Traditional angling wisdom often purports that the perch is usually a young angler's first fish. I believe this is actually a 'Mr Crabtree-esque propagated' myth and the real 'hero' of the young angler is being overlooked in the popularity stakes in deference to it's better looking swim-mate! Perch may have been an early capture for those young-uns brought up on still waters but for those of us who cut our teeth on the rivers our first fish was more prosaic.
I'm talking of course of Gobio Gobio - the humble gudgeon and propose its status in attracting youngsters into angling should be recognised by making it the first fish to make it into the Hall of Fame. Like many youngsters I was first taken fishing by my late father. My first fish was a roach - but this was no more than reeled in by me - my father having baited the hook, cast out and told me when to strike. I gravitated from that to sticklebacks and minnows caught with a net - but the first fish which actually sent a jangle of anticipation up the line - and which was all my own work - was a gudgeon. My contemporaries at primary school all had similar experiences - snaffling gudgeon in the local Kennet side streams. A dace or roach - made you a hero in the playground and as for a perch - well that was the stuff of dreams. Perch came much later. None of my contemporaries could claim perch as their first fish. For all of us, gudgeon, was the launch pad to a lifetime of angling adventure.
Later in ones angling career gudgeon can often come to the rescue - converting a blank day into a one where you can at least go home with your head held high. Catch one and you're likely to get several - and providing you are not questioned too closely by your spouse - your status as "An Angler" is not diminished under your own roof. The conversation has been known to go something like this…..
"Catch much dear? - wasn't the river flooded after all this rain?" "Yes it was a bit of a struggle - but a change of tactics and I managed to winkle out a dozen or so!" Here you hope will be the end of it - but if you're subjected to less than the usual mild dis-interest and get a supplementary "Any Size?" its best to tell a small fib and say you forgot your scales or add that you "had a couple of good-uns" and change the topic pronto! (Though if you really want to 'push it' you could announce you caught a fish that was mere ounces off a British Record!!)
So why do gudgeon not get the credit they deserve? Is it their size - small for sure - though they certainly punch above the weight when it comes to a scrap - more so than the average roach to befall a 10 year olds rod and line. I suspect the real reason is their not good lookers. No stripes, no silvery scales, no red fins, no bronzed flanks - just a mud coloured bottom dweller. However the next time you make an acquaintance with Mr Gobio examine him carefully before dropping him back into the stream. Not just a mud colour is he? Some very subtle hues - and who wants silvery scales when you can have pale blue spots!
So hooray for gudgeon - and its willingness to be captured by the average primary school kid.
Inducted on 19/01/2009