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Big crucian carp tops short break at Hitcham Ponds

October 22, 2020 at 10:59 am

I always try to fish Hitcham Round Pond in the Autumn before the leaves fall, arriving at noon to see the last of the sunshine, as dark clouds were being driven by a strengthening breeze. I was hoping for a few crucians and common carp, plus a skimmer bream on the bread punch from the Intertype AS water, taking advantage of the exchange ticket offered to my own Old Windsor AC.

I had not fished this swim before and found it shallower than expected at only 30 inches with no drop off. Unusually there was no surface activity, such as roach topping, or carp rolling, even the surface was devoid of bubbles from feeding fish. The weather last week had been cold and wet, but today the southern breeze had brought a pleasant rise in the temperature. The water had a bright green tinge.

With no noticeable shelf to aim at, I made up a sloppy mix of coarse liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, while keeping my eye on my 4 x 16 antenna float. It did not move, the 6 mm pellet of bread on the size 16 barbless hook ignored by the many small roach that fill this pond. Not a good sign, but I fed an area straight out in front between six and eight metres out, dropping the float in to the side of the nearest feed. Still no bites, so I went down to the 5 mm punch, the smallest for a size 16 hook, the shot strung out to allow the bread to fall through. Finally a bite, with the bait just off bottom. The float tip dithered and slowly sank;  not the crucian that I had expected, but a small roach.

It had taken time to catch this fish, but now the shoal had woken up and moved over the feed, each fish getting smaller, so more balls of feed went in on both lines to feed them off. Over the eight metre line a lift bite brought a palm sized skimmer bream, which raised my hope of better things to come.

Hope springs eternal and I continued working through the small stuff, both roach and small skimmers. The bites were still difficult to read and hard to hit, some better silver fish bouncing off against my heavy elastic. My next tray of feed was heavier and I went back deeper toward the bottom on the eight metre line, being rewarded by the sight of clusters of bubbles bursting on the surface. Still very small roach and skimmers, until I went up to a 7 mm punch, when the float lifted and bobbed before purposely submerging. The elastic was out following an initial run, then a classic rolling fight as a big crucian carp fought in circles. Breaking the pole down to the top three, the elastic did its job of wearing out the crucian, the golden scaled flanks visible each time it rolled beneath my feet, the landing net ready when the carp popped up on the surface.

I was lucky to land this crucian, the hook being in the very tip of the nose, falling out in the net. I had caught a 3 lb 8 oz crucian from the pond last year and this one was slightly smaller, a couple of ounces short of 3 lb, but it fought to the max.

I lobbed out a couple more balls onto the eight metre line and poured myself a cup of tea, letting the feed settle before casting over again. The surface was disturbed by the movements of a large fish and I waited, the float wavering in the boil, then slowly sinking out of sight. I lifted into the fish, which exploded into life as it powered toward the island stripping out the elastic, while I countered the run by raising the pole and turning to my right, the 35 year old carbon Shakespeare pole creaking under pressure, but again the 12 -18 red elastic did its job, slowing the carp and forcing it to curve back to my bank. As the pressure eased, so the common carp sped up again, heading along in front of me, while I broke the pole down to the top three sections to stay in contact, it passing at top speed heading for the lily bed on my right, with the elastic following. I turned the top three to the left taking the strain and crack, the bottom section split and folded half way up. The carp kept going and I was effectively now on a hand line with no control, watching the elastic disappear into the lilies as the common boiled on the other side. The hook came free, and I was left with a dead pole.

Time for another cup of tea and a think. I have another top three kit for this pole with a lighter elastic fitted at home, which can be swapped over to the heavy elastic, so it is not the end of this pole. It was still only 1:30, too early to go pack up. Back at the van was, my 14 foot Browning rod, so the pole was packed away and returned to the van and I walked back across the field with the holdall.  At the swim I set up the Browning with a fine antenna waggler rig. Probably an hour had elapsed since the bust up, the wind had changed to in my face, drifting the leaves that had been piled up in the corner round to my side of the pond. The light rig kept hanging up on the floating leaves, while the wind drifted the float away from the eight metre line, where bubbles were still rising. I managed to drop a small crucian and four ounce roach, probably due to too much bow in the line. The pole allows a positive upward strike. The fish were just nibbling at the bait and my success rate of hits to missed bites had quadrupled in a negative direction.

Before the pole break it seemed that the bigger fish had taken over the swim, but now I was back on the small stuff and decided to pack up. Usually by now bursts of bubbles from the numerous common carp in the pond would have been coming up over the feed, but today was not usual.


Blackwater chub saves the day

October 16, 2020 at 9:12 pm

I was optimistic for my first visit in a few months to Farnborough and District’s River Blackwater. Recent heavy rain had caused flooding, but I now expected the river to be fining down with a decent bit of colour; just right for some autumn roach fishing. As I walked over the bridge, I was disappointed to see the bottom right across. It was crystal clear and lower than I have ever seen it, but undeterred I pressed on upstream to one of the few swims where fishing the stick float is possible from the bank. Stopping at the swim, I realised that I had left my landing net pole back at the van. Being on the Blackwater Valley public path, there was no way that I was going to leave my trolley unattended, so it was back to the van again, then back upstream to the swim.

Three quarters of a mile walked and half an hour of wasted fishing time. I placed my box in the only gap in the trees. It had greatly reduced in a year and my first retrieve saw the rod top line get caught in the overhang. I would have to be more careful next time. First fish, a gudgeon, was safely steered through the gap, but later as I leaned out to net a roach, the rod top got caught again, leaving the roach jiggling about on the line until it fell off, springing the line up into the branch, causing a tangle. I managed to snag the line and float with my landing net and pulled it free, but the float broke in half. Another broken float.

