Thames Bolo float trial, a game of two halves, roach – pike – bleak

July 29, 2020 at 9:47 pm

Having bought a set of Bolognese floats, or Bolos as they have become known, I was keen to give them a try out on the Thames at Windsor this week, taking my wife along for the ride, so that she could visit a few shops in the town, while I was bagging up. That was the plan anyway.

The Home Park stretch of the Thames is managed by Old Windsor AC, who had kindly given me a list of swims that had recently produced good bags of roach, but with all the time in the world to get ready, I had left it at home. Not to worry, this stretch used to have roach and dace throughout and I walked along until I found an open bank, with steps down to the river, where I could safely place my tackle box.

I had boiled hemp seed that morning and added it to a mix ground hemp, ground carp pellets, plus some heavy ground bread crumbs. Damping it down, I pressed up some firm balls of feed before setting up my rod, starting with a 2 gram bolo, assuming that the water would be about six feet deep about three rods out.

In close under my bank it was six feet deep and by two rods I had plummeted ten feet, far deeper than I had expected, but there was little flow on the river and an underhand cast saw the float almost stationary. I had bulked the main shot two feet from the size 16 hook, with a two No 4 against the nine inch hook link, hoping to get through any resident bleak. I was too comfortable to move to one of the shallower downstream pegs, and decided to stick it out. For someone, who spends his time catching fish in rivers under three feet deep, this was going to be a steep learning curve.

I dropped in two tennis ball sized balls of feed a few feet upstream, which went straight down, just before the float began to move off downstream. They had opened the lock half a mile upstream and the flow increased helped no doubt by a flotilla of pleasure boats.

The first of many.

There was a gusting downstream wind blowing over to my side, but the bolo float coped well with all the weight well down and only half of the tip showing. Half a dozen trots without a sign of a bite had me worried, but by then the river had slowed again and following another ball speeding to the bottom, the float dipped, then sank and yes, I was in, a good fish fighting deep down, taking my time to bring it to the surface and my landing net.

What a cracking roach, taken on a 6 mm pellet of bread. I had been giving a running commentary to my wife, who looking up from her book dampened my excitement with the comment that it was “Just a fish.” For me this was just the start and next trot the float dived and the rod bent into a much smaller roach.

Not to worry, they were down there and I held off the feed for a while. I bounced another good fish. Too eager. These bites were going straight down and I needed to give them time. Bang! I was in again. another nice roach came to the net.

1 pm seemed to signal boats in both directions, what are sea going Sunseekers doing on an inland waterway? The 80 foot Queen of the Thames passenger boat swept by from Runnymede to Windsor, closely followed by an ex WW2 torpedo boat, now converted to a sleek house river cruiser; they all have their place in the life of the Thames, but what came next took my breath away.

This was yet another Sunseeker, towing a shrieking teenage boy on some form of lilo inflatable, which skated from side to side across the river. The mind boggles?

Despite the madness on the surface, on the bottom the roach were still feeding, although the float was submerged half the time. When it did not appear beneath the waves, I struck and sometimes I had another roach.

A bait dropper would have been the answer here, able to deliver small, but regular offerings down to the bottom. I have one, but guess what? It was at home, along with all my heavy items like swim feeders. When I was a match fisherman, I carried all that I needed for any situation, in fact I usually had two bait droppers with me, but these days I travel as light as possible, only carrying what I think that I need for the day. The heavy balls of feed seemed to be working ok, although I would have expected a higher catch rate by now, the roach were no longer taking the bait confidently. I suggested to my disinterested wife, that I thought that a pike was in the swim, her reply being that she thought that she would now take a walk into Windsor. Bye!

As I brought the next roach to the the net, the water boiled beneath it, but I netted another nice roach.

My guess had been proved correct and a dead period followed. I tried feeding further out, shallowing up,  going well over depth and laying on, the latter giving me two deep pulls of the float but no fish. Going back on the old line, the float dithered and I thought bleak, but the rod bent over again and I was playing a roach, until the line went solid as a pike took the fish. I let it go, as it sank away downstream and across, having to bury the rod when a boat cruised too close, the lady on board thanking me for avoiding her boat. I had the pike on for several minutes, it spending time sulking deep under my rod top, while I waited landing net in hand, before heading off again, only to cut through the 3 lb hook link, when I tried to stop it.

