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Big roach on the bread punch defy winter floods

February 28, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Winter storms continue and I looked for the best of a bad bunch of forecasts this week, deciding that a heavy frost, followed by sunshine and wintry showers of hail and sleet would give me a chance at some big roach from my local river. It was still only 5 degrees centigrade, when I drove over the river at lunch time, looking down into the flood water as it surged beneath the bridge, debris jammed against the upstream side causing the river to find its way around and over the roadway. Parking in the partly submerged lay-by alongside the river, I loaded up my trolley for the walk to my chosen swim, where the outfall from the town water treatment works joins the river.

Siting my tackle box on the top of the high bank, I set up my light weight 12 foot Hardy float rod with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to a size 16 hook. Hoping for 8 to 12 oz roach, the Hardy is ideal as it has a soft top that bends well into their bouncing fight and the shock of a sudden run. This swim used to hold a head of good chub, plus the occasional common carp and my 14 foot Browning was the answer then. It would bounce off the odd roach, but had the back bone to stop any chub that made a break for it down the weir stream. Unfortunately those big fish seem to have been poached out of the river these days by constant night fishing with set lines, but the roach remain.

The river was up at least a foot at this point, pushing hard into the weir stream, the usual back eddy reduced to a small area on the far side of the confluence. Plumbing the depth confirmed that the river was up by over a foot and I added another foot to hold back against the bulk shot to ease the rig down toward the foam. Damping down coarse liquidised bread, I squeezed up a few firm balls and threw them ten yards upstream to start creating a feeding area out in front of me. Guessing that the river would be in full flow, I had prepared a couple of sheets of rolled punch bread to avoid the bait being washed off the hook.

Despite regular balls of feed, I was biteless for about an hour, then as the float eased into the foam, it disappeared and the little Hardy bent double with a good fish that ran back down the stream, back wound my ABU 501 reel to stay in contact. Slow thumps on the rod confirmed a big roach, that topped briefly before diving back down and took my time to bring it into the slower water at my feet, the landing net pole bending with the weight as I brought it up the bank.

This roach was well worth the wait. I squeezed up another ball and threw it well upstream, laying the float across the feed and easing it down. The float held down and I was in again to another battling roach.

The fish had now moved up into the river just below me, the bread covering the bottom holding the roach in a tight area, the bites going from anticipated to expected, each trot bringing a rod bender.

Even the small ones were clonkers, as I worked my way through the shoal. They did not want it running through, but nailed to the bottom well over depth, lifting and dropping the bulk shot a few inches at the a time, the bites unmissable.

Many of these roach have a harmless lice infestation.

This roach took during a hail storm that left the bank white for a few minutes, chilling the air more than before.

Whether the sudden influx of icy hail had put off the roach I don’t know, but the next fish was a chub, that made a rapid rush back to the weir stream. A real rod bender for its size. A smaller one followed, then it was several big gudgeon before the roach returned.

A perfect specimen.

And another.

They just kept coming.

A prolonged hail and rain storm stopped me fishing for a while, as a gusting wind lashed the surface of the river. I made up some more feed, throwing tight balls upstream.

The pace of the river had been picking up all afternoon and I added another three inches to the depth of the float to cope with the flow. Like before, the next fish after the hailstorm, was another chub, this time a better fish again, the rod and back winding withstanding that initial chub run.

A few more monster gudgeon and I was back into the roach, my landing net working overtime.

Most of the hooks came out in the net, proof that they could not be rushed.

This was my last roach of the day, forcing myself to stop at bang on 4:30 pm. I had run out of bread feed, having used 8 oz of coarse ground white loaf.  I had used the rolled bread, with a 6 mm punch all afternoon at a total cost of about 30 pence.

Emptying the keepnet into my landing net for a quick photo before I lowered them back into the river, I weighed them in at 9 lb 4 oz, not quite the 10 lb I expected. Should have fished for another ten minutes!

 

Roach entertain on the bread punch through the storm

February 22, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Storm Dennis the Menace was still blowing itself out, when I arrived for an afternoon’s fishing at Braybrooke Community Club’s Jeanes Pond this week. Early morning rain had finished, but gusts of 40 mph were still blasting across the football pitch as I tried to tackle up. Choosing to fish with my back to the wind seemed a good idea at the time and with full thermal clothing and a wax cotton jacket, topped by a fleece lined hat, that pulled down over my ears, I was comfortable enough, but the wind produced vortexes, that twice had my pole rig snagged in the bush to my left, before I managed to get a line in the water.

There was no sign of fish activity on the surface of the pond and I assumed that it was going to be HARD, but then I like a challenge and set up with a 4 x14 antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook to fish for bites.

