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A cormorant ate my chub

July 14, 2020 at 7:15 pm

With a few hours to kill this afternoon after lunch, I popped down to my local river Cut to try a swim that produced a 3 lb 8 oz crucian carp for me last year, baring in mind that more carp seem to be in the river at the moment. Once I saw the colour of the river however, I was not so sure that I would even get a bite. There was a grey sludge coming over the outfall and running down the far side of the shallows, where the bottom and larger stones had taken on a powdery grey coating, eventually spreading out across the flow, the further I walked downstream.

Arriving at the swim, my first task was to clear access through a stand of Himalayan Balsam and stinging nettles and by the time that I had tackled up with a 4 No 4 Ali stemmed, bodied stick float, the grey stain had passed through, but being replaced by a murky brown stain, another minor pollution that the Cut has up its sleeve to stop you catching fish. This swim has 2 feet max in depth, being wide and generally slow, but a fallen tree along the opposite bank has pushed the flow across under the nearside bank, giving an easy trotting speed to the float.

Starting with a 5 mm pellet of bread on a size 16 barbless hook, I fed two small balls of liquidised bread, one on the inside and the other side of the flow 10 feet out. Following the inside line first, I let the float run free in the hope of a chub, but apart from a couple of slight dips, there was nothing positive. After a few unsuccessful trots, I switched to the middle line, again with nothing strikeable, even when holding the float back hard, which will usually result in a positive pull under. My last option was to lay-on, setting the float over depth and resting the rod. Ten minutes in, while drinking a cup of tea, the float pulled under. Snatching at the rod, I missed the fish and launched the float rig into a bush on my side. The float came free, but the hook link had wrapped around the float line. This was not going well.

Ten more minutes later I was fishing again, sitting watching the static float with my right hand on the butt of the rested rod. After what seemed an age, the float bobbed and sank, simultaneously lifting the rod into solid resistance. With such a short line, the roach on the end was spiraling around, in danger of coming off, but a quick dip of the landing net secured my first fish of the afternoon.

This beauty was worth waiting for. I never thought that I would need winter tactics to catch summer roach on the cut.

I sat studying the float again, missing another bite, but the bread was still on and I flicked it back in, watching it sink away immediately and a fish was fighting furiously, trying to get to the sunken tree one second and under my bank the next. Unseen, I guessed that it was a small carp as it hugged the bottom, but soon an open white mouth on the surface confirmed it as a chub,

I am a fan of the crash bang wallop style of stick float fishing, cast in, strike, reel in, net and start again, but these fish were worth the wait. Something was not right though, as the usual infestation of gudgeon were missing, maybe the fussy bites on the trot were gudgeon.

I recast my float several times before the next fish, as I was sure the the bread had come off the hook, due to the no bite situation. Eventually the float sank again and I was playing a nice roach, which soon popped into the net.

This method was slow, but it was steadily building a catch of decent fish, so I stuck at it, netting another roach.

Occasional feeding had kept the fish in a tight area just downstream of my swim, but a swirl and a burst of bubbles five yards further down grabbed my attention, there was another swirl and a bow wave heading down around the bend. Must be a decent carp. Maybe one of the big koi. Although not equipped to handle such a large fish, I threw three decent sized balls of feed, down into the area and underhand cast my float rig with a 7 mm pellet of bread and waited. More bubbles and a swirl right next to my float!

URGH! A cormorant surfaced, raising its head up vertically to allow a flapping 6 oz chub to slide down its throat. That was my chub, attracted by the feed, now it was in the crop of a fish killing machine. The wayward sea bird flapped its wings and flew off downstream. The fishing had been hard enough today without a cormorant interfering. As I was packing up, it flew silently back along the river, gliding over the dead tree to land in the next pool. I wondered how many more chub and roach it would eat that afternoon. If he brings his mates back, this shallow river can be emptied in no time.

 

Bread punch and stick float catch quality roach and chub from the weir

July 8, 2020 at 8:19 pm

Since the pollution on my local River Cut six weeks ago, I had been intending to test fish the down stream weir pool to see if it had been affected. Three years ago an oil based spillage had wiped out the river beyond the weir and I had suffered my first blank session from the pool. This time it had been a sewage leak that had killed thousands of prime fish and I was keen to find how far it had reached.

With a forecast of rain for the rest of the week on the TV that morning, I negotiated with my wife, that the morning’s work in the garden would wait until the afternoon, but promised on pain of death, that I would be home before 2 pm. This did not leave long to fish, but enough time find out if there were any fish left in the river for a longer session later.

I had never seen this swim so low, the river from the left barely moving, the foam eddy extending well upstream. The outfall is from the town water treatment works, which spills over a sill and rushes off downstream, holds a wide variety of fish, including carp and big chub, this public bank being littered with empty luncheon meat and sweet corn tins in evidence. The river in front of me was only 18 inches deep and controlled by the action of the eddy, rotating back towards me, then sweeping into the foam on my right. The foam along this bank is usually the hot spot, but today it was full of snags and I lost my first hook before I even had a bite.

