Winter tactics net roach and rudd on the bread punch at Braybrooke

October 31, 2021 at 1:08 pm

Heavy morning rain put a chill in the air this weekend, but by the afternoon the sun had come out and I nipped down to my local Jeanes Pond at Braybrooke Park for a couple of hours. Being Saturday, I expected to see a few others fishing, but all the swims were unoccupied and with a choice, I opted for peg 18 out of the wind. There was no surface activity and guessed that bites might be at a premium.

Fishing by 3 pm, my swim was already in shadow and decided that it was time to leave my heavy 2g pole rig antenna float in the box and put on a x14, 0.4g antenna to a size 18 barbless hook. I plumbed the depth over the drop off four metres out at four feet deep, setting the float a few inches off bottom. Casting in the float with a 5 mm pellet of bread, saw no response to the bait and I plopped in a small ball of plain white liquidised bread and recast through the cloud. A few minutes later, a fine ring radiated from the antenna, then another. The crumb had activated interest. The antenna raised and lowered fractions of an inch, then slowly sank. The strike made contact with a small rudd, which I swung in.

By no means a monster, but at least it was a fish. Casting over the area again saw a repeat, the fish were slow to come on the feed today, it taking more minutes for the bite to develop enough for a strike and another small rudd.

The bites were really slow and I missed a couple after the float had sunk out of sight and assumed that the 5 mm pellet of bread was too big, going down to a 4 mm punch.

This brought more positive bites, the rudd giving way to roach as the fine crumb settled on the bottom.

I damped down the crumb to form a firmer ball that fell quickly through to the bottom. Sliding the bulk shot closer to the hook and adding to the depth brought instant bites as the rudd were bypassed to where the roach were waiting. Some were of a decent size.

A small ball of feed kept the bites and fish coming, again nothing big, but they kept me busy.

More time may have brought better fish into the swim, but the weather was already changing with the wind blowing leaves from the trees, while the blue sky was full of scudding black clouds and I packed up at 5 pm.

It was already getting dark and needed the flash on my camera for this image, reminding me that the clocks would be going back later to usher in true winter time.

It was already spotting with rain as I walked back to the van and lashing down by the time that I reached it. Pulling open the side door, I piled my tackle and trolley inside, then rushed for the shelter of the driver’s seat. Headlights on, the roads were awash . Winter has arrived.




A game of two halves, a half time switch from lake to river, saves the day

October 26, 2021 at 6:56 pm

A small secluded lake, that lies close to my local river, was my choice of venue this week. A flooded clay pit, that was once part of the town’s now defunct brick making heritage, the lake is very deep, with carp, tench and rudd, plus crucians on offer.

Arriving mid morning, the autumn sun was casting shadows across the surface as I set up my pole, the sight of bubbles from feeding carp further out, spurring me on to make up a sweet heavy mix of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and strawberry flavouring. Squeezing up several firm balls of feed, I put them in over the drop off into six feet of water, my 2 gram antenna float baited with a 7 mm pellet of punched bread on the size 14 barbless hook.

Fine bubbles were soon bursting on the surface and the float was showing a interest, followed by a sink away. A typical crucian bite. I struck into nothing. How did I miss that? Leave it longer? Still missed. I went down to a 5 mm punch. A bare hook each time. Then I hooked something that rattled the line. A three inch rudd. My heart sank. Late last year I fished this lake and had a netful of decent rudd, today it seemed full of fry. Bubbles were still coming up from the feed. Something was down there. As if to encourage me, a decent carp noisily rolled on the surface only yards away to my left. I bulked my shot closer to the hook and went back to the 7 mm punch. If the micro rudd were going to nibble the bait off, at least it might give something decent a chance before they did.

As if to confirm my action, the antenna gave several dips before slowly submerging, followed by the line. Surely this time? Yes! A fight back from deep down, not a crucian, but a nice rudd. I would be happy catching these all day. It was minus it’s top lip, a sign of barbed hooks and mishandling.

Back over the feed, I missed the next bite, striking as the float submerged. Next time in, I waited for the line to begin to follow the float under again and success, a smaller rudd.

