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Covid -19. Time for a little self isolation, went fishing

March 23, 2020 at 6:07 pm

There can be nobody that is unaware of the global threat to life as we know it, as Covid-19, the latest and deadliest type of coronavirus, that has rapidly spread from China in recent months, continues to cast a shadow over all our lives. Governments are struggling to get ahead of the curve of infections, bringing in restrictions on movement and association.

Only days ago, the thought of an escape to the solitude of a small pond filled with obliging crucian carp, seemed the ideal antidote to worries of the future. Thumbing through waters in a club handbook, I found the likely candidate, a tree lined farm pond twenty minutes drive away, that boasted nothing of size, but plenty of roach, crucians and common carp ready to pull the float under. The first day of summer had dawned bright and clear, the sun still shining when I arrived at noon, although a chill wind was blowing in clouds from the east. The car park was close to the pond and short walk found a well tended swim with no overhead obstructions. Perfect.

Prepared for battling crucians and an occasional common carp, I had brought my heavy duty pole with 12 – 18 weight elastic, setting up with a 16 x 4 antenna float to a size 16 hook Plumbing the depth, I found three feet at 4 metres, dropping away to four feet at 6 metres. While getting ready, I had not seen a ripple, or a movement on the surface and wondered how accurate the handbook had been in its description of the fishing. I ventured a small ball of liquidised bread at 5 metres, followed by the float rig baited with a 5 mm punch of bread and sat back waiting for the action to begin.

It began with a few dips of the float, followed by a slow sink to the left. Bracing myself, I lifted into the bite. Missed it? No I hadn’t.

My heart sank. There was no mention in the handbook blurb of rudd, let alone tiny ones.

Back in again, the float dipped and sank. A bit more resistance, it was a slightly larger rudd.

I was fishing just off bottom with the bulk shot 12 inches from the hook. Adding another length of pole, I adjusted the depth to 4 feet in an attempt to avoid the rudd, damping down the feed to allow a tight ball to fall through quickly.

The rudd were still small and after an hour would have expected some better fish to have been attracted into the swim, or a few bubbles bursting on the surface. At least the float kept going under. I slipped into mechanical mode. Feed a small ball, fish to the side of it, hook another rudd. At last they seemed to be getting bigger. I actually netted this one!

Slipping the landing net under another “better” rudd, a voice behind made me jump. I was in my own little fishing world and someone asking how I was getting on brought me back to reality.

I said that I had not had any crucian carp yet. “Crucians! There haven’t been any crucians in here since the 90’s!” So much for the handbook. That young lad proudly displaying a net of crucians and tench has probably got sons of his own now. A long time member of the club, my visitor explained that the photos and write ups were rarely changed. “I only had one tench here last year. Its mostly carp now.”

After a chat, and more rudd for me, he walked round the pond and settled down opposite, casting out his two rods diagonally with a bait either side, spraying out pouches of pellets over the deeper water.

My steady feed had been effective over a small metre square area, fishing close to the bottom picking up some chunky rudd. I had gone up to a 6 mm punch, which seemed to have slowed the catch rate, but improved the quality.

After three hours, the temperature had dropped considerably and with tea and sandwiches gone, this rudd was my last. My carp fishing collegue, also packed up, not having had a bite.

No crucian carp, but the rudd had kept me busy and thinking about fishing rather than the worries of the World. If there is a government clampdown on travel, this may be my last blog for some time.


Chub herald stick float season closer

March 14, 2020 at 6:07 pm

With all the doom and gloom following the latest Coronavirus announcements, I was looking for an exceptional last session on my local river Cut before the end of the season. Walking past the swim that had produced a 7 lb mixed bag a couple of days before, I continued downstream, taking a chance on a section of river that I had never fished before. On a part of the bank cut off from the main path, I had to split down my tackle into easily transportable lots, dragging and carrying my trolley over obstacles to reach my swim.

At the tail of a bend, the main flow was pushing along the side of a berm created by the Environment Agency a couple of years ago, which looked ideal for trotting a stick float for chub. As with earlier in the week, my choice of tackle was my 12 ft Hardy rod with ABU 501 closed face reel attached and a 6 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float to a size 16 barbless hook. Liquidised bread feed with a 5 mm punch of rolled medium sliced white bread was all I needed for bait, starting off with a ball of damp crumb upstream of the berm, while I set out my stall.

First cast the float had only carried a yard before it held under and I was fighting a chub that dived back to the woodwork of the berm, hanging on and back winding in rapid succession. With only two feet under the float, the fish fight hard in this shallow little river, but soon that big white chub mouth was clear of the water and sliding towards the landing net.