I had mixed up my usual feed of liquidised white bread, ground carp pellets and hempseed, dropping some tight balls in close under the high bank, my first bite being not the big chub that I first thought, but a large sunken log, that once released from the bottom, drifted relentlessly off down the outfall, pinging the float back without a hook.

A new hooklink tied on, I trotted through again under my rod top and was soon playing a small chub.

This was a good sign, a hard fighting healthy chub. Then a couple of smaller examples, before gudgeon moved in on the feed.

Every other trot brought up a twig, or branch along my bank and a trot too far into the foam saw another hook lost. This strange looking plug was attached to one of the branches that I pulled up.

To avoid the trouble spot, I fed across the stream ahead of me into the eddy, retrieving line to stay in contact with the float. Apart from the occasional gudgeon, or mini chub there was nothing here. Where were the roach? At this rate I would be putting this expedition down as a fail and going home early.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I decided to up the feed rate to attract fish into the river from the outfall. More gudgeon, then the juddering fight of a roach as it sped around the shallows back to the foam. It stayed on and I leaned out from the bank and netted it.

A perfect roach full of fight, just what I came for. I had gone up to a 6 mm punch from a 5 mm, maybe that was the answer? Next cast the float was gone in seconds, the rod bending over as a chub dived toward the snags. Due to the shallows, these fish can only run, which makes for exciting fishing.

Not a big chub, but good sport on light tackle. The next one was bigger, fighting hard into the snags.

A small ball of feed every other cast had the fish coming one a chuck and now the roach put in an appearance again.

The roach were now lined up in the middle of the eddy, this big one causing me to back wind as it dashed out into the fast water, but my 12 ft Hardy took the shocks and bent into every lunge.

More perfect roach, then a decent chub was rushing round the swim, trying hard to get under my own bank, which was lined with branches, but I won and the snags lost this time.

As someone, who loves catching roach, I was now in my element, my 6 No 4 Middy stick float with the bulk shot under the float and only three No 6 shot down to the hook, the right set up for the wavering eddy.

Yet another decent chub took the punched bread, fighting frantically, but staying on.

Beautiful roach after beautiful roach were proving that this part of the river was healthy, the outfall providing a clear aerated refuge for many fish.

I netted this roach dead on my cut off time of 1 pm, then decided to have one last cast and bang, hit into another chub, that took me off into the fast water, causing me to back wind, when it pulled my rod flat as it skated across the foam of the outfall. Turning, it swam upstream and dived into the bunch of branches at the far corner of the swim. It was stuck solid. Time to release the line and wait. The line moved off and I pulled hard. It was back in the snag, but came free and the landing net was ready.

Netting this chunky chub had cost me the loss of my last Middy float, it having been broken in the snag.

 

I had several sets of these Middy floats from 3 to 6 No 4 and this was the last survivor, the body shape, ali stem and the long thick tip just right for my rugged style of fishing, which do not appear to be available with the modern range of bodied stick floats. Time for a change.

There is nothing wrong with these fish, proof that the pollution petered out further upstream.

The bites were still coming thick and fast, when I stopped for the day. I was home by 1:30 and my lunch was waiting, served up by very understanding wife. I live to fish another day.

 

Tench and crucians top a bread punch mixed bag at Braybrooke

July 3, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Last week I paid my first visit of the season to Braybrooke Park and fished Jeanes’s pond, arriving at 6 pm and fishing until 8, hoping for tench and crucian carp, but catching a net full of roach and rudd. I was sure that my target fish were there, but the silver fish got the bait first, due to a light float rig. The answer for me was to tie up a much heavier pole rig, based around a 2 gram antenna float with 6 BB shot bulked 15 inches from the size 16 barbless hook.

The other change of plan for me was to try an early start, which meant being ready to fish by 8 am. Others have been enjoying success among the tench by arriving hours before that, but I am afraid that I value my beauty sleep more than catching a few more tench.

Making up the same mix as last week, ground carp pellets with liquidised bread and a handful of boiled hemp seed, I squeezed up a few balls of the dampened ground bait and fed them in over the shelf fifteen feet out. By the time that I had attached my float rig and plumbed the depth, bubbles were already rising to the surface above the feed and I swung the float into the middle of them, the float cocking instantly with the bulk shot. Starting with a 7 mm punch of bread two inches off bottom, the antenna dipped and sank, when a rudd snaffled the offering.

I guessed that despite the heavy bulk shot, this rudd had followed the bait down, not a bad size and better than I had expected. Next cast in the float settled quickly and sat for a minute before a tell tale ring radiated out from the antenna, then slowly sank, this time a roach was fighting up from the bottom.

The usual raft of very small rudd seemed to have been avoided, the heavy shot getting the bait down quickly. In again and the float sank slowly as it moved out into the pond. Half expecting a small rudd when I struck, I was surprised when the heavy 12 – 18 elastic extended out with a good fish, a silver flash deep down, a sign of a very good roach. Stripping the pole back to the top three, the landing net came out for the first time that morning.

An absolute clonker of a roach, justification of my plan to use a much heavier float rig.