A burst of bubbles on the surface indicated a better fish, possibly a carp over the feed. I dropped the float over the top and watched the antenna disappear down a tunnel, pulling out elastic before I could strike. This was big and fast, relentlessly running to the middle, bending the pole, as I raised it to avoid losing the top two elasticated sections. Then it was gone, the elastic bringing the float back. The hook was still there. Lightly, or possibly foul hooked, there had been no bite, just a run.

I decided to mix up some more feed, worried that it might bring the tiny rudd back into the swim, but it was a chance worth taking. I was right, more tiny rudd and no more carp. The weather was changing, black clouds were forming and the wind got up

The local forecast had said sunny intervals and a gentle breeze, with possible rain at 1 pm. This was a lot more than gentle and it had already started to rain. The tip of the antenna was just visible, flashing off and on in the waves, tensing up for the strike, when it failed to switch on again. Micro rudd were the culprits, throwing back several and I had decided to pack up and move the hundred yards to the river, when a slightly better rudd took the bread.

The hope of better fish to come kept me going, but when the heavens opened properly, I began packing away in earnest, completing the task in time for the sun to come out again.

The lake had kept me busy with little to show for it, landing that, what if carp, would have been different.

Within five minutes I was setting up my pole at a culvert on the river, finding a stick float rig on a winder to suit in my box. I mixed up liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, lightly damping them down to form lose balls, putting a couple of balls over past the middle.  There was little flow and the feed did not travel far to reach the bottom.

With a 6 mm pellet of bread on the size 14 hook, I passed 6 metres of pole out between the trees and followed the float down. Trotted a few feet, the float bobbed and sank with a small roach ready to be swung in from the top two sections.

After a few more roach, a monster gudgeon took at the point of entry, fighting like a much larger fish. It’s a shame that they don’t grow bigger.

The float moved off downstream and the elastic came out as a chub made it’s initial dash for safety.

It was a fish a chuck, the pole more efficient at hooking and playing the fish, laying the pole back parallel with the river, where my trolley stood in for a set of pole rollers, disconnecting the top two each time to bring the fish in. More balls of feed brought a positive reaction from a decent roach, that swam off with the bread. With a six foot drop from the top of the culvert and overhanging branches restricting access, netting was difficult, but necessary for this next roach.

More big gudgeon later, I was playing another quality roach, that had taken under the pole tip.

Small rudd, roach, gudgeon and chub were swinging in one a minute, making up for the frustrations of the morning, while the larger gudgeon continued to put up a fight.

There used to be a dead tree across the river here, which held some very large chub, but it is now gone, cleared by the council as a flood hazard, or actually swept away by the recent floods. More time and feed might have brought those bigger chub out, but then we are back to what ifs? After an hour, I’d run out of holes to punch again and I was ready for home.






Quality Autumn roach reward the bread punch to beat the rain.

October 18, 2021 at 7:35 pm

At 7 am the alarm beeped and I awoke in darkness. Autumn has arrived. I went downstairs to the kitchen and made tea for my wife and I, opening the curtains on my return, before snuggling back down for a few minutes, warmed by the hot tea. The sky turned briefly to red, “Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning,” quoted my wife. The BBC forecast had said that a wave of heavy rain would sweep across our town between 1 pm and 3 pm to prove the old adage correct, and with this being the only day available to fish this week, I needed an early start to beat the rain.

My chosen venue is close to home, a couple of miles upstream of the weir that had given me a double figure net of chub and roach the week before. The little river has been up and down with floods and suffered two bouts of pollution, oil and blue dye in consecutive weeks and I hoped that all was well on my arrival.

There was a strong smell of oil as I approached the bank, but no evidence of problems as I tackled up with my 14 foot Browning float rod, in fact rudd, or chub were investigating falling leaves on the surface downstream. The river was clear, with a healthy tinge of green and I was optimistic as I mixed up my feed, a handful of liquidised bread, with a dusting of ground carp pellets with ground hemp. Once the weather turns to Autumn, I prefer to feed light, putting just one medium sized ball over to the berm along the far side. Swinging the float over to the cloud of feed, the float bobbed and sank, the rod bending into a small roach.

