Environment Agency stock boost for polluted river

December 12, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Environment Agency officers, gave my local river Cut a clean bill of health this week, delivering another 1,500 juvenile coarse fish from their Calverton Fish Farm, to the small Thames tributary, that was badly hit by a severe fish kill in early 2017. Since then the river has benefitted from bank works to improve the flow and also an injection of over 3,000 fish.

A bright December morning was ideal to transfer the fish, 500 each of chub, roach and dace, from the fish transporter on the bank, to the clear shallow stream.

Some good sized roach were introduced.

The chub above are already worth catching.

Head Park Warden and secretary of the controlling Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club, Danny Williams, helped with the introduction of the 500 dace.

Having fished the Cut last week, I can confirm that the fish introduced last year have already grown to a good size. Previously there were no dace in these upper reaches and yet they are now a hard to hook, fast biting species occupying the shallow gravel runs.

The dace above was the best of a dozen dace taken on stick float and bread punch, along with small chub and roach, during a short two hour visit.

With more bank work to improve the flow promised by the EA in the coming months, club members can hopefully look forward to a return to catches of a few years ago.

Small river secrets

November 27, 2018 at 7:20 pm

My local river meanders either side of a narrow lane, often out of sight of the roadway, but with the leaves missing and undergrowth dying down, I was able to push my way through to a swim, that was new to me this afternoon. There was no path and I had to carry my tackle to the swim in stages over dead trees and and through a tangle of branches. Once at the river, I found a mudbank that was solid enough to support the tackle box, with enough head room to clear my twelve foot Hardy float rod.

I could see leaves on the bottom and set up my 3 No 4 stick float to fish two feet deep with a size 16 hook to carry a 6 mm punch of bread. The restricted width increased the pace and I watched a couple of balls of liquidised bread break up into a cloud, drifting down toward a tree that had fallen over the river.

My first cast was not encouraging, the float carrying fifteen yards down to the tree before it disappeared, as a small chub took the bread. The soft action of the Hardy absorbed the initial run and the fish had its mouth out of the water by the time it reached the net.

It was a cold day, with temperatures well in the single figures, but this chub was still cold to the touch. This little river is one of the best kept secrets in my locality, although not easy to fish, due to overhanging branches, it rarely fails to give an enjoyable few hours free fishing.

A couple of smaller chub followed, then another rod bender, as a better chub fought to find a snag beneath the tree, the rod applying just enough pressure to keep it clear, the net ready and waiting by the time it reached the mudbank.

After swinging in another chublet, the next cast saw the float ease toward the fallen tree again, seeing it lift, then sythe across toward my bank, responding with a strike that pulled the rod down, and a rapid backwind of the reel. Beyond the tree, the fish was making a beeline for a large branch sloping from the bank into the water, but pressure turned it away. Soon the open, white mouth of a 2 lb chub, surfaced close to me and I reached down for the landing net, but the chub ran back downstream, before turning again to run back along the opposite bank. Unseen by me was a single frond of bramble hanging down into the water, the chub getting behind it to entangle the float. The chub thrashed on the surface and I pulled to free the line, breaking it. The float disappeared, then popped up close to the opposite bank.

I now had to make up another float rig, changing to a reel with 5 lb line on it, the 2.8 lb breaking strain line OK on a snag free river, but here I had paid a price, the light touch of the thinner line, too vulnerable in these circumstances. While getting set up again, I fed a few more balls in to compensate for the lost chub, this time fitting a 4 No 4 ali stick to match the heavier reel line, the size 16 hook to a 2.8 hook link.
Following down a ball of bread, the float bobbed, then slowly sank. Lifting the rod, I assumed that this float was fishing deeper, dragging on the bottom, but no, the juddering fight of a roach was welcome and I netted the first of several. Small roach had moved over the feed, but the dithering bites were missable and I moved the float up another 6 inches to hold back, swinging the float down over the baited area. Holding back, I waited for the first tap of the float, let it run a foot, then stopped it again. Usually the float sank on the first release, swinging in a roach, or small chub each time, the bread crumbs now coating the bottom ten yards down.

