River Blackwater roach and chub workout

August 30, 2019 at 6:28 pm

With a free pass to go fishing, while my wife went into town shopping, I arrived before 10 am at the Farnham AS Yately complex to fish the river Blackwater this week, driving the van to the eastern side of the carpark, which is bordered by the river. There are a couple of deep swims here, ideal for trotting a stick float, where along with quality roach and dace, there is a good chance of a chub, or even a barbel. The other bonus is that it is less than a hundred yards to the river. Judging by the number of cars in the car park, I had been beaten to it and walking the bank confirmed my fear, both swims occupied by anglers fishing “The Meat” on feeder rods. What a waste of good stick float swims.

Back in the van, I now drove to the upstream end of the carpark and unloaded my fishing gear ready for the quarter mile walk to my next swim, another deep run, where the river is restricted in width. Not many anglers venture this far, preferring to fish close to their vehicles and the path narrowed the further I ventured along it. Looking out for the swim proved impossible, as mature stands of Himalayan Balsam crowded out the open banks.

I think that the swim is in there somewhere, but was not prepared to start hacking through this jungle. I have only fished this area in the autumn, when the balsam has died back, leaving a clear bank. Continuing up the path, brambles were now restricting the width, snagging the wheel axles of my trolley as I searched for a suitable swim. They were either choked with streamer weed in the open and covered with more balsam, or clear of weed, but shrouded with trees with no casting room overhead. Finally I reached the top of the stretch, where a fence crosses the river. I turned around and headed back, finding a gap in the trees wide enough to cast. This would have to do. It was now gone 11 am and wanted to be on my way by 2 pm.

The river is very low and clear at the moment, our part of England is in near drought conditions, whereas the West and North of the country have had more than their share of heavy rain for weeks. I could see the bottom right across, the main flow passing down a channel only twenty inches deep, but this did not put me off, some of my most successful stickfloat sessions recently coming from equally shallow swims.

I started off by lobbing a compressed ball of liquidised bread into the channel, to watch it break up in the flow and hopefully be attacked by fish as it sank, but it was soon gone in the shadows. Setting a 4 No 6 bodied stick float just over depth, I punched out a 5mm pellet of bread for the size 16 hook and followed the feed down. The float shot under and the first of several very small chub were hooked and released. Finally getting a keeper.

I put in another ball to help feed off the minichub and went up to a 6mm punch, watching the float travel further downstream before it disappeared, the twelve foot Hardy rod taking on a bend as the fish broke surface on the strike. It was a better chub, but not big enough to cause problems and on its side by the time it reached the landing net.

More small chub followed from much further down the swim and I damped down the bread to form tighter balls of feed in an attempt to bring the fish closer. Dip, dip, sink, the float was under and a roach was putting a bend in the rod again, reeling back slowly to the net.

I had gone deeper again for the roach, letting the line pull off the reel, allowing the bread to swing in the current, hoping for one of the big Blackwater dace, but was surprised by the solid pull of a perch, its black stripes clearly visible.

Perch aren’t supposed to take bread, but here was one yet again, this ending up being the largest and the first of three that took down the middle. No doubt there were a lot more there, if I was a maggot drowner, there would have been a netful.

A cool wind was now blowing hard downstream and across, causing a bow to form in the line and dragging the float off line into shallower water, so I called a halt, getting out my tea and sandwiches, while I changed rigs for a heavier 4 No 4 float, that allowed me to mend the bow in the line back to it.

Fifteen yards down the swim, I picked up another nice roach, but by now I would have expected a lot more bites, including some dace. It was very slow going, often the bread still on the hook at the end of a long trot. Another roach got my hopes up that I was doing something right, this was the last of a trio.

The bites were now coming from twenty yards down the swim ahead of a weedbed and difficult to see, often the shadow of an expanding ring, where the float had been, the only indication. I could not move closer due to the overhead trees, so stuck it out for a little longer, hooking a small chub.

With the bread in my tray in need of topping up, I decided to pack up early, ready for the long trek back to the van.

Not much to show for over two hours fishing. Next time I will bring some worms for the perch. The highlight of the session for me being my spicy chicken and ham sandwiches.

On the way back, I located my deep swim among the Himalayan Balsam, leaving it undisturbed in the hope that it will be unoccupied on my next visit.



River Axe fishing skimmer bream dominate on the bread punch

August 27, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Staying at Diamond Farm Touring Park beside the River Axe for a second night, I had intended a longer fishing session, than the two hour tryout the evening before, but a bus trip to Burnham on Sea and a late afternoon meal at the Park’s restaurant ruled out that idea. To prove to myself that the previous evening’s catch was not a fluke, I decided to try a swim much further along the river, climbing down the bank between bramble bushes that hung over the water.

Like the evening before, the wind was howling along the river upstream, although close in was in the lea of the bank. Plumbing the depth I found a foot less water, 3 feet dropping to 4 feet a dozen feet out. Shallowing up on my 16 x 4 rig, I started off with a 5 mm pellet of punched bread on the size 16 hook, feeding an initial ball of feed inside and another over the drop off.