It was now the turn of bleak to make my life a misery, the float lifting and bobbing, a strike often hooking these slim shiny fish, only for them to fall off the hook in the wind.

My wife returned with cake and I related the story so far over cups of tea, while she nodded in the right places. She had been unable to buy the sheets that she wanted from Mark and Spencers either, so we were both having a bad day. I decided to pack up, but a roach kept me going for another ten minutes and more bleak. Overall I had been happy with the float, it held back well without tilting and indicated bites from ten feet down. I would have liked to have shown the Old Windsor boys how to catch their roach on the bread punch, but I fear that a couple more visits may be needed to sort out the method.

That clonking great roach made my day and I was pleased that it and the other roach had avoided the bashing from the boat wash in the keepnet.

Whitewater work party breathes new life into a neglected fishery

July 26, 2020 at 6:45 pm

A new committee has been working wonders at Farnborough and District Angling Society this year. Having signed a new three year lease on the river Blackwater, but lost a stretch of the river Loddon due to a housing development, it has decided to revitalise a long neglected mile of the river Whitewater, which is known for big chub and the occasional barbel. The upper reaches are reserved for fly fishing during the trout season, but the lower section has become overgrown and impenetrable over the years.

Arriving at the 9:30 am start time, it was obvious that I was not the first to arrive and the sound of chainsaws and strimmers could be heard in the distance.

Managing to squeeze my car onto a narrow verge, I walked back over the river bridge and followed upstream the sound of machetes on undergrowth, joining a couple of the guys clearing a pathway through seven foot high ferns. Armed with an extendable pole saw, I decided to concentrate on chopping Himalayan Balsam. Having tried pulling the balsam, it was much quicker to chop it, getting three, or four plants at a time, knowing that the flowers had little chance of growing on again.

Swims were already being opened up by small teams, while larger groups were dealing with trees with a chainsaw.

I continued upstream doing my balsam chopping, working up a sweat, while others made their way up toward Riseley Mill. Once I had dealt with this lot, I made my way back.

I was amazed to see this swim, it had been completely closed in when I had move up earlier on, now it was looking spick and span.

I can’t wait to trot a stick float under those trees. These swims are virgins in need of violation.

Another job well done by the Farnborough club’s volunteers. This was just the first phase on opening up this water, many of the members there unaware that the club held the rights to this interesting little river. The Whitewater confluence joins the river Blackwater a few hundred yards from this point, where the club hold the rights up to the Ford. Another work party in the offing.

There was one last job to do for the FDAS crew. Get my car out of the ditch at the side of the road, when the car managed to embed itself in the verge, due to too much right foot of the driver. After demolishing a jungle, it was nothing that a dozen pairs of hands, a tow rope and a FWD pick up couldn’t handle. Thanks lads.



A late visit rewarded by a wild Whitewater trout

July 24, 2020 at 10:19 pm

While my wife settled down to watch a couple of her TV favourites, Garden Rescue and Location Location, I put my fly fishing gear in the car and headed off to the River Whitewater this week. The river has not been stocked this year and for my first visit in six weeks, I was not expecting much, but it was good to get out on a warm sunny evening with nothing more than a flyrod, a net and a box of flies.

Parking at the farm, I walked down to the old cattle drink looking for rising fish, but apart from a few minnows nothing was moving and after trying a size 16 dry Hares Ear without a touch, I waded back out of the river looking for an alternative in my box. I found a smaller size eighteen Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Goldhead nymph and attempted to tie it on, but managed to hook my lip, while pulling the knot tight. Yeouch! That was extremely painful going in, while  extracting the tiny barbless hook was eye watering. It is amazing how much blood came out of that hole, needing to wash the fly in the clear river.

Recovered, I waded back in past a dead branch, that had been washed down in recent floods, keeping my casts up to the right, as the crayfish man had a couple of pots mid stream. The flow was just right and I retrieved to stay in contact with the nymph as it drifted back, the leader greased to within two feet of the fly acting as an indicator. I saw a few taps, which I put down to minnows, or small dace, but nothing else.

Enthusiasm diminishing, I moved further downstream to the old weir, where there was bound to be a trout lurking, even a small perch would have been welcome at this time. Working both sides of the race and the pool along the other bank without a pull, I waded up to the base of the weir, casting along the bank under the trees, once guaranteed to get a take from a chub, or a trout, but again nothing.

