Anglers love a challenge, and the exact nature of that challenge is often dictated by the time of year.
Big perch and chub are high up the agenda in winter, tench and crucians become the talk of the town in spring, with carp and barbel the main focus for many once we’re graced with the dizzy heights of summer.
Such variety is what keeps the passion burning but, as with most things in life, there’s a slight negative to such diversity.
Each and every challenge appears to need different tackle, which can hit your wallet hard.
Many rods are built with a specific job in mind, with pellet waggler, Method and barbel kits plastered with graphics that hail what they’re best at.
Thankfully, there’s a growing trend among big manufacturers to create rods with an all-round purpose, and Shakespeare has certainly set out to do that with its 11ft SKP Solitude Super Float.
I’m a commercial matchman at heart, but whenever I need a change of scenery I’ll go pleasure fishing for a species that I rarely encounter.
At this time of year, that often means big perch, and my first impressions of the rod gave me an inkling that it could be the ideal tool for the species.
With the two-piece offering put together, it felt like it had a little bit of poke at the tip end without being too severe. That’s ideal for stripeys, as you initially need some grunt to set the hook through their bony mouths, but a little subtlety needs to come into play during the battle to ensure it stays firmly in place.
The eyes are also well offset from the blank, which prevents the line sticking. It isn’t going to be a bite every chuck when big fish are the target and, when the float dips, everything needs to be right to make sure it ends up in the net. A momentary lapse where the mainline sticks to the carbon could cause a quick but fatal judder that bumps the fish.
I had the rod and a need to grace my landing net with a big perch. The final piece of the jigsaw was to find a venue.
The laptop was fired up and I was soon scouring my old features and social media for a few ideas. A few enquiries later and I was bound for Lindholme Lakes, with Strip Lake at the Lincolnshire complex set to be my home for the day.
This pool is famed for its healthy stocks of carp and F1s, but those in the know often talk about the huge perch that show at this time of year.
A 2lb specimen would put a beaming smile on my face, but there was also a chance of a 3lb specimen… or perhaps even a 4lb-plus monster!
I quickly ran a 4.5g loafer float on to the 5lb mainline, with a bulk of big shot pinched on to hold the rig in position during the breezy conditions.
WATCH THE VIDEO HERE: Angling Times YouTube
My excitement was building, and it didn’t take long for the session to begin, with the float launched 15m out. The rod’s action favours these chunky floats, propelling them out with no issues.
The lobworm and maggot cocktail was in place, and a rain of grubs were catapulted over the top to draw the attention of the silvers and predators.
Instant action was unlikely and, as I waited, I had time to admire the finer touches of the rod. Its olive-green colour gives it an old-school feel and will make it stand out from the usual rows of black blanks you see in tackle shops. The reel handle did what it said on the tin, and was comfortable to grip, and the full cork handle is another touch that will appeal to the traditionalists among us.
An hour in and still blanking, my mind started to wander. Should I fish the margins? Try another peg? Maybe even another lake?
Just as I was on the verge of making a change, the loafer thundered under. The adrenaline kicked in and I went to grab the handle, only to quickly remind myself that I needed to wait a couple of seconds. Striking instantly when fishing for perch with worms is a recipe for missed bites, as they often start to devour the bait at one end and it then takes a few seconds for them to intercept the hook.
I waited for what seemed like a lifetime (it was three seconds at most!) and slam, the rod hooped over and the fish was on.
My initial feeling was positive – it was fighting, but not to the extent that a carp would.
The rod was applying the ideal amount of pressure and I felt confident the hook would stay in place and allow me to take control and pull back when required. The rod soaked up several angry lunges, leaving the fish frustrated.
As it came towards the net a vortex appeared beneath the surface and a split second later, I caught my first glimpse. It was a perch... and a big one at that!
My first swoop of the net was victorious and a stunning perch lay in the bottom, with the scales revealing it to be 2lb 13oz – just 2oz off my PB. It wasn’t the only beauty to come my way either, with another of 2lb 11oz capping off a brilliant session.
Two bites was my lot, and the rod had done me proud, nailing the hook in place before leaving me to boss proceedings with confidence from then on.
When it comes to trundling a float down the river for a chub in the coming weeks, or dabbling with lily pad-dwelling tench in spring, I’ll have no qualms about turning to this rod.
It’s packaged as an all-round tool and I’m confident it will serve you well throughout the year in an array of scenarios.