Bread Punch Carp Surprise

November 18, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Continued unseasonal mild weather had put the local carp lake on my target list, then days of rain flowed down the feeder stream and caused it to overflow the banks, being four feet up a week ago. While waiting for the level to drop, the Weatherman was predicting frosts and wintery showers after this weekend, so with Saturday afternoon free, I arrived to find that the level had dropped to just below the bank.

The sun was already beginning to drop below the houses, as I damped down some coarse bread crumb, ready to fish my modified pole float, waggler rig.

Squeezing out four balls of wet bread, I fed an area 20 yards out, where I had seen some carp movements, followed by the float with a 12 mm punch of bread wrapped round the hook. I did not have to wait long for a response, the float dipped a few times, then slowly sank away. The line at the rod tip moved forward and swept back the 12.5 ft Normark float rod ready for the explosive run of a carp. Missed it! I could not understand how?

I cast out again and missed another perfect bite. Maybe the bread was too big? The carp often take their time here, pushing the bait around without taking it in. I tried a double punched 6 mm pellet of bread. Same again. Next I tried a single 6 mm pellet, squeezed to a lozenge shape. The float dithered, then shot under. Another big strike and hooked a leaf. Not a leaf, a tiny carp!

So that was it. The long hot summer had obviously been good for spawning and this was the result. A couple more misses, then another perfect example.

These bites were just like the real thing and each time I braced myself for a strong run, only to have an anticlimax each time. I even had a couple of baby mirror carp.

Then, bang, I hit into a proper carp. The float had slowly sunk and the strike had seen the line V out then go solid, moments before a muddy swirl beneath the float. The carp kept going out toward the centre of the lake, then turned in an arc toward overhanging bushes on my right. I brought the rod round over my left shoulder and reeled back line, the carp turning to rush by ten yards out, stirring up a mud trail as it passed. It was now under the trees to my left and turned the rod to counter the escape attempt, a small branch surfacing between me and the carp. A couple more short runs on a tight line had the carp rolling in front of me. The net was out and I pulled back the rod to guide in a nice common.

Just like the mini version, but 6 lb heavier. Phew! That was a fight. As fat as a barrel, but packing a punch. Photo session over, it was back in the lake.

I cast back out. There was still a muddy stain in the water, but I had an instant bite. Strike! Resistance, but only another small carp.

Spot the difference.

I carried on, each time striking in anticipation of a big carp, but not so, although everyone was different.

By 4 pm the clear sky was heralding a frosty night, the temperature falling away and I packed up. At least twenty mini carp had translated into one decent common on my light tackle, a match rod to 6 lb line. Without the bait stealers, it could have been more.

 

Bread Punch Autumn Roach on the Stickfloat

November 15, 2018 at 9:51 pm

A few days of heavy rain had increased the flow and added some welcome colour to my local river this week. With a mild, dry day forecast, I made my way to the weir, hoping for some decent sized roach on the bread punch, fished on the stickfloat. The river was up about a foot on its summer level, the increased pace creating waves, where it met the outfall.

Set up with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to size 16 hook, I started off by putting in two egg sized balls of liquidised bread slightly upstream of my box, one down the middle, the other two feet from the bank, watching them sink and break up as they washed down stream. Guessing the depth at three feet, I ran through off the top of my 14 foot rod, seeing the float dive under half way down the swim, the rod bending into a 6 ounce chub, that ran back to the fast water, a rapid backwind of the reel cushioning the pull. This swim has a high bank and I swung the 3 metre landing net out out to collect the chub.

Another 6 mm bread pellet on the hook and I was ready again, this time a roach burying the hook.

I had come for the roach and this was a good start, my next trot being down the inside line, where the occasional pound-plus chub, can be found under the bush. The float dived long before reaching the bush and on contact I was convinced it was a chub, the rod bending down as the fish ran into the foam. Using an open face ABU 501 reel, I lifted my line controlling index finger to release line, when the fish continued downstream into the fast water, a flash of red fins proving that it was sized roach, eventually bringing the zigzagging fish back to the net.

Next cast was a repeat performance, the float diving beneath my feet on the inside and I was battling another beauty.

This one had black spot desease, caused by a flat worm lavae, that latch onto the skin of the fish, the fish covering the area with black pigment. The roach in this pool are often covered in the spots, which as far as I can see, do not affect the health the fish, this one being full of fight and rounded in the body.

