Big roach on the bread punch defy winter floods

February 28, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Winter storms continue and I looked for the best of a bad bunch of forecasts this week, deciding that a heavy frost, followed by sunshine and wintry showers of hail and sleet would give me a chance at some big roach from my local river. It was still only 5 degrees centigrade, when I drove over the river at lunch time, looking down into the flood water as it surged beneath the bridge, debris jammed against the upstream side causing the river to find its way around and over the roadway. Parking in the partly submerged lay-by alongside the river, I loaded up my trolley for the walk to my chosen swim, where the outfall from the town water treatment works joins the river.

Siting my tackle box on the top of the high bank, I set up my light weight 12 foot Hardy float rod with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to a size 16 hook. Hoping for 8 to 12 oz roach, the Hardy is ideal as it has a soft top that bends well into their bouncing fight and the shock of a sudden run. This swim used to hold a head of good chub, plus the occasional common carp and my 14 foot Browning was the answer then. It would bounce off the odd roach, but had the back bone to stop any chub that made a break for it down the weir stream. Unfortunately those big fish seem to have been poached out of the river these days by constant night fishing with set lines, but the roach remain.

The river was up at least a foot at this point, pushing hard into the weir stream, the usual back eddy reduced to a small area on the far side of the confluence. Plumbing the depth confirmed that the river was up by over a foot and I added another foot to hold back against the bulk shot to ease the rig down toward the foam. Damping down coarse liquidised bread, I squeezed up a few firm balls and threw them ten yards upstream to start creating a feeding area out in front of me. Guessing that the river would be in full flow, I had prepared a couple of sheets of rolled punch bread to avoid the bait being washed off the hook.

Despite regular balls of feed, I was biteless for about an hour, then as the float eased into the foam, it disappeared and the little Hardy bent double with a good fish that ran back down the stream, back wound my ABU 501 reel to stay in contact. Slow thumps on the rod confirmed a big roach, that topped briefly before diving back down and took my time to bring it into the slower water at my feet, the landing net pole bending with the weight as I brought it up the bank.

This roach was well worth the wait. I squeezed up another ball and threw it well upstream, laying the float across the feed and easing it down. The float held down and I was in again to another battling roach.

The fish had now moved up into the river just below me, the bread covering the bottom holding the roach in a tight area, the bites going from anticipated to expected, each trot bringing a rod bender.

Even the small ones were clonkers, as I worked my way through the shoal. They did not want it running through, but nailed to the bottom well over depth, lifting and dropping the bulk shot a few inches at the a time, the bites unmissable.

Many of these roach have a harmless lice infestation.

This roach took during a hail storm that left the bank white for a few minutes, chilling the air more than before.

Whether the sudden influx of icy hail had put off the roach I don’t know, but the next fish was a chub, that made a rapid rush back to the weir stream. A real rod bender for its size. A smaller one followed, then it was several big gudgeon before the roach returned.

A perfect specimen.

And another.

They just kept coming.

A prolonged hail and rain storm stopped me fishing for a while, as a gusting wind lashed the surface of the river. I made up some more feed, throwing tight balls upstream.

The pace of the river had been picking up all afternoon and I added another three inches to the depth of the float to cope with the flow. Like before, the next fish after the hailstorm, was another chub, this time a better fish again, the rod and back winding withstanding that initial chub run.

A few more monster gudgeon and I was back into the roach, my landing net working overtime.

Most of the hooks came out in the net, proof that they could not be rushed.

This was my last roach of the day, forcing myself to stop at bang on 4:30 pm. I had run out of bread feed, having used 8 oz of coarse ground white loaf.  I had used the rolled bread, with a 6 mm punch all afternoon at a total cost of about 30 pence.

Emptying the keepnet into my landing net for a quick photo before I lowered them back into the river, I weighed them in at 9 lb 4 oz, not quite the 10 lb I expected. Should have fished for another ten minutes!