With the sun gone behind the farm buildings, this used to be the time for catching on the Whitewater, but something has gone wrong in the past five years. OK it is not the River Test, but enjoyment has given way to punishment these days. Maybe it is the multitudes of signal crayfish scraping a living on the bottom, the crayfish man is apparently having trouble carrying the hauls back to his van, or maybe it is the mink and pike?

The light was going and I was having trouble seeing my leader against the surface, so I decided that enough was enough and retreated to the bank, walking back to the cattle drink, where I stood on the gravel of the overspill casting up into the gloom of the pool. This was the last chance saloon, having caught many trout that have dropped back into the fast shallow water in the past. Extending my casts a yard at a time, the line suddenly zipped taut and a trout tumbled on the surface as I lifted my rod.

The power of a trout is always a shock after months of catching roach, even a relatively small one, as this one was, fights for all it is worth. The bronze, gold flanks of this fish flashed beneath the surface as I tried to stay in contact, elated yet fearful, that the tiny hook would lose its grip. Was this the same fish that I lost here two months ago? At the tail of the pool, I waited for the trout to give up, lifting my rod as it drifted down into my landing net. Full bodied and about 6 oz, I carried the wild brownie to the bank for a photo, the camera flash whiting out much of the colour, but still a beautiful fish.

The hook was just inside the jaw, which pushed out with forceps and while still in the net, I held the trout facing up into the flow on the gravel run, until it was ready to swim free. Thinking that it would return to the pool, I was surprised that it turned and disappeared downstream.

My last Whitewater outing had resulted in a wild fish, but they are few and far between these days.



River Frays bread punch dace spree ended by a Covid 19 time warp council

July 21, 2020 at 8:13 pm

A sunny Sunday afternoon drive in my classic 1972 MGB, wound its way back to the small Buckinghamshire village of Iver, where my wife and I had bought our first house, then onto a local beauty spot at Little Britain lake, that lies between two prolific rivers, the Frays and the Colne. We had often walked around the lake, while I had regularly fished all three and we were keen to rekindle a few memories, but were unable to park our car due to every space being occupied by Staycationers. Deprived of their foreign holidays, Brits are crowding out open spaces on their days off. Judging by the number of people fishing, the rivers were in fine form and I resolved to return in the week.

A couple of days later I drove the van along the lane beside the Frays, stopping to look over to the millstream, where I could see several barbel moving over the clean gravel. There is no fishing access here and I continued down to a deeper section, where I could park and fish close to the van, choosing a shady spot on the outside of a bend.

There was a good flow here, only a foot deep close in, but dropping to three feet a rod length out. Perfect for the stick float and I was optimistic that there would be a few chub under the tree ten yards downstream. Setting up the Hardy float rod with a 4 No 4 Drennan bodied stick float to a size 16 barbless hook with a 6 mm punch of bread, I dropped a firm ball of liquidised bread, carp pellets and hempseed, six feet upstream and followed it through, letting the float run a foot clear of the bottom hoping for a chub.The float dived half way down the trot and it was a chub, but only a small one.

After several more this size and smaller, I added another foot to the depth and trotted down again, following a small ball of feed. The float dived under, but popped up again before I could strike, then held under and I struck into a dace that surfaced in a shower of spray, before being guided straight to my landing net.

Not a monster, but worth netting, the hook dropping out in the net. I missed the next couple of bites and added another six inches to the depth holding back on the trot, deciding to stop feeding, as I thought that the dace may be hitting the shot instead of the bread. Dip, dip, hold, strike! Not a dace this time, but a small roach.

I failed to connect with a few more unmissable bites and went down on punch size to 5 mm. Success, a smaller dace was boiling on the surface, which was swung in.

Then the first of several gudgeon, following another ball of feed.

Going back to a 6 mm punch, the rod bent over with the unmistakable tumbling fight of a respectable dace, reaching out with the landing net to secure it.

Fishing well over depth and inching the float down resulted in fewer missed bites, some of the dace hooking themselves, some of them also managing to unhook themselves in the process.

The fast flowing, shallow Frays is the ideal environment for the dace, named after the Anlgo Saxon word for dash, they nip in and dash off with your bait in a blink of an eye.

