Bread punch roach and skimmers through the ice on the Basingstoke Canal

February 16, 2018 at 9:31 pm

A report that a club match had produced a 10 lb winning weight, with follow up weights of roach and bream, saw me on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal this week. A bright dry day was forecast, but an overnight frost left the surface covered with a sheet of ice.

The match had been frost free and my hopes of dropping in on one of the winning pegs had been thwarted by bank to bank ice. Dragging my trolley, I walked up to a bend in the canal, where direct sunlight had still not worked its magic, so walked all the way back to the “good pegs”, where I began breaking the ice with the butt of my extended pole, scooping out enough with my landing net to fish just over the near shelf. My informant had said that the bream had been taken down the middle of the canal. No chance of that, four metres out would have to do.

By the time I was ready to fish, a few free floating pieces had been cleared and the first quarter of the canal was fishable. Being sparing with the liquidised bread feed, I dropped a small ball over the shelf and another a metre beyond. That would have to do until I got some fish in the net. With my antennae  float set just off bottom, and a 4 mm bread pellet on a fine wire size 18 hook, it took ten minutes for the first signs of a bite, rings radiating from the float bristle giving warning of a slight dip. I lifted the pole to feel resistance and swung in my first roach.

Not a bad roach for this part of the canal. I fished this part of the Basi quite often once, then good weights of roach and skimmer bream could be taken on the bread punch, but something changed, the bream disappeared and the only roach were tiny, which in turn attracted many small jack pike to feed on them.

This jack had been troubling my fish, until I put on a plug and pulled it out. They are a lot bigger these days.

A welcome skimmer bream told me that I was in the right spot and the float was soon on its way down again for a better roach.

These fish are weight builders and after a very slow start, they were beginning to queue up for the punch. I decided to keep the feed to a minimum, dropping in another 20 mm ball after 20 minutes.

Adding another metre of pole, the bites became more confident and a classic lift bite brought another skimmer to the net.

A few fish later the elastic came out, as a very nice roach flashed silver beneath the surface and I took my time guiding it into the net.

This deep round roach went 8 oz on its own, net fish outnumbering those swung in. I had begun to miss quick bites, the culprits proving to be three inch roach, that were attacking the punch bread as it fell through on the drop. After I had thrown back half a dozen of these tiny roach, a swirl in the swim scattered several across the surface. A pike had moved in. Adding two more metres of pole, I fed another ball and fished right up to the thinning ice, hooking a better roach, bringing it round away from the pike and swung it in.

This worked for two more fish, then the elastic stretched out. The pike had taken a nice roach, just after I had set the hook. This had only one outcome, whether I landed it, or not. My swim would be ruined. With little resistance from the elastic, the pike stopped, turned and swallowed the roach. Heading back to the opposite bank on the surface, it did me one favour. At least it was breaking up the ice past the middle. It was about two feet long and around 3 lb in weight, not enough to over strain my elastic, as I had come prepared for possible big bream, but the way it was stirring up the mud, there was no chance of bream now anyway. I had brought my lightweight canal net today and the pike looked too long to fit in, but got most of its body in and lifted, only for it to slip out again, spinning as it did, cutting the line. A swirl and it was gone.

I had been here before, a promising swim written off in minutes by a pike. Although only fishing for 90 minutes, I considered packing up. I could move, but that would mean going through the process of breaking the ice again, although it was much thinner now. It was a sunny day, I would start again. There was an identical rig on the winder. It took only minutes to swap over. The other rig had been cut at the loop of the hook link. That roach was well down the pike’s gullet. Maybe he’d had his fill for the day.

I fed a couple of balls of bread to the middle, cast out and rested my pole. Time to try those ham and cheese sandwiches, that I had watched my wife make for me this morning. The tea was still hot from my flask. A kingfisher flew along the canal. Bike riders and runners passed behind me. Dog walkers asked if I had caught anything. I told them of the pike. Life wasn’t too bad.

The float sank. Another small skimmer. It had been 30 minutes since the skirmish with the pike, but I whizzed the pole back as quickly as possible. Another bite, another skimmer, this one bigger. Lost it. Should have taken my time. Another small ball went in to compensate. A couple of smaller roach followed. Lost the skimmers? The float sank again, this time a decent roach. Wham! The pike struck again. I pulled the pole round hard for a break. The pike had let go. The roach panicked on the surface and I swung it in.

The jaw marks from the pike were visible, but it had let go leaving missing scales and minimal damage. This was the decider for me. I would pack up. In the past I have set up a spinning rod to combat the pike, but this time left it behind.