I fed a couple more balls to keep them coming, the roach taking on the run through in the pacy flow.

Usually an eddy is formed, where the river meets the outfall, this being the hot spot, but today the force of the river was pushing the eddy back upstream into the tumbler and I tried a cast to the edge of the foam, watching the float travel upstream and disappear. Giving line, I paused, then struck, the rod bending round as a fish fought upstream into the weir. Keeping the rod low to avoid the bush, I held the run, reeling steadily back, the fish dropping into the flow, then diving for the base of the roots. I kept winding, seeing a big roach of about a pound pulling against the rod. It dived again and came off, the size 16 hook pulling free. Ouch! That hurt, cursing myself for being impatient.

I dropped in another ball and tried again in the same spot, the float carrying upstream, dipping, then vanishing with another rod bender, this time easing the pressure and backwinding, watching a good roach fighting hard under the bank, taking my time to get the net under it.

Not a pound roach, but a very nice fish all the same, the upstream eddy holding some nice fish. I hooked, then lost another stormer, that ran over to the the far side of the weir stream, before connecting me to a dead branch, shedding the hook. My next roach made it back to the net without too much fuss.

I decided to rest the weir stream to concentrate on the river, going over depth on the float by a foot, to offer a stationary bait close to the confluence. The float had just held back, when it bobbed a couple of times and slid away, lifting into a solid resistance, that slowly woke up into another hard fighting roach.

This roach was about 12 oz, taking me all over the river in an effort to escape. Once again the net was out for a good fish and I leaned back to counterbalance the leverage. Looking inside its mouth as I removed the hook, I could see a grey line of silt, a sure sign that the roach were Hovering up the fine bread crumb, that was coating the bottom.

Once again, the laying on technique worked immediately, the float giving a couple of bobs, before holding under with a good roach, that made straight for the fast water, as I backwound. With this one netted, it was time for a cup of tea and a sandwich, I know I could have had a couple more fish in the net in that time, but the fish were not going anywhere, while I was feeling knackered.

I had fed another ball of bread before my tea, my first cast back in seeing a sail away take and the rod bending over again with yet another quality roach.

I tried laying on at my feet, getting a bobbing bite, that I thought was one of the three inch chub that I had been troubled with along the edge, but no, the line went solid with the roach above.

As the morning slipped into the afternoon, the bites slowed and I tried shallowing up again. I had gone up to a 7 mm punch also and now went down to a 5 mm pellet. Success, the change brought more confident bites and the catching spree continued.

A small ball of feed every other fish had, the roach lined up on the edge of the fast water, easing the float into the foam, resulting in a disappearing float each time.

I had only allowed myself three and a half hours fishing today, due to a family commitment, having to stop when the roach were still going strong, but this was not a match and I made the decision to stop at this last roach. Yet another clonker.

Looking at my punched bread, I could see that I had had a good session, varying the punch size and depth resulting a memorable net of roach.

A quick weigh-in pushed the scales close to 9 lbs, a satisfying end to the session. It was rewarding to see that this part of the river has recovered from a devastating series of pollution events 18 months previously.

Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto Autumn rabbits

November 12, 2018 at 6:49 pm

It is a while since my last visit to the equestrian centre, due to a severe lack of rabbits, good for a walk in the country air, but not good for the pot, this wooded path once yielding several rabbits at a pass. I was back again on a bright windy Autumn afternoon, following a call from the owners, to say that they had begun to see more rabbits in this area.

The Magtech .22 is the ideal rifle for this style of shooting, where a steady, stop and start movement will often flush out a rabbit, or two, its light weight allowing the rifle to be brought rapidly up to the eye.

I heard the first rabbit before I saw it, as it trotted away through the undergrowth to my left, stepping over to the right to get a view of it. It had seen me and stopped as it considered crossing the open path to the ditch on the other side. Illuminated by the low sunshine, it offered a perfect shot, the 42 grain Winchester Subsonic flipping it over at 30 yards.

As I paunched this rabbit, I saw another cross from the field into the ditch about 50 yards further up, but could not get a bead on it. They seemed to have repopulated the banks of the ditch this dry summer, it often has water in it for most of the year, the soft sandy soil ideal for burrowing, but now it was full of dead grass, ideal cover.