What next? The float dipped and bobbed, then disappeared and the elastic was out again, this time the distinctive thump, thump of a crucian carp battling away, then a golden glint as it changed direction confirmed my guess. This crucian was as round as it was deep, fighting hard along the bottom in front of me and managing to wrap the line round a sunken branch, before the net was able to scoop up both fish and snag.

My good fortune continued with another good roach, this one scrapping on the surface before being guided to the net.

My next cast saw the float begin to sink, then cruise under as a much larger fish made off, stripping out elastic from the pole tip, the bright red latex stretching deep into the pond. It slowed and turned, shaking its head as I held the pole as high as possible against the strain. It turned again, coming straight for me as I rapidly stripped back the pole, hitting the wall behind. Confusion reigned. With the pole jammed, I released a joint forward and attempted to net the three pound tench wallowing in the shallows at my feet, but as if in slow motion, the big green tench rolled free of the net and back into the deeps, when the barbless size 16 lost its hold.

Every angler knows that stunned feeling of disbelief, when they lose a big fish and this was my reminder. I baited again and recast, just as a friend cycled up to me, asking how I was getting on. Lets just say that I conveyed just how disappointed I was.

That tench seemed to have taken all the fish with it and I sat biteless for some minutes. Movement of the float again and a roach was soon swinging in to hand. I was back in business with palm sized roach and rudd taking the bread, even a small common carp of four ounces broke the rythm.

The elastic was out again as a good fish dived for the safety of deep water as I prayed for it to stay on, the dark dorsal fin of a smaller tench breaking the surface. This time I was ready, unshipping the pole early down to the top three and playing it to a standstill ready for the net.

A tench at last. The hook can be seen in this image at the tip of its mouth. I had earned a cup of tea and a sandwich, my friend returning complete with fishing gear and setting up in the swim next door. A recent convert to the bread punch, he fished running line and waggler over liquidised bread feed, beginning to take a steady stream of roach and rudd, until a pike took one of his sizeable rudd, making several runs, before dropping the fish.

I continued to catch steadily, including this golden rudd, followed by more roach.

A slow steady bite and the elastic was  streaming out from a big fish, my second crucian characteristically fighting in a rolling, diving fashion, as I brought the pole down to the top three sections, waiting for it to tire, sliding the net under it with relief. The hook dropping out the moment the pressure was off.

Once more a barrel shaped crucian, close to 2 lb, this was the last of the better fish. The sun was now at full blast and the bites were fussy. I should have dotted down the float and gone for a 5 mm punch of bread on the hook, but I did not have the mental discipline to make the changes and continued for the next hour, often missing those unmissable bites.

My new float rig had done its job, avoiding the plague of tiny rudd that blanket the surface layers of this pond and will look to refine it in the coming summer.

The punch tempts fussy roach on the River Blackwater

July 1, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Last year I fished the weir on the free stretch of the nearby River Blackwater with a double figure net of roach and dace after four hours and was keen for a repeat performance this week. Having trudged to the top of the water dragging my trolley through nettles and brambles, I arrived at the swim to find it occupied by a friendly pike fisherman, who was trying to coax a small pike into taking his worm bait, offered under a pike bung. The pike could be seen in the clear shallows of the weir pool, and we watched as it attacked the worms, running off into the deeper water, but failing to be hooked several times.

After Magnar had shown me more pike pictured on his phone, I backtracked along the bank to find another swim a hundred yards downstream, which looked promising.

Like most of the Blackwater this far up, it is shallow with a good flow, this side at the tail of a bend from the weir being about two feet deep close in, but only having a depth of eighteen inches fifteen yards down at the end of the trot. I was using a 6 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float, bulked under the float with four No 8 shot  spread to the hook link and a size 16 barbless hook.

To start, I squeezed up a dampened ball of liquidised bread and dropped it in close to my bank, following the cloud down with my float. Usually the float would dive away with a fish, but not today. It took another ball of feed and the sixth trot through before the float dipped and held under with a dace tumbling in the flow for the few seconds that it took for the hook to come out. That was a big dace!

In again and another small ball brought an instant response, as a spirited juvenile chub dived for the weed bed, but stayed on long enough to be swung in.

The next trot, the float was near the end of the swim, when it dipped twice and disappeared. The 12 ft Hardy float rod bent into another fish, a roach this time and I slowly brought it back against the stream, swinging in a small roach.

I now missed a succession of quick dace bites, that stripped the hook. I added six inches to the depth and eased the float down in steps, hold back, then release, hold back and release. The float dived and another dace was solidly fighting  the flow, spinning and turning. This one came off too. The weir was roaring again as more water was allowed over the sill and the river had doubled its pace. I brought the bulk shot down a foot and raised the float, holding back hard. The float held under and the rod bent into a better roach. Roach tend to keep on an even keel, darting from side to side and slowly winding back, it was in the landing net.

I had continued to drop a small ball of feed in every few casts and reeling back a small roach, noticed a swan, neck down, Hoovering up the bread on the bottom, working its way upstream towards me. I got up and looked for a stick. Finding one, I broke it in half and threw it close to the swan, when it surfaced. The second stick got it’s attention and I waved my arms about like a looney, making hissing sounds and other words. It got the message and crossed to the opposite side of the river heading upstream.

