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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.



Career 707 .22 PCP air rifle garden visit

September 11, 2019 at 9:10 am

An evening distress call from my brother in law Neale, saw me drive the mile to his house with my Career 707 .22 air rifle, after he had seen a couple of rabbits munching through his recently planted lettuce plants. He had scared them off, but now they were back again.

Whispering, Neale pointed to the area beyond his green house, where a small lawn stretches back to the wood behind, saying that just before I arrived, he had seen three from the bedroom window overlooking the garden. Operating the under lever trigger mechanism to cock and load the Career, I crept forward using the greenhouse as cover. I still had not seen them, but with the rifle raised, moved forward again around the side. There they were 15 yards away, feeding on the lawn. The largest had its back to me and I fired down into the upper chest, watching it jump forward and then roll over.

Before I could take another shot, the others had bolted behind the lower shed into the wood. My Career 707 .22 is powered up to FAC spec at 28 ftlb and firing H&N Barracuda Hunter Extreme 19 grain pellets, is as effective as a rimfire rifle out to 40 yards, while being safe to shoot within the confines of a garden.

Neale took me down to the scene of the crime, a veggie plot boxed in with orange plastic, showing me a hole that had been gnawed through. This had been to keep the local cats out, but these rabbits had no respect for cats, or human fences. After his spring planting, rabbits had got under the side fence and demolished his crop. We saw a pair of rabbits and I shot them, then reinforced the fence, problem solved.

He had only just planted out his winter lettuce plants at the weekend, only to see them gone the next day. “How did they know they were there?” I suggested that they had probably been coming in every day to eat the apples, or the lawn, but the lettuces were too good to miss. Droppings everywhere backed this up.

Refugees from a new housing complex along the street, that had replaced a small holding, the rabbits had now made their home in the wood at the bottom of the garden, and had scraped out a channel under the fence. Blocking this off will only be a temporary measure, I think the rabbits are there to stay and will soon forget the loss of their kin. The answer is a fine wire fence around the veggie plot, or more visits with the Career 707.


CZ 452 Varmint .17 HMR rifle at the old rectory

September 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm

A few miles from home is one of my earliest permissions, an old rectory owned by a Knight of the Realm, who originally was plagued by rabbits laying waste to his sprawling flower garden. A concentrated effort by myself had reduced the rabbit population ten fold, but with the garden backing onto the adjoining parkland, new recruits were never far away. A two inch wire mesh fence, dug in a foot below the surface across the hundred yard gap did the trick, although it didn’t keep the deer out, but that’s another story.

The park is wide open with just a few trees and hedges and was full of rabbits, until I bought the CZ 452 HMR. Again a wire fence was the answer, bordering a half mile stretch of farmland, but time and rust have rendered it ineffective and a phone call confirmed that the rabbit numbers had increased since my last visit a year ago. By the sound of it, my next visit was long overdue, but with only time for a reconnoitre this week, I took along my CZ 452 HMR, just in case of a shot.

Climbing the gate, the field ahead had once provided a dozen targets, before moving out into the main area, but today it was clear and I worked along the right hand side looking for signs of scrapes and droppings, but there was nothing new. Movement a hundred yards ahead made me stop. A large rabbit, the size of a small dog was loping across the open ground. Following it with the scope, I realised that it was a hare, the black tips of its wide ears clearly visible. A hare in this area is a rare sight, more suited to wide open farmland. I don’t shoot hares and wished it on its way.

Turning right down a slope, a few rabbits were out close to a bramble hedge two hundred yards away, but with no cover, they had slowly melted away back into the briars, as I closed the distance down. I have been harvesting these rabbits for years and they have a built in fear of camo clad humans carrying rifles.

All along this edge were droppings and runs, the area around a small pond showing fresh scrapes into burrows. Circuiting the perimeter, evidence of recent rabbit activity was everywhere and I felt guilty that I had been complacent, lean pickings over the years convincing me, that the numbers would not return. A mild winter and wet spring had obviously been good for reproduction, undisturbed by pest controllers.

In an attempt to make amends, I took cover behind a tree overlooking the brambles and waited, the tree giving a view over a hundred yards in either direction, well within range of the HMR firing the 17 grain x .17 inch diameter plastic tipped expanding copper bullet.

