Pike calls time on roach fishing at Braybrooke

November 14, 2019 at 11:44 am

When I was a child, my brother and I would stare out through steamed up windows, as rain lashed down, forming armies of rain soldiers that marched down the path to our house. We would sing a little nursery rhyme “Rain, rain go away, Come again another day. Rain, rain go to Spain, fair weather come again.” We wanted to go out to play, but the rain stopped us. The rhyme gave us hope, that the clouds would part, giving way to sunshine. The weather of late caused me to remember those long lost days, reciting the words did not work then and do not today, but feeling the frustration of being kept inside, while I wanted to be out fishing, has not changed.

I got my chance today, a clear day was promised by the weatherman and I set the alarm to rise early to take advantage of it, but looking outside, I saw that Jack Frost had visited overnight, coating the grass and cars with white. I could counter this with thermals and winter woolies, but frost would have an effect on the fishing and hoped that Jeane’s Pond at Braybrooke recreation ground was not covered with ice.

What a relief, conditions seemed perfect, strong winds had failed to shift the autumn leaves onto the pond and today not a whiff of breeze ruffled the surface. This swim has deeper water close in and I set up with a 16 x 4 antenna float to fish 3 foot deep onto the shelf to my left, close to the drop off into another foot of water. A small ball of liquidised bread onto the shelf and another a few feet further out, was my opening gambit, laying the float across the feed on the shelf.

Starting with a 5mm bread pellet on a size 16 barbless, I had to wait five minutes before the first tell tale rings spread out from the float to indicate a bite, the antenna then sinking very slowly beneath the surface. A firm lift of the short pole, saw the elastic come briefly out of the tip, as contact was made and a roach surfaced to be netted.

A decent roach first cast was a good sign that the fish had not been put off by the cold, although this one felt like an ice lolly in my hand. Dropping the float back over the feed, the float dipped and sank away again with another roach.

Resisting the temptation to feed more bread, I continued fishing over the spot, the slow biting roach obliging by taking the punch.

Even a small perch got in on the act, taking the bait on the drop.

After twenty roach, the bites stopped abruptly. I guessed that a pike had moved into the concentration of feeding fish. Dropping in a ball of bread, then following it with the float got an instant bite and a smaller roach, then nothing. I now fed a ball to my extreme right a few yards away and started again, the first bite bringing a decent roach.

I was back in the groove again, swinging in fish, plus the occasional netter.

The bites slowed again, then the pike took a roach. The elastic stretched out steadily as the pike moved off. It was in no hurry, the bright orange stonfo elastic connector following the float into the depths, as I put on more sections of pole. This was a big pike and it circled from the right out to the middle, unaware of my efforts to stay in contact, the elastic doing its job as I followed it round. The pressure began to tell and the pike turned back toward me, first the stonfo, then the float reappeared, while I unshipped the pole down to four metres, ready to net the beast. It let go of the roach.

I was disappointed not to have netted the pike. They have been the bane of my life on many waters this year, especially at this pond and would at least liked to have had the satisfaction of getting this one on the bank. I would have returned it well away from my swim, then continued fishing uninterrupted.

A couple more balls of feed soon had the bites coming, but the pike struck again, zooming off this time, taking the roach with it. The pike had gone to the right, so I went back over to where I had started on the left and began to catch again. It did not take long for the pike to return, swirling after hooked fish. Whatever the size, I now lifted everything out as quickly as possible. As I lifted a roach out, the pike followed, its head clear of the surface, jaws wide open, then fell back into the water.

This was a double figure pike, the surface boil remaining long enough for me to get a photo, despite being in shock.

The pike had won the battle of nerves and it was time to call it a day in this swim. I was taking my wife to the cinema in the afternoon anyway, so it had only been intended as a short session. It had been just over two hours of productive fishing. Shame about the pike.




