Big roach take the bread punch despite the drought

September 21, 2020 at 6:33 pm

With only the morning available to fish, I decided that a visit to my local River Cut fitted the bill, but the sight of bare stones and exposed mud below the trickle of a weir, made me hesitate and reconsider my preferred swim. Intending to fish the stick float, I required flow, but those that I passed were static. There was only one swim I knew of that would have movement, it was a long way downstream and difficult to reach along the bank, but could be worth the walk.

Years a go a large tree had blown down away from the river, pushing a mound of earth into the stream and reducing the width by half and many floods later, a deep channel has been carved out between the banks. There are so many productive swims further upstream, that I rarely venture down this far, although past visits have often brought surprises, a large goldfish and a bream spring to mind.

The downstream feature is a dead elder stretching across to the other side, merging with a snaggy bush growing out from the opposite bank, dangerous territory for the light weight stick float rig.

Pushing my way through the Himalayan Balsam to the swim, I was ready to fish by 9 am. I dropped a couple of small balls of plain liquidised bread into the middle and close to the outcrop, followed by my 4 No 4 stick float, weighted with just the tip showing, the size 16 barbless hook with a 5 mm pellet of bread a few inches off bottom in the 3 foot deep swim. The cloud of bread went straight down, while the float barely moved. Lifting and recasting over the feed, began to produce slight tremors to the float tip, but nothing to strike at and I began to think that a pole with a fine antenna float to a size 20 would have been better.

Reducing the punch size to 4 mm got an immediate bite and a spate of gudgeon, sucking at the bread, bobbing the float, but not taking it under. Normally the flow would drag the float under, but I found that an induced take worked, a twitch upstream resulting in a pull under of the float, enough to hook the gudgeon.

Hoping to attract some better fish, I mixed in some ground carp pellets and ground hemp, putting in a few more small balls, allowing the bait to sink through the cloud. More gudgeon, then the float went straight down and the rod was bending to a sizable silver fish, a fat roach fighting bank to bank.

At last a decent fish, this perfect roach gorging the 4 mm punch of bread. Another couple of balls went in and I let the bread drift down between them. Bob, bob, sink. I was playing an even better roach, that ran upstream, then turned to bury its nose in the snags beneath the overhanging elder. It came free, ran to the opposite bank, then back again to my waiting net, all the fun over in a minute.

Gorged again, the small punch pellet being sucked straight in. I put on my bait apron, as things could get slimy, casting in again over a small ball. Bob, bob, sink, brace the strike, not a roach, but a gudgeon swinging to hand. Suddenly the pace picked up and the bites stopped. The healthy green tinge had turned to a dull brown murk in minutes.

It was just past 9:30 am, and the fishing had gone dead. This influx of mucky water had an instant affect on the fishing, probably due to the lack of other water available to dilute it. I increased the depth to lay the bait on the bottom over the feed, while I poured a cup of tea. The float bobbed and sank with a tiny gudgeon hanging on the hook, the only bite in half an hour. The flow slowed to nothing again and I shallowed up, more in hope than judgement, only for the float to sink away as a small rudd searched through the feed.

More gudgeon, rising up through the cloud to take on the drop. The roach would soon follow, I hoped, but what did follow was more mucky water, picking up the flow again. You can’t go on flogging a dead horse, or swim in my case, so I packed up and was on my way back to the van by noon.

A dozen more roach like these were on the cards, but sometimes we have to be thankful for small mercies.

 

Roach fishing on the River Stour at Meadowbank, Christchurch

September 13, 2020 at 8:27 pm

The promise of an Indian Summer caused me to book my campervan into Meadowbank Holiday’s campsite for a few days this week, the main attraction being the Dorset river Stour that borders the site, the added bonus is, residents fish for free. A happy coincidence, was that a long time match teammate and later fishing rival John Veazey was booked in with his wife Julie for the two weeks spanning the days that my wife Julie and I were visiting.

John has stayed at the site a few times in the past and had given me a basic heads up on methods; stick float down the inside, waggler, or Bolo float down the middle, as it is also at least ten feet deep, roach, dace and chub being the target fish. I was intending to try bread punch over a heavy mix of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets, ground hemp and hempseed, fed on the bottom with a bait dropper. Back up was more hemp, with tares on the hook, while I had raided the home compost heap for some brandlings, just in case there were a few perch about.

Arriving on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, we settled in, then went for a walk along the river, finding most swims occupied by barbel fishers, but one man was catching; Terry, down from Hertfordshire, was getting roach and dace on the stick float with hemp and tares, although his comments that the river was not fishing as well as in the past, did not encourage me to walk back for the rods. We located John and Julie’s caravan and were invited in for a cup of tea, while John got his rods ready for the following morning.

With a couple of hours until our own evening meal, I decided to take John’s advice and head for his favourite peg 2, but by the time we arrived back on the bank, 2 and most of the others were occupied, setting up in a peg between trees, with a bush sticking out over the flow down my inside. Seeing the swim, I abandoned my intended 14 foot Browning and 2 gram Bolo rig, for the 12 foot Hardy and a 6 No 4 stick float. Unwilling to clutter my camper with a trolley and tackle box, I was carrying my essentials in a Tupperware box, with the rods made up in a Drennan ready to fish holdall. Travelling Light as the old Cliff Richard song goes.