I walked from tree to tree, scanning the ditch through the scope, seeing a large rabbit sitting at the top of the ditch looking out to the field beyond. At 40 yards, resting on the tree trunk, I aimed between the shoulders and saw it jump before toppling down the bank, disturbing an unseen rabbit in the grass below, which ran a few yards and stopped still. Sighting on the new target, the Magtech barked through the silencer, dropping the second rabbit. Two in under a minute.

I walked to the end of the path, but saw no more and turned at the top, to walk along the ditch from the field side. A shape in the field moved, it was a rabbit about 80 yards away, too far for a safe shot with the .22, but I crouched low and kept it in sight. The light was already going fast, the sun having sunk below the trees and I hoped to get closer before it saw me. It moved out of the field onto the path, then to the top of the ditch, sitting bolt upright. I’d closed down another twenty yards and it was now, or never, getting down prone to shoot off my gun bag, rotating the scope to its 12 x magnification. In this light, the rabbit was almost invisible and I aimed at the top of the chest, then squeezed the trigger, the rifle bouncing with the recoil, as the rabbit jumped into the ditch. Missed it! I walked down to check, using a bush as a guide. It was there, still kicking. Although it was probably only a nerve reflex, I stepped down and fired again in the back of its head. It was still.

These rabbits were in a confined area of the ditch and I saw no more burrows along its length. Having switched to using the new 42 grain Winchester subsonic .22 bullets, they have proved both accurate and deadly in the Magtech 7002. This is the time when rabbits are out feeding, before the cold wet winter gets a grip.

 

 

 

 

Bread punch chub on the pole

November 5, 2018 at 3:03 pm

A frosty start with ice on my local pond demanded a change of venue and I drove to the local river nearby to check on the condition of the water coming over the weir. The river has suffered many minor pollution events recently, but today the river was crystal clear and I unloaded the van to walk to a nearby swim.

On the inside of a bend, the flow passed beneath an overhanging bush and with only a pole with me, set up to trot along the opposite bank into the bush. Due to the bright sunshine, I could see the bottom beneath the bush, which seemed devoid of fish, but the proof would be in the fishing.

Taking out a pole rig with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick, I added another four feet of line to avoid the pole top being visible to the fish, as it trotted the float down to the bush. This gave three metres to hand, needing to break the pole from five metres to three. I tried a small ball of liquidised bread upstream of the  bush, watching it break up and drift down in a cloud, before punching out a 6 mm pellet for the size 16 barbless hook. Casting over to the roots opposite, the float had only drifted a foot before it dipped, then slowly sank, as though on the bottom, but a flash of silver when I lifted, then the elastic stretching out of the pole, said that I had hooked a nice roach.

The fish was very cold to the touch on an already cold day and decided against another ball of bread just yet. A couple of smaller chub followed, so chanced another small ball of feed. Back over, the float lifted and sped downstream. I struck and could now see a chub fighting hard toward the roots, pulling the pole round and extending the elastic to bring the pole back to unship the bottom two metres. The chub’s mouth was soon out of the water and heading for the landing net.

Next put in, the elastic zoomed out downstream again, as a larger chub zig-zagged across the bottom, using the length of the pole to steer it away from a sunken branch, before bringing it across to the net.

Dip, dip, sink, strike. A dace was next, these fish only introduced by the Environment Agency a year ago, after oil pollution virtually wiped out the fish stocks. Although a Thames tributary, the river has several weirs between this point and the main river ten miles away, dace never being caught this far up.

This dace was only a few inches last year and has already put on a couple of ounces, a good sign for the future.

The chub kept coming, interspersed by more dace and small roach, feeding a small ball of bread upstream every few fish.

Trotting past a raft of leaves, I expected another small roach, but the elastic came out again with a hard battling chub, that ran upstream for ten yards, before it turned to swim back toward the landing net.

Then the bites dried up, as the river took on a blue tinge. This has happened so many times now, that I feel that the river must get polluted by someone tipping something down the drains a mile upstream into the system. Last time the river turned white and the fish went off the feed.

As if on cue, my phone rang. It was the local Environment Agency officer, who knows that I live in the area. He was asking if I could drive down to look at the river, as they had just had a report of a strange smell coming from the outlet. I replied that I could go one better than that, saying that I was fishing two hundred yards downstream from the outlet, the river has turned blue and the bites have stopped.

