Autumn bread punch roach feed on the River Thames at Windsor

September 30, 2020 at 10:55 am

The Indian Summer has given way to cool days and I was hoping for a pleasure boat free day, while fishing for roach at Old Windsor AC’s Home Park stretch of the Thames this week. It was not to be, in the shadow of Windsor Castle, as I walked across the cricket pitches from the carpark, I could already hear the drone of river traffic.

Having fished one of the deeper upstream swims a couple of months ago, I was keen to try further down off the shallows, taking my wellie boots to avoid getting my feet wet, but luckily found a swim raised up from the water ideal for my tackle box, while there were a couple of feet depth off the gravel bed to lay out my keepnet.

Due to river craft trying to cut the corner on the inside of the bend, the river was dredged years ago, giving eight feet only two rod lengths out and I elected to use my 2 gram Bolo float again on the 14 foot Browning float rod. Feed was going to be liquidised bread, ground hemp, ground carp pellets and hemp seed, damped down to give firm balls of feed. I also intended to start off by using a bait dropper to get the feed down quickly to avoid the bleak, which were topping all over the surface. On the size 16 hook was a 5 mm punch of bread.

To begin, a few bait droppers full of the heavy mix helped set the depth of the float, fishing just off the level gravel bottom. The shot was bulked 18 inches from the hook with no tell tale shot, preferring to allow the bread to sink freely to the bottom and lift up when the float was held back. First trot the float dipped and sank as a small roach took the bread, swinging it in to hand.

Next trot the float dipped, then popped up again, as it ran down the swim, each time it dipped I reacted to strike, only for it to come up again. I held the float back and it sank out of sight and I was playing another small roach.

This was working. They were only small roach and I had hoped for better fish, but the net was filling and after ten roach put in another couple of bait droppers. I caught another roach, then the river sped up. They had opened the lock gates and boats were coming.

This barge barley rippled the surface of the river, but he next one caused a bow wave that dragged my keepnet from the shelter of the bank.

The bites stopped while the flotilla passed and I wondered what the capacity of Romney Lock was as the waves pounded the bank. Was it five, or six of these massive sea going cruisers? I lost count. I put in another couple of bait droppers and went up to a 6 mm punch and caught a better roach.

They were certainly down there on the feed, the float going in with an underhand flick, settling and usually diving straight away. I would always miss this bite, but if left, it would bob back up, hold and dip and any strike in the next yard usually resulted in the tap, tap of a roach being brought to the surface and over the weed bed in front of me, then swung to hand.

I netted a clonker roach. At last the better fish had moved in over the feed. Next cast another good roach was fighting back for a change and I took my time landing it, amazed to see a perch of the same size rush out of the weeds on the attack.

Another flotilla was out of the traps and racing down toward London, the skippers purposely leaning over their steering wheels. With such a good view of Windsor Castle, you would have thought that they would have eased off the throttles to take in the view?

I began to get lift bites. Bleak? No, it was roach, the boats must have stirred up the bottom and the fish had come up. I lowered the float a foot and switched to feeding small balls by hand. More lift bites and more roach, but also bleak.The bleak would swirl on the surface, perch would rush in causing an explosion of tiny silver fish. A perch grabbed a bleak on the way in and I enjoyed a brief tussle with a six ounce perch, that eventually let go. I had a few red worms with me and shallowed up again, dropping the float among the swirl, the float speeding off downstream, the rod bending into another perch, that dived down into the weeds, shedding the hook and snagging me. Pulling for a break, I got the rig back. That would teach me.

Back to the roach. Resetting the depth, I found that the hot spot was two feet off the bottom, where I guessed that the balls were breaking up, the surface eruptions coming from the bleak that were feeding on the outer coating of the balls as they dropped through.

The earlier sun had gone and now it started to rain. My tatty hoodie was back on and I began coating it with roach slime as I swung in fish after fish. Due to the walk involved in getting to the swim, I was down to a minimum of tackle again, my float rod doing a good job, but a pole would have done a better one.

A rod bending chub made straight for the weeds, but was persuaded back out again into the waiting landing net.

I was now down to my last piece of punch bread and at this rate I would soon run out, estimating that I had at least a hundred fish in the net, mostly small, but perfectly formed.

I was soon scratching round discarded crusty bread to punch holes in, as the roach seemed to be getting bigger.