In this image you can also see the litter left by a mum, dad and child, who stopped for a picnic, while admiring my fishing technique from the other bank. The English can be a messy lot!

I missed a couple more bites, that were dips and bobs, which did not develope, so I went down to a 5 mm bread punch and hooked another roach first trot.

As I felt that the swan had eaten all the feed, I had mixed up some more and stepped up the rate, but now realised that I had probably overfed the swim. They had not been crawling up the rod and decided to feed more. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The bites were still coming, but not very positively, dips and holds, which I suspected were unhookable dace. Checking the float down the swim induced bites and I hooked another roach.

Splash! A big black dog jumped into the river, swimming half way across to retrieve a ball. A rather stout lady wearing shorts that were too small for her, had used one of those curved launchers to catapult the ball into the river. This was not an accident, surely she must have seen me glaring at her? She walked a few yards upstream and did it again, directly opposite. Splash! The dog was in again! I shook my head and reached for my sandwiches and tea. It was past my lunchtime and I tried to enjoy my cheese and pickle sandwiches, while the lady received the soggy ball from her pet. She continued upstream, repeating the process every ten yards.

A call came from further upstream. It was Magnar, who was playing a pike in the weir pool. Once netted, he held it up in the air for me to see. About 3 lb, it had not fought for long. He now packed up and stopped at my swim. He said that he had released it, as it was too small to keep. I am not sure that we are allowed to keep pike these days. He is a nightworker and said that he would come back at five, before going to work. Does never sleep?

It was now raining and the wind had got up, blowing leaves and branches into the water. I was under a large oak tree and was quite sheltered. Just as well, as the heavens opened catching the dog lady in the open. There is some justice in the World after all.

The surface of the river was a mass of heavy droplets and my float was gone. I struck and the rod bent into the best roach yet, taking my time bringing it upstream to the landing net.

I think water may have got on the lens for this pic, but it was a nice roach anyway. I hooked another big dace. Yes! It was firmly hooked, this one was not getting away, but it did. A roll on the surface and it was gone.

It was time to put my waterproof jacket on and pack up, as the rain was now penetrating the leaves of the oak.

By no means a memorable result, but one with plenty of frustrations and side distractions. Maybe I will have to try some micro barbed hooks for those dace?

 

Bread punch rewards with roach and rudd during hectic Braybrooke visit

June 27, 2020 at 8:45 am

Once again threatened storms passed by, leaving a blue evening sky and the opportunity to fish my local Jeanes’s Pond in Braybrooke Park, this being my first visit since Lockdown ended. Arriving just before 6 pm, I expected to struggle to find a vacant swim, as there were reports of tench and decent roach in the past week, but I was spoilt for choice and set my box down at the first swim that I came to in the clockwise one way system, at peg 18.

Setting my pole up at only three metres, I fed onto the edge of the shelf, a mix of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and a handful of hempseed, damped down and squeezed into tight egg sized balls, putting three down in front of me at 3 metres and another two, a metre beyond that. As expected, despite bulk shot close to my hook, small rudd grabbed the 5 mm punch pellet the instant that it hit the surface; wading through these for 30 minutes before the first decent rudd was pulling out the pole elastic.

This quality rudd was the sign that I was waiting for, it now safe to begin feeding a small ball of feed every few casts, the bigger fish driving out the small ones. I now went up to a 6 mm punch on the size 16 barbless hook.

I dropped another small ball in close to me and lifted into a better rudd. These larger fish were now near to the surface, rushing in to seize the bread, then turning away and out into the pond, the float disappearing with following line each time, no strike being necessary.

I got into a rythm, lift, play on the elastic and swing in, although I lost a few this way, bottling out and netting some, but most swung in to hand.

This was the first roach of the evening, which was taken under my feet, feasting on the early balls of feed. This area was for the hoped for tench, that cruise along the shelf, although I was quite happy to catch roach.

The rudd were still charging in to the outer edge of the swim, but in close the bites were slower as roach began to show in numbers close to the bottom.

Most of the roach I needed to net, as unlike the rudd, which were soon on their side, the roach were scrapping all over the swim.

Another rudd, the bread punch being sucked straight down, the disgorger in constant use.

I tried a 7 mm punch, but the bites were slower to develope and I dropped a couple of fish, so I went back to the 6 mm. Tiny bubbles were now coming up to the surface over the feed and a couple of missed fussy bites pointed towards crucian carp in the swim, but one brief fight and flash of gold before the hook came out was the only sign.

A crucian, or a tench would have put the icing on the cake, but it was a pleasure to see the roach. I scraped together the last of the feed and put it close in.

Another rudd made a raid on the sinking ball, running off with the bread bait and needing the net.

I’m not complaining about the obliging rudd either, another angler watching me at this time surprised that the bread was catching these quality fish, while he had fished cubes of luncheon meat earlier and could only catch tiddlers.

This roach was going to be my last of the evening, but I found myself in that just one more syndrome, while I still hankered after a tench, having had five from this swim last year, but no, another rudd took the bait.