The better chub had also moved up, the closer takes requiring the lifting of my finger on the trigger, letting line free on the initial run, then lifting the rod to play the fish.

A small ball of bread a cast kept the bites coming, mostly small chub, although the occasional better fish made it through to the end of the trot, fighting hard in the shallow river. The sun had gone down and it was now difficult to see the float under the tree, this last chub coming long after the float had disappeared from sight among the shadows, striking blind and making contact.

Over the feed, I struck into a decent roach that ran down stream, then turned into my bank searching out the bottom near the end of the mud. It found a branch on the bottom, transferring the hook. I pulled and it came free, only to fly up, getting entangled in a bramble. As a reaction, I flicked it back in time to see it wrap around the rod top.

This was the end for me, having failed to put on enough layers, I was shaking with cold, my fingers in no shape to tie knots and pinch on shot. I’d had a good afternoon, despite the mini disasters, at least a dozen rod bending chub and enough small fish to keep the float going under.

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Bread punch roach and dace River Blackwater bonanza

September 20, 2018 at 12:05 pm

I seem to have a habit of going fishing, when extreme weather is threatened and so it was again this week, as Hurricane Helene swept across the Atlantic toward our shores. At this time of year I put a visit to the River Blackwater into my diary. The Blackwater runs south to north and being withing 10 miles of my home at any point, I would fish it more, but generally parking is a problem, my van being too tall to get under the 2 metre barriers restricting access to most public carparks along the river. I had recently been told of a free stretch with no barriers, that ran behind an industrial estate and decided to check it out. With tackle in the van and bread from the freezer, it was worth a look, if not I could fall back on the a club stretch of Blackwater a few miles downstream.

Driving into the industrial estate, I could see immediately that parking would be a problem, designated company parking, causing the overflow of cars and vans to park up on kerbs and block entrances. I cruised the parked cars to the end, finding a space among those of a car company. Slotting in the van, I realised that I could not occupy the space for long, but while I was there, I could at least take a look at the river, which lay just through a screen of trees. The banks were overgrown, but the river was clear with little weed and I could see big chub swimming up and down, but with overhanging trees, fishing would be difficult.

Ready to drive off, I walked back to the van, only to be met by the site manager, who informed me that I was parked in a designated parking area. I apologised, saying that I just wanted to look at the river, regarding the fishing. At this his mood changed, telling me how good it was for fishing and being an angler himself, he would show me his favourite swims.

We walked up to a weir, where we could see a shoal of about a dozen bream of about 2 lb each, just sitting in the flow of the back eddy. Again it was overhung with trees, various floats tangled among the branches, evidence of attempted float fishing, it would be feeder fishing, or nothing here. We walked back to the carpark and he said “Why not have a dabble? If anybody complains about your van, say that Tony said that it was OK to park”. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I accepted his offer, loaded up my trolley and headed back to the weir.

Just upstream of the trees, close to the outfall, was a short strip of overgrown bank, that would allow me to cast a float, spending the next twenty minutes hacking away at the stinging nettles and dead giant hog weed, with a bank stick. There was just enough room for the tackle box, so set up my 14 foot Browning with a 6BB bodied stick float and was ready to fish.

I threw out a couple of balls of liquidised bread to my side of the flow, ready to use a 6mm bread punch on a size 14 barbless hook.

First cast in the float sailed away and a hard fighting roach swung to hand.

The swim was no more than two feet deep, and I bulked the shot round the base of the float, with two No 4 shot six inches apart up from the hook. This rig worked well with no tangling, the heavy float allowing me to hold back despite the ever increasing wind.

Every put in was followed by a take, the roach often hooking themselves each time I held back hard, although this sometimes meant a bounced fish. I was catching steadily, putting in another ball and watching the shoal of roach rip into it.