I decided to load up the trolley again and to walk back downstream to a swim past the bridge that has no trees. When I got there, it was occupied by another angler. What next? Go home? Getting back to the bridge, I decided to fish above it. I had caught roach here before until a pike had turned up. It was worth a try.

I am not one to chop and change swims, but was not too happy with this one either, as from the high bank, I could see right across the bottom. Attaching another float from a winder, I trotted through, finding the depth was under two feet, but with no wind, float control was easy from the top of the high bank. I fed  liquidised bread, mixed with ground hemp, damped to allow small balls to be squeezed up. The idea was to let the feed carry down the swim toward the bridge, where I assumed the roach would be holed up. About the fourth trot, the float dipped then sank and a big gudgeon was swung in.

This was taken about half way to the bridge, and following down another ball of feed, the float went again in the same spot as the rod bent into another gudgeon. Encouraged, I repeated the process, again another bite in the same spot, but missed it. There must be a hollow there, holding the feed and fish. Another missed bite and I scaled down from a 6 mm punch of bread to a 5 mm. That’s better! The lightweight Hardy bent round, the flash of a roach clearly visible as I struck, taking my time to bring the fish back upstream against the strong flow. I guessed that the weir half a mile upstream was fully open to run off the overnight rain. From the high bank, I had to lean over with the landing net to get the net near the roach, the angle to the water too steep for comfort, but I guided it over the rim and scooped it up.

A fussy bite and another gudgeon followed, but the next cast the float passed the hot spot, drifting round to a side eddy where the float sank. I struck, the rod bent, then dead weight as I reeled back a stick. Another trot that passed through into the eddy brought back another twig. I now cast out to the middle, allowing the float to swing round to fish six feet further out, the float taking its time to reach the bridge, where I could just see it. Suddenly it was gone and I struck as the line stretched tight. Wham, the rod bent double as a long silver fish rolled on the surface and ran downstream, while I backwound the ABU 501. This was a reasonable chub, which was now searching for snags along the side of the bridge. It rolled again in a foot of water alongside the wall, thankfully heading out to the middle away from the snag filled eddy, while I held, then reeled to keep contact. Ten yards downstream, the chub’s white mouth was clear of the water and I steered it toward the net, again having trouble getting it stay in, lifting the pole with my foot to finally secure it.

A sigh of relief and time for a cup of tea and a sandwich. I fed a couple more balls out and down, followed by the float. Another bite in the same place, I paused and struck. Nothing. The bread was gone. A chub would have run with it. The float again travelled all the way to the bridge without a touch, then a dip and a dive. Another monster gudgeon was bending the rod again. They fight hard for their size. I tried back over the hollow. A couple of dips, but no proper bites. I think the fish could see the float in the shallow water and were wary of the bait.

Back over to the middle and the float worked its way down and under the bridge. It disappeared with line following and I swept the rod back. A definite fish, not a gudgeon, but a roach by the feel of it, as it tapped the rod top on the return. For safety, I leaned out with the landing net and brought it in.

This was my last fish landed, a smaller chub did manage to reach the snags in the eddy, depositing the hook in a branch. I let the line go slack for the chub to swim out, which it did leaving my hook behind.

All in all it had been a frustrating session, I couldn’t be bothered to untangle the hook link with cold hands and the light was going, so I packed up, the saving grace being the chub in my net, my personal best for this part of the Blackwater.

Bread punch commons and crucian carp late call at Allsmoor

October 9, 2020 at 6:08 pm

It has been a week of showers and sunshine. Every sunny day I had previous commitments that stopped me fishing, the others it rained. Then after a morning of heavy rain, the TV forecaster was talking of a glorious sunset, as the clouds would melt away. It was still raining at 2 pm with a strong wind and I gave up on the idea of fishing and got on with something else, but a patch of blue in the sky was creeping closer, giving me hope of that promised golden sunset. I gathered up my gear and loaded the trolley for the only fishing option available at short notice, the walk down to Allsmoor pond not far from home. The blue sky passed quickly, driven by a chill wind; not too welcoming for my arrival at 4 pm.

My preferred swim would keep the wind at my back and the sun out of my eyes, but when I got there some kind soul, or souls had launched a Tesco trolley into the water, too far from the bank to reach. What logic was behind this act of vandalism? Tesco is about half a mile away and the last 300 yards is over a rough path. There are some strange people about.

Back to the fishing. I continued round to a swim opposite and mixed up my ground bait, bread crumb, ground carp pellets, ground hemp and hempseed, putting four balls in 7 to 8 metres out. I then set up my pole with a small waggler rig swinging it out over the feed. The float sank immediately and a small rudd came in.

These rudd are an occupational hazard in this pond, you have to wade through them before the better fish move in over the feed. I often catch a few decent rudd, but this time they were all small.

I scraped up more groundbait into balls, hoping to feed off the rudd, but they just kept pulling the float down.

Then a good sign, pin hole bubbles bursting over the feed, while the float went in and did not disappear immediately. It sat, then lifted, before sinking to the surface and cruising off. Lifting into the strike, the heavy elastic came out as the hook was set, the fish unaware for a second that it had been hooked. It steamed off to the right toward a bed of lilies, unchecked by the 12-18 elastic, causing me to react by pulling back against it, a risky move that could have pulled the size 16 barbless hook free, but the carp turned broadside on and headed out into the pond, where I knew it could be beaten.

If it had turned into my bank I’m sure it would have been lost among the many snags. Like the shopping trolley opposite, someone has thrown the recent council tree trimmings into the water, my swim needing to be cleared with the landing net before I could put my net in, even then I had to leave a large ten foot bough in the water, it being too heavy to lift. I got the impression that one of the locals is anti fishing.