Once this happens, it is pointless to continue, the river is dead for at least an hour and if more is dumped, then the day is wasted. I packed up, looking down at my bait tray to count the punches, each one a fish.

I had thrown the small fish straight back, but 90 minutes of actual fishing had seen the start of what could have been a memorable net of fish, releasing these back to the river in the landing net.

By the time that I had loaded my trolley, a Thames Water engineer had arrived and we walked down to see if any other anglers had been affected by the change in colour. There was only one, two hundred yards down from me, saying that his bites had dried up too. The fish are all fat and healthy, but something is ruining the fishing. Walking back to the van, the river had cleared again.

 

CZ452 HMR Rabbit late call

November 1, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Following my visit to Saunderton last week for some rabbit pest control, I arrived at the farm this week to shoot at the other end, where I had been informed by farmer Lee, that the rabbits were repopulating the far corner.

Ten years ago my approach would have been greeted by white tails bobbing back into cover, despite crawling the last 50 yards to the crest of a slight rise in the ground. The same approach this week was a waste of effort with no rabbits in sight, although after a steep half mile uphill walk and then the grass high scrabble to my vantage point, it probably did a lot for my personal fitness.

On the way up, a group of grey rounded shapes got me exited, but one look through the scope confirmed them as half a dozen guinea fowl, which set off at a pace down the field, running at top speed, then taking flight a few feet off the ground toward the furthest hedgerow. Somebody owns them, or owned them, they are very independent and unlike chickens do not like to be contained in a coop.

There was a biting crosswind, left to right and with nothing showing for half an hour, I decided to walk down to the tree line to check out signs of rabbit activity, finding several runs beneath the trees, but few droppings. A hundred yards apart were two new badger setts, the freshly cleared earth spilling out into the field, the entrance holes over a foot in diameter, compared to the six inch wide rabbit holes. Rabbits and badgers do not mix, a badger easily capable of digging out and killing young rabbits. This is what happened further down the hill, a prolific warren destroyed by badgers, that took over the area.

I walked along the tree line to the top of another crest, settling down in the long grass at the edge, with a view down into the dip, the corner being 120 yards away, an easy shot with the .17 HMR and a following wind.

 

Looking at my watch, I had been here for an hour and the shadows were already lengthening, the sun beginning to sink below Bledlow Ridge in the west. I had optimistically packed another game bag, expecting plenty of action, having not visited this corner for at least two years, after the returns had not warranted the 35 mile drive from home. This looked like it could end up as a costly expedition, when taking fuel into account. Hoping to avoid the worst of the evening rush hour, I set my time limit at 4 pm, deciding that I would leave then whatever the outcome.

There are more unpleasant ways to spend an hour, lying there watching kites almost motionless, hanging in the breeze, while knowledgeable pigeons and crows changed their flight patterns to a void my position. Scoping along the tree line, I searched for movement among the nettles and long grass bordering the field, but nothing was moving. Suddenly two large rabbits emerged from beneath the furthest tree, one stopping at the edge, the other ten feet out. Lying, resting on my elbows with the rifle stock crooked in my shoulder, I was ready for them, sighting on the rabbit at the edge, a head shot dropped it, while the other still sat upright. Quickly shifting another bullet into the CZ chamber, the second rabbit toppled at a range of 120 yards. It was ten minutes to four.

Two healthy rabbits, that unfortunately for them appeared at the wrong time. For me it was time to leave, bagging them up as they were, their combined weight telling, as I walked back down to the farm and the van, the busy roads in contrast to the remote hill top.

 

CZ452 Varmint .17 HMR Autumn Stakeout

October 25, 2018 at 9:07 pm

A welcome call from a farmer up in the Chiltern Hills, saw me heading north to Saunderton this week. Once overrun with rabbits, over ten years I had depleted their numbers to the point that it was no longer financially viable for me to make the twenty mile journey to the farm and I had reduced my visits to once, or twice a year just for the goodwill of keeping the shooting permission.