Who said that perch don’t take bread, this being one of two that I caught. Roach continued to line up for the bread, having found a sweet spot on the crease between the outfall and the eddy, an under hand cast laying the float behind the bait each time, the fish grabbing the bread as it fluttered down to the bottom.

All this changed in minutes, as the sound of the water rushing over the weir drowned out the roar of the wind gusting through the trees. Upstream extra water was being released into the river, forcing the back eddy to reverse its motion and strong enough to drag my keep net round. Where I had been holding the float back against the steady flow, it was now coming back toward me. The roach were still there taking the bread, but I now began to drop lightly hooked fish. Casting out into the strong flow, the bites had changed, lightning dips and bangs of the float indicating dace, knocking off the bait in seconds. Stopping the float put me in direct contact with the fast biting dace, rattling the rod top and briefly flashing over before throwing the hook.

Got one! More by luck than judgement, setting the hook, then releasing the line allowed the dace to run, before lifting into it again. This seemed a better tactic, but their tumbling fight in the more powerful stream, saw more dace throw the hook, than reached the net. Roach were still among the dace, the more positive bites, meaning fewer lost fish.

As quickly as the rush of water had begun, it slowed again and the catching spree continued along the crease, another ball of bread concentrating the roach in a tight area. I was aware of Tony standing to one side watching me swing in fish after fish. When I asked how long he had stood there, he said “Six fish” then looking at his watch “Four minutes”. I had hoped to find one or two of the bream among the roach, but had probably struck too soon on the slower biting slabs.

Tony had never seen the bread punch in action and could not believe that it was so effective on “his” river. I said that I would be packing up at 5 pm, having fished for five hours by then and he said that he would come back for the weigh in.

The larger roach had now pushed their way to the front and going up to a 7mm punch seemed to increase the number of netters.

What a clonker! The big roach just kept coming, despite the wind that was now blowing leaves and twigs into the river and making an underhand cast impossible, a powerful overhead cast the only way to get the float out to the crease.

Like a tap being turned on, the weir began to roar again, transforming the the eddy into a whirlpool, the dace sweeping over to my side, some good ones among them.

Control of the float became difficult with the wind billowing the line back toward me, while the float was swept away in the flow. It was time to put the rod down, get out the cheese and pickle sandwiches, followed by a cup of tea. There was an area close to my bank, that looked static and I dropped the float in, but this was full of tiny chublets and gudgeon, taking several of each, before giving up to brave the elements again.

The quality roach were still there and the landing net was coming out for every other fish.

The weir shut down again and I put in another ball of liquidised bread, just to keep the roach in place, each cast bringing another.

At 5 pm the roach were still feeding, but I could hear the traffic building up on the main road behind me and I had promised to be home by six, so the rod was brought in and I took stock of the session.

The bait tray told the story of a busy afternoon, having fed a third of a loaf of liquidised bread.

As promised, Tony arrived to help me weigh in the net, I guessed it at 12 lb, while he suggested 15 lb. Lifting up the scales was an effort and the 14 lb scales bounced, then settled back to 13 lb 8 oz. I am sure that if I had set up my much softer Hardy 12 footer, I would have landed more fish, but would it have coped with the stormy winds as well? Ah well, who cares? I had had another great session on the bread punch, shame about the car parking.

Bread punch finds chub, roach, rudd and dace on flooded river Cut

August 31, 2018 at 11:09 am

Rumours of more pollution on my local river Cut, saw me walking the bank earlier this week, but apart from oily looking pollution booms across the outlet from the town, all looked well further downstream, with plenty of chub and rudd, visibly cruising beneath the surface. It looked so good that I decided to fish the next day, removing punch and liquidised bread from the freezer ready for the morning. I awoke the next day to the sound of rain relentlessly pounding down and changed my mind, putting it all back in the freezer. By lunch time the rain clouds were gone and the yo-yo bait was back out of the freezer again.

Arriving at my chosen swim, the river was coloured and pushing through and intending to trot along the bushes on the far side, opted to try the pole, as in the flow, it would give better control, when holding back to slow down the bait. Unlike yesterday, there were no signs of cruising fish.