Being shallower, there was more pace on the river and after 10 trots without a bite, I fed a couple more balls of liquidised bread further upstream on both lines, dropping the float into the cloud on the inside. The float went straight down and I was playing a nice roach.

That extra feed switched them on, a better roach diving away with the bait, pulling out the elastic.

The next cast struck into a decent roach-bream hybrid that fought slow and deep at first, before exploding into life, stretching out the elastic with a powerful downstream run.

A small ball of feed was dropped in followed by the float, which disappeared in seconds and another quality roach fought for freedom.

Yet another hybrid. Having the depth of a bream and the thickness of a roach, these fish fight harder than either individual species, testing the hook hold at every turn.

A sliding bite, like a rudd, turned out to be the first of several skimmer bream.

This one WAS a rudd.

This skimmer gave me an old fashioned lift bite, striking when half the float body lifted up, a delay in the hook going home telling me that there may be others well off the bottom. Shallowing up by 6 inches, I dropped in again and the float dived with a clonker roach, that took some getting into the landing net.

The float popped up again as the bulk shot was lifted by a fish and I was playing a definite skimmer, the silver flash of its flank, each time it rolled beneath the surface, giving the game away, steady pressure guiding it to the net.

I love catching skimmer bream, when I was a kid, my local canal was full of them, a porcupine quill float and a piece of crust, torn from a loaf, on a size 12 hook accounting for many of these slimy beauties.

The roach had been pushed off the feed by the skimmers and I was happy to take advantage, netting a few more, before this slimy individual.

I had fed again, after netting the this last fish and dropped into the sinking cloud, again the float lifted and I was into something big, that just sat there, bending the pole and holding out the elastic. Then it woke up, heading up and away from the bank in a sudden spurt of power. Twice I had it close to the landing net, but each time it swam under it, into open water, the dull bronze flash of a big bream visible, when it rolled. The elastic was too light to lift the weight of the bream into the net and watched it swim round for another pass of the net this time on its side. Just right, but no it turned again and headed downstream, with the elastic stretching out, kiting out across the flow, its deep body acting like a sail. Ping! The hook came out. It was gone. My hooklink and weights were one mass of slime, unusable.

It was close to 8 pm again, almost two hours fishing. The 5mm punch had worked all evening, the fish happy to suck in the bread particles, some with my hook in. Sometimes I caught hard on the bottom, at other times around mid water. It had been an interesting evening, at one time I had a family watching from the bank above “Look he’s got another one!” I had learned a small amount about the Axe, and wondered if the wind had not been so strong, the long pole would have found a regular supply of the larger bream. Maybe another day.

A 6 lb net.





River Axe, Diamond Farm fishing, roach and skimmer bread punch review

August 24, 2019 at 11:31 pm

The Somerset River Axe was an unknown quantity to me until this week, when I booked into Diamond Touring Park for a couple of nights, before the Bank Holiday weekend. With the electric hook-up pitches already occupied, my wife and I were allocated a spot alongside the river, which to me was perfect, but for my non fishing better half, not ideal. Fishing for guests is free, but information on the prospects are non existent. At the Park reception, when asked about the fishing, all I got was, people fish it and they catch fish!

Arriving in the afternoon, a side stream was already occupied with people fishing, maggots providing a mix of small rudd and roach on the pole, while another fishing the feeder into the main river had several small eels and a couple of roach. I intended fishing the main river on the bread punch, my usual method.

The River Axe enters the tidal stretch at the Brean Sluice here, two miles from the sea.

In total there is about a 1,000 yards of the west bank available, although brambles restricted access to much of the river, which was a approached with caution down a steep slope. I chose a swim close to my campervan, where a board had been left in position by a considerate angler.

Travelling light, I had selected a few bits and pieces from my tacklebox, pole winders, punches, disgorgers, spare hooks and line, placing them into an old plastic toolbox, that had been kicking around the garage for years, happy to give it a new lease of life.

First step was to plumb the depth, finding four feet dropping away to five only a few metres out. Feeding a couple balls of liquidised bread over the shelf and a couple close in, I was able to judge the rate of flow, which was steady, although a strong upstream wind gave the impression of it flowing in the opposite direction.

With a size 16 hook to my 16 x 4 antenna float, I started off at four feet close in using a 5mm punch. Bulking the shot 18 inches from the hook helped the float carry downstream against the opposite drift, my first bite coming second trot, diving out of sight and a 4 inch dace coming to hand. A dace from a Somerset Levels drain, I was surprised, but then close to the source of the Axe at Wookey Hole, it is a trout stream, so a fish from a fast flowing river was bound to end up here. After five bites and three more dace, I scaled up to a 6 mm punch and cast along the drop off, the float burying again and the elastic coming out of the pole tip. It felt like good skimmer bream and a flash of silver in the coloured water confirmed it. The net was out and I pulled the skimmer across the surface toward it, only for a fatal roll and a lost fish. Rebaiting and following another feed ball, the float buried again and I was playing a nice roach.

