Bread punch chub and roach reward tenacity

December 22, 2016 at 2:28 pm

With visitors over the Christmas period and bad weather threatened, my only chance to fish for sometime came this week, when morning cloud drifted away to reveal a blue sky and low winter sunshine. So near the winter equinox, I needed to get out straight after lunch to manage a couple of hours on my local river. Loading my gear into the van, I was interrupted by our window cleaner, who was on his pre Christmas rounds. A carp fisherman himself, with several French caught 30 pounders to his name, the usual angler to angler conversation began, before I excused myself to get his payment, adding a little extra for his Christmas Box. He was up his ladder, when I returned, taking the opportunity to hand over the cash and escape, as precious daylight was at a premium.


The river was crystal clear and about 6 inches down on normal, with a steady run along my bank; it looked perfect. My last visit put two chub of over 3 lbs each in the landing net before I lost my float rig. Then I was travelling light with the rod made up and had to pack up, but this time was fully equipped with tackle box and keep net in anticipation of a busy afternoon.

Running under the road, the river boils over a concrete sill, pushing toward my side, before curving round to create an eddy, the remaining water passing over a shallow gravel run at the far end. For bait I had some week old maggots, many of which had turned to casters and also coarse crumb with compressed slices for the hook. Expecting big fish the, 12.5 ft Normark was set up with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick to a size 16 barbless hook and 2.6 link.


Confident in the bread punch, I squeezed up a couple of egg sized balls of crumb, putting one in down my side and the other in the slower water my side of the eddy. On my previous visit the two chub had come on consecutive casts, both on the bread punch, so was ready for action from the off, running the float through at half speed a foot off the bottom. The first trot was disappointing with no sign of a bite, the bread pellet still hooked adding to this, as nothing had been near it. A couple more bread balls were dropped in, scattering fragments in the swirling river and I tried again. Each trot was taking about five minutes to complete the 25 yards and on the third, the float lifted, then sailed under, hitting a good fish twenty yards away. I backwound as the fish made for the shallow exit, before turning to run along under the far bank, the float not visible until under my rod top. The long body of a chub was visible in the clear water trying to bury it’s head in the dead weeds at my feet, but one scoop of the landing net saw it on the bank.


Just in the lip, the hook transferred to the landing net once the pressure was off and felt lucky to have landed this pound and a half chub, before it dumped the hook in the weeds. Picking up the chub to put it in the keep net, I noted how cold it felt, despite the cool air. Maybe that was the reason for a shortage of bites. Too cold. There was a depth of four feet close in and I set the float over depth to inch it down the inside, where I expected to find a shoal of roach. As a friend used to say, the float is talking to me, unfortunately it was saying that there was nothing there!

Allowing the float to travel round with the eddy, I had to mend the line to stay in contact, but there was a massive bow in the line, when the float eased under. A sweeping strike made contact and I was playing a better fish, that broached the surface at the shallow outlet. Another chub. Although bigger, this one was less trouble and on it’s side by the time it was netted.


Once again the hook had the lightest of holds in the corner of it’s mouth and fell out the moment I touched it. Two chub in half and hour, slow, but encouraging, this one being about two pounds, joined it’s brother in the keep net. I kept feeding and trying various depths, but the inside line was barren and it was on another long trot around the far end of the eddy, that the float went down again. The rolling, bouncing fight told me that I was now playing a nice roach, the red fins clearly visible as it was brought along the far side.


A deep round fish of about 8 oz, this raised my spirits, thinking that the roach had come on at last. No they hadn’t, this was it. With an hour gone and no more bites, I switched to the maggots. Feeding down the inside I went through the motions again, shallow at first for chub, then over depth for the roach, but not a sign of a bite. Needing more control of the float at range, the 4 No 4 float was eased out of it’s retaining rubbers and a 6 No 4 substituted, then shot added. Rather than wait for the float to travel down, the heavier rig was cast to the start of the eddy and the maggot mix catapulted over the area. Bites did come, but nothing that I could hit, sharp taps and dips, as the maggots were sucked thin. This second hour was hard work for no result and I reasoned that it was minnows, small roach, or tiny chub.