Meeting Lee at the farm, he said that they were back in force at the twenty five acre field, due to badgers taking over the lower hedgerows, causing the rabbits to migrate to the higher ground. At the other end of the farm is a ten acre high meadow, which once had little grass due to the rabbits. This had been my original quest, decimating the population in the first year, allowing the farmer to reseed the grass for his beef cattle. Lee had begun to see rabbits again along the far hedge line and suggested that I might like to give the meadow a try, before moving on to the twenty five acres. This suited me fine, as we had already spent too much time catching up on past events. After driving to the nearest gate, there was still the little matter of a half mile hike up the steep incline to the hedge.

As I walked along the edge toward a curve in the field, a rabbit cantered out into the open 130 yards away and stopped. In the low light it was barely visible, but after sinking slowly to the ground, with the scope at x12 magnification, there was a clear side on shot. With was no wind and allowing for an inch bullet drop at that range, I aimed at the chest above the front shoulder. Squeezing the trigger broke the silence, watching the rabbit topple to its right and lay still. One for the bag.

I moved closer to the curve, where many years before the council had dumped slabs of tarmac and rubble the other side of the hedge, which had proved a safe haven for a massive rabbit warren, with a meadow full of grass and tasty roots just a few hops away. Settling down in the long grass at the edge, I had a good view of the warren, coming to the conclusion that there were no great numbers of rabbits here, as the grass was still in good condition, with no signs of digging. After half an hour, I was ready to collect my rabbit and try further along, but my patience was rewarded, when two rabbits dashed out into view to sit side by side. The CZ HMR was already cradled ready to shoot and I raised the scope to my eye and shot the one on the left. The second turned and darted for cover, ducking down to get under the wire, the scope following it’s move, my right hand rapidly working the rifle bolt to chamber the next round, which found its mark in the back of the rabbit’s head.

Another twenty minute wait took me to 4 pm with no more sightings, so I moved forward to pick up my harvest, noting that there were few rabbit droppings in the area, my guess being that this was only a recently established colony.

A trio of large healthy rabbits, that will provide some enjoyable meals this winter.

Pike force a move

October 17, 2018 at 12:21 pm

I had promised myself another visit to Farnborough’s Shawfield Lake before the leaves drop, driving through thick mist and heavy drizzle, that had cleared to sunshine by the time I arrived at mid day. Letting myself through the padlocked gate, the lake looked welcoming with a tinge of colour and little wind.

I was hoping for roach and skimmer bream, plus a possible tench or two and pre-baited with a few balls of liquidised bread before setting up my pole. There is about 5 feet of water 20 feet out and it was not long before my float bobbed, then slid away with the first fish of the afternoon, a 3 oz roach. With this in the keepnet, I swung out the rig again to an instant response, the float going straight down with a better roach. The line went solid as a pike grabbed the fish and made off. Not again! I had this problem on the River Blackwater two weeks before. The heavy pole elastic slowed the pike down, causing the hook in the roach to pull free.

Putting in another ball of feed, the fish were back and the net began to fill with roach to 4 oz. Then it happened again, the pike taking a roach just short of the net, its back breaking the surface, causing me to jump with surprise. I let the line go slack, putting on another two metres of pole, giving the pike time to turn the roach. Expecting larger fish, my rig was 5 lb main line to a 2.8 hook link and size 14 hook, enough to handle this 4 to 5 lb pike and I swept the pole round, stretching out the elastic. Against the resistance, the pike turned and I got the landing net ready, but its sharp teeth went through the hook link and the rig catapulted back into a bank side bush. This was annoying, luckily being able to retrieve the rig, which needed another hook link. The activity had scared off the roach and I got out the tea and sandwiches, having put out another ball of bread.

Watching my motionless float, the sound of splashing fish drew me to look at my keep net. The roach were panicking on the surface as the water boiled further down. I lifted up the net to see that the pike had a roach across its jaws through the net, only letting go when I pulled the net up onto the bank. The roach was dead, its scales now missing and the crescent shape of the pike’s jaws from stomach to back. This was the last straw for me, that pike would return. I had considered moving to another swim, but decided to pack up and head back home. There was still time to fish the pond ten minutes walk from my home.

By 3:30, I was ready to fish the pond, placing my tackle box on a makeshift platform of a pair of kitchen doors screwed into logs laid in the reeds. Lacing the area with several balls of liquidised bread, I settled into a rythm of a rudd a chuck, a necessary evil until the crucians and carp moved in.

