Latimer Park Fishery winter rainbows delite

November 29, 2017 at 5:48 pm

The last few days of November were suffering a chill Arctic blast, when my friend Peter rang to invite me to fish as his guest at Buckinghamshire’s Latimer Park Fishery this week. He had just returned from a successful three hour fly fishing session, landing four and dropping another three rainbows, before retreating back to the comfort of the clubhouse and the woodburner. I had been waiting for this call all year and Peter had left it a bit late to remember his old pal, but who was I to complain, when an opportunity to fish this exclusive fishery was on offer gratis.

Word of Peter’s success must have spread, as the banks were lined with hopeful club members, when we arrived, the single figure temperatures no deterrent to this hardy bunch. Blowing from the Northwest, the wind was perfect for a right handed cast, running down the length of the Capability Brown inspired lake, left to right, overlooked by Latimer Place.

Peter produced a well chewed unweighted white lure from his box, “This is what you want”. No problem, I had one that I had made many years ago, white chenille wound round a long shank hook, with a bunch of white marabou for a trailing wing must be one of the easiest to make, yet most successful fry imitators going.

Punching a line out toward the middle, where the deeper water of the dammed river Chess lies, I waited for the lure to sink close to the bottom, before starting a very slow figure of eight retrieve, watching the line set into a gentle curve with the wind drift. To my right on a jetty, Peter was into a fish first cast, only to lose it seconds later. Further down, close to the dam, one of the boat anglers had hooked into a big fish, which was taking him all over the lake. Every time I looked up, he seemed to be playing it.

On my third cast, the bow tightened, not a pull, but I struck anyway and felt the solid weight of a nice rainbow, seeing it flash in the bright sunlight. This is a clear shallow lake, where the rainbows run hard and fast, the trick being to give line, keeping the trout below the surface, yet applying enough pressure to stop them boiling and throwing the hook. This one fought well, helped by a full tail; hooked in the tongue, it had taken with confidence.

Ten minutes later the line tightened again and I was playing number two, a similar size 2 lb rainbow, this time hooked firmly in the scissors.

The white marabou lure only needed a quick run back and forth through the shallows each time to clean off any blood and it was ready to catch again. It is nothing fancy, but effective, black chenille and black marabou an easy to create alternative.

Off the jetty Peter was getting regular takes from the deeper water, but failing to make contact with most, having only one rainbow for his efforts. The wind was now picking up, sweeping waves along the lake and requiring extra effort to cast the line out toward the middle, while hands wet with handling fish and line were now beginning to numb with the cold. A firm pull saw my rod arc over again, almost in unison with Peter, who had also set his hook, both fish running back to the centre of the lake.

Smaller than the first two, this rainbow was soon netted and returned, Peter already netting his third fish before I could make another cast. With three fish each, Peter opted for the comfort of hot tea in the club house, leaving me to catch the seventh and last fish on our guest permit, suggesting that I tried the jetty, as there were a lot of fish out in front of him.

Taking him up on the offer, my first cast saw the line streak out, striking into thin air. Stabbing takes were the order of the day here. Usually ignoring these, while continuing the slow retrieve, will result in a build up to a firm take, but not today. I missed several quick pulls, before a cast straight back in after a miss, saw the lure taken on the drop, the rainbow pulling the rod top down hard and I was playing number four, which began head shaking, a sign of a lightly hooked fish. As the rainbow rolled close to the bank, I could see the lure in the tip of its lower lip, but the hook held to the net, only to drop out once the pressure was off.

I could have taken this rainbow, but chose to release it to grow, two fish would give me enough work to do on my return home. The sun was bright, but ineffective against the increasing wind, two busy hours had staved off the cold, but now it was time to join the others in the club house.


Chub and bream keep out the cold

November 23, 2017 at 11:00 pm

Reporting yet another bout of pollution a fortnight ago on my local urban river, I paid a visit for a couple of hours today to see what was biting, if anything. A bitterly cold wind was blowing from the northwest and it was a case of winter draws on, literally, this being the first outing wearing my thermals. I’d decided on one of the nearest swims to the car park, where, with other bailiffs we had removed a pile of rubbish in the summer, which had included a shopping trolley, a couple of bikes and a BBQ.