Bread punch roach on the stick float from Roundmoor Ditch

October 30, 2019 at 8:06 pm

The clocks have gone back and summer is just a fond memory, but good fishing is still abundant in my area, deciding on an afternoon fishing a small tributary of the Thames, the Roundmoor Ditch, this week. Parking the van in the recreation ground carpark, I loaded up the trolley and hiked round the football pitches to the tiny fast flowing stream. I tried to locate where I had fished twenty years ago, a tight right hand bend passing under trees. The bend was still there, but the trees were gone, the open area giving plenty of sunshine for a thick growth of impenetrable surface weed. I continued downstream to a tunnel of trees, where the weed stopped short, allowing a trot down the inside into a weedless area.

Average depth here is two feet over gravel and I was expecting big dace to 8 oz, plus the occasional chub, but being only a quarter of a mile from the Thames confluence, anything could turn up, even barbel.

Crossing the recreation ground to the river, I had been blasted by a cold easterly wind and my main reason for choosing this swim was that it was sheltered by the bushes and a large oak tree. I set up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with an ABU 501 reel and a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stemmed stick float, shotted for the weights to taper down toward the size 16 hook. Due to the fast flow, I wetted down liquidised bread, so that the balls would sink quickly and disburse along the bottom, dropping them in at my feet.

First trot, the float had only travelled ten feet before it sank away trailing line, the strike putting a bend in the tip as a small chub made its initial run.

Dropping the float in at my feet avoided tangles with an overhanging willow above my head, while a branch protruding from the opposite bank required a flat upstream strike. My next cast brought a much better chub, that ran upstream into the weed, burying itself and snagging the hook, which was lost. Only my second cast and I needed a new hook!

A fresh hook tied on with already cold hands, was baited with a 5 mm punch of bread and trotted down, the float disappearing again as another small chub charged off with it. This time, keeping the rod low, I let it fight further downstream, until it was on the surface, guiding it into the narrow weed free channel on my side, then past me to be lifted clear upstream in the wind. This was not an easy swim to fish, no wonder that I seemed to have been the only one to try it this year, having to clear room for my tackle box among the stinging nettles lining the bank.

The bouncing fight of a roach, next put the rod to work, succeeding with the navigation of the natural obstacle course, swinging it to hand upstream.

Smaller roach and chub followed in quick succession, then a better roach made it to the sanctuary of the weed, but this time releasing the line saw it swim free to continue the fight.

At last a dace was tumbling on the surface, although it was well short of my expected size.

That was the only dace that I saw, which is puzzling considering ideal conditions and Roundmoor’s previous history as a dace water. The rod was soon bending again to a decent roach, which I took a chance to swing in.

Due to the overhanging willow above my head, I decided to move my tackle box upstream by four feet to allow safer netting of fish, although I was now in the full force of the wind, which was colder as cloud cover increased. Somehow in the move, my line had broken close to the reel and picking up the rod to rebait in the hook, I was bemused to see the wind carry the float over into the weed in front of me, followed by the line flowing out of the rod rings. The float snagged in the weed and after several attempts, I managed to wrap the loose line round the landing net and to grab the free end, pulling the float free, but loosing another hook on the coarse weed. What a disaster, just as better sized roach had moved up into the swim, I was unable to take advantage of the situation.

I had only been fishing for ninety minutes and had to set up again, thankful that I had found time to tie some more hooks to nylon over the weekend. After a calming cup of tea and a sandwich, I wound the loose line around my fingers, cutting it through, making two inch lengths, that fitted into my now empty sandwich bag, ready for disposal at home. After what seemed an age, I was ready to start fishing again.

During my forced interval, I had continued dropping balls of bread in at my feet, the float burying first cast and the rod bending to the butt with a very nice fish, that dived away downstream. My first thought was chub, but the pounding fight of a good roach said otherwise. Again this fish found the weed bed too inviting, but the slack line technique persuaded the roach to drop back, while the barbless hook hung on.

What a clonker, this roach showed signs of a healed pike attack.

Despite going up to a 6 mm punch, I was still catching nuisance minnows and small chub, but there were still better fish to be had.