Not bad for a start. A new 6 mm punch of bread slid onto the size 14 barbless hook and I was fishing again in the same spot. Bob, bob, sink, a much bigger bend in the rod and the landing net was out for the first time.

Back in the same spot, close to the berm, the float sank away and I had a fight on my hands as a small chub charged about the swim, it’s white mouth soon on the surface in submisson.

Another small ball over, saw an immediate response as the float buried out of sight. On the strike, the rod bent round as the unseen fish made off downstream in a straight line. The fish turned, a dull flash deep in the river had me convinced, that I’d hooked into a small carp as it hugged the far bank. Another turn and it was a very nice roach, its red fins visible in the clear water, when I brought it toward the landing net.

A couple more chub made off with the bread, one after the other, the second one the better fish.

At this point, the river sped up and the bites got fussy. I have been here before, a couple of missed bites and a very small roach followed.

The river turned a murky brown and the bites reduced to mere touches. The roach got smaller, then the bites stopped. This input of brown water is a regular occurrence. It puts the fish off the feed and passes through after an hour. I changed to a 5 mm punch on a size 16 hook. My bulked shot was strung out to allow a more natural drop of the bait. I ate my sandwiches and had some tea, constantly casting and trotting. The float bobbed but no more. I added a No 6 shot under the float to dot the tip down. Now the float dipped and held in the surface. A small roach.

Lean period over, small roach were queuing up, bites still hard to hit, at least there were bites again. A small rudd took on the drop.

I was avoiding feeding balls, as I was afraid of feeding them off. Instead I sprayed the mix with a catapult. The roach were getting bigger.

A couple of gudgeon, then the float held under with a much better roach, that fought all over the river.

Spraying the feed seemed to be working, the bites getting bolder. The river was back to normal, clearing quickly. I still missed bites and most fish were small, but every now and then I was playing a rod bender.

The sky had darkened and then drizzle was hissing on the surface. It was ten minutes past one, when the skies opened and the rain lashed down. I covered up my bait and fished on. The fish were still biting and I had plenty of layers on. I pulled my hood over my cap, determined to sit it out.

At first I had been protected by the trees above me, but soon heavy drops were getting through and decided that I had to pack up now, or end up soaked through. One last cast and the float held down long enough to make contact, a quality roach a fitting end to the session.

I was tempted to stay after this roach, as they were still over there, coming out to mop up the falling crumbs of bread from the catapult. Noting this for another time, I cleared the decks ready to leave.

The rain had come earlier than expected, cutting my session short. I had learned a few more lessons for another day and still put over forty fish in my net, including some of the best roach yet from this beleaguered little river.



Bread punch finds the sweet spot of roach at the weir

October 13, 2021 at 11:49 am

Unable to fish until mid afternoon and rain forecast after 4 pm, I headed for the prolific weir on my local River Cut this week for a short three hour session. With an outfall from the Thames Water treatment works pumping out aerated water into the slow running Cut, this is a guaranteed holding area for decent roach, and a stick float with the bread punch on the hook an efficient way to catch them.

The fish lie in the crease between the fast water and the slower main river, the flow creating an eddy that rotates back to my bank and I put a couple of balls of feed into the eddy in front of me. The feed was a mix of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets, ground hemp and the last of a bag Van Den Eynde strawberry additive, tipping in more than just a sprinkle, which made up sweet, sticky balls.

First cast, as the float edged toward the foam, it disappeared and I struck into a hard fighting little chub.

This chub was a good sign, as they have been missing since reports of poachers netting the pool, the next fish, a roach, was in perfect condition.

Another ball to the centre brought an instant bite, an even better roach, evidence that they had moved up into the eddy.

Bites were now coming thick and fast. Cast into the eddy, hold back, let the float run, hold back and strike, when the float sank. The roach were getting bigger, having to lean out to net them from the high bank.

Another ball of feed brought an instant response from a chub, the greedy fish spewing ground bait, when I removed the hook.

The roach were lined up in a small area over the feed and they were not the shy biting fish of legend, dragging the float under, when the hook bait settled.

These are just a few of the plump roach that were coming to my net, the size 14 hook, no deterrent when they sucked in the 6 mm punch of bread. Chub were still swooping in on the feed area.