Plumbing the depth at 8 feet a rod length out, I squeezed up some firm balls of feed and dropped them in upstream, intending to fish down to the bush, which looked like it might hold a chub, or two.

First trot the float dipped a few times then held under long enough to strike. Missed it! No, a minnow came spinning to the surface, still hanging onto the 7 mm pellet of bread. This was minnow alley and after my first dozen, bulked the shot close to the hook to punch through them. This time the float went in and kept on going down and away. Chub? Too solid a run, heading upstream and pulling hard, bending the little Hardy well over, as it passed me, the dark bars of a decent perch visible. Sitting on top of a high bank, the landing net just reached over the streamer weed close in, to net my first Stour fish.

This bruiser of a perch was obviously after minnows and had taken the bread as it fell toward the bottom. With the chance that there were more perch about, I double hooked a fat brandling and cast in, watching the float as minnows attacked the bait, holding back at the bush and striking when it pulled under. The hook was bare. This was repeated several times in the hope that perch would be attracted by the frenzied minnows and take the worm. Each time the hook was stripped by the mini piranhas. Later one of the regulars came along and showed me a picture of a 3 lb perch he had caught, saying that lob worms were the answer, as the they were too tough for the minnows.

I went back to the bread punch, casting down to the bush and holding back the float, using the bait dropper to feed at my feet, plus firm balls of the mix upstream. It began to work, I was still getting minnows, but also hooked a couple of dace from positive bites, but each time they pulled off the hook in the dense weed. No wonder this was one of the empty pegs. It had been an interesting first hour on the river, but it was time for a hot meal in the camper.

DAY 2

The following day we were going to do the tourist thing around Christchurch centred around a pub lunch, but first I walked down to watch John fish peg 1 close to his caravan, his favoured peg 2 already occupied. Fishing two thirds across with a 3 gram Bolo float and feeding hemp with a black urid bean on the hook, preferring them to tares. A small roach and a dace were all he had in that hour and he complained that last year he was catching 2 lbs of fish an hour. He later told me that over three hours of fishing that morning, he had only managed nine small silver fish.

We did not rush down to the river that evening, again finding few swims free, most occupied by biteless barbel fishers again, but the inside of a bend did not look as weedy as the last, this time getting out the 14 foot Browning to fish a 2 gram Bolo float over my heavy mix of bread and hemp.

The minnows seemed to be absent two thirds over, where there was a clear line between the streamer weed and a few balls of feed soon brought bites in the ten foot deep swim.

Two bites brought two good fish lost in sunken weed as I brought them over, so I shallowed up a foot and decided to bring the fish close to the surface next time. Success, a good roach stayed on as I brought it over the layers of weed.

Bites were now reliable, the fish moving up in the water to the feed, but I was still losing fish, bringing them to the surface allowing a chance to shed the size 16 barbless hook. It was frustrating, but another roach stayed on to the net.

Then the bane of my life, a pike moved into the swim, chasing through the feed. It was only small, about 2 lbs, but each ball of feed brought more bursts of panicking small fish, and the bites stopped, so once again we packed up and returned to the camper.

DAY 3

A call from John said that he was setting up further downstream and that there was a clear swim upstream of it, and parking nearby, did we want him to save it for us? A positive answer saw us quickly stowing all the movable objects and disconnecting the electrical hookup, before driving to the parking spot.

The bank here was almost level with the river, but with a cordon of reeds in front of it, the only way through for a larger fish being a gap to the side, while the landing net at 3 metres was too short to reach over the reeds in front. I would have to worry about that if the problem arose.

Upstream in the next swim was Terry and I walked up for a chat. Although he said it was a struggle, he was catching on hemp and tares again, using a heavy Avon float with the shot strung out, while trotting through the middle of the river.

I still had hemp and tares left and pulled out the Browning 14 footer with the 2 gram Bolo float, firing a few pouches of hemp upstream of my peg to lay down a bed of feed out in front of me. The depth was 10 feet, but I started at 9 feet to the float antenna, expecting the fish to be taking on the drop close to the bottom. John was first to take a fish, a small roach, which I copied after a few casts. There were fish here, but the bites were fussy and hard to hit, not what I would expect with tares on a size 14 hook.

Feeding several grains of hemp every other cast across the middle, the bites changed from dips and tips to solid pull downs and I was playing my first decent fish, only to lose the quality roach, as I tried to manoeuvre it through the gap in the reeds. Feeding another pouch of hemp I tried again, another fine roach was on, this time playing it to a standstill, then sliding it through the reeds on its side.

Another clonking Stour roach soon followed, the bites starting just out in front from the middle, usually as a half dip of the float, progressing to a firm pull under.

I was still losing fish, a large dace bouncing off, while another larger fish, which I guessed was a perch stayed deep, swimming up to the reeds and stopping. I tried to pull it up and over the obstacle, but the hook pulled free.