Definitely the last fish, a roach ended the session, the wind had increased along with a drop in temperature and I had to stop being greedy.

This had been a busy two hour session, starting with small fish and working through to the better ones and a netfull weighing five and a half pounds at the end. The park gate is locked at 8 pm, but the park warden let me fish until then and opened up the gate, when the van was loaded. Its nice to know that not everybody out there is a jobsworth.

Prime roach and rudd, all taken on the bread punch.

Carp make up the weight on the River Cut

June 22, 2020 at 8:01 pm

Following a fish kill on my local River Cut a month ago, I had been keen to test the waters last week, to see what I could catch, but a thunderstorm caused a flash flood, that wiped out my session, although I did manage several small chub, while hoping for a few roach and dace.

With a sunny morning forecast, I tried again this week, heading further downstream. The swim I wanted was completely blocked by Himalayan Balsam and continued down to a swim that only took a little time to clear the stinging nettles and cowparsley, settling my box down into the shade.

After heavy rain just days ago, the river was now slow and clear and I was optimistic for a good three hour session, putting in a ball of liquidised bread two thirds over into the flow, watching it drift slowly downstream. Following down with the float, it dragged under on a snag, pulling up the first of many twigs. Adjusting the depth of the float, I found that there was less than two feet of water in front of me, not ideal for my hoped for roach. After ten minutes I had not had a bite, not my usual experience on the bread punch and I ventured in another ball of feed. This did the trick and bite followed, that sank away as a small chub made off with the bread.

A gudgeon and a small rudd followed, then the rod bent into a hard fighting fish, that flashed in the sunlight as it zig zagged through the shallow river, sliding the landing net out to be ready for the quality roach.

I was very pleased to see this roach, as a month previously I had seen hundreds of similar sized fish littering the bottom further down stream. Next trot there was no mistaking the runaway bite of another chub, that fought all the way to the net.

The swim was now waking up and another ball of bread feed went in and I went up to a 6mm punch, taking small roach and chub plus the occasional gudgeon.

This roach was the last for a while, as the river quickened and turned orange, the lines of the bottom disappearing in the murk. This happens on a regular basis on this river, it is a form of pollution that sends the fish off the feed, where it comes from I don’t know, but it usually lasts for up to an hour before clearing and the fishing picks up again.

A friend had come down to see how I was getting on and I wasn’t. Passing the time in conversation, every now and then I would run the float through the swim, only catching branches on the bottom, until after half an hour, the float dipped and a gudgeon was swinging in. Gradually the bites became more positive and small roach were taking the bait again.

A better roach came from further down the swim, where the bread feed was no doubt lying deposited, having been ignored for nearly an hour. I missed a couple of fussy bites and went down to a 4 mm punch; often the bigger punch is too much for a finicky fish, but they will take a smaller offering. Next trot, more dips of the tip, then it held down to the surface. Expecting another tiny roach, the rod bent over as a powerful fish charged off downstream, catching a glimpse of gold when it turned across the river. This was not a chub, or a roach, backwinding as it ran downstream, then reeling fast to stay in touch, when it turned and ran up along the far bank, pulling hard to keep it clear of branches in the water. It was a small common carp, better than that, it was a small mirror carp!

I’ve had crucians and commons from this river in the past, but this is the first mirror. The 4 mm punch worked and I eased the float into the area again. Float gone and I was playing another quality roach, which was almost an anti climax to net, but probably the best of the session.

Easing the float down, I held back hard and let it go again. The float bobbed under, then popped up. I held it back again. It bobbed, then held under. I struck and was into another small carp, this time a fat crucian, that like its predecessor fought all over the  river. There must be shoal down there?

There definitely was another one there, as the rod bent over again, this crucian larger than the last and twice as powerful, testing the hold of the size 16 barbless hook as it sought out every nook and cranny on the river bed, doggedly fighting to the net.

Time for a cup of tea and sandwich after this one. Maybe I should have kept at it, as the next fish was a roach.

It was now getting near my time to leave, I had missed a couple of bites and the river was getting murky again. Giving it one more cast, the float travelled beyond the hot spot without a bite and I was assuming that the bait had been knocked off by a small rudd, when the float sank and I was playing another good roach.

It is always hard to pack up when you are catching fish, especially after suffering a blank period like I had this morning, but I had an appointment at the council tip at 2 pm to dump a Lockdown’s worth of garden rubbish and I had promised my wife that I would not be late back. It pays to keep a promise sometimes!

This net of prime fish is an indicator, that despite so many fish being lost to the pollution, enough have survived. I’m hoping that there is a pocket of dace surviving somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Polluted river fishing test over in a flash, flood that is

June 18, 2020 at 3:23 pm

Two weeks ago I prayed for rain, it was too hot to fish, but now it won’t stop, as thunder storms dump weeks of rain in an hour. Earlier this week I cut short a fishing session to avoid a soaking with minutes to spare. The next day, the first of the new river season, saw my small local river churning through well over the banks, but by the following afternoon it was running clear. Storms were forecast again, but I took the 2 mile drive anyway, as I wanted to test fish the river, after a devastating pollution event that deoxygenated the water, killing thousands of fish during the drought a month ago.