Not massive, but packed full of power, this chub was soon in the keepnet, another 5 mm bread pellet on the hook and the rig cast out again. The float sank in the same spot and I was playing another chub minutes after the first.

This one was even bigger, bending the Hardy to the butt as it searched for a snag to hang up the hook, the light tackle coping with all that was thrown at it. Two nice chub in the net in the first 5 minutes was a good sign of things to come. Third cast and I was in again, but this time it was the distinctive fight of a quality roach.

The chub had not finished, a smaller fish still putting a bend in the rod.

As I netted this chub, another Braybrooke member, Michael came along the bank, telling of his catch the day before further downstream, showing me images on his phone of two, two pound crucian carp and a pound roach that he had landed along with chub and more roach. Like me, he was keen to make the most of the penultimate afternoon of the river season and headed off downstream.

That’s better, the float sliding sideways through a ball of feed as a larger chub took the punched bread, powering off downstream at speed, testing the tackle in the sudden rush, taking my time to wear the chub down.

Phew! This had been a hectic fifteen minutes and I stopped for a breather and a lunchtime cup of tea, damping down some more bread feed, putting it in upstream again close to the far bank.

Trotting through again, the float dragged under and I lifted into a snag that moved, the deep bronze shape of a big bream drifting up to the surface, shaking it’s head slowly as it took the full force of the current against it’s slab sides. Heading off downstream, taking twenty yards of line on the backwind, it stopped, the slow thudding fight thumping the rod at full bend. Keeping the pressure on, it sailed back and forth, each time I had the bream close to the net, a second wind sent it off again. The swim was very shallow close in and I needed it exhausted and on it’s side to stand a chance of getting it in the net, while at this moment, the only thing that was getting tired out was me. Close to the net again, the hook pulled out, leaving it semi stranded in the muddy shallows, before the 4 lb plus bream regained it’s senses and scuttled off. I have had one of 3 lb 8 oz from this river before, but this was much bigger. I now needed another cup of tea and a sandwich to recover.

Another ball of feed and I was fishing again. The bream had seen off the chub, but now small dace were attacking the bait, only hitting one in four of the lightning bites.

In an attempt to slow down the dace bites, I added six inches to the depth and held back hard. A decent bite at last, brought a rod bending roach from under my rod top.

I was still getting dace, but gudgeon had also moved in on the feed area.

The roach were back, taking two or three then more gudgeon and dace.

These roach and too many to photograph were all clonkers, having just netted the one above, when Michael stopped on his way back from his labours, telling of another decent chub among his net of roach and dace. It was my time to go too and I said to myself “Just one more decent roach and I’ll pack up.” It obliged and here it is.

How many times have my last day of the river season been a day to remember? Too many. It is a shame to put the stick floats away for three months each year, but it allows the river fish to spawn in peace.

Over 8 lbs of quality fish in just over three hours, was the perfect antidote to the fears and uncertainty surrounding our lives in the months ahead.






Chub, roach and dace line up for the bread punch on the Cut

March 10, 2020 at 2:38 pm

Following reports of more pollution on my local river Cut, controlled by the council backed Braybrooke Community Nature & Fishing Club, I decided to check it out for myself this week with an afternoon fishing session between the storms. I had walked the river the day before and it had been level with the bank, the colour of milky builder’s  tea, but today it had dropped back and although running fast, was carrying only a tinge of colour. Pollution booms were still in place across the main river, blackened with an oily deposit and I was prepared to pack up, if I had failed to catch after 30 minutes.

The morning had begun with blue skies, but by noon, as I tackled up, flat grey clouds had taken over again, the forecast of heavy rain sweeping in between 3 and 4 pm looked likely.

The river here was pushing  hard along the opposite bank and I opted for a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float fished on my soft 12 foot Hardy rod, controlled with an ABU 501 closed face reel. The previous week I had used this rig a couple of miles downstream on a flooded section of the river, bulking the shot a foot from the hook, but today pushed the main bulk beneath the float to give good float control, while spreading four No 6 shot six inches up from the size 16 barbless hook to give a natural fall of the bread punch pellet.

I wet down some liquidised bread and squeezed together a small ball, throwing it up stream close to the far bank. With a 5 mm punch of bread on the hook, an under arm cast put the float close to the bank in the path of the feed. I straightened the line to the float and eased it down, watching it slant away, lifting into a good fish that dashed off downstream, the long shape of a chub flashing beneath the surface. Taking my time, it was soon in the net.

