Bread punch crucians and rudd defy the cold at Allsmoor

November 28, 2020 at 4:02 pm

A sudden cold snap had covered my garden bird bath with ice this week, but by lunchtime weak sunshine was filtering through the trees, as I set up my pole to fish Allsmoor pond close to my home. There was no surface movement of fish and the outlook seemed bleak, two other anglers confirming that they had not had a bite between them. I was pleased to see that someone had removed the Tesco trolley from the shallows in this swim and that the lilies had almost died back. Although a natural holding area for carp, the lily bed offers an instant escape route for the better fish in summer.

Setting up with my usual 3 No 4 short waggler rig, I was more concerned with the leaves coating the surface, than worries about getting a bite, the punch always produces fish at Allsmoor. Mixing up a near wet mix of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets with a dusting of 2 mm krill pellets, I was hoping for a few carp and crucians among the inevitable rudd.

Four decent balls of feed between eight and nine metres were just on the edge of the deeper water, spreading out to provide a wide area into which I could place the float with its size 16 barbless hook and 6 mm punch of bread. Leaves were still falling and being blown round from the east end of the pond, requiring accurate casting into the gaps, the lightweight rig often snagging up on sunken leaves.

Bites were instant, as rudd crowded in over the feed and I was soon working overtime hooking and stripping back the willing red fins.

After twenty minutes, the elastic made a brief appearance from the tip of the pole as a small common carp made a rush for the decaying lilies, but was dragged back to my landing net instead.

Almost as round as it was long, this mini carp packed a powerful punch on a cold day.

A few more rudd, then the elastic was out again as a crucian searched out the bottom for a snag. The hook can be seen barely holding in the skin of crucian’s top lip.

It was then back to bashing through the rudd, some nice ones among them.

The sun had long gone and a chill breeze was sweeping across the surface from the east, moving the leaves about and causing me to warm up with tea and a sandwich, while I put on my jacket to keep the cold from my bones. It was still only 2:30, but the temperature was dropping fast.

Some clonking gudgeon had now moved in, giving carp like bites, that dipped and the float, then slowly sank away, each bite getting me ready for something bigger.

These crucians played around with the bread for up to ten minutes before moving off and I dropped two or three being too enthusiastic and impatient in equal doses, bringing them to the surface, then watching them swim away off the hook.

Finding time for my last sandwich and a cup of tea had to be fitted in, the float constantly going under.

The light was going and I was having trouble seeing the float among the leaves and made the rudd below my last fish.

It had been a busy afternoon, but despite thermals and the fish catching work out, I was now chilled to the bone and ready for home, followed by a hot shower.


2 lb an hour on a late autumn afternoon.

EA restock the River Cut, 15 minutes later it was polluted again

November 26, 2020 at 2:41 pm

I was at my local River Cut to watch the Environment Agency restock the river, following pollution that killed a 1,000 fish in the summer. The river looked in perfect condition and has been fishing well despite the pollution, this 650 roach, dace and chub a top up to replace those lost.

The EA fish farm truck had arrived bang on time at 10 am from Calverton near Nottingham and was soon ready to offload the fish, while myself and another club member looked on. This is a UK wide service paid for by income from fishing license fees, being part of the wider fishery improvement work carried out by the agency.

The fish are carried in oxygenated tanks at a level of 300% of normal and were netted out into buckets, then introduced into their new home in the river.

When the fish had been stocked, the farm truck drove off to another destination, while my friend and I watched the fish spread out across the river. We then stood chatting at the outlet channel and were stunned to see a thick cream coloured solution pouring from one of the underground tunnels.

In minutes the river had been transformed from a clear flowing stream to an alien looking one.

I called the national EA Incident Line on 0800807060 and had an instant response, the information being relaid to local agency officers and Thames Water, who sent investigators to the scene. Fish were topping all over the river and we feared for the worst, but thankfully no fatalities seemed apparent.

Returning to the river four hours later, there were two EA officers taking river samples along its length, the upper section at the outlet where the pollution had entered now being clear, although a thick sediment was coating the bottom. Further down the river was still highly coloured.

Fearing that the fishing had been ruined, my friend Mick was on the bank the following morning for a test fishing session and his smile said it all, reporting a steady catch of gudgeon and roach from his favourite swim.

Panic over, but ironic that this often polluted river, should suffer again only minutes after receiving more fish. No doubt in time we will find out what and where this latest influx has come from and hope that there are no long term effects on the fishing.



