More, perhaps, than any species, rudd reward clever management of a coarse water. A controlled population may produce handsome fish—but so too may clever fishing Of all the coarse fishes there is perhaps none more handsome than the fully mature rudd, especially during the early season when the sunshine brings out all the subtleties of colour. Very few anglers can resist pausing momentarily to admire it before slipping it into the keepnet.
It is no mean fighter either. Size for size, the rudd fights better than the roach, which is hardly surprising because size for size it runs heavier. The rudd is a lake and pond fish, which thrives especially well in a stillwater habitat. However, it is also found in limited numbers in slow and sluggish rivers, or in the almost still reaches of older canals. In such waters it prefers these slow reaches and pools and rarely mixes with roach populations found in the faster reaches, except when it moves in shoals between one fairly still water region and another.
Overgrown chalk pits also produce shoals of rudd and where such populations are well balanced with good pike, perch or even wild bird predators, the resident rudd do well. In other waters they are prone to become too profuse and as a result become small and stunted. Ruthless netting will often alleviate this pro-blem and when transferred to waters where food is plentiful the fish often increase their growth rates.
Introducing pike and perch into such waters will also improve rudd growth rates, as well as producing good quality perch and pike. A permanent balance is difficult to achieve, however, and problem waters often pass through long cycles when different species gain a passing prominence and produce stunted perch and rudd at intervals between excellent ones.
Growth rates are therefore highly variable from one water to another. In fertile waters rudd will reach a length of 2in during their first year and 4in in the second. In many such waters they breed in the third year when they are about 6 or 7in long and weigh almost Vfelb.
Since the rudd is largely a surface and middle water feeder its diet consists mostly of insects and plants with a sprinkling of crustaceans and molluscs. It also shows a marked fondness for fish fry (often its own kind) during the early season, and it is less likely to feed on the bottom for chironomids and many muddwelling life forms.
The rudd’s feeding habits are sug-gested by the strongly upturned mouth and in summer it takes a large part of its food from surface flies, pupae, nymphs and beetles. The rudd is therefore more easily seen when feeding, and this tend-ency for surface activity is always useful to the angler. Perhaps this is why the rudd is considered to be easier to catch than the roach, which does not give its position away.
Rudd shoals often consist of fish of varying sizes, the large ones ten-ding to lie somewhat below the main shoal. Rudd like to feed in or over weed beds and will often move close to the shore, and even among the weedy margins —their thin-sectioned bodies are well adapted for swimming between the reed stems, where they forage.
Rudd spawn in May or June, and are often taken still unspawned in mid-June, when even the slightest handling causes the spawn to be shed. Throughout summer the rudd feeds heavily, becoming somewhat less active in autumn, and in winter being almost in a state of coma. However, a bright sunny day may bring it to the slightly warmer sur-face layers in bays and backwaters.
The species is widely scattered throughout England, particularly in the South East. It becomes less common in the North and West, and in the extreme West and North it is uncommon or even rare. The rudd does not occur in Scotland or west Wales but is common in Ireland, where it is known as roach.
Some variety of colour is evident, some waters producing highly attractive rudd with yellow fins. An albino form, known as golden rudd, with colouring similar to goldfish, is also found in some waters.
At one time the so-called ‘blue roach’ received considerable attention both from anglers and fish specialists. Over the years these specimens have proved, upon expert examination, to be true rudd. It is possible that the ‘blue’ colour variation is more apparent than real. Any fish copiously covered in slime often appears bluish when viewed in strong sunlight—this is often noticeable in bream. Perhaps the reason for this blue colour is that the rudd taken shortly after spawning still bears a heavier slime layer than when fully scoured, and exhibits this same blue cast.
Whatever the cause, nobody can be blamed for occasionally mistaking a large roach for a rudd, or vice versa, especially on a cursory ex-amination. A closer look usually reveals that the dorsal fin in the roach is set with its origin roughly level with that of the pelvic fin roots, but in the rudd the dorsal fin is decidedly further back from the pelvic fin root level. Large fish of both species are full-bodied, and may even be similar in colour, the brassy-tinted variety of roach being similar to the normally golden col-ouring of the rudd. Such problem fish are not necessarily important unless their weight is sufficient to warrant consideration as a specimen or record fish. This is indeed one of many reasons why the Record Fish Committee insists on examining the fish claimed as a record. The pharyngeal teeth provide proof of identity. Roach pharyngeals—teeth set in the throat behind the gills—consist of a single row of only five teeth. Rudd pharyngeals bear two rows with five teeth in the outer row and three in the inner row. Fur-thermore, rudd pharyngeals are more strongly hooked than those of roach and are distinctly pectinated. A further complication in such cases is that rudd do occasionally mate both with roach and bream, producing a hybrid. Anal fin ray counts, however, will always separate the rudd from the bream, and the hybrid from both. Rudd have 10-13 branched rays, bream 23-29, and the hybrid 15-18. Any angler can carry out such a check.