These chub fight hard in the shallow water, making a rapid initial run back to the fast water each time, my finger over the open spool of my ABU 501 closed face reel lifting each time to allow free line.

The roach kept coming, all of them goers over eight inches, requiring the landing net.

This robin kept me entertained, flying down to peck up bits of spilt ground bait, darting back up into the branches to sing away, before returning for a refill.

Gudgeon had also begun to put in an appearance.

I scraped up the last of my feed and put in one last ball. The gudgeon were outnumbering the roach, but they were still clonkers.

The last fish, a perfect roach.

That was it, I had run out of holes to punch and the clouds were forming with a temperature drop already. I hadn’t quite reached my three hours time limit at 4:30, but who is complaining?

Averaging a fish every three minutes, this was quite a workout. I was pleased to see the chub were getting bigger and that the roach had not disappeared, putting over ten pounds on the scales.

I had timed the session just right, while loading the van, rain was spitting in the air and the roads were wet by the time that I reached home.

Univited Mr Pike spoils the party at Braybrooke.

October 8, 2021 at 1:52 pm

With a report of tench and carp still being caught at Braybrooke Community FC’s Jeanes Pond this week, I managed to get out for an afternoon’s fishing. Arriving after 2 pm, I had a free choice of swims and chose lucky for some, peg 13, which has a large lily bed to the right, which is known for tench and carp, while I have had some nets of big roach pre Covid.

I mixed up a small tray of feed, liquidised bread, ground hemp, fish meal and a dusting of strawberry flavouring, then damped it down to form tight balls to sink quickly in the five foot deep swim. I put in four balls close to the outer corner of the lilies and cast in my 2 gram antenna float, which had most of the bulk shot eighteen inches from the size 14 hook, baited with a 7 mm pellet of punched bread fished just off bottom.

As expected the first few fish were five inch rudd, but a more positive bite saw the landing net out for the first time with a larger specimen.

Roach had now moved onto the feed, not big but worth catching, unlike the rudd lift bites, these were the opposite, a few dips of the float, followed by a slow sink.

Poised for another roach when the float sank away, I lifted the pole and the float stayed down with a better fish, the elastic stretching down into the water. Pulling the pole round to the left, the last thing I wanted was for this fish to reach the lilies and was relieved to see the elastic scything out to the open water. A carp run is unmistakeable, no bucking, just straight line power and I followed the direction, while keeping up the the pressure, hoping that the size 14 barbless hook had a firm hold. A rush to the roots to my left was stopped with the pole bent round. After a few minutes, I briefly saw the float for the first time, knowing that I was winning the battle to keep the fish in open water. A flash of gold below the surface let me see what looked like a big crucian carp, not a much larger common as I’d first thought. Once netted I could see that I was half right on both counts, a short fat common carp.

I had been lucky to land this carp, the hook just in the skin of the lip, popping out as I slid the disgorger onto the hook. The same shape as a crucian, it had an upturned dorsal fin as opposed to the rounded shape of a crucian. Time for a cup of tea. Then back to catching roach.

Still hopeful of another carp, or a tench, my catching rhythm was shattered, when a large green head surfaced and sideswiped a good roach as I brought it in. I tried to lift the roach away, but the pike had grabbed it and swirled off, with my elastic streaming out to the left. I tried jerking the hook free, but the elastic took the strain as the pike turned and relentlessly headed into the lily bed, the pole in danger of breaking, when I put on full pressure. I could see the lilies parting, the float pushed up to the elastic stonfo connector as the pike swam further in, boiling on the surface.  I did not want this pike, there was little chance of landing it anyway and wrapping a cloth round my had to protect it, began hand lining the elastic back. With a ping, the float rig shot back, minus half the hook link, neatly cut by the razor sharp teeth.

