Saturday, 8 October 2016

Jessica's First Gudgeon

I realised recently that I’d not yet taken Jessica fishing this summer, and that summer was almost finished. It was WIGG today, the annual Wallington Invitational Gudgeon Gala, an event I’d fished for the past few years, but today I was on daddy duty so couldn’t commit. A cunning plan however, meant that I could perhaps leave James with my parents for an hour whilst I nipped out with Jessica, met up with the guys and saw about perhaps trying to get Jess her first gudgeon.

We got ready, loaded the car, packed a picnic and headed off to the viewpoint to meet the chaps at 9am. It was good to see them, a great bunch of lads, who meet far too infrequently. After a good chat and lots of banter Jess and I headed off to Cheeseman’s Bridge. I knew her concentration levels wouldn’t be quite honed yet and that half an hour or perhaps a little more would be about enough for her.

We clambered down into position and with everything in place she began fishing, with two maggots, one red and one white, suspended under a delicate handmade float. I watched her face rather than the float tip. I could soon tell when the float dipped, her look changing from that of total concentration to one of excitement, she even let out a little squeal. I told her to lift the rod, she did so but it wasn’t a proper strike, not really, but it wasn’t a bad effort. The line entering the water changed direction and started going upstream, so it had obviously had the desired effect.

As with the practice goes, she wound backwards at first giving line instead of retrieving, but soon changed when I pointed this out to her. Soon enough she had a lovely little fish winging its way ashore. I peered into the water, we both did, and I was the one squealing when I spotted it was a gudgeon, first cast.

We were both as pleased as one another, although I think Jess pipped me slightly. I asked her to hold out her hands whilst I lay the fish, and quite a decent specimen, safely in her grasp. I made sure she waded out slightly so that there was a watery landing should she drop it. But I needn’t have worried, she was gentle and curious, elated and enchanted, it was a fabulous moment.

Once I’d done the David Bailey bit she crouched down and gently released her prize, it was as if she knew exactly what to do. A sweety for each fish, that was the deal so as promised I produced a Jelly Baby from my pocket, then asked her which colour maggots she’d like to try next.” Got any pink or blue ones dad?” she asked. Only red and white ones were in the pot so again one of each went on and we had another cast.

We had a half a dozen more casts at the bridge, each one resulting in a bite, and another four gudgeon were brought to shore, all just as marvellous as the first. After the fifth Jelly Baby Jess told me she’d like to try somewhere else, so we hooked the hook in the keeper ring and headed out of the swim, through the gap in the trees and across the field. The grass was long and wet, Jess had her wellies on, but I didn’t.

With damp shoes and wet ankles I followed Jess till she found a spot she liked the look of. Under a tree the undergrowth was trampled somewhat making a nice level platform to fish from. The river trickled across gravel and deepened just before us. There was a tree opposite and a deep spot just before the root system. It looked great.

We made a few casts but it was all quiet to begin with. Then the float dipped a few times without really sailing away. I had a good idea what the culprit was, and this was confirmed when Jess reeled in her first minnow. She loved it and thought straight away it was a baby fish. I told her it was a fully grown adult as it was quite big for a minnow, but she was having none of it. After a few photos we watched the fish swim back to the deep spot and soon after I handed over another Jelly Baby.

We caught one more minnow from that spot before Jess decided that perhaps it was time to return home as her dollies would be due a feed. On the way back we had one more cast from the bridge before heading to the car which resulted in the last gudgeon of the day. All strapped up in the car Jess told me all the way home how much she’d enjoyed the day, and that next time she’d like to catch the same fish so she can ask how they’ve been since she last caught them.

As always it was amazing watching her fish. A chip off the old block? Maybe, maybe not, but time will tell, perhaps James will be the angler. All I know is that those short trips we share are magical memories in the making.