In again, the float sank to a slightly smaller roach. The wind was difficult and I had to almost pull the float downstream, a few dips among the waves of the antenna warning of submersion. The elastic was out again and I had a fight on my hands, the fish running out, then to the sides, following, letting the elastic do the work.

What a beauty, the bread punch certainly attracts the better fish. The next cast along the drop off saw the float sail away and the No. 6 elastic following another hard fighting roach, taking my time to slide it over the landing net.

I tried another two metres of pole to fish over into the deeper water, but the wind made controlling the float impossible, as the pole was blown around, so it was back to four metres. The change back resulted in another strike, this time a small skimmer bream adding to the tally.

Adding another small ball of feed kept the fish lined up on the bottom, waiting for my 6 mm pellet of bread to fall through, small rudd often intercepting the bait meant for larger fish.

Feeding a yard upstream, the hotspot was out in front, a cast swinging the float out downstream, then pulling the float back, often brought an immediate bite.

Another nice roach, followed to the net by a second skimmer.

The river Axe is obviously full of quality roach, that had homed in on the bread.

After an hour I had punched my way through a square of bread, getting out another to start the next. I had fed less than a pint of liquised bread at this stage and was trying not to overfeed, keeping the fish hungry for more.

A small, but fat chub added to the variety of species, yet another flowing river fish.

A quality roach again, who says the bread punch is only fit for small fish on winter canals?

As if to disprove the above statement, an elastic stretching skimmer was next in the net.

The roach seemed to be getting bigger with each cast.

As did the skimmer bream.

I think that this was a roach bream hybrid, it had the anal fin of a bream, but was broad in the shoulder like a roach. Whatever it was, it fought like the clappers, darting from one side to the other, pulling out the elastic with each run.

This skimmer showed signs of an attack of some kind, be it from a bird, animal, or a fish, but its fighting qualities were not affected.

This was my last roach of the evening, coming to the net at 8 pm on the dot, my wife’s curfew time. Two hour’s fishing and no more. The wind had got up and the temperature had dropped. We had only packed summer clothes, believing the weatherman that sweltering weather was returning. Not today it wasn’t. My wife was soon on the skyline, coming to make sure that I stuck to my word.

The evening had proved a steep learning curve on a new river, 6 lb of fish in two hours, not bad for a first visit.


Crucians and tench shine on the punch at King’s Pond

August 15, 2019 at 11:54 am

A mile from my chosen venue this week, Farnham AS water, King’s Pond, my way was blocked by a Road Closed sign, while a large yellow Diversion arrow pointed at a right angle away to the west. I am not familiar with the area and on my previous couple of visits last year used a Sat Nav to find it. I dutifully turned the van into the unknown, along narrow housing estate roads crowded with parked cars, until I reached a T junction and diverted left, across a roundabout signed Farnham. I don’t want go to Farnham! Diverted left again along another narrow road, I drove past the fishery entrance, having to drive into a side road, complete a 6 point turn and return. By now my blood pressure was at dangerous levels and once parked needed a cup of tea to settle down.

The clouds of earlier had gone and the midday sun brought sweat to my brow as I pulled the trolley  to the pond, my attitude not helped by the angler in the first peg. “How is it fishing?” Answer. “Rubbish. That rain yesterday killed it!” He was using banded pellets and had only had a few crucians since 6 am. The next angler had a similar story. Choosing a peg further along, I set up a pole and plumbed the depth, finding a drop off six feet out sloping from three feet to four.

Last season I did well here on the bread punch, but for today had decided to try a wet mix of bread crumb, ground carp pellets and 2 mm krill pellets. On the hook and as loose feed, I was going to try some soft 4 mm crab krill pellets. As a backup I had my trusty bread punch and some finely liquidised bread.

While mixing up the feed, I cast a 6 mm bread pellet over the shelf, keeping my eye on it, expecting the float to glide away at any moment with a small roach. It did not move. The wind was blowing from behind and across to the left, so I put four balls of my mix to the left, over the drop off and a metre further out, where I could hold the antenna float back against the drift. I pushed the size 16 hook through a 4 mm soft pellet and cast in over the feed. The float bobbed and vanished, the elastic streaming from my pole tip as I lifted. The elastic stretched out toward the far side in a straight line, then pinged back. I assumed that it was a carp, but will never know.

Encouraged, I cast over the feed again with the soft pellet, but all I got were taps and bobs. Within 15 minutes, tiny bubbles were rising over the feed, again no positive bites, then the float sank. Resistance, then a dead weight as I lifted a signal crayfish off the bottom, swinging it onto the grass, where it received the Last Rights from a bank stick. I got my hook back. More bobs and bumps, but no fish. Each cast had followed a small ball of feed and the bubbles were still rising from the bottom. I tried bread punch again and this time the float sank slowly. A fish! Only a small roach. Back to the pellet, more half takes and missed bites. Bread punch again, a small roach. After an hour I had three small roach. My “special” mix was now on the bottom and the soft pellets were not working.

Reaching into my bait bag, I brought out some very fine liquidised bread and changed pole rigs for a lighter antenna float with an size 18 hook. The tench and crucians were not playing ball with the pellets, so with nothing to lose, I went for the roach with a 5 mm pellet of bread. I dropped a small ball of bread over the shelf to my right and cast the new rig through the cloud. The float cocked and sank. Surprise, the elastic came out as a good roach pulled away down the swim. I netted it.

