Canal Rudd – A Small Spark

It was by total chance that I found the shoal. In fact, I thought they were plump roach when I found them. But an unlikely gang of canal rudd is what has finally sparked a bit of interest in me going out fishing again.

It’s been an odd one, this summer. There’s nothing specific I can really point too that made me feel quite so indifferent about going fishing. Even when I had the odd chance to get out I simply couldn’t be bothered with the whole process.

And one evening, after some rain, I prepared the gear, psyched myself up and went out. I knew I’d catch barbel and I did. And while I was there, in the moment, I enjoyed the process and the fish and the session – but I didn’t even look at the pictures until weeks after. However, with the arrival of Autumn, the dipping temperatures and shorter days, my enthusiasm feels sharpened and refreshed.

A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye
A nice early Autumn barbel from the Wye

One warm, early autumn afternoon we took the boys over to the canal to enjoy the sunshine, a picnic and mooch around the Gloucestershire edgelands.

The edgelands...
The edgelands…

My local canal is an interesting, neglected and slightly unusual place. I’ve never seen any fish of note here. The odd tiny roach and mini jack pike. It suffered a bad pollution a few years back and much of it is thick with weed and algae.

A couple of lads were trying for pike, without luck, and had resorted to catapulting maggots anywhere but the water. They assured me there were pike, roach and perch in the canal.
As the sun began to dip, we made our way back to the car. My youngest wanted to look at a boat tied up close to the bank.

We went over and that’s when I spotted a decent shoal of plump and deep bodied sliver fish. I can’t deny I thought they were roach. But there were a few decent ones in amongst the sprats. And one fish, sat deeper than the others really did look a fish worth catching – maybe not 2lbs but, perhaps, not far off…

As I sat watching Match of the Day later that night, while my eyes were watching some infernal 0-0 it was that shoal of fish that were on my mind. How big was the biggest I saw? Were bigger fish were lurking under the boats? Would a bread or maggot approach work? Were they roach or, perhaps, were they rudd?

The next morning I arrived at dawn with a float rod, reel, net and a few bits and bobs and a loaf.

Just after dawn on the canal.
Just after dawn on the canal.

I decided to fish a small waggler close in – one of my favourite methods. 3lbs line direct to a size 16 and a pinch of flake.
I baited with some mash and set-up, excitedly.

Bites soon came, but they were frustrating. The float was dancing around but trying to hit the wonky, wavy and frankly weird bites was proving tricky. I shallowed up a touch and soon enough I hooked into a deep bodied silver fish that thumped satisfyingly in the deep, green water.

The depth of it suggested rudd – but on closer inspection looked like a bream hybrid of some sort. I think it may be a silver bream x rudd hybrid? I’d love to hear what people think.

Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?
Sliver bream x rudd hybrid?

Having that fish extracted from the shoal spooked them a touch and the bites slowed. I tried a mere fleck of flake and the next bite was just a touch more positive. A sparkling rudd this time of 1lbs exactly was the result. I was enjoying this. All too soon the dog walkers arrived and the boats started chugging but not before I’d added a couple more rudd of a similar stamp.

A lovely canal rudd of one pound.
A lovely canal rudd of one pound.

I returned a week later, but on a much cooler, overcast morning. The bites were quick to arrive but even more frustrating this time. Just as I was thinking about trying something different – perhaps a pellet or corn – I hooked a beautiful roach. Then another before another decent rudd made an appearance.

The bites tailed right off. I had a few old maggots with me, so tried a couple. A feisty, darting fish was hooked on the drop – a rare canal trout! And I added two small canal dace as well as more small roach before the sunshine arrived and the canal reverted back to appearing lifeless…

A canal trout!
A canal trout!

So, while these fishes will never set the world alight, they have at least sparked some real interest in me.