Now the sun had gone below the tree line, while a chilling mist was covering the fields and I considered packing up, but decided to give the bread another go, scraping up the last of my crumb for a couple of balls, which I followed down with the float. At the start of the eddy, I held back hard and mended the bow in the line, sinking the float. It didn’t come up again, the line straightening with a hooked fish. Another nice chub, it headed for the exit, but turned at the shallows and raced back along the far side, before drifting across toward my net, then diving deep into the pool at my feet. Net at the ready, it rolled on the surface and came off! Curses!

Several more fruitless casts later, I packed up feeling that I’d not got the most out of this swim. Maybe the maggots were too old and tough, or should I have stuck it out on the bread? Who knows? That’s fishing.


The dropped chub would have helped fill this net, but it’s still a reasonable bag for a cold winter afternoon. I’d watched kingfishers zooming back and forth, while pheasants strutted along the opposite bank, with the reward of a few fish.

Mirror and common carp pond prize

December 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm

A week ago ducks were walking on the ice covering my local pond, but today an unseasonal updraft of warm air from the Azores had banished the frost, to bring with it a dull day blessed by fine drizzle and the need to still wear thermals. With those left over maggots aging in the fridge, I decided on an afternoon session at the lake, but first set about modifying a heavy pole float to cope with the shallow water. Cutting the wire stem, I wound an eye up close to the float base to allow free fall of the unweighted hook link. Shotting it up, there were only about two inches between the last shot and the surface. Perfect. A quick lunch and I was ready for a couple of hour’s finding out if the foat worked.


The carp here live in a thick soup of mud and brown water, leeched out of the surrounding pine forest, the maximum depth being not more than two feet. Setting up my 12.5 foot Normark float rod, Shimano reel with 6 lb line through to the 4 lb float rig, I cast out twenty yards and showered a few catapult cups of red maggots over the area. With three maggots on the size 14 barbless hook, suspended off bottom, I sat and waited for something to happen, keeping busy with regular firings of maggots. A couple of times the float stem dipped as interest was shown, but no more. I tried a double 7 mm pellet of bread on the hook. Again dips and a full on bite, but no fish. Maybe it was rudd?

A sound behind me warned of my wife approaching, taking a detour on the way to post Christmas cards at the nearby Post Office. She stood and shivered, contemptuous of my eternal optimism, continuing on her way with me reminding her, that I usually hook a decent fish, when she gets out of shouting range.

carp-034Large single bubbles began to burst on the surface. Something was down there stirring it up. Back to three  maggots and I cast in followed by more maggots. A carp took on the drop with the catapult still in my hands. It was on, coming close enough for me to ready the landing net, before it woke up and accelerated in the direction of the island. My wife was passing the bottom end of the lake and I called to her. No response. This was a 5 lb common and going round in circles, which needed bullying on this tackle, or I would never get it in. Mistake. The hook flew out. I replaced the mashed maggots and cast out again. Time to remind my wife that I had lost a fish as she walked away. Her phone was ringing, when the float sank away again. Dumping the phone in the bait tray, I set about playing this next fish. It was smaller, but still a handful. The phone rang, my wife answered. I informed her that I was now playing another carp. She said “Oh… Good Luck” and rang of. You can’t beat wifely support.


Weighed in at 3 and a half pounds, this common was shaped like a barrel and in perfect trim, the hook transferring to the net. A recast over more maggots, saw the float dip and sink away slowly, until the strike sank home, then all hell broke loose, the fish standing on it’s head, flapping a massive tail on the surface. My float rod was never designed for this sort of punishment, but survived being bent to the butt several times. This was a much larger carp and on one of it’s many passes, the coarse scale pattern of a mirror carp stood out clearly. The commotion attracted the attention of a pair of anglers on the opposite bank, who arrived in time to see the broad backed monster scooped into the net.


21 inches long and nearly 7 lb in weight, this mirror was an absolute tub at around 6 inches wide at the shoulder. The water is so shallow, yet until hooked, there is no sign of these carp on the surface. The disturbance did not put off the fish and minutes later I was in again, the new float sliding under. My body is not used to this sort of a work out, the fish with nowhere to go, but in a lateral direction in the knee deep water, pulling away at full speed. Soon a flash of orange and more irregular scales revealed another mirror.