It was now apparent that the rudd had cleared off, as again the float just sat unmolested, until a series of dips and bobs of the tip indicated a crucian carp bite, as it sucked the punched bread between its lips. A slow submerge and I was playing a nice crucian that stirred up the mud with its rolling fight.

As can be seen, this otherwise perfect crucian had a badly ripped mouth, victim of a large barbed hook. Back out again, I cast to the middle of a burst of bubbles. No dithering this time and the float sank away as another crucian made off with the bread.

So much for that golden sunset, a black cloud was now moving in from the west, blocking out the last remaining rays and I was having trouble seeing the slot in my punch. It was only 5:15 and sunset was not due for another hour, but the sullen gloom crept closer.

The next fish ran like a carp, but was one of the colourful crucians that inhabit the pond.

Bubbles were steadily rising now and a bite was certain each cast, this time it was another common carp that that fought all the way to the net.

That dark cloud was now overhead and a heavy drizzle began to hiss on the surface and I pulled my waterproof jacket over my head, not having time to put it on, as the float was gone again.

These small crucians had taken over, the poor light creating strange colours from my camera.

Darker still, the camera was struggling without the flash. I could still see the float though and netted another.

The flash was on for this last crucian. It was still raining and I had to pack up as it was getting darker by the minute. It was just after 6 pm, that golden sunset would have given me another half hour of fishing.


A short but sweet session from a small local pond that never fails to fill my net. This a free fishery under the control of the council, which is unfortunately open to abuse by the mindless few.



Homespun cider making made easy

October 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm

It is cider making time again, the temperature has dropped and apples are abundant, either to be scrounged, scrumped, or gathered from the wild. Over the past few weeks we have gradually accumulated over 60 lb of several varieties of donated garden windfalls, both cookers and eaters along with feral apples gathered from local hedge rows. It was time to literally dust off the cobwebs from the “equipment” stored each year in the shed and begin on a cool, dry late September morning.

A typical mix of apples in the washing bin, ready to be processed.

Here is the production line that I have used over the years to extract the juice from the apples ready for fermenting. Don’t laugh, yes it looks crude and very basic, but don’t forget that people have been making cider for hundreds of years with very rustic equipment, mashing the apples with heavy poles and pouring the rough juice into barrels and leaving it to ferment from the natural yeasts in the air and the apples themselves. My two pieces of modern equipment are a garden shredder, for creating the mash and a car hydraulic bottle jack for compressing the juice on my home made wooden frame, which is screwed and glued together using 4 x 2 rough timber. As can be seen, the frame is held in an old Workmate.

This is a two person line. My wife cuts the apples into pieces that will fit into the shredder, removing any rotten fruit as she goes, while I collect the mash from the bowl beneath the shredder.

Note that much of the mash is already juice. The mash is ladled into an old ice cream container, which has netting, or muslin draped over it. The netting is then folded tight over the mash, forming a parcel of mash, squeezing out some of the juice along the way into the container. The parcel is lifted out, the container emptied into the 5 gallon bin holding the squeezed juice. Without a press, just wringing out the mash parcel would produce about 75% of the juice on its own.

The parcel is then placed on the press platen, the secondary platen placed on top then a block, followed by the jack, which is pumped to squeeze the remaining juice out.

This image shows the roasting tray around which the press was made, with the pine platen, part of an old shelf, in place and the parcel ready to squeeze. The tray can be lifted out easily to drain the juice. I considered fitting a drain plug at one time, but this takes only seconds to lift and pour out the juice, so why complicate matters? Due to the tannin in the juice, it soon turns brown, but a test taste proves it to be pleasantly sweet. Sweetness means sugar and sugar ferments into alcohol. Floating a hydrometer into the juice gave a Specific Gravity (SG) of 106, enough for around 6 % alcohol, when fully fermented. Enough for a pint, or two around a summer BBQ.

This image shows the press at full squish, with the juice flowing into the tray. Another platen and parcel would speed up the whole juicing process, but this system and rig produced 3 gallons of juice from 6o lb of apples in 2 hours. We started with a cup of coffee at 11 am and finished with a toasted cheese sandwich at 1 pm for lunch. Perfect timing. I used to make 6 gallons of cider each year, with a break for lunch, but you were very ready for that cup of tea at 3 pm.

A useful byproduct of cider pressing is the left over apple cakes. Once these would have been fed to the family pig, but the worms like them just as much, boosting the working of the garden compost heap and giving a ready supply for fishing.

We now have a bin full of juice, what next? When I made my first cider, I lived in a rural setting with my own trees and hedgerows full of crab apples a hundred yards down the lane. I wanted to be as traditional as possible, deciding to only use the wild yeast from the apples, that formed as a light foam on the top of the juice. Stirring in the foam, I then poured the juice into demi jons, put on air locks and left the cider to get on with fermenting in my kitchen. I racked them off before Christmas and did a taste test. Each demi jon had a different flavour, one very harsh and dry, two very bland and one perfect with a sweet dryness. From then on I used shop bought sachets of wine, champagne, or cider yeast, sprinkled over the juice, all giving good consistent results.

This year I have gone one step further, stirring in a sachet of nutrient twenty minutes before adding the yeast, which I started off in 100ml of warm water at 30 C degrees. According to the blurb, the fermenting time will be reduced, which will result in a happier wife, who gets fed up with cleaning around the demi jons.

Certainly the initial rapid fermentation that takes place within the first few days has been accelerated, the demijons below very active after only 18 hours.

I used a jug to remove the rough juice from the 5 gallon bin, then pour through a fine mesh, or sieve in to the demijons. I then use rolled up newspaper to stop the rapid fermentation from bubbling over as the yeast eats up the sugar, producing a thick brown scum of dead yeast, which will be removed after a few days.