Finally there were no more holes to punch and my last roach was netted, again another weight builder.

It was time to pack up anyway, having proved my point that the bread punch continues to be a timeless bait. I had fished this same swim as a 15 year old, using bread crust on a size 12 hook under a porcupine quill float, feeding balls of bread mash and hemp seed mixed with Kellogg’s corn flakes, my secret mix of the day, to catch a string of sizable eight inch roach.

Pulling in my net, this catch looked impressive, expecting to at least top 10 lbs, but the scales settled at 9 lb 4 oz, not a club match winner by today’s standards, but an enjoyable session anyway.




Quality perch reward patience on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

September 25, 2020 at 2:08 pm

Bingley angler Johnathon, a contract chef, has been on a fitness regime since being furloughed, which includes a five mile run every day, starting out each morning along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at the bottom of his road. On his run he had spotted a shoal of large perch in an area not fished by him before and on returning home ordered a range of bait from pinkies to worms from the Angling Bait Company, taking advantage of their overnight courier service. Two days after spotting the shoal, he was up early with his Frenzee HGV trolley loaded for the mile walk to the canal peg.

A workout in itself, Jonathon arrived to find the canal crystal clear, the opposite of a few days earlier, not a good sign on this Yorkshire canal, but undeterred he set out his stall to fish the pole down the deeper boat road.

With a wide selection of bait, Johnathon was optimistic for a decent session.

Selecting a Guru F1 foat to a size 20 Kamasan B511 barbless hook, he fed a few pinkies out toward the far side and waited for a fish to take his single pinkie hook bait.

Nothing. Next step was to start a chopped worm line to the right of his main feed, hoping that those perch were still around, but still no bites. Johnathon has been in this situation before and all it usually takes is a boat to come through to stir up the mud, but the back end of September is a bit late for the boating season on the Leeds and Liverpool and he waited three hours to hear the steady throb of a barge motor.

Just the ticket. Sometimes boats are a curse, but this one was salvation from a dry net, colouring up the canal.

Once the water had settled, bites came on the red pinkie, small roach at first, but as regular feed went in, some better roach responded, but the loss of a near pound roach on the size 20 barbless, scared off the shoal. Maybe it had been a pike that had spooked the shoal, as after a dead period he managed to hook a small roach, only for it to be chased in by a pike. The swim went dead again and he dropped back in over the chopped worm feed with a heavy perch rig and half a worm on the hook.

Ten minutes later the float slid away and the elastic was out, as a good perch of at least a pound hugged the bottom in its first run. Soon the float was visible again and the perch steered to the waiting landing net.

Another wait and the float cruised off again, but this time there was much less resistance as a small fish made off with the worm, Jon almost falling off his seat at the sight of a miniature jack pike hanging onto the bait.

The perch were still there, but he had to wait for them, taking another six over the next two and a half hours before calling it a day. Persistence had eventually paid off, with the perch crowding out his landing net for an end of day shot.




Big roach take the bread punch despite the drought

September 21, 2020 at 6:33 pm

With only the morning available to fish, I decided that a visit to my local River Cut fitted the bill, but the sight of bare stones and exposed mud below the trickle of a weir, made me hesitate and reconsider my preferred swim. Intending to fish the stick float, I required flow, but those that I passed were static. There was only one swim I knew of that would have movement, it was a long way downstream and difficult to reach along the bank, but could be worth the walk.

Years a go a large tree had blown down away from the river, pushing a mound of earth into the stream and reducing the width by half and many floods later, a deep channel has been carved out between the banks. There are so many productive swims further upstream, that I rarely venture down this far, although past visits have often brought surprises, a large goldfish and a bream spring to mind.

The downstream feature is a dead elder stretching across to the other side, merging with a snaggy bush growing out from the opposite bank, dangerous territory for the light weight stick float rig.

Pushing my way through the Himalayan Balsam to the swim, I was ready to fish by 9 am. I dropped a couple of small balls of plain liquidised bread into the middle and close to the outcrop, followed by my 4 No 4 stick float, weighted with just the tip showing, the size 16 barbless hook with a 5 mm pellet of bread a few inches off bottom in the 3 foot deep swim. The cloud of bread went straight down, while the float barely moved. Lifting and recasting over the feed, began to produce slight tremors to the float tip, but nothing to strike at and I began to think that a pole with a fine antenna float to a size 20 would have been better.

