Bread punch roach quantity tops maggot quality

January 13, 2018 at 6:22 pm

My old friend Peter suggested a laid back side by side fishing session this week, just like we used to when we were kids on the local canal. That once free canal is now controlled by a large fishing club with no day tickets available, but both being senior members of Braybrooke Community Fishing Club, we arranged to meet this morning, fishing 20 feet apart, he in peg 1 and myself in peg 2 at Jeane’s Pond.

Although the temperature was only 6 degrees Centigrade, there was no wind and with sunshine forecast to arrive by noon, we looked forward to a pleasant few hours of fishing. Peter is a very good all round angler, but a match fisher he is not and I thought that it would be interesting to see how his old skool tactics fared against the pole with bread punch.

Peter was using rod and line with a self cocking waggler, and light shot down to a size 12 hook with double red maggot, while I set up the pole rig that I had fished through the ice with at the Fur and Feather match before Christmas. This was a 14 g carbon stemmed antennae float, shotted to 6 mm of the bristle, to a size 18 hook.

Putting in a small ball of liquidised bread just over the shelf into four feet of water, I cast in with a 4 mm pellet of punched bread and waited for a sign of a bite. Nothing happened for a couple of minutes, then tell tale rings radiated out from the bristle, before it slowly sank below the surface. A nice roach big enough to net was a good sign, although the fact that it felt ice cold was not. The hook was barely in the skin of the lip and dropped out in the landing net.

Bites were coming with every cast now, swinging most roach to hand with only the top two sections of pole needed to reach the fish. Many were under an ounce, but better fish continued to fill my keepnet.

Pete’s waggler tip stood out like a beacon 25mm clear of the surface, but it dipped when something showed interest, then sank from view. That something put a bend in the rod and his landing net went out for the first time for a six ounce roach. Just a fluke? No, the float went down again and an eight ounce roach fought to the net. I had thought that he would struggle with his double red maggots on a size 12 hook, but he was proving me wrong. My float sank again and the net came out for another nice roach.

It began to rain, not spots, but that incessant heavy drizzle that hisses on the surface of the pond, while soaking everything in minutes. Pete dragged his umbrella from its holdall, while I reached behind me for my wax cotton jacket. So much for sunshine by lunchtime. Pete made himself comfortable, somehow squeezing his six foot plus frame beneath the confines of the umbrella, positioning his fishing chair in the optimum position and sitting back with a self satisfied smile, while I struggled into the stiff jacket, pulling the hood up over my head. With the jacket left open at the front, I was able to keep the bread from the rain by spreading it over the bait tray.

The bites had slowed for me on the inside line, possibly due to the maggots being fed by Pete only yards away and I fed a ball of bread out further, while adding another length to the pole. This increased my catch rate again, but Pete continued with a steady delivery of quality roach to his net. If I had been on my own, I would have been content to fish at this range, until it had been fished out, but old rivalries die hard and adding another length of pole, while increasing the depth of the float, I went out in search of better fish.

Casting out over a ball of fresh bread crumbs, the float settled and continued down. The deep body and bright red fins of a rudd were a welcome sight, netting this fish to be sure.

We considered packing up due to the rain, but decided to continue as we dislike packing up in the rain, when all the tackle is put away wet. The fish didn’t mind the rain, they were wet already and still feeding, so we carried on. I lost a big rudd, when a pole section would not come apart smoothly due to the wet, giving slack and allowing the hook to slip free. I dropped another ball over the area to hold the shoal and fished on, taking another decent roach.

Pete had now moved out into the deeper water, finding a big roach of around 12 oz and I answered with another rudd.

The efficiency of the pole and ease that fish take the punch bread, saw me taking ten fish to Pete’s one, although his one fish often matched the weight of my ten. I pressed on with my small hook and bait combination, his big hook and bait allowed the better fish time to find the bait, while mine was consumed by the nearest and greediest.

Each punch represents a fish, the 4 mm giving more positive bites than the 5 mm. Next time out I will try a size 14 hook with 6 and 7 mm punches to see if the fish get bigger.

By 3 pm the rain had stopped so we took the chance to pack up and weigh our catches. Pete had about 15 quality roach and rudd for 4 lb.