First cast! Was it a fluke? Another 5 mm punch of bread and I cast in again. The river was running fast and I eased the float down again, slowing it to half speed, releasing and stopping the line with my finger as it came off the reel. The float dipped, then half held down and I struck. This time a silver flash and the juddering fight of a dace was bending the rod top.

A fat dace, evidence that stocking by the Environment Agency with five inch dace in 2017, after a major pollution event, has been a success, the river being devoid of these hard fighting fish before this.

Dace made the running for the next ten minutes and I tried another ball of feed, increasing the depth by three inches, again holding the float back, then releasing it, swinging the bread on and off the bottom.

The float held down and I was in again, a golden flash followed by the dogged thump of a roach as it fought along the far bank, continuing upstream past my keepnet, where I netted it. This was turning into one of my better fishing sessions, any doubts about the pollution long forgotten. Another trot, another roach.

Dace were competing with the roach, the extra depth of the float allowing more positive bites.

Another small ball of bread kept the fish lined up, bites coming in the first six feet of trot, the float under in ten feet. Roach had moved up over the feed and became the main feature.

After an hour there were over twenty quality fish in the net already and I needed to wet down some more feed, a small ball every three, or four fish working well. Early on I switched to rolled bread as bait because the dace were knocking the standard slice off the hook.

The catching spree continued, getting into a rhythm, zeroing in on the roach, the landing net required for most.

Even the gudgeon were chunky, hugging the bottom all the way back.

Dace were still in the mix, along with gudgeon and roach. Chub may have been further down under the bush, but the float never reached that far before it was buried by fish like the roach below.

As predicted the rain started at 3:15. By 3:30 pm it was hammering down and I packed up, this dace being my last fish of a very productive afternoon.

Thanks to the Environment Agency and Thames Water, this little unsung river, a tributary of the mighty Thames, has been saved to provide excellent fishing for a small club.

Not bad for a few hours on the bread punch.

Big roach on the bread punch defy winter floods

February 28, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Winter storms continue and I looked for the best of a bad bunch of forecasts this week, deciding that a heavy frost, followed by sunshine and wintry showers of hail and sleet would give me a chance at some big roach from my local river. It was still only 5 degrees centigrade, when I drove over the river at lunch time, looking down into the flood water as it surged beneath the bridge, debris jammed against the upstream side causing the river to find its way around and over the roadway. Parking in the partly submerged lay-by alongside the river, I loaded up my trolley for the walk to my chosen swim, where the outfall from the town water treatment works joins the river.

Siting my tackle box on the top of the high bank, I set up my light weight 12 foot Hardy float rod with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to a size 16 hook. Hoping for 8 to 12 oz roach, the Hardy is ideal as it has a soft top that bends well into their bouncing fight and the shock of a sudden run. This swim used to hold a head of good chub, plus the occasional common carp and my 14 foot Browning was the answer then. It would bounce off the odd roach, but had the back bone to stop any chub that made a break for it down the weir stream. Unfortunately those big fish seem to have been poached out of the river these days by constant night fishing with set lines, but the roach remain.

The river was up at least a foot at this point, pushing hard into the weir stream, the usual back eddy reduced to a small area on the far side of the confluence. Plumbing the depth confirmed that the river was up by over a foot and I added another foot to hold back against the bulk shot to ease the rig down toward the foam. Damping down coarse liquidised bread, I squeezed up a few firm balls and threw them ten yards upstream to start creating a feeding area out in front of me. Guessing that the river would be in full flow, I had prepared a couple of sheets of rolled punch bread to avoid the bait being washed off the hook.

Despite regular balls of feed, I was biteless for about an hour, then as the float eased into the foam, it disappeared and the little Hardy bent double with a good fish that ran back down the stream, back wound my ABU 501 reel to stay in contact. Slow thumps on the rod confirmed a big roach, that topped briefly before diving back down and took my time to bring it into the slower water at my feet, the landing net pole bending with the weight as I brought it up the bank.

This roach was well worth the wait. I squeezed up another ball and threw it well upstream, laying the float across the feed and easing it down. The float held down and I was in again to another battling roach.

The fish had now moved up into the river just below me, the bread covering the bottom holding the roach in a tight area, the bites going from anticipated to expected, each trot bringing a rod bender.

Even the small ones were clonkers, as I worked my way through the shoal. They did not want it running through, but nailed to the bottom well over depth, lifting and dropping the bulk shot a few inches at the a time, the bites unmissable.

