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Stick float chub bonus on the bread punch at the River Blackwater

January 20, 2022 at 1:42 pm

I chose the one day without frost for a revisit to a swim on the River Blackwater this week, but had to contend with heavy drizzle instead, which was dripping like rain from the tree above for the first hour. Not to worry, I tackled up with the same rod and rig, that I had used before Christmas, to net some quality roach and perch, hoping to improve on that result.

Fishing the bread punch on a 5 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to a size 16 barbless, I fed a single ball of liquidised bread, with ground carp pellets, heavily laced with ground hemp, over to the ivy covered steel shuttering along the far bank. Trotting close to the shuttering, the first cast saw the float slide away down stream as a small chub made off with the bread.

The next cast, the float travelled further before burying, when a slightly bigger roach took.

A couple of small roach later, my 14 foot Browning bent over as a 6 oz chub steamed off down stream and the landing net was out for the first time.

Another ball of feed over brought more small roach, then a rapid missed bite. Then another, the bread gone each time. Dace? My answer for these was going down from a 6 to a 5mm punch, a tighter line, with a stop and let run control of the float. Usually the float holds under just as it runs again. An instant strike and I was into a tumbling dace, followed by another to prove the technique.

It was now apparent that this was going to be a different session than my last visit. Then it had been large roach, but today it was mostly small stuff, some so small that they came off on the retrieve, not hooked, but holding onto the bread. There was no mistaking the the next fish, the float going down and staying there, while the rod reacted to the steady thump of a very decent fish, that turned and disappeared off downstream at a rate of knots, only checked by the release of line under my finger on the Abu 501 spool. Once it had slowed, I clicked in the line pickup and played it on the reel, backwinding as it made lunges downstream again.

I had not seen the fish, until it was close and the big white mouth of a chub broke the surface, allowing me to guide it toward the landing net. A fat fish, I guessed it to be at least two pounds and it had certainly given me a wake up call.

The river level was dropping all the time, it was three feet deep out in front of me when I started, but a tide mark on the shuttering showed that the level had dropped by six inches and I was constantly adjusting the depth. Further down was a sand bar, where the float needed to be lifted over to avoid snagging. I assumed that the bread feed had accumulated there, as better sized roach were taking with confidence, breaking the surface each time I struck.

At this point the river was now less than two feet deep, but the roach were not put off in the clear water. The hot spot was a twenty five yard trot, I could have moved closer, but decided on the side of caution, not wanting to scare off the shoal.

The conditions now were ideal for the stick float, the wind had picked up, blowing from the north, cold but upstream. The bites were predictable, some lifts of the float, others slight hold downs. I struck everything, these usually small roach, dace, or chub, straight down was always a better fish.

One of those straight down bites was a much better fish, that ran another ten yards down stream. I thought that I had at last hooked one of the big roach, but no, it was a nice chub of about a pound.

I had mixed up some more feed earlier and was putting over a small ball every other cast in an effort to feed off the small stuff. It hadn’t worked, as I was still swinging them in, but the size had improved with odd good’un.

That north wind was now getting into my bones and I set my pack up time to 3 pm. All my tea had been drunk and I was in that just one more decent fish mode.

It was beyond 3 pm, when I finally called it a day, the failing light affecting the picture of a hard fighting chub that took among the roach. Once in the landing net, I said “that’ll do, time to go home”.

It had been an interesting few hours, constantly chasing the fish, inducing bites, changing depths and shotting patterns. These shallow rivers can give great sport on the stick float, it requires constant work, but the rewards can be satisfying.

Bread punch beats the frost with roach, rudd, crucians and carp at Allsmoor

January 13, 2022 at 7:53 pm

Freezing overnight fog had effectively welded the locks and doors of my van shut, when I went to get my fishing tackle out for the walk to my local pond this week. A quick nip into the kitchen to boil a kettle soon put things right, once the hot water had a chance to work its magic on the frozen metalwork. The grass was still white, but the low winter sun was soon burning off the last of the fog, as I walked toward the pond pulling my trolley. A well wrapped up walker commented that I was brave going fishing in this weather. As we passed I replied “Demented more like!” Family commitments over the Christmas and New Year period had kept me away from the bank for three weeks, while foul weather had also played its part. Today was forecast as dry, but very cold and I chose a swim that offered all day sunshine. At midday the frost was still on the grass.

Setting up a small waggler rig and my pole at 8 metres, I mixed up a shallow tray of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, with a liberal dusting of strawberry essence, intending to feed lightly with just two egg sized balls of ground bait. Strawberry flavouring has worked well for me on still waters this year and I was confident that it would work without needing to overfeed the shallow swim.

The norm here is to catch rudd from the off, but today I waited fifteen minutes before the yellow tipped float stirred and gently bobbed. A dog walker was passing the time of day, when I exclaimed “Look a bite!” The float edged under and I lifted into a gudgeon. I rebaited the size 14 hook with a 6 mm pellet of bread and cast over the feed again. Only a five minute wait later, the float gave a couple of bobs, then sank from sight and I lifted into a fish that ran to the left at speed, pulling out a foot of elastic. In this swim there is a high bank behind and I had to lift the pole high into the bushes to pull it back, before I could unship the top two sections. I was surprised to see a silver flash and not the gold of a crucian and even more surprised to see that this was a good roach.