After three days the cider had settled down and I cleaned the necks of messy debris, then fitted air locks, seeing bubbles blowing through the air locks immediately.

The lees and settled out yeast can be seen in the bottom of the cleaned demijons. These will be left for another two to four weeks, until fermentation has slowed down and the cider has changed to a slightly hazy golden colour. At this stage the cider should be racked off into a clean demijon. Racking is the process of syphoning off the cider from the lees using a tube, which is placed into the demijon with the clean container at a lower point. I put the full demijon on the kitchen worksurface, with the clean one on a chair below, sucking through the tube to draw the cider through and down into the empty one, watching the tube as it empties the demijon, allowing the tube to draw off a small amount of yeast into the new container, making it hazy again. Top up with water and refit the air lock. The emptied demijon will contain about 20 mm of yeast, which can be washed out ready to repeat for the next one.

A TIP HERE. To avoid the syphon sucking up too much yeast at this point, a small piece of cane can be tied to the tube with, say 25 mm (depending on the depth of yeast)  protruding from the end of the tube, which will prevent the syphon from getting too close to the yeast.

If a still dry cider is required, then move the demijon to a cold place like a garage, until the cider has cleared, usually about two weeks. All fermentation should have stopped. There will be a slight film of lees at the bottom of the demijon, which should be racked into a  clean one, avoiding the lees. The cider can now be bottled, pouring into a jug, then through a funnel into bottles. I use old pint beer bottles. Tasting it at this stage, the cider will be dry and acidic, but will mature enough after 4 to 6 weeks to be drunk, when left in a cool place off the ground. The longer the better.

A medium sweet still cider can be produced at this this time, after the cooling, by adding 4 oz of sugar, dissolved in hot water as a syrup to the racked off clear cider, when cooled, sealing the top of the demijon and giving it a good shake to mix the sugar, before bottling.

Obviously, the more cider that has reached this stage, the more experiments can be carried out.

For a dry sparkling cider, after the second racking, having brought some yeast through, keep the cider in the kitchen, until the lees have settled and fermentation should have stopped, usually another week, or two. Rack again, drawing through a small amount of yeast. The cider will be slightly hazy and can be bottled, adding a level teaspoon of white sugar to each bottle. Store in a cool place. The cider will clear leaving a paint of hardened lees in the bottom of the bottle, although care should be taken when pouring to avoid them, as they are quite bitter. I am told that the lees contain some valuable vitamins, but I’ll take their word for that. The beer bottles will contain any pressure generated, while a heaped teaspoon will result in a slightly sweeter cider. I don’t advise two full teaspoons for more sweetness, as a champagne style outpouring from the bottle, including the lees, will occur.

I prefer a strong, dry, sparkling cider and add 4 oz of dissolved white sugar after the first racking and top up with water. A slight, fresh fermentation will take place, when most of the yeast will be used up after another week, or two. Rack off again, drawing off a small amount of yeast, continuing as above.

I do not advise plastic caps for the bottles, as they can lift off, allowing air in, which will ruin the cider. Compressed bottle caps are the answer. When I first started bottling, I used a hand held swaging tool. The cap was placed over the mouth of bottle, the tool placed over it and tapped down with a hammer. Each year I tragically lost a few bottles this way and the precious liquid inside and eventually bought a much more efficient, safe alternative.

The original swaging tool is at the bottom.

I store my cider on a rack on the north side of the garage to avoid possible over heating in the summer. My usual output of 50, or more pints a year, resulted in a surplus, which has built up and am currently working my way through four year old cider. Three month old cider is drinkable, but it definitely improves with age.

I hope that this has persuaded you to have a go at cider making. There are many varieties of cider sitting on the supermarket shelf, but the satisfaction of making and drinking your own cannot be beaten.






Autumn bread punch roach feed on the River Thames at Windsor

September 30, 2020 at 10:55 am

The Indian Summer has given way to cool days and I was hoping for a pleasure boat free day, while fishing for roach at Old Windsor AC’s Home Park stretch of the Thames this week. It was not to be, in the shadow of Windsor Castle, as I walked across the cricket pitches from the carpark, I could already hear the drone of river traffic.

Having fished one of the deeper upstream swims a couple of months ago, I was keen to try further down off the shallows, taking my wellie boots to avoid getting my feet wet, but luckily found a swim raised up from the water ideal for my tackle box, while there were a couple of feet depth off the gravel bed to lay out my keepnet.

Due to river craft trying to cut the corner on the inside of the bend, the river was dredged years ago, giving eight feet only two rod lengths out and I elected to use my 2 gram Bolo float again on the 14 foot Browning float rod. Feed was going to be liquidised bread, ground hemp, ground carp pellets and hemp seed, damped down to give firm balls of feed. I also intended to start off by using a bait dropper to get the feed down quickly to avoid the bleak, which were topping all over the surface. On the size 16 hook was a 5 mm punch of bread.

To begin, a few bait droppers full of the heavy mix helped set the depth of the float, fishing just off the level gravel bottom. The shot was bulked 18 inches from the hook with no tell tale shot, preferring to allow the bread to sink freely to the bottom and lift up when the float was held back. First trot the float dipped and sank as a small roach took the bread, swinging it in to hand.

Next trot the float dipped, then popped up again, as it ran down the swim, each time it dipped I reacted to strike, only for it to come up again. I held the float back and it sank out of sight and I was playing another small roach.

This was working. They were only small roach and I had hoped for better fish, but the net was filling and after ten roach put in another couple of bait droppers. I caught another roach, then the river sped up. They had opened the lock gates and boats were coming.

This barge barley rippled the surface of the river, but he next one caused a bow wave that dragged my keepnet from the shelter of the bank.