This roach had a bright orange stain under its throat, like many taken today it had dropped scales, but was otherwise fighting fit.

I lost another good roach in the weed shortly after and the swim died for ten minutes, being on the verge of packing up, when I netted my last roach.

While packing up, a local fisherman came over to see what I had caught, pleasantly surprised with my catch, saying that although from the village, he had never tried this little gem of a river, let alone the bread punch, preferring to walk the extra yards to the Thames itself.

I had thrown back many smaller fish, my final net testament to an interesting, if not chilly three hours.


Autumn bread punch roach on the stick float

October 23, 2019 at 5:58 pm

A dry sunny afternoon called for a change of plans this week and I drove the van a couple of miles to my local river, with a plan to catch some chub before the the leaves fall. I was worried that days of rain would have coloured up the river, but found it clear with a steady pace, a change from my last visit in summer, when it was almost like a still canal. It is a good half mile walk from the car park to the chosen swim, which fortunately was empty, having invested the energy in getting there.

On the outside of a curve, the flow carries beneath a far bank bush, then under trees and has reliably produced catches of chub to over a pound; good sport on my 12 ft Hardy float rod. This was the most transparent that I have seen the river this year, leaves clearly visible on the bottom and I was keen to clear a patch among the Himalayan Balsam to place my tackle box. From mid river, there is a depth of 3 ft, deepening another 6 inches close to the bush, giving a level trot without snags.

Setting up with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stem stick float, I started the session with the float set to run through a foot off bottom, the chub charging through the cloud of liquidised bread before it reaches bottom. While getting ready, I had thrown a ball upstream of the bush and with a 6mm punch of bread on the hook, followed a second ball as it broke up, drifting downstream. The float sank out of sight on contact with the river and I braced for a rod bending fight. The rod did bend, but only to a five inch chub.

Each cast saw the float sink away before it had travelled a yard, but each time the result was the same, or smaller. A cast to the downstream end of the bush brought a matching pair of tiny roach, the only rod bender coming from a lone rudd.

This is the first time that I’ve not had a decent chub in the first five minutes from this swim and after a dozen trots, added a foot to the depth to trip bottom, where I hoped to find a few roach. I put a ball down the middle and another one above the bush, where an underhand cast positioned the float, holding back slightly to straighten the line to the rod. The float sank and I was playing a roach. At least something was working!

Next cast, same spot, a bigger roach that flashed silver in the sunlight, as it rushed around the river, the size 16 barbless hook falling out in the landing net.

If I can’t catch chub, then fighting roach are an acceptable substitute and the bread punch was queuing them up to get on the hook.

Another fin perfect beauty from this little river, which runs through a narrow ribbon of greenery alongside a main road on one side and a housing estate on the other. More urban than rural.


After an hour the bites were getting fussy with the roach smaller and I noticed that the water had gone cloudy, while the pace picked up.

The next fish was a surprise, a bottom hugging gudgeon, the first I’ve seen since the pollution that wiped out most of the fish three years ago.

My pleasure at this first sight was soon displaced as gudgeon began to be the only fish feeding and even these went off, when the river turned orange. This was a problem before, when builders erecting 2,400 new homes across the main road, that runs parallel to the river, were flushing mud and sand from the new roads straight into the surface drains. They have obviously started a new phase of housing and this is the result. The answer for me was get get my tea and sandwiches out and wait for it to pass, setting the float over dept to lay on mid river.

My picnic was interrupted, when the float bobbed then sank and I snatched up the rod to feel a decent roach on the hook, the rod bending as it ran off downstream, unseen in the murk, before coming to the net.

The river began to clear and a cast back above the bush produced a sail away bite and a small chub.

A bite that sped downstream was stopped and another brightly painted rudd swung to hand.

The roach were now back feeding and I cashed in, making up for lost time, taking one a chuck.

Having started fishing at 12, I made this solid roach my last fish three hours later.


With my second bread square with no spaces left to punch, it was time to pack up and join the traffic home.

A mixed bag of about 50 fish, despite the slow interlude, was compensated for the lack of chub by a net of prime roach.