I mixed up more feed and started again with a new hook. Bites were immediate and some better roach were among them, until a massive splash saw roach scattering all over the surface. The pike was back. What do you do? Get up and move? No, I only intended fishing until 5 pm anyway, it wasn’t worth the hassle. I could have fed up the bush to my left, but again that would have taken time with no guarantees, that the pike would not drift over for another roach. I stuck it out. The little bay in the lilies, where most of the roach had come from was dead. I couldn’t buy a bite from there and assumed that Mr Toothie was lying there. Putting on another length of pole, I swung the float out to fish along the outside edge of the lilies and fed my last couple of balls there. I was back to catching small roach and rudd again, but the bait was down near the bottom most of the time, where it needed to be for the better fish.

Bringing in a roach, as I broke the pole down to the top two to net it, suddenly the roach leapt out of the water with the pike after it. I lifted the roach straight out without the net, a green flash followed by a boil on the surface confirming my fears.

The survivor.

That was it for me. I would have fished for a bit longer, but once a pike latches onto a swim at Jeanes Pond, you are waiting for the next attack. Time to go. I had only used the bread punch. Meat, or sweetcorn may have had more success, although passing by another angler, he was using sweetcorn without a bite.

Beggars can’t be chosers. Grateful for small mercies!


Homespun cider making made easy

October 6, 2021 at 8:00 pm

It is cider making time again, the temperature has dropped and apples are abundant, either to be scrounged, scrumped, or gathered from the wild. Over the past few weeks we have gradually accumulated over 60 lb of several varieties of donated garden windfalls, both cookers and eaters along with feral apples gathered from local hedge rows. It was time to literally dust off the cobwebs from the “equipment” stored each year in the shed and begin on a cool, dry late September morning.

A typical mix of apples in the washing bin, ready to be processed.

Here is the production line that I have used over the years to extract the juice from the apples ready for fermenting. Don’t laugh, yes it looks crude and very basic, but don’t forget that people have been making cider for hundreds of years with very rustic equipment, mashing the apples with heavy poles and pouring the rough juice into barrels and leaving it to ferment from the natural yeasts in the air and the apples themselves. My two pieces of modern equipment are a garden shredder, for creating the mash and a car hydraulic bottle jack for compressing the juice on my home made wooden frame, which is screwed and glued together using 4 x 2 rough timber. As can be seen, the frame is held in an old Workmate.

This is a two person line. My wife cuts the apples into pieces that will fit into the shredder, removing any rotten fruit as she goes, while I collect the mash from the bowl beneath the shredder.

Note that much of the mash is already juice. The mash is ladled into an old ice cream container, which has netting, or muslin draped over it. The netting is then folded tight over the mash, forming a parcel of mash, squeezing out some of the juice along the way into the container. The parcel is lifted out, the container emptied into the 5 gallon bin holding the squeezed juice. Without a press, just wringing out the mash parcel would produce about 75% of the juice on its own.

The parcel is then placed on the press platen, the secondary platen placed on top then a block, followed by the jack, which is pumped to squeeze the remaining juice out.

This image shows the roasting tray around which the press was made, with the pine platen, part of an old shelf, in place and the parcel ready to squeeze. The tray can be lifted out easily to drain the juice. I considered fitting a drain plug at one time, but this takes only seconds to lift and pour out the juice, so why complicate matters? Due to the tannin in the juice, it soon turns brown, but a test taste proves it to be pleasantly sweet. Sweetness means sugar and sugar ferments into alcohol. Floating a hydrometer into the juice gave a Specific Gravity (SG) of 106, enough for around 6 % alcohol, when fully fermented. Enough for a pint, or two around a summer BBQ.

This image shows the press at full squish, with the juice flowing into the tray. Another platen and parcel would speed up the whole juicing process, but this system and rig produced 3 gallons of juice from 6o lb of apples in 2 hours. We started with a cup of coffee at 11 am and finished with a toasted cheese sandwich at 1 pm for lunch. Perfect timing. I used to make 6 gallons of cider each year, with a break for lunch, but you were very ready for that cup of tea at 3 pm.

A useful byproduct of cider pressing is the left over apple cakes. Once these would have been fed to the family pig, but the worms like them just as much, boosting the working of the garden compost heap and giving a ready supply for fishing.