In contrast I had over a hundred red fins for 6 lb. A good result on a cold wet day filled with banter and reminiscence.


Bread punch crucian carp defy the storm

January 4, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Plans to fish my local river were put on the back burner, when the latest weather system to hit the UK, storm Dylan blasting through at 70 mph bringing torrential rain and sleet that pushed up the water levels beyond the banks. Hot on its heels came storm Eleanor dumping more heavy down falls over night. The forecasters had predicted a dry, but windy day to follow and while my wife had trotted off to the January Sales, I loaded up my fishing trolley for the half mile walk down to my very local pond.

The pond is termed a balance pond, its function being to absorb any excess flood water flowing down the stream that runs into it. The stream was close to its banks and I could hear the rush of water as I neared the pond. Drowning this out was the drone of wind through branches and as I began to walk the bankside path, a powerful icy gust stopped me in my tracks. The pond was being frothed up by the unrelenting wind, the only clear spot being in the lee of a giant oak surrounded by a tangle of brambles, the area having a cosy swim down out of the wind. Although well wrapped up against the cold, with thermals and a wax cotton jacket, the thought passed through my mind, “Why do I put myself through this?”

The wind was roaring through a gap in the trees to my right, causing a back eddy of air to whip up mini whirlwinds in front of me. This was the first time that I had fished this swim, as it has a stump sticking up from the bottom 20 metres out, providing an obvious escape route for a running carp.

Crucian carp were my target fish today and I tipped enough coarse ground bread crumb into the bait tray for a few hour’s fishing, lightly squeezing up three egg sized balls and feeding a line toward the stump at 7, 8 and 9 metres. The pond is very shallow and I set my small waggler float at 500 mm to fish just off bottom, the size 16 hook carrying a 5 mm punched pellet of bread.

The swirling wind made it difficult to swing the bait out, but adding another length of pole made it impossible to hold straight, when the wind cranked up to its full strength, moaning through the trees like a siren sending out an alarm. Looking up at the heavy boughs of oak above me, I wondered if I could take cover should one snap free. Winds over 70 mph were recorded close to my pond today and I was right to worry.

Among the ripples, the bright yellow tip of my float continued to blink on and off in the waves, then it stayed down. A lift saw a tiny rudd swung to my hand. At least something was biting today.

This rudd got the ball rolling. Too small for my net it went back in. Better fish followed on each cast.

An on, off bite met solid resistance from a hard fighting crucian, my extended net just reaching to the edge of the rushes to scoop it to safety. At home, a landing net handle 500 mm longer, a present from my wife at Christmas, sits in my rod bag. Travelling light today, I had grabbed a pole and my old handle.

Next cast saw the line speeding toward the stump as a common carp raced away with the bread. Side strain let the elastic do all the work and the fish turned back to the margins, holding it away until it rolled on the surface. Another good fish in the net.

The float was away again, this time a much larger rudd was pulling out the elastic.

These crucian carp have grown steadily in the pond, fish of this size now the norm.

The elastic zoomed out again as another common made for the stump, before being brought under control. The commons had come out to play.

The next cast brought disaster, as another common fought for freedom, finding a sunken log in which to transfer the hook, the line going solid. Pulling for a break, the elastic stretched out and the log moved toward me slowly, until it was beneath the rushes in front of me. At full stretch I could not get the landing net beneath it, eventually giving up and breaking the hook link.

Putting out a couple more balls of bread, I tied on another another hook link. Time for a cup of tea and a sandwich. The wind had veered round to the south, blowing across the front of me, lifting dead leaves from the ground onto the pond to make casting pot luck. I hooked my keepnet, the reeds in front of me and leaves on the surface. The session was becoming chaotic. Whenever the float landed in clear water, it was under again and another crucian carp was in the net.

Small heavily coloured crucians had moved onto the feed, these fish content to sit sucking the bait, rarely moving off with it, the odd dip of the float the only indication, but each lift of the pole saw another on the line.

