Rudd Fishing Guide

The waters with a reputation for large bags of mixed species are not the ones for a specimen hunter of rudd. Vulnerable to competition and shy of anglers, big rudd hate crowds Rudd are shy, sensitive fish that must never be underestimated. To catch good, specimen rudd, the ex-perienced and successful angler has familiarized himself with the precarious life cycle of the species, its movements, habitat, and feeding patterns from hour to hour.

Good rudd waters are often found near the coast. Slapton Ley and the marshes of Lincolnshire and East Anglia, for example, are fine rudd waters. Fittingly, a lot of my fishing for this handsome species is done on beautiful estate lakes in Norfolk. These lie next to stately homes, nestled in large parks. Norfolk is still an agricultural county and has many estate lakes, some private, but the majority fishable. They all have certain features in common: for ex-ample, they are manmade, generally in a valley, so that they utilize an ex-isting watercourse; all of them have dam walls, few are deep and most of them are at least a century old. Shallowness and age have led to silting and reed encroachment in all of them. Bit by bit the picture of an ideal rudd habitat begins to emerge.

Lately, most of my rudding is done in sand or gravel pits. With 1500-2000 acres of new water every year, this is the fastest-growing aspect of coarse fishing. Not all pits suit rudd: many are too deep, some have little weed or marginal vegetation. Shallow, weeded rudd pits exist all over Southern England. Many are controlled by large groups like Leisure Sport or the London Anglers’ Association and others are controlled by individuals or by private companies like Norfolk’s Swanton Morley Fisheries. Successful rudd pits have a similar geography—bays, ridges, extensive shallows, islands and weed growth.

Rudd and their neighbours

The most important thing in determining the potential of a rudd water is not the food supplies nor the weed growth. It is the fish population of the water. Rudd are hypersensitive, so that other species have a real influence on them. Let us look at two identical pits that I know. Both are of three or four acres, and are exceptionally rich in underwater life and weed. Both have shallows and reed margins and the same pH values. Yet one pit—call it A—holds rudd of over 3 lb, while, in B, a 4oz fish is a specimen. This situation exists purely because of the stocks of other fish.

Specimen sizes

A specimen rudd will be any fish over 2lb. The British record rudd of 4£lb dates back to 1933, but fish over 3lb are rare. The Irish specimen weight for rudd is 2|lb.


12ft all-through action, 13ft, test curve l{lb


Fixed-spool Line b.s. 3-4 lb


Size 8-16, depending upon the size of bait


Breadflake, maggot, casters, rice, hemp, sultana, wheat, sweetcorn, lob, brandling


Breadwhite crumb, golden crumbcasters


Traditional paternoster, linkledger float

Their numbers are culled at every stage in their development—as spawn and fry they are food for eels, as 2oz fish they are kept down by the plentiful perch, when bigger they are thinned by the stock of good pike. At no stage does the rudd stock outgrow its available food supply. Perhaps only a few dozen fish mature, but their size is guaranteed.

Pit B is in a sorry state, because a misguided club official put bream, tench and crucian carp in with the rudd. Food is so scarce that all the species are thin and stunted. As a further consequence, big bags of hungry fish are assured and so the pit is heavily fished. Local boys remove large quantities of eels, which means that the spawn of other species is not cropped. In the winter they catch pike and, being inexperienced anglers, allow large numbers to die, so that more small fish escape their natural fate as pike prey.

This is an extreme example, but the message is clearly there: if you want good rudd there should not be many in the water. If you go on a summer evening and see fish rising everywhere, you can forget the specimens. If you get an immediate bite on a new water, ignore that too. But if you are fishless on your first outing, keep trying.

Even after ten years of carp fishing, I still rate big rudd as the shyest freshwater fish. This must be remembered when locating swims. Nearly all my rudding has to be at distances of over 20 yards, often beyond 40 yards. But there are exceptions to this rule, for every big fish finds a place where it feels completely secure. This is invariably an area that is little fished, perhaps because of distance from the banks or because of snags. Some of my | rudd safe areas are tucked behind | islands or in an arm solid with lilies. | One shoal has its hideout under a sunken alder tree, another beneath £ the remains of a boat-house.

Safe areas are not difficult to discover, but do require a certain amount of ingenuity to fish. You might need polarized sunglasses to watch the fish take the bait, sometimes thigh boots to get you through swamps, and, frequently, heavy tackle to bully fish into the open so, for this sort of fishing, I use a 13-footer. It has a test curve of llb and I team it with 4lb b.s. Line and hooks to match—a No 10 with flake, a 12 with maggots.