Bread punch chub and roach reward persistence on the Blackwater

November 19, 2020 at 5:14 pm

The river Blackwater in Surrey is notorious for flash floods, acting as a rainwater drain for the towns and housing estates along its valley, it goes up and down like a yoyo and I was fortunate to catch it on the way down, after days of heavy rain this week. The skies were threatening, when I arrived before lunch and was welcomed to a new swim by a light shower, but this had blown over by the time that I had settled my tackle box onto the sloping bank.

I had managed to find a gap in the trees with just enough room to clear my 12 foot Hardy float rod, when my box was perched close to the bank. It was still a bit of a parrot cage, but the swim offered the option of trotting a stick float down the inside, through the middle and across to the bushes on the far side.

On the outside of a bend, the flow was pacy along my bank and I fed upstream a couple of heavy balls of liquidised bread, mixed with ground carp pellets, ground hemp and hempseed, squeezed up hard, watching the feed break up into lumps when it reached the bottom in front of me. Setting the 4 No 4 Drennan stick to trip bottom, with a 7 mm punch of bread on the size 16 hook, I was surprised to see the float dive away downstream only yards away first cast. I missed the bite, but next trot connected further down the swim with a chub that flashed on contact, bending the little Hardy rod over as it absorbed the initial run downstream. The chub dived into the snags along my bank, but pressure pulled it clear and my first fish was soon on its side ready for the landing net.

I followed another ball of feed with the float, the line coming off the ABU 501 spool acting as a brake, lifting the bait from the bottom, the float going down again with a smaller chub battling away under my rod top.

It was good to see these fish, the tiny chublets of a few years ago now giving a good account of themselves. I missed a couple of quick dips of the float and and added more depth, letting the float run, holding back, then letting go again, as it progressed down the swim. I held back and the float pulled down, the instinctive strike boiling a small tumbling dace on the surface, which came off. A few more trots and it happened again, this time with a better dace that stayed on for longer in the fast flowing stream. Shallowing up again, the bites were sharp dips, which took the bait off. The dace were there in the shallow water down the inside, but I couldn’t hit them. I used the next size down, a 6 mm punch, increasing the depth again by a foot, then bulked the shot, thinking that the dace were attacking the shot, mistaking it for the hemp. Easing the float down, the rod top wrapped round, this time a better chub came to the surface and I lifted my finger from the spool and let it run before closing the bale arm to steadily bring it back to the net.

This chub had fought like a dace, tumbling over on the strike in the fast water. Maybe they were chub after all. The Blackwater used to have some really big dace, but they seem to have disappeared in recent years, so maybe it was wishful thinking? Leaves were now being blown like confetti onto the surface, making holding back difficult, the float collecting leaves as they drifted by. I fed a couple of firm balls up and over to the slower water three quarters across, but again the strong downstream wind was causing problems, putting a bow in the line, making holding back difficult, needing to constantly mend the line to straighten it to the float. A good bite and the fight of a roach was unmistakable, as it zig zagged along the far shelf, before being brought across to the net.

It was hard work trying to control the float in the wind, a 6 No 4 float would have been better, but the river was shallow and clear over there and I prefer the sensitivity of a light float. A few more trots and the float gave a couple of dips, then a downstream sink as another roach made off with the bread.

Presentation was still a problem, my long 14 foot Browning would have controlled the float better, but there was not the head room for it, even the twelve footer clipping the branches above me occasionally. Despite the wind and leaves, the roach wanted the bread giving positive bites and I hit most of them.

The roach were a decent size and playing the next fish, there was a swirl behind as a pike grabbed the roach, snatching it from the hook with a sideways swipe. I watched the pike swim upstream opposite me and devour the roach in a shower of scales, then swim, waving its tail in the current to the cover of an overhanging bush upstream.

The bites stopped on the roach line, but the float carried further down alongside the bushes and disappeared, the strike bending the rod right round as a chub tried to make it to the safety of the far bank snags, keeping the pressure on to turn it away. This chub fought me all the way back to the net.

I fed a couple more balls toward the middle, ringing the changes with the float, tripping through, to well over depth. The roach came back, taking them at all levels, but a tight line to over depth seemed to work best, often hooking them just five yards from my rod top.

The coarse feed had settled among the gravel and the bites, when they came were unmissable.

The wind had picked up again and I had dropped a few balls of feed down the inside line, shallowing up to try the 7 mm punch stopped and started down the swim with a longer tail, taking this chub at the far end of the trot near the fallen birch tree, the float lifting high on the surface, then sinking out of sight. This was a battle as it tried to snag me all the way back to the landing net, running upstream then drifting back to be scooped to safety.

My bait tray told a story of missed bites and a few dropped fish on a day when effort exceded results.