Wow. Instant gratification. I repeated the action, casting into the cloud. The float bobbed then dived. I was into a good fish, the pole bending as the elastic was pulled out, the rolling, diving fight letting me know that it was a tench before I saw it.

Next cast a different fight again, a solid straight run from a small perch. They are not supposed to take bread, but this one did.

A different fight again, this one had to be a crucian carp, the way it bounced the pole top, a gold flash in the sun, proved me right.

What a turnaround. I had tried pellets like everybody else, but if I had stuck to the punch from the start,  I probably would have done better. My next cast saw the float bob several times, then hold down. Only using the top three sections of pole, it again bent double into a large fish that fought from left to right and back again, the flash of gold the size of a dinner plate. The size 18 barbless hook held and I netted this beaut.

A two pound crucian glinting in the sun

Time for a cup of tea and a sandwich. It had been a hectic half hour and in the bright sunshine I was beginning to flag. Another ball of fine crumb went in, followed by the float. Bob, bob, hold under, strike and I was in again, a smaller tench taking out elastic, but soon beaten.

This was now one a chuck. A couple more roach, then this hard fighting crucian.

Some of the roach were better than average, but it was the the crucians that I came for. Fishing into the cloud, the bites were quite aggressive although hard to hit, rapid stabs of the float, but no sail aways.

A round chunky crucian, that had blown the punch up the line, this one around the pound mark.

The wind was now getting up, driving rain across he pond and I scrabbled for my hoodie, the shower gone before I had my jacket on. A fresh cast saw the float dip long enough to strike, followed by the crucian above going into my net.

The final crucian of the day, I had run out of the fine liquidised bread and it was time to go, before the traffic built up.

I had been determined to give the soft pellets a good go, but after an hour, they had failed to hook a single fish, despite evidence of feeding fish. The introduction of the fine liquidised bread seemed to switch the fish on and I ended up with a decent net after three hours.

King’s pond is part of the Badshot Lea complex and it backs onto Big Pond along a causeway. Behind me was a proper carp angler, bivvy and all the gear. He had popped over for a chat a few times and had come over again to see my fish before I put them back, when his bite alarm went off. Going back to his rod, he lifted into a large carp, playing it back to his swim, where he netted it in his cavernous landing net.

I suggested it was at least 20 lbs. “No, its just a decent double” He returned it without even a photo. He then got out his phone to show me the 32 lbs common that he caught there in February this year. Different strokes for different folks.






Drennan Float Fish stickfloat test on bread punch roach

August 9, 2019 at 6:39 pm

The arrival of a new reel of Drennan Float Fish line in 3.2 breaking strain was eagerly awaited this week to replace the old 2.6 B.S Bayer-Perlon on my ABU 501 match reel. On my last outing, a tangle had  reduced its length, the line was no longer running off the spool freely, so an update was required. Online reviews were good for the Float Fish line, being supple and free floating, while at 0.16mm the 3.2 lb Drennan line was the same diameter as my old Bayer 2.6 B.S. The line dropped through the letter box in the afternoon post and I was quick to load it onto the 501. A light olive colour, even this was similar to the Bayer line.

Any excuse to fish, bread bait and feed were soon out of the freezer and I was on my way to the river Blackwater ten miles away. Black clouds were gathering as I walked to a new swim, literally spending ten minutes hacking down stinging nettles to clear a fishing spot, as heavy raindrops began to cover the surface of the river. The shower was brief and refreshing in the humid air, just a fine drizzle remaining by 3:30 pm as I made my first cast.

This river is very shallow and I set my small 3 No 6 bodied stick float to just 18 inches deep to trot towards the bridge. The bottom is visible right across and following the first cloud of liquidised bread down, the float dipped and held under, the flash of a small roach indicating my first fish. The line was performing better than expected, considering the very light float, it pulling free of the reel spool without snagging.

Next trot, the float held down and I was playing a plump chub back upstream. I saw a pike dart across to the chub from cover along the opposite bank and raised the rod to draw the chub away, lifting it clear at my feet, leaving the 5 lb pike staring at the bank.

I prodded at the pike with my landing net and it turned to swim back over to the the other side. The pike returned and grabbed a small roach that I was playing, swimming back over, then letting go, but chasing the roach as I rushed it back to my side.

It began to rain again and I was already considering packing up, or moving. Unable to safely secure my tackle box on the steep bank, I was sitting on the bank with my feet resting on a narrow shelf, which was slowly eroding down toward the river and I was constantly shifting my weight to stay seated. Not ideal.

The pike took a small chub and charged off downstream, bending my 12 foot Hardy to the butt as I backwound the reel. This was the last straw, the size 16 hook holding firm in the pike’s jaw, while the chub dangled from the side, watching it swim by, as I now switched the rod to pull back down river. It lay motionless mid river and my attempts to jerk the hook free failed, causing the pike to retreat to the far side again. Pointing the rod at the pike, I pulled the line tight with my hand for a break. It obliged with a spurt away and the hook pulled free, complete with the now dead chub, which I threw back to the pike, last seen heading upstream.