I could see that the heavy rain had increased the depth of the pond by at least six inches and found four feet at 3 metres over the shelf, when I plumbed up, setting the float to fish a few inches off bottom. With wind whipping around the surface, I opted to fish with no more than the top three sections of pole, two metres out from the high bank, dropping a golf ball sized ball of liquidised bread around my float. The float sat motionless for five minutes, before a slight dip showed interest in the 4 mm pellet of rolled bread. It sank slowly and I lifted into small roach, that the wind blew out horizontal to the bank and a game of catch me if you can followed, until I was able to grasp the ice cold fish.

In the keep net it went, another 4 mm punch of bread was on the hook and I swung out again, this time the float settling and sinking immediately with another lolipop of a roach. They kept coming, some smaller, others slightly bigger, but nothing decent, but at least I was catching something. Every ten fish I dropped in another small ball of bread, watching the crumb spread into a slowly sinking cloud, then casting across it to allow the bait to follow through.

After an hour and over twenty roach, the swim went dead in front of me and I guessed that a pike had been attracted to the feeding fish. I stopped feeding and cast to my left. The float went under and I was catching again. Ten minutes later there was a green flash as the pike took a hooked roach, the pole elastic steadily extending, following the pike as it sank into the depths. I have been in this position too many times now, especially on this pond, but never have got one on the bank and this was no different, the razor sharp teeth of this successful predator slicing through the hooklink when it turned.

Hoping that the pike was satisfied with its catch for the moment, I tied on another size 18, put in another ball of feed in front of me and waited for a bite. A few more minutes and it was business as usual, as roach began to queue up for the punch again.

The wind was still causing problems. Laying my pole down to grab a hot cup of tea and a sandwich, the wind lifted it clear of the rest and into the water, just managing to catch hold of the line before the lot sank out of sight. Another time I had played a 4 oz roach to the surface, but the wind was blowing my landing net in the opposite direction, so I attempted to swing the fish in, the same gust spinning the roach away and off the hook.

“What’s up, you must be really bored at home to come here today?” It was a friend and fellow angler Kieth, a council worker at the site, who had come out to question my sanity. The rivers are all in flood and I’d rather watch a float going under any day, than watch TV. That’s my excuse any way. I continued to catch as we chatted, the wind drying out my bread bait, too hard and the bites dither, so every fifteen minutes I needed to tear of another fresh piece to punch. The wind blew one piece into the pond, which the ducks were pleased to receive. This was becoming a test of endurance, but the roach were still there and it was easier to continue fishing than to pack up.

At last some better roach were finding the feed and the landing net was back in use.

Another decent roach was fighting hard, then the next instant it was skating across the surface in panic with the pike in pursuit. I lifted too late, the pike rolling on its side as it snatched the roach away. If I needed an excuse to pack up this was it. The hook was still there, but it was time to go. I had hoped to make it to three hours fishing time, but two and a half was enough on a day like this. At least it hadn’t rained.

The bread punch had shown what it could do again and the bites had kept coming with over 50 fish in the net.

River Whitewater trout fishing revamp

February 10, 2020 at 3:39 pm

I always look forward each year to the first working party on the River Whitewater, the little Hampshire trout stream showing early signs of spring, as members began work cutting back trees and tidying the banks in preparation for the trout season opener on April 1st. The distinctive aroma of wild garlic crushed under foot welcomed us, as we made our way down to the intended work area, hazel catkins having already matured and fresh bright green leaves bursting from buds.

For the coming season, the fly fishing has come under the control of the parent club, Farnborough and District Angling Society, offering trout fishing to members at a reduced rate as an add on to the general membership. Another bonus is the removal of the nominated three day a week fishing, Sunday to Tuesday, or Thursday to Saturday, which restricted fishing time. As a Thursday to Saturday fisher, I often was forced to sit on my hands on a glorious Tuesday, only to have it rain from Thursday onward. With such a good, but brief Mayfly hatch on this river, it will give more opportunities to tempt some of the elusive better specimens.

Work intended this year is to construct more berms to speed up the flow, felled trees providing the raw materials for this work. Here’s one we made earlier.

This weekend, the same berm has been working well for two seasons, creating a clean gravel run, ideal for spawning fish and feeding trout later on.

Another good sign this weekend was to see that ranunculus weed, taken from other parts of the river and transplanted elsewhere had taken well, despite the attentions of a family of swans, that spent much of their time feasting on the luxuriant growth.

With the full resources of the Farnborough and District club at its disposal, the fly fishing section are looking to take advantage of the opening up of a further mile of the Whitewater, the long neglected downstream section, the subject of further river improvement under the supervision of the Environment Agency this year.

