Bread punch chub feed in arctic conditions

January 18, 2019 at 4:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Trout stream work party feeds optimism

January 13, 2019 at 7:23 pm

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

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

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

 

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

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

New Year stick float bread punch reward on the River Blackwater

January 3, 2019 at 8:25 pm

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

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

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

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

Dace followed dace.

Then a small roach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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