I have not caught a roach in this pond for years, let alone a decent sized one, but I was not complaining. It had fought better than an equally size rudd, keeping deep and tumbling like a crucian. Next cast, the float settled and sank and I struck into another hard fighting roach.

What do they say about buses? You wait for ages, then two come along. This roach was even bigger. I cast back in and the float went down a again, another roach? No, a small rudd got there first.

The rudd had moved in with avengence, taking the bait on the drop. I had not put any more feed in, but they had certainly woken up. No complaints again, as some were a decent size and kept me warm and busy, constantly passing the pole up behind me to reach the fish.

The gudgeon get bigger every season, but are still a nuisance, giving a very crucian like bite and disappointment every time you hook one.

Another good roach managed to find my bait, fighting all the way to the net and I wondered how many more might be down there?

A few more rudd, then the elastic was out as a crucian carp exploded into life, the solid bundle of energy, diving and weaving its way to the landing net.

These crucians were one a chuck, when I first fished here a dozen years ago, but now they are few and far between. A lift and a steady slide away had me poised for another rudd, not the sudden rush of a carp, that ran out toward the far side stretching elastic behind it. Pulling against the strain, it curved round in an arc, breaking the surface and rolling, before coming back toward me. More rapid feeding back of the pole followed, until I had the top two metres of pole to hand. It dived beneath the bushes to my left and when I failed to pull it away, giving a slack line persuaded it to swim out again. Soon it was on the top and in the landing net.

I had been putting in the occasional ball of feed, but now I scraped up the last from the tray, throwing four balls in a line nine metres out, then sat back and had a cup tea with a sandwich. Where there is one carp, there are usually more. Casting back over the feed, the float sank away on the drop. Bang! I was straight into another carp. Good job that I had had that fortifying break, as once again I followed a carp, while it ran around in circles in the shallow pond, the leverage at my end of the pole being intense as it made run after run against the elastic.

We wore each other down, but in the end it was me with the landing net, that succeeded and it was time for another cuppa followed by a sandwich. The light was now fading as the sun tracked behind the leafless trees, while the temperature had noticeably dropped and I decided to pack up after another 15 minutes. A colourful crucian carp helped change my mind, when after a brief battle, I netted this chunky fish.

These crucians tend to swim around in tight shoals and another tentative bite saw me waiting for a more positive movement of the float, as often they will sit sucking the bread, until it is gone. Tap, tap, tap. I lost patience and lifted. The elastic came out and the pole bent over. Not a crucian, but another carp zoomed off kicking up a trail of black mud, while I followed it with the pole, as it ran from left to right, then back again. When near the net, I could see that it was a distinctive ghost carp with spectacle markings round its eyes, one that I had caught a few years ago as a half pounder.

Back out again there was another tapping bite, which stopped. Convinced that the bread had been sucked off the hook, I lifted to have the elastic come out as small crucian was still holding on.

These were like peas in a pod. Each time the bait went in, they would latch onto it, usually with an initial rapid bobbing of the float, then nothing, or the merest movement. I bumped a few. A smaller hook and bait may have worked, but with carp about, I was not prepared to take the risk.

I was still getting the occasional rudd, the one below having a badly damaged top lip. Why do people still use barbed hooks?

I ended up with five of the ornamental crucians, this one being my last fish of the afternoon.

The bread punch had proved itself as a cheap and effective bait, accounting for about fifty fish during a very cold session.

This small stream fed pond in a very urban environment, is always full of surprises, today it was the trio of big roach topped off by a few bonus carp.




Mr Crabtree tactics net quality roach, chub and perch from the Blackwater

December 18, 2021 at 9:51 pm

I did not argue when my wife suggested that I go fishing for the afternoon, while she wrapped Christmas presents. It was short notice, but I always have plenty of liquidised bread in the freezer and frozen slices for bait, while a walk down the garden to the compost heap produced plenty of small red worms from under the old piece of carpet laid on top. Where to go? I had been promising myself a visit to the River Blackwater, but the bush telegraph had been saying that it was not fishing well, however this would also mean that popular swims might be empty, so with the van loaded, I set off after lunch on the ten mile drive.

This was one of the first swims that I had fished, when Farnborough and District AS took over the lease. On that day I had a net of big dace, roach, plus a couple of chub on the bread punch, but ever since it had been occupied by another club member, whenever I visited. Today I seemed to be the only angler on the river and set out my stall to trot a 4 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float along the ivy covered shuttering lining the opposite bank, where a tight left hand bend directs the flow.

Mixing up a tray of ground bait, liquidised bread, ground pellets and ground hemp, I added enough water to squeeze up some stiff balls of feed, throwing one hard over to the shuttering, watching it swirl round and sink in the current, the crystal clear water allowing me to follow its progress to the bottom.

When I had fished before, most of my bites had come beneath the protruding branch, where the faster water curves away towards my bank on the right hand bend. Casting to one side and upstream, the flow off the bend behind me carried the float tight to the shuttering and I checked the over depth float to keep the 6 mm pellet of bread clear of the bottom. As it approached the protruding branch, the float dived and my 14 foot Browning bent with the weight of a decent fish, that disappeared downstream at a rate of knots, easing the load by lifting my finger from the ABU501 spool, then clicking over the bale arm to backwind direct to the fish. Steadily reeling back on the fish, a long flash of silver beneath the surface said chub and after a late run along the opposite bank, it’s white mouth was open on the surface as it slid into the landing net.