I fed another couple of balls of bread in close, to keep the fish on  my side of the river, hooking a golden rudd, which I swung in.

The new Drennan line was working well, lifting easily to mend the line behind the float and setting the hook into a better roach.

The roach were lining up and getting bigger, the fish invisible until the hook was set.

The bites were very delicate, the float dipping and holding, then sinking slowly. Too early a strike usually resulted in a lost fish after a brief fight, too long could see the bait gone. I varied between 5 and 7 mm punches, the 5 mm on the size 16 hooking more fish, although the larger bait attracted better roach.

I was surprised that there were no dace in the swim, as my previous visits have had the dace going mad for the bread, juddering and jarring the float as they attacked the bait, often hooking themselves. Today was a much more sedate affair, another shy biting roach coming to the net.

This was the last decent roach, the pike attacking another as I played it back, coming off when I tried to hurry it in. A swirl down stream may have been the end of that roach. For me this too was the end of the roach, the pike had put them down. I scraped out a few more small chub and packed up at 6 pm.

The aim of the session was to test out my new line, which I felt it passed with flying colours. On the stickfloat, with a closed faced reel like the ABU 501, you want the line to be soft enough to coil off the spool, yet stiff enough to be able to mend the line back to the float. Allowing a bow in the line to develope, drags the float to one side, or worse speeds it downstream, which looks unnatural to the fish and no bites. I have said before, stick float fishing is becoming a lost art, which many today do not try, content to lob out a feeder on the bottom and wait for bites, while a good stickfloat man can entice the fish to his hook.

Bread punch finds tench, roach and rudd at Braybrooke

July 30, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Afternoon football practice was in full swing as I walked from the carpark to Jeanes Pond at Braybrooke recreation ground this week, my mind set on catching some of the tench from the club water.

Intending to fish the bread punch, I was aware that I needed to avoid attracting the hungry shoals of tiny roach and rudd that are occupying the upper layers of the pond this year. What worked for me on my last visit in June, was to feed an area away from my swim with a light mix of liquidised bread to attract the small stuff, while feeding damp, small tight balls of my tench mix of bread crumb laced with ground fish pellets, 2 mm krill pellets, with a dusting of ground krill; this sticky concoction being dropped onto the shelf, one to two metres out.

My antenna float was set to fish an inch off bottom, with the shot bulked a foot from the hook, hopefully to pass quickly to the bottom. That was the plan, but after a dozen three inch rudd had swallowed the 6 mm pellet of bread in seconds of the float hitting the water, I reached for my set of larger bread punches, going straight to the 9 mm, wrapping the disc round the size 16 hook, leaving the point showing out of the slit. The float bobbed and lifted, then sank and a better sized rudd was swinging to hand.

I was still catching the occasional mini rudd, but better fish had moved in, bubbles bursting all over my feed area, regular boilie sized balls attracting in raiding parties of rudd, that would dash in, grab my bread, bury the float and dash out again. I dropped a few, no doubt due to some of them being lipless wonders, past victims of barbed hooks and impatient anglers.

A few bobs of the float and a slow sink indicated a different species that stripped out the No 6 elastic, putting a bend in the top three sections of my pole, the short runs confirming that I was into my first tench, after 30 minutes of fishing.

Solid muscle, tench never give up the fight, even in the net, holding this one still for a pic was an effort.

If the bait got past the rudd, there were some good roach waiting, a slower, more genteel sinking of the float belying the frantic fight once hooked.

Another tench, found the bait. I had gone up to the 11 mm punch in the set, dabbing the pellet in ground krill pellets to coat it with the fishy flavour.

Smaller, but still powerful.

Another good roach.

This tench took me into the roots to my left, snagging the line in a sunken branch. Pulling back, the branch surfaced, but would not come free, so I let the line go slack and prodded at the fish with my landing net, this having the desired effect as the line tightened with round two of the fight.

Quality rudd continued getting in on the act; I was not complaining, but tench bubbles were still rising and I hoped for more.

Tench number four was a bit of a tiddler, but hard fighting all the same.

Another lipless rudd, but a good conditioned fish.

I had already overstayed my 6:30 deadline by ten minutes, when I hooked the best tench of the afternoon, which ran off, much like a carp, but then stood and fought, before giving in to the elastic and coming to the landing net.

Next fish was another fine roach, which warranted a phone call to my wife, as she was trying out a new dish for our evening meal. I had said that I was going to fish until seven, while she thought that I had meant home by seven. The chicken was already in the oven, so that was it. I had my marching orders. I packed up.

I am certain that another hour would have doubled the tally of tench.


Bread punch chub and dace on the stick float from the shallows

July 27, 2019 at 6:14 pm

Hot, hot, hot. Record breaking temperatures and high humidity sapped strength and enthusiasm for most activities this week, but thunderstorms brought some relief and I ventured back to my local river for three reasons, first that it is only ten minutes drive away, second that there are many shading trees and third that there are plenty of fish to be caught. The downside is that it runs through a very public recreation area full of dog walkers, cyclists, joggers and the public in general, curious as to why anyone would be fishing this apparently fishless stretch of water.