Extreme fishing

Okay, so fishing for chub on a Sussex stream (for example) isn’t quite as dramatic as watching Robson or Jeremy doing battle with some brutal beast on the Amazon or Atlantic, but it’s easy to overlook the incredibly diverse range of angling adventures on offer in the UK. Actually getting out into nature and experiencing the thrill of finding, hooking, seeing, holding and returning a wild fish is pretty extreme wherever you are, when you actually think about it…

Like many other fisherman I do wish one of the major TV production companies would be brave enough to fund a high quality, informed and engaging programme that really explores the stories of the fish and fishing to be found in the UK.

Late autumn colours on the Wye valley
Late autumn colours on the Wye valley

I indulged in my own version of extreme fishing on Saturday, fishing a flooded and rising river Wye in search of a late autumn barbel.

I’d been hoping to try for the river’s pike and perch populations, but with the weather mild ‘n’ wild and the river the colour of the stewed tea in my flask, I opted to fish for old Boris – a suitably extreme fish that thrives in such extreme conditions.

I made up a mix of various pellets, dampened them with hemp and proceeded to dump a few feeder full’s into the river. Even a rod length out required a 5oz feeder to hold bottom and the flow combined with the sheer amount of crap in the river and the rising water meant I made my first cast unsure as to if a fish would oblige.

And for two hours, none did. Then, just as I was contemplating a move, the tip bounced round unexpectedly – fish on! A barbel raced into the mid-river maelstrom and at this point of the battle it really was a case of simply hanging on! As the fish bored upstream, taking line off the clutch it reminded me yet again quite how much fun floodwater barbel fishing is.

A pale Wye floodwater barbel
A pale Wye floodwater barbel

Fortunately the strong gear soon told and I netted a stocky, pale barbel. I thought it may be the precursor to a few more bites, but after another quiet hour, I again considered a move. And again this thought coincided with another bite. This time the resistance was less obvious and it wasn’t long before a nice chub came to the net.

A long and lean Wye chub
A long and lean Wye chub

And that was it. The river was rising quite noticeably when I took a glance at the football results coming in. So I finished my flask of tea, made those inevitable three or four last casts and was home in time for dinner.

Autumn barbel

With an unexpected few hours free on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t resist heading over to the Wye to fish for barbel.

The recent rain had pushed the river levels up nicely and with the mild, largely overcast weather I knew the river’s prolific barbel population would be on the munch.

As I arrived, the river was indeed pushing through steadily and with a good tinge of colour to the water I was confident of a fish or two.

Early autumn on the Wye
Early autumn on the Wye

I settled into a compact swim and set about getting some groundbait into the water. The swim was snaggy at either end of the target run, with a pronounced gravel bar at the top of the run. I lost two feeders during the initial baiting and I did consider moving down a peg. But after having a good lead around I was confident that if I could get my feeder across to the crease, which was roughly mid-river and directly in front of me, it would offer enough room to manoeuvre.

I was planning on using my usual 1.5lbs barbel rod, but in light of the extra flow and snaggy swim I opted instead for my old 2lbs test Shimano Aero specimen rod – a great tool for heavier work. To the 12lbs mainline was attached a long, 10lb link through to a very strong size 14 hook.

It wasn’t long after I’d got the halibut pellet hookbait out that the rod rattled and then wrapped around, the fish immediately tearing line of the clutch – exhilarating stuff. But disaster struck as I attempted to play the fish hard in an effort to steer it from the snags and the hook pulled.

Luckily it wasn’t long until the second barbel of the day made the same mistake. This time I let the fish run, taking line off the clutch. By keeping the rod high and line away from the rocks and letting the balanced gear do its job, I was able to steer the fish over the bar and into the relative safety of the deeper, more placid near-bank water where I netted it safely.

The first barbel of the day
The first barbel of the day

Not long after a second fish arrived. It was another stunning copper coloured barbel that really tested the relatively heavy gear and made my arm ache.