Roach entertain on the bread punch through the storm

February 22, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Storm Dennis the Menace was still blowing itself out, when I arrived for an afternoon’s fishing at Braybrooke Community Club’s Jeanes Pond this week. Early morning rain had finished, but gusts of 40 mph were still blasting across the football pitch as I tried to tackle up. Choosing to fish with my back to the wind seemed a good idea at the time and with full thermal clothing and a wax cotton jacket, topped by a fleece lined hat, that pulled down over my ears, I was comfortable enough, but the wind produced vortexes, that twice had my pole rig snagged in the bush to my left, before I managed to get a line in the water.

There was no sign of fish activity on the surface of the pond and I assumed that it was going to be HARD, but then I like a challenge and set up with a 4 x14 antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook to fish for bites.

I could see that the heavy rain had increased the depth of the pond by at least six inches and found four feet at 3 metres over the shelf, when I plumbed up, setting the float to fish a few inches off bottom. With wind whipping around the surface, I opted to fish with no more than the top three sections of pole, two metres out from the high bank, dropping a golf ball sized ball of liquidised bread around my float. The float sat motionless for five minutes, before a slight dip showed interest in the 4 mm pellet of rolled bread. It sank slowly and I lifted into small roach, that the wind blew out horizontal to the bank and a game of catch me if you can followed, until I was able to grasp the ice cold fish.

In the keep net it went, another 4 mm punch of bread was on the hook and I swung out again, this time the float settling and sinking immediately with another lolipop of a roach. They kept coming, some smaller, others slightly bigger, but nothing decent, but at least I was catching something. Every ten fish I dropped in another small ball of bread, watching the crumb spread into a slowly sinking cloud, then casting across it to allow the bait to follow through.

After an hour and over twenty roach, the swim went dead in front of me and I guessed that a pike had been attracted to the feeding fish. I stopped feeding and cast to my left. The float went under and I was catching again. Ten minutes later there was a green flash as the pike took a hooked roach, the pole elastic steadily extending, following the pike as it sank into the depths. I have been in this position too many times now, especially on this pond, but never have got one on the bank and this was no different, the razor sharp teeth of this successful predator slicing through the hooklink when it turned.

Hoping that the pike was satisfied with its catch for the moment, I tied on another size 18, put in another ball of feed in front of me and waited for a bite. A few more minutes and it was business as usual, as roach began to queue up for the punch again.

The wind was still causing problems. Laying my pole down to grab a hot cup of tea and a sandwich, the wind lifted it clear of the rest and into the water, just managing to catch hold of the line before the lot sank out of sight. Another time I had played a 4 oz roach to the surface, but the wind was blowing my landing net in the opposite direction, so I attempted to swing the fish in, the same gust spinning the roach away and off the hook.

“What’s up, you must be really bored at home to come here today?” It was a friend and fellow angler Kieth, a council worker at the site, who had come out to question my sanity. The rivers are all in flood and I’d rather watch a float going under any day, than watch TV. That’s my excuse any way. I continued to catch as we chatted, the wind drying out my bread bait, too hard and the bites dither, so every fifteen minutes I needed to tear of another fresh piece to punch. The wind blew one piece into the pond, which the ducks were pleased to receive. This was becoming a test of endurance, but the roach were still there and it was easier to continue fishing than to pack up.

At last some better roach were finding the feed and the landing net was back in use.

Another decent roach was fighting hard, then the next instant it was skating across the surface in panic with the pike in pursuit. I lifted too late, the pike rolling on its side as it snatched the roach away. If I needed an excuse to pack up this was it. The hook was still there, but it was time to go. I had hoped to make it to three hours fishing time, but two and a half was enough on a day like this. At least it hadn’t rained.

The bread punch had shown what it could do again and the bites had kept coming with over 50 fish in the net.

River Whitewater trout fishing revamp

February 10, 2020 at 3:39 pm

I always look forward each year to the first working party on the River Whitewater, the little Hampshire trout stream showing early signs of spring, as members began work cutting back trees and tidying the banks in preparation for the trout season opener on April 1st. The distinctive aroma of wild garlic crushed under foot welcomed us, as we made our way down to the intended work area, hazel catkins having already matured and fresh bright green leaves bursting from buds.