The flow was slow and the bites took time to develope, but roach were steadily filling the keepnet.

John had been catching bleak and a lift bite made me think the same, but the strike saw a large fish streak over to the trees on the far side, before coming off. I lowered the float another foot and cast back over, another lift bite and yes this time, a bleak.

Another lift bite was a roach this time, which laid the float flat before I hit it.

I had enlisted my wife Julie to operate the catapult, apparently she had made her own when she was aged nine. After a few hilarious attempts, her accuracy improved. I always knew that she had hidden talents. The fish responded by coming up higher to the hemp, shallowing up again making it easier to hit the fish.

This quality roach was followed by a fat dace, no doubt gorged on hemp.

John was not having such a good day on the Bolo float and switched to the waggler, getting more bites but smaller fish, while I piled on the agony, when my rod bent over and I backwound the ABU 501 reel, as a chub powered away downstream, before being brought under control to the landing net.

The roach were now lined up taking the hemp, with the occasional dace getting to the tare first.

My swim was still alive, but John wanted to pack up, so I ended on a high with yet another clonking roach.

Oh well it all came good in the end with a reasonable net of silvers, helped by River Lea angler Terry, who topped up my diminishing stock of hempseed, when my container was accidentally knocked over.

Learning a new water is never easy and I would be happy to return to Meadowbank next year for another go.

Slow day at the Braybrooke Office. No tench!

September 1, 2020 at 7:43 pm

With the morning free, I promised myself a few hours tench fishing at Braybrooke’s Jeanes’s Pond, heading back to the same swim, hoping to improve on the two tench and half a dozen small commons and a small mirror, that I caught two weeks ago.

Last time, I chose this swim to shelter from the sun and to be out of the wind, but today there was only a hazy sun and no wind, in fact there was quite a chill in the air left over from a cold clear night.The first change was no surface bubbles, but hey, the bread punch and my tench mix of crushed hemp and carp pellets, plus hemp seed would soon change that, wouldn’t it? Er, no. After an hour, there were only a few pin prick bubbles and just four small roach in the net. The rig was the same, a 2 gram antenna float to bulk shot 12 inches from the size 16 barbless hook and a No 6 tell tale four inches from the hook. The depth had been set to a single shot under the float and a test with the plummet proved all was the same.

I had started on a 6 mm punch to avoid the very small roach, while offering the larger bait for the tench and carp, but this was not working, so went down to a 5 mm punch. The bites so far had been very fussy, barely sinking the 6 mm of exposed antenna and had missed six of the ten fish. I would have said that they were crucian carp from the nibbling dips and bobs, but the ones that I hit were all small roach.

What to do? Change tactics, or keep plugging away. Too set in my ways to change, I kept feeding; a small ball to the left, while fishing to the right, then visa versa, a typical winter method, when the fishing is hard. Hold on a minute, this is supposed to be summer! Two weeks ago it was a fish a chuck, now look at me struggling for bites. The concentrated feed was having an effect, the roach were more numerous and getting bigger.

The next change was from natural slice to steamed and rolled bread, this giving a more dense pellet. The bites improved. The roach had been blowing the pellet in and out of their lips, giving the slight dips and raising of the antenna. They did not seem too interested in feeding, but now the float was holding down long enough to strike. My catch rate went up to two out of three bites.

At about 11 am, there was a massive disturbance under the surface, throwing up a burst of bubbles through my swim, either a pike, or a large carp. The bites stopped. I got out the tea and sandwiches and waited, then waited some more. Time to pack up. The float went under and a better roach was fighting hard before being brought round to the landing net.

I kept going, at least the roach were feeding again, even if I may have to wait until next year for another tench. I would only be in my wife’s way if I went home now. Give it a bit longer and I will be in time for lunch. The float held down and the elastic came out. Something was fighting back. Get the landing net ready, the fish rolled on the surface long enough to be swept into the net. One of the small commons that have appeared this year.

There were no more where this came from. The sun was on the water and the bites dried up. This time I did pack up. The bailiff came along and told me that the club’s top match winner had struggled in a swim three pegs away the day before. This made me feel only slightly better.

Not a disaster by any means, but did have one dry net. The one that I brought just to put the tench in.

 

 

 

 

Pike trouble cuts short River Whitewater tryout

August 25, 2020 at 4:31 pm

A month ago I joined a work party on Farnborough and District’s River Whitewater, the lower end, close to where it joins the River Blackwater, having been neglected and overgrown in recent years. One of the swims cleared looked ideal for the stick float and this week I made an afternoon visit to give it a try.

With a stile to climb, I left my tackle box and trolley in the van, travelling light with my rod set up in it’s ready to use bag, with essentials like bread punches, hooks and a disgorger in my bait bag. Knowing that I have caught plenty of perch fly fishing for trout in the upper reach of the river, I had brought a dozen small worms as an alternative bait to my usual bread punch.

Settling down on the bank, I soon found out that this was a bit of a parrot cage, with my twelve foot Hardy scraping the branches above my head, but I have coped with worse and finding three feet of water over toward the trees on the far side, began to fish. A couple of balls of liquidised bread were followed down with my float, with no response. Another ball over and the float trotted ten yards before sliding under. Strike, something there and I reeled back a small chublet.