I usually wait for the rudd to move into open water and begin to feed properly. As the light fades, and then right through until dawn, the shoals leave their refuges and patrol the lake. They can be meticulous in their timekeeping. A famous shoal on Hickling Broad passed through a bay every night between twelve and one, and that was the only time a bite would come.

Rudd will follow contours on the bottom; gravel bars, for example. They are like wolf packs that keep to the heights to see food better at a distance. Bigger fish often move close to the bank facing the wind, favouring bay mouths where there are concentrations of daphnia and nymphs. They will follow routes through weedbeds, or patrol the channels between islands. Despite this, the swims I fish are the most open and exposed in a lake, for enclosed swims seem to make the bigger rudd nervous, in much the same way as big bream react, accor-ding to the experts. I also favour the water that the wind hits hardest, especially if the depth is between 3 and 9ft. Perhaps broken water stimulates rudd to feed by introducing oxygen, or by concentrating food, or just masking the sound of tackle and groundbait hitting water.

Sighting big rudd is an important part of location. In the day, you might see the occasional red fin, but movement is greatest as dusk falls. A rudd roll is a very distinctive action. It is not quite like a bream’s, nor is it the smooth, dolphin arc of a tench, but a splashy half-jump. Often, there are several rolls as a shoal prepares to feed.

I do not mean to suggest that rudd are solely nocturnal feeders. Between June and September, any day that is overcast and windy will produce fish. In autumn and winter the daylight hours are again often the most productive if there is a breeze and air temperatures are not below 9°C. I do not like an easterly winter wind, but all the rest are fine and I can fish in a Force 8 if need be. -3-’”rniutBril

I fish with the least confidence when there is a flat calm, especially when the sun or moon is bright.

Fish are very much more sensitive than humans to climatic conditions. I have noticed winter roach begin to feed if the water temperature rises half a degree. Summer tench come on to feed if the light value drops by one F-stop on the camera exposure-meter. The biggest silver eel runs occur in Norfolk rivers when there is a storm out on the North Sea. Likewise, the threat of rain or wind spurs rudd to feed.

Most big rudd are taken by fishing on the bottom. Small fish up to 1lb can be caught in mid-water or on the surface, but mature rudd feed deeper. Accordingly, I usually ledger. The method has its advantages, for it needs quite a lot of expertise to present a bait well enough on float tackle to fool a big rudd. Furthermore, most anglers find it difficult to floatfish efficiently at more than 25 yards and the big fish can be feeding over 50 yards out.


Once a rudd takes the bait, the bite is bold. My indicator is the butt-bobbin, the shop-bought isotope kind, and because bites are so strong it does not matter if you use a fixed paternoster or a running link ledger. But I prefer the latter. I stop the ledger link 2-4ft from the hook with a plastic ledger stop, never a split shot. I make the running ledger from the green collar of a ledger stop, a length of nylon and an Arlesey bomb. One end of the line is tied to the ring of the bomb, the other is threaded through the ledger stop, brought back and tied on the bomb ring next to the first end. The length of the link depends on the depth of silt or weed and the plastic ledger stop keeps the reel line away from obstructions.

The size of the bomb depends on the length of the cast to be made, but always choose a weight heavy enough to get there easily. A strained cast is an inaccurate one and can wrench the hook out of a soft bait.

I have some 30 rods in my tackle room, yet I nearly always use the same one for rudd fishing. It is 12ft long with an all-through action. It is not too ‘tippy’ like an all-through-action match rod, yet it is not at all sloppy. Lines of 3lb b.s. Work well with it and for rudd I use them almost exclusively, unless the water is gin-clear, when I go lighter, or snag ridden, when I go heavier.

The tackle for rudd is straight-forward, and the art lies in the choice of bait and skilful ground-baiting. Big rudd are uncannily quick to learn from experience and not many fish need to be caught on a particular bait or from a particular swim before they vanish. To catch good rudd consistently, I always need to be a step ahead of them and so I never fish the same lake quite the same way three times in succession. The swim, the bait or the because the splash of a feeder is likely to disturb them. Choose a big open-ended feeder and pack it with casters or maggots. Block the ends with as little groundbait as possible. Ten to 20 casts with the swimfeeder should put down enough feed to hold a good shoal a while.

Carp baits have received a lot of attention recently, and I believe a lot of the new thinking could be adapted to rudd fishing. I am not sure about the advances in the use of high protein and am more interested in the new particle baits and amino groundbait must be varied. The angler fishing in a stereotyped man-ner will never catch, or even suspect the presence of big rudd, while the innovator will score.