Black clouds were already on the horizon on the way to the river and as I set up my 12 foot Hardy float rod it began to rain. Nothing ventured, nothing gained is my life motto and I tackled up as quickly as possible, knowing that the large willow that I was under would keep me dry for a while, although a flash of lightning and rumble of thunder meant that my safety was questionable.

Squeezing up a small ball of liquidised bread and dropping it in just upstream of a small overhanging bush minutes before, seemed enough preparation and first cast under the bush, the float trailed under, while the rod bent into a small chub.

Taking a 5 mm punched bread pellet, this chub fought all over the shallows before coming to the net. A bit more punch on the hook and the float was back under the bush, sinking on contact, with a better chub giving all it had, swimming away upstream to avoid the net.

A flash and a clap of thunder forced me to instinctively duck my head. It was too close for comfort. The intermittent rain suddenly became a downpour, but protected by the willow I continued to fish, putting another ball of feed below the bush into deeper water. I had bounced a dace and now hoped for a roach, deepening up the float and holding back to slow the bait along the bottom. The float dipped and sank, a sight of red fins and a tiny rudd came to hand.

Not quite a roach, in fact I have not caught a rudd here for a while, maybe it has washed down from one of the many lakes that line the stream? Next cast the float dithered again and a chunky gudgeon was doing a barbel impression.

The rain had stopped, but the pace of the river was beginning to quicken and I added depth again, holding back hard. A rapid bite and another small fish bumped, a rudd, or hopefully one of the dace that had made the Cut its home since the previous pollution three years ago. Two more smaller chub and a rudd followed before the rod bent round as a better fish dashed off downstream heading straight for a tangled bush jutting out into the water. The little Hardy rod was made for this and the long shape of a chub flashed as it turned, fighting hard against the current and hugging the opposite bank, that large white mouth of the chub showing on the surface as I drew it over the landing net.

In the time that it took to unhook the chub and rebait the hook, the river was transformed as a wave of muddy water forced a raft of sticks and dead leaves downstream, rattling over the shallows as it went.

It was all over, the flash flood the result of acres of tarmac drenched in the deluge, swamping the land drains, then combining underground into a column that swept past my swim. By the time that I had packed up, the river was level with the top of the bank.

It had been a fast and furious 15 minutes, I had missed and bumped a few fish. If I had arrived an hour earlier it would have been a different story. I can blame the fitters installing new double glazing at home for that.

Nothing wrong with these fish, although only two hundred yards down from where the clean natural river joins the source of the pollution, the town street drainage outfall, it is possible that they have dropped down into the main river. Oh well not to worry, the river will soon be back to normal levels and I will give it another try.

Crucian carp brighten a mixed bag

June 16, 2020 at 6:27 pm

My plan to fish a local river on the opening day of the coarse fishing river season of June 16th, was changed while drinking my morning coffee, as I watched the TV weather forecast on the morning of the 15th. It showed thunder storms sweeping in from Europe, starting later that day and carrying through to the rest of the week, my rivers being small, would soon be in flood. If I was going to fish anywhere, it would have to be today.

After a quick consultation with my wife, the bag of liquisied bread was withdrawn from the freezer, then sandwiches and a flask of tea were made before heading the van toward my nearest lake, the Farnham AS water at Badshot Lea, Kings Pond. It was past noon when I arrived, finding most of the swims already occupied, but a longer walk found a bit of space, although the general impression of the anglers that I passed, was that the fishing had died off already, a couple in the process of packing up, having earlier caught a few tench and crucians. I’ve heard this before and pressed on.

On a bend, this swim looked promising, with lillys bordering the drop off into deeper water, going from three feet to four. Setting up the pole with a 4 x 16 antenna float to a size 16 barbless hook and mixing up a damp mix of ground carp pellets and heavy white crumb, I dropped a couple of egg sized balls to the right of the small patch of lillys and cast in. Nothing. Not a movement of the fine float tip. After five minutes a tiny movement of the float, hardly seen by the eye, but more felt in my brain. Then again, this time a ring radiating from the tip. Something was down there and I guessed it was a crucian carp. Over the next five minutes the bite continued to develope, slight dips and bobs as the 5 mm pellet of fresh bread was played with, until it slowly marched under. A strike and the elastic came out briefly as a small crucian tried to avoid the landing net.

Dropping the float back in, the antenna was dipping and bobbing again, but slid under minutes after and the elastic came out further as a larger crucian dived for the lillys, but failed to reach sanctury.

A few small roach got to the bait first, before a more positive bite saw the elastic stretching out into the pond as a decent roach made a run for it.

The small roach had moved into the right side of the lilly, so switched to the middle of the patch following with another couple of feed balls. More fiddly bites and I was playing another crucian.

Crucian carp are tough little fighters, that bely their feeble bite, standing their ground to battle it out, unlike their larger common brethren, that storm off with the bait in an often unstoppable run. I landed a 2 lb crucian from this pond last year and was hoping for better things, plus a tench or two would also be appreciated.