One of the many variants of wild trout caught in the Whitewater.

 

 

 

 

Mostly small stuff on the Basingstoke canal.

February 6, 2020 at 10:23 am

I have been trying to get back to the Basingstoke Canal for some time, but events, mainly bad weather have intervened. Ideally the Basi fishes well after a period of heavy rain with a good flow and colour and I was hoping for a repeat of past success, travelling to Fleet in Hampshire this week. The intention was to fish the exact swim, that that I had caught a double figure net of skimmer bream and good roach from four years ago, assuming that it was still a good fish holding area.

I had fished this swim on other occasions and always caught some quality roach and skimmers, being more optimistic due to a 40 lb net of bream reported in a match half a mile upstream the previous Saturday. My original plan to fish this match section was scuppered by a Road Closed sign blocking access to the hot area on Glen Road, so switched to plan B at Reading Road.

Fleet High Street was also closed and a diversion took me round the houses, only to end up 200 yards ahead of where I had turned off in the first place! Following the diversion again, I turned left where the arrow had said to turn right and my own diversion soon connected with the correct road and I drove into the Reading Bridge carpark half an hour later than expected. Walking to The Swim, I set out my stall to fish pole and bread punch.

Plumbing the depth, the shelf was 4 metres out and a I put in small ball of liquidised bread down that line. The canal was opaque  with little flow and I watched the bread cloud spread with a slight drift down stream. Going in over the cloud with 4 x 16 float to a size 16 hook and a 6mm punch, I was pleased to see an instant response and struck when the float dived away, but disappointed with the first fish.

Little did I realise when I took this photo, that this roach would be one of my better fish, a succession of tiny roach that struggled to sink the float being thrown back in disbelief, that they could get the size 16 in their mouths. There was deeper water between 7 and 9 metres out and I now fed these two lines with a ball of bread each, fussy bites still producing small roach and even smaller skimmers.

I changed rigs to a lighter 4 x 14 float rig and size 18 hook and a 5 mm punch, the bites were more positive, but the fish size did not improve, again throwing most of them straight back.

In the hope of something better, I fed over to the far shelf, holding back hard against the gusting wind, but a series of more small roach and several big twigs, brought me back to the boat road.

At least the bites were constant and I tried a ball at 9 metres, then fished the 7 metre line, switching to feed the 7, then fish the 9. It did bring some better roach, but not much better, this one being one of the best.

The wind was getting colder and gustier and I was almost relieved when rain began to fall with a vengeance, giving the excuse to pack up. My hopes of attracting some elastic stretching fish may have been realised beyond this two hour stint, but was not prepared to stick it out, my last outing resulting in a soaking.

Better Luck next time?

Winter bread punch rudd between the storms

January 29, 2020 at 12:39 am

The pattern of UK weather this winter has been stormy days of heavy rain followed by brief windows of dry mornings, or afternoons, then more rain. If, like me, you prefer to fish in the dry, then it is a case of trusting the forecasts and fitting in a session when you can.

This week my only available day promised a sunny morning and the possibility of a shower in the afternoon, although while getting ready that morning, it was still raining from the night before. I had intended driving to the Basingstoke Canal in the hope of a few bream on the punch, but scratched the idea and waited for the rain clouds to pass. A weak sun eventually appeared and I trundled the tackle trolley down to my local pond just to wet a line, the paths still running with rainwater.

The pond was deserted, not even the usual dog walkers were venturing out on this soggy morning and I chose a swim with the breeze at my back, setting up my pole with a light waggler rig on arrival at 10 am.

To my right was a died back lily bed and I fed half a dozen balls of a damp mix of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets out ten metres in front of me, where the depth increases to 30 inches above the silt. This pond once had an overflow from a culverted stream, but the silt has now virtually blocked the inlet and stopped any movement, but the old stream bed still gives extra depth and I fished over it, but had to wait ten minutes before my first indication of a bite. The float dipped and slowly sank and I lifted into a decent rudd, that came off as I shifted the pole back. Another 6 mm pellet of punch went onto the size 16 barbless hook and I was fishing again. Another wait, then another rudd lost. I put a couple of balls out, then went back over them with a 5 mm punch on the hook, the float going straight down and a rudd was skimming toward the net.

The 5 mm punch looked small on the size 16 hook, but it made the difference as rudd began to pile into the keepnet, going up to the larger punch did not attract bigger rudd, but resulted in more lost fish, so the 5 mm won the argument. Bubbles coming up from the bottom indicated that crucians were in the swim, but the rudd were getting to the bait first and I pushed on in an effort to empty the swim of the silvers, giving myself a workout, shipping back the pole to the top 3, then swinging to hand, taking a rudd a minute.