During the long uphill walk back to the van, I could see that the bottom had turned orange with the sand, evidence that the construction company were not keeping to their agreement with the Environment Agency to flush contaminated water into overflow ponds.

Specimen crucian carp bread punch reward

October 17, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Heavy morning rain gave way to sunshine and a last minute arrangement at lunchtime saw me meet up with a fellow club member Alan, on an exchange water Hitcham Ponds. Despite a covering of green algae on the surface, conditions looked perfect for an eventful afternoon fishing the pond, which has an abundance of common carp, bream, crucian carp and rudd.

Local to this water, Alan was going to fish his usual method, micropellet feed with either banded pellet or maggots on the hook, using a waggler rig with a rod and running line. I have only fished the water a few times over the years and have used the bread punch with great success for crucians and skimmer bream, plus the occasional common carp and was confident of a repeat performance.

Before I had set out my stall, Alan was reeling in his first fish, a skimmer bream, followed by a decent rudd, both on the maggot. I was going to fish the pole, selecting a 4 x14 antenna float with shot bulked a foot from the size 18 barbless hook, I plumbed the depth and set to fish just off bottom. Following a ball of liquidised bread at five metres with the float, I did not have long to wait for the antenna to dip and glide off with a tiny roach clinging to the 6 mm bread pellet. This was the pattern for the next half hour, with me throwing back a three inch roach, skimmer, or gudgeon every cast, while Alan continued to put a bend in his rod as small carp found his banded pellets. Bubbles were rising steadily from my feed, but a raft of small stuff was attacking the bait before it could reach the bottom, despite the bulked shot. I expect to catch smaller fish, until the better fish push them out, but this was not going to plan, made worse by Alan, who was fighting yet another carp. An offer of some pellets and maggots was turned down, just before the float sailed away and a good rudd came to the net.

I had stepped up the feed, also going up to a 7 mm punch and this rudd was the result, another cast bringing a small skimmer bream, the bread punch finally showing progress. The slow thump of a bream bore this out, as it steadily stretched out the elastic and I waited for it to come back to me, seeing the silver flash of its deep flank through the green algae. It rolled off the size 18 hook and I considered increasing to a size 16, but this would mean time lost, so stuck with the smaller hook. Small roach were giving me carp look-a-like bites, dips, then sliding away at speed. It was a surprise when I lifted into the real thing, the 12 – 18 elastic zipping out from the pole, following the carp as it circled under the strain of the elastic. With a direct line to his fish, Alan took no prisoners, bundling another common into his net, while I waited for my carp to come to the surface to be netted.

More small fish continued to take the bread, a rudd photo worthy with bright red fins.

Bites were slower now, the heavier feed bringing in some better fish, another common carp rushing off with the bread.

Alan packed up, content that had sorted out a method for a match on the pond in two weeks time, while I plodded on with the bread, bubbles continuing to burst on the surface around the float. I lost a good carp at the net, that had circled round and round several time, before stopping out in front of me. Impatient to get the fish in the landing net, I pulled up to get the carp to surface, only for it to suddenly come to life, boiling on the surface and pulling the hook out. Hooking into another pellet of punch, I flicked the float back out and it sank away immediately and I was playing another carp.

This was as large as the one that I had just lost and I took my time allowing it circle, until it gave up on the surface, a bit of pressure guiding it into the net. I had been feeding a small ball each cast and now that the bread bag was empty, had decided to call it a day at 5 pm. With minutes to go, the float moved off and sank trailing line. I lifted into a solid weight, that took out the elastic like a rocket, the fish rolling on the surface against the strain. This was not another common carp. It looked and fought like a tench, rolling and diving, but the tail was not black, also being too wide. Soon the mystery was solved, it was a very large crucian carp and again I gave it an easy time, netting the bucking fish, as it barrel rolled on the surface.

The size 18 barbless had held on and I was relieved to get the big crucian in the keepnet, after a quick weigh-in that brought the scales round to 3 lb 8 oz. Coincidentally, the same size as my previous personal best crucian carp, that I caught this year from my local river.