Many of these roach have a harmless lice infestation.

This roach took during a hail storm that left the bank white for a few minutes, chilling the air more than before.

Whether the sudden influx of icy hail had put off the roach I don’t know, but the next fish was a chub, that made a rapid rush back to the weir stream. A real rod bender for its size. A smaller one followed, then it was several big gudgeon before the roach returned.

A perfect specimen.

And another.

They just kept coming.

A prolonged hail and rain storm stopped me fishing for a while, as a gusting wind lashed the surface of the river. I made up some more feed, throwing tight balls upstream.

The pace of the river had been picking up all afternoon and I added another three inches to the depth of the float to cope with the flow. Like before, the next fish after the hailstorm, was another chub, this time a better fish again, the rod and back winding withstanding that initial chub run.

A few more monster gudgeon and I was back into the roach, my landing net working overtime.

Most of the hooks came out in the net, proof that they could not be rushed.

This was my last roach of the day, forcing myself to stop at bang on 4:30 pm. I had run out of bread feed, having used 8 oz of coarse ground white loaf.  I had used the rolled bread, with a 6 mm punch all afternoon at a total cost of about 30 pence.

Emptying the keepnet into my landing net for a quick photo before I lowered them back into the river, I weighed them in at 9 lb 4 oz, not quite the 10 lb I expected. Should have fished for another ten minutes!


Roach entertain on the bread punch through the storm

February 22, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Storm Dennis the Menace was still blowing itself out, when I arrived for an afternoon’s fishing at Braybrooke Community Club’s Jeanes Pond this week. Early morning rain had finished, but gusts of 40 mph were still blasting across the football pitch as I tried to tackle up. Choosing to fish with my back to the wind seemed a good idea at the time and with full thermal clothing and a wax cotton jacket, topped by a fleece lined hat, that pulled down over my ears, I was comfortable enough, but the wind produced vortexes, that twice had my pole rig snagged in the bush to my left, before I managed to get a line in the water.

There was no sign of fish activity on the surface of the pond and I assumed that it was going to be HARD, but then I like a challenge and set up with a 4 x14 antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook to fish for bites.

I could see that the heavy rain had increased the depth of the pond by at least six inches and found four feet at 3 metres over the shelf, when I plumbed up, setting the float to fish a few inches off bottom. With wind whipping around the surface, I opted to fish with no more than the top three sections of pole, two metres out from the high bank, dropping a golf ball sized ball of liquidised bread around my float. The float sat motionless for five minutes, before a slight dip showed interest in the 4 mm pellet of rolled bread. It sank slowly and I lifted into small roach, that the wind blew out horizontal to the bank and a game of catch me if you can followed, until I was able to grasp the ice cold fish.

In the keep net it went, another 4 mm punch of bread was on the hook and I swung out again, this time the float settling and sinking immediately with another lolipop of a roach. They kept coming, some smaller, others slightly bigger, but nothing decent, but at least I was catching something. Every ten fish I dropped in another small ball of bread, watching the crumb spread into a slowly sinking cloud, then casting across it to allow the bait to follow through.

After an hour and over twenty roach, the swim went dead in front of me and I guessed that a pike had been attracted to the feeding fish. I stopped feeding and cast to my left. The float went under and I was catching again. Ten minutes later there was a green flash as the pike took a hooked roach, the pole elastic steadily extending, following the pike as it sank into the depths. I have been in this position too many times now, especially on this pond, but never have got one on the bank and this was no different, the razor sharp teeth of this successful predator slicing through the hooklink when it turned.

Hoping that the pike was satisfied with its catch for the moment, I tied on another size 18, put in another ball of feed in front of me and waited for a bite. A few more minutes and it was business as usual, as roach began to queue up for the punch again.

The wind was still causing problems. Laying my pole down to grab a hot cup of tea and a sandwich, the wind lifted it clear of the rest and into the water, just managing to catch hold of the line before the lot sank out of sight. Another time I had played a 4 oz roach to the surface, but the wind was blowing my landing net in the opposite direction, so I attempted to swing the fish in, the same gust spinning the roach away and off the hook.

“What’s up, you must be really bored at home to come here today?” It was a friend and fellow angler Kieth, a council worker at the site, who had come out to question my sanity. The rivers are all in flood and I’d rather watch a float going under any day, than watch TV. That’s my excuse any way. I continued to catch as we chatted, the wind drying out my bread bait, too hard and the bites dither, so every fifteen minutes I needed to tear of another fresh piece to punch. The wind blew one piece into the pond, which the ducks were pleased to receive. This was becoming a test of endurance, but the roach were still there and it was easier to continue fishing than to pack up.