The hook was just holding on, being on the outside of the chub’s mouth. I was lucky to land this one. I threw over another ball and followed it down with the float. The flow was quicker than expected and was tempted to swap to a 6 No 4 float to keep the bait closer to the bottom, but the attraction of the stick float is that you can fish well over depth with a long hook link and light shot down the line, fluttering the punch over the ground bait. The float stabbed down and I felt a fish. Damn! Then again with the bait gone. I reckoned dace were snatching at the bait. Too much feed.

Each time the float reached the branch, the float dipped, then popped up, then dipped again. No bait again. On the next trot I decided to hold back hard at the next dip. The float dipped, I stopped the float with my finger and it disappeared, pulling out line. Bang I was in! Definitely not a dace as the rod was pulled down to the water, lifting my finger to feed out line, while I raised the rod and back wound the reel. An even better fish ran off, then fought with a slow kick, thump, thump. A bream, or a big roach? Then I saw the silver flash of a pound plus roach, bucking and sliding towards the shallows on my side, there was a branch protruding from the water and I steered it away, getting my net ready as it turned on its side. A last roll before the net and the hook pulled free. It hung in the water for a second, then was gone in the flick of a tail. No matter how many fish we catch, it does not get any easier to lose a decent fish. This would have been my best roach for years. Blow it!!

I put in another ball of feed, then got out the flask and sandwiches. The wind had begun to blow hard downstream and oak leaves were falling like confetti, making it difficult to hold back the float, the leaves following the flow along the shuttering. Finding a gap was difficult, the float collecting leaves, when I held back. The float reached the branch, I held back, then released, the float was gone again. This was another decent fish, dace, or roach it tumbled out of sight as I reeled it back, zig-zagging to the surface, a plump roach.

Again lightly hooked, I was pleased to net this fish. There are some quality roach in the Blackwater and this was one of them. My next trot the float went down and yes, I was in again. The rod went over, then stayed there. A snag. It began to move. I’d hooked a long length of heavy line attached to a branch, which I pulled in. Unravelling the tangle was a latex lure hooked into the branch. I wound up the tangle of line to take home, while the lure will be added to my lure box.

Another trot among the leaves, the float dipped, I held back, but it popped back up, I twitched the float back and it sank hooking the fish. The initial rattling fight made me think that I had finally hooked one of the bait stealing dace, but a row of black bars on a green flank proved that it was a perch. I know perch aren’t supposed to eat bread, but this was far from the first that I have caught on the punch. I’m sure that they think that the fluttering bread is alive and take it, or a small fish is nibbling at the bread, either way I don’t mind, it’s a fish.

My next fish was another good roach, bigger than the last and I took my time bringing it in.

Wow! The roach were getting bigger. This fatty falling for the hold back, release and hold trick, burying the float, then running off like a chub.

At last a dace, this one sinking the float half way down the trot and staying on to the net.

Look at the hook in this perch, outside the lower lip, how it stayed on I don’t know, but it did. Yet another bread punch carnivore. Time to get the worms out. Two perch on the bread must mean that there is a shoal down there.

I often take worms with me, just in case, but rarely use them, there is something about going back to the days of being a child, fishing with my Dad, when the only bait we used was bread and worms and I wished that all fishing was as straight forward as in Bernard Venables classic fishing book, Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing. “Put on a worm Peter and you will catch a perch.”

I put on a worm and trotted it down, the float dipped a few times, then went under, just as Mr Crabtree said it would to his nephew Peter. I left it, then struck back in a sweep. Missed it. Half the worm was gone. Leaving the worm on, the float went beyond the branch and dipped. I pulled back and the float submerged and stayed down. This time there was a fish but a small one, a perch as expected. I cut a worm tail off and tried again. More dips and a twitch were followed by a run to the right, this time more resistance as a better fish fought all the way back from thirty yards.

Another small perch, convinced me to switch back to the bread punch, the next trot being text book, the float following a ball of feed down to the branch, where I held the float back hard, then let it go, the float sinking followed by the line. The strike was automatic and I was playing my fourth quality roach of the afternoon.

My bait tray was almost empty and I scraped up another nugget of feed to throw over to the shuttering, then followed it with the float, which reached the sweet spot and half submerged as I instinctively struck. It was another roach, the smallest yet, but a good size by my usual standards.

I still had half a worm left and double hooked it on the size 14 hook, trotting it down beyond the branch, as it carried out to the middle of the river. The light had faded now and I had trouble seeing the float, pulling it back at intervals to see the ripples. The float was out of sight, had it gone under? I pulled back and a fish surged away taking line as I backwound furiously. This was a good fish, I had no idea where it was and retrieved when it let me, eventually seeing the float tracking along the opposite bank, then the barred flank of a decent perch cruising beneath the surface. It turned and dived, returning to the surface to shake it’s head. Don’t lose it now. The net was under it and I relaxed. Phew!