Another solid Wye barbel that really scrapped in the flow
Another solid Wye barbel that really scrapped in the flow

The next cast resulted in another lost feeder, which despite my careful positioning, snagged on the retrieve.

Then, after a short wait, I hooked another fish. And, again, disaster as the fish charged upstream and despite keeping the rod high and exerting some serious pressure, everything locked-up then suddenly the line parted.

I was despondent at that point, but I decided to tackle up again and fish slightly down from the mid river area I’d been targeting.

After that early flurry of action, things had quietened down by this point. I was content to sit back and watch the river and a pair of kingfishers darting around together, weaving in and out of each other’s path – the first time I’ve seen them behave in this way. The trees leading up the valley are just beginning to take on their autumnal hues and it was lovely to be beside the river in such benign conditions.

I decided to introduce some more groundbait via seven or eight feeder loads and it soon had the desired effect as a lump of spam produced another solid pull. It was clear this was a smaller fish this time; a lively three pound fish that gave a flick of its tail as I returned it to the water, splashing water across my jeans.

And soon another rod wrenching bite and fierce tussle ensued with what was to be my last fish of the day, a sparkling six pound fish that capped the session nicely. I did fish on for another half an hour or so, but without any more battling barbel making an appearance. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable session, despite the two lost fish. Predators are next on the agenda.

Profile of a long, lean Wye barbel in perfect condition
Profile of a long, lean Wye barbel in perfect condition

The most exciting moment

What is the single most exciting moment in angling? It’s an oft-asked question and of course there is no definitive answer – but, for me, there is little to beat that genuinely electric moment when a previously stationary pike float begins moving ominously and purposefully across the water…

I was lucky enough to experience just such a moment on Sunday.

I’d arrived on the banks of the Wye at dawn for a short pike session. It was one of those thick, misty autumnal mornings that make even a familiar place seem ethereal.

An Autumn dawn on a misty river Wye

The bold autumn colours; the aforementioned mist; the smell of slowly decaying vegetation and the clean scent of the swiftly flowing river; the almost total silence – all these elements combined to make it an atmospheric setting as I tackled up.

I’d purchased a bag of sprats from Tesco’s a few days previously and having failed to get to the tackle shop for any more exotic deadbaits, the humble sprat was to be my sole bait option today.

Still a great, if not fashionable pike bait – the humble sprat

My plan was to simply cast around into likely looking areas before moving on after an hour if nothing was happening.

The first swim I tried was quiet, the current a little too strong for my float fished sprat to settle as I wanted it to. I’m still getting used to pike fishing on such a powerful river. I’ve caught hundreds of pike from a variety of waters and on a range of techniques, but presenting a bait effectively on a river like the Wye is still something I’m getting to grips with.

The next swim looked perfect though, with the current diverted around a little pool that was sheltered by a sunken tree. However after half an hour without any interest in my sprat, I decided to reposition the bait so it was fished just off the crease to the left of the mini pool.

Almost straight away, it happened. First a deliberate and sharp bob of the float. Then that magic moment, as it slid menacingly away, the little orange bob disappearing into the Wye.

It’s those moments, between the first twitch of the float to that split second before you hit into the fish that are so intoxicating. On the Wye it could be a three or thirty pound pike that’s taken the bait, perhaps even larger! That just adds to the excitement.

In this case it was only a few seconds after I’d set the hooks that I realized this wasn’t one of the leviathans of the river, or even an average fish, but instead a splashy five pounder that made my day. My first Wye pike!

Little Wye pike
My first pike from the Wye, happy days.

Wye woes

I spent a few, sun soaked hours last week on a majestic stretch of the Wye that I’m slowly beginning to get to know, if not really understand. Despite finding the river in seemingly fine fettle – fining down after recent high water and with the air temperature mild – I again failed to make contact with any barbel. Two average Wye chub were my reward, both taking single boilies fished away from the ground baited area.

The river looked the part, but only a couple of average chub turned up.
A chub of 3lbs 6ozs – an average Wye fish, but still a nice one.