It was all smaller crucians now, plus the occasional rudd for variety and with conditions worsening, I set my finish time for 3:30. My flask of hot tea was empty and I was looking forward to a fresh hot cup at home, when the float buried and I lifted into the best common carp of the day. The elastic was out again, as a massive gust pulled the pole round against the fish, finding myself fighting the wind and the carp at one time. The common stayed on, despite the lack of control and as it was netted, I decided to pack up before the four hours were up. It had been hard work fighting the elements and the fish.

Once again the bread punch had shown its versatility, the 5 mm punch surprisingly attracting bigger fish than the 6 mm. Weighing up the net at the end, the scales hit the 14 lb limit. There may have been 20 lb there, but it was not important. I’d survived a battering and wanted to go home.

Walking back up the hill to my home, I passed two workmen pavioring a driveway. “Been fishing in this weather? We have to work out here, what’s your excuse!” I couldn’t answer, all I could think of was that hot cup of tea.

Roach fishing through the ice

December 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm

The alarm went at 7 am. It was still dark. Out of the window the grass was white with frost. I had organised a Fur and Feather fishing match with my local club today and had to attend whatever the weather. Distant memories of the feelings of dread, having to fish winter leagues on similar frozen mornings with my old matchteam, came flooding back. It was going to be hard.

Scraping ice from the windscreen, I remembered long drives in the dark to distant canals; at least this would be a short hop to my local pond. A hundred yards from home I stopped behind a car at the exit of my housing estate, blocking its way was another that had gone straight on at the roundabout. The road was like sheet ice. When we all got going again, my wheels slid on the slope.

It was no surprise to find the pond like a skating rink, the club chairman already busy with a grappling hook on a rope smashing through the frozen surface at each swim. A 30 minute delay was agreed and after the draw for the numbered pegs, we made our way to our swims to begin netting out the broken ice.

With the match reduced to three hours, I was prepared to struggle for bites, setting up a canal rig on the pole with a fine wire long shank size 20 barbless hook to fish small 3 and 4 mm bread punches, just off bottom. Plumbing the depth there was a drop off close to the bank, which allowed me to fish with only the top two joints, swinging the rig out to the ice and dragging it back to fall off the edge. A couple of tiny balls of finely liquidised bread placed close to the ice went in to start things off and I waited.

With the float bristle shotted to sit 6 mm above the surface, it sat there for five minutes, before a slight tremble of the float was followed by a slow sink of a few millimetres. I struck and there was resistance on the line, the elastic pulling from the tip. I netted my first roach.

Each time I put the rig out, the tremble and slow sink was repeated. I had six roach before the first of my competitors, the club chairman, swung in a tiny roach. I was still catching fish and was confident enough to put in another small ball of feed, also seeding a dozen casters at the edge of the ice for later.

My main rival was John the chairman, who has fished the pond since a child, going on in later life to be an accomplished match angler. I was catching more fish, but his were bigger. The 3 mm punch was giving better bites and after two hours there were 28 fish in my net. I put on a caster, dropping in over the seeded area. The float went straight down and I was playing another nettable roach.

Great, the roach were on the caster. No other bites in the next five minutes saw me switch back to the bread. Putting in another half dozen casters, I pulled out a piece of compressed rolled punch bread to give a more hookable 3 mm pellet. The bites continued, but I began to miss them, hitting one in five. John on the bank opposite had netted a good roach worth a dozen of mine. I went back on the caster and hooked another net roach.

I needed a lot more of these, but depite a few dips of the float, no more came on the caster. I was still missing bites with the rolled bread and realised too late, that it was too hard on the hook for the fish to take into their mouths. They could pull the float under, but the hook would not set. Getting out a fresh slice segmant, with only minutes to spare, I put another half dozen small roach in my net before time was called.

Three hours of hard work for 1 lb 13 oz on the scales was only enough for second place for me, the winner being John the club chairman, who had also fished the bread punch and caster, finding some better roach toward the end for a 2 lb 15 oz total. There was a tie for third with 14 oz.

Before the match it had been suggested that we draw lots for the seasonal prizes and go back home to our beds, but all caught something, with prizes for all.

The origin of the Fur and Feather match was a contest at Christmas fishing for meat prizes in harder times, when a voucher at the local butchers shop could be redeemed for a turkey, or a ham. Now days a bottle of whiskey, or a box of chocolates are a welcome substitution.