At last some better roach were finding the feed and the landing net was back in use.

Another decent roach was fighting hard, then the next instant it was skating across the surface in panic with the pike in pursuit. I lifted too late, the pike rolling on its side as it snatched the roach away. If I needed an excuse to pack up this was it. The hook was still there, but it was time to go. I had hoped to make it to three hours fishing time, but two and a half was enough on a day like this. At least it hadn’t rained.

The bread punch had shown what it could do again and the bites had kept coming with over 50 fish in the net.

River Whitewater trout fishing revamp

February 10, 2020 at 3:39 pm

I always look forward each year to the first working party on the River Whitewater, the little Hampshire trout stream showing early signs of spring, as members began work cutting back trees and tidying the banks in preparation for the trout season opener on April 1st. The distinctive aroma of wild garlic crushed under foot welcomed us, as we made our way down to the intended work area, hazel catkins having already matured and fresh bright green leaves bursting from buds.

For the coming season, the fly fishing has come under the control of the parent club, Farnborough and District Angling Society, offering trout fishing to members at a reduced rate as an add on to the general membership. Another bonus is the removal of the nominated three day a week fishing, Sunday to Tuesday, or Thursday to Saturday, which restricted fishing time. As a Thursday to Saturday fisher, I often was forced to sit on my hands on a glorious Tuesday, only to have it rain from Thursday onward. With such a good, but brief Mayfly hatch on this river, it will give more opportunities to tempt some of the elusive better specimens.

Work intended this year is to construct more berms to speed up the flow, felled trees providing the raw materials for this work. Here’s one we made earlier.

This weekend, the same berm has been working well for two seasons, creating a clean gravel run, ideal for spawning fish and feeding trout later on.

Another good sign this weekend was to see that ranunculus weed, taken from other parts of the river and transplanted elsewhere had taken well, despite the attentions of a family of swans, that spent much of their time feasting on the luxuriant growth.

With the full resources of the Farnborough and District club at its disposal, the fly fishing section are looking to take advantage of the opening up of a further mile of the Whitewater, the long neglected downstream section, the subject of further river improvement under the supervision of the Environment Agency this year.

One of the many variants of wild trout caught in the Whitewater.





Mostly small stuff on the Basingstoke canal.

February 6, 2020 at 10:23 am

I have been trying to get back to the Basingstoke Canal for some time, but events, mainly bad weather have intervened. Ideally the Basi fishes well after a period of heavy rain with a good flow and colour and I was hoping for a repeat of past success, travelling to Fleet in Hampshire this week. The intention was to fish the exact swim, that that I had caught a double figure net of skimmer bream and good roach from four years ago, assuming that it was still a good fish holding area.

I had fished this swim on other occasions and always caught some quality roach and skimmers, being more optimistic due to a 40 lb net of bream reported in a match half a mile upstream the previous Saturday. My original plan to fish this match section was scuppered by a Road Closed sign blocking access to the hot area on Glen Road, so switched to plan B at Reading Road.

Fleet High Street was also closed and a diversion took me round the houses, only to end up 200 yards ahead of where I had turned off in the first place! Following the diversion again, I turned left where the arrow had said to turn right and my own diversion soon connected with the correct road and I drove into the Reading Bridge carpark half an hour later than expected. Walking to The Swim, I set out my stall to fish pole and bread punch.

Plumbing the depth, the shelf was 4 metres out and a I put in small ball of liquidised bread down that line. The canal was opaque  with little flow and I watched the bread cloud spread with a slight drift down stream. Going in over the cloud with 4 x 16 float to a size 16 hook and a 6mm punch, I was pleased to see an instant response and struck when the float dived away, but disappointed with the first fish.

Little did I realise when I took this photo, that this roach would be one of my better fish, a succession of tiny roach that struggled to sink the float being thrown back in disbelief, that they could get the size 16 in their mouths. There was deeper water between 7 and 9 metres out and I now fed these two lines with a ball of bread each, fussy bites still producing small roach and even smaller skimmers.

I changed rigs to a lighter 4 x 14 float rig and size 18 hook and a 5 mm punch, the bites were more positive, but the fish size did not improve, again throwing most of them straight back.

In the hope of something better, I fed over to the far shelf, holding back hard against the gusting wind, but a series of more small roach and several big twigs, brought me back to the boat road.

