Thursday 9 July 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Gonk-Holes and Gynotikolobomassophiles

One of the many surprising things in the sport of angling is the seemingly disproportionate delight that anglers of all ages in all ages have taken in catching gudgeon, fish whose average weight is a little more than a gnats nadger.

Now young angler Sam was disappointed when I told him that we'd not be able to visit the 'bleak' swim and the 'gonk hole' because I didn't plan to renew the club book. But then after thinking about it, why the heck not ? It's one of my favourite stretches I fish, especially in the winter when there are some rod bending Chevin to be caught.

"Sam, I'm just popping to Martyn's, I've changed my mind on renewing"

"Gudgeon fishing, yeay!!!"

The Greek and Roman writers gave them their due. The advice given by the author of The Treatyse (1496) can hardly be bettered: "The gogen is a good fysshe, of the mochenes (for its size); and he biteth wel at the grounde. And his baytes for all the yere ben thyse: ye red worme: codworme (caddis): and maggdes (maggots)."

Later angling authors continued to extol the pleasures of gudgeon fishing and in the 19th century it became a fashionable pastime on the Thames. Many people who never fished for anything else organised or took part in gudgeon-fishing expeditions on that river, hiring a punt and boatman for the purpose. 

Amply supplied with food and drink, and with the professional Thames fisherman seeing to such practical matters as propelling the punt, adjusting the ryepecks, raking the bottom and baiting the hooks, the anglers, male and female, enjoyed in comfort the sport of gudgeon fishing.

Anglers of wider experience did not despise such expeditions, and many of the really famous fishermen of the day Francis, Foster and Buckland among the described the pleasure they gained from such convivial outings. This picnic version of gudgeon fishing lost its popularity soon after the turn of the century and disappeared with many other pleasing idiocyn-cracies of the nineties.

Real anglers pursued larger quarry and the little gudgeon was left to the young, the match fisherman, and the seeker after live bait. Gudgeon have always been regarded as the simplest of fish to catch, and the verb "to gudgeon" crept into the English language in the 18th century, meaning roughly, "to make a fool of by deception."

Although gudgeon can be caught on some occasions by the dozen without much trouble they are not always so gullible, and it is sensible to follow certain well proven tactics when fishing for them.Though it has declined in popularity, gudgeon fishing is good fun and sometimes a welcome relief from more serious and perhaps less productive fishing.

To be honest I wanted to sneak in a session first before the tangleator and verbal diarrhoea suffer accompanied me because I'd not get a look in. So a short session this my little link ledgered stream set-up with maggots on the hook to try and winkle out a Gudgeon or two. Then after baiting up with a pellet and hemp Smörgåsbord, I'd fish in to dusk with a Barbel set-up to try and catch an early season fish that have remained very elusive thus far.

Chub reside here and it's one of the reasons why I like it, but again a long hair would be utilised for a poka-yoke effect to try and stop them disturbing the swim. It was a Barbus I fancied not a Chevin. Those can wait when I've more balanced tackle not this Harrison 1.75TC broom handle. 

So anyway, to the fishing !!!!

To be honest I was in two minds whether to actually go or not but actively encouraged by the Wife as I'd been stuck behind the CAD machine for a couple of days getting properly stuck in to some work.  I'm one of the lucky ones in automotive upfront design at the minute, I'm actively working. Very busy as well.

It was the rain you see, it had been more or less raining on or off much of the day and I'm not one for sitting under and umbrella. I had a small window of opportunity though and with the tackle already sorted I'd finished ones dinner and was bankside. Only 2.5 hour before dusk though when I'd have to be off so I'd get stuck in to the gudgeon straight way.

At first I was pestered by bleak taking the maggot on the drop, pesky small perch and some small roach. I also had a tiny jack pike that bit through the line on the retrieve.

I persevered though and by adding an additional shot to get the maggots down to the bed quicker I had my first bold biting gudgeon, yipeeeeeeeee.

The link ledger set-up I've devised (more luck than judgement ) worked perfectly. By anchoring the running head on the line stop it acted like a mini bot rig for these barblet impostors. I'd ignore the tiny plucks and small pulls as they were minnow or bleak but wait till the quiver properly went round. Some of the bites were ridiculous the rod , pencil thin Darent Valley 8ft specialist quiver and sensitive tips  ideal for the intended quarry.

About 20 or so Gudgeon down within an hour or so and a bit it was time to get some bait down with the baitdropper. The Gudgeon were all of a similar size, no Gonks sadly but they are here so hopefully me and Sam can track a few down. I'll float fish next time though there are other swims with less flow where that method would probably be better.

So with the Barbel rod out and the unhooking mat covering the shoulder bag from the rain it was fingers crossed time. Still it was mild and the rain not that heavy so I'd stick it out. The bats came out when it was still light which was odd, but as expected nothing materialised on the tip till the light was starting to go when I had the first indication from a chub. A foot sharp pull, at least there were fish in the swim.

I air dry the small boilies so they are tougher, I find that a standard out of the bag boilie a chubs persistence can strip the bait from the hair without much trouble, I want to know the bait is still on when I fish for Barbel.

Dusk now ready to pack up and after a few more good pulls a fish hooked itself. Lift rod, yeap a Chevin, a scraper three pounder and with the rain getting worse it was time to go. Another angler I bumped in to when I was packing the rods in to my car was finding the same thing.

He like others has been struggling for the barbel because the numbers are definitely down in the areas locally we fish. The bigger ones are still around though, so I'm hoping now with a little rain to provide some much needed colour one may slip up soon. I'd also have a go for the Chub how I like to fish for them, I've not had a proper one in a while.


  1. The mighty gudgeon - everyone’s second favourite fish!

    1. Specifically targeting them ? we are rare breed these days me thinks

  2. I could do with a spot of tiddler bashing, it's just as relevant as plotting the demise of big 'uns and I miss it. Mind you... bolt rig for gudgeon? :o)

  3. I wouldn't normally fish for them that way, but give it a go, you really need a proper dainty rod, the bites are Barbel like, very amplified considering whats biting. I'll have to try and get a vid next time.

  4. Rain is worse than wind isn't it? We did bolt rig for eels for a while back in our youth, probably just to be arsey but it did work and reduced deep hooking.

    1. I was bankside yesterday afternoon and was back in the car after an hour, it was that horrible drizzly rain that gets you soaked. You're right rain worse than wind if I'm fishing, not pleasant at all.

  5. A south London childhood - given the choice of a stunted roach or a gudgeon from Crystal Palace Boating Lake there was only one winner.



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