The Wallington Invitational Gudgeon Gala was in its second year. 2013 saw a group of friends visit their local River Wallington on a cold November’s day, and although spirits were high and many laughs were had, there was only one gudgeon caught. The trophy sat with Jonny for the ensuing year, and he wasn’t about to hand it over this year without a fight.
We are very fortunate, in as much as we have some of the most wonderfully intimate stretches of river right on our doorstep, the fish might not be massive, but they are huge in their own rights as this year’s event proved. So with an earlier scheduled event now taking place in early September, we felt confident that it would be a case of the largest gudgeon deciding who’d be champion, rather than if somebody actually managed to snare one.
That said, this event is never run as a match, simply a few friends meeting up for an angle, some tea and cake and a right good social. It also came to pass that, as some of the clan are enjoy using vintage tackle, the majority of participants were sporting split cane rods and centrepin reels, with those who didn’t vowing to secure similar kit for next year’s bash.
Instead of a meet up, cuppa and then off to the fishing as we did last year, this time around we opted for a more relaxed approach. Go fishing when you like (so long as it’s after sunrise), with a meet at 10am for tea, lunch at 1pm and the pub gathering at 4:30 to announce the champion, reflect upon the day and share stories.
I rose at 5:30am, left the house shortly after 6:15 and arrived at Cheeseman’s Bridge just on sunrise. I began float fishing with single red maggot on a size 16 hook, there was very little tow, and the river was quite low, but in the deeper holes there were plenty of fish to be found. Minnows were first on the scene, followed by roach, a single dace and then the first gudgeon of the day. It was a whopper too at just over 6 inches, I took a quick snap and fished on happy.
I caught a few more gudgeon from that pool, including another giant of 6.5 inches long; it was all decided on length you see, so a photo of your fish lying alongside the tape measure was required. More roach came and after almost an hour the minnows came steadily. Having fished the pool on Friday evening I’d had enough after an hour, yearning to explore more of the lovely river. I hopped back onto the bridge, loaded the car and headed for Boarhunt.
In the layby there was only my car, it seemed the others were eating breakfast in their warm homes whilst I was out at the crack of sparrows. I fished various pools upstream of the bridge and although I caught only minnows from the first three, I finally found some finger sized gudgeon so concentrated on that pool for the next half hour, and was rewarded with something very special indeed.
The float dipped and sailed away, I struck and over went the rod. I thought it might be another trout, perhaps a better roach or perch, and was amazed to see the biggest gudgeon I’ve ever seen come to the surface. I scooped it up in the net, lifted it out and admired what was surely very a special fish. Out came the scales and a weight of 2 ¼ oz was recorded, it measured just over 7 inches long and I was thrilled to bits. A few snaps and I released it back to its pool before moving on.
Soon after I headed downstream, back to the bridge and along towards the mill to a deep pool that usually holds a few chub. As I neared I saw a line cutting across the stream, it was Moon fishing a maggot feeder upstream. I dropped my gear and spent 10 minutes chatting about what we’d caught and our plans for the day. At 9:15 I headed off, back to the car and on to Spurling’s farm, our 10am rendezvous for tea.
I pulled up just as Robbie and Jonny did, we shook hands and I quickly took the tackle from the car in order to have a quick dangle in the pool just downstream. They told me of a chub that lives in a pool just downstream, so the three of us crept into position and with their instruction I tried to see if said chub was home, but caught only minnows and after 15 or so minutes we headed back to the car park to await to others.
Soon enough my Kelly Kettle and Daz’s stove were boiling away and everyone enjoyed tea, coffee, mini muffins and Jaffa cakes. The banter was ripe from the start and there were already a few great fish caught. We spent the best part of an hour at there, then as the tea things were put away everyone headed off in search of mini monsters, I headed back to the pool downstream for another crack at that chub, but after twenty minutes I too headed off.
I kind of missed the boat, the three spots I had in mind had cars parked in them already, so with an hour till lunch I headed to Whitedell farm in preparation, and whilst there had a quick look at the stretch of river that passes through. There wasn’t a great deal of water, mostly shallows runs, but the scenery there was breath-taking, and I was met with mulitple birds of prey.
I did find one deep pool, but after 30 minnows on the bounce I decided to return to the car and have a snooze whilst waiting for the others. As my companions started to arrive we began lunch, enjoyed some lovely cakes, had a Midget Gem fight (as you do) and I listened to more stories of big gudgeon, including two more whoppers of 7 inches and more. I think my lack of fishing between lunch and tea was partly down to thinking the trophy was in the bag, oh how wrong I was.
After lunch I was the first to leave, headed for the Rickety Bridge area and quickly began sniffing out deep pools that just might hold something spectacular. I managed to find some beautiful perch, cracking dace along with trout and minnows. I also found some more gudgeon, but nothing much over 6 inches. It was great fishing, on a superb day with good friends. There were no losers today, just winners all round.
Back at the pub we sat outside in the sunshine and had more laughs than I care to remember, the most memorable of which being the incident with the long pheasant feather in Daz’s hat poking Jonny in the face every time he turned round, hilarious. It transpired that, as three of us caught really big gudgeon, we’d call a three way tie and share the spoils, in keeping with the true social and friendly spirit of WIGG. (Although mine was clearly the largest!!)
So, the gauntlet was laid down, everyone left the pub after a group shot and a champion huddle, and next year’s event really can’t come around soon enough.