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Kingsley Pond bread punch roach and skimmer bream

February 15, 2019 at 1:51 pm

I had just finished scraping the ice from the windscreen of my van, when my friend Peter arrived to join me for the drive to Kingsley Pond in East Hampshire. Peter is a member of Oakhanger AC and I would be fishing on a guest ticket, available at the community shop across the road to the pond.

Bright sunshine was burning off freezing fog on the drive and we hoped that the pond would not be covered in ice as it was on our previously abandoned visit. Still shrouded in mist when we arrived, the pond seemed ice bound again, but a thin covering of algae over the still surface proved to be an optical illusion, much to our relief, having both invested a fair bit of mileage to get there.

By the time we had arranged the guest ticket and tackled up, an east wind was ruffling the surface, but this did not bother the fish, my first cast following a small ball of liquidised bread, the tip of my float dipping several times before slowly sinking away. The first few casts brought a one ounce roach each put in, then the elastic came out with a better fish staying deep, breaking the pole down to the top two to net it.

The size 18 hook dropped out in the net, all the fish so far taking a 4 mm punched pellet of bread offered under 4 g antenna float. When I plumbed the depth, I found three feet at 5  metres and I fed a couple of small balls along this line 2 metres apart, fishing out in front of me, when the wind dropped and to the right holding back in the wind.

The extra feed began to attract skimmer bream into the swim, the fussy bites reliably resulting in a slow sink away of the float, the slab sided silvers beginning to fill my keepnet.

A surprise catch was a golden rudd among the roach and skimmers.

A hard fighting roach/bream hybrid also got in on the act.

Peter had been sitting without a bite all this time, his double maggot on a running line waggler rig untouched, until a change from a size 14 hook to a size 18 and a single maggot, produced bites. Shotting the float down close to the tip, improved his chances of hooking fish, although not as effective as the bread punch and pole combination.

The down wind feed area was now full of skimmers and a small ball of feed every three fish held them there.

We set a time of 3:30 to finish fishing, despite us both catching at a regular rate, one of my largest skimmers coming just before the dead line.

In the cold water the 4 mm punch produced more positive bites, even the skimmers preferring the smaller bait.

The warm a wind hardened up the punch bread quite quickly and I had to change to fresh slices during the five hour session to avoid missing bites.

Considering the frosty start, I was pleased with the end result of about a hundred fish, the punch out fishing the maggot ten to one. Peter was happy with his day, having caught a few nice roach and a decent skimmer, while we sat within chatting distance in the sun.

Bread punch silvers brighten the gloom

February 8, 2019 at 2:38 pm

Heavy rain, then snow and ice, followed by more rain, had kept me away from fishing for too long and with a brief gap in the weather today, I took the short drive to my local Jeanes’ Pond in Braybrooke Park, to see if bread punch would coax the roach to feed. Bearing in mind that the pond had been covered with ice, then snow only a few days ago, I was not convinced, that I would catch, but at least I was giving it a go, instead of sitting at home staring out of the window.

On my way, I passed through a heavy shower of rain and as I tackled up, force 5 winds were driving a massive black cloud my way, blocking out the mid day sun. Scrambling for my waterproof jacket, I was just in time to avoid a soaking, as sleet filled rain hissed across the pond, keeping me pinned down for ten minutes. No sooner had the rain gone, the sun came out into a clear blue sky, my choice of the north bank being justified by the fact, that the wind would be blowing warmed surface water over to my side. That was theory anyway, the first ten minutes without a bite making me think otherwise.

My setup was a light canal antenna float, dotted down to just below the tip, a size 18 barbless hook being tied to a 1.7 lb bottom line. I plumbed the depth, seeing that a shelf dropped down to 3 feet, 4 metres out, then dropped again to 4 feet 5 metres out. I put a small ball of fine liquidised bread over each shelf, fishing over the near shelf four inches off bottom, the 4 mm pellet of bread untouched each time that I lifted out, when the float drifted up to the shelf. Another small ball over the near shelf saw the tip dip slightly, as the rig drifted into the cloud, the antenna silhouette against the surface switching on and off, then off as the float held under. I lifted and was surprised to feel the resistance of a decent fish as the pole bent with the elastic pulled clear of the tip. This was a net worthy roach, the bite indicating a much smaller fish.