Environment Agency keep their promises

December 14, 2017 at 7:01 pm

As part of fishery improvements in my area, the Environment Agency had promised a restocking programme on a variety of waters, inviting me along on a whistle stop tour accompanying their unique fish delivery vehicle this week.

First stop was Roundmoor ditch, which carries the outfall from a Water Treatment works of a large town, into the River Thames. Once known as the “Mucky Ditch” for obvious reasons, it now runs bright and clear, offering a stable environment for fish. Acting as a natural barrier between the town and a medieval common, the banks have been eroded due to the grazing of cattle over many years, increasing the width and reducing the depth. Part of the ongoing work is to rebuild the banks, adding fish holding berms, while fencing the banks to protect them from cattle. Last year there was an initial restocking of dace, chub and roach and this week the Agency were back with another five hundred each of roach and chub to boost the stock.

Fish farm worker Nick Gill had driven down from the E A’s Calverton, Notts fish rearing facility that morning, getting straight into action seeding this fast flowing stream with its allocation of fish. With a schedule to keep, Nick was soon on his way to the next drop.

Ten miles south is another Thames tributary, the River Cut, where the Agency have been working on an ambitious plan for months, clearing banks and creating berms to speed up this mud filled channel, which is part of a green corridor between new houses and a major road on one side and an established housing estate on the other. Despite many years of neglect as a convenient dumping ground for unwanted shopping trolleys among other things, beneath the surface, shoals of roach and chub have been quietly providing excellent sport to those prepared to battle their way through to the banks.

This has now changed with the formation of the council backed Braybrooke Community and Nature Fishing Club, whose aim it is to promote fishing as a healthy outdoor activity for all ages in the local area. Given control of this council owned land, the Club, which has raised money through varies schemes and aided by the Environment Agency, are well on the way to achieving their goal, with the provision of fishing platforms for fit and disabled anglers.

Watched by an appreciative audience of council workers, Nick was busy again emptying tanks holding twelve hundred chub, and a thousand roach to replace fish lost following a series of oil spillages into the river.

Working next to one of the recently created fishing platforms, Nick also introduced a thousand dace into the water, the dace, though not a naturally occurring fish this far from the Thames, will thrive once the berm work has been completed.

Last port of call for the day, was the short drive to Braybrooke’s Jeane’s Pond for a delivery of three hundred small tench, to replace two thousand small roach netted out by the Agency a year ago, which were moved to another town water.

Given the honour of introducing the tench to Jeane’s Pond, club secretary Danny has been invaluable; his experience in the Police Force and as a council officer, has allowed him to negotiate a way through the paper work jungle needed to raise funds and to gain permission for the bank works, from associated nature organisations based around the river Cut.

Disappointing those poised with cameras waiting for him to take a header into the pond, non fisherman Danny hopes to find time to take up the sport next year.


Bread punch roach come in from the cold

December 8, 2017 at 3:07 pm

A slight rise in temperature from 6 to 8 Centigrade and the promise of a dry afternoon from the forecasters, enticed me from a warm home onto the bank of my local pond to test out a rediscovered pole this week.

Stacked with roach, this old clay pit set in the centre of a public recreation ground, would be the ideal place to check the tension of the new No 6 elastic, that I had fitted through the top section. Too tight and it would bounce fish off the size 18 barbless hook, too loose and it would not set the hook. I had adjusted the tension back home in the workshop, but a session on the bread punch would allow a decent shakedown.

I chose a swim with my back to the open football pitch, where the wind was blowing the falling leaves over toward the opposite bank, good for fishing, but already getting chilly around my nether regions. This would not be a long session anyway, as starting after 1 pm, it would be too dark to see the float by 4.

Plumbing the depth, I found the drop off into deeper water 4 metres out, where I expected to find the fish. Setting my float just off bottom, I tried a cast with punch only. Not a touch. Earlier in the year the float would have sailed away, but now it just sat there. A small ball of liquidised bread changed that. Recasting over the slowly sinking cloud of crumbs, the float sank away. A firm strike and 4 inches of elastic came out of the pole tip as a small roach was lifted with minimal resistance from the water and swung to hand. It was like gripping an ice lolly. Frosty mornings and northern winds had reduced the water temperature dramatically since my previous visit and I expected a difficult afternoon.