The bites stopped while the flotilla passed and I wondered what the capacity of Romney Lock was as the waves pounded the bank. Was it five, or six of these massive sea going cruisers? I lost count. I put in another couple of bait droppers and went up to a 6 mm punch and caught a better roach.

They were certainly down there on the feed, the float going in with an underhand flick, settling and usually diving straight away. I would always miss this bite, but if left, it would bob back up, hold and dip and any strike in the next yard usually resulted in the tap, tap of a roach being brought to the surface and over the weed bed in front of me, then swung to hand.

I netted a clonker roach. At last the better fish had moved in over the feed. Next cast another good roach was fighting back for a change and I took my time landing it, amazed to see a perch of the same size rush out of the weeds on the attack.

Another flotilla was out of the traps and racing down toward London, the skippers purposely leaning over their steering wheels. With such a good view of Windsor Castle, you would have thought that they would have eased off the throttles to take in the view?

I began to get lift bites. Bleak? No, it was roach, the boats must have stirred up the bottom and the fish had come up. I lowered the float a foot and switched to feeding small balls by hand. More lift bites and more roach, but also bleak.The bleak would swirl on the surface, perch would rush in causing an explosion of tiny silver fish. A perch grabbed a bleak on the way in and I enjoyed a brief tussle with a six ounce perch, that eventually let go. I had a few red worms with me and shallowed up again, dropping the float among the swirl, the float speeding off downstream, the rod bending into another perch, that dived down into the weeds, shedding the hook and snagging me. Pulling for a break, I got the rig back. That would teach me.

Back to the roach. Resetting the depth, I found that the hot spot was two feet off the bottom, where I guessed that the balls were breaking up, the surface eruptions coming from the bleak that were feeding on the outer coating of the balls as they dropped through.

The earlier sun had gone and now it started to rain. My tatty hoodie was back on and I began coating it with roach slime as I swung in fish after fish. Due to the walk involved in getting to the swim, I was down to a minimum of tackle again, my float rod doing a good job, but a pole would have done a better one.

A rod bending chub made straight for the weeds, but was persuaded back out again into the waiting landing net.

I was now down to my last piece of punch bread and at this rate I would soon run out, estimating that I had at least a hundred fish in the net, mostly small, but perfectly formed.

I was soon scratching round discarded crusty bread to punch holes in, as the roach seemed to be getting bigger.

Finally there were no more holes to punch and my last roach was netted, again another weight builder.

It was time to pack up anyway, having proved my point that the bread punch continues to be a timeless bait. I had fished this same swim as a 15 year old, using bread crust on a size 12 hook under a porcupine quill float, feeding balls of bread mash and hemp seed mixed with Kellogg’s corn flakes, my secret mix of the day, to catch a string of sizable eight inch roach.

Pulling in my net, this catch looked impressive, expecting to at least top 10 lbs, but the scales settled at 9 lb 4 oz, not a club match winner by today’s standards, but an enjoyable session anyway.




Quality perch reward patience on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

September 25, 2020 at 2:08 pm

Bingley angler Johnathon, a contract chef, has been on a fitness regime since being furloughed, which includes a five mile run every day, starting out each morning along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at the bottom of his road. On his run he had spotted a shoal of large perch in an area not fished by him before and on returning home ordered a range of bait from pinkies to worms from the Angling Bait Company, taking advantage of their overnight courier service. Two days after spotting the shoal, he was up early with his Frenzee HGV trolley loaded for the mile walk to the canal peg.

A workout in itself, Jonathon arrived to find the canal crystal clear, the opposite of a few days earlier, not a good sign on this Yorkshire canal, but undeterred he set out his stall to fish the pole down the deeper boat road.

With a wide selection of bait, Johnathon was optimistic for a decent session.

Selecting a Guru F1 foat to a size 20 Kamasan B511 barbless hook, he fed a few pinkies out toward the far side and waited for a fish to take his single pinkie hook bait.

Nothing. Next step was to start a chopped worm line to the right of his main feed, hoping that those perch were still around, but still no bites. Johnathon has been in this situation before and all it usually takes is a boat to come through to stir up the mud, but the back end of September is a bit late for the boating season on the Leeds and Liverpool and he waited three hours to hear the steady throb of a barge motor.

Just the ticket. Sometimes boats are a curse, but this one was salvation from a dry net, colouring up the canal.

Once the water had settled, bites came on the red pinkie, small roach at first, but as regular feed went in, some better roach responded, but the loss of a near pound roach on the size 20 barbless, scared off the shoal. Maybe it had been a pike that had spooked the shoal, as after a dead period he managed to hook a small roach, only for it to be chased in by a pike. The swim went dead again and he dropped back in over the chopped worm feed with a heavy perch rig and half a worm on the hook.

Ten minutes later the float slid away and the elastic was out, as a good perch of at least a pound hugged the bottom in its first run. Soon the float was visible again and the perch steered to the waiting landing net.

Another wait and the float cruised off again, but this time there was much less resistance as a small fish made off with the worm, Jon almost falling off his seat at the sight of a miniature jack pike hanging onto the bait.

The perch were still there, but he had to wait for them, taking another six over the next two and a half hours before calling it a day. Persistence had eventually paid off, with the perch crowding out his landing net for an end of day shot.




Big roach take the bread punch despite the drought

September 21, 2020 at 6:33 pm

With only the morning available to fish, I decided that a visit to my local River Cut fitted the bill, but the sight of bare stones and exposed mud below the trickle of a weir, made me hesitate and reconsider my preferred swim. Intending to fish the stick float, I required flow, but those that I passed were static. There was only one swim I knew of that would have movement, it was a long way downstream and difficult to reach along the bank, but could be worth the walk.