Ice cold to the touch, the fish must have been barely awake, the next bite merely trembling the antenna before holding it down. These roach were generally bigger than I expected, considering the feeble bites and I settled into a slow, but steady rhythm of hooking fish, only interrupted by another short burst of rain.

The sun was reflecting on the water dead in front of me, moving across to the right as the session progressed, the tiny float tip black against the glare, switching on and off in the surface, a good bite indicator. The inside line went dead after an hour and I added depth to the float, plus another metre to the pole to fish over the next shelf, getting a bite immediately over the feed.

Not a monster, but a hard fighting roach all the same, this one of several that continued to take the 4 mm punch pellet, a step up to a 5 mm resulting in missed bites, rather than bigger fish. Waiting longer for bites, I shallowed up again and came back onto the inside line, resting the swim bringing another good roach.

Two anglers had set up opposite me fishing wagglers, but failed to catch, while I steadily lifted small roach from the cold water, the pair gone before the hour. I was now feeding very small balls every fifteen minutes, one to the left and fish to the right, then the opposite, which brought a good bite and two, or three fish each switch. Not speed fishing, but the keepnet was filling.

I began catching small rudd on the drop, a sign that the water was warming, then it went dead again. The bites had dried up, so I went back out to the far line. It was very slow, a small fish every five minutes. I had fed the inside and came back over it, but again waited five minutes for a sign of a bite, the float dipping several times before it slowly sank. I struck into a moving fish, that powered away taking out the elastic and I added another metre of pole to follow as it ran toward the old lily bed, putting on side strain, turning it to arc toward the middle. As the fish ran across in front of me, I saw that it was a small pike of about a pound, and unshipped the extra length of pole, drawing the pike across the surface against the elastic to my landing net. A roach was held across its jaws, which came free when the pike rolled in front of the net. The pike had taken the roach as I struck and not been hooked, dropping the fish by accident, or design. Apart from scale damage, the roach swam off without a second look.

I continued to fish, taking a few more small roach every five minutes, or so; maybe the pike was back. It was now 3 pm and the sun was behind the clubhouse, the air temperature dropping away, so I packed up.

Around fifty silver fish in under three hours, when the bread punch proved its worth in cold water conditions.

Magtech 7002 semi auto .22 first 2019 rabbit

January 26, 2019 at 4:17 pm

A week of snow and ice was changed over night by a welcome west wind from the Atlantic and as the temperature climbed to a heady eleven degrees, loaded up my Magtech 7002 semi auto for a walk round a new permission, that bordered an existing permission gained last year. A Christmas courtesy call to the land owner, had revealed that he had control of the uncultivated 25 acres to the north of his flat pasture.

Gaining entry to the land was the hard part, an overgrown, rotted gate could not be passed without a chainsaw, but a dry ditch along the boundary, allowed me to pass beneath an overhanging tangle of branches to a more open area, the ditch taking me down into a steep sided valley. Rabbit burrows dotted the banks, some recently dug, which I noted for warmer times. More mature trees now gave access to the steep slope to my right and I climbed up through them, clumps of snowdrops pushing through the dead leaves.

Climbing to the top, the trees opened out to reveal an area of undulating unmanaged ground that stretched for half a mile, or more to the east, with bushes down toward the pasture in the south. The land to the north continued upward over a brow.

Walking ahead, there was movement in the brush to my right, as a fallow deer turned and made off over the brow to my left, followed shortly by another pair bounding away across the open ground. There was no more movement and I continued to explore, making my way down to the pasture to get my bearings, finding burrows among the bushes close to the fence on my side.

Making my way back up through the jungle of branches to the open ground at the top, evidence of rabbit droppings were everywhere, finding several communal latrines as I walked along.

Having covered 200 yards of the rough ground, I had seen enough to make a return visit in the near future, this was just a scouting session and made my way back to the trees on the skyline.

A movement ahead made me stop. Had a bird flown across the bushes? Raising the scope to my eye, I scanned the ground. Nothing. The white chest of a rabbit raised from behind a clump of grass. A fatal move. My trigger finger tightened and the rabbit flipped over backward. Still kicking wildly, a quick second shot to the head, ceased any more movement.

