Bread punch roach on the stick float from Roundmoor Ditch

October 30, 2019 at 8:06 pm

The clocks have gone back and summer is just a fond memory, but good fishing is still abundant in my area, deciding on an afternoon fishing a small tributary of the Thames, the Roundmoor Ditch, this week. Parking the van in the recreation ground carpark, I loaded up the trolley and hiked round the football pitches to the tiny fast flowing stream. I tried to locate where I had fished twenty years ago, a tight right hand bend passing under trees. The bend was still there, but the trees were gone, the open area giving plenty of sunshine for a thick growth of impenetrable surface weed. I continued downstream to a tunnel of trees, where the weed stopped short, allowing a trot down the inside into a weedless area.

Average depth here is two feet over gravel and I was expecting big dace to 8 oz, plus the occasional chub, but being only a quarter of a mile from the Thames confluence, anything could turn up, even barbel.

Crossing the recreation ground to the river, I had been blasted by a cold easterly wind and my main reason for choosing this swim was that it was sheltered by the bushes and a large oak tree. I set up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with an ABU 501 reel and a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stemmed stick float, shotted for the weights to taper down toward the size 16 hook. Due to the fast flow, I wetted down liquidised bread, so that the balls would sink quickly and disburse along the bottom, dropping them in at my feet.

First trot, the float had only travelled ten feet before it sank away trailing line, the strike putting a bend in the tip as a small chub made its initial run.

Dropping the float in at my feet avoided tangles with an overhanging willow above my head, while a branch protruding from the opposite bank required a flat upstream strike. My next cast brought a much better chub, that ran upstream into the weed, burying itself and snagging the hook, which was lost. Only my second cast and I needed a new hook!

A fresh hook tied on with already cold hands, was baited with a 5 mm punch of bread and trotted down, the float disappearing again as another small chub charged off with it. This time, keeping the rod low, I let it fight further downstream, until it was on the surface, guiding it into the narrow weed free channel on my side, then past me to be lifted clear upstream in the wind. This was not an easy swim to fish, no wonder that I seemed to have been the only one to try it this year, having to clear room for my tackle box among the stinging nettles lining the bank.

The bouncing fight of a roach, next put the rod to work, succeeding with the navigation of the natural obstacle course, swinging it to hand upstream.

Smaller roach and chub followed in quick succession, then a better roach made it to the sanctuary of the weed, but this time releasing the line saw it swim free to continue the fight.

At last a dace was tumbling on the surface, although it was well short of my expected size.

That was the only dace that I saw, which is puzzling considering ideal conditions and Roundmoor’s previous history as a dace water. The rod was soon bending again to a decent roach, which I took a chance to swing in.

Due to the overhanging willow above my head, I decided to move my tackle box upstream by four feet to allow safer netting of fish, although I was now in the full force of the wind, which was colder as cloud cover increased. Somehow in the move, my line had broken close to the reel and picking up the rod to rebait in the hook, I was bemused to see the wind carry the float over into the weed in front of me, followed by the line flowing out of the rod rings. The float snagged in the weed and after several attempts, I managed to wrap the loose line round the landing net and to grab the free end, pulling the float free, but loosing another hook on the coarse weed. What a disaster, just as better sized roach had moved up into the swim, I was unable to take advantage of the situation.

I had only been fishing for ninety minutes and had to set up again, thankful that I had found time to tie some more hooks to nylon over the weekend. After a calming cup of tea and a sandwich, I wound the loose line around my fingers, cutting it through, making two inch lengths, that fitted into my now empty sandwich bag, ready for disposal at home. After what seemed an age, I was ready to start fishing again.

During my forced interval, I had continued dropping balls of bread in at my feet, the float burying first cast and the rod bending to the butt with a very nice fish, that dived away downstream. My first thought was chub, but the pounding fight of a good roach said otherwise. Again this fish found the weed bed too inviting, but the slack line technique persuaded the roach to drop back, while the barbless hook hung on.

What a clonker, this roach showed signs of a healed pike attack.

Despite going up to a 6 mm punch, I was still catching nuisance minnows and small chub, but there were still better fish to be had.

This roach had a bright orange stain under its throat, like many taken today it had dropped scales, but was otherwise fighting fit.

I lost another good roach in the weed shortly after and the swim died for ten minutes, being on the verge of packing up, when I netted my last roach.