Reducing the punch size to 4 mm got an immediate bite and a spate of gudgeon, sucking at the bread, bobbing the float, but not taking it under. Normally the flow would drag the float under, but I found that an induced take worked, a twitch upstream resulting in a pull under of the float, enough to hook the gudgeon.

Hoping to attract some better fish, I mixed in some ground carp pellets and ground hemp, putting in a few more small balls, allowing the bait to sink through the cloud. More gudgeon, then the float went straight down and the rod was bending to a sizable silver fish, a fat roach fighting bank to bank.

At last a decent fish, this perfect roach gorging the 4 mm punch of bread. Another couple of balls went in and I let the float drift down between them. Bob, bob, sink. I was playing an even better roach, that ran upstream, then turned to bury its nose in the snags beneath the overhanging elder. It came free, ran to the opposite bank, then back again to my waiting net, all the fun over in a minute.

Gorged again, the small punch pellet being sucked straight in. I put on my bait apron, as things could get slimy, casting in again over a small ball. Bob, bob, sink, brace the strike, not a roach, but a gudgeon swinging to hand. Suddenly the pace picked up and the bites stopped. The healthy green tinge had turned to a dull brown murk in minutes.

It was just past 9:30 am, and the fishing had gone dead. This influx of mucky water had an instant affect on the fishing, probably due to the lack of other water available to dilute it. I increased the depth to lay the bait on the bottom over the feed, while I poured a cup of tea. The float bobbed and sank with a tiny gudgeon hanging on the hook, the only bite in half an hour. The flow slowed to nothing again and I shallowed up, more in hope than judgement, only for the float to sink away as a small rudd searched through the feed.

More gudgeon, rising up through the cloud to take on the drop. The roach would soon follow, I hoped, but what did follow was more mucky water, picking up the flow again. You can’t go on flogging a dead horse, or swim in my case, so I packed up and was on my way back to the van by noon.

A dozen more roach like these were on the cards, but sometimes we have to be thankful for small mercies.


Roach fishing on the River Stour at Meadowbank, Christchurch

September 13, 2020 at 8:27 pm

The promise of an Indian Summer caused me to book my campervan into Meadowbank Holiday’s campsite for a few days this week, the main attraction being the Dorset river Stour that borders the site, the added bonus is, residents fish for free. A happy coincidence, was that a long time match teammate and later fishing rival John Veazey was booked in with his wife Julie for the two weeks spanning the days that my wife Julie and I were visiting.

John has stayed at the site a few times in the past and had given me a basic heads up on methods; stick float down the inside, waggler, or Bolo float down the middle, as it is also at least ten feet deep, roach, dace and chub being the target fish. I was intending to try bread punch over a heavy mix of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets, ground hemp and hempseed, fed on the bottom with a bait dropper. Back up was more hemp, with tares on the hook, while I had raided the home compost heap for some brandlings, just in case there were a few perch about.

Arriving on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, we settled in, then went for a walk along the river, finding most swims occupied by barbel fishers, but one man was catching; Terry, down from Hertfordshire, was getting roach and dace on the stick float with hemp and tares, although his comments that the river was not fishing as well as in the past, did not encourage me to walk back for the rods. We located John and Julie’s caravan and were invited in for a cup of tea, while John got his rods ready for the following morning.

With a couple of hours until our own evening meal, I decided to take John’s advice and head for his favourite peg 2, but by the time we arrived back on the bank, 2 and most of the others were occupied, setting up in a peg between trees, with a bush sticking out over the flow down my inside. Seeing the swim, I abandoned my intended 14 foot Browning and 2 gram Bolo rig, for the 12 foot Hardy and a 6 No 4 stick float. Unwilling to clutter my camper with a trolley and tackle box, I was carrying my essentials in a Tupperware box, with the rods made up in a Drennan ready to fish holdall. Travelling Light as the old Cliff Richard song goes.

Plumbing the depth at 8 feet a rod length out, I squeezed up some firm balls of feed and dropped them in upstream, intending to fish down to the bush, which looked like it might hold a chub, or two.

