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Heron feather transformed into a stick float, becomes a fish catcher

September 26, 2022 at 11:04 am

Walking along my local river Cut last week, I stopped as I was about to cross a narrow girder bridge. In the river a heron was standing neck poised, concentrating on a shoal of fry, waiting for them to come within range. In a flash it’s beak stabbed at the water and a fry was swallowed down. I watched as the heron repeated the feeding ritual, unaware that I was watching, until a mountain biker rode across the bridge at full speed. I stepped back to let the rider pass, in time to watch the heron rise in panic from the river and flap away upstream, a lone wing feather becoming detached to spin to the ground.

I picked it up and immediately thought that it would make a good float. As a young teenager, all my floats were made from the quills of birds. Swan quills were prized, but crow quills were plentiful and most were stripped, with the tips dipped into scarlet Airfix kit paints, meant for model Spitfire propeller spinners.

These days I am very particular about what stick floats I buy, my old favourite Middy Ali Stemmed floats are no longer available. I bought up stocks, but they are now gone to be replaced by Drennan Ali Stems, which are going the same way. Are these that important? I decided to strip back the heron feather, rub it down, spray it with satin black, dipping the tip in white emulsion, before applying some florescent yellow once the emulsion was dry. Not a pretty sight, but it should work ok.

With a rubber top and bottom, I shotted it up level with the top rubber to 3 BB and put it on a winder ready for my next river session on the Cut. I still have the old sheet metal box that my father made for me many years ago, containing similar floats on Perspex winders. Starling quills and crow quills for canal and river use, nestled with porcupine and swan quills. I used to catch many fish and won matches with these, but abandoned them once I joined my first sponsored match fishing team, replaced by a set of Ashurst balsa and greenheart stick floats of various sizes. Today all my floats are on winders, we have gone full circle on that one.

I would liked to have fished with the float, where I watched the heron, but the trees hung low over the water and it would be a shame to lose it first cast among the branches. I chose a spot well upstream with plenty of room for my 14 foot Browning float rod.

Without any rain for weeks, the river was low and clear, the bottom visible right across. On my last visit to this swim in July, I topped out a net of decent roach, with a monster 3 lb 12 oz crucian carp from a coloured river, but I did not expect a repeat performance today and would be happy to watch my new, old style float showing bites and going under.

I mixed up a half tray of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, adding enough water to hold a ball together, then put a couple of balls over toward the opposite bank, where the flow followed the outside of the bend. The balls could be seen sinking slowly downstream, spreading along the bottom. Not a lot of flow, even there. I plumbed the depth, only two feet. I was already considering a move to one of the deeper swims further downstream.

Oh well, let’s give it a go. I cast down close to a dead branch on the opposite bank, below my feed. The yellow tip was clearly visible for a second before it was pulled under. I struck and saw a small roach twist and turn beneath the surface, swinging it to hand.

The float had caught its first fish, this small roach having taken a 6 mm punch of bread.

Not a fluke. Next cast another small roach, dip, dip, down, perfect bite indication. There were plenty of them down there and I began swinging them in. I could watch the bread sink, then disappear in time with the float going under. I decided to bulk two No 4 shot close to the hook link and increased the depth to fish hard on the bottom, casting downstream and tightening the line to the float. This provoked an instant bite, but this time a decent gudgeon was putting a bend in the rod.

It was a fish a chuck, gudgeon and small roach, but nothing big, until the float held down and a better sized fish turned over as I struck. It was not a roach, but a perch that had taken the bread, either mistaking the bread for a small fish as it fluttered down, or hooked attempting to take a small roach feeding on the bread. Whatever, the landing net was out for the first time that afternoon.

There were a lot of small perch about, chasing fry across the shallows, bullying them and scooping them from the surface. A kingfisher was also busy, dropping from a branch at regular intervals to plunder the small fish.

More feed brought better roach on the feed, but gudgeon kept filling the net. even another bread punch perch got in on the act.

Time was getting on and I was running out of punch bread, this roach taking a 5 mm punch offered on the size 14 hook.

The bread punch had provided another busy session and as usual, I’d run out of holes to punch.

There were no decent roach and where were the chub? Not even a small one, although a few small dace stayed on long enough to go into the net. Ironically it was a heron’s feather quill float that accounted for this lot.

Heatwave chub, roach and dace compete for the bread punch at the weir

August 11, 2022 at 8:13 am

With all southern rivers suffering reduced flows due to the continuing heatwave, I took a drive to my local river Cut this week, being surprised that the swim beside the outfall weir from the Thames Water treatment works was vacant. Driving further up the lane to park, I crossed the river bridge and looked downstream. It was choked with reeds.

It seems ironic that in the past, I have trotted a bait downstream from this bridge, to a bush holding a good head of chub. Reduced flows have gradually allowed reeds to encroach from either bank, causing flooding of the bridge and road closures during the winter.

With the tackle unloaded, I made my way back to the weir. At 10 am the sun was already hot and I welcomed the shade and cool air at the swim. The main river to my left was barely moving, but the outfall was in full flow, creating an eddy that extended upstream, while also splitting at the opposite bank. Too many options. Usually the eddy creates a sweet spot triangle, where the ground bait collects, holding the fish all day, but today I would need to chase the fish.

