A Fenland Story - Ruddy Marvellous
Having made over sixty wildlife films for all the world’s major broadcasters, I have been privileged to travel to many wonderful places around our planet, though one of my all time favourite spots is still the Fenlands of Eastern England.
They always say that you should never go back and fifty years is a long time in our world of declining wildlife and fisheries. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained and I’m happy to say that everything was even better than those ‘rose tinted’ childhood memories. During school holidays I used to volunteer to help on conservation tasks at Wicken Fen and never saw marsh harriers or bearded tits then. Now, though the swallowtail butterflies we were trying to save are gone, the skies are always decorated with marsh harriers, young in tow, the reeds full of ‘pinging’ bearded tits and every evening I was treated to the sight of barn owls floating along the river banks. On one memorable late evening rudd hunt on the Cam, I even saw a tawny owl catch a vole at the waters edge. So the wildlife is even more rewarding than in the past and the antics of family parties of up to thirteen bearded tits stopped me casting for hours.
I was only eight and a half when I started singing in the cathedral choir at Ely and by the time I left school ten years later I had developed a deep love of those flat lands and inspiring skies, along with a passion for wildlife and angling. Friends and I would cycle all over the watery wilderness in our time off, thinking nothing of covering thirty or more miles in a day in our quest for owls nests, tench or particularly those glorious rudd. A particular favourite was Landbeach Pits where two pounders were numerous … we caught plenty too. Another was the River Cam and Burwell Lode, so now that I’m nearly seventy years old decided that it was time to return and see if the rudd still prospered.
As for the fishing, I hoped for a two pound rudd – dream on – but being so rare nowadays, was happy with any rudd, so glorious are their golden sides and red fins. I caught plenty of around a pound on flake so was well happy, but trying to avoid the small ones and the bream and tench proved tricky … not that I’m complaining because the tench went absolutely ballistic when hooked and weighed up to just short of six pounds. In the quest for a bigger rudd I resorted to 10mm tutti fruity boilies and late one evening my dream came true when a wonderful lump weighing 2lb 4ozs slid over the net. Ruddy marvellous indeed! Hugh Miles