At least the bites were constant and I tried a ball at 9 metres, then fished the 7 metre line, switching to feed the 7, then fish the 9. It did bring some better roach, but not much better, this one being one of the best.

The wind was getting colder and gustier and I was almost relieved when rain began to fall with a vengeance, giving the excuse to pack up. My hopes of attracting some elastic stretching fish may have been realised beyond this two hour stint, but was not prepared to stick it out, my last outing resulting in a soaking.

Better Luck next time?

Winter bread punch rudd between the storms

January 29, 2020 at 12:39 am

The pattern of UK weather this winter has been stormy days of heavy rain followed by brief windows of dry mornings, or afternoons, then more rain. If, like me, you prefer to fish in the dry, then it is a case of trusting the forecasts and fitting in a session when you can.

This week my only available day promised a sunny morning and the possibility of a shower in the afternoon, although while getting ready that morning, it was still raining from the night before. I had intended driving to the Basingstoke Canal in the hope of a few bream on the punch, but scratched the idea and waited for the rain clouds to pass. A weak sun eventually appeared and I trundled the tackle trolley down to my local pond just to wet a line, the paths still running with rainwater.

The pond was deserted, not even the usual dog walkers were venturing out on this soggy morning and I chose a swim with the breeze at my back, setting up my pole with a light waggler rig on arrival at 10 am.

To my right was a died back lily bed and I fed half a dozen balls of a damp mix of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets out ten metres in front of me, where the depth increases to 30 inches above the silt. This pond once had an overflow from a culverted stream, but the silt has now virtually blocked the inlet and stopped any movement, but the old stream bed still gives extra depth and I fished over it, but had to wait ten minutes before my first indication of a bite. The float dipped and slowly sank and I lifted into a decent rudd, that came off as I shifted the pole back. Another 6 mm pellet of punch went onto the size 16 barbless hook and I was fishing again. Another wait, then another rudd lost. I put a couple of balls out, then went back over them with a 5 mm punch on the hook, the float going straight down and a rudd was skimming toward the net.

The 5 mm punch looked small on the size 16 hook, but it made the difference as rudd began to pile into the keepnet, going up to the larger punch did not attract bigger rudd, but resulted in more lost fish, so the 5 mm won the argument. Bubbles coming up from the bottom indicated that crucians were in the swim, but the rudd were getting to the bait first and I pushed on in an effort to empty the swim of the silvers, giving myself a workout, shipping back the pole to the top 3, then swinging to hand, taking a rudd a minute.

Keeping up the feed did the opposite of my intention, it did not feed them off, instead bringing more in. Usually the larger fish, crucians and common carp move in after an hour, pushing the rudd out, but today the rudd kept on coming, taking on the drop.

The weak sun had soon retreated as the breeze increased, driving black clouds over the pond, my choice of swim taking advantage of the wind on my back, a lift and flick of the pole placing the float perfectly every time. It was getting colder and I pulled my hood up over my cap. The rain would not be too far behind.

My wife arrived for a brief visit, the pond a short diversion on her walk to the Tesco supermarket, and I took a breather from the action, washing down a cheese and pickle sandwich with a warming cup of tea, before returning to the challenge of emptying the pond of rudd. Having run out of feed in my tray, I decided not to mix up more unless the swim died, hoping to attract the attention of crucians, if the rudd lost interest.

Despite the wind trying to sink my float as it flashed on and off in the waves, every time it failed to reappear I lifted into yet another rudd. It was like being on a production line, repeating my actions time after time. The elastic coming out as I hooked into something solid, woke me up, the fish scything round to the right into the lily bed, as I held it back with the pole. It rolled on the surface briefly, the short gold body of a pound crucian clearly visible, before it dived into the snag, picking up a small sunken branch, as it burrowed through the decaying vegetation. The hook pulled free.

Cursing my impatience, I dropped the float over a burst of small bubbles. The float dithered and bobbed, then moved off. The elastic was out again. At last, the crucians were taking the bread! This one fought its ground, then headed off to the left, only to come off again. I should have waited. These crucians take a lot longer to mouth the bait than rudd, More bait on the hook and I plonked the float back over the bubbles. It sank and I waited, until the line followed. A lift of the pole and another rudd was skimming back to me.

The hook was well down, but quick work with the disgorger had the hook free, but this was my last fish, as hail stones began to beat down on myself and the pond, causing me to reach for my wax cotton jacket.