Keeping up the feed did the opposite of my intention, it did not feed them off, instead bringing more in. Usually the larger fish, crucians and common carp move in after an hour, pushing the rudd out, but today the rudd kept on coming, taking on the drop.

The weak sun had soon retreated as the breeze increased, driving black clouds over the pond, my choice of swim taking advantage of the wind on my back, a lift and flick of the pole placing the float perfectly every time. It was getting colder and I pulled my hood up over my cap. The rain would not be too far behind.

My wife arrived for a brief visit, the pond a short diversion on her walk to the Tesco supermarket, and I took a breather from the action, washing down a cheese and pickle sandwich with a warming cup of tea, before returning to the challenge of emptying the pond of rudd. Having run out of feed in my tray, I decided not to mix up more unless the swim died, hoping to attract the attention of crucians, if the rudd lost interest.

Despite the wind trying to sink my float as it flashed on and off in the waves, every time it failed to reappear I lifted into yet another rudd. It was like being on a production line, repeating my actions time after time. The elastic coming out as I hooked into something solid, woke me up, the fish scything round to the right into the lily bed, as I held it back with the pole. It rolled on the surface briefly, the short gold body of a pound crucian clearly visible, before it dived into the snag, picking up a small sunken branch, as it burrowed through the decaying vegetation. The hook pulled free.

Cursing my impatience, I dropped the float over a burst of small bubbles. The float dithered and bobbed, then moved off. The elastic was out again. At last, the crucians were taking the bread! This one fought its ground, then headed off to the left, only to come off again. I should have waited. These crucians take a lot longer to mouth the bait than rudd, More bait on the hook and I plonked the float back over the bubbles. It sank and I waited, until the line followed. A lift of the pole and another rudd was skimming back to me.

The hook was well down, but quick work with the disgorger had the hook free, but this was my last fish, as hail stones began to beat down on myself and the pond, causing me to reach for my wax cotton jacket.

Struggling to get the jacket on with the hood over my head, there was a blinding flash through the trees and an instant crash of thunder that made me jump back on my seat. That was it, I was holding a 9 metre lightning conductor, time to pack up quick. While the thunder continued to echo around the area, the heavens opened to a deluge of freezing rain, soaking everything in an instant, my punch bread now floating around the bait tray. It was 12:55 on the dot. Just when it seem likely that I was about to start catching the elusive crucian carp, I was being forced by nature to pack up. No one could fish in conditions like these.

My pole was dried off, but soaked in seconds, my other tackle slid back inside the box through a narrow opening to avoid the rain, a futile gesture as the water poured in. Pulling in my net, I was surprised by the number of fish and despite my haste to leave, got out my scales to record the weight, over 7 lb in under three hours.

Ready for the half mile uphill walk back to my home, dragging my trolley, the rain increased to a frenzy.

Winter fishing at its best.

 

 

Bread punch finds shy winter carp

January 9, 2020 at 4:46 pm

Looking for a change of venue this week and still in possession of an exchange ticket for a club water a dozen miles away, I set off in sunshine for the shallow tree lined pond set in farmland high above a large town. I had last fished at Hitcham Ponds in October, before the leaves had dropped, but now the surface was covered with thousands of black rotting leaves, not an encouraging sight, as I set up my pole to fish the bread punch.

The sun had long gone by the time I arrived, settling in for another dull January day, the lack of surface activity making for a cautious start. There was a slight shelf into 3 feet of water at 5 metres and I started here with a small ball of liquidised bread, following in with a 6 mm pellet of punched bread on a size 16 barbless hook. No bites. Each time I brought the rig back in, the hook was coated with the dead leaves, so I reduced the depth on my antenna float by 3 inches, as the plummet had obviously sunk deep into a layer of these dead leaves. Another ball brought signs of a bite, a ring radiating out from the antenna, then a half hold down of the float. I lifted into what felt like another leaf, but it was a tiny roach, that had filled its mouth with the bread, the disgorger needed to remove the hook. Oh well, it was a start. I had once won a match here in freezing conditions on the bread punch, with over a hundred of these bait robbers. This was a pleasure session and I was after bigger game, hopefully a net of skimmer bream and crucians, plus a bonus carp or two.

After half an hour fine bubbles were now appearing in the surface film, the small roach giving way to slightly larger skimmer bream. Mixing up more feed, this time adding some ground carp pellets, I fed a line 6 metres out with three egg sized balls, going up to an 8 mm punch in an attempt to attract something bigger. I was still catching five inch skimmers and roach, missing bites due to the larger punch on the 16 hook, so went back to the 6 mm punch. All these fish were going into my keep net, the aim to feed off, or catch enough to give better fish a chance.