We now have a bin full of juice, what next? When I made my first cider, I lived in a rural setting with my own trees and hedgerows full of crab apples a hundred yards down the lane. I wanted to be as traditional as possible, deciding to only use the wild yeast from the apples, that formed as a light foam on the top of the juice. Stirring in the foam, I then poured the juice into demi jons, put on air locks and left the cider to get on with fermenting in my kitchen. I racked them off before Christmas and did a taste test. Each demi jon had a different flavour, one very harsh and dry, two very bland and one perfect with a sweet dryness. From then on I used shop bought sachets of wine, champagne, or cider yeast, sprinkled over the juice, all giving good consistent results.

This year I have gone one step further, stirring in a sachet of nutrient twenty minutes before adding the yeast, which I started off in 100ml of warm water at 30 C degrees. According to the blurb, the fermenting time will be reduced, which will result in a happier wife, who gets fed up with cleaning around the demi jons.

Certainly the initial rapid fermentation that takes place within the first few days has been accelerated, the demijons below very active after only 18 hours.

I used a jug to remove the rough juice from the 5 gallon bin, then pour through a fine mesh, or sieve in to the demijons. I then use rolled up newspaper to stop the rapid fermentation from bubbling over as the yeast eats up the sugar, producing a thick brown scum of dead yeast, which will be removed after a few days.

After three days the cider had settled down and I cleaned the necks of messy debris, then fitted air locks, seeing bubbles blowing through the air locks immediately.

The lees and settled out yeast can be seen in the bottom of the cleaned demijons. These will be left for another two to four weeks, until fermentation has slowed down and the cider has changed to a slightly hazy golden colour. At this stage the cider should be racked off into a clean demijon. Racking is the process of syphoning off the cider from the lees using a tube, which is placed into the demijon with the clean container at a lower point. I put the full demijon on the kitchen worksurface, with the clean one on a chair below, sucking through the tube to draw the cider through and down into the empty one, watching the tube as it empties the demijon, allowing the tube to draw off a small amount of yeast into the new container, making it hazy again. Top up with water and refit the air lock. The emptied demijon will contain about 20 mm of yeast, which can be washed out ready to repeat for the next one.

A TIP HERE. To avoid the syphon sucking up too much yeast at this point, a small piece of cane can be tied to the tube with, say 25 mm (depending on the depth of yeast)  protruding from the end of the tube, which will prevent the syphon from getting too close to the yeast.

If a still dry cider is required, then move the demijon to a cold place like a garage, until the cider has cleared, usually about two weeks. All fermentation should have stopped. There will be a slight film of lees at the bottom of the demijon, which should be racked into a  clean one, avoiding the lees. The cider can now be bottled, pouring into a jug, then through a funnel into bottles. I use old pint beer bottles. Tasting it at this stage, the cider will be dry and acidic, but will mature enough after 4 to 6 weeks to be drunk, when left in a cool place off the ground. The longer the better.

A medium sweet still cider can be produced at this this time, after the cooling, by adding 4 oz of sugar, dissolved in hot water as a syrup to the racked off clear cider, when cooled, sealing the top of the demijon and giving it a good shake to mix the sugar, before bottling.

Obviously, the more cider that has reached this stage, the more experiments can be carried out.

For a dry sparkling cider, after the second racking, having brought some yeast through, keep the cider in the kitchen, until the lees have settled and fermentation should have stopped, usually another week, or two. Rack again, drawing through a small amount of yeast. The cider will be slightly hazy and can be bottled, adding a level teaspoon of white sugar to each bottle. Store in a cool place. The cider will clear leaving a paint of hardened lees in the bottom of the bottle, although care should be taken when pouring to avoid them, as they are quite bitter. I am told that the lees contain some valuable vitamins, but I’ll take their word for that. The beer bottles will contain any pressure generated, while a heaped teaspoon will result in a slightly sweeter cider. I don’t advise two full teaspoons for more sweetness, as a champagne style outpouring from the bottle, including the lees, will occur.

I prefer a strong, dry, sparkling cider and add 4 oz of dissolved white sugar after the first racking and top up with water. A slight, fresh fermentation will take place, when most of the yeast will be used up after another week, or two. Rack off again, drawing off a small amount of yeast, continuing as above.