Struggling to get the jacket on with the hood over my head, there was a blinding flash through the trees and an instant crash of thunder that made me jump back on my seat. That was it, I was holding a 9 metre lightning conductor, time to pack up quick. While the thunder continued to echo around the area, the heavens opened to a deluge of freezing rain, soaking everything in an instant, my punch bread now floating around the bait tray. It was 12:55 on the dot. Just when it seem likely that I was about to start catching the elusive crucian carp, I was being forced by nature to pack up. No one could fish in conditions like these.

My pole was dried off, but soaked in seconds, my other tackle slid back inside the box through a narrow opening to avoid the rain, a futile gesture as the water poured in. Pulling in my net, I was surprised by the number of fish and despite my haste to leave, got out my scales to record the weight, over 7 lb in under three hours.

Ready for the half mile uphill walk back to my home, dragging my trolley, the rain increased to a frenzy.

Winter fishing at its best.



Bread punch finds shy winter carp

January 9, 2020 at 4:46 pm

Looking for a change of venue this week and still in possession of an exchange ticket for a club water a dozen miles away, I set off in sunshine for the shallow tree lined pond set in farmland high above a large town. I had last fished at Hitcham Ponds in October, before the leaves had dropped, but now the surface was covered with thousands of black rotting leaves, not an encouraging sight, as I set up my pole to fish the bread punch.

The sun had long gone by the time I arrived, settling in for another dull January day, the lack of surface activity making for a cautious start. There was a slight shelf into 3 feet of water at 5 metres and I started here with a small ball of liquidised bread, following in with a 6 mm pellet of punched bread on a size 16 barbless hook. No bites. Each time I brought the rig back in, the hook was coated with the dead leaves, so I reduced the depth on my antenna float by 3 inches, as the plummet had obviously sunk deep into a layer of these dead leaves. Another ball brought signs of a bite, a ring radiating out from the antenna, then a half hold down of the float. I lifted into what felt like another leaf, but it was a tiny roach, that had filled its mouth with the bread, the disgorger needed to remove the hook. Oh well, it was a start. I had once won a match here in freezing conditions on the bread punch, with over a hundred of these bait robbers. This was a pleasure session and I was after bigger game, hopefully a net of skimmer bream and crucians, plus a bonus carp or two.

After half an hour fine bubbles were now appearing in the surface film, the small roach giving way to slightly larger skimmer bream. Mixing up more feed, this time adding some ground carp pellets, I fed a line 6 metres out with three egg sized balls, going up to an 8 mm punch in an attempt to attract something bigger. I was still catching five inch skimmers and roach, missing bites due to the larger punch on the 16 hook, so went back to the 6 mm punch. All these fish were going into my keep net, the aim to feed off, or catch enough to give better fish a chance.

Another angler came along the bank having packed up. Bob said that he had failed to catch and was packing up before the rain started between 1 and 2 pm. This was news to me, my home forecast had said sunshine all day, but this side of the Thames Valley it was already a different story.

As Bob disappeared through the trees, my float slowly sank and I lifted into solid resistance, that moved steadily to my left, a carp that did not realise that it was hooked, stretching out the pole elastic. Suddenly it awoke, powering off toward the island taking elastic, but turning again. I kept pressure on following it with the pole, until it neared the surface, then bringing back the pole to the top three sections, keeping the landing net ready. It was still not giving up, but after an arm aching couple of minutes, I drew it over the net.

The hook dropped out in the net, this 2 lb common still full of fight.

As predicted, the rain started just after 1 pm, a fine drizzle at first, then an ever darkening sky bringing light rain. I hunkered down under my jacket hood, making sure that my punch bread was out of the weather. The next fish was a brightly painted rudd.

Larger bubbles were now bursting above the feed and the float dithered and lifted, striking into another carp that rushed off to the middle, rolled and came off. I put in another ball of feed and tried again. A few more small rudd, then I was in again. I thought that this was a crucian at first, as it was rolling rather than running, but the proof was in the net, another common. Two – One to me.

It had taken a while to bring the carp onto the feed, but I was soon playing another, allowing it to wear its self out, then bringing it close to net, only for it to go into warp drive again, once I was down to the top three again, the hook pulling free close to the net. Curses! I should have taken my time. Two – All.

A burst of bubbles next to my float indicated another carp was interested, the float dipping, then moving away with an unmissable bite, the elastic zooming out as the hook made contact. This was a much better fish than before and I followed with the pole as it ran along the bank to my left. Once turned, the carp tried to get under a clump of dead rushes, but pointing the pole away, held it out from the bank. Learning from the last lost fish, I kept it at range, not breaking down the pole until the last minute, although when the back end of the pole jammed in brambles behind me, I had to stand up and reach forward to grab the third section. Bringing the carp to the surface, it was soon netted.