The main river was creeping past my keepnet and I began by introducing a couple of small balls of feed, liquidised bread, crushed pellets and crushed hemp at my feet. On the hook was a 6 mm pellet of bread. As the float reached the edge of the foam, the float sank and I was playing a decent roach, the landing net was out and number one was in my hand.

A couple more smaller roach and the gudgeon moved in to mop up the feed, each trot seeing the float disappear before it reached the foam.

The roach seemed to have moved off as the flow increased and I decided feed across to the opposite side, where the foam was pushing. At first it was a 4 inch mini chub a cast, then the float buried and the rod wrapped round with a better fish, as a chub ran into the foaming outfall.

These chub were now queuing up for the groundbait, it spewing from their throats, when I removed the hooks.

This pocket of chub reduced in size and I was back to bashing out the mini versions and the inevitable gudgeon. Time to try another area. The flow was splitting off to the right at the bend, running off downstream and an underhand flick of the rod put the float just above it, followed by a ball of feed. A couple of trots and the float buried, when a plump dace snatched the punched bread.

Dace love hemp, crushed being no exception, diving off with the float as I held back in just eighteen inches of water. These furious fighters give 100% and I tumbled a few of the smaller ones off the size 14 barbless hook, the larger dace heading straight for the faster water each time.

This dace was still full of fight

The flow had changed again as the outfall was increased, giving a straight trot to the my opposite bank, pushing the eddy back round to the left, against the flow of the Cut. I mixed up more ground bait, squeezing up stiff balls to drop into the faster water, knowing that they would begin to carpet the bottom round the eddy.

It was good to see another roach. They had been in the eddy all the time, it was just a matter of locating them. Smaller roach and rudd were coming regularly along with gudgeon of course. Another wrap round of the rod heralded a better chub, as it dived into the faster outfall, bringing it back eventually, to net from the high bank.

The sun had now crept over the trees and I was no longer in the shade, the heat becoming oppressive. My catch rate was still one a chuck with more decent roach in the mix, but set my sights on 2 pm to pack up, despite more good roach.

This one was a clonker, that ran off downstream, with me rapidly back winding my ABU 501 reel, just as well too, as the hook fell out in the net.

I had kept my bread pieces in a polythene wallet in my bait apron and covering them with a cloth to keep them soft once in the bait tray. Each punch was a fish, often taking two of the smaller ones on the same piece.

An example of a busy session, that netted around 150 fish in four hours.


Carp make up for missing roach on the River Cut.

July 27, 2022 at 8:27 pm

When morning showers failed to materialise, I decided to try my local River Cut for an afternoon fishing, my wife Julie helping with the tackle on the long walk down to my chosen swim, where I hoped for a carp, or two. Although my knee surgery has been a success, it was good to have help getting the trolley down the bank and in position in the swim.

I was sorry to see that a couple of long branches had been  forced into the far bank bush, cutting off access to the edge, where trotting a float close to the foliage results in most bites. I tried to remove the nearest branch, but it remained firmly stuck in place. An act of vandalism, or someone with access to a grappling hook saving the swim to themselves? This is a club water, but without effective bailiffs, it is something that members must expect. I also counted three shopping trollies in the river on my way down too.

The river was very coloured, but casting the 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick float rig in, with a 6 mm punch of bread on the size 16 hook, saw an instant response, small rudd and gudgeon taking the float under repeatedly.

I had mixed up a few ounces of coarse liquidised bread, with ground hemp and ground carp pellets added, this being lightly damped down to form loose balls, which were put in upstream of the bush, in the hope of drawing fish up away from the obvious snags.

The bottom was alive with small fish, but where were the decent roach that live under the bush? Getting the float in close to the bush resulted in sailaway bites, but missed fish, or snags. My bankside was soon  covered with branches. I scaled down to a 5 mm punch and began hitting into small dace, most of which shed the hook before I could lift them clear of the water.

As my wife was getting ready to walk back to the car, to shop in the town, my float sank slowly and stayed down. “I’m in!” The twelve foot Hardy float rod bent double, as the golden shape of a carp turned over beneath the bush. I could not afford to let the carp run down further into the sunken branches and keeping the rod flat, put on full pressure. A couple more flashes of gold and it was running upstream, while I back wound to slow it. In the shallow river, it zizagged all over, while I kept on the pressure, until it was ready for the net.

Weighed in at 1 lb 12 oz, this little battler was soon returned, once Julie had done the honours with the camera. Now late for her visit to Marks and Spencers, she promised to return as soon as possible. I mixed up some fresh feed, again putting it a couple of yards above the bush. I was lucky to persuade that last one to come out.

I now began to catch small roach among the gudgeon, but nothing big again.

I had gone up to a 7 mm bread punch in the hope of another carp, spreading the bulk shot, but rudd were taking on the drop.

This rudd had predator damage on both sides. With no pike in the river, it is probably the survivor of a cormorant attack, the bush giving refuge from these hungry birds.

