Perch fishing with Russell

I spent a really enjoyable day fishing with erstwhile angling blogger and top bloke Russell Hilton on his local canal patch recently.

We had perch in mind. Russell’s had some really good perch from his local canal network and despite the prospect of a cold, bright day, enthusiasm was high as we met at dawn on a section that was alive with small fish topping under the pale pink skies.

Russell’s strategy involved building a swim by feeding liquidised bread and then waggler fishing bread punch or maggot over the top. Bites from roach, rudd, silver bream and perch came every cast. A bigger bait was then presented nearby in the hope a big perch may be attracted by the commotion.

I was content to reap the rewards of these carefully laid plans by simply sitting next to him!

Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch
Russell was soon into a lovely early morning perch

We had a really good day with plenty of big, colourful perch, a pike each and all sorts of other fish on the waggler – including some serious rudd. Russell managed a special perch after a flurry of activity just after lunch. Frustratingly, the majority of big perch we hooked during this particular feeding spell came off. I had a decent one not too far from the net when the hook pinged out and Russel also lost a couple of good ‘uns… But of course it didn’t really matter a jot.

My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
My best perch of the day. I lost an even bigger one later.
Slick-sense
Slick-sense
X marks the spot?
X marks the spot?

It was a pleasure simply sitting and chatting. From angling blogging to angling blaggers; from bureaucracy to bream via politics and perch – we discussed a range of subjects, interspersed with some lovely fish and regular enquiries from passers-by. Russell was even called into action to help a guy, who explained in broken English that he’d lost his bag by the water. He failed to grasp the notion that the police were unwilling to treat this as an emergency and come out immediately to root around for his bag!

A cracking day all-round. Hopefully we’ll find the time to do something similar again soon.

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Sleeping Swans and Rising Rudd

My local canal is an engaging place to fish. It’s overgrown, weedy, deep and gin clear with little boat traffic and it sits relatively off the beaten track – I’m sure it’s capable of producing a big roach or rudd.

With a decent number of prolific club and day ticket venues nearby it also receives little angling pressure. It suffered a major pollution a few years back and while it had reasonable carp and bream form prior to this, I think they are ghosts now.

However the silver fish population has recovered, to an extent. There are not large shoals of fish, but they are there in pockets. Fishing bread flake over small amounts of bread mash over a couple of short sessions last season I had a couple of dubious rudd – both around a pound in weight, some good roach of a similar size and a silver bream/rudd hybrid. Using maggots I added dace and a canal trout!

Not a brace of fish you see to often - canal rudd and trout
Not a brace of fish you see very often – canal rudd and trout

I was keen to try again and see if I could locate a decent rudd. With the numbers of roach, silver bream and all manner of hybrids, it may be that there are no genuine rudd in there, but I’m enjoying trying to find out. So, armed with some bread, a rod, net and camera I ventured out for a couple of hours in the morning, in the hope of making contact with canal gold.
The sleeping swans were alert to the bread mash feed, but fortunately after this unexpected alarm they wound their necks in and went back to sleep.

Sleeping swans and rising rudd
Sleeping swans and rising rudd

It didn’t take long for a positive bite and a silver bream was the first fish to find the bait. A fish of maybe eight ounces, it was the first genuine silver I’ve caught.
Soon after a nice roach getting on for a pound put in an appearance, before numbers of much smaller fish moved in and attacked the bread on the drop, giving unhittable bites. I persevered for half an hour, but it proved frustrating.

I moved round to a shady position and fed some more mash further out into the channel. It took a while, but eventually fish began topping and some of the ‘slaps’ were from much better fish – big rudd?

I managed to extract three more good roach – all taking the bread once it had sunk right down in around eight feet of water. It was nice to get the roach and I’ll certainly try for them in winter, but no sign of the rudd this time.

That final shake of the head from a good roach
That final shake of the head from a good roach
Bread flake really does sort out the better canal roach
Bread flake really does sort out the better canal roach

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.