The Magtech .22 semi automatic had paid off again, the first shot to the upper chest had missed any vital organs, while the second to the head had made sure. After bagging this one up, I made my way back down to the roadside and the van, looking forward to richer pickings in the spring.

 

 

Environment Agency netting reveals Braybrooke pond secrets

January 24, 2019 at 4:54 pm

Two successful spawning years at my local Jeanes’ Pond in Braybrooke Park, had resulted in a dearth of small roach, rudd and perch crowding out the upper levels, eagerly attacking anglers’ baits meant for bigger fish. With the controlling club in close contact with the Environment Agency, it was suggested that the answer was another netting operation. The first, three years ago had seen the removal of thousands of small fish from the pond, resulting in members catches including many more quality roach and rudd.

With temperatures in single figures, I arrived mid morning to find the netting well under way, with two Agency operatives up to their chests in freezing water. The net had been walked round the pond, until it met the fixed end, then slowly drawn in to a tight circle, the bottom of the net drawn up to trap the fish.

Hand nets were continually dipped into the boiling mass of fish and passed up in a fireman’s chain to a water tank on the back of the Agency Landrover, all fish over 3 oz being returned, under the watchful eyes of club members.

Several larger fish were evident in the bulging net, this pike the first to taste freedom again.

Proof that the roach, rudd and perch were not the only successful spawners, was this young pike.

Often seen, but rarely caught, this white Koi must have had a rude awakening from its winter sleep.

Another exotic, a gold Koi, emerged from the depths of the net, this fish had not been seen all season and was assumed taken by poachers, that had been leaving out unattended night lines attached to bank side bushes.

Yet another pike from a water that was said to have no pike when I joined the club. A 10 lb pike was landed this season, on two different occasions, having taken anglers’ fish. If the pike and perch do their job, netting sessions may not be needed in the future.

Just one sample of the fish taken with one dip of a hand net, perch, roach and rudd clearly visible.

A rough estimate of 7,000 small fish were placed into oxygenated water tank, ready to be transferred to a small lake near Aldershot 15 miles away, that has been heavily predated by cormorants.

Once the EA men were satisfied with their catch, the net was sunk and the base lifted out to allow the remaining thousands to swim free, the job done with such care, that there were no visible casualties.

Bread punch chub feed in arctic conditions

January 18, 2019 at 4:00 pm

I was determined to get out and fish this week, but I have been beaten by the winter weather each time I planned to go. Yesterday it rained non stop, then today I awoke to a heavy snow fall, the snowflakes freezing to the van windscreen, due to an icy blast, that pushed temperatures below zero. Then a chink of hope appeared, as the grey sky gave way to clear blue with bright winter sunshine. Already committed during the morning, I thawed bread from the freezer and set off after 1 pm for my local river, where I hoped to find a few obliging chub. Loading my trolley from the van, the wind was cutting through me, despite several layers over my thermals and I wondered how long I last without a fish, or two.

Considering the earlier snow and rain, the river was only slightly coloured, with a steady pace and I was quite hopeful, as I set up my pole. Due to the temperature, I was convinced that bites would be slow, having intended to set up a canal antenna float, but with the pace of the flow and the gusting downstream wind, opted for a lightweight 2 No 4 stick, dotted down to the tip.

Putting in two egg sized balls of liquidised bread, one just past the middle, the other in line with the overhanging bush, I had watched the bread cloud sweep downstream on the outside line, so started in the slacker water on the inside of the bend. With a 5 mm pellet of punched bread on a size 18 hook, the float dipped a fraction, sending out a an indicating ring, then submerged slightly and remained there. Lifting the pole, the elastic came out and stayed put as a decent fish woke up, then burst into life, dashing off downstream against the No 6 elastic, before turning to run hard upstream past me. With the pole at four metres, I held the chub in mid stream and pushed my landing net out to meet it, pulling back the pound and a half fish.

The tiny barbless hook was just in the tip of the lip, falling out once the pressure was off in the net.

