lights turned off. There are massive crocs and lots of hippos in the water, and there are lions, leopards, buffalo, and spotted hyenas on the land. You can imagine that your ears are straining constantly for any crack of a twig or pebble being stepped on to alert you to danger. When an effective shotgun goes off without warning 5m from you, you sh!t yourself, and this is exactly what happened to Blaede. Usually we strip-set fish. Blaede jump-set it or dive-set it, I am not sure which is more appropriate. It then screamed off downstream with Blaede in hot pursuit. He managed to get it into the shallows, and I grabbed it. It measured 101cm and proved that not only small fish were feeding on the surface.
It is one thing to have a one-time anomaly, and so the final group were really the test to see if these results could be replicated. The answer is yes. On night two, Blaede took Charlie up to the same spot and he caught two small perch, both on the surface. On the last night I took John to the spot, and he caught a 75cm perch and an 89cm perch, both on the surface. He also had a few takes which didn’t stick. We only found this spot and technique right at the end of the season, and so the surface fishing on the Faro is still in its infancy. We have only done it successfully in one spot so far, but there are a couple of spots to try next season with the same structure as the top of Marais du Croco which we never got round to trying. Next season is going to be fascinating.
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Surface fishing gear and techniques for the Faro River
12wt rod and intermediate line, perch peanut or honeymoon handcuffs fly, spare pair of underwear!
Surface technique for the Faro River
Find where the fish are feeding. This is done by listening. You can either cast at explosions or fish blind. Keep casts short and start stripping as the fly hits the water. The strip is long and slow, although slightly faster than we use with the more traditional sink tip lines in the deep water. Hold on tight.