Scanning left, then right, there was nothing out, then as if a silent buzzer had sounded, there was one near the pond and two in front of the brambles. Bringing the rifle round on its bipod to bear on the closer single rabbit, at x 12 magnification it was a safe target, the crack from the supersonic bullet, breaking the evening silence. The “boof” of a body shot echoing back, a slight side wind drifting the bullet away from the head.

Swinging round to the right, there were now three at the brambles, the biggest giving a side on view and aiming dead on for the snout, due to the wind, watched the rabbit jump up running on all fours to collapse back down motionless. In a well practiced routine, I chambered another round and found the next target sitting up. Ready to fire, it turned and trotted back to the brambles, I switched my attention to the other rabbit too late, as it also had gone from view.

After an unproductive wait, I got up and walked toward the pond for my first rabbit, only for another to appear in front of me, spin round and disappear again. The body shot rabbit was not a pretty sight, not suitable for meat and I threw it into the long grass. Leaving the muzzle at over 2,500 feet per second, the tiny bullet has an explosive effect on the soft tissue of a rabbit, requiring head shots only, if shooting for the pot.

Walking back to collect the second rabbit, the light was already going and I had to circle round before I found it.

Being close to home, a couple of hours a week, should make a difference on this permission.


Magtech 7002 .22 semi auto rimfire back on the farm

September 6, 2019 at 5:49 pm

With word that the hay had been gathered and bailed at one of my farm permissions, I paid a late afternoon visit, it being months, since the spring grass had rapidly grown and was keen to get down for a look. Being invited in for a cup of tea to discuss a rat problem around the chicken sheds, I had to get a move on, after promising to sort out the rats another day. This farmer shuts his gates for security reasons at 6 pm and I was now left with only an hour to find something for the pot. I took my Magtech 7002 semi auto .22, as it is very light weight, ideal for a brisk walkabout, although it is limited to about 60 yards for an accurate shot.

I saw that a big oak had fallen across one of the more populated warrens, its branches covering the ground and blocking out any chance of a shot, so I moved on to the next field, which backs onto the warren, searching along the hedge line for signs of rabbits. Plenty of sign, but no rabbits.

Further along toward the corner, I spotted a rabbit close to the edge, seconds before it bounded back into the long grass. Circling wide, I settled down with the Magtech rested on my gun bag and waited for something to happen, about 40 yards out from the edge. Behind the right hand corner is a dry ditch, that is pock marked with burrows and lying prone I did not have long to wait for a pair of rabbits to trot out from the undergrowth to feed on the fresh grass. My bullet of choice is the Winchester 42 grain hollow point subsonic, faster than most others, carrying more punch and better knock down power, while being reliably accurate in the Magtech 7002.

The rabbits were both masked by the grass, but one eased into my sights and I took a steady shot, that flipped the rabbit over. The other continued feeding, but was facing away from me and I waited for it to turn for a side on shot. It never happened, another rabbit appearing that ran though the scope window, which my rabbit, frustratingly for me, ran after, chasing back to the corner. I could have sprayed bullets after them, but would have been lucky to have hit a vital area.

After 20 minutes with no more shows, I paunched this rabbit and bagged it up, then began the walk back, spotting another close to the fence near the downed oak about 80 yards away. Although I was in the middle of the field, the rabbit seemed unworried as I closed the gap, sitting up then going back to feed, when I got down to crawl another 10 yards. It was now aware of me and I rested the rifle on my bag for a shot as it moved a yard into longer grass. Now, or never, I aimed above its chest and missed. Too much hold over, or not enough? The Magtech is zeroed for 30 yards and at 50 yards plus had to allow for bullet drop. Next time I’ll take the HMR.

The farmer was waiting by the gate to lock up when I got back, raising his eyebrows with a silent question. “Only one, but I’ll be back.”


River Blackwater roach and chub workout

August 30, 2019 at 6:28 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



River Axe fishing skimmer bream dominate on the bread punch

August 27, 2019 at 4:56 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one WAS a rudd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A 6 lb net.





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

August 24, 2019 at 11:31 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The roach seemed to be getting bigger with each cast.

As did the skimmer bream.

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

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

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

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


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

August 15, 2019 at 11:54 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A two pound crucian glinting in the sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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