Without feeding again, I cast back in, watching the float give the faintest of indications of a bite, as it moved downstream, waiting for something to strike at. I held the float back slightly and the float slowly sank, lifting again to solid resistance, as another chub beat a retreat down stream. This fish was smaller, close to a pound, but full of fight, stretching out the elastic as it dived around, searching for a snag, but the elastic did its job, bringing the chub within netting range, the inside bend being shallow with silt.

Two decent chub in two casts, this what I came for. Even on the coldest of days, chub will usually feed, small hooks and baits, often better than the opposite. I paused for my first cup of piping hot tea, the sun shining through the trees warming my back, while my front and hands were already getting frozen, those chub feeling like blocks of ice.

I ventured in another ball of bread past middle and cast beyond it, holding back then letting the float run, the float tipping and dipping as it followed through the swim. Lifting out the bait was gone. This repeated for a couple more trots. Something was down there, sucking the bait from the hook. I tried a punch of rolled bread, squeezing it on the hook, the float holding down long enough to strike, bringing a small roach splashing to the surface.

Two more small roach from four trots saw me deepen up six inches to hold back hard, easing down on a tight line, but I was back to no bait, this time without a sign of a bite. These fish were so cold, that they were like iced lolly pops and must have been just sucking at the bait. I shallowed up again and chanced another ball of bread, following it down. Nibble, nibble, hold. Strike! A tiny roach. In again, nibble, nibble, hold. Strike! Bottom. No! Another chub dashed off downstream, rolled on the surface and came off! Blow it! That was a good fish of well over a pound.

Time for another cup of hot tea and a packet of mini chocolate Penguins, resting the pole, with the float well over depth, while I got my brain back together. Tap, tap, pull, the float sank. Missed it, but the bait was still on. Shallowing up again, I ran it through several times over the feed, without a sign of a bite, the punch untouched. An intermittent  bite resulting in a four inch roach hanging itself at the end of the the trot, finished the session for me. The sun had gone behind the houses and the temperature had dropped noticeably. This was no fun any more and before the men in white coats came to take me away, I packed up.

The sign of a slow ninety minutes. That third chub would have topped it for me, but I can’t really complain, with two nice chub to show for a session in the deep freeze. You don’t have to be bonkers to fish on days like this, but it helps.

 

Trout stream work party feeds optimism

January 13, 2019 at 7:23 pm

The January working party on the Hampshire syndicate trout stream, that I fish, has often been flooded off, but this year the river was running clear, as I joined several members walking up to the weir to begin cutting back willow and alder, in an effort to aid casting.  It was encouraging to see several trout redds, where spawning trout had cleared  shallow troughs in the gravel to deposit their fertilised eggs.

This stretch had not been trimmed for a couple of seasons and last year had proved almost impossible to fish, due to branches hanging low over the river, while trout rose unchallenged by anglers’ flies.

The chainsaw saw plenty of action removing a fallen tree, while a couple of pole saws trimmed back overhanging branches along a 200 yard stretch. A fire was started to dispose of the cuttings, a strong wind bringing it up to furnace temperatures in minutes, as a constant supply of cuttings were ferried along the banks to its central point.

 

Calling a halt after three hours for a tea break, plans were discussed for further work parties following on in the next few weeks, more trimming back down to the roadside on this stretch, while flow deflectors were earmarked for improvement and repair. Ranunculus weed, transplanted last year, was also seen to be growing well on the gravel runs, the long fronds acting as a haven for nymphs and young trout alike.

Two years ago the landowner diverted the river to build a new bridge, without consulting the anglers, reducing the flow to a trickle and many fish were lost in this and the stretch down stream. It appears that nature is already repairing much of the habitat damage and with more sunlight now able to reach the riverbed, fly life and weed growth will improve, much to the benefit of the anglers.

New Year stick float bread punch reward on the River Blackwater

January 3, 2019 at 8:25 pm

Before Christmas, I had found the River Blackwater flooded and coloured, requiring a switch to a still water close to home, but with no rain for over a week, I drove to the river before noon, finding it running fast, but clear. This was to be only my third visit to this Surrey stretch and followed the river downstream looking for a swim with clearance overhead for my 14 foot Browning float rod.

On the inside of a bend, I set my tackle box down on a sand bank, where the flow ran down the far side, before sweeping across to the middle for the next bend, an ideal stick float swim. Plumbing the depth, there was three feet of water close to the far bank and I set up a heavy 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to cope with the rapid pace of the river.