Four more of these, then five yards down the float the float sank, more resistance and a better chub.

On my light tackle, a 4 No 4 float to a size 16 barbless hook, this little chub gave a good account of itself, as did the next small chub, that took the 7 mm punch of bread.

Next trot a roach had found the bread feed, and I got the landing net ready, but then, whoomph a pike took it, storming off downstream, before turning and swimming along my bank, shaking its head with the roach across its jaws. It was only about three pounds and swam into the landing net, but turned before I could lift it. I thought I had the pike beat, when it rolled in mid river, but it dived down toward a sunken tree downstream and cut through the hook line when I tried to stop it. Time for a new hook.

I threw over another ball of feed and cast in to it, the float sinking straight away. What was it, not a chub diving for cover, or a bouncing roach, this fish hugging the bottom with a dogged fight. It was a perch. Not for the first time, the bread had been taken on the drop mistaken for a small fish.

There were obviously perch about and after a few trots without a bite, I got out the bait box with the the worms. First time in the float sank again, this time with a better perch.

The perch were all over the river, some only five inches long, others better sized, needing the net, but it was good sport, the float disappearing out of sight each time, not knowing how big they were until the hook was set. I had only grabbed about a dozen worms from the compost heap and they were soon gone, so it was back to the bread.

After the pike I had continued feeding a few balls past the middle and I was pleased, when the float dipped, then held and I was reeling in a small roach.

Good news. I cast in again, the float went under and I was playing another perch, probably the best of the day. Another perch on the bread.

Another small ball over and I eased the float though again, a dip and a sink. This time it was a roach, a bit bigger and I netted it for safety.

They seemed to be back in the swim. I missed the next bite, but here was no mistaking the next, as a better roach put a bend in the rod. A swirl and the pike had grabbed this roach, continuing to swim upstream, visible in the sunlight. I was determined to get it in this time, back winding whenever it pulled away, following with the rod as it ran downstream, turning it back to the landing net, but the Hardy was too soft to stop it going under the tree and it snagged me below my keep net. I let the line go slack, hoping that it would swim out, it did, but deeper into the roots. I pulled for a break and got my float back, but it was broken. Pike seem to be the bane of my life.

That was it then, my spare floats were in the van. I had hoped to fish for another hour, but you can’t win them all.

Nothing big, but enough to keep me busy for 90 minutes. I had hoped for a decent net of roach, or a better chub, but better luck next time.

 

 

 

Small carp among the tench on the bread punch at Jeanes’s Pond

August 20, 2020 at 8:24 pm

Welcome overnight rain gave way to a windy, but sunny morning this week at Braybrooke Club’s Jeanes’s Pond, when I arrived for a few hour’s, hoping for tench on the bread punch. I was not sure how the pond would fish after the heatwave of late, which had been followed by cool temperatures and heavy rain.

In an attempt to avoid the small roach and rudd that occupy the upper layers of the pond, I intended to fish on, or just off the bottom of the 5 foot deep swim using a 2 gram antenna float, with the shot bulked within a foot of the size 16 hook. Not ideal for presentation, but a longer tail would have meant a slower sink of the bait and the chance of a bait robbing immature roach, or rudd getting to the punch bread.

Feed was a base of coarse liquidised bead, mixed with ground carp pellets, ground hemp and boiled hempseed, squeezed into small tight balls, that sank quickly. I fed a line of three balls out toward the lily bed and waited, the antenna sitting with a quarter of an inch showing, a single No 6 shot close to the hook acting as a tell tale. With the bait on, or just off the bottom, any lift of the bait will raise the shot and lift the antenna. Simples. The first challenge was to get a bite. I waited for ten minutes before the float gave a small lift and sank. Resistance and a roach was being drawn towards the landing net. It dropped off the hook. As tench were my target, I was using my heavier pole with thick 12 – 18 elastic.There is little give in the tip and the roach bounced off the barbless hook.

I withdrew the elastic bung from the pole and eased the tension by unrolling a coil of elastic.

Rebaiting with a 6 mm punch of bread I dropped the float in 8 metres out, followed by another ball of feed. Bubbles began to appear around the float. It wobbled, lifted and sank taking line. A firm lift and I was in. The elastic came out slowly at first, as if the fish was unaware of the hook, then it took off in the direction of the pads, the elastic stopping the run before the fish turned and came back in my direction, while I unshipped the pole down to the top three. At first I thought that it was a crucian carp, rolling from side to side, but I had sight of the dark green of a small tench and was ready with the landing net.

This is what I came for the hook falling out in the landing net. Bubbles were coming up all over the feed area now and dropped in again. The float lifted and sank and I lifted in anticipation, but a tap, tap fight as I raised the pole said roach and I quickly pulled back to the top three to net it.

Not a bad roach, but on this tackle no problem, good to see that I was at least avoiding the tiny fish. Next cast in the float wavered and sank and a more powerful fish was charging off against the elastic. It was a small carp, staying down until the last minute.