My wife had just returned from her shopping spree, when my lightweight Hardy was doubled over again. This carp was bigger and just as mobile, fighting hard beneath the bush, before trying to find snags along the far bank. Stirring up the mud as the runs shortened, the net was ready when the carp breached and number two was on the bank.

This chunky common carp was weighed in at 2 lb 8 oz, a 7 mm punch on a size 16 hook had done the damage, but falling out in the landing net.

Once this still fighting carp was returned to the water, it was time to pack up. This had given me an appetite and I was ready for my dinner.

Bread punch had kept the bites coming, although the chub and roach that I usually take from this swim were missing and just hope that the cormorants haven’t scoffed them all.

Tench, rudd and roach on bread punch from the margins at Jeane’s Pond

July 22, 2022 at 5:23 pm

It being eight weeks since my knee replacement surgery, I decided to try going solo for my third outing since the operation. With more bend and strength in the new joint, it is now safe to drive, so the two mile drive to my local Jeane’s Pond was no problem, as was the flat walk from the car park with my loaded trolley to disabled peg 17. Following the recent heatwave with record temperatures, overnight rain had cooled the air and the pond looked in good condition, improved by a week of aeration pumps to disperse a thick layer of algae on the surface.

I stopped to chat with fellow Braybrooke Fishing Club member Bill in the next peg, who was happy to show me pictures of a 6lb 8oz common carp, that he had landed from the swim a few weeks ago. Quite an effort without specialist carp gear!

I settled down in my swim, with everything to hand for the short two hour session, just a few ounces of damp ground bait mixed up, including liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp. There is a shallow shelf, that drops off into four feet of water in this swim and dropped a couple of tight balls along the line. With just one pole section into the top two and a 16 x 4 antenna float, the shot bulked within a foot of the size 14 barbless hook, a 7 mm punch of bread completed the simple rig.

First cast in was a pleasant surprise, the float sinking away and a palm sized rudd swinging to hand.

The surface layer of this pond is patrolled by thousands of small rudd, and the bulk shot punched its way through them to this better rudd.

A couple more small rudd were swung in, then a much better fish was pulling out the heavy elastic. As I reached for the landing net, the 8 oz roach rolled on the surface and came off. I had given it slack reaching round for the landing net, allowing the barbless hook to lose grip. My wife had been my net person on my previous couple of sessions, ready, while I steered the fish in. I had got fishing rusty during my recovery. Lesson learned, I moved the net close to the water’s edge.

Kicking myself for losing that roach, I was consoled by the next fish, a roach half the size, but netted successfully. Half of it’s tail was missing. Pike attack?

Fishing a few inches off the leaf covered bottom, the float sank slowly and I was into another good roach, that fought well, running deep before coming to the net.

A real clonker. A good sign that whatever was wrong with the pond this past winter, all seems to by ok now. As if to confirm my previous thought, on the next cast, the float bobbed and cruised under, the pole bending as the elastic streamed out from the tip following a rapid run. “This is definitely a carp”, I called to Bill, when the fish changed direction to rush by close to the bank, holding the pole out as it disappeared beneath the bankside bushes. It turned again and rolled on the surface. A decent tench! The net was out and the fish was in. With the hook removed from the tough top lip, I got out the scales for a quick weigh in. 3 lb 4 oz, a good average for this one time clay pit, supplying material for the town’s once thriving brick making past.

Once called the Doctor Dish, this was just what the doctor ordered for me, when he advised more exercise for my knee, going fishing can be hard work, especially when landing a tench with such a thick powerful tail.

I rebaited the swim with the last of my ground bait and connected with a good rudd, that had dived into the ball as it broke up, the float zooming off as the bread punched bait sank. It ran outward, then panicked across the surface, when a pike swirled behind it. With no time for the landing net, I swung the rudd away from the pike to my hand.

The pike was not interested in the small roach and rudd that I caught, but the next decent fish brought it to the surface again, these struggling fish an easier target and a worthwhile meal. Another quality roach, swung in without a net.

It now went dead as the pike began swirling and chasing through my swim, scattering fish in all directions. Fishing close to the bush to my right brought bites from small silvers, but over the baited area, the float registered only timid knocks.

I switched from the bush, then back over the bait, the slow sinking bite producing another quality roach. The pike had gone and the better fish were back on the feed, but it was now close to my home time and I made the next roach my last of the afternoon.

This had been well worth the effort, having run out of bread to punch.

My wife had accused me of being a fishing addict, when I went out to load up my tackle, but with a net of fish like this in a couple of hours, can you blame me?



Big crucian carp on the bread punch, makes up for lost time on the River Cut

July 7, 2022 at 8:59 pm

Still unable to drive due to surgery on my left knee, I was pleased, when my wife offered to take me to my local River Cut this week, loading up the car with my fishing gear, then pulling the loaded trolley from the car park down to the disabled pegs at the head of the river. Still on two sticks and partial weight bearing, I was unable to help, until we reached the peg and my box was positioned on the bank, then began to set out my stall with my 12 ft Hardy float rod, ABU 501 reel, 6 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float to a size sixteen crystal barbless on a 2.8 lb hook link. A 6 mm bread punch would supply the bait.