Ruddroach hybrids are far more difficult to identify and the anal fin ray count is of no value in determining species or hybridization. Fortunately such hybrids are unusual, and in any case rarely deserve closer ex-amination, since their size is unlikely to warrant record claims. Nevertheless, only dissection can prove such a case beyond dispute.
Rudd frequently provide a fair bag and the early season lake angler can look forward to a peaceful day when the rudd are obliging.
Surface and middle-water fishing methods are clearly indicated, and if shoals of rudd are seen well off-shore the angler must shot-up a fairly heavy tackle to provide long casting. Rudd feeding well off the shoreline are not unduly shy, but most anglers prefer to take no chances.
Fishing for rudd
A useful strategy is to cast well beyond the shoal, where the splash of tackle hitting the surface will not be noticed. The tackle is then drawn slowly towards the angler and into position over the shoal. Runs are often signified by a determined lateral and oblique movement of the float as fish take the bait along with them, rather than diving with it. In these situations a bubble-float par-tially filled with water often provides casting weight, permitting light shotting. Alternatively, a controller lying flat on the surface rather than being cocked like a float, allows swift bite detection on finer tackle than might otherwise be re-quired. Whichever method is adopted, good eye-sight and swift reflexes are necessary.
When shoals of rudd do venture close inshore, great care is necessary to avoid alarming them. Fish hooked must be drawn aside from the shoal without allowing them to splash on the surface. This means employing side strain with the rod tip low until the fish can be landed.
In many gravel pits the depth of water may well be more than 30ft. Weed beds, invisible from the shore, are often deep rooted, but extend upwards to within 12ft or so of the surface. These are often likely rudd haunts, and the regular visitor will get to know their positions. Shoals may be feeding 10ft or more from the surface, foraging among the top of the weed, constantly changing depth and coming to the surface.
Whatever the feeding locations, the angler should use tackles as light as conditions will allow; When long casting he must make certain that his shotting is disposed along the cast to prevent the hook flying back and tangling over the float or upper shots during flight. Usually it is expedient to ensure that the lowest shot is more than halfway down the cast from the float. This also enables slowly sinking baits to be presented as required.
Rudd frequently rise to a well-cast fly. The fly should be small, and almost any good imitative pattern will take fish. Nymphs should also be tried. Many anglers like to attach a maggot or a piece of white leather to the tail of the fly as an additional inducement. In conditions where rudd are rising freely this is a most enjoyable and effective way of taking fish regularly without alarming the rest of the shoal.
The fly may be fished dry, although timing the strike is sometimes a problem, or it may be fished wet, a foot or so below the surface. Wet flies should be drawn very slowly as rudd are not inclined to chase a moving bait. During the early season when fish fry are fre-quently eaten by rudd, a small flashertype fly, fished in short irregular jerks, is sometimes very effective. This may also account for better quality fish than ordinary bait methods, because larger, more mature fish are more prone to take fish fry at this time of year.
When rudd are feeding freely their presence and activity is so obvious that groundbaiting is quite un-necessary. When there are no feeding signs on the water it is ad-vantageous to tempt them into a feeding mood, or draw feeding fish within casting distance by the careful use of groundbait. Since the rudd is predominantly a surface feeder, there is little point in using heavy groundbaits intended to lie on the bottom, and cloudbaits—used little and often—are useful.
When boat fishing on the larger waters of the Norfolk Broads, local anglers often fasten a piece of bread to a length of line attached to a stone. This is then anchored in the vicinity of reeds or weed beds, and the boat is then moved quietly away to a suitable fishing position. An alternative is to float small pieces of bread downwind at intervals, either from the boat or the shore. If there are gulls or ducks in the vicinity, this can do more harm than good —cloudbait is then the only answer.
Some of the best rudd fishing is to be found in many of the waters of the Norfolk Broads, which are also noted for the excellence of their pike fishing. Fishing from the bank is possible in few of these waters and the best rudd areas are the shallower reed-fringed portions where cruising boats do not venture, as the depth varies from one or two to four or five feet. Excellent rudd are also found in the little known ponds and meres of Shropshire and the Fens of East Anglia, and perhaps the best known water is Slapton Lea, also known for large pike. Many waters contain rudd over 2 lb, but their presence is never suspected until the pond is drained, or electrically fished, when fine rudd are found in the nets with hundreds of smaller fish.