I took my time putting the gear away, chatting to anyone that asked of my day. A couple from Zimbabwe got the full treatment, including a quick teach in on fishing the bread punch.

That was my lot for three hours, twenty fish for just under 3 lbs, including some quality roach. It could have been so much more without Mr Toothy.

Winter bread punch endurance test

February 8, 2018 at 8:13 pm

In the week that the BBC brought online their latest all singing, all dancing weather forecasting software, they got it all wrong for friend Peter and I, when we fished our local Jeane’s Pond at Braybrooke Park today. They predicted a dry sunny start and warmer temperatures. What did we get? The pond covered by ice when we arrived, then rain as we tackled up, that was on and off until lunchtime, with a chill wind gusting across the water all day.

My original plan had been to fish the swim above, but found it iced over, so set up on the opposite side of the outcrop, where there was clear water, but the wind was blowing in my face. Peter had settled into a swim he had fished the week before, as it was in the lee of buildings, but he was also hoping for a few of the big rudd that helped him to a 6 lb finishing weight on that occasion.

Peter was snug under his brolley, while I faced the storm, trying to cope with the wind that was blowing my float about. I had fed a couple of balls of liquidised bread just beyond the drop off into the deeper water, but the wind was causing a drift that was bringing my rig back toward me, the shallow shelf littered with twigs and branches blown from the adjacent trees. Every cast in, the float dragged the hook into these underwater obstacles and I was soon building up a collection on the bank. When the wind dropped, the float stood still and I would get a bite.

Peter had already caught a small roach, but my first was a better than average size and I took advantage of the calmer conditions to swing a few in before the wind picked up again. A 4 mm bread punch was doing the damage, missing a few bites on the 5 mm to an 18 hook.

I was still picking off the occasional roach, but conditions continued to worsen and I considered moving round out of the wind next to Peter. Getting up to look at my preferred swim, I saw that the wind was breaking up the ice, blowing it into the far corner. With my jacket hood up, this peg would be easier to fish, as the wind would be on my back and the float rig downwind, being easier to control.

My float is in there somewhere! Holding the float back against the drift, a few small balls of bread concentrated the bites into a tight area and I was catching again.

By 2 pm Peter had had enough. Although out of the main force of the wind, he was freezing with cold hands and knocking knees. I went round to see what he had caught on the maggot, four nice rudd and a roach for just over a pound in total.

The bread punch was obviously doing better than the maggot today, having counted over 30 roach into my net already and I walked back to my peg determined to stick it out for another hour.


Topping up with some more bread crumb, I put in another couple of balls, allowing the bait to fall through the cloud and picking up a nice roach on the drop.

Fishing just off the bottom in four feet of water, the bites were slow to develope, with the odd dip of the float an indication that the tip was about to steadily sink beneath the surface.

The bites were still coming, when I pulled in for the last time at 3 pm, but a light drizzle of rain was threatening to prove the forecasters right at last and was keen to get away before the main downpour.

An all roach bag of over four pounds was my lot for the day, but not enough to keep the cold at bay.

Trout stream work party gets results

February 4, 2018 at 5:49 pm

The second work party of the year on my syndicate trout stream dawned with steady rain and  I expected a text saying that it had been cancelled, but no message meant that a few hardy souls would be turning out to continue the work started a month before. Then we had cleared the banks through a copse, due to the farmer placing an electrified fence along the pasture side of the river, which made it impossible to fish.

I arrived to find empty cars in the farmyard and the sound of a distant chainsaw. It was lashing down with rain, but in for a penny, in for a pound, I set off downstream in search of company. As usual it was the same old faces that had turned out, the chainsaw being used to supply sturdy poles to build a berm that would speed up the flow.

Others were busy pounding stakes deep into the riverbed to support the lateral poles, which were then to be wired in place.

Having the title of chief firestarter, I was given a sack with a few sheets of paper, to get a fire going. On previous work parties, I had been given a box of matches with only one match, but today with no letup in the rain, they had taken pity on me and included a full box. Searching out a some dead twigs I broke them down to form a small pyramid above the paper, which was getting soaked by the second, but the gods were with me and after a few false starts the twigs began to burn. As branches were felled, a steady supply of fuel for the fire arrived, keeping two of us busy for the morning. Hot work in more ways than one.

The new berm raised the water level above it by about a foot, while creating a fast run below that would keep the gravel free from silt.

On the opposite bank, branches were trodden in, then wired down above the berm, where the main flow follows the bend, to act as a silt trap.

