Looking forward to something is a dangerous game! By putting a particular thing on a pedestal if it doesn't quite live up to your expectations then you're only ever going to be let down. Conversely if you don't raise something up in your mind then normally you stand a fifty-fifty chance of it exceeding your expectations and you're happy.
Since my last ruffe safari a year ago I have been really looking forward to having another go, as I ripped them up and landed a new PB in the process. I was thinking that my return this year with methods already devised and swims pinpointed, I once again stood a good if not great chance of cutting them up. Arriving early after a trouble free journey and after bundling my clothes into a wardrobe as only a man can unpack, I slipped off for a quick reckie session to try and see how the land may lay.
Bait the hook, cast the rig, float dips under, strike and land the fish. For two non-stop hours this was my mantra as a stream of hungry perch and roach time and time again took my bait. The only other thing to go through my mind was 'it's only a matter of time till my target species comes along'. Another hour later and my hopes were waning. Half an hour on top of that and I was walking away with a rather perplexed look on my face. How in gods name could I catch so many fish, even have at least one repeater and not catch possibly the most gullible herbert down there? Worst of all that was my number one banker swim.
The next few sessions over the next few days went much along the same lines only with less fish. The broad was not fishing well by all accounts, and everyone fishing was suffering due to the bright conditions and the strangely low tides. Fishing tidal venues is awkward when you're not used to it; you keep having to remind yourself to either increase or decrease the depths of your rig accordingly. Its even more demoralising on the ebb as you can just see the fishing getting worse as the level of water over your quarry's head reduces.
It was the evening of day three when a little light finally shone on my ruffe fishing exploits. I had fished through all the reliable swims thrice over and was making my second pass of the day when my float began to wander. Something had hold of my bait and unlike the suicidal perch which just sink the float, or the cagey roach which dither with it, this fish seemed to be eating my lob worm section as it moved round in a small circle. It had to be and couldn't be anything else other than a ruffe.
I think the most common reaction to catching a ruffe by most people is the surprised exclamation of "oh its a ruffe", normally shortly followed by a plop as the much maligned fish is discharged back to the bottom to carry on its scrounging ways. But I implore anyone who reads this to stop just for a moment and look closely next time you catch one, as this easily overlooked herbert is quite possibly one of our isles best looking fish. Its just that no one bothers to look closely enough to appreciate them.
I was on the board, my account was open, whatever you want to call it, I had landed a ruffe finally. Two more followed that session but all three were peas in a pod at 0.6, 0.8 and 0.6 drams. I am still not convinced that the first and last one weren't the same fish that swam straight back to the baited area and got hooked again.
On the matter of the sea.
I can't visit the coast without doing at least some sea fishing. So taking a break from the intense powder keg world of ruffe fishing, I got out the old broom stick beach rod and packed the other half up ready for a day on the beach.
Hot summers days at the end of the school holidays and beach fishing are best compared to that time when you were a kid and you wondered what would happen if you made a milk shake using orange squash. It seems a viable idea before you start but that as the two combine you suddenly realise they don't mix that well at all.
Wall to wall blue, the sun beating down on your head like the dessert, and kids all around makes swinging an big chunk of spike clad lead very uncomfortable. Not only was little Tommy and Gilly splashing around in the surf making it difficult, but the general lack of bites made the idea of trying to squeeze in a cast here or there pointless.
For miles up and down the coast anglers had become nocturnal and stayed well away from the throngs, only to come out at night in search of the sacred sole. That was apart from one chap who my fishing radar detected instantly from half a mile away walking up the beach having caught a delicious bass. Turned out he had landed three of them and they all lay gutted under a damp towel. That was enough to spur me to have another go on the same beach. Though all I caught that day was the sun on my neck.
All in all the sea fishing was hard! Too hard for me and the best I feel able to offer you, dear reader, is this picture of a random tall ship which passed by; truthfully the most interesting thing I saw at sea.
Back on the ruffe hunt things were looking up though and a few more slight examples turned up the following night as I eeked my session right into dark. I pushed my luck and hung on thinking surely a better one had to be around. And for once I was right when my barely perceptible float slid slowly under. I would love to describe an epic battle at this point but can't as this is ruffe fishing, and even on most sporting outfit the most that can expected is a little thrashing and splashing. Fight aside this was the best ruffe and last ruffe of the whole week, and although it was way off last years giant two ouncer it still seemed a very special fish in the context of things.
Rumours had been flying around the broad and the local tackle shops all week of some monster perch turning up in the broad. Even as an angler I some times take these things with a pinch of salt and frankly I had discarded the information as soon as I heard it. Especially as after five days of fishing half lobworms over chopped worm/maggot and had not seen a perch an bigger than half a pound, of which let me say there were thousands, if not millions, everywhere!
The morning in question I had slipped out very early to bag a spot I fancied that for the previous four days had a Geordie match angler firmly entrenched in it, and who had, incidentally, caught naff all fishing a feeder at range. I fancied it as it was the only swim I hadn't fished and it had some nice cover in deep water a rod length out.
However the queue of small perch waiting over my baited spot seemed endless and by the time the sun rose high enough to burn the mist off the water I was already counting my worm baits thinking I would be off soon. Lucky for me it quietened off a little and with my ruffe fishing experience growing I knew this was normally the time the ruffe turned up when the party had ended.
Half an hour of no interest and I was wishing anything at all would take my worm never mind a ruffe. Moments later the float just went! It didnt, dither, bob, slide or dip. It just went! Lucky for me I had the clutch set on ruffe. Because when I answered with a swift srike the fish battered off like a freight train. The first run had me convinced I had hooked a jack pike by the way it surged off. When it got thirty feet from the bank I was sure it was a pike. Thinking it wouldn't be on long, I tightened the clutch and waited for the inevitable snap of my line in its teeth, but the fish turned and kited towards a moored boat further down the bank. A little more pressure and I managed to avoid that hazard before it came out into open water, making a big swirl as it did. On the next turn a spiky fin appeared and pike turned into perch. Seeing that I eased off fair bit I can tell you. A few more violent runs and it was ready for my waiting net.
I am normally very prepared when I land a good fish and if it was a giant ruffe I was prepared. But even a British record ruffe wouldn't need an unhooking mat, you just hold them in the net. This fish though I needed to be careful with and here I was fishing in a land of concrete without so much of a hint of padding to lay this fabulous fish on. Sadly the best I could do to unhook it was to lay it on a pile of soft ropes I found attached to a boat. Even laying momentarily on that it looked so perfect I couldn't resist a quick snap.
Luckily for me the sight of my bent rod had attracted another angler over who I commandeered into taking a trophy shot. Though this was a risky business in itself, as the chap in question was quite elderly and I could in no way ask the poor fellow to kneel down on the concrete. So instead I risked it, gripped onto the fish for dear life, and stood up for this shot with the most perfect three pounder I have ever caught.