Arriving at 1pm, I was soon set up with my 12 ft Hardy float rod and 3 No 4 Ali stem stick float rig, the size 16 barbless hook ready for a 5 mm bread punch pellet. Setting out my stall, I had prebaited with a couple of egg sized balls of liquidised bread down the middle, where the flow is strongest, expecting instant bites from the off.

There is an old saying “Expectation is the mother of frustration” and this sums up the first twenty minutes. I had expected the float to sail away with the first cast, an upstream wind allowing the bait to flutter slowly dowstream toward an imagined shoal of roach, but if they were there, they were not interested today. I refer to this as my roach swim, but knowledge of the recent oil pollution saw me ready to pack up, when the float gave one sharp dip. No follow on pull under, just one dip.

The bread was half gone and I rebaited, following the float with another small ball of crumb. Half way along the trot, two dips and it held under. An upward strike put a bend in the rod, while the float scribed a lazy S in the surface film, a slow thumping fight indicating the culprit long before the deep shape of a skimmer bream flashed underwater. The landing net went out and the bream slid in, a rare fish in this river.

Broad in the shoulder, this was close to a pound, the hook barely holding in the skin of its lip.  I had walked down with a local couple exercising their dog, who had witnessed the pollution of this small waterway, saying that their 12 year old son had often fish here before the troubles. They were now on their way back home and stopped to watch me land the fish. At least they would have something positive to pass on.

With the path running behind me, I was joined by another walker, also an angler, who despite living close to the river, had never fished it, preferring commercial carp lakes. Having just missed an unmissable bite, he came down the bank for a better look. He had never seen anyone using a bread punch before and answered his questions giving a brief teach in, while keeping an eye on my float. Another unmissable bite, but this time I hit it, the rod doubling over as the fish ran beneath a tree on the far bank upstream. It doubled back, diving deep under my own bank, as I pushed the rod away from me to draw it out, seeing a good chub veering from left to right searching for a snag. The chub came out and rushed off downstream, heading for a tangle of branches, backwinding and side strain slowing it down. Now it was under my downstream bank, diving beneath the outstretched landing net. Next pass I had it.

Once again the size 16 barbless was just in the top lip. On this light weight gear a three pound chub takes some landing.

Having stirred up the swim, it was another fifteen minutes before any sign of a bite. A tap,tap and a sharp pull under was missed. The bites got fussy, then stopped. The river had taken on a matt, grey look. It was still not 3 pm, but the temperature was dropping fast and it was clear that more oil was coating the surface, iridescent trails of oil snaking across the surface. Pulling out my keepnet, rainbow globules burst on the surface from the disturbed mud, the net having a distinct odour.

Arriving earlier in the day may have put more fish in the net, but at least I had caught something decent, while the river is struggling against the efforts of irresponsible individuals, or companies. Passing the town outfall, an oily scum was entering the river again.

Last minute carp

November 17, 2017 at 1:15 pm

A glorious November morning had been taken up with an organised walk around a local beauty spot, taking in the exceptional autumn colours enhanced by the bright sunshine. My wife’s mind turned to tending her winter flower garden, mine thought of all the carp that would be cruising around a shallow lake near my home, woken up by the mild spell.

Soon after a hurried lunch, I was setting up my carp rig, an ancient 12.5 ft Normark float rod with 6 lb line through to a heavy pole float, modified to be a shallow waggler, the 12 inch 3 lb hook link tied to a size 16 barbless hook. The lake is about three feet deep, with about half of it silt and have found that bread punch fished close to the surface with no weight down the line works here.

Walking to my swim, I had passed two anglers, each with a pair of rods aimed at the island. They’d had the same idea as me, that the carp would be “on”, but had so far failed to get a bite, despite pouches of pellets fired over toward the island. Every man to his own. I carried on round to where the water exits the lake, this corner usually a good holding spot, but today leaves clogged the outlet and backed up into the lake.