In the now low light, the pic could not do justice to this golden mirror carp at 19 inches and 4 lb 8 oz. I was now ready to pack up, offering my swim to the onlooking anglers, but on refusal made one more cast. Having planned a short session, I had no reviving hot cup of tea with me this time and had to summon up the last of my reserves, when the float sank away again. The fish was unseen for several minutes, after the first run, bringing it back to under my feet, in and out of the landing net, then off again. My audience commented on the power of what we could see to be a common carp larger than my first, which refused to give up, but the hook held and number four was on the bank.


I can understand why anglers get obsessed by carp, putting them on a pedestal, but like most fish, once you get them feeding, they are an easy fish to catch. I was pleased and also exhausted catching these carp. My float idea worked a treat and of the three fishing that afternoon, I was the only one to catch.


It took three of us to get these fish in the landing net, before lowering them back into the water, no room for any more.


Roach and chub from the deep freeze

December 4, 2016 at 5:04 pm

With maggots from last weekend still in the fridge, any fishing expeditions were scuppered by days of sub zero temperatures, that had put a covering of ice over the local ponds.


Not wanting to waste my aging bait, the van was loaded up and the flask filled with piping hot tea for the ten mile drive south to the river Blackwater, hoping for a few winter chub. I’d been promising myself a visit to a swim, that I had passed in the summer,  where the flow runs beneath an archway of overhanging branches, which looked like it oozed chub. Trundling my trolley along the meandering bank, the sight of two anglers side by side in the very spot, stopped me in my tracks. Enthusiasm gone, I retraced my steps back to the car park, where a well worn swim beckoned. At least bait would have been going in here, holding a head of fish?


Setting up with a 4 No 4 ali stick, there was a steady 3 ft deep trot along my bank, where brambles overspilled into the water, with a protective branch trailing. Having fed a couple of handfuls of red maggots while setting up, I was encouraged to see indications of a bite first cast, holding back, then letting go, seeing the float dive deep.  A sweeping strike met instant resistance, that gave way to a small perch of a few ounces, which was soon in the keepnet. The maggot was untouched, but I added another in the hope of a better fish and followed more maggots down, this time missing the bite. Next trot another small perch was in the net, having paused a second on the strike, the size 16 hook just in the lip.

bread 052

Bait still untouched, the float was eased back toward the overhang, where it sank again, the line following down. Counting to three, I struck. Yes! The rod bent over to a fast running fish, that stayed deep and I backwound to ease the pressure on the small hook. There are barbel here, but when the fish turned out in an arc to the middle, I saw the deep green flank of a very good perch, before it rushed back to the bottom. Keeping on the pressure, the pound perch was soon on the surface, being drawn to the landing net, the red maggots visible in it’s lip. Gills flared, it gave the dreaded head shake inches from the net and the hook flew out. Drifting downstream it remained on the surface briefly, then rolled over and away.

After that there were no more decent bites, that perch had taken the shoal with it. I tried to get them back, sticking it out for another half hour, before deciding to change waters. Keeping the rod set up, breaking down the top joint to get it in the van, I loaded up and headed back to the weir pool near home. If the swim was empty, I would fish, if not a warm kitchen would be welcome on a freezing day. The pool was clear and it took only minutes to settle down to fish.


Frozen mist hung in the air and ice was visible in the margins, as I fed a couple of handfuls of reds into the eddy, watching them being swept round to the white water. Dropping the float in under my rod top, it travelled a few feet and buried, the rod bending over in response as a small chub retreated back to the weir. I swung the chub in, maggots spewing from it’s throat.


Feeding more maggots brought another fish, this time a hard fighting roach, right on the edge of the foam.


Having started fishing again at about 1:30, there were only a couple of hours of light left on such a dull day and I set about making up for lost time with another roach.


A hot spot developed just where the slow water entered the fast and casting in with the float well over depth brought a bite every time, the roach tally rising.


More like this followed, then, bang, something much bigger took, speeding across the fast water, backwinding saving a lost fish, putting on side strain to keep it clear of the bush to my right. Once back in the eddy, it was only a matter of time, until it was ready for the landing net, the two pound chub’s white mouth wide open.


Once in the net, the hook dropped out, although still full of fight, it nearly flipped out of my grip, when faced with the keep net.


By 3:15 the light was going fast and I was now having trouble hooking the maggots without bursting them, so this 8 oz roach was the last of the day. The camera was already slowing down and I needed a last shot of the final net.


Some of the eight roach were hidden in the folds of the net, but I was satisfied with this image, which sums up what winter fishing is all about, and justified the change of venue.