Years a go a large tree had blown down away from the river, pushing a mound of earth into the stream and reducing the width by half and many floods later, a deep channel has been carved out between the banks. There are so many productive swims further upstream, that I rarely venture down this far, although past visits have often brought surprises, a large goldfish and a bream spring to mind.

The downstream feature is a dead elder stretching across to the other side, merging with a snaggy bush growing out from the opposite bank, dangerous territory for the light weight stick float rig.

Pushing my way through the Himalayan Balsam to the swim, I was ready to fish by 9 am. I dropped a couple of small balls of plain liquidised bread into the middle and close to the outcrop, followed by my 4 No 4 stick float, weighted with just the tip showing, the size 16 barbless hook with a 5 mm pellet of bread a few inches off bottom in the 3 foot deep swim. The cloud of bread went straight down, while the float barely moved. Lifting and recasting over the feed, began to produce slight tremors to the float tip, but nothing to strike at and I began to think that a pole with a fine antenna float to a size 20 would have been better.

Reducing the punch size to 4 mm got an immediate bite and a spate of gudgeon, sucking at the bread, bobbing the float, but not taking it under. Normally the flow would drag the float under, but I found that an induced take worked, a twitch upstream resulting in a pull under of the float, enough to hook the gudgeon.

Hoping to attract some better fish, I mixed in some ground carp pellets and ground hemp, putting in a few more small balls, allowing the bait to sink through the cloud. More gudgeon, then the float went straight down and the rod was bending to a sizable silver fish, a fat roach fighting bank to bank.

At last a decent fish, this perfect roach gorging the 4 mm punch of bread. Another couple of balls went in and I let the bread drift down between them. Bob, bob, sink. I was playing an even better roach, that ran upstream, then turned to bury its nose in the snags beneath the overhanging elder. It came free, ran to the opposite bank, then back again to my waiting net, all the fun over in a minute.

Gorged again, the small punch pellet being sucked straight in. I put on my bait apron, as things could get slimy, casting in again over a small ball. Bob, bob, sink, brace the strike, not a roach, but a gudgeon swinging to hand. Suddenly the pace picked up and the bites stopped. The healthy green tinge had turned to a dull brown murk in minutes.

It was just past 9:30 am, and the fishing had gone dead. This influx of mucky water had an instant affect on the fishing, probably due to the lack of other water available to dilute it. I increased the depth to lay the bait on the bottom over the feed, while I poured a cup of tea. The float bobbed and sank with a tiny gudgeon hanging on the hook, the only bite in half an hour. The flow slowed to nothing again and I shallowed up, more in hope than judgement, only for the float to sink away as a small rudd searched through the feed.

More gudgeon, rising up through the cloud to take on the drop. The roach would soon follow, I hoped, but what did follow was more mucky water, picking up the flow again. You can’t go on flogging a dead horse, or swim in my case, so I packed up and was on my way back to the van by noon.

A dozen more roach like these were on the cards, but sometimes we have to be thankful for small mercies.


Roach fishing on the River Stour at Meadowbank, Christchurch

September 13, 2020 at 8:27 pm

The promise of an Indian Summer caused me to book my campervan into Meadowbank Holiday’s campsite for a few days this week, the main attraction being the Dorset river Stour that borders the site, the added bonus is, residents fish for free. A happy coincidence, was that a long time match teammate and later fishing rival John Veazey was booked in with his wife Julie for the two weeks spanning the days that my wife Julie and I were visiting.

John has stayed at the site a few times in the past and had given me a basic heads up on methods; stick float down the inside, waggler, or Bolo float down the middle, as it is also at least ten feet deep, roach, dace and chub being the target fish. I was intending to try bread punch over a heavy mix of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets, ground hemp and hempseed, fed on the bottom with a bait dropper. Back up was more hemp, with tares on the hook, while I had raided the home compost heap for some brandlings, just in case there were a few perch about.

Arriving on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, we settled in, then went for a walk along the river, finding most swims occupied by barbel fishers, but one man was catching; Terry, down from Hertfordshire, was getting roach and dace on the stick float with hemp and tares, although his comments that the river was not fishing as well as in the past, did not encourage me to walk back for the rods. We located John and Julie’s caravan and were invited in for a cup of tea, while John got his rods ready for the following morning.

With a couple of hours until our own evening meal, I decided to take John’s advice and head for his favourite peg 2, but by the time we arrived back on the bank, 2 and most of the others were occupied, setting up in a peg between trees, with a bush sticking out over the flow down my inside. Seeing the swim, I abandoned my intended 14 foot Browning and 2 gram Bolo rig, for the 12 foot Hardy and a 6 No 4 stick float. Unwilling to clutter my camper with a trolley and tackle box, I was carrying my essentials in a Tupperware box, with the rods made up in a Drennan ready to fish holdall. Travelling Light as the old Cliff Richard song goes.

Plumbing the depth at 8 feet a rod length out, I squeezed up some firm balls of feed and dropped them in upstream, intending to fish down to the bush, which looked like it might hold a chub, or two.

First trot the float dipped a few times then held under long enough to strike. Missed it! No, a minnow came spinning to the surface, still hanging onto the 7 mm pellet of bread. This was minnow alley and after my first dozen, bulked the shot close to the hook to punch through them. This time the float went in and kept on going down and away. Chub? Too solid a run, heading upstream and pulling hard, bending the little Hardy well over, as it passed me, the dark bars of a decent perch visible. Sitting on top of a high bank, the landing net just reached over the streamer weed close in, to net my first Stour fish.

This bruiser of a perch was obviously after minnows and had taken the bread as it fell toward the bottom. With the chance that there were more perch about, I double hooked a fat brandling and cast in, watching the float as minnows attacked the bait, holding back at the bush and striking when it pulled under. The hook was bare. This was repeated several times in the hope that perch would be attracted by the frenzied minnows and take the worm. Each time the hook was stripped by the mini piranhas. Later one of the regulars came along and showed me a picture of a 3 lb perch he had caught, saying that lob worms were the answer, as the they were too tough for the minnows.