Another angler came along the bank having packed up. Bob said that he had failed to catch and was packing up before the rain started between 1 and 2 pm. This was news to me, my home forecast had said sunshine all day, but this side of the Thames Valley it was already a different story.

As Bob disappeared through the trees, my float slowly sank and I lifted into solid resistance, that moved steadily to my left, a carp that did not realise that it was hooked, stretching out the pole elastic. Suddenly it awoke, powering off toward the island taking elastic, but turning again. I kept pressure on following it with the pole, until it neared the surface, then bringing back the pole to the top three sections, keeping the landing net ready. It was still not giving up, but after an arm aching couple of minutes, I drew it over the net.

The hook dropped out in the net, this 2 lb common still full of fight.

As predicted, the rain started just after 1 pm, a fine drizzle at first, then an ever darkening sky bringing light rain. I hunkered down under my jacket hood, making sure that my punch bread was out of the weather. The next fish was a brightly painted rudd.

Larger bubbles were now bursting above the feed and the float dithered and lifted, striking into another carp that rushed off to the middle, rolled and came off. I put in another ball of feed and tried again. A few more small rudd, then I was in again. I thought that this was a crucian at first, as it was rolling rather than running, but the proof was in the net, another common. Two – One to me.

It had taken a while to bring the carp onto the feed, but I was soon playing another, allowing it to wear its self out, then bringing it close to net, only for it to go into warp drive again, once I was down to the top three again, the hook pulling free close to the net. Curses! I should have taken my time. Two – All.

A burst of bubbles next to my float indicated another carp was interested, the float dipping, then moving away with an unmissable bite, the elastic zooming out as the hook made contact. This was a much better fish than before and I followed with the pole as it ran along the bank to my left. Once turned, the carp tried to get under a clump of dead rushes, but pointing the pole away, held it out from the bank. Learning from the last lost fish, I kept it at range, not breaking down the pole until the last minute, although when the back end of the pole jammed in brambles behind me, I had to stand up and reach forward to grab the third section. Bringing the carp to the surface, it was soon netted.

This one was about 4 lb, the hook just inside the lip, needing a firm push with the disgorger to free it. I was now Three – Two up and quite content to pack up and get out of the rain, but another burst of bubbles meant that a large fish was browsing the feed and cast the float across the bubbles, the fish taking on the drop, another decent carp steaming off across the pond. Taking my time again, I had no desire to bully the common carp to the net, this would be my last fish and it stayed on. Four – Two.

The swim was now fizzing with bubbles, but I resisted the temptation to carry on. It was 3 pm and getting darker, a brighter day would have given me another half hour and more carp, but my legs were already soaked, comfort overruling carp these days.

It had been a busy session, just one of the carp outweighing all of the silvers taken previously, a quick weigh in seeing over 11 lbs on the scales.

 

 

 

 

New Year roach shine on the Blackwater

January 3, 2020 at 7:54 pm

After the sunshine of Monday’s session on the local river Cut, heavy black clouds were scudding across the sky as I approached the river Blackwater on Thursday, close to the town that bares its name. My wife’s desire for a mooch around the Lexicon Shopping Centre near our home, gave me a free pass for an afternoon fishing, even though it seemed that it could be a damp one.

With light drizzle in the air, I walked upstream to a swim that I had fished in summer, the grey outlook in contrast to the lush green I remembered. The river was low and clear, but pushing hard, this being the tail of a wide bend, where a channel no more than two feet deep passes close to the my bank. Getting ready to fish, I put in my keep net and saw it swept off to the side in the current, deciding that a heavy 6 No 4 ali stick would give better control, despite the shallow depth.

With only bread punch as usual, I readied the liquidised bread, squeezing up a firm ball, throwing it ten feet upstream close in, watching it break up as it swirled in the flow drifting down stream. About to cast in, another angler arrived at my side, returning back to his car after a blank session further upstream. After the usual pleasantries and the refusal of some maggots, due to the fact that I only had bread as bait, I cast in to test the flow and hooked a roach in the first five feet of travel, letting the fish run out to the middle before bringing it back to the net.

Amazed at the instant success, my visitor peered over the bank into the shallows in front of me, surprised that there were roach, where he could see the bottom. My experience of earlier in the week, on the equally clear and shallow Cut, when passers by had scared away my fish doing just that, were fresh in my mind. He was a very pleasant fellow and continued to chat, watching the float, as I worked it further down the swim, holding back bringing another positive bite, followed by a roach in the net.