Fishing in the Forest – Tearaway Tench

I’ve become a bit obsessed by the wonderful pools scattered around the Forest of Dean.

Online information about the various waters in and around the forest is fairly limited and clues to the stock levels and species living in these often under-fished venues have generally come via word-of-mouth from the odd person I’ve spoken to on the bank or in the tackle shop.

One place I discovered on a family outing recently was one of the most undisturbed, pretty little tree-lined pools I’ve come across in some time. Alas, further research revealed it was also off-limits as far as fishing was concerned.

The other afternoon I paid a visit to another intimate pool I’d heard held plenty of tench, my target species, as well as crucians and some good roach and rudd. My target is a relatively modest tench of 5lbs and the two people I’d previously quizzed about the lake had passed on conflicting reports – one suggested a fish of this size as a possibility, while the other said not a chance!

Fishing corn on a light float rig over small balls of ground bait soon had the tench fizzing and after a succession of roach, rudd and little, bronze bream I managed six or seven tench, the best probably all of two pounds in weight. Great fun, but I think a ‘five’ is unlikely.

A little tearaway
A little tearaway

Now it’s finally warmed up and the tench are feeding, I’m really in two minds as to whether I’ll fish a river for my next session or explore another of the wonderful forest pools in search of a tearaway tench.

The rise of river rudd

There seems to have been a real increase in the numbers of river rudd reported recently. The slow East Anglian rivers and drains, such as the Cam, are producing numbers of big rudd. And judging by the two and three pounders that have been reported to the angling press over the past couple of years, they are the place to go at the moment to bag a big one.

After spotting a decent shoal of good sized fish on the Suffolk Stour I’m desperate to go and have a crack at them. These guys have obviously found the Stour rudd and the spot that they tempted this beauty from is very close to where I spotted ‘my’ shoal of golden beauties during the closed season.

To me it still seems almost unreal that a fish, when they reach a good size and come from clear, clean water, often look like they’re made from solid gold.

Fish spotting

I’ve not managed to even come close to actually going fishing recently, but a flying weekend visit to stay with the folks gave me an opportunity to get on my bike and have a good look around some of my favourite stretches of the Suffolk Stour.

The most encouraging thing was seeing three big shoals of good sized roach in some familiar spots. There were plenty of pound plus specimens
hanging back amongst the smaller fish and the best roach must have been at least one and a half pounds in weight. Roach seem to be making a comeback on the river and I’m sure under the right conditions there will be some good catches made.

I saw plenty of chub in the shallows of a more pacy section of water and a pair of good carp mooching around in the sun by some lilies.

Perhaps the most surprising find was upon peering into an innocuous, shallow backwater that has more in common with a sleepy farm pond
than a flowing river. Initially, I saw a few roach and some skimmers in the upper layers of the water. Then after moving along a few feet, I saw a small group of paler, fuller figured fish with blood red fins – a small shoal of superb rudd hanging back and feeding on the newly hatched flies. What a find. I’ll definitely be targeting those rudd once the season starts, as I’ve only caught a handful of these most beautiful of fishes.

A small group of rudd
A rare creature; Suffolk Stour Rudd

I did manage to sneak out for an afternoon at a local commercial pool on a particularly sunny day at the beginning of April. I was hoping for a big crucian or a decent tench, but the main aim was to simply get out in the sunshine and fish a little float close in for whatever came along.

Setting up the old John Wilson Avon in the unseasonably warm mid-afternoon sun was very pleasant. Although the lake was busy I managed to
drop into a quieter area, with a small bay to my left and some attractive rushes running along my near bank. It was simply a case of lowering a little insert waggler next to the rushes, just off my rod tip and trickling in a decent pinch of maggots and 4mm pellets each cast. I started with double maggot on the hook and it wasn’t long before a succession of nice roach and perch found the bait. Eventually the bream moved in and I had loads of them between a pound and four pounds in weight with just a solitary tench that would have struggled to make eight ounces. A fun day, but I’d have loved to have made contact with one of those elusive crucians.