When I began fishing this little river nine years ago, it had been left to its own devices by the local council, only taking an interest, when the occasional tree fell across the path. In recent years its value as a wildlife habitat has been appreciated, shopping trolleys, discarded cycles and other detritus removed from the river and the banks cleared of many of the trees lining the banks, before they fell on some unsuspecting resident. Gone are the days, when an angler could settle down to fish unseen by all but the most observant walker, now we are in full view and if you are catching, you draw an audience.

Arriving mid afternoon, the cooling rain clouds had given way to more sunshine and I made my way past the crowded cafe down toward the river and my preferred swim, only to find it occupied by a couple repeatedly throwing a ball out to a bedraggled spaniel, enthusiastically diving into the muddied water to retrieve it. Walking back upstream, my next option was full of splashing ducks, being fed bread by several children watched over by a couple of mums. Above this the river passes quickly over stones to sweep along a run beneath a bush, where I could see movement among the shallows. This would have to do for a couple of hours.

The leaves on the bush showed signs of recent flooding, but now the river was crystal clear and I tackled up with a short carbon stemmed, bodied stick float carrying 4 No 6 shot and set to only a foot deep, a size 16 hook carrying a 5 mm pellet of punched bread. A small ball of bread was thrown a few feet above the bush and I watched it disintegrate, being attacked by several fish before it reached the bottom. First cast over to the opposite side saw the float glide away and the rod bent into a small chub.

Not large, but good sport dashing over the shallows on light tackle. Next cast came a dace.

Then a small roach. Three species in three casts.

Then. “Ooo you are catching a lot of fish” To my left on the raised bank were a mother, two daughters and a big black dog. “Do you mind if we let our dog swim in the river below you?” Having persuaded the lady that it would not be beneficial to my fishing, while one of her daughters held onto the straining leash, she stood at the edge looking across into the water. “I can’t see any fish. Its very clear.” I was too polite to tell her that the fish could see her bright blouse, as she waved her arms about, she explaining that her husband takes them fishing. I caught another dace from under the bush. This inspired the lady to call her husband, who was in a meeting at work, to inform him that I was catching fish from this little river and could he take them fishing here after work? I had stopped catching. Hubby said that he would get an EA licence on-line, which brought me to ask the question whether they were members of the Brayebrooke Club, who controlled the fishing rights. They were not. For me a stroke of luck. I informed them that day tickets were available at the cafe. The brood were gathered up, farewells were bid and they were gone to buy a ticket. Phew! A nice family, but they had scared the fish away.

Another couple of balls of liquidised bread thrown upstream of the bush, soon brought a bite and another small chub.

I could see fish glinting in the sun further down, as the particles flowed beyond the bush, the float usually under before it reached that far. The chub tended to sink the float and swim off, as did small rudd, while the dace gave sharp taps of the float, until the bait was gone. What worked with them was to suddenly stop the float, resulting in a sharp pull under and a rapid strike, often pulling them to the surface in a boil of spray. The small roach were very fussy, dipping the float a few millimetres, then letting go, until the bait was gone, or eventually holding the float down long enough for a strike. It had started raining, but I didn’t put on my jacket, the air was already hot and humid and it made no difference to the fishing. The fish were small, but entertaining. The net was filling and another section of punch bread was already full of holes.

The float disappeared and I was into a decent fish that flashed, when it turned to rush off downstream, pulling the rod round as I quickly backwound. I could see that it was a chub, zigzagging across the bottom away from me, until it gave up the fight, turning to follow the opposite bank upstream, steering it over to the landing net, keeping its white mouth clear of the water.

Worth the wait, considering a couple more interruptions to answer questions from bystanders, the bait trail attracting a better fish at last. I had tried a 6 mm punch this time, although the next cast brought a small rudd, so nothing proved.

Over two dozen fish in a busy two hours, that kept my concentration and reflexes on the edge.


Stick float dace and roach crowded out by a crucian carp surprise

July 18, 2019 at 8:06 am

With only a few afternoon hours to spare this week, I took the short drive to my local river Cut this week, finding the level the lowest I have ever seen it, the bottom visible right the way across, despite the water being murky. I walked downstream to try one of the new swims recently created by the Environment Agency, depositing my tackle box on a raised grassy fishing platform. The river here has been narrowed and contoured using willow faggots, backfilled with branches to speed up the flow.

Testing the depth with a plummet, I found only 18 inches in the middle and about two feet close to the willow faggots on the opposite bank, deciding to trot my 3 No 4 ali stemmed stick float as close to that side as I could. Putting a couple of small balls of liqudised bread on that side, I was ready to run through with a 6 mm pellet of bread on a size 16 hook. First cast in, the float sank like a stone and I lifted into a nice dace that tumbled across the river to the net.

Introduced by the EA a couple of years ago as 4 inch fish to the river after pollution, these dace have grown well in the Cut, which never had dace before the stocking.

