September 25, 2016

Hunting Monsters In Lilliput

The humble yet beautiful gudgeon

The distinct lack of posts over the last couple of months underlines my mild bout of angling apathy. Oh, I've dabbled. I've caught too. Mainly chub to be honest and, despite a succession of good fours and a five, each fish has been slipped back with barely a second glance. It all seemed a bit routine.

I get this way quite regularly and especially so in August. I need a kick in the seat of my waders to get me going again, and I have, but from an unlikely venue.

I don't think I can remember my first gudgeon but I well recall visiting a certain swim at French Weir where I could target them on those days when the succession of minnow seemed endless. Like the minnows, a larger than average gudgeon was always held in high regard and the discussion of how big a record would look was often held, as a child and as an adult.

The target species
Tales reached me of a special place. A tiny river, a few special pools. A place of monsters. Monster gudgeon! Who would not be interested? A day in search of these wonderful little fish was being arranged by the Traditional Fishing Forum members and I put my name down, immediately.

We met in a farm yard and one, rather wonderful, organiser served me a bacon roll. It's a bit like scratching a dog's back I suppose but such an offering provokes a life long loyalty to anybody the makes such a gesture. That he later provided cake! Well, it's a bit early to talk of marriage but......

Time came to go our separate ways and I joined another Dave at the beat's largest pool. I say large, it was about the size of a Transit van but had overhanging alders, reeds, lilies in the shallow bit and a little riffle at it's tale. I couldn't wait to cast.

Bites were instant but nothing was hooked until a roach the size - and width - of a cigarette paper was swung in. I had a few more then a little gudgeon, that dropped off. A bigger roach of a few ounces and a couple of perch were enough to send me on the prowl.

Even I could wallis cast to the far bank
The next pool was tiny, but a trickle of water spread into a length barely 15" deep. From this spot I had a proper gudgeon. Easily 5" long with high, broad shoulders. My elation quickly faded as it flipped from my hand and back into the stream. But I continued and caught chub, trout, roach, dace and more, albeit smaller, gudgeon.

And so it continued. Any pool, no matter how small, seemed to hold fish. It was a return to a childhood vision of water where anything is possible and expectations are always high. It was a breath of fresh air, a chance to re-centre and re-evaluate my fishing path. It was heaven.

We broke for a lengthy lunch. Food appeared from every angler's box and the spread was way too much for the eight of us. We did our best though, and I had to have just one last piece of tiffin cake.

I left the rest to drive back to their chosen areas and stayed close to the car park. I crept into a little pool and was soon taking little trout until the minnows began to bother me. I scattered a few maggots and suddenly caught sight of a chub, flashing on the gravel at the end of the pool. I was immediately enthused and determined to tempt this 'monster' that must have weighed all of two pounds. How can this change of perspective be so acute? One day ignoring a five pound fish, the next the single minded in the pursuit of one less then half the size.

I didn't catch it.

I had a few last casts in a shallow pool below a bridge and caught the first fish that demanded the landing net. It was a fine dace and put a cap on my day. Nicky soon returned from her day's National Trusting and we commenced the 153 mile journey home. That's a long way for a monster gudgeon and a very long way when you don't catch one. But it was worth every yard.

For the record, Bernie caught a 'gonk' as long as his hand and looked in a state of shock as he related the tale. I was a little bit jealous.


  1. A wonderful written account Dave. I'm so glad one's mojo has returned, both on the angling front and indeed the written one. Enjoyed that a lot, especially your analogy describing the canine loyalty. So I'm not overweight just terribly itchy, is that right? :o)

    1. Ha! Whatever works for you lover :o) Thanks for the nice words xxx

  2. Lovely stuff Dave, mid summer can feel a bit stuffy on the angling front, and we all make trips to the river with new challenges and records in mind but it's good to remember fishing is supposed to be fun after all, the times I've been out with a fly rod and spent most of the day trying to catch bullheads and tiny barbel at my feet are too many to mention, it's all fishing. Keep it up!:)

    1. Thanks Graham - appreciated. Bullheads eh? I've had two or three over the last 50+ years, maybe I should get serious and chase a record :o)

  3. I'm not sure what the record is but they're not too fussy when offered a broken dendrabaena! Catching them on a fly is a little more challenging;)

    1. In my youth I caught loads with my hands or in a jar, it's a lot of fun. I did it again last summer with my grandson - who thought the fish was rather small. Well I enjoyed it.

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  5. Mucking around catching tiddlers is they best way to get into fishing I think, too many kids are straight into bolt rigs and double figure carp, it's just wrong in my mind, they miss out on something special, but that's a whole other topic. Bullheads rock!:)

  6. Hi Dave,

    I do enjoy your blog and this post especially is right up my street. Even in a catch of good roach, a surprise gonk is often the catch of the day!

    There's a slight alterior motive to my comment though - we have come up with a blogger's challenge and I'm wondering if you'd like to join in the fun (that's all it is - no prizes involved). The details are on my blog, here:

    If you have any questions, please post them in the comments field on the page above (so everyone can see the answers) or message me directly using the contact widget.

    Best wishes