The a last time I fished the pond I had a few of these and this was no different, the next three fish being like peas in a pod.

A roach was next up, again quite a nice one, the float having sat motionless as bubble broke on the surface, before showing a rings of interest around the antenna, then sinking.

Another nice roach was followed by a burst of bubbles around the float, a lift of the whole antenna, which plopped down again sinking away. Woah! This was a much better fish, that ran out parallel with the pads, before turning in towards them, as I put on side strain to keep it out. The hook hold held and I played it on the top three, waiting for it to reduce the runs and come to the net.

This tough 2 lb male was too much of a handful to hold and with the hook just in the skin of the lip, the hook was soon out and the tench in the keepnet.

This was a much darker common, than the other three, they are built like barrels and fight all the way to the net. I mixed up some more feed to keep the fish coming, this one a better roach.

I was into another decent fish, that ran out toward the middle, staying down, until close to the bank, rolling and diving, a mystery fish until I netted it. A small mirror carp with pretty markings.

A string of roach, meant that they were over the feed now, possibly drawn to the hemp, not the clonkers that I have had in the past, but respectable.

The bubbles were still popping on the surface and a much smaller common carp was followed  next drop in by a much better one, that fought like a crucian.

 

The wind by now had turned to blow in my face, but the heavy float held station, but as the sun shone above the trees onto the water the bubbles reduced and I caught the only rudd of the morning.

This fish took on the drop, steady feed and lighter float would have caught more, but the heavy tactics were now only producing roach.

This was my last roach of the morning, soon the sun would be beating down and it was time to go home for lunch.

The punch had worked well again, varying between 6 and 8 mm had not selected better fish. I also missed a few bites and dropped several small roach on the stiff rig, but it had been another learning exercise, I’m sure that there were far more tench and carp in my swim than I caught.

Two tench, six small commons and one mirror, plus a net of roach between 9 am and lunchtime was OK by me.

Bread punch roach and bream worth the walk on the Leeds and Liverpool canal

August 20, 2020 at 4:34 pm

Following a report from Bingley angler Johnathan this week, he was out again a few days later, this time on his doorstep on the Leeds and Liverpool canal not far from his home. With no car parking near the canal due to the Bingley by-pass, he walked with his fishing trolley along the tow path to fish opposite a local landmark, the Damart factory, which is below the Three Rises Locks.

On furlough from his chef’s duties, cooking for the stars of Coronation Street among others, Johnathan used man power to reach his swim on the once vital trade route between Leeds and Liverpool. The canal is 127 miles long, crossing the Pennines, through tunnels and over viaducts and continued commercial trade with coal, limestone and industrial goods into the 1980’s. Looking at the image above, it is a good job that there is decent fishing fishing to be had the other end.

With a tackle layout like this, social distancing is guaranteed along the bank. Jon’s pole is a 13 Metre Daiwa Connoissuer XLS, with a No 5 Preston slip elastic, 0.40 gram Guru Pinger float with a spread bulk on a 2.6 lb (0.10 mm) Match Team line direct to a size 16 Kamasam barbless hook.

Known locally as the Ginger Breadman, Jon is a great exponent of the bread punch and started off by cupping in two balls of white liquidised bread mixed with a sprinkling of fenugreek powder at 9 metres. This was interesting to me, as I have used fenugreek powder purchased from my local Tescos for years, as an atractor for skimmers and bream on waters where they are present. The pic below was from a water I fished as a guest, the pellet fishing locals surprised by my catch on the bread punch.

Fishing just off bottom in four feet of water, Jon was into roach and small skimmers from the off, getting into a catching rhythm, but still giving way the local bird life.

Switching between a double punched 5 mm pellet of bread and a single 7 mm brought a lift bite, that slid away to the side, the No 5 Preston Slip elastic coming out on the strike, as a large bream made off across the canal. Eventually the steady pressure of the elastic brought the bream within netting range and taking his time, Jon slid the net under a 4 lb slab. Ten minutes later he was in again, this time a slightly smaller 3 lb bream, which he had to hurry to the net, as in the distance he could see a huge barge making its way toward him heading for the Three Rises Lock on his left.

A floating hotel! What a disaster, this monstrosity sucking all the water away into muddy whirlpools, then washing it back as it maneuvered over to his side to moor up for the lock. It was time to take stock, have a bite to eat and a cup Yorkshire Tea. The bream would soon settle down again further out and a cup of feed close in, soon saw roach taking on the top three joints of pole and even a perch taking the bread on the drop. Two more cups over the 9 metre line had roach and skimmers taking again, then another 4 lb lump cruised off with the bait putting the elastic to the test, followed by more roach, then another slab.

Switching back to the inside line, when the middle died, Jon continued to catch a few bits, before going out for a final hour on the 9 metre line, where he continued to catch better sized roach and skimmers.

The bream were too large for a landing net pic, a shot into the keepnet being enough at the end of a busy session.

All that was needed now was to return the fish, load up the trolley and head back down the towpath.

Thanks for the report Jonathan.