The dace were now lined up along the willow and I took several despite a harsh downstream wind, that was putting a bow in the line, trying to drag the float downstream. Mending the line worked in my favour against the fine biting dace, the sudden jerk of the line inspiring them to sink the float, the follow through hooking a fish just about every time.

The bites were still fussy and retreating further downstream, so I chanced another small ball over to bring them back up.This had the effect of bringing a small shoal of rudd into the swim and I took a few of them along with more dace.

Bringing in a small dace, there was a swirl behind it, then another and I saw a large perch chasing it in, lifting the dace clear in time.

This dace was too big for the perch, but the next one across was grabbed again, the perch boring deep with its prize until the hook pulled free. That was the last of the dace, the shoal swimming off upstream creating a bow wave, no doubt with the perch in hot pursuit.

I put over another small ball of bread and trotted down again, the bites becoming very finicky and I went down to a 5 mm punch in search of more positive bites. It worked. Easing the float into the bay opposite and holding back against the weak flow, brought a slow sink of the float and my first roach of the afternoon.

The roach were getting better, although the bites were barely tipping the float, apart from a lift bite that brought the best rudd of the afternoon.

More roach.

Then a chub.

Then a 3 lb 8 oz crucian carp.

The float had gone straight down like the chub before it and I stuck into a solid lump that woke up with a start and dashed off down stream against the backwind, turning to run upstream along the opposite side, a broad flash of gold as it rooted along the bottom sending up a shower of bubbles. I have caught common carp here before, but the fish was too short and fat, realising that this was my personal best Crucian. I let it go where it wanted, without putting a strain on the size 16 barbless hook. From the high bank, the angle of the landing net was too steep to the water and the carp was in and out twice, before it was three times lucky and I hauled it up the bank.

The British Crucian Carp record stands at 4 lb 10 oz, this barrel shaped crucian was just over 3 lb 8 oz on my scale, certainly a specimen.

This topped my afternoon’s fishing session, anything else would have been an anticlimax and I packed up, tipping the remainder of my fish into the net with the crucian, before lowering them back into the river.


Abu Garcia 507 Mk2 fishing reel review. Bread punch on the waggler for carp

July 15, 2019 at 7:34 pm

Back in my serious match fishing days, Abu closed face reels were my ultimate choice for waggler and stick float fishing, first with a pair of 506’s, then with a couple of 501’s. The 506’s had their locking pawl removed to allow for back winding, while the 501’s came ready for the matchman with back wind. Over the years, one of my 506’s wore out, refusing to pick up line reliably, while the gears went on a 501, being replaced by a new old stock one from a closing down sale, both still giving good service. The remaining 506 is in use on my spinning rod , the original use for the American market.

For feeder fishing an open spool Abu Cardinal 54 had served me well, being replaced by a Shimano 2500m Aero XT7, which has recently found its way onto my 12.5 ft Normark float rod as a combo for tackling the carp on a local lake. This reel on the float rod has not worked as hoped. Yes it casts well, also having a retrieve rate of 6 to 1, it is ideal for staying in contact when a carp runs toward you. It has an easily adjusted drag, which when released allows backwind, but at your peril, as it can tangle.

So why am reviewing an Abu 507 Mk2 reel? Too many times now, I have had lose line wrap around the handle, or back of the spool, when waggler fishing for carp with the Shimano and complained to my wife, too near to my birthday, that I had lost a carp due to the line being trapped. “Why not get another reel?” she said “The kids can buy one for your birthday.” Having always used the 500 series of Abus for float fishing with no line problems, I looked for a more beefed up version of my other reels and there was the 507 Mk2. A much larger spool with a retrieve rate of 5 to 1, which would outpace the smaller spooled Shimano, five bearing support and an adjustable switchable drag, which would give me a safe backwind option. At under £60 brand new on-line, I was sold. Before I could change my mind, my wife placed the order and it arrived in time for my birthday.

This is what arrived, a padded zip up case, with compartments for three shallow spools and a deeper one, I assume for heavy line. Also included were spare sets of chennelle for the spools, to prevent the line from being sucked behind the spool, breather holes already in the spools have got this problem covered.

Loading a 100 metres of 5 lb line to a shallow spool was surprisingly quick, compared to a 501, the 9 mm larger spool and retrieve rate saw to that. With line loaded, I set off in the early evening to the nearby carp lake, where I found that spawning was in full flow, black mud being stirred up in front of me.

The larger carp were not my target tonight, but the multitudes of one and two year olds that have bred naturally in this council owned green space recently. Having lobbed out a few balls of liquidised bread toward the island, I tried an underhand side cast, the float landing well beyond my feed close to the island. This was already better than the Shimano, a powered overhead cast usually required for this distance. First cast the float bobbed and slid under as the 7 mm pellet of punched bread was taken, feeling a slight resistance as a mini common was sped back to my hand.

Next cast a small mirror took the bread, the perfectly balanced 507 bringing it quickly to hand.