By 3 pm the light was fading fast, the rain had held off, but that wind, although from the south, was getting colder. Five chub and seven roach on light tackle was a just reward in difficult conditions.

Rudd entertain at the clay pit

November 11, 2020 at 5:26 pm

In a contrast to last week’s freezing conditions, spring like weather drew me out of Lockdown this week to a local pond that I have never fished before. While out walking, I had often peered through the chain link fence and wondered who had the fishing rights to the tree lined water, guessing that it was private property belonging to the golf course that it bordered. Fast forward a few years and the golf course is being built on and the fence has made way for a foot path, leaving it open to fishing.

The one problem is that the pond is close to a busy road with no parking nearby, but a convenient grass verge allowed my wife to drop me and my tackle off. Problem solved. A short 50 yard walk saw me settle down into a well used swim judging by the litter, lager cans, empty sweet corn and meat tins being scattered among the bank side vegetation. Twenty yards away is an empty litter bin with KEEP BRITAIN TIDY in gold lettering on the side.

I had a scout round, filling my bait bag with a variety of bottles and cans, then dumping them in the litter bin, my good deed for the day.

The manufacture of bricks was once the area’s main form of employment and clay pits were common around the town, the popular Jeanes Pond being one that still exists today, while most have been filled in to make way for housing estates. This pond has all the characteristics of a clay pit, being very deep and in the hollow of an old watercourse.

I have no idea how deep this pond is, but the sides shelved away quickly, being five feet deep at 4 metres out and seven feet at 5 metres, when I plumbed the depth. As an unknown quantity, I had brought worms from my compost heap, just in case it was full of perch, as well as my usual bread punch. Due to the depth, I opted for a heavy 2 gram antenna rig, that works well at Jeanes Pond, the shot, bulked 18 inches from the size 16 barbless hook, getting down to the bottom quickly.

Having broken the top three section of my pole a few weeks ago, I was keen to try out a replacement section, that I had adapted from one gifted to me by a good friend. Once the heavy elastic had been refitted down the middle, the new section was a close match to the original pole. I mixed up ground carp pellets and damped down liquidised bread, then squeezed up a couple of small balls, one over the 4 metre line, with the other at 5 metres. Setting the float just off bottom at 4 metres, I cast over the feed and waited for signs of interest in the 6 mm punch of bread. It was not immediate, the antenna gently raising and lowering fractionally after 5 minutes, before slowly sinking when a small rudd swallowed the bread.

Not a bad start, with no surface activity, I had wondered what fish were in here. Dropping the float back in had a speedier response, the float settling, dipping, then submerging.

A better rudd. I even got the landing net out for this one. Without putting in more feed, the rudd had got the message and were now taking steadily. I now switched to a small red worm to see if there were any perch about. The float dived a way and I lifted into another rudd.

The rudd really went for the worms, the float sliding away and out of sight before it had settled.

After several rudd, I was having to search for more worms in the bait box, while trying to get a reluctant worm onto the hook was proving fiddly and I went back to the punch, as it is so much quicker to bait the hook. I had moved out over the 5 metre line and added a foot to the depth, but was getting lift bites, striking on the lift and getting some better rudd.

Raising the float back up to the five foot depth, the bites were more positive and regular tight balls of feed kept the fish there. I had one of those bites when you know that it is a big fish before you strike, the float slowly sank and steadily continued down and out of sight. The elastic was coming out of the pole before I lifted and I quickly attached another section of pole as the fish continued down and across. It kept going without slowing, bending the pole round. The the float pinged back, it had come off. Judging by the empty luncheon meat cans, the regulars here come for the carp and this was a large one.

The fine wire size 16 hook was opened out slightly and I bent it back. Time for my lunch time sandwich and a cup of tea. It was now quite warm and I took off my big heavy jumper. The sun had come out from the cloud, being directly in front of me and I had to shield its reflection with my hand to see the float. I fed another ball of feed and went up to the 7 mm punch, then went back to catching rudd.

This one was a lipless wonder with no top lip. The pond is very clear, but these fish are pale for rudd, which is unusual, more like those from murky waters like gravel pits.

The local fishermen that remember these old clay pits, say that they were full of crucian carp and I was hoping to see some today, but despite the bread now coating the bottom, there was no sign of bubbles on the surface from the bottom feeders.

I tried fishing deeper, but the lift bites returned and I missed more bites, this rudd being an exception among a stream of much smaller fish. I shallowed up again, but the bites had become difficult to hit, still being small fish, so scaled down from a 7 mm punch to a 5 mm. The bites improved and so did the fish.

It seemed that the rudd were no bigger than this and there would be no crucians, or manageable carp, so after a period of “just one more”, I made the decision to pack up after this last one.