I do not advise plastic caps for the bottles, as they can lift off, allowing air in, which will ruin the cider. Compressed bottle caps are the answer. When I first started bottling, I used a hand held swaging tool. The cap was placed over the mouth of bottle, the tool placed over it and tapped down with a hammer. Each year I tragically lost a few bottles this way and the precious liquid inside and eventually bought a much more efficient, safe alternative.

The original swaging tool is at the bottom.

I store my cider on a rack on the north side of the garage to avoid possible over heating in the summer. My usual output of 50, or more pints a year, resulted in a surplus, which has built up and am currently working my way through four year old cider. Three month old cider is drinkable, but it definitely improves with age.

I hope that this has persuaded you to have a go at cider making. There are many varieties of cider sitting on the supermarket shelf, but the satisfaction of making and drinking your own cannot be beaten.

As a post script, writing a year later, the cider turned out fine for drinking round the BBQ on a summer’s evening. Just enough fizz to be thirst quenching, while driving would not be recommended afterwards.






River Blackwater roach among the snags

October 5, 2021 at 6:11 pm

Heavy overnight rain had coloured up the River Blackwater, when I arrived this week, with an additional foot of water pushing through at a rapid pace. My usual swims were unfishable and I went in search of some slack water, finding what I wanted below a bend, where a willow had fallen across from my side creating a long eddy, with fast water forced along the opposite bank.

Setting up my 14 foot Browning float rod with a 5 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float, I plumbed the depth to find only 30 inches on the inside, gradually increasing to three feet, three quarters across. With the river carrying so much extra water, I had expected deeper, but having caught plenty of fish in only 18 inches on the Blackwater in the past, I was not deterred. In fact I couldn’t wait to wet a line, it looked so good.

I put in a couple of egg sized balls of liquidised bread, mixed with ground carp pellets and ground hemp seed, on the crease half way across, casting in with a 6mm punch of bread on the size 16 barbless. The float travelled a yard and sank out of sight. Tensing for a decent fish, I was disappointed to see a minnow wriggling on the line. Another cast, another minnow. I don’t think that that I have ever caught a minnow in the ten years that I have fished the Blackwater. I cast out another yard, keeping the line off the surface, while I eased the float down the swim. The float dived, this time feeling resistance, rather than the vibration of a minnow, but it was nothing to get excited about, swinging in a six inch chub.

Next cast the float travelled further before sinking. Strike! The rod bent over and stayed there. A snag. Pulling for  a break it moved and a blackened branch was dragged to the surface to be deposited on the bank. Once I had untangled the line, I put in another ball of feed, followed by the float. A slide away. Chub? No a minnow. More minnows, then a snag. I was putting the minnows in the keepnet to keep them from my swim. After I had hooked and added another branch to the pile, I realised that the river had dropped 3 inches since plumbing the depth. I shallowed up and continued to catch minnows. Time to feed the minnows off. Each cast I put a small ball of feed in a yard further out. More minnows, then a snag that moved. A decent fish, a roach was fighting back.

From my position from the high bank, I could see the roach heading for a sunken log close to the fallen willow, but turned the fish and it swam straight into the outstretched landing net. At last, perseverance had paid off. I fed another small ball. The float held under. A minnow. Not even a gudgeon, or a small roach. I put in another ball, the float held down and the rod bent over with a larger roach flashing over on the strike. The river had fined down since I had started fishing and the roach was clearly visible as it fought midstream, taking my time to bring this precious fish over to my net.

What a beaut.

Like the first, the hook came out in the net. I rebaited, having put in another small ball and cast back in with anticipation. The float held under and I struck, the rod bending over into another snag. This seemed solid and I handlined for a break. It moved, with a tangle of heavy line attached to a long branch, which I slowly dragged across to the bank, using the landing net to take the weight, swinging it onto the bank. More line was attached to the branch and I handlined in a heavier branch. This was no longer fishing, it was a dredging exercise. Searching through the muddy mess for my own line, I discovered a sweet corn pop-up artificial bait on a hair rig. Not my style of fishing at all, but capable of landing a carp, or barbel.

The river level had dropped by another six inches and I could now see the sandy bottom. I kept at it for another 30 minutes. Even the minnows had gone off, although with over 50 in my net I was not surprised. Although I had reduced the depth on my float again, the twigs and branches kept coming, until finally one snag did not move and the 3 lb hook link snapped at the loop knot. At least I got my float back.