The light was going. My eyes could adjust, but my camera could not, washing out the colours. Time for one last cast and it had to be on the punch. The leaves had all drifted off downstream once the wind subsided, leaving time for an untroubled trot, the flow had decreased all afternoon as the level dropped by three inches, allowing more control of the float. When it reached the sweet spot under the branch, I slowed the float and it dutifully sank, connecting with the last fish, a clonking great roach, which did not come quietly, giving me a scare, when it hugged the shallows below me, pushing through dead leaves, but being guided into the landing net without any fuss.

A superb fin perfect roach was the ultimate end to a too short afternoon. The fish were there, I just had to figure out how to catch them. Once again the punch had worked well, while the worms had added bonus fish.

The result of a cold, dull, afternoon in December, when I spent more time playing fish than fishing for them.


Environment Agency restock the polluted River Cut

December 16, 2021 at 1:48 pm

Following recent pollution events on the River Cut, the Environment Agency were welcomed by members of the local Braybrooke Nature and Fishing Club, when a mixture of dace, roach and chub were introduced to the small Berkshire river to top up previous stocking visits.

Watched by an interested dog, Nick, from the Environment Agency’s Calverton Fish Farm in Nottinghamshire, made his first delivery of the day with 600 fish stocked into the Bracknell river.

One of the club members asked me if the club had paid for the fish, but I reminded him that Fishing License revenue is ploughed back into benefits for all anglers, including upkeep of the fish farm and the supply free fish to clubs. Laurence Hook the Environment Agency coordinator for the day, has history on the Cut, having helped to install flow improvement berms a few winters ago, standing up to his waist in freezing water.

Job done, Nick and Laurence were off to their next delivery, this time to the Abbey River at Chertsey, a small backwater of the Thames belonging to Runnymede AA. Final visit of the day was back to Berkshire and the village of Eton Wick, where the Thames Valley AA control the Roundmoor Ditch, which flows into the Thames a mile away.

Sad to say, moments after the Environment Agency had driven off from the River Cut, polluted water could be seen flowing from one of the outflow culverts, that pass beneath the Bracknell town, going over the weir into the clean natural river.

These pollution spills are a regular occurrence on this small river, the result of unthinking people tipping unwanted liquids down the drains. Out of sight out of mind. Most of the time that is where it ends, being dissolved in the river, but sometimes fish and other wildlife are the innocent victims, causing death.


Winter chub and roach queue up for the bread punch at the weir

December 11, 2021 at 12:46 pm

With my wife ready to take a drive into town for some Christmas shopping, I loaded up the van for a fishing session on my local river Cut, hoping to fish the outfall weir of the town water treatment works. Handing me a flask of tea and freshly made sandwiches, my wife waited to see me off, when I climbed into the van, only to watch me get back out again. The starter motor was jammed and would not turn the engine over! I had only started the engine the day before as a precaution due to the freezing temperatures and lack of use. It had fired up immediately then. I checked the battery. A full charge.

Today was chosen by both of us, as it was the only calm, mild day between those of bitter winds and rain. “You take the car, I’ll have to go another day,” my wife offered. Knowing that the following week would see far more shoppers in the Town Centre, I said that she should go now. On her refusal, I agreed to fish, but to pack up by 2 pm, to return home in time to take her direct to the Centre, then pick her up, when she was ready.

Switching the tackle to the car took precious time and the look on my wife’s face as I drove off, said that she did not believe that I would be home in time. The parking space and the weir swim were empty and I set about tackling up my 14 foot Browning with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to a size 14 barbless hook.

The river was murky with silt from recent flooding, while the outfall had blackened pollution booms across it. Not a good sign. Water treatment works have had bad publicity recently, regarding the release of untreated sewage into rivers in times of flooding. This sight seemed to confirm that a similar event had occurred here.

I mixed up a tray of groundbait feed, half a loaf of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, damping it down to form firm balls, that would sink quickly, then spread along the bottom.

Undeterred by the possibility of pollution affecting the fishing, I put in two decent sized balls along the middle of the swim, followed by the float baited with a 6 mm punch of bread. Easing the float down toward the foaming overflow did not attract any bites and after half a dozen trots I added another 6 inches to the depth to hold the float back hard to bounce the bread across the bottom. As the float approached the foam, the float slid under and out of sight, a firm strike setting the hook into a fish that swam hard into the fast water. Due to the mucky water, the fish was unseen, rushing about, only confirming my guess, when the white mouth of a 4 oz chub surfaced before the net.

The hook fell out in the landing net and I was glad that I had not tried to swing it in from the high bank. It felt ice cold to the touch. I put in a small ball of feed and laid the float over it, watching the feed drift past the float, which slowly sank under my rod top. A steady lift put a bend in the rod, as a larger chub burst into life and rushed off downstream, while I lifted my finger to allow line to pull from the ABU 501 spool. Another hectic fight followed, before I was reaching out with the 3 metre landing net.

A more subtle bite indicated a roach, which fought in the characteristic bounce and glide style, the net coming out again for a slightly tatty fish.

The next roach was more pristine, as was the following fish, the float dipping and holding, only submerging when I stopped its progress.

I now struck into a much bigger fish, which fought hard under my rod tip, going beneath the keep net, the bouncing fight saying roach, but then the rapid run to the fast water said chub, as I gave line, the rod bucking when it rolled in the foam, then came off. Whatever it was, it seemed to have taken its friends with it and I was without a bite for 15 minutes. I put in another two balls of feed, then fed myself with a cheese and piccalilli sandwich, washed down with hot tea. Lunch over, I got back to fishing.