As I dropped another good dace into my net, a council van pulled into the parking bay behind and a man climbed out, walking over to me. Thinking that he was about to congratulate me on my skill, I smiled and wished him “Good Morning.” Grim faced he spoke. “Don’t you know that there is no fishing along here?””Since when?” I queried. “Since the Covid – 19 Lockdown. Haven’t you seen the signs?” I replied that it was packed here with people fishing on Sunday and that I hadn’t seen any signs. He pointed a hundred yards further on from my swim, although I could not see one. “THEY know that we don’t work Sundays, that’s why THEY come fishing”

I pointed out that everyone in the country was now able to go fishing, following the Angling Trust rules of social distancing, etc, what was special about this bit of water? “It’s the Hillingdon Council ruling, they control the waters and say they are following the Angling Trust guidelines, you will have to pack up” He said that he was an angler himself and had been fishing his club’s waters since the Lockdown was eased, but the Council made the rules and he had to carry them out.

There is no arguing with council red tape, some Jobsworth somewhere is afraid of an angler catching the Covid -19 virus, while fishing on their property and bringing a court action, so they are playing super safe, even if they are in their own private time warp.

The council worker watched from his van as I packed up, then drove off. It was a shame as I was just getting the dace lined up and I had also mixed up more feed.

There were about ten dace and another ten bits in the net and was expecting more roach to put in an appearance once more hemp went into the swim, but I am unlikely to find out as the council enforcer also pointed out that keep nets are banned on their waters too. “Why?” “They are all touchy, feely, fluffy at the Council,” he had said with a shrug, before returning to the van. First time I’ve heard that combination of adjectives.

After taking my gear back to the van, I walked downstream until I found the sign. Here it is. I wonder how long this will stay in place? I personally think that the council have been looking for an excuse to ban fishing here and are waiting for another Lockdown to ban it completely.


Evening carp and crucian rush hour on the bread punch

July 19, 2020 at 12:20 pm

There is an old saying that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and so it was this week, when I spent a hot hour in the afternoon clearing a swim at my local pond, ready for a few hour’s carp and crucian bashing after dinner.

My early dinner got scuppered, when a friend of my wife called to invite her out for an evening with the “Girls”, before settling down for a blow by blow account of who had done what with whom since Lockdown. This was not too much bother, as I busied myself getting sorted and loading up the fishing trolley ready for the walk to the pond.

Spaghetti Bolognese prepared and eaten in record time and I was ready to go fishing, when it was my turn to receive a phone call. Having arranged with my brother for a motorcycle ride to meet at a pub half way between his Banbury home and mine the next day, he had just found out that the road on his side was closed. Trying to explain that I was running out of fishing time fell on deaf ears and a change of venue was scouted on Google, then a new route planned. Phew! Was it still worth going fishing? Of course!

I had hoped to be here for 6 pm, but it was now close to 7 and I first mixed up a damp mix of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets, throwing out four balls to cover an area eight metres into the deeper channel of the shallow pond. By the time that I had set up my pole, bubbles were already bursting on the surface and first cast brought a nice rudd.

A good start, but next cast was even better as the elastic stretched out across water, when I lifted into a crucian carp.

This fish had an ulcerated growth protruding from its gill cover, which had not affected its fighting ability, although it would not win any beauty contests.

Bottom activity was now throwing up black mud, staining the area and I was soon in again with another hard fighting crucian stripping out the elastic. Shipping back the pole quickly, I had to lift it behind me to avoid the high bank, breaking down to the top three to guide the carp into the landing net.

Fish were coming thick and fast, the 7 mm punched pellet of bread being taken on the drop, without the usual crucian dithering with the bait.

The carp in this pond have been mixing their genes for years, the next one fighting like and having more common features, than crucian.

Some nice rudd were also in the mix. The float would settle, bob and sink away taking line. The end result being pot luck.

The can be no doubt over this carp above, a true crucian.

It was a bit like fishing in a bucket full of fish. Flick out the small waggler into the bubbles, watch it settle, slowly sink and sail away, until the line began to tighten and lift into another elastic stretching carp.

There are larger commons in this pond, but they tend to occupy the even shallower silted up end at the inlet, while the crucians and smaller commons are free biting and easier to handle.

There are many colour variations among the rudd, my camera not doing justice to this green tinged golden fish.

This rudd had more red than gold.

This was the final carp of a frantic hour of catching fish, the sun was long gone behind the trees and rudd had reclaimed the swim.

This little cut down 2 BB Billy Makin Canal Grey works wonders in only two feet of water.

Short and sweet. The session had not lasted long, but well worth the effort.