The platform was not too stable, the constant swinging in of rudd causing my tackle box to rock back and forth. Adjustment to the box legs soon got me fishing again, the rudd getting bigger as I fished out the small stuff.

After an hour of silver bashing, I would have expected to have seen fine bubbles from feeding crucian carp, but this was not happening and I was beginning to believe the rumours, that the pond had been fished out by migrant workers, fishing for food. A slow sinking float, that met solid resistance, banished these thoughts, as a small common carp stretched out the elastic toward the nearby lily bed, before eventually coming to the landing net.

At last a decent fish, although it was back to rudd again next cast. Usually, once the carp have moved in the rudd move out, but as the light was beginning fade it, seemed unlikely. The float dithered and bobbed before sinking and I struck into a small colourful crucian carp, that I swung in.

I have been plagued by these bait stealers before, but today it was welcome, giving a brief fight.

The sky had darkened as a rain cloud emptied over the pond and I checked my watch, 5:30, two hours without a proper crucian, unknown for this pond. A couple more rudd and I got my reward, when a hard fighting crucian took the 7 mm bread pellet, almost tipping over as the platform rocked on its log, as I slipped the net under the fish.

The light was now going fast and my camera was refusing to flash due to a low battery, this pic and the following rudd being blurred.

As I leaned forward to put this fish in the net, the platform shifted and I was thrown backward against the bank, just avoiding getting my feet wet.

I had intended packing up at 6 pm anyway, so what was another 10 minutes added to a pretty rubbish afternoon? I was able to retrieve most of my tackle from the boggy water round my box, saving my disgorger and bread punches, but losing a sharp pair of scissors in the mud.

It had been worth the move, this 7 lb net in two hours, testament to the effectiveness of the bread punch.

 

 

Chub, roach and rudd turned off by pollution

October 10, 2018 at 8:31 am

Deciding on a quick visit to my local River Cut, I almost turned round and went home, when I saw a thick muddy deposit being washed into the river from one of the town outfall tunnels. The clear natural river was being stained brown as the polluted water washed over the weir. Similar occurrences have killed the fishing stone dead in the past, but I opted to give it a try, walking downstream to where the river was still clear, cutting a swim out from the overgrown bank side, among himalayan balsam and stinging nettles. By the time I had set up, the coloured water had flowed down to my swim and I did not hold out much hope of any bites.

The features of the bottom had already disappeared in the murk, when I cast a 4 No 4 stick float, on a long line to five metres of pole, over to the edge of sunken logs. There was only two feet of water over that side, but a chub was waiting for the 7 mm bread pellet to drift down, the float sinking before it cocked. A sharp upward lift of the pole saw the elastic come out as a chub dived back to the logs.

I was probably more surprised than the chub, not expecting such a rapid response. I had baited with two balls of liquidised bread, before getting the pole out of its bag and cast over again into the area. The float dived again, this time a quality roach stretching out the elastic as it zigzagged across the flow.

Once again, no sooner had the float settled, it dipped and held down, as another decent roach took the bread. Three casts and three fish.

This float has a fine tapering tip, that offers little resistance to fish in the slow moving River Cut, ideal for fishing bread punch.

The next bite slowly held down to the tip, and I struck before waiting for it to sink, a spirited rudd skating across the surface to the net.

I dropped the float into another ball of bread and watched the float lift, then slide sideways, the elastic coming out again with a decent roach fighting in the shallow river.

The pace of the river had increased, but the bites kept coming, this time a better rudd running off downstream.

The river was changing colour again, taking on a grey tinge to the mucky brown, and I missed a few finicky bites, before making contact with this nice roach.

Fishing over depth and holding back to slow the bait down, brought a small chub, then another good roach took at the end of the trot, fighting hard all the way back to the net.

As the river took on a blue tinge, the bites faded away, a small roach and a rudd being the last fish, then half an hour without the hint of a bite. Even the local ducks seemed keen to get away, about a dozen speeding down through my swim. I packed up and headed back up the path to the van.

I thought that I was in for a decent session, but it was good to see some quality roach and rudd.

Reaching the outfall I could see why the river had changed colour again, a white discharge clouding the river.