For the coming season, the fly fishing has come under the control of the parent club, Farnborough and District Angling Society, offering trout fishing to members at a reduced rate as an add on to the general membership. Another bonus is the removal of the nominated three day a week fishing, Sunday to Tuesday, or Thursday to Saturday, which restricted fishing time. As a Thursday to Saturday fisher, I often was forced to sit on my hands on a glorious Tuesday, only to have it rain from Thursday onward. With such a good, but brief Mayfly hatch on this river, it will give more opportunities to tempt some of the elusive better specimens.

Work intended this year is to construct more berms to speed up the flow, felled trees providing the raw materials for this work. Here’s one we made earlier.

This weekend, the same berm has been working well for two seasons, creating a clean gravel run, ideal for spawning fish and feeding trout later on.

Another good sign this weekend was to see that ranunculus weed, taken from other parts of the river and transplanted elsewhere had taken well, despite the attentions of a family of swans, that spent much of their time feasting on the luxuriant growth.

With the full resources of the Farnborough and District club at its disposal, the fly fishing section are looking to take advantage of the opening up of a further mile of the Whitewater, the long neglected downstream section, the subject of further river improvement under the supervision of the Environment Agency this year.

One of the many variants of wild trout caught in the Whitewater.





Mostly small stuff on the Basingstoke canal.

February 6, 2020 at 10:23 am

I have been trying to get back to the Basingstoke Canal for some time, but events, mainly bad weather have intervened. Ideally the Basi fishes well after a period of heavy rain with a good flow and colour and I was hoping for a repeat of past success, travelling to Fleet in Hampshire this week. The intention was to fish the exact swim, that that I had caught a double figure net of skimmer bream and good roach from four years ago, assuming that it was still a good fish holding area.

I had fished this swim on other occasions and always caught some quality roach and skimmers, being more optimistic due to a 40 lb net of bream reported in a match half a mile upstream the previous Saturday. My original plan to fish this match section was scuppered by a Road Closed sign blocking access to the hot area on Glen Road, so switched to plan B at Reading Road.

Fleet High Street was also closed and a diversion took me round the houses, only to end up 200 yards ahead of where I had turned off in the first place! Following the diversion again, I turned left where the arrow had said to turn right and my own diversion soon connected with the correct road and I drove into the Reading Bridge carpark half an hour later than expected. Walking to The Swim, I set out my stall to fish pole and bread punch.

Plumbing the depth, the shelf was 4 metres out and a I put in small ball of liquidised bread down that line. The canal was opaque  with little flow and I watched the bread cloud spread with a slight drift down stream. Going in over the cloud with 4 x 16 float to a size 16 hook and a 6mm punch, I was pleased to see an instant response and struck when the float dived away, but disappointed with the first fish.

Little did I realise when I took this photo, that this roach would be one of my better fish, a succession of tiny roach that struggled to sink the float being thrown back in disbelief, that they could get the size 16 in their mouths. There was deeper water between 7 and 9 metres out and I now fed these two lines with a ball of bread each, fussy bites still producing small roach and even smaller skimmers.

I changed rigs to a lighter 4 x 14 float rig and size 18 hook and a 5 mm punch, the bites were more positive, but the fish size did not improve, again throwing most of them straight back.

In the hope of something better, I fed over to the far shelf, holding back hard against the gusting wind, but a series of more small roach and several big twigs, brought me back to the boat road.

At least the bites were constant and I tried a ball at 9 metres, then fished the 7 metre line, switching to feed the 7, then fish the 9. It did bring some better roach, but not much better, this one being one of the best.

The wind was getting colder and gustier and I was almost relieved when rain began to fall with a vengeance, giving the excuse to pack up. My hopes of attracting some elastic stretching fish may have been realised beyond this two hour stint, but was not prepared to stick it out, my last outing resulting in a soaking.

Better Luck next time?