Walking past a lily studded pond Friday last, on a dog walk to another lake some way farther out, I frightened a fish that'd been laying up in the shade of a tree in the bright morning sun. It was a fair fish for such a small pond. I calculated from the frequency and amplitude of the ripples that it had created by snapping sharply downward from the surface to the sanctuary of the cabbages below, that its weight was just a few pounds at most; a modest fish in a modest water, but nevertheless, I was utterly taken in by it.
The clarity of the water gave no clue as to whether the water contained either lots of, or next to no fish at all - the bright high rays of the sun, though they illuminated the lily stems and cabbages and made them glow a near luminous green, never hit (and never do unless they roll) the flanks of fish to make them gleam so that I could see them clearly. I climbed a tree but that just made things worse, the pond below appearing jet black from above, and optically impenetrable.
The dog was in the water retrieving marginal debris by the time I'd climbed back down again and so any fish that could have been seen were now long gone, and so we carried on to the other lake where I hoped to see yet more evidence of fish...
I love a good prospect...!
I slept on it, and woke with a plan; determined to return to the pond in the early afternoon, to find out what the fish that I'd seen, or another just like it, was. I wasn't entirely in the dark about this water having examined it many times on the way to another lake in the set of free waters in the near vicinity that I have been exploring over the last year. I fished it a couple of times in the late autumn without luck, gleaned something of its populations from conversations had with local anglers and just recently read of Sean's (Off the Oche, Down the River) capture there of some small rudd and roach, so I had a strong suspicion that it had been a rudd I'd seen, and quite a large one at that.
I set up a nine foot rod to make life easier under the tight, shrub fringed banks, intending to float fish maggots and bread on the drop, and right in the thick of the not yet fully developed lilies. The rig was a simple one of a variable short drop under a small thick float, three pound mainline tied to a slightly lighter two and half pound link to a size sixteen hook so that I could avoid losing the small float which is a bit of a favourite of mine made by Ray Nimmo and therefore almost certainly irreplaceable as the company seems to be out of business. The float was loaded with just enough shot to give casting distance but not actually cock it - it was to lay flat and either slide along on the surface or cock and go under by the pull of a fish.
It worked like a dream. I do love fishing on the drop in still water when the opportunity presents itself, it's such an active and impatient form and one that on the right day and the right water, beats all others for sheer productivity and fun. This day was a good one for it and right away a string of small rudd came to hand, all slamming into the maggots and pulling the float in all kinds of weird and wonderful directions, which is the whole point of having the float uncocked in the first place!
Oddly, though this set up creates far more resistance than a properly cocked float dotted well down, in stark contrast to that sensitive set up which only seems to encourage timidity, this crude approach does seem to infuriate the fish into giving the boldest of bites. I call it fishing 'on the cock'; you may call it by any name you wish.
The average stamp of rudd...
I did occasionally see the certain signs of the large fish I'd seen the day before, however, every time I cast to them, all that showed were yet more small rudd. Clearly, the specimens were going to be a tougher prospect than I'd first thought.
I stuck with the same spot for an hour before the fun of catching a very small stamp of rudd began to pale and then moved to another spot, fished bread flake on the hook and baited with bread based groundbait that would cloud the water and hopefully attract better fish to it. This was a good decision and I was duly rewarded with loads of good quality rudd and roach of a surprisingly good stamp for such a small pond I thought, and cause for optimism.
... and the average stamp of roach
On the next session I decided to fish a corner where the wind had pushed a layer of scum; ideal cover for those big fish, I thought. I had been fishing successfully for an hour when a humping ripple in the margin to my right belied the presence of one of the sought after specimens that had ventured close to the surface. I crept around with the rod and net and dropped the bread bait into the dark water...
The float dithered, then cocked decisively and slid under - I struck expecting another small fish only to meet with the heavy resistance of something substantial enough to speed itself around the swim in long glides punctuated with sharp dunks - typical of a big roach or rudd, I thought, and then I saw the flank of the fish and knew from experience that it was certainly a pound or two in weight - it then woke to its situation and with a sudden and unstoppable rush of power (this on a rod with a test curve of less than half a pound, remember...) whilst I was concentrated fully upon steering it away from nearby lily stems with side strain, plunged downwards into the refuge of the cabbages where it snagged the float fast and snapped the hook-link, gaining instant freedom.
I hadn't thought of that. The refuge the fish would head for was down below, and not as usual, off to one side. I'd been outmanoeuvred.
The ripples of the short struggle were spreading all around the pond and I saw that the fish had caused far more commotion than I'd suspected; I did not expect another crack at the 'big rudd' shoal now, if indeed rudd is what they were, and, as it transpired, didn't get one. Nevertheless, I did get to enjoy a cracking afternoon's sport winkling out some lovely roach and occasional rudd from the margins.
Session three was conducted in weather not so suitable for rudd fishing. The enjoyable warm, sunny and still conditions I had enjoyed were replaced by a stiffening and agitated breeze that I thought would put things down. Sure enough the bites in the corner I had been fishing so far were tentative and fish hard to come by and there were no signs whatsoever of any of the target specimens.
I moved into a peg at the other end of the pond and baited a deep swim that looked to be clear all the way to the bed, with maggots and liquidised bread and proceeded to catch a few rudd and roach as usual, and then the first perch showed up. This was followed by another, and another, and from then on, one every twenty minutes or so.
I thought for a time that I might be in with a chance of gaining a fishing challenge point for perch but the stamp was not nearly high enough and the rate of capture did not increase enough to be make it possible and I ended the session with just a pound and a quarter for eight perch, which was surprising as I thought I had at least three pounds in the net. It's clear I'll never make a match angler, my estimations are all at sea...
Coming Soon: Polly's Parlour - further small stream adventures