First trot the float dipped a few times then held under long enough to strike. Missed it! No, a minnow came spinning to the surface, still hanging onto the 7 mm pellet of bread. This was minnow alley and after my first dozen, bulked the shot close to the hook to punch through them. This time the float went in and kept on going down and away. Chub? Too solid a run, heading upstream and pulling hard, bending the little Hardy well over, as it passed me, the dark bars of a decent perch visible. Sitting on top of a high bank, the landing net just reached over the streamer weed close in, to net my first Stour fish.

This bruiser of a perch was obviously after minnows and had taken the bread as it fell toward the bottom. With the chance that there were more perch about, I double hooked a fat brandling and cast in, watching the float as minnows attacked the bait, holding back at the bush and striking when it pulled under. The hook was bare. This was repeated several times in the hope that perch would be attracted by the frenzied minnows and take the worm. Each time the hook was stripped by the mini piranhas. Later one of the regulars came along and showed me a picture of a 3 lb perch he had caught, saying that lob worms were the answer, as the they were too tough for the minnows.

I went back to the bread punch, casting down to the bush and holding back the float, using the bait dropper to feed at my feet, plus firm balls of the mix upstream. It began to work, I was still getting minnows, but also hooked a couple of dace from positive bites, but each time they pulled off the hook in the dense weed. No wonder this was one of the empty pegs. It had been an interesting first hour on the river, but it was time for a hot meal in the camper.


The following day we were going to do the tourist thing around Christchurch centred around a pub lunch, but first I walked down to watch John fish peg 1 close to his caravan, his favoured peg 2 already occupied. Fishing two thirds across with a 3 gram Bolo float and feeding hemp with a black urid bean on the hook, preferring them to tares. A small roach and a dace were all he had in that hour and he complained that last year he was catching 2 lbs of fish an hour. He later told me that over three hours of fishing that morning, he had only managed nine small silver fish.

We did not rush down to the river that evening, again finding few swims free, most occupied by biteless barbel fishers again, but the inside of a bend did not look as weedy as the last, this time getting out the 14 foot Browning to fish a 2 gram Bolo float over my heavy mix of bread and hemp.

The minnows seemed to be absent two thirds over, where there was a clear line between the streamer weed and a few balls of feed soon brought bites in the ten foot deep swim.

Two bites brought two good fish lost in sunken weed as I brought them over, so I shallowed up a foot and decided to bring the fish close to the surface next time. Success, a good roach stayed on as I brought it over the layers of weed.

Bites were now reliable, the fish moving up in the water to the feed, but I was still losing fish, bringing them to the surface allowing a chance to shed the size 16 barbless hook. It was frustrating, but another roach stayed on to the net.

Then the bane of my life, a pike moved into the swim, chasing through the feed. It was only small, about 2 lbs, but each ball of feed brought more bursts of panicking small fish, and the bites stopped, so once again we packed up and returned to the camper.


A call from John said that he was setting up further downstream and that there was a clear swim upstream of it, and parking nearby, did we want him to save it for us? A positive answer saw us quickly stowing all the movable objects and disconnecting the electrical hookup, before driving to the parking spot.

The bank here was almost level with the river, but with a cordon of reeds in front of it, the only way through for a larger fish being a gap to the side, while the landing net at 3 metres was too short to reach over the reeds in front. I would have to worry about that if the problem arose.

Upstream in the next swim was Terry and I walked up for a chat. Although he said it was a struggle, he was catching on hemp and tares again, using a heavy Avon float with the shot strung out, while trotting through the middle of the river.

I still had hemp and tares left and pulled out the Browning 14 footer with the 2 gram Bolo float, firing a few pouches of hemp upstream of my peg to lay down a bed of feed out in front of me. The depth was 10 feet, but I started at 9 feet to the float antenna, expecting the fish to be taking on the drop close to the bottom. John was first to take a fish, a small roach, which I copied after a few casts. There were fish here, but the bites were fussy and hard to hit, not what I would expect with tares on a size 14 hook.

Feeding several grains of hemp every other cast across the middle, the bites changed from dips and tips to solid pull downs and I was playing my first decent fish, only to lose the quality roach, as I tried to manoeuvre it through the gap in the reeds. Feeding another pouch of hemp I tried again, another fine roach was on, this time playing it to a standstill, then sliding it through the reeds on its side.

Another clonking Stour roach soon followed, the bites starting just out in front from the middle, usually as a half dip of the float, progressing to a firm pull under.