The bites were slow to develope, the float settling, showing tiny dips, before holding down a fraction. I struck at every positive movement and was rewarded by a fish every time, most less than an ounce, but after a dozen small roach the elastic stayed down, when I struck as a better fish bounced its way to the landing net.

This was not as bad a session as I thought, yes the bites were minute, taking up to two minutes from fish to fish, but they were still coming. Another nice roach stretching out the elastic again before coming to the net.

In the first hour I had taken over two dozen roach, the smallest balls of feed keeping the fish interested, without filling them up. The wind was now increasing, causing my knees to knock, despite thermals beneath my jeans, but the float kept holding down and roach continued to swing into my numb fingers.

Another hour and the light was already on the wane as I topped up the white crumb for the final time, having used less than half a pint. With the float shotted down, it was becoming difficult to see the tip, the catch rate had gone up and down, but with 48 fish in the net, it was still a decent bag for such a cold afternoon. The quality of the roach also surprised me, with several around 4 oz.

I was trying to get to 60 fish before the two and a half hour mark, beating it by ten minutes. Enough was enough, my knees had almost seized up, the wind was gusting and due to a rapid drop back down in the temperature, I could not control my shivers, despite several layers of clothing over my thermals.

The new elastic set up had not lost a fish, the old pole with the bread punch putting 5 lb on the scales.

Waste not want not

December 7, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Reluctant to venture outside due to bitterly cold winds, I resolved to sort through my tackle with a view to chucking some of it out this week. Reels were stripped and greased, while new lines were purchased for the various spools. A fly reel was partially seized and put to one side for later attention. At least it was now on the work bench instead of still attached to my fly rod, where on several occasions it had caused trouble, because I meant to fix it each time I returned home, only to lean the rod against the garage wall and forget it.

An almost new swing tip rod, the latest technology for still water bream back in the day, was taken out of its bag, sighed over and put back again. Must give it a go next season. My little 7 ft Hardy split cane spinning rod was put to one side, the moth eaten rod bag needs replacing. I’ve got another one somewhere? I bought this rod when I was 17, it doubled as a fly rod catching River Colne dace and chub, while in the same year, casting a Mepps spoon, I landed a 32 inch pike from the Thames at Romney weir in Windsor below the Castle. At least this has seen some use in recent years, with pike from the Basingstoke Canal and perch from my local pond.

I found a 9 metre carbon pole. I’d forgotten that I still had it. This pole had given me my biggest match win ever in the early 80’s on the Grand Union Canal, bread punch bringing me a net of roach and skimmer bream in baking heat for a weight of about 7 lb, that topped the weight of the 140 strong field. Even sharing part of the winnings with my team mates left me with a tidy sum, which went toward an 11 metre carbon pole, that was lighter and stiffer, with more street cred than its predecessor. Kept as a spare, until another 11 metre pole found its way into the rod bag, the 9 metre ended up alongside the swing tip rod in the loft.

I took the pole out of its bag. It was in perfect condition. A put over type to improve stiffness, opposed to the more modern push in narrow poles with more advanced carbon fibre, that are straight as a die at 18 metres, I remember this one getting floppy beyond 7 metres. There was still a white elastic fitted to the top section. A good pull and it broke, perished. The sort out stopped there. I would fit a new elastic and with no street cred left, use it for close in punch fishing.

The top ferule I had made from PTFE, a very slippery plastic. This was OK, but the bottom bung, which I had turned from nylon, was replaced by an up to date adjustable one that was cut down to suit. Fitted with a new blue No 6 easy slip elastic, I was ready to give it a go. All I needed was some mild weather.

Chub and bream keep out the cold

November 23, 2017 at 11:00 pm

Reporting yet another bout of pollution a fortnight ago on my local urban river, I paid a visit for a couple of hours today to see what was biting, if anything. A bitterly cold wind was blowing from the northwest and it was a case of winter draws on, literally, this being the first outing wearing my thermals. I’d decided on one of the nearest swims to the car park, where, with other bailiffs we had removed a pile of rubbish in the summer, which had included a shopping trolley, a couple of bikes and a BBQ.