While packing up, a local fisherman came over to see what I had caught, pleasantly surprised with my catch, saying that although from the village, he had never tried this little gem of a river, let alone the bread punch, preferring to walk the extra yards to the Thames itself.

I had thrown back many smaller fish, my final net testament to an interesting, if not chilly three hours.


Autumn bread punch roach on the stick float

October 23, 2019 at 5:58 pm

A dry sunny afternoon called for a change of plans this week and I drove the van a couple of miles to my local river, with a plan to catch some chub before the the leaves fall. I was worried that days of rain would have coloured up the river, but found it clear with a steady pace, a change from my last visit in summer, when it was almost like a still canal. It is a good half mile walk from the car park to the chosen swim, which fortunately was empty, having invested the energy in getting there.

On the outside of a curve, the flow carries beneath a far bank bush, then under trees and has reliably produced catches of chub to over a pound; good sport on my 12 ft Hardy float rod. This was the most transparent that I have seen the river this year, leaves clearly visible on the bottom and I was keen to clear a patch among the Himalayan Balsam to place my tackle box. From mid river, there is a depth of 3 ft, deepening another 6 inches close to the bush, giving a level trot without snags.

Setting up with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stem stick float, I started the session with the float set to run through a foot off bottom, the chub charging through the cloud of liquidised bread before it reaches bottom. While getting ready, I had thrown a ball upstream of the bush and with a 6mm punch of bread on the hook, followed a second ball as it broke up, drifting downstream. The float sank out of sight on contact with the river and I braced for a rod bending fight. The rod did bend, but only to a five inch chub.

Each cast saw the float sink away before it had travelled a yard, but each time the result was the same, or smaller. A cast to the downstream end of the bush brought a matching pair of tiny roach, the only rod bender coming from a lone rudd.

This is the first time that I’ve not had a decent chub in the first five minutes from this swim and after a dozen trots, added a foot to the depth to trip bottom, where I hoped to find a few roach. I put a ball down the middle and another one above the bush, where an underhand cast positioned the float, holding back slightly to straighten the line to the rod. The float sank and I was playing a roach. At least something was working!

Next cast, same spot, a bigger roach that flashed silver in the sunlight, as it rushed around the river, the size 16 barbless hook falling out in the landing net.

If I can’t catch chub, then fighting roach are an acceptable substitute and the bread punch was queuing them up to get on the hook.

Another fin perfect beauty from this little river, which runs through a narrow ribbon of greenery alongside a main road on one side and a housing estate on the other. More urban than rural.


After an hour the bites were getting fussy with the roach smaller and I noticed that the water had gone cloudy, while the pace picked up.

The next fish was a surprise, a bottom hugging gudgeon, the first I’ve seen since the pollution that wiped out most of the fish three years ago.

My pleasure at this first sight was soon displaced as gudgeon began to be the only fish feeding and even these went off, when the river turned orange. This was a problem before, when builders erecting 2,400 new homes across the main road, that runs parallel to the river, were flushing mud and sand from the new roads straight into the surface drains. They have obviously started a new phase of housing and this is the result. The answer for me was get get my tea and sandwiches out and wait for it to pass, setting the float over dept to lay on mid river.

My picnic was interrupted, when the float bobbed then sank and I snatched up the rod to feel a decent roach on the hook, the rod bending as it ran off downstream, unseen in the murk, before coming to the net.

The river began to clear and a cast back above the bush produced a sail away bite and a small chub.

A bite that sped downstream was stopped and another brightly painted rudd swung to hand.

The roach were now back feeding and I cashed in, making up for lost time, taking one a chuck.

Having started fishing at 12, I made this solid roach my last fish three hours later.


With my second bread square with no spaces left to punch, it was time to pack up and join the traffic home.

A mixed bag of about 50 fish, despite the slow interlude, was compensated for the lack of chub by a net of prime roach.

During the long uphill walk back to the van, I could see that the bottom had turned orange with the sand, evidence that the construction company were not keeping to their agreement with the Environment Agency to flush contaminated water into overflow ponds.

Specimen crucian carp bread punch reward

October 17, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Heavy morning rain gave way to sunshine and a last minute arrangement at lunchtime saw me meet up with a fellow club member Alan, on an exchange water Hitcham Ponds. Despite a covering of green algae on the surface, conditions looked perfect for an eventful afternoon fishing the pond, which has an abundance of common carp, bream, crucian carp and rudd.