The bait I use at the beginning of the season is bread flake. A piece about the size of a thumbnail, on a size 10 hook, is about right. When that ‘goes off, try crust of the same size, on the same-sized hook. A few fish later, maggots may become necessary. Use three on a size 12. Then, casters take their place. Sweetcorn can be tried next—two grains on a 12, or one on a size 14 or 16. Wheat can then be tried, but after that the rudd will want worms again. Half a lobworm on a size 8 or a brandling on a size 14 are both effective. It might take a whole season to cover this cycle, but you can always start again the following year with flake.

Groundbaiting cycle

Broadly speaking, my ground-baiting has three stages. First, the rudd accept soaked bread stiffened slightly with white crumb. Then groundbait has to become more sophisticated and so I mix some golden crumb with enough water to make the mix sloppy. Into this I mix two good handfuls of casters, then squeeze them hard so that some burst. I then add a few lp-sized pieces of crust and mix in just enough white crumb to stiffen it for catapulting. This groundbait will break up as it hits the water and go down slowly. Burst casters will rise and sink and rise again, but the pieces of crust work themselves loose and drift into mid-water.

All groundbait must be delivered by catapult—not thrown out. A catapult with good, strong elastic gives you much greater accuracy and distance. It keeps balls of groundbait intact until they hit the water. After a while, the rudd become suspicious of any cereal groundbait and you are left with three alternatives. You can catapult-out loose offerings of groundbait, but if the distance is too great, it may be possible to deposit the feed from a boat. If not, it can be cast out in a swimfeeder. Try to get enough offerings out before the rudd appear, acid additives. As examples of the former, I have found rice and hemp to make very effective groundbait for big rudd. On the hook I have had promising results with sultanas. Alternatively, go to a large seed merchant and look around. You will be amazed by the variety of poten-tial baits. Certainly, many remain untried for rudd, yet they could prove to be a dramatic success.

The most notorious carp-fishing development is the introduction of amino acids into baits. There is a lot of secrecy about them, perhaps because they do work well. They are costly, although I have bought them to mix with bread flake. Results certainly do improve but no more than by using the shop-bought additive, Black Magic.

These ideas are not way-out and I am sure they are going to revolutionize fishing. Nobody now would dream of using plain bread flake for carp, yet we still do for rudd. It is high time for a change of attitude.

Because rudd are highly strung, they fare badly in keepnets, especially over prolonged periods. If you watch them, they continually prod the mesh with their noses in an effort to escape. This can cause cuts which let in fungus and disease. I once kept nine 2lb rudd in a keepnet for five hours to photograph later. Five died immediately they were returned to the water. I took them out and examined them—there was nothing visibly wrong and I believe they died of nervous strain. Now, the only time I keep a rudd is when it is a single specimen and I am waiting for better light for a photograph. I look after it in the net, which is 15ft long, putting weed over the net to block out the light and make the fish lie quieter. I go to this trouble not just on humanitarian grounds, but because I know many of the best rudd waters have limited populations of big fish. In small lakes the stock may be only one or two shoals of 20 fish each, and so to kill just one fish would be to destroy a significant percentage.

Every writer on rudd, in talking about roachrudd hybrids, generally implies that some stigma is attached to them. Hybrids vary from the obvious to the virtually un-detectable. My advice is not to worry about it. Unless you are claiming a prize or a record, does the exact parentage of a fish really matter? If I catch a 2lb rudd, roach or roachrudd I think I have done well. Hybrids are no less difficult to catch, and deserve our full respect.

Wensum Valley gravel pits Most of the gravel pits along the Wensum Valley hold rudd. They are mature waters, many of them dug to provide materials for the East Anglian airfields in the last war. A good example that I fish is a sizeable pit with interesting depth variations, separated from a river by a narrow bank. There are not many rudd, but some grow to over 3lb.

During the daytime these big fish stay in the middle, patrolling a long, broad gravel bar which runs parallel to the bank 45 yards out. The water is 4ft deep over the bar and there is a deep mud and silt deposit over the gravel. The rudd like this area because of the sunlight and wind it receives and because few anglers care to fish at such long range. They also like the vast colony of blood-worms living in the silt.

The fish are very suspicious of any form of groundbait, but are willing to take a well-presented hookbait. Bloodworms themselves would be ideal but are too soft to withstand distance casting. Ordinary worms have been successful and so have strips of mussel.

At night the rudd often move in, even under the trees which overgrow the bank. Here they look for bread floating in the margins. You can fish for them carp-fashion with just a 1 Op-sized crust on an 8 hook. It is a method that sorts out specimens.

Later in the year the rudd move into the gulley between the bar and the bank. They become less active and spend the coldest winter days resting in the 12ft-deep lake. But they still feed. The last few hours of the afternoon are the best time to try a piece of flake, or a worm ledgered on the bottom.