As we reached the river, my heart sank to see a grey discharge coming from one of the three outlet tunnels, that flow under the upstream industrial estate. It had only begun to discharge over the weir into the clear river, which had little flow and would not reach my peg for at least 20 minutes. With this in mind, I was determined to get fishing as soon as possible, as this stale smelling water puts fish off the feed in an instant.

Two small balls of coarse white liquidised bread were put into the bay beyond the fallen tree, followed by the float rig showing interest, once I had straightened the line. A couple of slight dips of the float preceded it sliding under. The Hardy tip bent over and nice sized roach was flashing beneath the surface in the then clear river. By my left side, my wife was sliding the landing net out to receive the red fin.

A quick unhook of this roach and the float was back out. It dipped and sailed away as the fish rushed off downstream. The rod bent into the running fish and I back wound the 501. “Get the net ready”, I commanded, “this is a good fish”. Then it was gone, no it wasn’t, I had forgotten how fast small chub can run in a shallow river. I guided it to the net and Julie lifted it out.

The grey water was already beginning to taint the main flow and I was keen to get as many fish in the net before its effects took hold. Next bite I missed, the following one was a decent gudgeon.

The gudgeon got smaller, then the bites stopped. The grey water had arrived. The float dragged under. Yes! Weight, but no fight.

Yuk!! A disgarded face mask had been waiting for my hook to drift by. Thank goodness for barbless hooks.

With nothing doing, It was time for a break. Cool soft drinks and biscuits helping to pass the blank period. I continued going through the motions, catching the occasional tiny gudgeon, while the river slowly cleared.

Then a decent gudgeon was running away with the bait. I was back in business, this being followed by a hard fighting roach.

I had introduced a couple more balls of feed into the bay with instant results. More roach, dace and chub, plus the inevitable gudgeon, beginning to fill my net

Holding the float back as it approached the back of the bay, the tip submerged and I lifted to feel the weight of a good fish as it sped off downstream. I was instinctively backwinding, as the fish threw up bursts of bubbles and black mud on its way underneath a bush twenty five yards away. The rod was bent double. Any further and the fish would be in the waterside brambles. It turned and charged back, then rolled. It was golden, with large scales. A big crucian carp. Another run countered and it began kiting in the narrow river. My wife could only hear my commentary as to where the carp was, it being downstream and hidden from her. She got the net ready, then froze, when she saw it. “It’s too big for the net!” I took the net and guided the crucian in. It was very broad and deep. The hook sat just inside the cheek and came out with the disgorger. I weighed it at 3 lb 12 oz. Julie took a few pics, then carried it off upstream in the landing net to return it to deeper water.

This river is full of surprises, common carp, koi and mirrors and tench swimming among the silver fish, including good sized bream.

By now the river had cleared completely and a few roach were showing among the gudgeon.

I was in the just one more cast mode, when I cast too close to the bush and broke the float. That was it. My wife reminded me that, if we had packed up, when she asked, the float would still be intact. Unable to fish for so long, I had got greedy.

Despite the quiet period brought on by the pollution, it had been a busy session, without the appearance of that crucian carp.

Bread punch roach inspire speedy recovery at Jeanes Pond

June 29, 2022 at 9:35 pm

In my fifth week of recovery, from life changing complete knee replacement surgery, I was encouraged to  get more ambitious with my physio therapy, with some real life exercises. What better than a couple of hours gentle fishing for roach on my local pond? First, I needed agreement from my wife, after all, she would be loading the car with my gear, driving to the pond, then loading the fishing trolley and pulling it to my chosen swim, while I looked on with loving words of encouragement! Now partial weight bearing, I was able to walk with the aid of sticks, from the carpark, to the disabled swim 200 yards away on the flat surface. We made it!

Although tench and carp have been coming out of the pond this month, my ambition today was just to get some fish in the net and watch the float going under, while getting back in the groove, co-ordinating my movements. The pond was a thick green colour, with no surface movement from topping fish, while a powerful wind was blowing at an angle from right to left creating a surface drift on my side, left to right.

Plumbing the depth revealed a shallow shelf, dropping a foot more, four metres out and I set my 16 x 4 antenna float to fish just off the bottom, with a 6 mm punch on a size 16 barbless hook. Keeping things simple, I fed two small balls of white liquidised bread a metre apart at 4 metres and cast in. Nothing happened, the float just sat there. Several cast later the bread was still on the hook, untouched. This was soft fresh bread. I did not want to feed anymore. This was rubbish. Then the antenna, dipped and sank. A lift and a small roach came to hand.

At last, proof that something was feeding! Another cast, the float settled and sank slowly away.

A better roach again. It was like a door had opened and roach had swum through. The float was under again and the best roach yet was in the landing net.

My wife was on my left, busy filling in a crossword. It was easier for her to net the fish, as I guided them in. I would call out “Net”, she would look up, push the net forward and another roach was in the keepnet.

These were all reasonable roach and the net was filling, but a swirl behind the roach below, ended the catching spree. A pike was in the swim. Small fish scattered and the bites stopped.