Preparing to fish the bread punch, I had no idea what fish to expect in this swim, it looked chubby, but I expected roach to be the main contenders for my bait. I fed a couple of firm balls of liquidised bread upstream of my swim, watching them swirl in the current, sinking with a tail of fine particles, as they sped downstream. The temperature was not far off zero and I started with 5 mm bread pellet on a size 18 hook, fishing for bites, just to see what turned up. Without a bite on the first few trots, I put in another ball, following it down with the float. A lightning quick dip of the float and the absence of bait on the hook was encouraging and I followed another ball down to more unstrikeable dips. I put another No 4 shot under the float and raised it three inches, slowing the float, easing the line over my finger. The float tip was now just above the surface and held down for half a second. I struck to firm resistance, seeing a bar of silver arc across the stream, as a very good dace broke surface. The net came out, as I slowly led the fish upstream to it.

A hard fighting kipper dace, was followed by another next cast, each time the float was checked, it dipped and sank from view.

Dace followed dace.

Then a small roach.

Several smaller roach now intercepted the bait further up the swim and I stopped my regular pigeon sized balls, these fish keen to hang on the the bait, rarely sinking the float, but most strikes resulting in a roach on. I tried a 6 mm punch to get through to better fish, but this meant more bumped, or missed bites. Going back to the 5 mm pellet brought a firm bite and a good dace tumbling back to the net.

The bites were now coming 15 yards down the trot, and I let the float run at half speed, then held back hard, the float submerging on cue, as a nice sized roach dived off downstream, the initial fight more like a chub in this speedy little river.

The roach had moved onto the feed, out numbering the dace two to one, when I netted this clonker.

“That’s a nice one” I turned round to see another angler standing behind me. “What bait are you using?” I held up a square of punched bread. “Bread punch.” He stood and watched as I netted another roach, then a good dace in quick succession. He had only had a couple of small roach and a perch all morning, the fish only tipping the ends of his maggots. Not concentrating, I began missing bites, so rested my rod and poured myself a cup of tea, while we talked, dipping into the bag of sandwiches prepared by my wife that morning. Ooooh, turkey and honey glazed ham, spread with cranberry sauce, just what the doctor ordered! These conversations with locals can be useful, this guy telling me of free fishing on the river Wey in the heart of Farnham, including all the best parking spots. Another new water to add to my list.

As the angler continued back to his car, I dropped another couple of balls of bread feed along the far bank, following down with the float, which sank deep out of sight immediately, the rod bending over, following the unseen fish, as it dashed off downstream, while I backwound the reel to avoid a break. The fish stayed deep, slowly shaking its head, as I regained line. It felt like a small pike that had grabbed a roach, but a green flank with black bars indicated a chunky perch. The perch rolled as it neared the landing net, but the hook held its grip on the edge of the big white extended mouth, long enough to be lifted to safety.

I have caught perch on the punch before, but this is one of the biggest, the carnivore mistaking the bread for something living, when it dropped from the surface.

The dace fest continued, the fish having dropped further down the swim, the current taking the float beyond an overhanging branch, where stopping the float at the end of the trot and pulling upstream brought savage takes. My last fish of the afternoon was a roach taken at the bottom of the trot, that fought all the way back, being convinced that I would lose it, even at the net.

My next trot had reached the overhanging branch, when the float pulled under, bending the rod round and setting the hook as the fish rushed off downstream, while I gave line over my controlling finger. Raising the rod, the tip bent and bucked with a very good fish, closing the bail arm to reel, what I could see to be a chub of about 2 lb, its white mouth clear of the water. I decided to close the gap by tucking the landing net under my arm and reeling the line back to the chub. Big mistake. Looking down at the chub, I had not taken account of a tree overhanging the bank, managing to walk the rod into the tangle of branches overhead, leaving the chub stranded in the shallows, flapping about until the hook came free.

This was the end of my session. I retrieved the precious float rig, cutting the line to pull back through the branches and returned to my box. Where I was standing had been alongside the overhanging branch, the bottom clearly visible and only two feet deep at this point. Although there was still at least another half hour’s good light left of the afternoon, it would have taken that long to bring the fish back.