I had noticed that the outfall had increased its flow, causing an eddy to form on the opposite side of my swim, backing up the river. I put more balls over, making an underhand cast to the feed, watching the float drag round then under, when a chub took the offering.

Once more the hook fell out in the net, being surprised that the chub stayed on after a manic fight.

These roach were right on the crease of the eddy and the foam, the bites indicated by slight holds before they disappeared into the foam. As can be seen in these images, the hooks were just in the top lip.

I had begun putting in a ball a cast, which brought a succession of hard fighting chub, every one rushing round the shallow swim, before suddenly giving up to slide into the net.

The chub were within a small area, where the balls were going in, their mouths spewing  groundbait.

Maybe the chub were becoming cautious, or had been caught, but roach were beginning to show,

With an hour to go before my 2 pm deadline, the roach switched on again, having moved up into the eddy following the regular balls of feed.

These roach were all clonkers and I was aware that I had made a promise to my wife Julie, that I had to keep this time. The roach were lined up and in a feeding frenzy. They were getting bigger with each cast.

Just one more cast and I hooked another beauty that ran off down the outfall, while I backwound the reel to ease the pressure on the hook. Bringing it back out of the foam, another run and it was gone. I looked at my watch. It was bang on 2 pm. It would only take seconds to punch out another pellet of bread. I was like a drug addict offered another fix, but no I had to stop. There was at least another hour of light left and would have easily put a double figure net of fish on the scales. I picked up the punch and returned it to the punch wallet. There, that’s it. I’d packed up.

Proof of at least fifty fish in just over three hours, when I’d caught some of those shy biting roach on the same piece of punched bread. My back was aching from leaning out from the high bank to net most of these fish, but it was a well earned ache.

Closer to nine pounds, than eight, this had been a busy few hours, when the eddy had changed course, but had managed to remain in contact with the fish.

Arriving home before 3 pm, there was a look of disbelief on Julie’s face, when I walked though the door, but in the time it took to unload the car and hang up my nets, she was ready to shop. Later it was all smiles, when I picked her up ladened with Christmas Goodies. She had not expected me to be home. Why would I change the habit of a life time?

Pike Lure Fishing brought up to date

November 30, 2021 at 8:00 pm

With frosts and snow returning to the UK weather forecasts, bait fishermen are putting their rods to one side, until the warmer weather come around again, while many anglers will be looking to their predator fishing gear to continue fishing. In 2014 I wrote a blog following a pike fishing session with a specialist, who is adept at all forms of lure fishing, from the tiniest drop shot jigs, up to exotic spinning rigs. My own spinning tackle is firmly planted in the 60’s and 70’s, a seven foot Hardy split cane rod and an ABU 506 reel, although my concessions to modernity are plastic plugs over my faithful wooden models.

An autumn perch, the first of many on a cold afternoon with vintage tackle

When the picture below dropped into my e-mail inbox from fellow club member Lee, along with an invite to join him on his next pike fishing session, I jumped at the chance, just to go along with my camera to see how it was done.


 For our morning session, Lee took me to his local water, where this double figure pike was caught on a lure,  a well matured gravel pit surrounded by trees, with features every twenty yards, bays, roots and reed beds in abundance. Early mist had cleared, with just a hint of ground frost and the lake had returned to it’s normal level following flooding, a white tide mark evidence of the level two weeks before.

Lee’s tackle was a revelation to me, a seven foot Savage Gear lure rod, coupled to an Okuma Tormenta bait caster reel, loaded with sinking braid, that gives a direct feel from rod top to the lure. A far cry from the seven foot Hardy split cane rod and Garcia ABU 506 closed face reel loaded with 10 lb mono, that I have been using for years. Likewise a small selection of his lures, jelly eels and various multi-bodied plugs were an example of how far lure fishing has come since the simple Mepps spoons I’ve used in the past.

We walked the bank first, with Lee pointing out where he’d had pike before, starting to fish at an inviting looking reed bed, expecting a strike, or a follow from each cast, his outfit easily capable of reaching the edge of the reeds fifty yards away.

This is usually Jack Alley, but today the smaller pike could not be persuaded to take, despite frequent changes of lure. Lee joked that he wasn’t used to fishing under pressure, feeling the need to put a fish in front of the camera. We moved down into a heavily wooded area, where he’d had good pike before and a few casts in, there was a swirling boil just feet from the bank, as a big fish veered away from his lure.

Encouraged by this promising action, Lee rang the changes in an attempt to tempt this fish, but maybe the clear water was against us and it failed to move to the lure again. As the saying goes, “here’s one I had earlier”, a finely marked nine and a half pounder from this swim a month earlier.

 We moved on, trying each gap in the trees, expectant of a take at the slightest tap of the rod, as the lures worked their magic among the roots. This is the attraction of lure fishing, with dead and live baiting for pike, it’s a waiting game, but a lure can be taken the moment it hits the water, or just on lift off, going from inaction to explosive action in a matter of seconds.