My deadline had been reached, being content that the swim had finally come good, although it had failed to attract any other crucian carp, or the expected bream.

Not a big haul for this pond, but worth the effort of coming out for a few hours, proving that pellet is not always the answer on these hard fished waters.

Pike a menace on the Basingstoke Canal

October 9, 2019 at 12:31 pm

With storms sweeping across the country from the Atlantic, bringing waves of thundery showers; raised river levels gave me few options this week and I opted for a first time visit to the Basingstoke Canal at Ash Vale. A damp start was forecast in the morning, giving way to sunshine around lunch time, before more heavy rain by 3 pm, enough time for a session on the bread punch.

This section of the canal is unknown to me, but I was hoping for roach and skimmer bream, walking along with my trolley to what looked like a feature swim, with a lily bed growing out from the garden opposite. The water was very clear and I could see fir like weed stretching across, dipping down into the boat road, which was 3 feet deep. A gusting breeze was ruffling the surface from right to left and I set up a rig with a 4 x 14 antenna float to cope with the drift, a size 18 barbless ready for a 5 mm pellet of bread.

A small ball of liquidised bread at the edge of the drop off and another a metre out further into the boat road was my starter feed, being pleased to see the float dip, then sink slowly as a roach took the bait.

Back in, the float sank again, this time the elastic coming out of the pole tip and I could see a good sized roach flashing beneath the surface, getting the landing net ready as I passed the pole behind me. Whoosh! The surface erupted as a pike grabbed the roach, which cartwheeled free, when I pulled it away from a pike. That was a nice roach. I hoped that it had managed to escape.

The close in swim was now dead, the pike still hanging around waiting for an easy meal. Adding more lengths to the pole, I fed a couple of balls to the far side of the boat road, dropping the float in among the cloud of fine crumb. The antenna dipped and disappeared. Bracing myself, I lifted the pole into a tiny roach, that I skipped back across the surface to avoid the pike.

Back over again, a steady bite and resistance as a better roach fought its ground, again trying to keep it on the surface over the danger area. Another swirl and I lifted the fish clear, leaving it bouncing on the elastic.

My next roach was even better, pulling out the elastic as it darted left and right, getting ready to skim and lift it past the danger zone as I brought it closer. The roach knew the pike was going to make a lunge, throwing itself clear of the surface in panic, just in time.

I would have packed up and moved by now, but the roach were on that far side of the drop off and feeding, the pike more of a nuisance, than a threat. I tried another ball of feed over, taking a couple more roach, then I struck into a smaller fish, that was seized immediately. The pike had crossed the canal and was now heading off downstream stretching out the elastic. I fitted another length of pole and waited for the hook link to break, but the pike turned against the elastic, swimming past me down the middle with the roach across its jaws. Back and forward, then stopped, the pike was in the driving seat, I was just a passenger, the elastic not firm enough to take control. Breaking the pole down, I steered the pike toward the landing net, only for it to let go of the roach.

Badly damaged, the roach was still alive and swam away into the edge, when I released it. Fish can survive terrible pike injuries and have often caught roach with healed scar tissue. I put another ball over, then set about getting the elastic back inside the pole, it having stretched too far.

I had to wait for the next bite, this small roach coming over unchallenged.

The pike was back for the next roach, grabbing it half way across, stripping out elastic again. I pulled hard against the pike and it turned, swimming just below the surface with its tail and dorsal clear, obviously tired from the previous struggle. The line flew back. It had bitten through the hook link.

That was it, I had had enough. It was too early to go home, so I tipped my fish back, packed away my gear and loaded up the trolley, ready for a walk back in the other direction, settling down opposite another garden..

I needed to get out another rig and set up to fish on my side of the shelf again, dropping in a couple of balls to get things started, while I sorted myself out. The first few roach here were quite small, then the elastic came out as a deep bodied fish flashed beneath the surface. A skimmer? No, a rudd, that was quickly netted, just in case there was a pike here too.

