While friends were enjoying the sunshine in Lanzarote, I was patiently waiting for a gap in the continuous stormy weather, strong winds, rain and more rain, keeping my face pressed to the window like a bored child. The westerly winds abated, soon to be replaced by a gusting northeasterly and the threat of snow. With no idea of the conditions awaiting me, I set off to the small Thames tributary less than two miles away, prepared to return home, if it looked unfishable. Getting out of the van, the river was coloured and pushing, but a tidemark on the trees along the bank indicated a level 9 inches higher the day before. The fishing trolley was trundled along the riverside lane to the hot swim, where the river takes a sharp left turn round the end of the local football pitch and is joined by the outfall from the town water treatment works. Urban fishing at it’s best!
This swim has been monopolised by a pair of other locals so far this year, being in residence each time I’d driven by intending to fish, but today it was empty, although fresh boot prints on the bank and recent tree surgery were evidence of their prolonged occupation.
With liquidised bread as feed and some steamed, rolled slices for the punch, I was looking forward to catching a few roach, as I set up my 14 ft float rod with a 3 No 4 Middy ali stemmed stick float, the 5 lb main line attached to a size 16 hook to 3 lb line, strong enough to handle most of the larger fish likely to put in an appearance. Following an egg sized ball of crumb down the swim, the float shot under first cast and I lifted into a good fish that ran down into the foaming weir stream. The float had been set shallow to start, expecting opportunistic chub to be first on the scene, but no, a good roach rolled in the fast water, before being brought under control, then to the landing net.
Next cast the float slid sideways, the strike being met by a charging run, this time following the script as a small chub made off with the 6 mm pellet of bread, taking full advantage of the current, but soon on the surface and swung to hand.
A second ball of crumb brought another roach and more small chub, before I added another foot to the depth, this time the bait just tripping bottom. The roach were down there, my next cast bringing another quality fish to the net, this one having the parasite responsible for flecking the scales and fins with black spots.
I’d begun fishing at 11 am and was settling in for a good session with half a dozen respectable roach in the keepnet, when a rustle through the bushes behind me, announced the arrival of one of the resident anglers, expecting to fish. We had chatted before, when he had been occupying the swim and now showed me pictures on his phone of a 4 lb common carp, that he had caught the day before from this flooded river. It sounded like he never fished anywhere else nowadays, feeling comfortable in this spot and although he had checked out a few other stretches of this river upstream, that I had suggested, he had not wetted a line yet. Hopefully he left to try one of the new swims.
With my visitor gone, I got back to the job in hand, catching roach, although in fact the next fish was a healthy rudd, which took on the edge of the foam, the bright float visible for one second and gone the next, the fish hooking itself.
Now putting in a grape sized squeezed ball every other cast, the roach were lined up for the bread, an imaginary triangle with it’s base lined by the foam, holding the shoal of mature fish, the float sinking from sight every time it entered the area. The fish just seemed to get bigger each cast, an initial bob of the float being followed by an unmissable sail away. My best roach of the season so far pulled the rod top round as it took line, me lifting and backwinding in the same motion. Again I thought a chub, or maybe a small carp had taken, but a deep flash of silver and the unmistakable raised orange dorsal fin of the big roach well downstream, got my attention and I played the fish back at it’s pace, the extra few ounces making all the difference all the way to the net.
A 12 oz roach any day of the week, this fish never stopped jumping, even in the landing net, being lucky to get this photo. Measured against my rod it went 11 inches.
Even after I had run out of bread feed, the roach kept coming, but now the bitter north wind was beginning to tell on my frozen fingers, the sky had cleared, but the sun was low behind me in the trees and I decided to pack up before my set time of 3 pm, the last of the day being another clonker.
Once again I’m convinced that the bread punch had found and kept feeding fish, that would not have fallen to other methods from this hard fished spot, most being in pristine condition, the bonus being 10 lb of prime roach for a bait cost of 30 pence.