Arriving at 1pm, I was soon set up with my 12 ft Hardy float rod and 3 No 4 Ali stem stick float rig, the size 16 barbless hook ready for a 5 mm bread punch pellet. Setting out my stall, I had prebaited with a couple of egg sized balls of liquidised bread down the middle, where the flow is strongest, expecting instant bites from the off.

There is an old saying “Expectation is the mother of frustration” and this sums up the first twenty minutes. I had expected the float to sail away with the first cast, an upstream wind allowing the bait to flutter slowly dowstream toward an imagined shoal of roach, but if they were there, they were not interested today. I refer to this as my roach swim, but knowledge of the recent oil pollution saw me ready to pack up, when the float gave one sharp dip. No follow on pull under, just one dip.

The bread was half gone and I rebaited, following the float with another small ball of crumb. Half way along the trot, two dips and it held under. An upward strike put a bend in the rod, while the float scribed a lazy S in the surface film, a slow thumping fight indicating the culprit long before the deep shape of a skimmer bream flashed underwater. The landing net went out and the bream slid in, a rare fish in this river.

Broad in the shoulder, this was close to a pound, the hook barely holding in the skin of its lip.  I had walked down with a local couple exercising their dog, who had witnessed the pollution of this small waterway, saying that their 12 year old son had often fish here before the troubles. They were now on their way back home and stopped to watch me land the fish. At least they would have something positive to pass on.

With the path running behind me, I was joined by another walker, also an angler, who despite living close to the river, had never fished it, preferring commercial carp lakes. Having just missed an unmissable bite, he came down the bank for a better look. He had never seen anyone using a bread punch before and answered his questions giving a brief teach in, while keeping an eye on my float. Another unmissable bite, but this time I hit it, the rod doubling over as the fish ran beneath a tree on the far bank upstream. It doubled back, diving deep under my own bank, as I pushed the rod away from me to draw it out, seeing a good chub veering from left to right searching for a snag. The chub came out and rushed off downstream, heading for a tangle of branches, backwinding and side strain slowing it down. Now it was under my downstream bank, diving beneath the outstretched landing net. Next pass I had it.

Once again the size 16 barbless was just in the top lip. On this light weight gear a three pound chub takes some landing.

Having stirred up the swim, it was another fifteen minutes before any sign of a bite. A tap,tap and a sharp pull under was missed. The bites got fussy, then stopped. The river had taken on a matt, grey look. It was still not 3 pm, but the temperature was dropping fast and it was clear that more oil was coating the surface, iridescent trails of oil snaking across the surface. Pulling out my keepnet, rainbow globules burst on the surface from the disturbed mud, the net having a distinct odour.

Arriving earlier in the day may have put more fish in the net, but at least I had caught something decent, while the river is struggling against the efforts of irresponsible individuals, or companies. Passing the town outfall, an oily scum was entering the river again.

Last minute carp

November 17, 2017 at 1:15 pm

A glorious November morning had been taken up with an organised walk around a local beauty spot, taking in the exceptional autumn colours enhanced by the bright sunshine. My wife’s mind turned to tending her winter flower garden, mine thought of all the carp that would be cruising around a shallow lake near my home, woken up by the mild spell.

Soon after a hurried lunch, I was setting up my carp rig, an ancient 12.5 ft Normark float rod with 6 lb line through to a heavy pole float, modified to be a shallow waggler, the 12 inch 3 lb hook link tied to a size 16 barbless hook. The lake is about three feet deep, with about half of it silt and have found that bread punch fished close to the surface with no weight down the line works here.

Walking to my swim, I had passed two anglers, each with a pair of rods aimed at the island. They’d had the same idea as me, that the carp would be “on”, but had so far failed to get a bite, despite pouches of pellets fired over toward the island. Every man to his own. I carried on round to where the water exits the lake, this corner usually a good holding spot, but today leaves clogged the outlet and backed up into the lake.