Local to this water, Alan was going to fish his usual method, micropellet feed with either banded pellet or maggots on the hook, using a waggler rig with a rod and running line. I have only fished the water a few times over the years and have used the bread punch with great success for crucians and skimmer bream, plus the occasional common carp and was confident of a repeat performance.

Before I had set out my stall, Alan was reeling in his first fish, a skimmer bream, followed by a decent rudd, both on the maggot. I was going to fish the pole, selecting a 4 x14 antenna float with shot bulked a foot from the size 18 barbless hook, I plumbed the depth and set to fish just off bottom. Following a ball of liquidised bread at five metres with the float, I did not have long to wait for the antenna to dip and glide off with a tiny roach clinging to the 6 mm bread pellet. This was the pattern for the next half hour, with me throwing back a three inch roach, skimmer, or gudgeon every cast, while Alan continued to put a bend in his rod as small carp found his banded pellets. Bubbles were rising steadily from my feed, but a raft of small stuff was attacking the bait before it could reach the bottom, despite the bulked shot. I expect to catch smaller fish, until the better fish push them out, but this was not going to plan, made worse by Alan, who was fighting yet another carp. An offer of some pellets and maggots was turned down, just before the float sailed away and a good rudd came to the net.

I had stepped up the feed, also going up to a 7 mm punch and this rudd was the result, another cast bringing a small skimmer bream, the bread punch finally showing progress. The slow thump of a bream bore this out, as it steadily stretched out the elastic and I waited for it to come back to me, seeing the silver flash of its deep flank through the green algae. It rolled off the size 18 hook and I considered increasing to a size 16, but this would mean time lost, so stuck with the smaller hook. Small roach were giving me carp look-a-like bites, dips, then sliding away at speed. It was a surprise when I lifted into the real thing, the 12 – 18 elastic zipping out from the pole, following the carp as it circled under the strain of the elastic. With a direct line to his fish, Alan took no prisoners, bundling another common into his net, while I waited for my carp to come to the surface to be netted.

More small fish continued to take the bread, a rudd photo worthy with bright red fins.

Bites were slower now, the heavier feed bringing in some better fish, another common carp rushing off with the bread.

Alan packed up, content that had sorted out a method for a match on the pond in two weeks time, while I plodded on with the bread, bubbles continuing to burst on the surface around the float. I lost a good carp at the net, that had circled round and round several time, before stopping out in front of me. Impatient to get the fish in the landing net, I pulled up to get the carp to surface, only for it to suddenly come to life, boiling on the surface and pulling the hook out. Hooking into another pellet of punch, I flicked the float back out and it sank away immediately and I was playing another carp.

This was as large as the one that I had just lost and I took my time allowing it circle, until it gave up on the surface, a bit of pressure guiding it into the net. I had been feeding a small ball each cast and now that the bread bag was empty, had decided to call it a day at 5 pm. With minutes to go, the float moved off and sank trailing line. I lifted into a solid weight, that took out the elastic like a rocket, the fish rolling on the surface against the strain. This was not another common carp. It looked and fought like a tench, rolling and diving, but the tail was not black, also being too wide. Soon the mystery was solved, it was a very large crucian carp and again I gave it an easy time, netting the bucking fish, as it barrel rolled on the surface.

The size 18 barbless had held on and I was relieved to get the big crucian in the keepnet, after a quick weigh-in that brought the scales round to 3 lb 8 oz. Coincidentally, the same size as my previous personal best crucian carp, that I caught this year from my local river.

My deadline had been reached, being content that the swim had finally come good, although it had failed to attract any other crucian carp, or the expected bream.

Not a big haul for this pond, but worth the effort of coming out for a few hours, proving that pellet is not always the answer on these hard fished waters.

Pike a menace on the Basingstoke Canal

October 9, 2019 at 12:31 pm

With storms sweeping across the country from the Atlantic, bringing waves of thundery showers; raised river levels gave me few options this week and I opted for a first time visit to the Basingstoke Canal at Ash Vale. A damp start was forecast in the morning, giving way to sunshine around lunch time, before more heavy rain by 3 pm, enough time for a session on the bread punch.