The fish were sitting ten yards downstream in the main flow, dipping the float as it drifted down, knocking off the 6 mm bread pellet each time, but stopping the travel after the first sign of a bite brought a fish on, but off again, losing two big dace on as many casts. With overhanging branches, the fish had to be reeled back flat to the river, until close enough to net.I fed another ball to keep up interest and ran through again, this time lifting into a small chub under my rod top, that dived away, letting it run, trying to avoid another lost fish from the size 16 barbless hook.

My new friend had stepped away from the bank to answer his phone and the fish had moved back up to the feed, but now he was back again and the bites dropped away. This was not easy fishing, the weir upstream was now at full flow and I added six inches to the depth and bulked the shot closer to the hook, taking more roach ten yards down.

Damping down the bread feed, I squeezed up pigeon egg sized balls, plopping them in upstream of me every few casts, the balls breaking up and coating the bottom close to me, dropping the float out in front, trotting through with a tight line, some of the bites bending the rod tip as the fish took.

After about an hour my visitor left, hopefully having learned something about fishing the punch and leaving me to catch some more fish. Although well before sunset, it was now growing darker, the low clouds depositing an uncomfortable, downstream wind driven misty drizzle. Not pleasant, with the need to keep the punch bread covered to stop it being softened too much.

I now had the fish where I wanted them, this chub hooking itself. I lost another big dace as it churned on the surface, but compensated with another decent roach next cast.

The fish kept coming, this chub the last to stay in focus on my camera, the Flash whiting out the images. Gudgeon, small dace and roach taking their turn over the feed. The pace of the river had picked again, washing out debris, coating my line and I was beginning to spend more time unpicking these washing lines, than fishing and called it a day before 3 pm, not wanting to pack up in the dark.

The Punch had done me well again, although a size 14 may have hung onto some of the big dace long enough to net them, but I was not complaining, it had been a short spontaneous session, that kept delivering fish to the net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festive chaos among the roach and dace

December 31, 2019 at 6:26 pm

With the Christmas festivities over, I found a few hours before New Year to fish my local river, bright sunshine and no floods promising a rewarding session. The tiny river runs through a public park with a path along its banks and the sun had brought half the town out, while the other half were shopping. Whole families seemed to be riding on shiny new bicycles, dodging dog walkers and duck feeders, as they competed for a place on the path. Pieces of bread drifted downstream unchallenged by the many mallard ducks and moorhens, that patrol this waterway, no doubt, like us, brimmed with too much food, enthusiastically offered more as a ritual, than a necessity by willing mothers of children.

For myself, bread is the main bait on this river, ducks ground baiting for me, as they nibble there way through the slices. Setting up to fish bread punch on a running line and stick float rig set 30 inches, I was joined by a fellow club member, Michael, who asked if I minded him fishing 30 yards downstream. As I was intending to trot 15 yards down to a bush, I had no objections. Having already put a couple of small balls of liquidised bread over to the main flow along the opposite bank, I made my first cast over, seeing the float disappear in the first five feet of travel. A lift and I was playing a nice roach, which impressed Michael, making sure of my catch with the landing net. Too many fish swung in to inflate my ego in front of an audience, that then came off the hook, taught me a lesson; always use the landing net.

The roach were soon lined up in my swim, invisible in the clear water, until the hook was set, flashing silver, when they turned away.

These were just the right size to build a weight, plenty of fight, but predictable on the way to the net.

Another ball of bread brought dace on the feed, holding back hard producing firm takes from these notoriously fast feeders, the Anglo Saxon name of dart an apt description.

These have grown well since being introduced by the Environment Agency a few years ago.

Roach and dace now took turns in taking the 5 mm punch of bread on a size 16 hook and all seemed set for a red letter day.

As lunchtime approached the “Caught anything mister?” and “Oooh the man has caught a fish” brigade increased. I don’t mind a bit of attention, but when they stand peering down into the clear shallows, where I am catching fish and the bites stop, it gets a bit wearing. When a pair of twins in identical pink coats arrived to ply me with questions, “What have you got in your net mister?” followed by “Can you see the big fish in there Maisy?”, it was time to get out the turkey and gammon sandwiches.

Audience gone, I put on my bait apron, realising that my jeans, clean on that morning, were already getting slimed up. I began to catch again, including another decent roach.

Splash!! A large dog had taken a flying leap into the river, chasing ducks through my swim, it’s furious owner shouting ignored commands, until the woolly beast gave up and returned to the bank, showering everyone with ice cold river water.