I fed further out and put on two more lengths of pole. After a wait, the float was dipping again, when a small rudd took the bread.

This was the only rudd, but the roach were back again. The bites were unmissable. A few gentle dips of the antenna, before it steadily sank from view.

I had only been fishing for an hour, with over twenty roach in the net, not big, but respectable. The pressure on my leg was beginning to tell, while my seat cushion was feeling harder than I remembered it. I would give it another hour. I took a break, handing the pole to my wife, instructing her through a bite. She hooked into another roach and I did the honours with the landing net.

More nice roach

This was my last fish of the session, another quality roach.

This pond was full of big roach and rudd five years ago, where did they go? Maybe they are still there, but uncatchable, who knows? The bread punch had filled my net again, while giving me some much needed R&R and physio combined.

We were packed up by 4:30 and ready for a cup of tea at home. I’ll give fishing a try in a couple of weeks, but I couldn’t wait to get my feet up and take some painkillers after this short session.






Bread punch roach and dace River Blackwater bonanza

June 18, 2022 at 9:00 pm

At this time of year I put a visit to the River Blackwater into my diary, however, now in my fourth week of recovery from complicated knee replacement surgery, I am still only partial weight bearing on crutches and unable to do much more than a few laps of my garden, while a trip to the river bank is for now out of bounds.

The Blackwater runs south to north and being within 10 miles of my home at any point, I would fish it more, but generally parking is a problem, my van being too tall to get under the 2 metre barriers restricting access to most public carparks along the river. I had recently been told of a free stretch with no barriers, that ran behind an industrial estate and decided to check it out. With tackle in the van and bread from the freezer, it was worth a look, if not I could fall back on the a club stretch of Blackwater a few miles downstream.

Driving into the industrial estate, I could see immediately that parking would be a problem, designated company parking, causing the overflow of cars and vans to park up on kerbs and block entrances. I cruised the parked cars to the end, finding a space among those of a car company. Slotting in the van, I realised that I could not occupy the space for long, but while I was there, I could at least take a look at the river, which lay just through a screen of trees. The banks were overgrown, but the river was clear with little weed and I could see big chub swimming up and down, but with overhanging trees, fishing would be difficult.

Ready to drive off, I walked back to the van, only to be met by the site manager, who informed me that I was parked in a designated parking area. I apologised, saying that I just wanted to look at the river, regarding the fishing. At this his mood changed, telling me how good it was for fishing and being an angler himself, he would show me his favourite swims.

We walked up to a weir, where we could see a shoal of about a dozen bream of about 2 lb each, just sitting in the flow of the back eddy. Again it was overhung with trees, various floats tangled among the branches, evidence of attempted float fishing, it would be feeder fishing, or nothing here. We walked back to the carpark and he said “Why not have a dabble? If anybody complains about your van, say that Tony said that it was OK to park”. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I accepted his offer, loaded up my trolley and headed back to the weir.

Just upstream of the trees, close to the outfall, was a short strip of overgrown bank, that would allow me to cast a float, spending the next twenty minutes hacking away at the stinging nettles and dead giant hog weed, with a bank stick. There was just enough room for the tackle box, so set up my 14 foot Browning with a 6BB bodied stick float and was ready to fish.

I threw out a couple of balls of liquidised bread to my side of the flow, ready to use a 6mm bread punch on a size 14 barbless hook.

First cast in the float sailed away and a hard fighting roach swung to hand.

The swim was no more than two feet deep, and I bulked the shot round the base of the float, with two No 4 shot six inches apart up from the hook. This rig worked well with no tangling, the heavy float allowing me to hold back despite the ever increasing wind.

Every put in was followed by a take, the roach often hooking themselves each time I held back hard, although this sometimes meant a bounced fish. I was catching steadily, putting in another ball and watching the shoal of roach rip into it.

Who said that perch don’t take bread, this being one of two that I caught. Roach continued to line up for the bread, having found a sweet spot on the crease between the outfall and the eddy, an under hand cast laying the float behind the bait each time, the fish grabbing the bread as it fluttered down to the bottom.

All this changed in minutes, as the sound of the water rushing over the weir drowned out the roar of the wind gusting through the trees. Upstream extra water was being released into the river, forcing the back eddy to reverse its motion and strong enough to drag my keep net round. Where I had been holding the float back against the steady flow, it was now coming back toward me. The roach were still there taking the bread, but I now began to drop lightly hooked fish. Casting out into the strong flow, the bites had changed, lightning dips and bangs of the float indicating dace, knocking off the bait in seconds. Stopping the float put me in direct contact with the fast biting dace, rattling the rod top and briefly flashing over before throwing the hook.

Got one! More by luck than judgement, setting the hook, then releasing the line allowed the dace to run, before lifting into it again. This seemed a better tactic, but their tumbling fight in the more powerful stream, saw more dace throw the hook, than reached the net. Roach were still among the dace, the more positive bites, meaning fewer lost fish.

