Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Monday 27 July 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Dunghills and Dromestoners

With the Avon so low and clear I wasn't that bothered about heading down the river post a big Sunday dinner but after Saturdays over-indulgence in all things bad, alcohol was off the table. However when Sam said he'd like to go and fancied trying for a Ruffe to tick another species off his growing list, the tackle was sorted and we were heading for a short <2 hour session down to an area that oddly tends to always hold them.

The problem was when we got to this rather sluggish stretch the bottom could be seen and apart from tiny minnows hardly anything above an inch in length was in the swim, hmmm going to be a tough one this. Still, armed with a few worms from one's on thriving womery I'm sure something would be up for a bite.

Now the ruffe is the perch's smaller and rather less attractive cousin; similar in shape, except that the spiny first dorsal fin is fused with the second soft-rayed dorsal,very different in colour, obscurer, with fins only a little touched with red and with greenish-grey upper body and silver-grey belly.

The first gill-cover bears a dozen small sharp spines; whence perhaps its name, after the starch frilled collars of former fashions. At first it seems surprising that ruffe should happily inhabit the same waters as perch, without competition, for a small perch is remarkably like a large ruffe. 

They both breed in late spring and summer, the ruffe's spawning beginning a few weeks later; but the ruffe lays the eggs one at a time, adhering to the bottom, while the perch lays them in strings a yard long, sticking to plant stems. So the newly-hatched fry, which are perhaps most likely to compete with each other, start off in different parts of the water; and grown ruffe have specialised in bottom feeding as perch have not. 

One I caught earlier
Now Ruffe will probe their snouts quite deep into mud in search of odds and scraps, nearly as far as a carp will; perch, when driven to bottom-feeding by a lack of anything to chase, just peck at the surface. 

Nevertheless, ruffe can be easily taken by float-fishing with fine tackle and red worms, or so it is said; few anglers would deliberately go in search of them nowadays, for all that Walton describes them as excellent table fare. 

Till the last century, though, the ruffe was sought out for a sort of antipathetic magic, on account of its other name of "pope"; anglers from Leeds and Sheffield and other Yorkshire towns used to meet at the aptly-named Crewel Bridge on the Trent in Lincolnshire, for the ceremony of "plugging the pope". They stuck corks onto the spines of all the ruffe they caught, and set them loose, free but unable to submerge, to drift floating down the river.

Errrrrrrrr ok, think I'll give that a miss...

So anyway back to the session, the first couple of fish were welcome gudgeon albeit not Gonk size and then a small perch got in on the act. The bites were few and far between even the bleak suspicious in their absence but a cast to a deeper area brought an instant bite. 

The float going straight under within a split second. Sam knew he had a bigger fish on and this was taking line of the clutch. He wanted for me to have the rod but I encouraged him to continue on with the fight and he eventually got the fish under control.

A small jack had decided it would like a tiny piece of worm, it was hooked in the scissors too, a size 18 hook and 2lb bottom. It was quite a good little fighter to be fair and could be seen trying to escape in the gin clear water. Eventually landed and rested it certainly gave Sam some sport from an otherwise tough session where sadly a Ruffe didn't materialise.  


  1. I’d love to target ruffe (only ever caught two) but they’re not here in any numbers. Nice pike on light gear.

  2. I love Ruffe, a great little fish and subtle colour and quite beautiful. My best one from a drain was just under six inches. All the best, John


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