A member of the crack Midland’s match squad Browning Starlets, Nigel Bull explains his towpath tactics for snatching gudgeon.
They may not be one of the largest of coarse fish species but gudgeon are easy to catch and soon build a good weight. This is what makes them so popular with canal match anglers. Even when water temperatures are so low that most species won’t feed, you can often put together a reasonable catch ofgudgeon. But to build a match-winning weight is no mean feat — you have to go about the job in the right way.
A fish for all seasons
By changing your tactics to suit the seasons you can catch gudgeon from canals all year round.
Summer Boat traffic is fairly heavy at this time of the year and the disturbance pushes gudgeon out of the boat channel and up on to the ledges on the near and far sides of the canal. The water is shallower here – often less than 30cm (1ft) – but it doesn’t bother the fish. The basic tackle and rig to deal with the inside line is a 2m whip, lJ4lb (0.68kg) main line, a 0.25g float, 12oz (0.34kg) hooklength and a size 26 fine wire, long shank bloodworm hook such as the Ignesti series one.
Feeding is simple enough – sloppy brown crumb mixed with a small amount of joker fed sparingly in thumbnail-sized pieces every two or three minutes. Fish bloodworm, squatts or pinkies on the hook.
To fish the far ledge you need a 5-6m whip and a lg float. The heavier float makes casting easier – especially if there is a breeze. If the wind makes it difficult to control the float then it is best to change to a long pole/short line using a rig similar to the one for the inside line. These methods work well all year round.
Autumn The best catches of gudgeon – and ruffe for that matter – are taken when the water temperature begins to fall. As boat traffic lessens and the water cools, fish move off the top of the ledges and into the slightly deeper, warmer water at the base of the ledges. Rigs for autumn are similar to those for summer but you need to use a 3m whip for the inside with a slightly heavier float of around 0.5g.
Use a heavier groundbait mix than for summer. A good one is made by adding about one part soil — taken from a mole hill – to about four parts brown crumb. Mixed fairly wet it still creates a cloud but goes down quicker – making it ideal for the slightly deeper water. Add some joker and drop two or three balls at the bottom of the shelf. You can do this very accurately using a small pole cup.
If the gudgeon are in an obliging mood and feeding well they’ll stand a bit more bait on top of them. But if they seem to be shy, then experiment with a small amount of raw joker on top of your groundbait. This often encourages the gudgeon to get their heads down and start feeding. Winter Your approach to the coldest season should be very similar to the rest of the year but now you need to stage your attack in the middle of the boat channel – where the deepest and warmest water is. Often the boat channel isn’t in the middle of the canal, so it is important to plumb up.
Rigs are much the same as for summer and autumn but now you need a whip of about 4m and a 0.75gfloat.
Mix a small amount of joker with some dry leam and spray with an atomiser. Form this into balls the size of hazel nuts and feed little and often.
During these cold water conditions you have to feel your way into the swim very carefully. There could be plenty of gudgeon and ruffe around the baited area but they may only feed spasmodically. Put too much feed in the swim in the early part of the match and you could ruin your chances if the fish decide to feed later. So be wary and sparing with the feed – if temperatures rise even slightly the fish may come on.