With eight weeks to go before the start of the trout fishing season, more river improvement work is planned, hopefully on warmer, drier days.




Weihrauch HW100 Sport add on IR Nitesite Viper Review

February 1, 2018 at 5:49 pm

Having flirted with night vision using a modified Sony Handycam with Nightshot and an IR torch on my Webley Viper .22 PCP, I had found that the short torch battery life was a limiting factor, as the power went down, so did the range and image on the handycam screen. 10 minutes between battery changes was about the limit. It worked well for close range rats and pigeons in the farmer’s barn, but fumbling with fresh batteries in the dark had its limits.

Occasional visits to shooting forums had highlighted a few home grown night vision systems, but the limiting factor had always been the house brick sized battery needed to run the things. Not needing to shoot after dark, until last year, when I was given permission to shoot rabbits over an 80 acre sports ground, I had put the night vision on hold. Brief low light visits had brought results, but it was time to revisit the forums to check up on the latest technology.

At last lithium batteries were being used and good reviews saw me reaching for the credit card to buy a NiteSite Viper scope add on infrared unit, which arrived in a smart shock proof case.

This is the least expensive and smallest unit with a specified range of 100 metres, more than enough for my Weihrauch HW100 Sport .22 PCP airifle, although I can see it being pressed into use with my other rifles, Career 707 FAC air, .22 semi auto Magtech and .17 HMR. More power is available at a cost, the Wolf having a quoted range of 300 yards and 500 yards for the Eagle models.

Opening up the box all the components are well protected, the idea being that the box will travel to the permission, where the parts will be assembled on site. Central in the case are two rubber sleeves to suit different sizes of scope eyepieces. Top right is the IR camera, with locations for the power jack and the screen feed. The camera has an on/off push button switch, which is silent in operation. No clicks to alert a rabbit in the dark. Bottom right is the IR torch and 3 1/2 inch screen unit. Bottom left is the lightweight lithium battery. This box housed the previous battery, a foam rubber filler taking up the now defunct space. Top left is a three pin UK mains adaptor for charging the battery, which has a charge life of over seven hours. A two pin plug is also included in the kit. Alongside the camera are two mounts for the torch/screen unit, one for a 25 mm scope tube and the other a 30 mm. With the mounts is an anti recoil bracket to firmly locate the screen unit.

Assembly onto the rifle literally takes a couple of minutes. My scope has a 25 mm tube, so the appropriate screen mount was clipped over the tube, having removed the clamp screw first. The anti recoil clip is then positioned over the mount with its slot covering the clamp screw hole.The screen unit slides into the groove at the top of the mount, the clamp screw refitted and the anti recoil clip pulled up to lock the screen. The serrated clamp nut can now be screwed on to tighten the clamp. It sounds complicated, but takes longer to say than do.

Next select the rubber sleeve that suits your scope eyepiece. This slides on up to a reduction, which positions the sleeve ready for the camera to slide in from the other end. Over the sleeve fit the battery pack, holding it in place with its velcro strap. With the camera fully home, plug in the lead from the screen and that from the battery. They are male and female connections, so fool proof. Switch on the screen and camera to check the focus of the cross hairs on the screen.

The focus of the camera is adjusted with the index finger pushing onto the rough surface of the lens holder, which is marked white to allow judgment of rotation of the holder. Rotating the lens moves it in and out allowing fine adjustments of the focal length to the scope eye piece. Each time the lens is adjusted, it is a case of pushing it back fully home in the sleeve to view the cross hairs on the screen.

With the IR torch turned fully anticlockwise in the off position with the knob at the top of the screen, for daylight use, this is the view of the cross hairs on my scope. With the focal length set at the lens, the camera can be removed and replaced without the need to reset the focus.

Weighing in at 14 oz fitted, the unit sits easily on the scope without feeling bulky. Having used a red dot scope in the past, the heads up shooting position is not difficult to master, giving a similar sensation to using a games console. Place the cross hairs on the target and squeeze the trigger.

The business end. There is a warning in the instructions not to look into the torch, when the unit is switched on, as serious damage to your eyes can be the result. Good practice would be to always turn the knob to the daylight position when in the field, adjusting the intensity to the range that you are shooting.

Due to the January weather of late, storms, rain, frost and snow, I have yet to test the NiteSite Viper in the field, but sighting down my 40 yard rear garden in pitch black conditions, I was amazed at the clear image, almost jumping out of my skin, when the neighbour’s cat emerged from behind a bush, its eyes glowing like those of a demon, as it wandered up the path toward me.