I went back to the bread punch, casting down to the bush and holding back the float, using the bait dropper to feed at my feet, plus firm balls of the mix upstream. It began to work, I was still getting minnows, but also hooked a couple of dace from positive bites, but each time they pulled off the hook in the dense weed. No wonder this was one of the empty pegs. It had been an interesting first hour on the river, but it was time for a hot meal in the camper.


The following day we were going to do the tourist thing around Christchurch centred around a pub lunch, but first I walked down to watch John fish peg 1 close to his caravan, his favoured peg 2 already occupied. Fishing two thirds across with a 3 gram Bolo float and feeding hemp with a black urid bean on the hook, preferring them to tares. A small roach and a dace were all he had in that hour and he complained that last year he was catching 2 lbs of fish an hour. He later told me that over three hours of fishing that morning, he had only managed nine small silver fish.

We did not rush down to the river that evening, again finding few swims free, most occupied by biteless barbel fishers again, but the inside of a bend did not look as weedy as the last, this time getting out the 14 foot Browning to fish a 2 gram Bolo float over my heavy mix of bread and hemp.

The minnows seemed to be absent two thirds over, where there was a clear line between the streamer weed and a few balls of feed soon brought bites in the ten foot deep swim.

Two bites brought two good fish lost in sunken weed as I brought them over, so I shallowed up a foot and decided to bring the fish close to the surface next time. Success, a good roach stayed on as I brought it over the layers of weed.

Bites were now reliable, the fish moving up in the water to the feed, but I was still losing fish, bringing them to the surface allowing a chance to shed the size 16 barbless hook. It was frustrating, but another roach stayed on to the net.

Then the bane of my life, a pike moved into the swim, chasing through the feed. It was only small, about 2 lbs, but each ball of feed brought more bursts of panicking small fish, and the bites stopped, so once again we packed up and returned to the camper.


A call from John said that he was setting up further downstream and that there was a clear swim upstream of it, and parking nearby, did we want him to save it for us? A positive answer saw us quickly stowing all the movable objects and disconnecting the electrical hookup, before driving to the parking spot.

The bank here was almost level with the river, but with a cordon of reeds in front of it, the only way through for a larger fish being a gap to the side, while the landing net at 3 metres was too short to reach over the reeds in front. I would have to worry about that if the problem arose.

Upstream in the next swim was Terry and I walked up for a chat. Although he said it was a struggle, he was catching on hemp and tares again, using a heavy Avon float with the shot strung out, while trotting through the middle of the river.

I still had hemp and tares left and pulled out the Browning 14 footer with the 2 gram Bolo float, firing a few pouches of hemp upstream of my peg to lay down a bed of feed out in front of me. The depth was 10 feet, but I started at 9 feet to the float antenna, expecting the fish to be taking on the drop close to the bottom. John was first to take a fish, a small roach, which I copied after a few casts. There were fish here, but the bites were fussy and hard to hit, not what I would expect with tares on a size 14 hook.

Feeding several grains of hemp every other cast across the middle, the bites changed from dips and tips to solid pull downs and I was playing my first decent fish, only to lose the quality roach, as I tried to manoeuvre it through the gap in the reeds. Feeding another pouch of hemp I tried again, another fine roach was on, this time playing it to a standstill, then sliding it through the reeds on its side.

Another clonking Stour roach soon followed, the bites starting just out in front from the middle, usually as a half dip of the float, progressing to a firm pull under.

I was still losing fish, a large dace bouncing off, while another larger fish, which I guessed was a perch stayed deep, swimming up to the reeds and stopping. I tried to pull it up and over the obstacle, but the hook pulled free.

The flow was slow and the bites took time to develope, but roach were steadily filling the keepnet.

John had been catching bleak and a lift bite made me think the same, but the strike saw a large fish streak over to the trees on the far side, before coming off. I lowered the float another foot and cast back over, another lift bite and yes this time, a bleak.

Another lift bite was a roach this time, which laid the float flat before I hit it.

I had enlisted my wife Julie to operate the catapult, apparently she had made her own when she was aged nine. After a few hilarious attempts, her accuracy improved. I always knew that she had hidden talents. The fish responded by coming up higher to the hemp, shallowing up again making it easier to hit the fish.

This quality roach was followed by a fat dace, no doubt gorged on hemp.

John was not having such a good day on the Bolo float and switched to the waggler, getting more bites but smaller fish, while I piled on the agony, when my rod bent over and I backwound the ABU 501 reel, as a chub powered away downstream, before being brought under control to the landing net.

The roach were now lined up taking the hemp, with the occasional dace getting to the tare first.

My swim was still alive, but John wanted to pack up, so I ended on a high with yet another clonking roach.

Oh well it all came good in the end with a reasonable net of silvers, helped by River Lea angler Terry, who topped up my diminishing stock of hempseed, when my container was accidentally knocked over.

Learning a new water is never easy and I would be happy to return to Meadowbank next year for another go.

Slow day at the Braybrooke Office. No tench!

September 1, 2020 at 7:43 pm

With the morning free, I promised myself a few hours tench fishing at Braybrooke’s Jeanes’s Pond, heading back to the same swim, hoping to improve on the two tench and half a dozen small commons and a small mirror, that I caught two weeks ago.