As quickly as the rush of water had begun, it slowed again and the catching spree continued along the crease, another ball of bread concentrating the roach in a tight area. I was aware of Tony standing to one side watching me swing in fish after fish. When I asked how long he had stood there, he said “Six fish” then looking at his watch “Four minutes”. I had hoped to find one or two of the bream among the roach, but had probably struck too soon on the slower biting slabs.

Tony had never seen the bread punch in action and could not believe that it was so effective on “his” river. I said that I would be packing up at 5 pm, having fished for five hours by then and he said that he would come back for the weigh in.

The larger roach had now pushed their way to the front and going up to a 7mm punch seemed to increase the number of netters.

What a clonker! The big roach just kept coming, despite the wind that was now blowing leaves and twigs into the river and making an underhand cast impossible, a powerful overhead cast the only way to get the float out to the crease.

Like a tap being turned on, the weir began to roar again, transforming the the eddy into a whirlpool, the dace sweeping over to my side, some good ones among them.

Control of the float became difficult with the wind billowing the line back toward me, while the float was swept away in the flow. It was time to put the rod down, get out the cheese and pickle sandwiches, followed by a cup of tea. There was an area close to my bank, that looked static and I dropped the float in, but this was full of tiny chublets and gudgeon, taking several of each, before giving up to brave the elements again.

The quality roach were still there and the landing net was coming out for every other fish.

The weir shut down again and I put in another ball of liquidised bread, just to keep the roach in place, each cast bringing another.

At 5 pm the roach were still feeding, but I could hear the traffic building up on the main road behind me and I had promised to be home by six, so the rod was brought in and I took stock of the session.

The bait tray told the story of a busy afternoon, having fed a third of a loaf of liquidised bread.

As promised, Tony arrived to help me weigh in the net, I guessed it at 12 lb, while he suggested 15 lb. Lifting up the scales was an effort and the 14 lb scales bounced, then settled back to 13 lb 8 oz. I am sure that if I had set up my much softer Hardy 12 footer, I would have landed more fish, but would it have coped with the stormy winds as well? Ah well, who cares? I had had another great session on the bread punch, shame about the car parking.

Rudd and carp bread punch workout after the showers at Allsmoor.

May 21, 2022 at 11:22 am

With knee replacement surgery booked for early next week, I was keen to get some fish in the net, before my forced retirement from fishing, while I recuperate. This spring has seen most still waters in the area not fishing, due to sudden warm weather throwing the spawning switch on fish stocks and I was taking a chance with my local pond. Heavy morning rain had helped me clear the decks in preparation for my incapacity, but a burst of bright sunshine got me thinking of just one more fishing session and my wife kindly drove me the short distance to Allsmoor Pond.

As I walked along the pond, I could see carp paired up, breaking the surface among the reeds, preoccupied with spawning and wondered what would be feeding today. Setting up my pole, fish were also rolling among the roots of the bushes either side of me, while fresh growth from the bushes and the tree above, had turned this swim into a parrot cage, leaving little room for the keepnet and landing net.

Getting comfortable, with everything to hand from the tackle box, I damped down liquidised bread, ground pellets, ground hemp and strawberry essence, squeezing up four balls to put in six metres out. Predictably, the float antenna lifted and sank within seconds of casting into the baited area, as a decent rudd took the 6 mm punch of bread.

This was a good start, a quality rudd from the off. Back in, the float lifted, then sank away and the elastic came out as a carp made a run for the lily pads opposite. The elastic was doing its job and the carp turned away in an arc to swim towards my bushes. I put on another length of pole to pull it away from my bank, back to the middle, where it broached on the surface. It was a ghost carp. The elastic was pulling back inside the pole and I readied the landing net, breaking the pole down to the top three sections to slide it into the net.

I knew this fish. I have watched it grow. This is the third time that I have landed this bespectacled carp, it is rapidly putting on weight. Next time it could be trouble.

Suddenly the black clouds had given way to sunshine and I was now overdressed, having expected more rain as forecast, the May sun was now at full blast in the blue sky. There was no time to strip off. I would just have to sweat, as the rudd were coming thick and fast. Pulling the pole back and lifting it high behind me through the trees to avoid the bank.

A small common managed to get in amongst the rudd, pulling out elastic before being swung to hand.

Look at these beautiful rudd. I just hope that they keep growing. A pound fish is on the cards.

A fishing friend, Geoff, was walking his dog round the pond and stopped for a chat and to watch the rudd being hooked in rapid succession, when the elastic was out again with a good fish. From his standing position, he could see this fish. “It’s a big crucian carp!” he exclaimed, but it was not fighting like a crucian as it made a B-line for the lilies. The pole was bending and the elastic stretching, all a novelty for Geoff, who usually fishes for carp with bolt rigs and electronic buzzers on the line. The size 14 hook kept its grip and the net was waiting after a late lunge for the roots, the deep sided common carp, not has big as it’s fight suggested.

The carp had finally moved in over the feed, the next fish being this baby common. The clouds were also back again and the wind got up, blowing a shower across the pond, but I was in catching mode with a shoal of these miniature scrappers taking the bread on the drop, to be returned immediately.