 

 

 

Bread punch on the River Aire at Bingley finds grayling, trout and chub

August 18, 2020 at 3:02 pm

If regulars to this blog are scratching their heads wondering whether I have moved up’t West Yorkshire, I’ll say no, but I know a man, who lives there. Johnathan, a contract chef from Bingley, a convert to the bread punch, known locally as the Ginger Breadman, has been working wonders on his local Bingley Angling Club waters since he was a junior, a member of various match teams, until marriage and a daughter brought Jon to his senses. Now a devoted family man, he has left the pressure and politics of match angling behind, but still enjoys a day out trying to get as many fish in his net as possible.

Travelling light, Jon made his way down towards the bottom of the Bingley club stretch of the river Aire, just upstream of the Bingley by-pass, where he climbed down into the known armchair swim. Unlike me, Jon’s tackle is bang up to date, setting up his 13 foot Daiwa Spectrum spliced tip rod, matched to a Daiwa 1657 reel, loaded with 2.6 lb Drennan float fish mono to a size 14 Kamasan B611 barbless hook. Intending to fish the stick float, Jon’s choice was an Ali stemmed John Allerton 4 No 4, set with the shot strung out over the 4 foot depth.

Feed was a bucket full of coarse white liquidised bread mixed with Dynamite hempseed, while hook bait was my favourite and his, Warburtons Blue medium sliced.

Intending to fish with 12 mm punched bread, Jon has made a simple punch using a short length of carbon, salvaged from a broken pole top.

Feeding a few balls of bread and hemp to start in the fast flowing river, minnows were a menace, bashing his way through and feeding them off, until a decisive pull down of the float brought solid resisitance from the bottom of the trot, that bent the Spectrum float rod over as a hard fighting brown trout kited across the river. The rod took the shocks and the landing net was soon under the trout.

This beautiful wild brownie was soon released, to be followed by a succession of chub ranging from 8 to 15 inches long, with a few roach getting in on the act. Each trot brought a bite, sometimes a minnow, the next could be a decent chub. The uncertainty of this type of river fishing often bringing up a surprise fish, in Jon’s case a 2 lb 8oz grayling, his personal best, taking on the drop from a cast along the opposite side of the river.

A pair of canoeists paddling straight through the middle of his swim, put an end to the fishing for the day, breaking up the shoal, but it was time to make a move anyway.

The river Aire is a good mixed fishery above industrial Bingley, offering reliable catches of trout and grayling for flyfishers, while supporting all the coarse species, including barbel, following a restocking program by the EA from their Calverton fish farm. Jon’s catch typical of the area.

Thanks Jon for the fishing report, and I hope to feature a few more in the future.

Tight lines.

 

Heatwave roach and chub take the bread punch on the River Cut

August 12, 2020 at 12:54 pm

I got up early this week in an attempt to avoid the extreme heat that is no longer a novelty in the south of England, while the rest of the country is being blessed with heavy downpours and cool breezes. Stepping out of the house at 8 am, it was already over 20 degrees Centigrade, as I climbed into the van for the short drive to my local river Cut. The night before I had removed all the heavy items from my tackle box to lighten my load for the following morning’s walk from the recreation ground car park down to the river, passing very keen tennis players toiling away on the courts. I was already sweating and only pulling a trolley. Masochists, or what?

The previous week my wife and I had demolished a 25 yard stand of Himalayan Balsam to reach this swim. The flowers had not yet set seeds, so ten minutes of effort should result in a balsam free bank next year, this invasive annual plant dying off each year and requiring the previous season’s seeds to germinate the following year to continue the life cycle.

There was very little flow and I set up a lightweight 4 No 4 Drennan ali stick float, which has a fine tip for bite indication. With a No 4 below the float and the remaining shot strung out toward the hook link, I plumbed the depth at 30 inches, a deep swim for this river, and trotted through with a 6 mm pellet of bread on the size 16 hook, just off bottom. A ball of plain white liquidised bread over to the logs of the berm on the opposite side, brought a small chub first cast.

This fish fought well, but the next cast brought and even better chub, that zoomed off downstream, bending my 12 foot Hardy to the butt, while I backwound my reel to avoid the hook pulling free.

Each time the float went in, a chub sank it away out of sight, even the smaller ones giving a good account of themselves.

The best of the rest being this one below, that skated off across the surface on the strike.

Then a dithering bite, before the float slowly sank, a bouncing fight indicating a small roach.

Another ball over to the berm, kept the roach lined up, the bites being predictable, a light dip or two followed by a slow sinking of the tip. Most required the landing net.

A couple of rudd were next in line. There were once shoals of rudd dotting the surface of the Cut, but recent pollution events have put an end to them, this small one a welcome returnee.

A few nice gudgeon were now pushing their way onto the feed, another fish that I thought that had disappeared.

By 10 am the sun had begun to shine through the trees and the air was becoming hot and oppressive, but the roach were still putting a bend in the rod.

The flow had begun to pick up and I guessed what would be coming next, the mystery orange water that gets released from somewhere upstream at least twice a day. A very fussy bite came from this last decent roach.

