Festive chaos among the roach and dace

December 31, 2019 at 6:26 pm

With the Christmas festivities over, I found a few hours before New Year to fish my local river, bright sunshine and no floods promising a rewarding session. The tiny river runs through a public park with a path along its banks and the sun had brought half the town out, while the other half were shopping. Whole families seemed to be riding on shiny new bicycles, dodging dog walkers and duck feeders, as they competed for a place on the path. Pieces of bread drifted downstream unchallenged by the many mallard ducks and moorhens, that patrol this waterway, no doubt, like us, brimmed with too much food, enthusiastically offered more as a ritual, than a necessity by willing mothers of children.

For myself, bread is the main bait on this river, ducks ground baiting for me, as they nibble there way through the slices. Setting up to fish bread punch on a running line and stick float rig set 30 inches, I was joined by a fellow club member, Michael, who asked if I minded him fishing 30 yards downstream. As I was intending to trot 15 yards down to a bush, I had no objections. Having already put a couple of small balls of liquidised bread over to the main flow along the opposite bank, I made my first cast over, seeing the float disappear in the first five feet of travel. A lift and I was playing a nice roach, which impressed Michael, making sure of my catch with the landing net. Too many fish swung in to inflate my ego in front of an audience, that then came off the hook, taught me a lesson; always use the landing net.

The roach were soon lined up in my swim, invisible in the clear water, until the hook was set, flashing silver, when they turned away.

These were just the right size to build a weight, plenty of fight, but predictable on the way to the net.

Another ball of bread brought dace on the feed, holding back hard producing firm takes from these notoriously fast feeders, the Anglo Saxon name of dart an apt description.

These have grown well since being introduced by the Environment Agency a few years ago.

Roach and dace now took turns in taking the 5 mm punch of bread on a size 16 hook and all seemed set for a red letter day.

As lunchtime approached the “Caught anything mister?” and “Oooh the man has caught a fish” brigade increased. I don’t mind a bit of attention, but when they stand peering down into the clear shallows, where I am catching fish and the bites stop, it gets a bit wearing. When a pair of twins in identical pink coats arrived to ply me with questions, “What have you got in your net mister?” followed by “Can you see the big fish in there Maisy?”, it was time to get out the turkey and gammon sandwiches.

Audience gone, I put on my bait apron, realising that my jeans, clean on that morning, were already getting slimed up. I began to catch again, including another decent roach.

Splash!! A large dog had taken a flying leap into the river, chasing ducks through my swim, it’s furious owner shouting ignored commands, until the woolly beast gave up and returned to the bank, showering everyone with ice cold river water.

This was the last straw. The river was now muddied and I took the opportunity to move my stuff in stages, twenty five yards down stream, where the main path rose away from the bank, placing my tackle box on a narrow strip that sloped toward the river. This still did not deter a few more young adventurers from threading their way through my strewn accessories, or several dogs from sniffing out the contents of my bait bag. Michael had long moved on to another downstream swim, having complained of dace smashing his maggots.

The river had picked up pace, creating an eddy down my side, the muddy water was gone, but replaced by a thick orange soup, my keepnet now hidden in the murk. First cast in the float bobbed and dipped and I lifted into a big gudgeon that hugged the bottom.

It was now a gudgeon a chuck, not ideal, but at least the float kept going under.

The river was clearing again and I caught a roach. This river suffers from several industrial outfalls and daily changes colour to this dirty orange. The origin is a mystery, but it puts the roach, chub and dace off the feed, while gudgeon seem to thrive in it.

As the river clears, so the roach come back. I had more gudgeon, then my last fish, another small roach. I couldn’t wait for more roach to show and packed up while the sun still shone.

It had been a busy few hours, even if all had not gone to plan, there were a lot of fish in my net, about 4 lb in weight, although half what I had hoped for at the start of the session.