Last time, I chose this swim to shelter from the sun and to be out of the wind, but today there was only a hazy sun and no wind, in fact there was quite a chill in the air left over from a cold clear night.The first change was no surface bubbles, but hey, the bread punch and my tench mix of crushed hemp and carp pellets, plus hemp seed would soon change that, wouldn’t it? Er, no. After an hour, there were only a few pin prick bubbles and just four small roach in the net. The rig was the same, a 2 gram antenna float to bulk shot 12 inches from the size 16 barbless hook and a No 6 tell tale four inches from the hook. The depth had been set to a single shot under the float and a test with the plummet proved all was the same.

I had started on a 6 mm punch to avoid the very small roach, while offering the larger bait for the tench and carp, but this was not working, so went down to a 5 mm punch. The bites so far had been very fussy, barely sinking the 6 mm of exposed antenna and had missed six of the ten fish. I would have said that they were crucian carp from the nibbling dips and bobs, but the ones that I hit were all small roach.

What to do? Change tactics, or keep plugging away. Too set in my ways to change, I kept feeding; a small ball to the left, while fishing to the right, then visa versa, a typical winter method, when the fishing is hard. Hold on a minute, this is supposed to be summer! Two weeks ago it was a fish a chuck, now look at me struggling for bites. The concentrated feed was having an effect, the roach were more numerous and getting bigger.

The next change was from natural slice to steamed and rolled bread, this giving a more dense pellet. The bites improved. The roach had been blowing the pellet in and out of their lips, giving the slight dips and raising of the antenna. They did not seem too interested in feeding, but now the float was holding down long enough to strike. My catch rate went up to two out of three bites.

At about 11 am, there was a massive disturbance under the surface, throwing up a burst of bubbles through my swim, either a pike, or a large carp. The bites stopped. I got out the tea and sandwiches and waited, then waited some more. Time to pack up. The float went under and a better roach was fighting hard before being brought round to the landing net.

I kept going, at least the roach were feeding again, even if I may have to wait until next year for another tench. I would only be in my wife’s way if I went home now. Give it a bit longer and I will be in time for lunch. The float held down and the elastic came out. Something was fighting back. Get the landing net ready, the fish rolled on the surface long enough to be swept into the net. One of the small commons that have appeared this year.

There were no more where this came from. The sun was on the water and the bites dried up. This time I did pack up. The bailiff came along and told me that the club’s top match winner had struggled in a swim three pegs away the day before. This made me feel only slightly better.

Not a disaster by any means, but did have one dry net. The one that I brought just to put the tench in.





Pike trouble cuts short River Whitewater tryout

August 25, 2020 at 4:31 pm

A month ago I joined a work party on Farnborough and District’s River Whitewater, the lower end, close to where it joins the River Blackwater, having been neglected and overgrown in recent years. One of the swims cleared looked ideal for the stick float and this week I made an afternoon visit to give it a try.

With a stile to climb, I left my tackle box and trolley in the van, travelling light with my rod set up in it’s ready to use bag, with essentials like bread punches, hooks and a disgorger in my bait bag. Knowing that I have caught plenty of perch fly fishing for trout in the upper reach of the river, I had brought a dozen small worms as an alternative bait to my usual bread punch.

Settling down on the bank, I soon found out that this was a bit of a parrot cage, with my twelve foot Hardy scraping the branches above my head, but I have coped with worse and finding three feet of water over toward the trees on the far side, began to fish. A couple of balls of liquidised bread were followed down with my float, with no response. Another ball over and the float trotted ten yards before sliding under. Strike, something there and I reeled back a small chublet.

Four more of these, then five yards down the float the float sank, more resistance and a better chub.

On my light tackle, a 4 No 4 float to a size 16 barbless hook, this little chub gave a good account of itself, as did the next small chub, that took the 7 mm punch of bread.

Next trot a roach had found the bread feed, and I got the landing net ready, but then, whoomph a pike took it, storming off downstream, before turning and swimming along my bank, shaking its head with the roach across its jaws. It was only about three pounds and swam into the landing net, but turned before I could lift it. I thought I had the pike beat, when it rolled in mid river, but it dived down toward a sunken tree downstream and cut through the hook line when I tried to stop it. Time for a new hook.

I threw over another ball of feed and cast in to it, the float sinking straight away. What was it, not a chub diving for cover, or a bouncing roach, this fish hugging the bottom with a dogged fight. It was a perch. Not for the first time, the bread had been taken on the drop mistaken for a small fish.

There were obviously perch about and after a few trots without a bite, I got out the bait box with the the worms. First time in the float sank again, this time with a better perch.

The perch were all over the river, some only five inches long, others better sized, needing the net, but it was good sport, the float disappearing out of sight each time, not knowing how big they were until the hook was set. I had only grabbed about a dozen worms from the compost heap and they were soon gone, so it was back to the bread.

After the pike I had continued feeding a few balls past the middle and I was pleased, when the float dipped, then held and I was reeling in a small roach.

Good news. I cast in again, the float went under and I was playing another perch, probably the best of the day. Another perch on the bread.

Another small ball over and I eased the float though again, a dip and a sink. This time it was a roach, a bit bigger and I netted it for safety.

They seemed to be back in the swim. I missed the next bite, but here was no mistaking the next, as a better roach put a bend in the rod. A swirl and the pike had grabbed this roach, continuing to swim upstream, visible in the sunlight. I was determined to get it in this time, back winding whenever it pulled away, following with the rod as it ran downstream, turning it back to the landing net, but the Hardy was too soft to stop it going under the tree and it snagged me below my keep net. I let the line go slack, hoping that it would swim out, it did, but deeper into the roots. I pulled for a break and got my float back, but it was broken. Pike seem to be the bane of my life.

That was it then, my spare floats were in the van. I had hoped to fish for another hour, but you can’t win them all.

Nothing big, but enough to keep me busy for 90 minutes. I had hoped for a decent net of roach, or a better chub, but better luck next time.