I couldn’t complain, the sun still shone, I’d watched a heron fishing opposite, seen wagtails, long tailed tits and even a flock of green parakeets robbing a wild rose bush of hips, all for the price of a few pence worth of bait.

Three and a half busy hours had put over 6 lb of rudd in my net on a warm sunny day. If this pond has not been filled in by next spring, I’ll give it another go. I’m sure there are a few surprises in store.






Bread punch beats the cold on Lockdown

November 6, 2020 at 5:49 pm

Freezing fog caused me to delay my fishing this week, waiting for morning sunshine to break through and melt the ice on the van windscreen before I ventured out after lunch. I was well aware that three hours fishing would be the maximum possible with sunset at 4:30 pm, with more fog threatened at around 3. The drop in temperature has been quite sudden and it seemed strange to be getting my thermals, thick woolen socks and heavy three ply jumper out of the wardrobe, when a week ago I was working in the garden wearing only jeans and a T shirt.

My original plan had been to take a drive to the River Blackwater, but now with time tight, I decided that my local River Cut was a better option, only to find a diversion in place that doubled the distance. Not to worry, fishing is all about relaxation and rushing often often ends up with frustration and tangles. I am well drilled in unpacking the van, then loading the trolley, so once parked in the only lay-by, I was soon at the weir and tackled up.

It was unusual to see less water than normal coming over the sill, with only a slight back eddy coming across the main river to my left, which had little flow, my 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick barely moving toward the foam. Dropping in my first ball of liquidised bread, I watched it break up into a cloud as it gradually sank to the bottom. With the float set six inches off the bottom, I put in another ball of feed under the tip of my 14 foot Browning and lowered the float rig down with a 6 mm pellet of punched bread on the size 16 hook. It had only travelled a foot before the float dragged under and I was playing my first fish, a small chub, that rushed off toward the fast water.

This gave a good account of itself and I leaned out to net it from the high bank. Chub are usually the first to move in on the bread and when the float lifted then lay flat, I assumed that it was chub number two, but the dogged thudding fight as it rushed around the pool, said roach, a flash of red fins among the foam confirming my guess. This fish felt like an ice lolly to touch and it wasn’t long before my fingers began to feel numb.

Fish can tell when they are lightly hooked and often fight harder, this one being no exception to the rule, taking me from bank to bank, before I could slip the net under it, where the barbless hook dropped out once the pressure was relieved.

After a couple more shallow trots into the foam without another bite, I added another six inches to the depth to trip bottom in the 30 inch deep swim, the float dipping and sinking next cast. The rod bent over again and I thought that another small chub was rushing away with the bait, hugging the bottom, then surfacing as I swung it to hand. A monster gudgeon.

This was the beginning of a gudgeon raid, as the shoal settled over the bread feed out in front of me. I kept going bashing my way through them, as sooner or later I knew that the roach would follow. I usually get a triangular hot spot form in the eddy, where the feed collects on the bottom and becomes filled with roach, but today the fish seemed to be in a narrow back eddy, which headed back into the boiling weir. Adding another six inches to the depth, with No 6 shot spread from the hook link up to the bulk two thirds from the float, an underhand cast put the float between the slack and the back eddy, watching it sail upstream into the weir, often going under as it settled. More gudgeon, but also the odd roach began to show.

These were all fat fish in full fighting fitness, that headed straight into the fast water and I struck all of them with my index finger covering the spool of the ABU 501, able to momentarily give line by lifting the finger to allow the line to run free on that first rapid burst of power from the fish.

By 2:30 the fog had started to roll in again, blanketing out the low sun and my breath began to huff steam as the temperature fell, while it was already becoming difficult to pull the hook though into the punch in the low light.

I had no intention of packing up yet, despite the discomfort and I kept feeding and catching, even if most of them were gudgeon.

All fish were welcome, not least another small chub, which rushed around the pool to be swung in.

There used to be many fine chub to be had from this pool, along with carp, but those days seem to be gone, even the large roach were missing from this session today, hoping that they are growing fat on sweet corn, judging by the number of empty cans littering the banks.

Every time that I was ready to call it a day, the rod would bend into another roach and I would press on catching gudgeon again until the next one came along.

This was the last one that came out on my camera and I packed up after one more roach.

It had been a very busy two and a half hours with about 60 fish, mostly gudgeon. Feeding a small ball of liquidised bread every other cast had used up the equivalent of two thirds of a loaf. The cold had slowly crept into my bones, despite frequent cups of tea, but I feel that afternoon was worth the effort, although my wife had other ideas.