The tiny River Wallington, running its course from Waterlooville and spilling into the sea at Fareham is one of my favourite places to fish, especially at this time of the year. Although this marvellous little journey doesn’t span the lengths of most of the rivers in England, and even though you can almost step across it at most parts, it is a haven for wildlife and one of the most prolific fisheries you could wish to angle at. I’ve been lucky enough to have been fishing it for a handful of seasons now, and year after year I keep coming back for more.
Many species thrive among its flowing waters, fish such as dazzling dace, ruby finned roach, territorial chub and perch, and even the mini species such as the humble minnow and the gudgeon are special in their own little way. Look past their size and muscle power and appreciate their wonderful features and you soon come to realise that you’ve tapped into a veritable gold mine, and a wealth of superb angling, all for yourself. You see, not many folk fish this little stream, hardly anyone knows it’s there, which is a bonus for those who do. Some carp, bream and tench make up the majority of the other fishes one could hope to capture, along with trout of course, loads of them.
For the past two years a group of died in the wool Wallington anglers, affectionately known as The Wallyboys, have gathered along its banks in search of the gudgeon, but not just any gudgeon, they pursue the king of gudgeon. WIGG (Wallington Invitational Gudgeon Gala) was this year to see its third year. Each year the group of eight or so fisherman battle it out for the Urn, a trophy the one who catches the longest gudgeon gets to take home and show off for a year. I was hoping that this year it could be me, after being so close last year where a three way tie resulted in Daz taking home the trophy after a coin flipping event.
It was set to be a damp day, with rain forecast throughout the day, but spirits were never dampened, challenge and tradition both as strong as ever. We met up on Portsdown Hill, Mick’s Monster Burger Van for breakfast. It was as damp as we all thought it would be and for the best part of an hour or more we ate, chatted, bantered and got well and truly wet. There were the odd moment of weakness, conditions were enough to test anyone’s resolve, but by 10:30 we set off to our favourite spots along the river and began the tournament.
I headed to Cheeseman’s Bridge, an area I’ve done well at previously and a stretch that has thrown up its fair share of monster gudgeon. I was thrilled to find I was the first one there, and after nipping home to grab my waterproofs too, so I felt if anyone else was heading there, they’d have been there and set up by now. So feeling rather smug I got everything into position and prepared for that magical first cast. Just as I did so I heard a car, looked up and spotted Daz. He parked up and crept down the bank opposite me. It was a fait cop, there was plenty of room for two of us, I just didn’t fancy sharing my big gudgeon with anyone, just in case they caught the big one.
The fish started coming from the off, roach to begin with, but then after a perch for Daz the gudgeon arrived. They were perfect, stunning examples of a fish often overlooked. These fish were by no means specimens; they seemed to average between 4 and 5 inches. The good ones are the 6 inch fish, with a 7 being a real contender. Some trout were landed, along with one or two more roach, another perch and a dace for Daz. Then it happened, it seems that just as the wind and rain increased we both had a good fish apiece quite close to each other.
Daz’s fish was damn close to 6 inches, as was mine. We photographed them alongside the rulers and continued fishing, hopefully that leviathan might just be lurking. The weather turned worse, previously it had begun to brighten somewhat, after leaving the burger van it appeared that the day might not be so bad after all, but it was back with a vengeance. After another half an hour and a handful more small gudgeon we left the pool and headed for our lunchtime meeting point, a subway down river where we could brew up and have some lunch out of the elements.
It was great to meet up with the others and share out experiences, and after hearing the stories it appeared that Daz and I had been spoilt, for nobody else had so much as a sniff of a gudgeon. A few trout had been landed, but not too much else. It was looking good for us. Lunch was awesome, with loads of banter flying around, as well as savouries, cakes, loads of tea and the customary midget gem fight, which almost resulted in a broken nose, but that’s a story for another time. With our bellies full and ribs aching from all the laughing we each headed off for the final part of the tournament, and new spots were in order.
Originally I’d planned to head back to Cheeseman’s, but to enter the field and fish the pools down river. I drove past but saw there were already four cars in position, so I kept driving and pulled over at Southwick Pool, here there were no other anglers and a spot that looked like it might just do a fish or two. The river here is much deeper that were I’d been, around five feet and was just downstream of the weirpool from a large estate lake. This means that in the floods one or two carp get washed down, so there was always the chance of an epic battle or two.
The bites were slow to start, but then the roach moved in, some of which were a decent hand size. One or two perch made an appearance too, wonderfully marked river perch, those are the best ones. They were active too, with lots of small roach fry leaping clear of the water frequently. It ended with just roach and perch being caught, the winds became quite fierce almost turning my brolly inside out, and at 4pm when it was time to pack away and head to the pub, I was thankful of some respite.
In the pub the banter carried on much as it had finished at the subway. A couple of other gudgeon were caught, but nothing the size of Daz’s and my fish. And after close examination, it was decided that I would be taking the trophy home this time around. I was clearly made up, although obviously I played it down a touch. The river had once again been kind to us, its jewels on show for all of us and yet another hugely successful event. I shall be visiting the river a few more times over the coming months. I never pay the river as much attention as I really should, perhaps something I’ll get to remedy this winter coming. But for sure, if it’s a delightful days angling you seek, among some of the prettiest surroundings, then look no further.
~ Stu Harris