A pleasing sight on a near freezing afternoon at the very start of the year. I will be back to explore further.

 

Bread punch carp and crucians promise on winter pond

December 22, 2018 at 2:21 pm

Having suffered his third blank fishing session in a row on Monday, my friend Peter was keen to break his duck before the Christmas break. I suggested the pond ten minutes walk from my home, where I promised that it was impossible to not catch a fish, be it a crucian, or common carp, let alone a few dozen rudd.

We arrived in bright sunshine and set up, Peter with running line and waggler, while I got out my carp pole with a small 2 BB waggler, ready to fish the bread punch over damp, coarse bread crumb mixed with ground carp pellets. I squeezed up four balls and put them out in a square pattern 6 & 7 metres out, while getting ready to fish. Peter fed out a bed of pellets and fished over the top with maggot, then immediately began swinging in tiny rudd, after tiny rudd, happy to be catching fish at last, but I reminded him that he would soon get fed up with catching them. Which he did.

I too was having rudd trouble, but my 6 mm bread pellet seemed to be getting better sized rudd and going up to a 7 mm punch gave the larger fish a chance to take the bait.

The sunshine soon was masked by dark scudding clouds and the temperature dropped suddenly with the first shower of the morning, the fresh wind directly in my face making casting of the lightweight waggler difficult. The rudd did not mind and the float kept sinking, the elastic coming out with my first crucian.

Peter had tired of the tiny maggot caught rudd and switched to pellet on the hook. More rudd, although a couple of four inch crucians also managed to find the hook. My heavy elastic came out again, as a small common carp made a run for it, stirring up mud on the way to the landing net.

As I recast, Peter let out a call and I looked over to see his rod bending into a good fish, that ran round in front of him, then came off. This pond has been heavily poached for food fish this year and rod benders are in short supply, so I was as sorry as him to see it throw the hook. More rudd for me, then solid resistance as the elastic reached down into the pond, with a decent crucian pounding away, arcing round before popping up to the surface at my net.

Crucian carp like this were one a chuck here once, but today I was grateful for small mercies. Missing also were the tench that have been growing bigger every year, a rare lone gudgeon no compensation.

Peter was into another good fish, a pound plus common carp that fought hard against the rod, this time the size 14 hook staying put to the landing net.

At last Peter was happy, I had kept my promise of fish to break his blank period and this was the best of the day for both of us.

As if in answer to Peter’s carp, my elastic was out again with a larger crucian than the last, that doggedly stood its ground, rolling and diving all the way to the net.

A slow submerge of my yellow tipped waggler, was met by a firm lift of the pole and a run that took the elastic out toward Peter’s bank, as another common stormed off, then turned to my left against the pressure. Breaking down the pole to 4 metres I guided the rolling carp to my net.

I was amazed, when I saw how small this common carp was, its fight as strong as a fish twice the size.

Brief showers continued to sweep across the pond, Peter’s umbrella going up and down like a yoyo, while I sat through them without waterproofs, having believed the weather reports of a dry day. Each time I reached for my waxed jacket, the rain stopped.

I balled in the last of my groundbait to keep the bites coming, although rudd seemed to be the culprits pulling down the float, you never know what will turn up in this pond. A more solid strike brought a silvery fish to the surface, not another rudd, but an ornamental ghost carp.

This little carp looked like it was wearing dark rimmed glasses, a black V stretching back across the nose to encircle the eyes.

The rain began again, the sky an opaque grey to the horizon. This time I put on my jacket, while Peter called over to say that he was packing up. I agreed, there was no sign of a let up, our hands were already frozen, why add to the misery, when a hot cup of tea was waiting at my house a few hundred yards up the hill?

This cut down Billy Makin Canal Grey has served me well over the years.

Not the haul that I was hoping for from this once prolific pond, but a satisfying result on a cold wet morning.

Braybrooke roach save the day

December 19, 2018 at 4:08 pm

My friend Peter and I had been planning a return visit to Kingsley Pond in Hampshire for months, but the hot dry summer had reduced the water to unfishable levels, until recent rains had raised the water table again. Planning a day at the pond, we travelled in our own vehicles to meet up, but while on the way I had a call from Peter to say that he was now at Kingsley and the pond was frozen over from bank to bank. Hopes of bream and big roach would have to wait for a milder day.