Roach were in a taking mood and I began to make up for lost time, the float sinking on each cast.

They were not big, but after the tension of earlier, it was good to unwind with a few fish. Even a small perch took the punch.

The wind had now increased making bite detection difficult, until the float held under long enough to strike. This also meant that I stayed down my side of the canal, controlling the pole at 9 metres would require strong arms.


I missed several bites, probably from tiny fish, that dived away with the float, but at least there was plenty of action to keep me interested.

This was the best roach from my second swim. It was a relief to take my time netting this one, without the fear of another pike attack. Apart from the pike, regular canoeists paddling up and down, a dozen swans and signets, joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and even about twenty ramblers, all of which had interrupted my fishing, requiring the pole to be clear of the water, or the towpath, I had kept the fish coming to the punch.

The clouds had been gathering since lunch time and the swans were now diving for the bread on the bottom,  it was finally time to call it quits.

This little collection had taken 90 minutes to put together on the second attempt, I was disappointed not to have found a few skimmer bream to go with them, as they populate the canal throughout its length, but with over 30 miles of the Basingstoke Canal to try, better luck next time.

My timing was perfect, with the van loaded for the return journey, spots of rain were already falling and the roads were soon awash.

Bread punch quality roach from the weir pool

September 25, 2019 at 2:19 pm

With summer officially over, entering the Autumn Equinox, the weather forecast changed to suit this week, from sunny days, to a week of heavy rain and winds. A chink of light in the forecast was for a morning and afternoon of sunshine, followed by heavy rain. If I was going to fish this week, then it had to be now, so gathering up liquidised bread from the freezer, I drove to my local river. Dark clouds ahead looked foreboding and spots of rain on the windscreen were ominous, as I squeezed the van into the narrow lay-by. Faced with a long walk to the weir pool, an unforecast downpour kept me confined to the van until the storm had passed and the sun came out, not wanting to start the afternoon with a soaking.

The town outfall was at full flow, Monday, being wash day, filling the river with foam. It was backing up into the inflowing river from the left, creating a powerful eddy that was pushing into my bank. This required a 6 No 4 ali stemmed avon float, controlled by my 14 foot Browning float rod. While tackling up, I put a couple of balls of bread into the middle of the eddy, watching it break up as it was swept into the outfall. Plumbing the depth, there was an even 30 inches out in front, setting shot bulked 18 inches from the size 16 barbless hook with a No 6 shot, 9 inches above it. With turbulents visible on the surface, fish would be nailed to the bottom and I started off well over depth with a 5 mm pellet of bread. First trot, the float dragged under and expecting a snag, lifted slowly to see the rod top bending into a good fish, which accelerated off in the direction of the out fall. Lifting my finger from the ABU 501 spool, I let the fish run, then clicked down to backwind, spotting a splash of red fins among the white foam. Waiting for the fish to tire, the landing net was lowered ready for the first of many quailty roach.

Another ball of feed was dropped in behind the float and I eased it into the foam, watching it disappear tightening the line. The rod bent over again as an even bigger roach pounded away, before rushing off downstream. The hook held and the roach was soon ready for the net.

Most of the roach here have these spots, caused by a harmless fluke disease, that does not appear to affect their condition. They certainly fight hard and fast.

A small ball of feed every cast was now lining up the roach, although other fish were scooping up the bread from the bottom, the float going under each trot.

Several rudd.

Endless gudgeon.

Several small chub.

I even hooked a bream of over a pound, that kited across the outflow, rolling off the barbless hook in the fast flowing water. The bottom in front of me, must have been carpeted with fish, the float usually under after travelling a few feet. It was like fishing by numbers, lower the float with the bait leading, allow it to run a foot, then hold back the float, let it run again and hold back, the float burying at any time.

These big roach continued to come to the net, the high bank needing the full 3 metre length of my landing net to reach them, giving my back and stomach muscles a work out.