This was the last straw. The river was now muddied and I took the opportunity to move my stuff in stages, twenty five yards down stream, where the main path rose away from the bank, placing my tackle box on a narrow strip that sloped toward the river. This still did not deter a few more young adventurers from threading their way through my strewn accessories, or several dogs from sniffing out the contents of my bait bag. Michael had long moved on to another downstream swim, having complained of dace smashing his maggots.

The river had picked up pace, creating an eddy down my side, the muddy water was gone, but replaced by a thick orange soup, my keepnet now hidden in the murk. First cast in the float bobbed and dipped and I lifted into a big gudgeon that hugged the bottom.

It was now a gudgeon a chuck, not ideal, but at least the float kept going under.

The river was clearing again and I caught a roach. This river suffers from several industrial outfalls and daily changes colour to this dirty orange. The origin is a mystery, but it puts the roach, chub and dace off the feed, while gudgeon seem to thrive in it.

As the river clears, so the roach come back. I had more gudgeon, then my last fish, another small roach. I couldn’t wait for more roach to show and packed up while the sun still shone.

It had been a busy few hours, even if all had not gone to plan, there were a lot of fish in my net, about 4 lb in weight, although half what I had hoped for at the start of the session.

 

 

 

 

Blackwater bread punch roach defy the floods

December 19, 2019 at 4:01 pm

Rain, rain and more rain seems to be the norm so far this December, but a dry forecast today saw me head to the banks of the river Blackwater, as a heavy frost gave way to sunshine. Heavy rain was due by 4 pm, so I wanted to make the most of my session, although by the time that I had scraped the ice from the van and driven to the river it was 11 am. Due to the storms of late, I was not sure what the state of the Blackwater would be, walking to the bridge for a look, confirming my fears. It was the colour of strong builder’s tea and boiling through.

The tackle was still in the van and I stood for a while considering my options, go elsewhere, or stay. Always up for a challenge, I unloaded my gear, crossed the bridge and walked downstream. The last time that I had fished, there had been a dead tree in the water creating a slack. Unfortunately it was now on the bank, the Surrey Council having removed and cut it up. I headed back upstream to another slack on the inside of a tight bend. Too late. Another angler was now tackling up in it.

I now searched for a steady run on my side, out of the main flow; finding a corner where an outcrop from the bank created a narrow eddy.

Setting up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stick float, I plumbed the depth, 3 feet down the inside and 4 feet a rod length out. Knowing the Blackwater, this was at least a foot over normal level. It was now noon, so much for my early start. The choice of the 4 No 4 float was too light, but decided to give it a try. Introducing a couple of tight balls of liquidised bread in close, upstream behind me, following down with the float set at 3 feet. The float dragged under and I lifted to feel a fish, seeing a small roach dive for the faster water and come off.

Not a good start, but at least the fish were in a feeding mood. Putting another 6 mm pellet of bread on the size 16 barbless hook, I cast in again, this time dip, dip, dive and another small roach putting a bend in the rod, as it used the force of the current. Taking my time, I slowly wound line back, lifting the roach clear to my hand.

Next trot a slightly bigger roach was diving away toward the middle, opting to net this one.

It was time to get serious, wetting down half a pint of feed and putting on my bait apron to dry my hands. In this time the river took on more pace, rustling the ivy at my feet as it swept by, taking on more colour. Half a mile upstream, the outfall from a water treatment works empties into the river, its force usually varying thoughout the day. My slack had changed into a boiling eddy and I began to miss bites as the float was washed around in circles. I knew now that a 6 No 4 float would have been easier to control, but stuck to my lighter float, adding another 9 inches to the depth and bulking the shot closer to the hook link. A stiffer ball of feed dropped quickly to the bottom, breaking up as it disappeared from view downstream. Keeping the rod up and the line off the water, I eased the float along the crease of the eddy. Dip, dive, I was in again to another hard fighting roach.

I was now dragging up twigs, but the fish were down there, including a stonking gudgeon.

Feeding a small ball of feed every ten minutes and bumping the bait along the bottom was getting positive bites, the roach below taking the bread in a rush, hooking itself, then kiting across the river, but staying on, the hook dropping out in the net.

The pace of the river dropped back again and I shallowed up, spreading the shot and trotting through the slack, hooking in succession a trio of small chub, that skipped off the hook before I could swing them in. I went deep again and stuck to the formula, keeping the float tip under tight control. The roach kept coming in fits and starts, depending on the force of the river as it moved the eddy around.

The sun had long gone by 2 pm and an icy downstream wind was now adding to my problems, trying to lift the float from the water. I was ready to pack up, but would then hook another roach.