After I netted this crucian, the clouds disappeared and I found myself searching for my sun hat, put in the bag by my thoughtful wife. The heat was beating down from a clear sky and even the small roach went off the feed, it was like a switch had been pulled. Extending the pole, I rested it while I worked my way through the sandwiches, missing a couple of bites that sat, then sank out of sight. Unmissable, but I did. In that hour I scratched out a few small roach and decided to start to feed plain fine white liquidised bread to concentrate them into an area out in front of me.

This worked, shallowing up and dropping the bait through the cloud began to produce some better sized roach.

Patchy cloud brought a change, a lift, then a slow sink saw the elastic out again as a different fish sailed out toward the middle. It was a skimmer bream and I took my time easing it back to the net.

This is the first bream that I have caught from this water and I put it down to a fluke, but two roach later I netted a smaller one.

Roach were still taking the bread, not big but net fillers all the same.

As the clouds grew, the wind picked up and I was having trouble holding the pole out straight, the float flashing on and off in the ripples. When it stayed off I lifted, skimmers still in the swim.

I struck into a decent bream, larger then the first, but had trouble keeping the tension on the pole against the gusts and the hook pulled free. That was the last I saw of them. The wind dropped and the sun came out again and I scraped together the last of my feed for a last shout session. In the distance the sky was black and this was obviously the lull before the storm.

This feed was heavier and I increased the depth again to fish just off bottom, this roach taking without any fuss. The cloud was coming closer and the wind had increased again, causing a right to left drift and I held back the float river style to take a few more roach, whenever the float held under. Already committed to finish by 3:30 to avoid the rain, I was in two minds to continue, when a small crucian took the bread.

Was the crucian shoal back on the feed? I’ll never know, as I stuck to my guns and put the float rig back on its winder. I’ve had more than one soaking in the past, when outstaying my welcome and today was not going to be another. Pulling the keepnet from the water, I was pleased to see a reasonable haul of fish, pausing only to take a photo before tipping them back

Walking back to the van, the first drops of rain were beginning to fall and I hurriedly loaded my tackle to be on my way, only having to step out into the rain briefly to unlock the gate to drive out, another angler following me out to lock the gate behind us, being not so fortunate, as the heavens opened with a whoosh.

 

Wild brown trout hard to find after the Mayfly hatch

June 11, 2020 at 7:02 pm

A late afternoon visit to the river Whitewater this week, saw me heading toward black clouds, as I drove west, but hoped that a late Mayfly hatch and a trout, would compensate for a soaking. By the time I reached the river, the clouds had parted to allow sunshine to break through, warming the air as I heading down from the road bridge. I kept my eye open for Mayfly and rising fish, stopping below a tunnel of trees to watch a brownie of a pound rise occasionally to a sparse hatch. A sideways cast was needed to avoid the overhanging branches, while a down stream wind added to my difficulties, but after several attempts, the fly line carried enough momentum to cast the fly into the shadows. As my Mayfly emerged from the gloom, the trout rose from the side and turned, taking the fly, a reflex action setting the hook, but not for long as the brownie boiled on the surface and came off the barbless hook. Struck too soon! Lack of practice.

Not stopping to fish on, I decided to walk to the bottom of the beat about half a mile down, where a work party had cleared the banks, stopping at the farm bridge to view the river, another trout rising twice beneath the over hang of a tree, safe from any angler’s fly.

Walking down to the spot, I could see it through a gap in the trees. There was faster water here at the tail of the pool, but no chance to cast a fly, even with chest waders from the middle of the river, so I contented myself by watching as it hung around at midwater, drifting up to the surface to gently sip in small flies that I could not identify, while ignoring a mayfly that scudded across its vision.

Continuing past the jungle of trees, I came to an opening, where a tree had been removed, allowing a clear upstream cast up to a gap in the vegetation, where a fish rose. There were no Mayfly about, but I cast mine to it, the fish coming up again after the big artificial had passed it by. Another cast and the Mayfly was ignored again. I tied on a size 16 Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, which is a good general pattern, that seems to work for me in most situations, sitting high in the surface film, when rubbed in with floatant and unaffected by the wind.

By the time that I was ready, the fish had risen again and I made false casts up to it. Another yard from the reel and the fly floated to the surface, drifted a foot, then disappeared in a swirl. Striking, I lifted the line from the water making contact and boiling the fish on the surface. It was not a big trout and I stripped back line to stay in contact, not wishing to loose this one, no matter how small. Zig zagging from side to side it fought well and I took my time to net it from the bank with my net fully extended.

Not a monster, about 4 oz, but a perfect wild trout all the same, proof that this little river still has a self sustaining wild trout population. After unhooking it was lowered back in with the landing net, bolting back to the depths with no ill effects.

I headed back, unsuccessfully trying my luck again at the S bend, but by now the clouds had returned and drizzle was blowing across the field. Time to go.