These micro carp were taking it in turns to pounce on the bread the moment the float hit the water. I decided to feed another three balls across laced with krill powder

It was the same result for a while, more mini carp, chucking them back each time, then resistance and a run along the island brought a slightly larger common, a slow retrieve bringing the juvenile fish to my bank and the landing net.

A few more of these could provide a bit of sport and a decent net in the remaining hour, so I put the keep net in. I continued casting and hooking the very small stuff, but another better common soon followed.

This were lying close to the far shore, the cast needing little effort to peel the line from the spool, while keeping the punched bread on the hook, for yet another mini battler. This time a surprise rudd.

Once prolific in this lake, I have not caught a rudd here for a while, but it was good to see there are some survivors. Fed by a brook, gudgeon were also a nuisance fish in the lake, they may be deep in the mud, but no one has had any for years.

The reel was performing well, balancing the Normark, as I stuck into more small commons, when they sank the float out of sight.

The float skated across the surface and disappeared and I instinctively lifted the rod as the line arced round following a proper carp, that accelerated away under the trees, leaving a black trail of mud. Backwinding, I remained in contact as the carp tried to get around the end of the island, but I laid the rod over, still back winding, but keeping on the pressure, bringing the fish to the surface. The carp, about 5 lbs, was foul hooked in the tail, pulling away like a dog on a lead, slowly coming back to me, then pulling away again. It turned and ran back as I retrieved line, turning away again as it passed, pulling hard for the island, but slowing to a stop and I pulled it back toward my landing net. With barely enough water to swim in, it turned over, flapping in the mud, the hook pulling free and flying back. Slowly it took stock of the situation, then with an almighty effort the carp powered off into deeper water.

This was my cue to pack up, the light was fading and I had enjoyed non stop action of one sort, or the other, putting over a dozen small carp in the net.

This had been an effective testing session for the Abu 507 Mk2. No tangles, or trapped line, more importantly I had been able to forget about previous worries with the Shimano and get on and fish.




Local pond worth the walk for bread punch rudd and carp

July 10, 2019 at 8:46 am

With my van in dock having a new gearbox fitted, there was only one option open for fishing this week, the long walk down to my local pond in bright sunshine, working up a sweat with my loaded fishing trolley in tow. Pausing in the shade of the lane, I got my breath back ready for the last two hundred yards to my swim.

Walking along the bank, I could see that the shallows at the inlet were full of carp getting ready to spawn, not a good sign for my expectations of a net of carp this afternoon. There were no other anglers present and settled into a favourite swim away from the lily beds, although on such a hot afternoon, the lilies were holding most of the fish out of the sun. Lily beds usually result in snags and lost fish for me and prefer to draw my fish out into a safe area.

Damping down half a pint of liquidised bread, I threw four soft balls in a square, eight to nine metres out. There was an immediate response from the small rudd that plague this pond, although some better sized fish were soon searching among the bread crumbs. Setting up my pole to six metres, I intended breaking down to four with a long line of three to hand and a 2 No 4 waggler half a metre deep and a size 16 hook. The pond is very shallow, with thick black silt covering the bottom and by the time I was ready to fish at 12:30, there was already a dark stain beneath the surface, where fish were searching for my feed.

First cast in, the float sailed away and a half decent rudd kited off across the pond.

Trying to avoid too many small rudd, I had started off with a 7 mm bread punch, but this one had taken the bait and swallowed it in seconds.

These rudd were fat and in their prime, needing to net many of them, although most were swung to hand, my keepnet soon filling, taking two a minute. Continuing with the occasional small ball of feed, kept the decent rudd interested, the better ones fighting all the way to the net.

Usually on this pond, the first half hour is dominated by rudd, only to be eventually pushed out by the carp, but I was still catching these beautiful fish after two hours.

At last bubbles began to burst on the surface and I dropped the float in the middle of them, watching as it lifted, then sank slowly away, the elastic zipping out from the pole tip as a small common carp made off with the bread. Stirring up mud, the fish circled away from me, as I followed it with the pole raised, the red elastic stretching down into the water.

The rudd had moved out and the bites changed to dips and hold unders and I bumped a couple of fish, that I assumed were crucian carp just sucking at the bread. Leaving the next bite until it slowly edged under, I struck into solid resistance and the stand and fight, tumbling battle saw the elastic out again as the golden flanks of a large crucian flashed beneath the surface. Taking my time, I brought the pole back to four metres and drew the crucian over the net. Hooked in the very tip of the upper lip, the hook came out in the net. Phew!

Fine bubbles were now over the feed area, a sure sign of crucians, but the bites were slow to develope and I missed a few more, before a switch to a 5 mm pellet produced a more positive bite and a fish.

These small brightly coloured crucians are bait stealers, tending to sit stationary, sucking at the bread, barely moving the float. In the past I have lifted off thinking that the bait is gone to find one hanging on the hook. For this one I timed it right.

With an early evening commitment, I had set my time limit at 3:30 and bang on time the float crept away and another small crucian came to the net.

Packing up is never easy when the better fish are finally coming on the feed, but I had had an absorbing time catching rudd, being an enjoyable interlude in a busy day.

A satisfying net of fish, making the uphill walk back home worth the effort.