When I had arrived the river was clear, now it was a murky orange colour and the bites stopped. It was now 10:30, time for another swig on my orange juice and to retrieve my sandwiches from the cool shadows behind my tackle box. I went through the motions of fishing, knowing that this dead water usually passes in about 30 minutes. I got a bite! A tiny gudgeon.

Then a small roach, that toyed with the bait, until it finally gathered the strength to pull the float under.

A few more like this and I was back in business with another decent roach taken from the shadows alongside the log berm.

The next fish was another surprise, a dace. I saw hundreds of these dead, littering the bottom three months ago due to the last pollution. Pleased to see that some have survived.

I had fed a couple of balls over to the berm, when the orange water first came through and now the roach were making up for lost time.

Although I was still catching, the sun on my back was now very uncomfortable and I made this next roach my last.

No angler likes walking away from good fishing, but with the thought of loading up my trolley and the uphill trek back to van in the the midday heat did not appeal. The thought of the old Noel Coward song “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” came to mind, inserting fishermen into the lyric!

I had begun missing bites at one time and went down to a 5 mm punch, putting it down to dace and over enthusiasm on my part, but a return to the 6 mm brought better fish.

About 5 lbs in three hours fishing, despite the blank period on one of the hottest days of the year, was well worth the torturous return to the van. Even the tennis courts were empty on a day that locally hit 35 degrees Centigrade, or 95 degrees Fahrenheit in old money.

 

 

River Blackwater roach queue up for the bread punch

August 4, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Following a visit to the busy River Thames at Windsor last week, I swapped a ten foot deep swim for the shallows of the fast flowing River Blackwater for my latest outing. Only a fifteen minute drive from home, I was able to park close to the river due to the closure over the Lockdown of a large industrial building, which had previously policed its private car park. Unloading the van, I was soon following the winding path that led to the weir pool.

Crystal clear, the tail of the pool just shouts fish and I set up my twelve foot Hardy float rod with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stemmed stick float to fish along the edge of the flow fifteen yards out. As can be seen from the image, there is an eddy under my bank pushing the reeds back and the flow splits to carry the float along the opposite bank, or into the back eddy. With such a light float, set at two feet with the shot bulked at nine inches from the size 16 barbless hook, my aim was to just fish my side of the river.

The sun was in and out of the clouds, being driven by a strong wind from the north west. One minute I was being baked, the next chilled by the wind, which was blasting upstream, not ideal for keeping the bread slices fresh and the liquidised feed moist for throwing, but preferred for trotting a stick float.

Deciding to just use plain white liquidised bread feed from the super market bread bag, that I use to store it in the freezer, I reached in and squeezed up a tight ball, throwing it out into the edge of the flow, watching it break up, swirling in the current. An underhand cast out into the breaking mass of bread particles, saw the float sink out of sight and the first of many roach was putting a bend in the rod.

The wind was proving difficult, the float carrying across easily from my ABU 501 reel, but the line was being blown back into a bow and I was having to mend the bow with my rod, while reeling back to the float, often the float being long gone by the time the line was tight to the float. Fortunately these fish were roach and not fast biting dace, the 6 mm pellet of bread being well inside their mouths when I struck.

These roach were not shy and once the float went down it stayed down, the occasional ball of feed keeping them lined up and coming to the landing net.

In this shallow river most fish kited off across into the faster water and I often needed to backwind to avoid the hook pulling free, being able to watch every twist and turn from my box on the high bank, the red fins visible in the clear water.

So it went on, roach after roach sinking the float, the shoal slowly dropping back as the bread began to coat the bottom. I shallowed the float up to 18 inches, the depth of the tail of the pool, casting down and across to stay in contact. When the float sank a one second pause guaranteed a fish, most of them having the milky residue of bread in their mouths from the bottom.

I was troubled by wasps all afternoon, this one taking a shine to one of my roach.

Whether I was finally getting through the roach, or not I don’t know, but big gristly gudgeon began to get in on the scene.

Reeling in a couple, a perch appeared each time and chased them in, until a smaller gudgeon was not so lucky and I watched the perch beat it up and swallow it head first. I was now playing a perch that ran across to the fast water, again with me backwinding the reel until it slowed and turned, bringing it back to the landing net.

Once in the net the gudgeon’s tail was still flapping, then it was ejected completly. Fortunately for both fish, the hook failed to make contact with the throat of the perch, if it had, I’m afraid I would have had to cut the line and left both fish to their fate.

The roach kept coming and I was surprised that even in this really shallow water there were no dace. By now the sun had moved round revealing the golden gravel at the tail of the pool, the fish invisible until they flashed over on the strike.

There were now more gudgeon than roach being hooked and with my self imposed time limit of four hours approaching, I made this clonker my last fish.

The bait tray told the story of a successful session. Anglers talk of this type of pellet and that sort of additive, but a back to basics plain white bread and a rod in the right hands can still work wonders.

I had expected dace, a few chub and maybe the odd skimmer bream, even a barbel from this swim, but my first love, the roach failed to let me down.

A quick weigh up put just under 9 lbs on the scales, the Blackwater a river of hidden potential.