I suggested we try the River Blackwater, where I had a good net of roach the previous week and diverted back into Surrey to park at the riverside. Heavy weekend rain had flooded the river, the clear shallows now muddy raging torrents. I contacted Peter again to give him the good news of the floods, suggesting that we drive back to Berkshire to check out Jeanes’ Pond at Braybrooke Park.

We arrived at the Braybrooke carpark at the same time, Peter’s M3 and dual carraigeway route in his BMW overtaking the cross country diversion taken by my van. Walking down to Jeanes’ Pond, it was a relief to see clear water. Our drive through three shires had cost us over two hours fishing time, to arrive at a venue two miles from my home.

We set up in adjacent swims, my usual choice being pole and bread punch, while Peter set up a running line and waggler rig to fish maggots over a bed of carp pellets. There were no visible signs of fish on the surface and I opted for a winter rig of a fine antenna float with 6 No 8 shot, shirt buttoned down to a size 18 hook to 1.7 lb line. The level here was about a foot down on normal and I plumbed the depth at a metre over the shelf at 3 metres, setting my float to fish a 100 mm off bottom. I guessed bites could be hard to come by and started off with just one small nugget of liquidised bread over the shelf, casting my float into the sinking cloud of feed.

The float sat for five minutes without a tremble, so I put another nugget a metre to the right and fished into the cloud. Still no sign of a bite, my next move was to cast back to the first cloud. The float sank slowly down and I lifted into the resistance of a small roach, watching it drop back into the water as I swung it in.

Into the same spot, the float sank immediately and I brought the small roach fighting to the surface, only for the resistance in the surface tension to prove enough to pull the hook from the lightly held fish. In again the float dithered, held down a fraction, then popped up. Not sure, I struck anyway and brought the small roach away from the swim and into my hand.

It was a start, Peter and another angler hadn’t seen a bite yet on their maggots, while mine were now coming every put in, although the size was nowhere near what we had been getting a few months ago.

I put in another small ball of bread on the side I was catching from and moved back across to previously baited area. The float sank again and a better sized roach was drawn round to the side.

The feed one, fish the other method, kept the fish coming relentlessly, while Peter was still biteless, the other angler coming round to watch the bread punch in action, having had only one tiny roach all morning. He returned to his peg and packed up.

These fish were really cold to the touch on a day when temperatures were in the low single figures; they had drifted across to the feed, but the liquidised bread has no content, the 4 mm pellet of soft bread an easy meal to suck in like thick soup. After two hours, Peter had had enough and began packing up, but I still had holes to punch in my bread, the bites, although no more than dotting down the float bristle, were still bringing a fish a cast.

The roach were now getting bigger, but by 2 pm I had filled my punch bread with holes and proved a point again, that in very cold conditions, the bread punch will always put fish in the net.

My hole count suggested 80 roach, the largest no more than 3 oz, but you can’t beat a float going under every cast, even if the fish are small, they all add up, this net weighing over 3 lb, more than a pound an hour.

Peter has now been studying my book on bread punch fishing, determined to play me at my own game.

Bread Punch Roach come in from the Cold.

December 15, 2018 at 2:40 pm

Having made plans to go fishing, when the forecast said 11 degrees for today, I woke up to find the grass stiff with frost and a forecast of 2 degrees maximum all day, with a wind chill taking it down below that. Apparently a Siberian blast, had blown away a relatively balmy wet front from the Atlantic.

The van was already loaded and my bread bait from the freezer had thawed overnight, so the thermals were removed from their moth proof bags, the woolly shirt taken from the hanger and my thick tri-knit pullover found lurking at the top of the wardrobe. With a thick hoody under the pullover and a fur lined, thermal hat, I headed off to the river Blackwater 20 minutes drive away, arriving at 11 am.

I had not fished this section of river before and walked through frost chilled grass, until I found the inside of a bend, where floods had deposited a mudbank wide enough for my tackle box, with a gap in the trees that would allow my 14 ft Browning float rod to just pass through.