Two roach worth catching, but where were all their relatives?

Autumn Gold. Rudd, crucians and common carp on the bread punch

October 2, 2021 at 10:01 pm

Autumn arrived suddenly this year, following a glorious Indian summer of sunshine and high temperatures. The Jet Stream made an about turn to replace winds from the South, with heavy rain and gales from the frozen North. With a break in the rain bands forecast for an afternoon this week and a continuing petrol crisis causing long queues for the pumps, my choice of venues was limited to the pond within walking distance of my home.

The undergrowth had closed in on my chosen swim and I spent the first twenty minutes carrying out a bit of trimming, giving myself a slot to fish through. A brief shower swept through, but soon the sun was out as forecast and I set up to fish the pole between 8 and 10 metres out. Mixing up liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, with a sprinkling of strawberry flavouring, I fed half the tray of wet balls into the area and cast in my 3 No 4 canal waggler, with a 7 mm punch to a size 14 hook.

The float buried immediately and a decent rudd was on it’s way to the net. I was surprised that the fish felt really cold, the weather of late having an effect. Next cast was a repeat of the first cast with another nice rudd, but the following cast indicated a more cautious bite, which took time to develop, very much like a crucian carp, but on the strike a better rudd was rolling on the surface.

The next rudd had all the colours of Autumn, gold flanks and red fins picked out by the afternoon sun.

These were all good rudd and the mud stirred up by the fish feeding on my ground bait was beginning to leave a dark stain in the water. With no room behind me, I had to feed the pole up into the bushes above the path to reach the top two sections to net the fish, getting plenty of exercise swinging the pole out, lifting into another rudd, then rapidly pulling back and lifting up into the bushes. Feeding the occasional ball of feed kept their heads down and the catch rate was relentless.

Tiny bubbles were beginning to burst on the surface and I dropped the float in among them. The float dipped and dithered, then moved slowly away and I lifted into something solid for a change. The elastic came out as the fish zig zagged along the bottom and I was playing the first crucian of the day.

Back into the bubbles, more dithering dips followed and another smaller crucian was in the landing net.

My ex next-door neighbour Carol was walking around the pond and stopped next to me “Ken is that You?” “Yes.” “Are you fishing?” “Yes.” “Have you caught anything?” “Yes. Lots” I said as I swung another small crucian in, putting it in my net. I punched out another 7 mm pellet of bread and cast in again. The float slowly sank and I lifted into a solid force, that stretched out the elastic as it accelerated across the pond. “Ooo, is that a big fish?” “Yes, a carp.” Carol never stopped talking, as I followed the carp around the pond with my pole, but none of it went in, I was too busy trying to keep the carp out of the lily bed. Soon it was close enough to break the pole down to the top two sections, shoving the pole high into the bushes, before pushing the landing net out to net the common carp as it wallowed on the surface. Carol was very impressed, taking a photo on her phone.

The pond in front of me was now black with mud, but a couple more balls of feed soon saw the float going under again with a gold flanked rudd fighting for freedom.

The crucians were back again, although gudgeon were grabbing the bait first, this crucian taking on the drop.

I put the last of the feed in on the 10 metre line and hooked another good rudd.

A bite that went on for at least five minutes finally sank and the elastic was out with a crucian that fought all along the bushes at my feet, the hook having set below the mouth. It had obviously blown the bread up the line, when I struck.

More identical crucians followed and even a six inch fin perfect common carp, but as the sun dropped low behind the trees, the bites slowed down. The pond had one last surprise, the float sank and I was playing an even bigger common carp that zipped across to the lilies opposite. Keeping the pole as high as I could, the elastic was at full stretch as I steered it away, only for it to rush towards the bed on my right. Carol was at maximum chatter, when the hook pulled out. Shame. Two nice carp among my net of fish would have made a good pic. It was time to pack up and Carol bid her farewells. She has often quizzed me about my fishing exploits and now she knows a little more.

Once more the bread punch had paid off for me, proving that exotic baits aren’t always the answer.

A few hours on the bread punch.