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.