I squeezed up a few large balls of liquidised bread and lobbed them out in front of me, watching them break up in the air to cover an area 15 to 20 yards out, sinking slowly to settle on the mud below. There was little drift on the lake, although surface leaves kept accumulating around the line, needing to be lifted clear. After half an hour bubbles began to appear on the surface close to my float. Following another ball of bread with my float, I sat and stared at the antenna. Did it dip half an inch? Yes it did. The bait was being pushed around, the float sliding and bobbing. Come on take it! It vanished. Missed it, the 7 mm pellet of bread still intact.

Another ball, another cast, this time with a 5 mm diameter punch. A few more dips, then nothing. Brought back, the bait was gone. Back to the 7 mm punch. The bubbles continued to burst. There was still interest, the float half holding down. Missed another. The time was getting on, the earlier sun had gone behind a leadened sky. Each bite was taking 15 minutes to develope and now it was starting to drizzle with fine rain. Time to go. Beginning to put my bait away, I looked up to see the float was gone. The line was not moving. I reeled and lifted the rod. Whoa! A boil of black mud and I was backwinding furiously as a carp arrowed off to the right into the raft of leaves near the outlet. The rod took the strain as the line collected a washing line of dead leaves and twigs, dulling the kicks of the carp as it powered through the shallows, the fish turning to swim back along the wall toward me, reeling, then backwinding as it passed only feet from the bank. A nice common carp, it began to roll, but the size 16 in the corner of its mouth held and I netted it.

 One of the other anglers came round to see what all the commotion had been about, nodding in approval at the carp, but looking bemused at my unconventional rig. They were still biteless. It had been frustrating for me, I had expected more, but this one would do.

Bread punch roach amid the autumn leaves

November 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Following last week’s aborted visit to my local urban river, due to oil pollution, I had decided on a brief test session today to see if the fishing had been affected. Walking over the bridge, a distinct old oil smell was in the air and looking down onto the sill of the outlet, additional anti-pollution booms were in place. From the central outlet pipe an oil slick was swirling into the river.

I phoned the Environment Agency hotline to report the incident and returned to the van, seeing that a sheen of oil covered the surface. Fishing here today would only result in oil coating my line and nets.

As with last week, a change of plan was called for, the easy option being Braybrooke’s Jeanes Pond a mile away. Fortunately I had a pole with me and my intended method was going to be bread punch anyway, so my gear was loaded back into the van for the short drive to Braybrooke Park, then unloaded to walk to the pond.

A chill wind from the northwest was blowing leaves onto the surface, causing them to rotate around the pond. Finding gaps for the float would be interesting. Due to recent frosts, I decided on a slow start, selecting a 4 mm bread punch and rolled bread, while feeding a single small ball of liquidised bread every dozen fish. I was limited to just three lengths of pole, as the leaves were right up to the bank and casting was not possible, needing to lower the rig down into the water. As the float settled, a ring radiated out from the tip showing interest in the bread pellet, moments later it sank from sight.

This roach was cold to the touch, but his shoalmates were not put off and I was soon getting into a catching rythm, only interupted by progress phone calls from the AE and Thames Water, the latter saying that they had an engineer wading back up into the tunnel trying to trace the origin of the oil, although his words “like looking for a needle in a haystack” were not encouraging.

Having lost time moving venues, I settled on a three hour session, averaging a roach a minute, swinging them to hand. Missed bites from smaller fish prompted a step up to a 5 mm punch, which began to select slightly better fish.

Bites on the inside began to get fussy, when a change in the wind moved the leaves away from my bank and adding another pole length up to 4 metres, put the bait in a free biting area. It was about half way through the session and I’d only used a quarter a pint of liquidised bread for about a hundred fish. Topping up the feed bowl, I kept the feed to a minimum. It is always a risk in cold weather to overfeed with the bread, while sometimes heavier fish will often move in.

The change in the wind direction had dropped the air temperature significantly, blowing hard on my back, passing through my hoody, making me shiver. A cup of tea helped and I pushed on into the final hour still swinging them in, although this was a netter.

With minutes to go before the three hours were up, the net came out again for the final roach of the day.