 

 

 

Pike trouble on the River Blackwater

October 2, 2018 at 5:58 pm

Complacency caught me out this week, when my wife suggested that I go fishing, while she took a drive into town looking for birthday presents. It was a bit of a snap decision and I decided on a new, as yet, unfished swim on the nearby River Blackwater, however reaching inside the fishing and shooting drawer of the freezer, there were no bags of liquidised bread left. What I thought was a bag containing several smaller measures of the precious feed, contained a number of recently made rabbit pasties. Shock, horror! I always have liquidised bread in the freezer! I felt so out of my comfort zone, that I suggested that without being able to fish the bread punch, I would not go fishing after all. “The look on your face!” she said “Can’t you buy some maggots, or something?” She was right of course, I could and would.

Regaining my will to live, Plan B swung into action. I boiled up some hemp seed and checked out my ground bait tin. A half bag of Van Den Eynde Super Cup, a full bag of brown crumb and some dried mole hill soil, would make up some nice maggot and hemp filled balls of ground bait, that would slowly break down on the gravel of the fast flowing Blackwater. I also took a couple of small slices of punch bread as a back up bait. The tackle shop was on my way to the river, The Last of the Big Spenders lashing out one pound, seventy five on half a pint of red maggots.

Arriving at the river, I parked alongside the only other car in the carpark, unloaded my gear from the van and walked to the swim, unable to see until right on top of it, that another angler was already lounged out in bed chair, staring at his feeder rod top. Disappointed I asked if he had caught anything.”Nope” He was the sort, that even if he had caught a dozen barbel, would have given the same reply. I turned and went back to the van. Plan C was to reload the van, drive to the other end of the carpark and walk to another swim, that I had blanked from, when the river was in flood last winter. The swim had good head room for casting a float rod and was almost at the end of the fishery, therefore I hoped, to far for a less determined angler to bother with.

In the winter, this swim had appeared to offer refuge from the floods, deeper water giving way to shallows further down, but two bites and a lost chub were all that it had provided, but now it looked good with a powerful central flow, bordered by slower water. I mixed up my mucky ground bait mix, including the hemp, but saving the maggots to add to the made up balls.

Leaving the ground bait to absorb the water, I tackled up with a 6BB stickfloat to my 14 foot Browning float rod, then punching out a 7 mm pellet of bread for the size 14 hook and casting over to the back eddy along the opposite bank. The float dipped and sank. I lifted into a good sized roach, playing it toward the middle. Whoosh! A pike broke the surface and dived away with the roach. Oh no! Not first cast? Releasing the handle on the reel, I let it spin, the rod bending to the running pike. It stopped and began to allow me to reel it back. It turned and come off. The hook was OK, tied to a 3 lb hook link, then to 5 lb reel line. I’ve had pike trouble before on the Blackwater, then I had a heavy feeder rod with 15 lb reel line with me and after lip hooking a small live bait to a size 12, hooked and landed the pike, releasing it further down stream, allowing me to continue fishing undisturbed. Today I had no feeder rod.

This was a dilemma. I knew it would be back, but did not want to move again. Maybe I could get the pike in next time? Running the bread through again, the roach seemed to have been scared off and ran through with double maggot. The float dived and the rod was bent into a good fish, that felt like a good perch boring deep, as it came back to me. Suddenly the line tightened and I was backwinding a rapidly retreating fish. The hook had straightened. Was it a carp, a barbel, big chub, or had the pike returned already? So far I had been smashed off twice, without landing a fish.

After tying on another 14 barbless hook, I pushed a hole in one of the ground bait balls and filled it with red maggots, dropping it in just past middle, putting in another just upstream of it. About six inches over depth, the float was checked through at half pace, travelling a few feet then dragging under with small perch hugging the bottom, as the hook was set.

Small perch were lined up chasing maggots and with a few in the net, I tried a bread punch pellet, the float sinking away again, this time with a small roach, that I got airborne across the surface to my hand. Next drop in, the bread selected a better roach, which again I swung in to avoid tempting the pike.

After a couple of dropped small dace, I switched back to the maggot, following down another bait ball. The bites were fast and furious, as the dace scooped up the hemp and maggots, a positive bite bringing a nice dace, that fought deep, but then burst onto the surface, the pike rolling, when the dace was lifted clear.