A cormorant ate my chub

July 14, 2020 at 7:15 pm

With a few hours to kill this afternoon after lunch, I popped down to my local river Cut to try a swim that produced a 3 lb 8 oz crucian carp for me last year, baring in mind that more carp seem to be in the river at the moment. Once I saw the colour of the river however, I was not so sure that I would even get a bite. There was a grey sludge coming over the outfall and running down the far side of the shallows, where the bottom and larger stones had taken on a powdery grey coating, eventually spreading out across the flow, the further I walked downstream.

Arriving at the swim, my first task was to clear access through a stand of Himalayan Balsam and stinging nettles and by the time that I had tackled up with a 4 No 4 Ali stemmed, bodied stick float, the grey stain had passed through, but being replaced by a murky brown stain, another minor pollution that the Cut has up its sleeve to stop you catching fish. This swim has 2 feet max in depth, being wide and generally slow, but a fallen tree along the opposite bank has pushed the flow across under the nearside bank, giving an easy trotting speed to the float.

Starting with a 5 mm pellet of bread on a size 16 barbless hook, I fed two small balls of liquidised bread, one on the inside and the other side of the flow 10 feet out. Following the inside line first, I let the float run free in the hope of a chub, but apart from a couple of slight dips, there was nothing positive. After a few unsuccessful trots, I switched to the middle line, again with nothing strikeable, even when holding the float back hard, which will usually result in a positive pull under. My last option was to lay-on, setting the float over depth and resting the rod. Ten minutes in, while drinking a cup of tea, the float pulled under. Snatching at the rod, I missed the fish and launched the float rig into a bush on my side. The float came free, but the hook link had wrapped around the float line. This was not going well.

Ten more minutes later I was fishing again, sitting watching the static float with my right hand on the butt of the rested rod. After what seemed an age, the float bobbed and sank, simultaneously lifting the rod into solid resistance. With such a short line, the roach on the end was spiraling around, in danger of coming off, but a quick dip of the landing net secured my first fish of the afternoon.

This beauty was worth waiting for. I never thought that I would need winter tactics to catch summer roach on the cut.

I sat studying the float again, missing another bite, but the bread was still on and I flicked it back in, watching it sink away immediately and a fish was fighting furiously, trying to get to the sunken tree one second and under my bank the next. Unseen, I guessed that it was a small carp as it hugged the bottom, but soon an open white mouth on the surface confirmed it as a chub,

I am a fan of the crash bang wallop style of stick float fishing, cast in, strike, reel in, net and start again, but these fish were worth the wait. Something was not right though, as the usual infestation of gudgeon were missing, maybe the fussy bites on the trot were gudgeon.

I recast my float several times before the next fish, as I was sure the the bread had come off the hook, due to the no bite situation. Eventually the float sank again and I was playing a nice roach, which soon popped into the net.

This method was slow, but it was steadily building a catch of decent fish, so I stuck at it, netting another roach.

Occasional feeding had kept the fish in a tight area just downstream of my swim, but a swirl and a burst of bubbles five yards further down grabbed my attention, there was another swirl and a bow wave heading down around the bend. Must be a decent carp. Maybe one of the big koi. Although not equipped to handle such a large fish, I threw three decent sized balls of feed, down into the area and underhand cast my float rig with a 7 mm pellet of bread and waited. More bubbles and a swirl right next to my float!

URGH! A cormorant surfaced, raising its head up vertically to allow a flapping 6 oz chub to slide down its throat. That was my chub, attracted by the feed, now it was in the crop of a fish killing machine. The wayward sea bird flapped its wings and flew off downstream. The fishing had been hard enough today without a cormorant interfering. As I was packing up, it flew silently back along the river, gliding over the dead tree to land in the next pool. I wondered how many more chub and roach it would eat that afternoon. If he brings his mates back, this shallow river can be emptied in no time.


Bread punch and stick float catch quality roach and chub from the weir

July 8, 2020 at 8:19 pm

Since the pollution on my local River Cut six weeks ago, I had been intending to test fish the down stream weir pool to see if it had been affected. Three years ago an oil based spillage had wiped out the river beyond the weir and I had suffered my first blank session from the pool. This time it had been a sewage leak that had killed thousands of prime fish and I was keen to find how far it had reached.

With a forecast of rain for the rest of the week on the TV that morning, I negotiated with my wife, that the morning’s work in the garden would wait until the afternoon, but promised on pain of death, that I would be home before 2 pm. This did not leave long to fish, but enough time find out if there were any fish left in the river for a longer session later.