I set up with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed, bodied stick float and opted for a size 18 barbless to 2.8 lb hook link. My usual choice of hook for this rig is a size 16, but on such a cold day bites might be at a premium, so went down a size. By 12 I was ready to fish, throwing out two well squeezed balls of liquidised bread into the channel running along the opposite bank. Guessing the depth at two feet, I swung out the float rig to the channel, letting it run through at half speed. The float had gone 10 yards, when it dipped and sank down to the tip. Strike! Yes, a nice fish pulling hard against the rod, then it was off. In again, the float trotted 15 yards and disappeared. Strike! This time the fish flashed and rolled, then came off again. I put in another ball of bread and tried again, putting the float up another 6 inches, then easing the float down the swim and stopping it at intervals. The float dived and I was in, this time a roach visible in the clear water. The landing net came out and I slid the roach across the shallows into it.

Lifting the roach from the net with the line, the hook popped out. It had been hooked in the skin of its lip. They were obviously just sucking at the 6 mm bread pellet, as it hovered in the flow, holding back hard giving the roach a chance to take the bait. Going down to a 5 mm punch, the float was cast again and stopped several yards down the channel. The float sank and the rod bent into a good fish, letting it run downstream with the flow, back winding the reel, then slowly winding it back to the edge of the shallows, skimming it across to the net.

This roach took the bait straight down, the smaller punch making the difference, the following cast netting another clonker.

Another ball of bread went in again, well upstream into the channel, trying to bring the fish up to me. It worked, the next roach coming as the float cocked.

A shoal had moved over the bread coating the bottom, regular feed balls, every few fish, keeping them coming, swinging the smaller roach to hand. A lone gudgeon broke the chain, boring deep as it fought upstream.

A freezing chill wind got up, blowing straight downstream, putting a bow in the line and I began missing, or dropping roach, landing about one in three hooked fish. I bulked the shot a foot from the hook and added another foot of line beneath the float, lifting and easing the float down the river with a tight line, constantly mending the line against the wind. Bites were now coming about ten yards downstream, the bob, bob, sink, dipping of the float becoming predictable. If it was bobbing, or half held under, I struck, following up with an easing of the line, bullying resulting in a lost roach.

A figure appeared upstream of the bush opposite and the fish retreated downstream. Well wrapped against the cold and wearing a Cossack style fur hat, the man was on his lunch break from the factory opposite, not realising that his presence on the bank had just scared my fish off. I lobbed over another ball of feed and got my tea and sandwiches out too, passing the time of day with my visitor, before resuming my efforts, bites now coming 15 yards down. The wind was now dragging the float over toward my bank, the float often sinking as I mended the line back to my float, hooking a roach.

Putting in more feed brought the roach back up within range and the tight line put more fish in the net, but I was still losing fish, probably due to the stiff tip action of the 14 foot Browning, my 12 foot Hardy lightweight rod would have held more fish, but would not have given that extra length to control the trot. Unlike many anglers, I do not own a vast array of rods and with most of my tackle at least 30 years old, fishing is all about compromise.

By 2 pm the wind had dropped, allowing better presentation of the bait and my catch rate improved, shallowing up to run through at half speed. Having topped up my bait container with the last of my liquidised bread, I was playing a roach, when a pair of husky type dogs bounded along the towpath toward me, sniffing around my bait. Once the fish was netted, I looked round to see that one of the dogs had its head in the container lapping up my feed, the owner offering a lame “Sorry.”

With no more feed going in, the trots got longer and the chance of fish throwing the size 18 hook increased, a big fish, chub, or roach, took twenty yards downstream, but came off before I could tame its fight. The weak December sun had now sunk low into the trees, bringing an extra chill to the air , the light falling away, making bite detection difficult as the float tip merged into the background.

The roach above was my last fish, by five past three I had run out of bread to punch, every space having been filled with holes.

It had been a busy three hours, the forgotten art of stick float fishing bringing me a 6 lb net of many quality roach and a wish to return before Christmas, weather permitting.

Passing several promising swims on my way back, I noted a couple with the flow under my own bank, ideal for the little Hardy rod. The grass still crunched with frost under my feet and I couldn’t wait to reach the van to turn the heater up to 11.