I was still losing fish, a large dace bouncing off, while another larger fish, which I guessed was a perch stayed deep, swimming up to the reeds and stopping. I tried to pull it up and over the obstacle, but the hook pulled free.

The flow was slow and the bites took time to develope, but roach were steadily filling the keepnet.

John had been catching bleak and a lift bite made me think the same, but the strike saw a large fish streak over to the trees on the far side, before coming off. I lowered the float another foot and cast back over, another lift bite and yes this time, a bleak.

Another lift bite was a roach this time, which laid the float flat before I hit it.

I had enlisted my wife Julie to operate the catapult, apparently she had made her own when she was aged nine. After a few hilarious attempts, her accuracy improved. I always knew that she had hidden talents. The fish responded by coming up higher to the hemp, shallowing up again making it easier to hit the fish.

This quality roach was followed by a fat dace, no doubt gorged on hemp.

John was not having such a good day on the Bolo float and switched to the waggler, getting more bites but smaller fish, while I piled on the agony, when my rod bent over and I backwound the ABU 501 reel, as a chub powered away downstream, before being brought under control to the landing net.

The roach were now lined up taking the hemp, with the occasional dace getting to the tare first.

My swim was still alive, but John wanted to pack up, so I ended on a high with yet another clonking roach.

Oh well it all came good in the end with a reasonable net of silvers, helped by River Lea angler Terry, who topped up my diminishing stock of hempseed, when my container was accidentally knocked over.

Learning a new water is never easy and I would be happy to return to Meadowbank next year for another go.

Slow day at the Braybrooke Office. No tench!

September 1, 2020 at 7:43 pm

With the morning free, I promised myself a few hours tench fishing at Braybrooke’s Jeanes’s Pond, heading back to the same swim, hoping to improve on the two tench and half a dozen small commons and a small mirror, that I caught two weeks ago.

Last time, I chose this swim to shelter from the sun and to be out of the wind, but today there was only a hazy sun and no wind, in fact there was quite a chill in the air left over from a cold clear night.The first change was no surface bubbles, but hey, the bread punch and my tench mix of crushed hemp and carp pellets, plus hemp seed would soon change that, wouldn’t it? Er, no. After an hour, there were only a few pin prick bubbles and just four small roach in the net. The rig was the same, a 2 gram antenna float to bulk shot 12 inches from the size 16 barbless hook and a No 6 tell tale four inches from the hook. The depth had been set to a single shot under the float and a test with the plummet proved all was the same.

I had started on a 6 mm punch to avoid the very small roach, while offering the larger bait for the tench and carp, but this was not working, so went down to a 5 mm punch. The bites so far had been very fussy, barely sinking the 6 mm of exposed antenna and had missed six of the ten fish. I would have said that they were crucian carp from the nibbling dips and bobs, but the ones that I hit were all small roach.

What to do? Change tactics, or keep plugging away. Too set in my ways to change, I kept feeding; a small ball to the left, while fishing to the right, then visa versa, a typical winter method, when the fishing is hard. Hold on a minute, this is supposed to be summer! Two weeks ago it was a fish a chuck, now look at me struggling for bites. The concentrated feed was having an effect, the roach were more numerous and getting bigger.

The next change was from natural slice to steamed and rolled bread, this giving a more dense pellet. The bites improved. The roach had been blowing the pellet in and out of their lips, giving the slight dips and raising of the antenna. They did not seem too interested in feeding, but now the float was holding down long enough to strike. My catch rate went up to two out of three bites.

At about 11 am, there was a massive disturbance under the surface, throwing up a burst of bubbles through my swim, either a pike, or a large carp. The bites stopped. I got out the tea and sandwiches and waited, then waited some more. Time to pack up. The float went under and a better roach was fighting hard before being brought round to the landing net.

I kept going, at least the roach were feeding again, even if I may have to wait until next year for another tench. I would only be in my wife’s way if I went home now. Give it a bit longer and I will be in time for lunch. The float held down and the elastic came out. Something was fighting back. Get the landing net ready, the fish rolled on the surface long enough to be swept into the net. One of the small commons that have appeared this year.

There were no more where this came from. The sun was on the water and the bites dried up. This time I did pack up. The bailiff came along and told me that the club’s top match winner had struggled in a swim three pegs away the day before. This made me feel only slightly better.

Not a disaster by any means, but did have one dry net. The one that I brought just to put the tench in.