I really thought Boris would make an appearance, but after speaking with some other guys fishing the stretch it turned out they were also struggling. And after I’d returned home, reading some of the online reports it seems the part of the river I’m fishing is generally a bit out of sorts at the moment, at least in terms of the barbel and chub fishing. It seems to be adjusting to the changes in temperature and is affected by extra water in a different way to my old stomping ground on the Lea, where the conditions we’ve experienced recently would have no doubt encouraged the Lea barbel out to feed in earnest.

I also chatted to a friendly pike angler who had fared better, despite the colored water, managing a brace of mid-double figure fish. I think I’ll try a spot of piking on the stretch in an effort to hopefully tempt my first Wye esox! ­

Amazing Autumn

I love autumn. It’s my favourite season. It’s already feeling noticeably crisp here in south Wales and the leaves on some of the trees are beginning to take on a hint of yellow. Autumn always seems to arrive suddenly and then it’s just weeks until winter again. I want to go out and catch a few perch, as soon as possible.

A perfect perch

More autumnal action

With my local rivers still in desperate need of some extra water and the forecast suggesting another unseasonably warm and sunny day, I decided to head over to the wonderful Lake John fishery rather than scratch around on the river.

I fancied the carp would be having a nose around in the sunshine, feeding up before the long winter. I also wanted to try for the venue’s big perch. I’ve found that the bigger perch in the lake don’t really start feeding until dusk, when it’s possible to take four or five in quick succession before they suddenly disappear again.

On arrival, the near bank that I wanted to fish was being battered by a strong wind that would have made float fishing nigh on impossible. So I settled into a quieter bay that has produced some big perch for others in the past, but an area I’ve yet to take a stripy of note from.

I set up a float rod to fish maggots close in and a carp rod to fish ‘sleeper’ style on a buzzer. Despite the warm weather, I wanted to keep things subtle so relied solely on casting small pva bags into likely looking areas.  The rig featured a long hook length with a small, strong hook and it was finished with a little source pellet on a long hair.

It was lovely sitting in the warm sunshine, gently building the margin float swim. I had plenty of roach, skimmers and bream before I hooked something more substantial that forced me to backwind. For a second I dared to imagine a huge perch, but the steady, determined power at the end of my line suggested a decent tench had taken the double red maggot hookbait. I was right. But it was a golden variety of the species that I eventually netted after a good scrap.

As the afternoon drifted by the sun moved across the sky, creeping past the tree that had been partially blocking it from my view. As it cast its warming rays directly into my swim, the bites dried up. Just as I was thinking about a move my alarm burst into life and the baitrunner whizzed as a carp made off with the bait.

After a solid, if unspectacular tussle with what was obviously a good fish, I netted a long silvery gold common carp. She weighed 17lbs 8ozs and was an absolute pearler. All the carp I’ve caught or seen caught from the lake really have been in tip-top condition.

Lake John common carp
A wonderful Lake John common carp of 17.8lbs

Despite this success, I still wanted to move and find somewhere I could float fish without the sun in my eyes. So I wandered over to a shaded area with a nice expanse of water in front of me. All I could muster on the float were a few more small roach and skimmers. No sign of the perch. However the carp were active, with the odd fish even topping in the sunshine.

I lowered the bait in the margins for an hour or so, but despite some bubbles and clouds of silt emanating from around my hookbait, I didn’t get a bite. So, after spotting a carp moving around 40 yards out, I launched the bait with a little bag towards the fish. And 15 minutes later I was in again.

This time the scrap was lot more ferocious, but the fish didn’t feel quite as heavy. And so it proved as I netted another perfect, golden common. This one was bit chunkier than the last fish and it weighed 14 pounds and 12 ounces. Not record breakers by any means, but I was absolutely delighted with my autumn brace of Lake John commons.

Dusk common carp
Another perfect Lake John common