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.

September 05, 2016

Happy Hour

I emptied the shed. Everything came out and was stacked in three piles - to keep, to decide upon and to throw out. This may not sound much but at it's widest points, my shed was 14' x 10' but it narrowed down to fit the bit of land it sat - or rather, leaned on. It was a failed attempt at having a man cave in the garden but it never suited my needs and became a dumping ground for all and sundry.

That done, it was down to my son, me and my trusty chainsaw to reduce said folly to pieces of a manageable size. A hard day's graft saw it piled on the lawn until my mate and his trailer arrived. A trailer as capacious as a large skip apparently, yet we filled it - twice!.

Normally I would collapse at this point but not this time. "Fancy an evening by the river?" I suggested to Nicky. She jumped at the chance and we were away from the house at 7pm. At 7.25 I made my first cast.

I'd opted for an attractive swim that generally produces a few evening chub and within a few minutes I had my first bite. It was no monster but a welcome fish all the same. Nicky was suitably impressed but wished it was a trout as she rather likes the taste.

Not long after and I'd passed the rod across so that it sat in front of Nick. The tip bounced and she was on it in a flash - her first cane caught fish. Another small chub was landed and the evening felt almost complete. But not quite.

I sat behind my lad as he fished here a while back and I noticed two different species of bat flying overhead. The light was fading and out came the Bat Detector. Two, possibly three different calls were picked up with the rapid sonar pulses as a bat homed in on it's prey being the most exciting. It was Nicky's first experience of communing with flying mammals and she was enraptured as they clicked away.

At 8.30 the swim was quiet and most of the bat activity had moved on. One hour on the river, a fish each and a spot of eavesdropping on Pipistrelle and Daubenton's bats made for the perfect end to an energetic day.

Mind you, I was absolutely knackered for the next two.


There's little more to report for August. I had other, larger chub but failed to land a carp despite a couple of day trips where I only managed to spook a couple. 

I did however fulfil a promise and take my mate and his lad for their fist trip. Kim has a day by a lake with his lad, Ben on his bucket list so I was happy to oblige. It's not every day you can say to someone "That is the only first fish you will ever catch". They both loved it and, as it was a commercial, there was plenty of action. I'll let the photo's tell the story.

The only first fish you will ever catch

Another first fish