Dark clouds had gathered again, the increased wind blowing leaves onto the surface, which collected round the float, dragging against the surface and hindering bite indication, but not enough to stop the float from sinking out of sight. Light rain had increased and was beginning to penetrate through the leaves soaking my shoulders. Without waterproofs, the cold was getting through to my skin, but the fishing was relentless as the fish moved up the bread trail.

I lost a few good fish right under my rod top, bouncing against the rod top in the shallow water, a short pole with elastic being the answer, but I did not have one. For every one lost, I landed five.

This was my last fish, another clonking roach. The rain was not going to stop and it was time to beat a retreat.

The carpet of bread crumbs had drawn the fish into the swim and held them for over three hours

A full net.

A wet walk back to the van.


River Blackwater roach queue up for bread punch on the stickfloat

September 17, 2019 at 1:07 pm

Two weeks ago a bank of Himalayan balsam hid my preferred River Blackwater swim and I walked past it. This week, after lunch, I made a bee line to the spot, only to find a barbel hunter seated among the balsam. He hadn’t had any bites on his hair rigged luncheon meat and after a brief chat, I backtracked to a likely looking swim nearer the car park.

At the tail of a bend, a fast shallow run dropped into a slower glide, the bottom visible right across. Trotting a Drennan ali stemmed stick float through set at 30 inches dragged it under, but holding the float back to half speed fluttered the 6 mm punched pellet of bread clear of the bottom, the flow carrying the float alongside a weed bed, where the float dived under, the rod bending into a hard fighting chub.

Backwinding into the initial run, I had to keep it clear of the opposite bank, where brambles were trailing in the water, then managing to keep it out of the weed in front of me, sliding it over to the net.

Chub are usually the first to respond to the bread on these small shallow rivers, but it wasn’t long before the thudding fight of a decent roach put a bend in my twelve foot Hardy float rod.

Bites were coming as held I back hard to float the bread over a sand bank, the fish in the hollow behind taking as the bait dropped down to them.

A small ball of liquidised bread, every other cast was leaving a trail that was attracting a roach a chuck and I got down to business, putting on my ancient bait apron to dry my hands after each fish to avoid the feed sticking to the palms of my hands.

These roach were pristine, not fished for, the main target fish in this river being specimen chub and barbel, legering with heavy hair rigs and luncheon meat using carp rods the usual tactic. I’ve caught enough big chub and barbel in my time and now prefer light tackle techniques to tempt these nuisance silvers.

Gudgeon now moved in over the feed, most being monsters, that fight like mini barbel, hugging the bottom.

These gudgeon were taking on the shallow sandbank ahead of the roach and fished my way through them, a chub breaking up the routine .

Even perch were getting in on the act, the fluttering bread proving an irresistible lure to a few small stripeys.

More feed brought the roach back as heavy drizzle forced me to cover up the bread, this giving way to rain. Without waterproofs I considered packing up, but the roach helped me stick it out.

Upstream, weed was being cut and rafts of it were now adding to my problems, losing two good roach, when the float became entangled, taking the pressure off the fish allowing them to escape.

This clonker roach weeded me close to the edge. Allowing the line to go slack, persuaded it to swim free and the size 16 barbless hook remained in place, part two of the fight continuing to the net.

With the rain increasing again and more weed drifting down, this was my last fish of the day, another fine roach, the bread punch proving its worth again on a fast flowing river.

It had been an interesting few hours in the peaceful Hampshire countryside, with kingfishers, wagtails and even a woodpecker for company. As I was packing up, the barbel fisher of earlier came by, stopping to help put the keepnet contents into my landing net for a photo, impressed that this simple method could account for so many fish on a day that he had failed to even get a bite.



River Blackwater roach and chub workout

August 30, 2019 at 6:28 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



River Axe fishing skimmer bream dominate on the bread punch

August 27, 2019 at 4:56 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one WAS a rudd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A 6 lb net.





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

August 24, 2019 at 11:31 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The roach seemed to be getting bigger with each cast.

As did the skimmer bream.

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

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

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

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