Earlier in the year, this pond yielded some near pound roach to me on the bread punch, but the cold weather has probably put them down, however I was more than pleased to pull out my net to put seven and half pounds in weight on the scales.

Overgrown river gives up its secrets

November 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm

With work in progress by the Environment Agency to improve my local urban river, I thought that it was worth a visit to try out one of the recently constructed fishing platforms, but walking down to the river, Thames Water contractors were busy trying to clear up the latest pollution spillage from the town outfall.

While returning to the van I considered my options and decided that a first time visit to a tributary of the Blackwater about ten miles away was a viable option. I had recently seen the half mile section of river listed in the handbook of one of my fishing clubs and Googled the location, putting it down as Must Try One Day in my mind. Today was going to be the day.

As I neared the club car park, the roads became narrower and the hedges taller. There were few passing places, but being in the middle of nowhere, there was no traffic either. A narrow gap in the hedge with a bar across was the car park entrance. Blocking the road, I released the padlock and pushed open the bar, hooking it back on a conveniently placed piece of nylon string. The parking area was overgrown and full of dumped garden waste, with just enough room to turn the van round. This club usually has well kept parking places, but this has seen little use.

The handbook said that the river is 600 yards from the carpark and I loaded up my trolley to cross an open field toward a tree line in the shallow valley, eventually reaching a tangle of long grass and stinging nettles, before pushing through to find the fast flowing little river twisting its way between a jungle of fallen trees and over hanging branches. Leaving the trolley, I searched between the trees for an opening with room to cast a float rod, finding a spot where the Himalayan balsam had died back leaving a relatively open bank.

It was already 2:30 and I hadn’t made a cast, but I was now committed to get the best out of the swim and tackled up with a 3 No 4 ali stem stickfloat to a size 16 barbless. Testing the depth, maximum was 2 feet past the middle, shallowing to 18 inches as it rounded the bend, with an area of cabbages on the inside. The river looked deeper further down, but a higher bank and overhanging branches gave me no further choices. I had only been prepared for a few hours fishing the bread punch on the slow moving river near home, now with treble the pace and half the depth, I would be working for every bite.

I squeezed up a couple of balls of liquidised bread and threw them well upstream, dropping the float among the cloud as it passed. Every tenth trot, I compressed another ball and followed it down. A sharp dip of the float in the deeper water encouraged me, although a rapid strike and no bait did not. I was folding each 7 mm pellet of bread round the hook, to allow me to hold back the float without washing off the bait. If I had known I was coming to a fast flowing river, I would have rolled up some steamed bread for the punch.

Following several false alarms the float held down long enough to make contact and after a short run a small chub was swinging to hand.

Usually where there is one small chub there are others, but not so this time, as a shoal of small dace began dipping the float and taking the bait. Running through I could not hit them, but moving a shot close to the hook, adding 6 inches in depth gave me a chance. Dip, dip, tug and I was playing the first strip of silver.

The dace were in about 18 inches of water, chasing the swirling grains of bread, rattling the rod top without being hooked. I shallowed up again, running through, this time the float held down, a good dace came tumbling to the surface, then came off. Another small one stayed on, spinning beneath the surface. The rod bent over and another good dace was on the surface, fighting doggedly to the net.

I had been preoccupied trying to hook these dace and it took a pair of cock pheasants flying into the tree downstream to roost, to make me realise that the light was going. It was only 4 pm, but the sun was behind the trees already and the mist was coming down. I decided to give it another 15 minutes before packing up, scraping up the last of my feed to form a ball, again dropping it in upstream. Minutes later the float dived and a much better fish rolled on the surface, before kiting over to the far side. It felt like a roach, not my hoped for chub; whatever, it was fighting well, coming back to my side, then to the middle. The landing net was waiting as a 6 oz roach obliged by turning on its side, before sliding into the net.

This roach extended the session as I tried to catch another, to no avail. It was going to be a long up hill trek back to the van and I had to get a move on to avoid walking in the dark.

Not much to show for such a busy session. I had expected more and bigger chub, although the roach made up for that. I saw slower deeper swims, but they were unfishable. Next time I will bring my pole saw