 

Tench among the showers on the bread punch

June 6, 2020 at 2:44 pm

Cooler weather with promised sunshine and showers saw me pay my first visit since Lockdown to the Farnborough and District owned Shawfield lakes this week. Still under strict Covid-19 rules, the club is operating limited access to it’s members, only allowing a maximum of fifteen anglers on site per day, booked through the Club Secretary. So far this has worked well, with the gate code changed daily. There was a no return policy of 48 hours, but this has now been opened up to allow anglers to return after 24 hours, although social distancing and hand sanitising at the gate is still required.

Last year I fished the big lake with bream and tench of over 5 lb on the bread punch, that stretched my pole elastic to near the limit and was keen to try the small lake, which was an unknown quantity as far as I was concerned, although the Secretary informed me that some big tench and decent carp had been coming out recently.

Arriving at midday the wind was blowing in strong gusts, but the surrounding trees offered a sheltered spot and I set up a 4 x 16 antenna float to a size 16 barbless hook to fish the 4 foot deep lake, although my plummet picked up fine stringy weed from the bottom and decided to fish 6 inches off bottom with only a single No 8 shot between the hook link and the bulk shot at 18 inches from the hook.

Knocking up a damp mix of heavy liquidised bread and ground fish pellets, I fed an area seven to ten metres out in front of me and put a couple of balls in close beside an attractive looking clump of lilies on my left. While still sorting myself out, the first of several heavy rain showers swept across the lake and I made a quick grab for my waterproof jacket, although the main burst was over by the time the jacket was on.

First cast in alongside the lily bed, the float sank away and I steeled myself for a decent fish, but a small rudd had managed to cram the 7 mm pellet of bread down it’s throat, needing the disgorger.

More rudd followed, some much smaller, then the float sank purposefully away from the lilies and the elastic was streaming out of the pole, as the golden shape of a good tench tumbled beneath the surface, turning away toward trees on my left, and getting snagged on the bottom. Pointing the pole toward the snag, I hoped that the tench would swim free again, which it did, but the line stayed caught up and I pulled for a break, expecting the weaker hook link to go, but I lost the lot, the Stonfo connector pinging back and hitting my typing finger with a whack that still hurts. Ouch! An occupational hazard of pole fishing.

Fortunately the Lockdown gave me plenty of time to tie up plenty of pole rigs and a duplicate was sitting waiting in my box, a quick connection to the Stonfo and I was fishing again. Now knowing that the snag was under the trees, I concentrated on the area in front and fed another ball, once again the inevitable rudd attacking the 7 mm pellet of bread. I decided to switch to a smaller 5 mm punch to get as many rudd out of the swim and into the keepnet as I could, swinging them in until the float rotated, bobbed and sank. I was into a tench again, a short run, a tumbling fight followed by another run toward the island that was stopped by the heavy 12 – 18 red elastic and the fish turned back toward me. Sliding the pole back and breaking down to the top four sections, I let the tench wear itself out and guided it into the net.

I noticed that this fish had a damaged pectoral fin, but there was no sign of infection and after a quick weigh in with the landing net handle removed, I carried it round to the next swim and released it. An otherwise perfect specimen at 3 lb 12 oz.

A small jack pike now came into the swim, snatching one of the better rudd from the hook and briefly hanging onto another, causing panic among the greedy shoal of rudd. The swim went dead and I went back to the 7 mm punch, putting in another small ball of feed over my float. After the constant action of swinging in the small rudd, it seemed a long wait for the next bite, which lifted and slid away. Another rudd!

My disappointment didn’t last long, the float bobbing and cruising off with another good sized tench, this dark one charging all over the lake, before coming to the net and weighing in at exactly 3 lb.

 

I now took the opportunity to have a cup of tea and a sandwich, while the last of my bread feed was mixed up and put out in front again, balls breaking up as they sank.

The rudd returned, followed by the 3 lb jack pike and I was back on the 5 mm pellet catching rudd, when a slow steady sinking of the float saw the elastic out again and I was fighting another tench that made off toward a bed of lilies mid water to my right, it’s black fins breaking the surface, when it turned back. The elastic compounds its pulling power the more the fish pulls, the hook link to the 16 barbless keeping hold.

There had been another burst of rain when I hooked this 4 lb 8 oz lump, but the sun was baking hot on my back by the time I landed it. This looked a much older tench than the others, but boy did it fight.

The sun was drying my bread quickly now, the thin rolled pieces curling up like British Rail sandwiches once out of the shade, becoming difficult for the rudd to swallow. They were small, but entertaining, it being easier to bash a few out, than to watch a static float.

Once a big fish comes into a swim, the small stuff usually make way for it and once again a classic tench bite had the elastic out in pursuit. Slow at first, then an explosion of power saw a golden tench heading for the island, while the pole was held high. It turned to the left, where I’m sure it knew where the snag was and I put on full side strain, bending the pole, waiting for a crack from the 30 year old carbon fibre, but the trusty tool stood up to the punishment, with the fin perfect tench soon in the net.

This 4 lb 4 oz beauty was the last of the afternoon, packing up shortly after at 4:30, probably the ideal time to start tench fishing, but with a Lockdown Zoom quiz lined up for the evening, the building rush hour traffic was waiting.

Small but perfectly formed, these rudd will soon be worth catching.