This section of the canal is unknown to me, but I was hoping for roach and skimmer bream, walking along with my trolley to what looked like a feature swim, with a lily bed growing out from the garden opposite. The water was very clear and I could see fir like weed stretching across, dipping down into the boat road, which was 3 feet deep. A gusting breeze was ruffling the surface from right to left and I set up a rig with a 4 x 14 antenna float to cope with the drift, a size 18 barbless ready for a 5 mm pellet of bread.

A small ball of liquidised bread at the edge of the drop off and another a metre out further into the boat road was my starter feed, being pleased to see the float dip, then sink slowly as a roach took the bait.

Back in, the float sank again, this time the elastic coming out of the pole tip and I could see a good sized roach flashing beneath the surface, getting the landing net ready as I passed the pole behind me. Whoosh! The surface erupted as a pike grabbed the roach, which cartwheeled free, when I pulled it away from a pike. That was a nice roach. I hoped that it had managed to escape.

The close in swim was now dead, the pike still hanging around waiting for an easy meal. Adding more lengths to the pole, I fed a couple of balls to the far side of the boat road, dropping the float in among the cloud of fine crumb. The antenna dipped and disappeared. Bracing myself, I lifted the pole into a tiny roach, that I skipped back across the surface to avoid the pike.

Back over again, a steady bite and resistance as a better roach fought its ground, again trying to keep it on the surface over the danger area. Another swirl and I lifted the fish clear, leaving it bouncing on the elastic.

My next roach was even better, pulling out the elastic as it darted left and right, getting ready to skim and lift it past the danger zone as I brought it closer. The roach knew the pike was going to make a lunge, throwing itself clear of the surface in panic, just in time.

I would have packed up and moved by now, but the roach were on that far side of the drop off and feeding, the pike more of a nuisance, than a threat. I tried another ball of feed over, taking a couple more roach, then I struck into a smaller fish, that was seized immediately. The pike had crossed the canal and was now heading off downstream stretching out the elastic. I fitted another length of pole and waited for the hook link to break, but the pike turned against the elastic, swimming past me down the middle with the roach across its jaws. Back and forward, then stopped, the pike was in the driving seat, I was just a passenger, the elastic not firm enough to take control. Breaking the pole down, I steered the pike toward the landing net, only for it to let go of the roach.

Badly damaged, the roach was still alive and swam away into the edge, when I released it. Fish can survive terrible pike injuries and have often caught roach with healed scar tissue. I put another ball over, then set about getting the elastic back inside the pole, it having stretched too far.

I had to wait for the next bite, this small roach coming over unchallenged.

The pike was back for the next roach, grabbing it half way across, stripping out elastic again. I pulled hard against the pike and it turned, swimming just below the surface with its tail and dorsal clear, obviously tired from the previous struggle. The line flew back. It had bitten through the hook link.

That was it, I had had enough. It was too early to go home, so I tipped my fish back, packed away my gear and loaded up the trolley, ready for a walk back in the other direction, settling down opposite another garden..

I needed to get out another rig and set up to fish on my side of the shelf again, dropping in a couple of balls to get things started, while I sorted myself out. The first few roach here were quite small, then the elastic came out as a deep bodied fish flashed beneath the surface. A skimmer? No, a rudd, that was quickly netted, just in case there was a pike here too.

Roach were in a taking mood and I began to make up for lost time, the float sinking on each cast.

They were not big, but after the tension of earlier, it was good to unwind with a few fish. Even a small perch took the punch.

The wind had now increased making bite detection difficult, until the float held under long enough to strike. This also meant that I stayed down my side of the canal, controlling the pole at 9 metres would require strong arms.


I missed several bites, probably from tiny fish, that dived away with the float, but at least there was plenty of action to keep me interested.

This was the best roach from my second swim. It was a relief to take my time netting this one, without the fear of another pike attack. Apart from the pike, regular canoeists paddling up and down, a dozen swans and signets, joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and even about twenty ramblers, all of which had interrupted my fishing, requiring the pole to be clear of the water, or the towpath, I had kept the fish coming to the punch.

The clouds had been gathering since lunch time and the swans were now diving for the bread on the bottom,  it was finally time to call it quits.

This little collection had taken 90 minutes to put together on the second attempt, I was disappointed not to have found a few skimmer bream to go with them, as they populate the canal throughout its length, but with over 30 miles of the Basingstoke Canal to try, better luck next time.

My timing was perfect, with the van loaded for the return journey, spots of rain were already falling and the roads were soon awash.