I had never seen this swim so low, the river from the left barely moving, the foam eddy extending well upstream. The outfall is from the town water treatment works, which spills over a sill and rushes off downstream, holds a wide variety of fish, including carp and big chub, this public bank being littered with empty luncheon meat and sweet corn tins in evidence. The river in front of me was only 18 inches deep and controlled by the action of the eddy, rotating back towards me, then sweeping into the foam on my right. The foam along this bank is usually the hot spot, but today it was full of snags and I lost my first hook before I even had a bite.

I had mixed up my usual feed of liquidised white bread, ground carp pellets and hempseed, dropping some tight balls in close under the high bank, my first bite being not the big chub that I first thought, but a large sunken log, that once released from the bottom, drifted relentlessly off down the outfall, pinging the float back without a hook.

A new hooklink tied on, I trotted through again under my rod top and was soon playing a small chub.

This was a good sign, a hard fighting healthy chub. Then a couple of smaller examples, before gudgeon moved in on the feed.

Every other trot brought up a twig, or branch along my bank and a trot too far into the foam saw another hook lost. This strange looking plug was attached to one of the branches that I pulled up.

To avoid the trouble spot, I fed across the stream ahead of me into the eddy, retrieving line to stay in contact with the float. Apart from the occasional gudgeon, or mini chub there was nothing here. Where were the roach? At this rate I would be putting this expedition down as a fail and going home early.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I decided to up the feed rate to attract fish into the river from the outfall. More gudgeon, then the juddering fight of a roach as it sped around the shallows back to the foam. It stayed on and I leaned out from the bank and netted it.

A perfect roach full of fight, just what I came for. I had gone up to a 6 mm punch from a 5 mm, maybe that was the answer? Next cast the float was gone in seconds, the rod bending over as a chub dived toward the snags. Due to the shallows, these fish can only run, which makes for exciting fishing.

Not a big chub, but good sport on light tackle. The next one was bigger, fighting hard into the snags.

A small ball of feed every other cast had the fish coming one a chuck and now the roach put in an appearance again.

The roach were now lined up in the middle of the eddy, this big one causing me to back wind as it dashed out into the fast water, but my 12 ft Hardy took the shocks and bent into every lunge.

More perfect roach, then a decent chub was rushing round the swim, trying hard to get under my own bank, which was lined with branches, but I won and the snags lost this time.

As someone, who loves catching roach, I was now in my element, my 6 No 4 Middy stick float with the bulk shot under the float and only three No 6 shot down to the hook, the right set up for the wavering eddy.

Yet another decent chub took the punched bread, fighting frantically, but staying on.

Beautiful roach after beautiful roach were proving that this part of the river was healthy, the outfall providing a clear aerated refuge for many fish.

I netted this roach dead on my cut off time of 1 pm, then decided to have one last cast and bang, hit into another chub, that took me off into the fast water, causing me to back wind, when it pulled my rod flat as it skated across the foam of the outfall. Turning, it swam upstream and dived into the bunch of branches at the far corner of the swim. It was stuck solid. Time to release the line and wait. The line moved off and I pulled hard. It was back in the snag, but came free and the landing net was ready.

Netting this chunky chub had cost me the loss of my last Middy float, it having been broken in the snag.


I had several sets of these Middy floats from 3 to 6 No 4 and this was the last survivor, the body shape, ali stem and the long thick tip just right for my rugged style of fishing, which do not appear to be available with the modern range of bodied stick floats. Time for a change.

There is nothing wrong with these fish, proof that the pollution petered out further upstream.

The bites were still coming thick and fast, when I stopped for the day. I was home by 1:30 and my lunch was waiting, served up by very understanding wife. I live to fish another day.


Tench and crucians top a bread punch mixed bag at Braybrooke

July 3, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Last week I paid my first visit of the season to Braybrooke Park and fished Jeanes’s pond, arriving at 6 pm and fishing until 8, hoping for tench and crucian carp, but catching a net full of roach and rudd. I was sure that my target fish were there, but the silver fish got the bait first, due to a light float rig. The answer for me was to tie up a much heavier pole rig, based around a 2 gram antenna float with 6 BB shot bulked 15 inches from the size 16 barbless hook.

The other change of plan for me was to try an early start, which meant being ready to fish by 8 am. Others have been enjoying success among the tench by arriving hours before that, but I am afraid that I value my beauty sleep more than catching a few more tench.