The next carp was very big, but just sat there bemused, swimming slowly around with it’s black back out of the water. I followed it with the pole, waiting for it to wake up, which it did, bursting into life, stirring up the black mud, the elastic cutting a V through the surface over to the opposite bank, before the hook came out, catapulting the elastic and float back at lightning speed, tangling the line round the float. The tangle was a mess. I cut off the hook link and pulled the tangle tight round the float. A new hook link got me fishing again with no depth adjustment.

The rudd did not mind the shallow bait, this another beauty.

Another rudd complete with tangled float.

More feed had brought the small commons back, but the rain was falling harder and it was time for one last cast and this mirror carp was the result.

The scale pattern on this mirror is impressive, although it looks like the resident heron has left a stab mark on it’s flank.

Three hours and half a slice of bread had filled my net again, and can only hope for a speedy recovery from my knee surgery for me to start fishing again.

Over 12 lb of rudd and carp on the bread punch. Where were the crucian carp today?

Bread punch shines among the mirror carp at Kings Pond

May 8, 2022 at 11:12 am

After battling strong winds on my first couple of visits to Farnham’s Kings Pond this year, it was third time lucky, when I arrived to find flat calm conditions and sunshine.

On my previous sessions, I had been forced to use a heavy float nailed to the bottom, with the float tip appearing and disappearing among the troughs between the waves. That first session was wet, but I had seen a four and a half pound tench, a two and a half pound mirror carp and a skimmer bream with several roach, during a frustrating time missing bites and losing fish, due to bad bite indication from fussy fish. The next outing was even more misery on a very cold April day, just seven roach seeing me pack up early to retreat back to the van.

With a bed of lilies along the shallow opposite bank, I started off by setting up my 14 foot float rod to fish an antenna waggler over to the far side. Adding water to a tray of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets, ground hemp and strawberry additive, squeezing up a couple of egg sized balls and lobbing them over, also dropping another couple four metres out on my side, where the pond drops off to four feet deep.

Casting over with the waggler, the float settled for a minute, then slowly tracked off to the left. With only a single No 8 shot down the line, a foot from the hook, I guessed that it was probably a small roach and struck, the bend in my rod saying different. The fish stayed deep, until close to my bank and saw that it was a small mirror carp.

A little powerhouse.

Pinching another 6 mm punch of bread onto the size 14 barbless, the waggler was soon back over to the lilies, sinking out of sight as it settled. Bang! An even better fish was pulling hard back to the lilies, a definite carp run requiring a backwind of my ABU501. This was not a big fish and it turned and broached on the surface, eventually giving up and skimming into the landing net.

Another mirror carp.

I could get used to this I thought, the groundbait had drawn them in and a bite developed immediately. My float was at least a foot over depth with the bread taken on the drop. The next fish was not a carp, the rod tip was bouncing on the retrieve and the sight of bright red fins confirmed a decent rudd.

Every cast over resulted in a fish, although small roach and rudd were taking over, while some carp were still getting to the bait first.

I decided to set up the pole to try the inside drop off, bringing the waggler over resulting in an instant bite as a mirror took the punch. At first I tried to fish the rod and line, while I set up the pole, but fish kept coming causing confusion and tangles, so had to bring the rod in to concentrate on the job in hand.

For the pole, I selected a 4 x 16 top and bottom antenna float, with the weight bulked 18 inches from the hook and a No 8 at the hook link, the hook being a size 14 barbless crystal. I dropped in a small ball of feed, followed by the float. It sank and the elastic was out with a small mirror diving away, then  watched the fish spiralling up to the surface, the scales shining in the sunlight.

Being greedy, I tried to fish the waggler back over and the pole inside, but found myself playing two fish at once, putting my foot on the pole, reeling back the waggler carp, which I netted, then netting the pole carp. That was a first for me, two fish in the net at once.

At least these two at once were manageable on the rod and pole, I would have been in trouble, if they had been much bigger. I put the rod to one side to concentrate on the pole after this.

Another small ball of feed five metres out, followed by the pole float, saw the antenna slide away and the No 6 elastic was out again. My keepnet was beginning to fill.

This was entertaining fishing, unhook a carp, punch out a pellet of bread, pass onto hook, feed the pole out over the feed, wait a minute for the float to sink, lift into another carp, let the elastic work, break down to top two and net. Repeat.

Every half dozen fish, I dropped in a small ball of groundbait to keep the fish competing for food, the 6 mm piece of bread on the hook, the only food item on offer.

There were a few surprises, this golden rudd being one of them, the float lifting flat, when it took on the drop.

Below is a now rare crucian carp for this pond. They were stocked in large numbers some years ago, my best being over 2 lb, but during the Lockdown period they seemed to disappear, possibly down the gullets of the many cormorants that visit every day. The Farnham club decided to drain down and net the pond this winter, finding very few crucians left, of the thousands stocked over the years. With this in mind, the club stocked heavily with the fast growing mirror carp. It is a pity, as I prefer the thumping fight of a crucian, to the constant running of the mirrors, but these will soon be too big to swallow.