This one was about 4 lb, the hook just inside the lip, needing a firm push with the disgorger to free it. I was now Three – Two up and quite content to pack up and get out of the rain, but another burst of bubbles meant that a large fish was browsing the feed and cast the float across the bubbles, the fish taking on the drop, another decent carp steaming off across the pond. Taking my time again, I had no desire to bully the common carp to the net, this would be my last fish and it stayed on. Four – Two.

The swim was now fizzing with bubbles, but I resisted the temptation to carry on. It was 3 pm and getting darker, a brighter day would have given me another half hour and more carp, but my legs were already soaked, comfort overruling carp these days.

It had been a busy session, just one of the carp outweighing all of the silvers taken previously, a quick weigh in seeing over 11 lbs on the scales.





New Year roach shine on the Blackwater

January 3, 2020 at 7:54 pm

After the sunshine of Monday’s session on the local river Cut, heavy black clouds were scudding across the sky as I approached the river Blackwater on Thursday, close to the town that bares its name. My wife’s desire for a mooch around the Lexicon Shopping Centre near our home, gave me a free pass for an afternoon fishing, even though it seemed that it could be a damp one.

With light drizzle in the air, I walked upstream to a swim that I had fished in summer, the grey outlook in contrast to the lush green I remembered. The river was low and clear, but pushing hard, this being the tail of a wide bend, where a channel no more than two feet deep passes close to the my bank. Getting ready to fish, I put in my keep net and saw it swept off to the side in the current, deciding that a heavy 6 No 4 ali stick would give better control, despite the shallow depth.

With only bread punch as usual, I readied the liquidised bread, squeezing up a firm ball, throwing it ten feet upstream close in, watching it break up as it swirled in the flow drifting down stream. About to cast in, another angler arrived at my side, returning back to his car after a blank session further upstream. After the usual pleasantries and the refusal of some maggots, due to the fact that I only had bread as bait, I cast in to test the flow and hooked a roach in the first five feet of travel, letting the fish run out to the middle before bringing it back to the net.

Amazed at the instant success, my visitor peered over the bank into the shallows in front of me, surprised that there were roach, where he could see the bottom. My experience of earlier in the week, on the equally clear and shallow Cut, when passers by had scared away my fish doing just that, were fresh in my mind. He was a very pleasant fellow and continued to chat, watching the float, as I worked it further down the swim, holding back bringing another positive bite, followed by a roach in the net.

The fish were sitting ten yards downstream in the main flow, dipping the float as it drifted down, knocking off the 6 mm bread pellet each time, but stopping the travel after the first sign of a bite brought a fish on, but off again, losing two big dace on as many casts. With overhanging branches, the fish had to be reeled back flat to the river, until close enough to net.I fed another ball to keep up interest and ran through again, this time lifting into a small chub under my rod top, that dived away, letting it run, trying to avoid another lost fish from the size 16 barbless hook.

My new friend had stepped away from the bank to answer his phone and the fish had moved back up to the feed, but now he was back again and the bites dropped away. This was not easy fishing, the weir upstream was now at full flow and I added six inches to the depth and bulked the shot closer to the hook, taking more roach ten yards down.

Damping down the bread feed, I squeezed up pigeon egg sized balls, plopping them in upstream of me every few casts, the balls breaking up and coating the bottom close to me, dropping the float out in front, trotting through with a tight line, some of the bites bending the rod tip as the fish took.

After about an hour my visitor left, hopefully having learned something about fishing the punch and leaving me to catch some more fish. Although well before sunset, it was now growing darker, the low clouds depositing an uncomfortable, downstream wind driven misty drizzle. Not pleasant, with the need to keep the punch bread covered to stop it being softened too much.

I now had the fish where I wanted them, this chub hooking itself. I lost another big dace as it churned on the surface, but compensated with another decent roach next cast.

The fish kept coming, this chub the last to stay in focus on my camera, the Flash whiting out the images. Gudgeon, small dace and roach taking their turn over the feed. The pace of the river had picked again, washing out debris, coating my line and I was beginning to spend more time unpicking these washing lines, than fishing and called it a day before 3 pm, not wanting to pack up in the dark.

The Punch had done me well again, although a size 14 may have hung onto some of the big dace long enough to net them, but I was not complaining, it had been a short spontaneous session, that kept delivering fish to the net.