I squeezed up a few large balls of liquidised bread and lobbed them out in front of me, watching them break up in the air to cover an area 15 to 20 yards out, sinking slowly to settle on the mud below. There was little drift on the lake, although surface leaves kept accumulating around the line, needing to be lifted clear. After half an hour bubbles began to appear on the surface close to my float. Following another ball of bread with my float, I sat and stared at the antenna. Did it dip half an inch? Yes it did. The bait was being pushed around, the float sliding and bobbing. Come on take it! It vanished. Missed it, the 7 mm pellet of bread still intact.

Another ball, another cast, this time with a 5 mm diameter punch. A few more dips, then nothing. Brought back, the bait was gone. Back to the 7 mm punch. The bubbles continued to burst. There was still interest, the float half holding down. Missed another. The time was getting on, the earlier sun had gone behind a leadened sky. Each bite was taking 15 minutes to develope and now it was starting to drizzle with fine rain. Time to go. Beginning to put my bait away, I looked up to see the float was gone. The line was not moving. I reeled and lifted the rod. Whoa! A boil of black mud and I was backwinding furiously as a carp arrowed off to the right into the raft of leaves near the outlet. The rod took the strain as the line collected a washing line of dead leaves and twigs, dulling the kicks of the carp as it powered through the shallows, the fish turning to swim back along the wall toward me, reeling, then backwinding as it passed only feet from the bank. A nice common carp, it began to roll, but the size 16 in the corner of its mouth held and I netted it.

 One of the other anglers came round to see what all the commotion had been about, nodding in approval at the carp, but looking bemused at my unconventional rig. They were still biteless. It had been frustrating for me, I had expected more, but this one would do.

Bread punch roach amid the autumn leaves

November 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Following last week’s aborted visit to my local urban river, due to oil pollution, I had decided on a brief test session today to see if the fishing had been affected. Walking over the bridge, a distinct old oil smell was in the air and looking down onto the sill of the outlet, additional anti-pollution booms were in place. From the central outlet pipe an oil slick was swirling into the river.

I phoned the Environment Agency hotline to report the incident and returned to the van, seeing that a sheen of oil covered the surface. Fishing here today would only result in oil coating my line and nets.

As with last week, a change of plan was called for, the easy option being Braybrooke’s Jeanes Pond a mile away. Fortunately I had a pole with me and my intended method was going to be bread punch anyway, so my gear was loaded back into the van for the short drive to Braybrooke Park, then unloaded to walk to the pond.

A chill wind from the northwest was blowing leaves onto the surface, causing them to rotate around the pond. Finding gaps for the float would be interesting. Due to recent frosts, I decided on a slow start, selecting a 4 mm bread punch and rolled bread, while feeding a single small ball of liquidised bread every dozen fish. I was limited to just three lengths of pole, as the leaves were right up to the bank and casting was not possible, needing to lower the rig down into the water. As the float settled, a ring radiated out from the tip showing interest in the bread pellet, moments later it sank from sight.

This roach was cold to the touch, but his shoalmates were not put off and I was soon getting into a catching rythm, only interupted by progress phone calls from the AE and Thames Water, the latter saying that they had an engineer wading back up into the tunnel trying to trace the origin of the oil, although his words “like looking for a needle in a haystack” were not encouraging.

Having lost time moving venues, I settled on a three hour session, averaging a roach a minute, swinging them to hand. Missed bites from smaller fish prompted a step up to a 5 mm punch, which began to select slightly better fish.

Bites on the inside began to get fussy, when a change in the wind moved the leaves away from my bank and adding another pole length up to 4 metres, put the bait in a free biting area. It was about half way through the session and I’d only used a quarter a pint of liquidised bread for about a hundred fish. Topping up the feed bowl, I kept the feed to a minimum. It is always a risk in cold weather to overfeed with the bread, while sometimes heavier fish will often move in.

The change in the wind direction had dropped the air temperature significantly, blowing hard on my back, passing through my hoody, making me shiver. A cup of tea helped and I pushed on into the final hour still swinging them in, although this was a netter.

With minutes to go before the three hours were up, the net came out again for the final roach of the day.