This dace was lucky, not so the next, that fought hard along the bottom, until seized by the pike. Here was another chance, the rod bending over as the predator flashed beneath the surface in an arc. Again it ran down stream, coming back, then turning down again under pressure. It was tiring, slowly swimming up toward me. Soon it was level and beneath my feet, lying just under the surface. The dace was hanging outside of the wide jaws, the pike about thirty inches long. I tried to slide the net under the pike from the high bank, but it rolled away, swimming back out. I wound the reel back down, putting pressure back on and the float went from view, but then the pike was wallowing on the surface and I pulled back in an attempt to surf it over the rim of the landing net. Nearly. Half way in, I lifted the net, only for the net to twist on its thread and the pike to slide out. It dived back to the fast water and ping, the hook link broke on the tight line.

Feeding again and with another hook, the dace and roach had moved off, leaving some of the biggest gudgeon that I have caught for a while.

These were monsters, probably a couple of ounces each, that hugged the bottom like glue, before giving up, to swing straight to hand. Small dace and chub took their place, usually coming off before reaching the surface. I was now paranoid that the pike would return and pulled more fish off the hook, than I landed. A perch hooked on a longer trot, burst onto the surface,. followed by swirls from the pike and I powered the fish back to me.

Normally a perch of this size would not have come in so easily, its spiny dorsal fin erect as it skimmed the surface, but the pike had no food preferences and perch were fair game. Next cast I had a small chub of an ounce and decided to trot this down to Mr Toothy, the pike nosing up, causing the chublet to flap on the surface, but it wanted a larger meal. Next visit will see the pike gear in my bag, then we will see who is the boss.

I fed the last of my groundbait further upstream, trying to keep the fish under my rod top, but the damage had been done and even the gudgeon had stopped biting.

After a traumatic four hours, I’d had over forty fish for about 4 lb, not bad in the circumstances, but with a long walk back to the van, my main thought was focused on getting home, before the traffic came between me and my cup of tea.

Wild trout season closer

September 27, 2018 at 11:17 pm

Despite commitments all this week, I was able to take advantage of late September sunshine for a last chance trout, from my syndicate trout stream. Despite days of rain over the weekend, the river was licking over the stones, when I arrived late in the afternoon, clumps of ranunculus weed exposed on the gravel runs.

Walking down to a once productive S bend, I got into the river to wade up through the shallows toward the upper pool, seeing the tell-tale V from a fish that had been browsing the shallows, watching it dart back into the deeper water.

Leaving my van in a layby, I had stopped to look up and down the river, searching for signs of rising fish, but despite the air being full of wheeling Daddy Long Legs, or Crane Flies for the educated among us, there was zero surface activity. Keeping my rod set up in the garage, has the advantage of more fishing time on the bank, the van allowing rod and landing net to be ready for action.

The size 18 copper headed nymph would do to start. If the Crane Flies began scudding across the surface raising a few fish, it would be an easy swap.

Heavy vegetation growth at the edges, was compensating for the lack of water, speeding up the flow as it was funneled toward the shallows and I made a series of casts, moving steadily upstream, as the nymph fished deeper water, lifting it clear of the gravel to keep it bouncing along the bottom.

Ten minutes into the exercise, the leader held for a second, then dropped back, only to veer off to the right. The sharp upward lift of my rod was automatic and a silver flash broke the surface, then dived back to the pool for a short lived tumbling fight, before racing off downstream into the shallows for a more equal battle, a nice dace skimming on its side over the rapids, straight to my hand.

Holding this dace still for a photo, said it all about the strength of dace, size for size they beat many other coarse fish in the power stakes.

Crane flies were launching off from the grass banks of the river, some dipping the water as the fought to gain height, but no fish responded to this easy meal and I continued working my way upstream, keeping in close to the bank and fishing the nymph out and up in a continual search of the bottom.

Casting alongside fronds of sunken weed, the leader stopped. Raising the rod to clear the obstacle, there was a boil as the line shot forward and another silver flash clattered across the surface, pulling the rod tip down. This was no dace, although small, it arrowed upstream into the deeper water, the 7 foot rod bending to the butt, before springing a silver trout to the surface in a shower of spray. Quickly netting the fish, its purple sheen made me think that it was a young rainbow, but the large dark spots said brown trout.

This was the last fish of the evening and the 2018 river trout fishing season for me,  a season that has continued the steady decline of a once fine wild trout stream. This two year old wild brown trout is evidence in itself, that the species can self generate, although it must be looked upon as a rare survivor.