Blackwater bread punch roach defy the floods

December 19, 2019 at 4:01 pm

Rain, rain and more rain seems to be the norm so far this December, but a dry forecast today saw me head to the banks of the river Blackwater, as a heavy frost gave way to sunshine. Heavy rain was due by 4 pm, so I wanted to make the most of my session, although by the time that I had scraped the ice from the van and driven to the river it was 11 am. Due to the storms of late, I was not sure what the state of the Blackwater would be, walking to the bridge for a look, confirming my fears. It was the colour of strong builder’s tea and boiling through.

The tackle was still in the van and I stood for a while considering my options, go elsewhere, or stay. Always up for a challenge, I unloaded my gear, crossed the bridge and walked downstream. The last time that I had fished, there had been a dead tree in the water creating a slack. Unfortunately it was now on the bank, the Surrey Council having removed and cut it up. I headed back upstream to another slack on the inside of a tight bend. Too late. Another angler was now tackling up in it.

I now searched for a steady run on my side, out of the main flow; finding a corner where an outcrop from the bank created a narrow eddy.

Setting up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stick float, I plumbed the depth, 3 feet down the inside and 4 feet a rod length out. Knowing the Blackwater, this was at least a foot over normal level. It was now noon, so much for my early start. The choice of the 4 No 4 float was too light, but decided to give it a try. Introducing a couple of tight balls of liquidised bread in close, upstream behind me, following down with the float set at 3 feet. The float dragged under and I lifted to feel a fish, seeing a small roach dive for the faster water and come off.

Not a good start, but at least the fish were in a feeding mood. Putting another 6 mm pellet of bread on the size 16 barbless hook, I cast in again, this time dip, dip, dive and another small roach putting a bend in the rod, as it used the force of the current. Taking my time, I slowly wound line back, lifting the roach clear to my hand.

Next trot a slightly bigger roach was diving away toward the middle, opting to net this one.

It was time to get serious, wetting down half a pint of feed and putting on my bait apron to dry my hands. In this time the river took on more pace, rustling the ivy at my feet as it swept by, taking on more colour. Half a mile upstream, the outfall from a water treatment works empties into the river, its force usually varying thoughout the day. My slack had changed into a boiling eddy and I began to miss bites as the float was washed around in circles. I knew now that a 6 No 4 float would have been easier to control, but stuck to my lighter float, adding another 9 inches to the depth and bulking the shot closer to the hook link. A stiffer ball of feed dropped quickly to the bottom, breaking up as it disappeared from view downstream. Keeping the rod up and the line off the water, I eased the float along the crease of the eddy. Dip, dive, I was in again to another hard fighting roach.

I was now dragging up twigs, but the fish were down there, including a stonking gudgeon.

Feeding a small ball of feed every ten minutes and bumping the bait along the bottom was getting positive bites, the roach below taking the bread in a rush, hooking itself, then kiting across the river, but staying on, the hook dropping out in the net.

The pace of the river dropped back again and I shallowed up, spreading the shot and trotting through the slack, hooking in succession a trio of small chub, that skipped off the hook before I could swing them in. I went deep again and stuck to the formula, keeping the float tip under tight control. The roach kept coming in fits and starts, depending on the force of the river as it moved the eddy around.

The sun had long gone by 2 pm and an icy downstream wind was now adding to my problems, trying to lift the float from the water. I was ready to pack up, but would then hook another roach.

With only a few days left before the shortest of the year, by 3 pm the light was fading, I was shaking with the cold and my warming tea was gone, so on catching this last roach, I packed up.

It had been hard work having to chase the fish. Usually with the bread, a layer of feed will coat the bottom downstream and provide a sweet spot, where drifting the float in will get a fish a chuck, but the varying flow moved the fish about.

I missed plenty of bites and lost several fish in the current, but it had been worth the effort.

Not a good net of fish by Blackwater standards, but on the day, respectable. On the drive home, the expected rain came down with a vengeance, the dry weather window had closed again.