Setting up a 4BB stick float rig, I plumbed the depth to find over 3 feet of water in the main flow, up at least 6 inches on normal. Squeezing together a couple of firm balls of liquidised bread, I put them in about a yard upstream of the bush and watched them sink quickly, being carried away with the flow. Hoping for a chub mid water early on, I started about a foot off bottom, stopping and starting the float as it was carried along, the 6 mm pellet of bread swinging up toward the surface. The float pulled down and the elastic came out as a rudd dived back under the bush.

This was a good sized rudd and a repeat of the method saw the float slide away again with an even better rudd.

I put in another ball, followed by the float just upstream of the bush and the float sailed off. Expecting another rudd, I lifted the pole into a mini explosion, as a black tailed chub dived back to the bush, bending the pole and taking elastic in predictable style.

I don’t know if they had followed the bread tail upriver, or had just switched on to it, but another larger chub followed next cast.

Another ball, another chub, then a smaller chub, a roach and a couple of small rudd told me that I had over fed the swim. I was also missing lightning bites, a sign of small competing fish. Time to change tactics. Plumbing the depth again, I now went three inches over depth and pulled the strung out shot down to a bulk closer to the hook link. The float now carried to the lower end of the bush, held back with the bait on and off of the bottom, the trot bringing a dip, dip bite that continued without developing, until I held back hard and the float sank from view, the elastic following a decent roach as it darted across the swim.

 

Each time the float reached the end of the bush, it buried with another roach. Dropping the float on the spot did not work, they wanted it eased down, a dip or two, then slowly down. Considering the colour and pace of the river, I had not expected such a start. Even the rudd now had their heads down and quality fish followed each other.

The bites took their time, but the fish were worth catching, the float sinking again to have the pole elastic disappearing off downstream, as a large roach flashed beneath the surface. With muddy shallows and a stick standing up on my netting line, I found myself mouthing “Please don’t come off” as it stirred up the bottom. Phew, it was in the net!

What a beauty. The Cut looks no more than a muddy ditch to many, but the quantity and quality of fish cannot be matched locally, it is such a shame that industrial pollution has devastated the stocks in the last year, but here is proof of its revival.

I continued to catch on this scale for another 15 minutes, roach, rudd and chub, then as has happened many times in the past, the colour of the water changed noticeably, when a thick, light brown muddy cloud of water swept downstream, even blotting out the bottom in the shallow margins. The bites faded away, then stopped. Where the dirty water came from I have no idea, but in the past it has come from a large building site a mile upstream, where road sweepers clean mud from the roads, then discharge it into culverts, that eventually find their way into the river.

I sat the pole on its rest and had a cup of tea. Earlier I had watched a pair of kingfishers diving from an upstream branch, but now they were occupying their time flying up and down the river, passing under and over the pole, letting out their high pitched squeak each time. Maybe they were waiting for the river to clear too.

A good sign was my mid river static float pulling under, although by the time that I had grabbed the pole, the fish was gone. The next time that it happened, I was holding the pole, but I still missed the bite. Putting in another ball of feed upstream of the bushes I tried again, the river was beginning to clear and I ran through slowly, the float holding down long enough to hook a small chub.

At least the bites had started again, but they were quick darting dips, hard to hit. If the float was left to develope a bite, the bait was gone. I guessed it was small dace and tried a trick that works on other rivers, pulling the float upstream in short jerks away from the fish, teazing them to take. It worked, the first of several small dace tumbling across the river to hand, although a few also came off.

These dace are from the 1000 introduced last December by the EA, the Cut never having them in these upper reaches, due to steep weirs between here and the Thames, but if they continue to grow, they will provide good sport to float anglers. With only the occasional small roach, or rudd joining the dace in my net, I called it a day, after close to four hours, the river clearing again by the time that I was ready to leave.

Once again the bread punch method had not let me down, at times it was slow due to the influx of muddy water, but the fish had kept coming and there was a healthy net of silvers to show for an afternoon on the bank.