Making up the same mix as last week, ground carp pellets with liquidised bread and a handful of boiled hemp seed, I squeezed up a few balls of the dampened ground bait and fed them in over the shelf fifteen feet out. By the time that I had attached my float rig and plumbed the depth, bubbles were already rising to the surface above the feed and I swung the float into the middle of them, the float cocking instantly with the bulk shot. Starting with a 7 mm punch of bread two inches off bottom, the antenna dipped and sank, when a rudd snaffled the offering.

I guessed that despite the heavy bulk shot, this rudd had followed the bait down, not a bad size and better than I had expected. Next cast in the float settled quickly and sat for a minute before a tell tale ring radiated out from the antenna, then slowly sank, this time a roach was fighting up from the bottom.

The usual raft of very small rudd seemed to have been avoided, the heavy shot getting the bait down quickly. In again and the float sank slowly as it moved out into the pond. Half expecting a small rudd when I struck, I was surprised when the heavy 12 – 18 elastic extended out with a good fish, a silver flash deep down, a sign of a very good roach. Stripping the pole back to the top three, the landing net came out for the first time that morning.

An absolute clonker of a roach, justification of my plan to use a much heavier float rig.

What next? The float dipped and bobbed, then disappeared and the elastic was out again, this time the distinctive thump, thump of a crucian carp battling away, then a golden glint as it changed direction confirmed my guess. This crucian was as round as it was deep, fighting hard along the bottom in front of me and managing to wrap the line round a sunken branch, before the net was able to scoop up both fish and snag.

My good fortune continued with another good roach, this one scrapping on the surface before being guided to the net.

My next cast saw the float begin to sink, then cruise under as a much larger fish made off, stripping out elastic from the pole tip, the bright red latex stretching deep into the pond. It slowed and turned, shaking its head as I held the pole as high as possible against the strain. It turned again, coming straight for me as I rapidly stripped back the pole, hitting the wall behind. Confusion reigned. With the pole jammed, I released a joint forward and attempted to net the three pound tench wallowing in the shallows at my feet, but as if in slow motion, the big green tench rolled free of the net and back into the deeps, when the barbless size 16 lost its hold.

Every angler knows that stunned feeling of disbelief, when they lose a big fish and this was my reminder. I baited again and recast, just as a friend cycled up to me, asking how I was getting on. Lets just say that I conveyed just how disappointed I was.

That tench seemed to have taken all the fish with it and I sat biteless for some minutes. Movement of the float again and a roach was soon swinging in to hand. I was back in business with palm sized roach and rudd taking the bread, even a small common carp of four ounces broke the rythm.

The elastic was out again as a good fish dived for the safety of deep water as I prayed for it to stay on, the dark dorsal fin of a smaller tench breaking the surface. This time I was ready, unshipping the pole early down to the top three and playing it to a standstill ready for the net.

A tench at last. The hook can be seen in this image at the tip of its mouth. I had earned a cup of tea and a sandwich, my friend returning complete with fishing gear and setting up in the swim next door. A recent convert to the bread punch, he fished running line and waggler over liquidised bread feed, beginning to take a steady stream of roach and rudd, until a pike took one of his sizeable rudd, making several runs, before dropping the fish.

I continued to catch steadily, including this golden rudd, followed by more roach.

A slow steady bite and the elastic was  streaming out from a big fish, my second crucian characteristically fighting in a rolling, diving fashion, as I brought the pole down to the top three sections, waiting for it to tire, sliding the net under it with relief. The hook dropping out the moment the pressure was off.

Once more a barrel shaped crucian, close to 2 lb, this was the last of the better fish. The sun was now at full blast and the bites were fussy. I should have dotted down the float and gone for a 5 mm punch of bread on the hook, but I did not have the mental discipline to make the changes and continued for the next hour, often missing those unmissable bites.

My new float rig had done its job, avoiding the plague of tiny rudd that blanket the surface layers of this pond and will look to refine it in the coming summer.

The punch tempts fussy roach on the River Blackwater

July 1, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Last year I fished the weir on the free stretch of the nearby River Blackwater with a double figure net of roach and dace after four hours and was keen for a repeat performance this week. Having trudged to the top of the water dragging my trolley through nettles and brambles, I arrived at the swim to find it occupied by a friendly pike fisherman, who was trying to coax a small pike into taking his worm bait, offered under a pike bung. The pike could be seen in the clear shallows of the weir pool, and we watched as it attacked the worms, running off into the deeper water, but failing to be hooked several times.