December bread punch carp reward

December 8, 2019 at 6:59 pm

This summer one of my local balance ponds suffered from a drop in oxygen levels, leaving hundreds of carp gasping on the surface, as they crowded around the freshwater inlets. Concerned members of the public contacted the Environment Agency, who arrived with a boat, nets and electro fishing gear to remove the bulk of the carp, many in double figures. About two hundred carp and rudd were rehomed in local pivate lakes, leaving this free public access water stripped of its prime assets.

Two years of successful spawning had left many tiny carp, commons and mirrors, while survivors of the netting are still being caught by a few regulars, and I decided to try my luck on a mild Saturday afternoon this week.

The council have reduced the level of the pond by over a foot and I settled down to fish on what is now a beach below the pond wall. Boasting a car park and a food wagon selling hot drinks, the pond is a focal point for young families bringing bread down to feed the ducks and I could see a few carp venturing into the shallows to mop up the residue left by the ducks. The only good thing about the level drop, is that the growing population of resident Canada geese seem to have deserted the pond, otherwise 18 inches above the mud bottom, is now the maximum depth. The pond has always been coloured, the water often orange, but chemicals put into the pond by the EA have cleared it and I could see the bottom right across to the island.

Setting up my 12.5 foot Normark float rod with a modified antenna pole float, I cast into an area, where a stream flows in from the left, having baited a line toward the island, catapulting out balls of liquidised bread mixed with ground carp pellets.

Mini carp were soon attacking the 8mm bread pellet, dipping the float, giving false alarm bites similar to the real thing, most not finding the hook, when I struck.

Ten minutes later the float dipped under and kept going, the rod bending into a pound plus common carp, that exploded onto the surface in the shallow water, running beyond the island as I flipped the rod over to the left to turn it. Trailing black mud, the carp ran up toward the stream as I reeled it back, bringing the rod round to the right to force it away from an overhanging bush. Once in the shallows, it beached itself and I had to force the landing net under the rolling carp, then drag it clear. Only lightly hooked, the size 16 barbless dropped out in the net. After a quick photo, I carried the net along the bank to deeper water, well away from my swim to free the common, not wanting to disturb the swim more than I needed to.

A light breeze got up, putting a bow in the line and dragging the float round, so I started a new area, catapulting more balls of feed toward the island on my right, again being bothered by baby carp. Further to my right, I could see a dark shadow moving slowly along the edge of the island toward me. It was a shoal of carp, a couple of white backed ghost carp investigating the bottom in front of the main body of fish. I catapulted a couple more balls over ahead of them. A very long common cruised into the feed area.

With anticipation, I cast into the mass of fish, the float dipping under and lifting as the bread was tested, swinging like a pendulum beneath the float. A carp swam in my direction as the float followed it, I lifted the rod. Contact! The fish accelerated at top speed to the left, scattering more carp, then came off. The shoal were now stirring up black mud, as they rooted along the bottom after the feed, tails breaking the surface. Casting in again, I missed a bite that zoomed away. Another good bite brought an anti climax, when a better 4 oz baby common stole the bait. More missed bites, then solid resistance as a carp turned away running along the island.

With the landing net tucked under my arm, I followed the running carp, keen to get beyond a wooden post standing upright in the middle of the channel, the line snagging on small branches briefly before the carp slowed. Not a big fish, about 3 lb, the common carp burrowed through the mud, then surfaced, swimming left and right making short runs, gradually being brought back to the net in a foot of water.

Back to my tackle box, after a photo, I marched along the bank to release my catch, finding that the shoal had continued on its way round the island. I sat it out for another fifteen minutes with no sign of a bite, until the float, followed by the line vanished from view. Braced for a big fish, another baby carp resisted briefly, then came off. It was now gone 3 pm, in the breeze the air was chilling and I packed up.

The carp tended to shoal, when I first fished here ten years ago, banded pellets with a pellet waggler a killer method. Today there are obviously still a fair number of carp, but it will be a while before the baby carp put on pounds, but with the now clear water and no weed cover, will the cormorants get there first?