Two hours had passed quickly and each new area offered up several choices of holding spots, this bay being a pike fisher’s dream, but once again Lee’s efforts were frustrated and we moved to a narrow spur, that at first glance had nothing going for it, until I saw a small fish jump, followed by another. Either a small jack pike, or a perch was attacking a shoal of roach. Another change saw a fish bodied lure with a bright jelly tail clipped on and cast out to the topping shoal.

Third cast through, the rod bent into an arc, as the lure was seized and Lee instinctively struck hard to set the barbless hooks, a boil on the surface indicating the exact take point. The rod kicked as the pike shook it’s head, before heading for open water, pulling hard on the reel drag. I went back to collect the landing net, returning in time to hand it over to Lee for the end game of an epic battle, the look of satisfied relief on his face saying it all. This young, fit guy had still managed to break a sweat on a cold morning.

 Job done! What a fin perfect beauty. A quick spell in the weighing bag ran the scales round to 11lb 8oz, then this heavily camouflaged killing machine was slipped back in the water. Not content with his capture, Lee ran the lure through several times more, saying that two, or three pike will often work together to drive a shoal of bait fish into such an enclosed area. Not today though and both with family commitments that afternoon, we headed back down the motorway.

A week later another photo dropped into my inbox. Lee had been busy again. While visiting relatives in Leicestershire, he’d found time to pop down to the river Soar for some R&R and bagged a personal best 3lb 6oz perch.

This was taken on a Savage Gear 3D white crayfish lure.

CZ452 HMR Varmint autumn visit to the warren pays off

November 23, 2021 at 5:07 pm

One of my farmers gave me call this week to say that she had got a contractor in to cut the grass and attempt to fill in the burrows with his tractor on a large rabbit warren. Her now deceased father had done the same in previous years without lasting effect, although with me keeping the rabbit numbers down early in the year, he was able to put cattle out on the land without fear of dangerous burrows causing injury to his herd. Taking over the farm from her father, the field had been left fallow and the warren allowed to expand unchecked, until I was called in earlier this year, carrying out a cull of about twenty mature rabbits, before the undergrowth made shooting impossible.

The warren above, on my last successful visit, before the nettles and grass took over. The warren below as I found it this week, after the tractor had scoured the surface


At first glance it seemed that no rabbits could have survived the heavy machinery, but as I walked the field, recent scraping of buried burrows had already begun.

Holes were spread out along the warren and I took up station with my HMR, sitting on a dead tree, where there was some cover from a bitter north east wind.

By 3 pm there was little comfort from the weak November sun, as it settled behind the trees, while scanning the area ahead of me with the rifle on the tripod for half an hour, had shown no movement.

I opted to move 200 yards closer to the gate, where a large tree would shield me from the wind. This was close to an active burrow complex and I could cover a wide area with the rifle mounted on the tripod, which I adjusted to give a comfortable standing position.

All I needed now were some rabbits. The shadows were stretching out across the field and it was about the time that something would come out for a pee. Taking occasional sweeps of the field, I returned to this position in time to see the smooth round back of a rabbit pop out of the ground forty yards away, only to watch it disappear again down into another burrow. I’d had not chance to sight on the rabbit and heightened my concentration on the area, as once one has made the effort, the rest usually follow. It is not unusual to suddenly have half a dozen rabbits in front of you, when seconds earlier there were none.

The light was beginning to fade rapidly with the sunset, when a large rabbit emerged to bolt to another hole. Was this the same one? This time I got a shot off, which threw up dust at it’s feet, causing it to dance. It was down a blind burrow and could just see the pricked up ears. The ears flattened. I waited, holding on the aim point. It ran out and stopped. Boof! The bullet impact causing it to run on the spot and slump.

I waited for twenty minutes. No more offers. Time to pick up my reward, a healthy buck. Maybe he was going from doe to doe before bedtime.

I knocked on the door of the farmhouse to pass on the news that, although the contractor had done a good job of flattening the field, the rabbits were already busy re establishing their kingdom. Her comment “It’s a nightmare. When are you coming back?”




Bread punch finds carp, crucians, rudd and big gudgeon at Allsmoor

November 20, 2021 at 5:12 pm

With my wife driving into town for an afternoon’s shopping, I scrounged a ride with her down to my nearest pond for a few hours fishing. I walked round to a swim with the remains of a lilly bed, that has been killed off by recent frosts, but could still hold a few decent fish. A typical dull autumn afternoon, it began to drizzle with rain as I set up.

Very shallow close in, the depth increases gradually to about 30 inches at the edge of the lilies and I started off by feeding two balls of liquidised bread, mixed with ground carp pellets, out to the edge. My usual rig for this pond is a small waggler, with a No 4 shot down the line to a size 14 hook, which can be fed out and cast underhand from the extended pole. Bait was a 6 mm punch of bread.

Casting into the fed area, the float tracked away as a half decent rudd took the bread on the drop.

My next cast produced an even better rudd, that dived back into the cover of  the lillies, before being pulled clear with the pole.

They got bigger, this golden rudd an example of the fish that tend to show once the water cools down.

I settled down into a rhythm with rudd after rudd sinking the float, but as the drizzle died down, a breeze started up from the west, blowing leaves onto the pond. This brought two problems, where to place the float between the leaves each cast and leaves drifting into the float once it was cast in. I could usually hook a couple of fish from a gap, before aiming for another and starting all over. Quality rudd were still in the swim and I wasn’t complaining.