After Magnar had shown me more pike pictured on his phone, I backtracked along the bank to find another swim a hundred yards downstream, which looked promising.

Like most of the Blackwater this far up, it is shallow with a good flow, this side at the tail of a bend from the weir being about two feet deep close in, but only having a depth of eighteen inches fifteen yards down at the end of the trot. I was using a 6 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float, bulked under the float with four No 8 shot  spread to the hook link and a size 16 barbless hook.

To start, I squeezed up a dampened ball of liquidised bread and dropped it in close to my bank, following the cloud down with my float. Usually the float would dive away with a fish, but not today. It took another ball of feed and the sixth trot through before the float dipped and held under with a dace tumbling in the flow for the few seconds that it took for the hook to come out. That was a big dace!

In again and another small ball brought an instant response, as a spirited juvenile chub dived for the weed bed, but stayed on long enough to be swung in.

The next trot, the float was near the end of the swim, when it dipped twice and disappeared. The 12 ft Hardy float rod bent into another fish, a roach this time and I slowly brought it back against the stream, swinging in a small roach.

I now missed a succession of quick dace bites, that stripped the hook. I added six inches to the depth and eased the float down in steps, hold back, then release, hold back and release. The float dived and another dace was solidly fighting  the flow, spinning and turning. This one came off too. The weir was roaring again as more water was allowed over the sill and the river had doubled its pace. I brought the bulk shot down a foot and raised the float, holding back hard. The float held under and the rod bent into a better roach. Roach tend to keep on an even keel, darting from side to side and slowly winding back, it was in the landing net.

I had continued to drop a small ball of feed in every few casts and reeling back a small roach, noticed a swan, neck down, Hoovering up the bread on the bottom, working its way upstream towards me. I got up and looked for a stick. Finding one, I broke it in half and threw it close to the swan, when it surfaced. The second stick got it’s attention and I waved my arms about like a looney, making hissing sounds and other words. It got the message and crossed to the opposite side of the river heading upstream.

In this image you can also see the litter left by a mum, dad and child, who stopped for a picnic, while admiring my fishing technique from the other bank. The English can be a messy lot!

I missed a couple more bites, that were dips and bobs, which did not develope, so I went down to a 5 mm bread punch and hooked another roach first trot.

As I felt that the swan had eaten all the feed, I had mixed up some more and stepped up the rate, but now realised that I had probably overfed the swim. They had not been crawling up the rod and decided to feed more. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The bites were still coming, but not very positively, dips and holds, which I suspected were unhookable dace. Checking the float down the swim induced bites and I hooked another roach.

Splash! A big black dog jumped into the river, swimming half way across to retrieve a ball. A rather stout lady wearing shorts that were too small for her, had used one of those curved launchers to catapult the ball into the river. This was not an accident, surely she must have seen me glaring at her? She walked a few yards upstream and did it again, directly opposite. Splash! The dog was in again! I shook my head and reached for my sandwiches and tea. It was past my lunchtime and I tried to enjoy my cheese and pickle sandwiches, while the lady received the soggy ball from her pet. She continued upstream, repeating the process every ten yards.

A call came from further upstream. It was Magnar, who was playing a pike in the weir pool. Once netted, he held it up in the air for me to see. About 3 lb, it had not fought for long. He now packed up and stopped at my swim. He said that he had released it, as it was too small to keep. I am not sure that we are allowed to keep pike these days. He is a nightworker and said that he would come back at five, before going to work. Does never sleep?

It was now raining and the wind had got up, blowing leaves and branches into the water. I was under a large oak tree and was quite sheltered. Just as well, as the heavens opened catching the dog lady in the open. There is some justice in the World after all.

The surface of the river was a mass of heavy droplets and my float was gone. I struck and the rod bent into the best roach yet, taking my time bringing it upstream to the landing net.

I think water may have got on the lens for this pic, but it was a nice roach anyway. I hooked another big dace. Yes! It was firmly hooked, this one was not getting away, but it did. A roll on the surface and it was gone.

It was time to put my waterproof jacket on and pack up, as the rain was now penetrating the leaves of the oak.

By no means a memorable result, but one with plenty of frustrations and side distractions. Maybe I will have to try some micro barbed hooks for those dace?