Shy winter roach take the bread punch on the river Cut

December 12, 2020 at 1:15 pm

I do not go fishing in the rain and with a gloomy, but dry day forecast, I got my bread ready to fish my local river Cut, microwaving a couple of frozen slices, then rolling them flat, preparing for winter roach. The previous days had seen temperatures only topping 5 Centigrade and today would not be much better with a promised 7 C, but with cabin fever setting in, I had to get out fishing. Ready to leave, I opened the door and yes, it was raining. Hanging my head, I walked back into the house, where my wife was cosied up watching TV. “It’s raining!” She peered out of the window, “You’ve been out in far worse than this before.” True, but that was in my match fishing days, when I HAD to fish. Now as a fully signed up pleasure fisherman, I have options. I decided to go.

Parking up at the river, the rain had reduced to heavy drizzle and by the time that I had tackled up the 12 foot Hardy float rod, it was down to a fine mist.

Due to the introduction of berms by the Environment Agency a few years ago, the river has taken on more character, this swim having a deep run along the far side, while shallows have been deposited along the nearside.

Due to the drizzle, I kept the liquidised bread in the bag, dipping my hand in to squeeze up the balls, while covering over the punch bread. To start off, I fed two balls of liquidised bread close to the far bank, watching them sink through the clear water, gauging that they would reach the bottom a couple of yards downstream. With a 6 mm punch of bread on a size 16 barbless hook under a 4 No 4 Drennan stick float, I cast in behind the bait cloud and waited for a sign of interest in my bait. After a yard, a series of dips of the float developed into a pull under, but I struck just as the float resurfaced and missed it. Next cast more dips and I held the float back slightly. It sank and I was playing a roach that darted through the swim, bringing it to the surface, then across the shallows to the landing net.

This decent roach came bang on noon and I looked forward to a few hour’s rewarding fishing before it got dark. The bites were very fussy, gentle dips and taps, but few pull downs. When the bites stopped each trot, I knew that the bread was gone. Holding back each time over the fed area brought more positive bites, this next roach coming five minutes after the first.

It was after this roach that I noticed the pace of the river had sped up, a sign that the daily dose of brown water was coming, which sends the fish off the feed. On my previous visit this mild pollution had come between 10 and 11 am and had hoped that I had missed it, but here it was beginning to stain the water.

The bites were even fussier now, the bread often coming back hardly sucked.  I decided that the size 16 was too big for the bait and swapped for a tiny size 20 hook and 4 mm pellet of bread. It worked, partly at least, the float holding down long enough to hit a smaller roach.

The roach got smaller, at least they were fish, many dropping off the hook. The river was now murky and I could barely make out the bottom, but the tips and bobs continued. This is what they were, sticklebacks. Twenty bites and three of these. They will survive in the most polluted river and they were the only fish feeding now.

I kept going, in between cups of tea and sandwiches,  and after 45 minutes I almost cheered when I caught a small roach. It was a sign that the pollution had pushed through again.

Many more of these small roach followed, when I was surprised to have the rod bend into a much better roach from the same dithering bite.

I was back in business, the small hook and bait bringing more positive bites and better fish.

I was now feeding a small ball into the channel every other fish, the landing net retrieving fish after fish. A small chub gatecrashed the roach queue, rushing off down stream, bending the rod over.

When I used to fish with maggots, size 20 hooks were the norm, even going down to a 22, but now the 20 barbless looked tiny and I worried that I would lose fish, but quite the opposite, despite the fussy bites, I was hooking and landing more than usual.

Next up was a good dace, that I could see tumbling in the clearing river, as I brought it to the net.

I wondered whether it was one of those that was stocked a couple of weeks ago.  The roach kept coming.

This roach looked like it had had some rough treatment at some time, maybe a mink? It fought well though.

The river was now back to normal, with gudgeon back on the bread.

I’m sure that this was one of the dace stockies, as was the one below.

With wet hands, the bread was sticking to my palms and coating the fish.

It was now 3 pm and the light was fading fast, while the drizzle had begun again, but the roach were still feeding over the carpet of bread crumbs. With cold hands and failing sight, I went back up to the 5 mm punch, which was easier to get on the hook.

I knew that I would have to pack up soon, but the bites kept coming, still dips and plucks, until the float would hold station long enough to strike, followed by a hectic fight and another good roach in the net.

The last roach of a late burst of action, this one requiring the flash, although the light was still there to see to pack up. It had been an interesting session, the bites had not improved much beyond nibbles, but there were over 40 fish in the net after three hours.






Rustic pigeon pie

December 4, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Having been gifted a brace of fresh wood pigeons, I knew what I wanted to do with them, make a pie. The meat is dark and rich in flavour, having the texture of beef when cooked, benefiting from the addition of a beef stock cube to complement the flavour. This pie is ideal for using up any vegetables in the kitchen and is ready for the oven in under an hour.

Not pretty , but very tasty.

Removing the breast meat

Removing the breast from the pigeon is quick and easy, only requiring a sharp knife, a bowl of water and kitchen towel. A bowl of water? Pigeon breast feathers are soft and sticky, the water being handy to dip your fingers and knife into, cleaning your fingers on the towel, while separating the meat from the breast bone. Stage 1, cut, or twist the wings off and lay on it’s back. Stage 2, pluck a few feathers from the crown of the breast to expose the skin. This is where the bowl of water comes in handy to unstick the feathers. The exposed skin is very soft and can be peeled away on either side, revealing the meat, while saving the mess of plucking the whole breast. Stage 3, take your knife and follow the line of the breast bone each side, allowing the bone to guide the blade, front and back, until each half is released and able to be lifted out. If doing this in the field, grass is a convenient cleaning cloth! The rest of the pigeon can be bagged and discarded.

The above ingredients is enough for two pies.


4 halves of pigeon breast

2 small potatoes – diced

1 carrot – diced

1 medium onion – chopped

2 sticks celery – chopped

4 mushrooms – peeled and chopped

100 grams pork lardons or fatty bacon

1 TBS of cooking oil

1 beef stock cube

1 TBS of flour

1 pack of ready made short crust pastry


Tenderise the breasts. I use a steak mallet. This also flattens out the meat, allowing it to be diced into 20 mm cubes. Put to one side.

Put the diced potato and carrot into a small saucepan and par boil on a gentle heat. When easily pierced with a knife, remove from the heat and drain off into a cup, breaking up the stock cube and stirring in to make a stock.

While waiting for the diced vegetables to boil, using a large frying pan, add the oil and brown off the onions until transparent, add the celery along with the lardons, stirring until lightly browned. Being fat free, the pigeon will cook better in the pork fat. Now add the pigeon to the mix,  turning over and lightly browning the meat, not too much, or it will toughen. Now add the diced vegetables, the mushrooms and the stock, bringing to a boil, while stirring in the flour to thicken the stock.  Leave to cool.

In the past I made pastry the way mother used to, a pinch of salt, self raising flour and butter rubbed gently between the fingers in a bowl, until a crumbly mix was formed, then milk added sparingly, while working the dough into a dry ball. Cover and leave in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes. This helps the fat in the pastry to cool, for rolling. Works every time.

With a Tesco supermarket just around the corner however, it was convenient to buy some ready made short crust pastry, as I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labour that evening for dinner, while the other was put in the freezer for another day.