With only a few days left before the shortest of the year, by 3 pm the light was fading, I was shaking with the cold and my warming tea was gone, so on catching this last roach, I packed up.

It had been hard work having to chase the fish. Usually with the bread, a layer of feed will coat the bottom downstream and provide a sweet spot, where drifting the float in will get a fish a chuck, but the varying flow moved the fish about.

I missed plenty of bites and lost several fish in the current, but it had been worth the effort.

Not a good net of fish by Blackwater standards, but on the day, respectable. On the drive home, the expected rain came down with a vengeance, the dry weather window had closed again.

December bread punch carp reward

December 8, 2019 at 6:59 pm

This summer one of my local balance ponds suffered from a drop in oxygen levels, leaving hundreds of carp gasping on the surface, as they crowded around the freshwater inlets. Concerned members of the public contacted the Environment Agency, who arrived with a boat, nets and electro fishing gear to remove the bulk of the carp, many in double figures. About two hundred carp and rudd were rehomed in local pivate lakes, leaving this free public access water stripped of its prime assets.

Two years of successful spawning had left many tiny carp, commons and mirrors, while survivors of the netting are still being caught by a few regulars, and I decided to try my luck on a mild Saturday afternoon this week.

The council have reduced the level of the pond by over a foot and I settled down to fish on what is now a beach below the pond wall. Boasting a car park and a food wagon selling hot drinks, the pond is a focal point for young families bringing bread down to feed the ducks and I could see a few carp venturing into the shallows to mop up the residue left by the ducks. The only good thing about the level drop, is that the growing population of resident Canada geese seem to have deserted the pond, otherwise 18 inches above the mud bottom, is now the maximum depth. The pond has always been coloured, the water often orange, but chemicals put into the pond by the EA have cleared it and I could see the bottom right across to the island.

Setting up my 12.5 foot Normark float rod with a modified antenna pole float, I cast into an area, where a stream flows in from the left, having baited a line toward the island, catapulting out balls of liquidised bread mixed with ground carp pellets.

Mini carp were soon attacking the 8mm bread pellet, dipping the float, giving false alarm bites similar to the real thing, most not finding the hook, when I struck.

Ten minutes later the float dipped under and kept going, the rod bending into a pound plus common carp, that exploded onto the surface in the shallow water, running beyond the island as I flipped the rod over to the left to turn it. Trailing black mud, the carp ran up toward the stream as I reeled it back, bringing the rod round to the right to force it away from an overhanging bush. Once in the shallows, it beached itself and I had to force the landing net under the rolling carp, then drag it clear. Only lightly hooked, the size 16 barbless dropped out in the net. After a quick photo, I carried the net along the bank to deeper water, well away from my swim to free the common, not wanting to disturb the swim more than I needed to.

A light breeze got up, putting a bow in the line and dragging the float round, so I started a new area, catapulting more balls of feed toward the island on my right, again being bothered by baby carp. Further to my right, I could see a dark shadow moving slowly along the edge of the island toward me. It was a shoal of carp, a couple of white backed ghost carp investigating the bottom in front of the main body of fish. I catapulted a couple more balls over ahead of them. A very long common cruised into the feed area.

With anticipation, I cast into the mass of fish, the float dipping under and lifting as the bread was tested, swinging like a pendulum beneath the float. A carp swam in my direction as the float followed it, I lifted the rod. Contact! The fish accelerated at top speed to the left, scattering more carp, then came off. The shoal were now stirring up black mud, as they rooted along the bottom after the feed, tails breaking the surface. Casting in again, I missed a bite that zoomed away. Another good bite brought an anti climax, when a better 4 oz baby common stole the bait. More missed bites, then solid resistance as a carp turned away running along the island.

With the landing net tucked under my arm, I followed the running carp, keen to get beyond a wooden post standing upright in the middle of the channel, the line snagging on small branches briefly before the carp slowed. Not a big fish, about 3 lb, the common carp burrowed through the mud, then surfaced, swimming left and right making short runs, gradually being brought back to the net in a foot of water.

Back to my tackle box, after a photo, I marched along the bank to release my catch, finding that the shoal had continued on its way round the island. I sat it out for another fifteen minutes with no sign of a bite, until the float, followed by the line vanished from view. Braced for a big fish, another baby carp resisted briefly, then came off. It was now gone 3 pm, in the breeze the air was chilling and I packed up.

The carp tended to shoal, when I first fished here ten years ago, banded pellets with a pellet waggler a killer method. Today there are obviously still a fair number of carp, but it will be a while before the baby carp put on pounds, but with the now clear water and no weed cover, will the cormorants get there first?