Earlier in the year, this pond yielded some near pound roach to me on the bread punch, but the cold weather has probably put them down, however I was more than pleased to pull out my net to put seven and half pounds in weight on the scales.

Overgrown river gives up its secrets

November 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm

With work in progress by the Environment Agency to improve my local urban river, I thought that it was worth a visit to try out one of the recently constructed fishing platforms, but walking down to the river, Thames Water contractors were busy trying to clear up the latest pollution spillage from the town outfall.

While returning to the van I considered my options and decided that a first time visit to a tributary of the Blackwater about ten miles away was a viable option. I had recently seen the half mile section of river listed in the handbook of one of my fishing clubs and Googled the location, putting it down as Must Try One Day in my mind. Today was going to be the day.

As I neared the club car park, the roads became narrower and the hedges taller. There were few passing places, but being in the middle of nowhere, there was no traffic either. A narrow gap in the hedge with a bar across was the car park entrance. Blocking the road, I released the padlock and pushed open the bar, hooking it back on a conveniently placed piece of nylon string. The parking area was overgrown and full of dumped garden waste, with just enough room to turn the van round. This club usually has well kept parking places, but this has seen little use.

The handbook said that the river is 600 yards from the carpark and I loaded up my trolley to cross an open field toward a tree line in the shallow valley, eventually reaching a tangle of long grass and stinging nettles, before pushing through to find the fast flowing little river twisting its way between a jungle of fallen trees and over hanging branches. Leaving the trolley, I searched between the trees for an opening with room to cast a float rod, finding a spot where the Himalayan balsam had died back leaving a relatively open bank.

It was already 2:30 and I hadn’t made a cast, but I was now committed to get the best out of the swim and tackled up with a 3 No 4 ali stem stickfloat to a size 16 barbless. Testing the depth, maximum was 2 feet past the middle, shallowing to 18 inches as it rounded the bend, with an area of cabbages on the inside. The river looked deeper further down, but a higher bank and overhanging branches gave me no further choices. I had only been prepared for a few hours fishing the bread punch on the slow moving river near home, now with treble the pace and half the depth, I would be working for every bite.

I squeezed up a couple of balls of liquidised bread and threw them well upstream, dropping the float among the cloud as it passed. Every tenth trot, I compressed another ball and followed it down. A sharp dip of the float in the deeper water encouraged me, although a rapid strike and no bait did not. I was folding each 7 mm pellet of bread round the hook, to allow me to hold back the float without washing off the bait. If I had known I was coming to a fast flowing river, I would have rolled up some steamed bread for the punch.

Following several false alarms the float held down long enough to make contact and after a short run a small chub was swinging to hand.

Usually where there is one small chub there are others, but not so this time, as a shoal of small dace began dipping the float and taking the bait. Running through I could not hit them, but moving a shot close to the hook, adding 6 inches in depth gave me a chance. Dip, dip, tug and I was playing the first strip of silver.

The dace were in about 18 inches of water, chasing the swirling grains of bread, rattling the rod top without being hooked. I shallowed up again, running through, this time the float held down, a good dace came tumbling to the surface, then came off. Another small one stayed on, spinning beneath the surface. The rod bent over and another good dace was on the surface, fighting doggedly to the net.

I had been preoccupied trying to hook these dace and it took a pair of cock pheasants flying into the tree downstream to roost, to make me realise that the light was going. It was only 4 pm, but the sun was behind the trees already and the mist was coming down. I decided to give it another 15 minutes before packing up, scraping up the last of my feed to form a ball, again dropping it in upstream. Minutes later the float dived and a much better fish rolled on the surface, before kiting over to the far side. It felt like a roach, not my hoped for chub; whatever, it was fighting well, coming back to my side, then to the middle. The landing net was waiting as a 6 oz roach obliged by turning on its side, before sliding into the net.

This roach extended the session as I tried to catch another, to no avail. It was going to be a long up hill trek back to the van and I had to get a move on to avoid walking in the dark.

Not much to show for such a busy session. I had expected more and bigger chub, although the roach made up for that. I saw slower deeper swims, but they were unfishable. Next time I will bring my pole saw