Thames Bolo float trial, a game of two halves, roach – pike – bleak

July 29, 2020 at 9:47 pm

Having bought a set of Bolognese floats, or Bolos as they have become known, I was keen to give them a try out on the Thames at Windsor this week, taking my wife along for the ride, so that she could visit a few shops in the town, while I was bagging up. That was the plan anyway.

The Home Park stretch of the Thames is managed by Old Windsor AC, who had kindly given me a list of swims that had recently produced good bags of roach, but with all the time in the world to get ready, I had left it at home. Not to worry, this stretch used to have roach and dace throughout and I walked along until I found an open bank, with steps down to the river, where I could safely place my tackle box.

I had boiled hemp seed that morning and added it to a mix ground hemp, ground carp pellets, plus some heavy ground bread crumbs. Damping it down, I pressed up some firm balls of feed before setting up my rod, starting with a 2 gram bolo, assuming that the water would be about six feet deep about three rods out.

In close under my bank it was six feet deep and by two rods I had plummeted ten feet, far deeper than I had expected, but there was little flow on the river and an underhand cast saw the float almost stationary. I had bulked the main shot two feet from the size 16 hook, with a two No 4 against the nine inch hook link, hoping to get through any resident bleak. I was too comfortable to move to one of the shallower downstream pegs, and decided to stick it out. For someone, who spends his time catching fish in rivers under three feet deep, this was going to be a steep learning curve.

I dropped in two tennis ball sized balls of feed a few feet upstream, which went straight down, just before the float began to move off downstream. They had opened the lock half a mile upstream and the flow increased helped no doubt by a flotilla of pleasure boats.

The first of many.

There was a gusting downstream wind blowing over to my side, but the bolo float coped well with all the weight well down and only half of the tip showing. Half a dozen trots without a sign of a bite had me worried, but by then the river had slowed again and following another ball speeding to the bottom, the float dipped, then sank and yes, I was in, a good fish fighting deep down, taking my time to bring it to the surface and my landing net.

What a cracking roach, taken on a 6 mm pellet of bread. I had been giving a running commentary to my wife, who looking up from her book dampened my excitement with the comment that it was “Just a fish.” For me this was just the start and next trot the float dived and the rod bent into a much smaller roach.

Not to worry, they were down there and I held off the feed for a while. I bounced another good fish. Too eager. These bites were going straight down and I needed to give them time. Bang! I was in again. another nice roach came to the net.

1 pm seemed to signal boats in both directions, what are sea going Sunseekers doing on an inland waterway? The 80 foot Queen of the Thames passenger boat swept by from Runnymede to Windsor, closely followed by an ex WW2 torpedo boat, now converted to a sleek house river cruiser; they all have their place in the life of the Thames, but what came next took my breath away.

This was yet another Sunseeker, towing a shrieking teenage boy on some form of lilo inflatable, which skated from side to side across the river. The mind boggles?

Despite the madness on the surface, on the bottom the roach were still feeding, although the float was submerged half the time. When it did not appear beneath the waves, I struck and sometimes I had another roach.

A bait dropper would have been the answer here, able to deliver small, but regular offerings down to the bottom. I have one, but guess what? It was at home, along with all my heavy items like swim feeders. When I was a match fisherman, I carried all that I needed for any situation, in fact I usually had two bait droppers with me, but these days I travel as light as possible, only carrying what I think that I need for the day. The heavy balls of feed seemed to be working ok, although I would have expected a higher catch rate by now, the roach were no longer taking the bait confidently. I suggested to my disinterested wife, that I thought that a pike was in the swim, her reply being that she thought that she would now take a walk into Windsor. Bye!

As I brought the next roach to the the net, the water boiled beneath it, but I netted another nice roach.

My guess had been proved correct and a dead period followed. I tried feeding further out, shallowing up,  going well over depth and laying on, the latter giving me two deep pulls of the float but no fish. Going back on the old line, the float dithered and I thought bleak, but the rod bent over again and I was playing a roach, until the line went solid as a pike took the fish. I let it go, as it sank away downstream and across, having to bury the rod when a boat cruised too close, the lady on board thanking me for avoiding her boat. I had the pike on for several minutes, it spending time sulking deep under my rod top, while I waited landing net in hand, before heading off again, only to cut through the 3 lb hook link, when I tried to stop it.

It was now the turn of bleak to make my life a misery, the float lifting and bobbing, a strike often hooking these slim shiny fish, only for them to fall off the hook in the wind.

My wife returned with cake and I related the story so far over cups of tea, while she nodded in the right places. She had been unable to buy the sheets that she wanted from Mark and Spencers either, so we were both having a bad day. I decided to pack up, but a roach kept me going for another ten minutes and more bleak. Overall I had been happy with the float, it held back well without tilting and indicated bites from ten feet down. I would have liked to have shown the Old Windsor boys how to catch their roach on the bread punch, but I fear that a couple more visits may be needed to sort out the method.

That clonking great roach made my day and I was pleased that it and the other roach had avoided the bashing from the boat wash in the keepnet.