I’m not complaining, I like catching any fish that puts up a decent fight and the mirrors were very obliging. My efforts were attracting the attention of other anglers fishing maggots, pellets, or sweet corn, my catch rate far exceeding theirs. The angler to my left came and sat with me for ten minutes, he had bread punches, but had been lured away by the promise of more fish on pellets. I gave him a fresh piece of punch bread to fish over the top of his pellets and he began to catch a few more, including a small tench. I gave him a thumbs up, but was jealous of the 8 oz fish, as I was hoping for a tench, or two myself.

The soft bread is easier for fish to suck in, while even “soft” pellets are quite hard, also on the punch, the feed gives a taste of food to come, while feeding pellets can easily feed off your shoal.

Theory over. I mixed up more feed and kept netting fish, including rudd and small commons, but they were crowded out by the mirrors.

The main problem today was keeping the punch bread fresh, the small quarter slices drying out quickly in the bright sunshine. Fortunately I had a good supply in a plastic wallet away from the heat in my bait bag.

With the bait tray empty again, it was time to pack up in time to beat the rush hour traffic home. Pulling the keepnet out was a struggle, emptying it into my landing net for a photo and weighing. I could see that my usual 13 lb scales would not be suitable and reached in for the 50 lb set, seeing the pointer indicate over 18 lbs. Not bad for under four hour’s hard work.


Bread punch strikes crucian gold at Allsmoor.

April 27, 2022 at 1:41 pm

After a couple of disappointing visits to another local pond recently, I decided that it was time for some bag up therapy at my very local Allsmoor Pond, a short walk from my home. There was a cold wind from the east, but the sun was shining and I settled down in the shade of a tree.

I mixed up a tray of coarse liquidised bread and ground carp pellets, sprinkled with strawberry essence, damped it down and squeezed up some loose balls to break up on impact in the two foot deep swim, putting in four balls before tackling up my pole. The swim was a bit of a parrot cage, with the tree overhead and another growing out to my left. Casting my small 2 BB waggler required feeding the pole out, then giving it an under hand flick to put the float to the left of the lily bed to my right. By 2 pm I was ready and bubbles were popping up on the surface.

The float did not dive away as expected from a small rudd, but instead gave the characteristic dips and dithers of a crucian carp. The float slowly moved away and under. I lifted into the frantic fight of a small crucian, that dived for the cover of the lilies, pulling out the elastic, while counteracted with the pole, dragging it back out. A rapid pull back with the pole to the top two sections, saw the crucian skim back to the landing net.

A crucian first cast. I usually have to fish my way through a raft of rudd before the crucians move in.

Next cast, another crucian.

The following cast saw the elastic out with a small common carp burying itself among the lillies.  An attempt to pull it free failed, so the slack line trick was tried. It worked as the fish swam free, but only for a few feet, when the carp dug deep again. Slack line and watch the float. It moved again and I put on side strain and it came out. It was not a big carp, thank goodness.

I cast further over to the left and the float was away again with the fish fighting hard, left to right, pulling it away from the lilies this time.

This pond is full of surprises, a fantail crucian hybrid having taken the 7 mm punch of bread on a size 14 hook. Next cast, a crucian had successfully taken the bread.

A burst of bubbles next to my float forewarned of something bigger and seconds later the float lifted, then slid away and I watched the elastic stretching out toward a post standing up over to my left. This was a good carp, that stirred up the mud as it powered away, then rolling on the surface, when the elastic slowed it’s progress. It turned back toward the lilies, pushing through and I put on side strain. The hook came out and the rig shot across into the tree to my left. Even the elastic was wrapped around a branch. I tried to pull it free, the elastic stretching beyond it’s maximum breaking strain and snapped at the weakest point at the Stonfo connector knot, leaving me holding some loose elastic.

This could have been the end of my session. I had lost my float that has done good service on this pond for the last twelve years on this pond and without another large elastic to line connector, I was stumped, but with a possible exceptional fishing session to follow, I tied a loop in the elastic as get out jail measure.

Attaching a double looped 6 lb shock leader onto a waggler float rig, that I had only made up the week before, got me fishing again. I must have had a premonition, that I would lose my old favourite float, and made up a replacement. HaHa!

Another couple of balls of feed to the left of the lilies and the new float was in action, sinking away.

Another hard fighting common was soon under control, the reduced length of elastic exerting more pressure and it was soon in the net.

Some of these crucians are hybrids with common carp, getting the best of both worlds, a hard stand and fight without the long runs of a common.

It was now a crucian a chuck. I reckoned that they preferred the shade on such a bright day and my ground bait had concentrated them over the feed. Here are just a selection.

A small common broke the procession of crucians, that were filling the net.

Another surprise, a baby common carp.

More crucians.

More variety. A nice rudd.

Another fantail.

A common.

Then the rudd moved in.

A third fantail.

Then the crucians were back.

I could have kept on, but my three hours were up. It had been much colder than I had anticipated and despite my wife walking down to the pond with a sweater earlier, I was freezing. It had been a good session on the bread punch, marred by the loss of my favourite float, the old one was gone, long live the  new one.

A fantastic net of fish from a free council owned unstocked water surrounded by housing estates, where the scales just failed to hit the 10 lb mark.