Monster gudgeon had moved in on the feed and were outnumbering the rudd three to one.

Having been double jabbed the day before, Covid Booster in my left and Flu jab in my right, both arms were beginning to ache with the constant lifting and feeding of the 9.5 metres of pole onto the grass behind me, unshipping the top two sections, then leaning forward to net most of the rudd.

This pond is full of fish and the bread punch tends to find the better ones, even the smaller ones gave a good account of themselves.

I began to miss a few bites and went down on punch size to a 5 mm, hitting into a solid little crucian, that ran into the lily bed, doing me a favour, when it managed to shear off a few of the old lilies, giving me more space to cast to.

I had been getting big gudgeon regularly, the one below being the biggest.

The 5 mm punch had improved the bites and another hefty rudd came to the landing net. Most of these seem to be minus their top lip. Genetics, or poor handling by anglers?

By 3 pm the light was beginning to fade and my camera had not captured the full colour of the crucian below.

Two more crucians failed to photograph, while the camera flash dazzled the images. I decided to pack up at 3:30, but at 3;20 a slow sinking bite saw the elastic extend, as a plump common carp went off with the tiny 5 mm punch of bread. It was so plump that I thought that I had hooked a big crucian. Keeping the carp away from the lilies, the carp was soon out of danger and I broke the pole down to the top two sections, which proved interesting, when it fought round to the side of my keep net, but I got it back to the left side and the landing net. A beautifully conditioned common carp of 3 lb, although the camera again failed to do it justice, with glare from the flash reflecting back from the golden scales.

That was it. I called it a day. There seemed little point in continuing once this fat common was in the net.

The punch had worked well and only wish that I had swapped to the smaller 5 mm punch earlier.

It had been a busy four hours, ending with a bonus carp. The smaller punch may have brought more hard fighting crucians, but if fishing was predictable it would be boring, wouldn’t it?





Carp and skimmer bream beat the cold on the punch at Hitcham Ponds

November 16, 2021 at 7:42 pm

Each year I try to fish a prolific farm pond before winter sets in, but this year the clocks had been set back to Winter Time and frosts had lowered water temperatures, before I had an opportunity to fish. The 15 mile journey from home was the usual series roadworks and traffic queues, that seem to be the rule these days for urban travel, while attempting to avoid passing through two major towns on the way.

The car park was empty and I had a choice of swims, setting up in a corner. Earlier in the year, the surface would have been full of activity, topping fish and cruising carp, but the sight before me was far from encouraging. Not a bubble, or a rise, the only good sign being the lack of wind, the hill top pond on the edge of the Chilterns often windswept.

I decided on a cautious approach, feeding one small ball of  squeezed up .liquidised bread, ground hemp and ground pellets, six metres out, where there is a slight increase in depth to about a metre, casting a 4 x 14 antenna pole float over the top, with a 6 mm punch of bread on a size 16 barbless hook. After five minutes the float showed signs of interest in the bait, the antenna shotted down to half way, raising and lowering by millimetres. This went on for for another five minutes, until the float very slowly sank away. I missed the bite and the bread was still on the hook. Very fussy today. I dropped the bait back in, for a repeat performance, but when the float sank this time, I left the strike for ten seconds. On cue, it popped back up after nine. More dithering and it went down slowly again. Missed again and no bait.

I went down to a 5 mm punch. Same again, a dithering bite and very slow sink. Leave it and lift. Solid. The elastic was out and following a V that was zooming out across the pond. My timid roach bite, was a full blown common carp, that was bending the pole as  five metres of elastic applied relentless pressure,  flashes of gold beneath the surface tracking each change of direction. It boiled on the surface momentarily, then was gone again, throwing up a chain of bubbles as it tried to remove the hook on the bottom. The surface rolls increased, until it was being drawn back to my bank by the heavy 12 – 18 elastic. Without breaking down the pole, I swept the carp back across the surface to my net, praying that the the size 16 barbless would keep hold.

About 4 lb, it had been a slow, then thanks to this carp, a very busy start to the afternoon.

As it was past my lunchtime, a sandwich and a cup of tea were needed to settle my nerves, while a couple more small balls of feed were required to attract the fish back into the swim. Back to a dithering bite and a slow sink of the antenna. Anticipating another carp, I lifted into a small roach.

Oh dear, what a disappointment. From the bite, I at least expected a crucian carp. The roach was ice cold, the water temperature was well down and the fish, being cold blooded, not really interested in feeding. I kept missing unmissable bites, making contact always being another small roach.

The sun had come out, taking the chill from the air, but putting a glare on the surface and I moved the float round in line with the island, where I had a dark contrast for the antenna. Plumbing the depth again indicated a slight increase and adjusted the float to just off bottom. The softly softly approach had caught a lucky carp, but I now went for a change of plan, adding more ground pellets, with a sprinkling of strawberry flavoured ground bait, damping the mix down to allow soft balls to be formed. I put in two balls to start. More small roach, then bang! I was into another carp that ran straight for the island. I added another length of pole as it ran and raised the pole to take some of the shocks, when it rolled on the surface. This was much bigger and faster than the first, running straight through lilies to my right and thrashing about on the surface. The hook came out, the rig flying back.

I put another couple of balls into the swim, the area a mass of bubbles from the fight. It was not long before the float was under again and a better roach was swung in.

For the first time bubbles were coming up in ones and twos and soon I had an answer to the cause, when a dithering bite of lifts and slants drifted under and I struck into a fish with a familiar fight, the slow thud of a skimmer bream, being followed by it flapping on the surface. This was one for the net and I steadily drew it back as it rolled on the surface, the last yard, or two the most dangerous for slipping the hook .

The very next bite produced a smaller skimmer, which again fought well following a protracted bite, when the float would not go under. Once again the hook was barely holding onto the bottom lip, the small piece of punch bread blown in and out of the mouth, until it moved off with it.

The brief interlude of sunshine soon passed to haze, as mist formed across the fields and the sun sank beneath the trees, the temperature dropping in unison. Another ball of feed brought a few very small skimmers, some coming off the hook as they were lifted through the surface film. A smaller hook and a 4 mm punch may have been the answer, but it would have been game over, if I contacted another carp.

More small roach followed and I scraped up the last of my feed and put it in, a lift bite laying the float almost flat, striking into a skimmer well off the bottom, that surfaced in a flurry of spray, skimming across the surface on its side, but staying, on despite the hook being in the skin of the lip.

A cloud had come over making bite detection difficult in the gloom, the last skimmer being hooked, when the ripples from the bite stopped and I assumed that the float had gone under. It had and I took my time bringing the fish over to the net.

Gudgeon now crowded round the feed and with visibility at a premium, I packed up at 3:30 pm.

The bread punch had once again provided reliable fishing on a hard day, when I experience cold hands for the first time this year.

About fifty fish in under three hours, but where were the crucian carp that used to dominate this pond?

By the time that I had packed away and loaded the trolley, passed through the wood, unlocked the gates at either end of the field, loaded the van and got on my way, it was rush hour and dark, The stop, start journey home taking over an hour, but eased by the thought of the hot chicken casserole waiting on my return home.

Autumn roach bonanza rewards the stick float and bread punch

November 11, 2021 at 6:43 pm

A warm bright morning saw me revisit a swim last fished in the summer on my local river Cut. Then I had three carp among a net of quality roach, but now, falling leaves and a gin clear river, following nights of frost, left a question mark over what I would catch. On my walk to the swim, I had seen a pair of cormorants sitting over the river and wondered how long they have been living here, knowing that each one requires at least a pound of fish a day to survive. Multiply that by 365 days and they could consume 800 lbs of fish a year between them. The river could soon go the way of many others and be devoid of fish, due to these once sea birds.

On setting up my 14 foot Browning float road, I could see a long branch had washed down in the recent floods to cover the bush opposite, extending downstream for several yards, effectively cutting off the best part of the swim, where the float is drifted up to the bush and held back, then worked along the front of the bush. The swim is only three feet deep at the bush and I could see leaves on the bottom extending right across, not a good sign. There was little flow and chose a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stick float to a size 16 barbless hook, starting off with a 5 mm bread punch.

Not sure how it would fish, if at all, I mixed up a quarter of a pint of liquidised bread, with a covering of ground carp pellets and a handful of ground hempseed, damped down to allow loose balls to be squeezed up. I put in one small ball upstream of the long branch and cast in alongside it, the float carrying downstream a yard, then slowly sinking away, when a small chub took the bait. A brief, fierce fight and the chub was in the net. It was time to get serious and put on the bait apron.

Casting into a gap in the leaves, the float gave a gentle dip as it drifted down, a lift of the rod enough to slow the float, resulting in another slow sink. This time a decent roach was diving back to the bush under the branch to be pulled clear, zig-zagging back to the landing net.

My fears of it going to be a hard day were dismissed with a repeat performance, as the float sank away with a better roach from the same spot.

The next roach appeared to have damage across it’s back. With no pike present in the Cut, I could only assume that this one had escaped the grip of a cormorant.

More roach followed.

A decent sized dace that exploded into action.

I put in another ball of feed and began catching monster gudgeon.

I lifted into a snag that began to move. The golden shape of  2 lb crucian carp flashed beneath the bush and I drew it out into open water, where it suddenly woke up, rushing off upstream, pressure turning it, before rolling on the surface. At this point I thought that I had the carp and pushed out the landing net ready, but it turned and powered over to the opposite bank, running downstream toward the bush, getting behind the branch. Turning the carp, I gave too much pressure and the 16 barbless hook pulled out, leaving the crucian to realise that it was now free to sink back to the bush.

That was annoying, but I rebaited and fed another couple of balls over and I was back catching roach.

Like a lucky dip at the fair, everyone was a winner, the occasional small ball of feed keeping the fish lined up beneath the branch, slowing the float to a standstill bringing a predictable slow sink and another fighting roach, the next one the best of the afternoon. Who said that the bread punch only catches small fish?

This is last fish of the day, starting at 11 am and finishing dead on 3 pm, the bites were still coming, but 4 hours was enough. This is just a snapshot of the hundred odd fish that I caught, the punched bread evidence of a very productive session.

Pulling out my keepnet, I could hear that I had a good weight and lifting up on the scales they were bouncing around the nine pounds mark in the landing net.

Roach, chub, dace and monster gudgeon, all from a tiny river, under threat from pollution and now cormorants.