Mr Crabtree tactics net quality roach, chub and perch from the Blackwater

December 18, 2021 at 9:51 pm

I did not argue when my wife suggested that I go fishing for the afternoon, while she wrapped Christmas presents. It was short notice, but I always have plenty of liquidised bread in the freezer and frozen slices for bait, while a walk down the garden to the compost heap produced plenty of small red worms from under the old piece of carpet laid on top. Where to go? I had been promising myself a visit to the River Blackwater, but the bush telegraph had been saying that it was not fishing well, however this would also mean that popular swims might be empty, so with the van loaded, I set off after lunch on the ten mile drive.

This was one of the first swims that I had fished, when Farnborough and District AS took over the lease. On that day I had a net of big dace, roach, plus a couple of chub on the bread punch, but ever since it had been occupied by another club member, whenever I visited. Today I seemed to be the only angler on the river and set out my stall to trot a 4 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float along the ivy covered shuttering lining the opposite bank, where a tight left hand bend directs the flow.

Mixing up a tray of ground bait, liquidised bread, ground pellets and ground hemp, I added enough water to squeeze up some stiff balls of feed, throwing one hard over to the shuttering, watching it swirl round and sink in the current, the crystal clear water allowing me to follow its progress to the bottom.

When I had fished before, most of my bites had come beneath the protruding branch, where the faster water curves away towards my bank on the right hand bend. Casting to one side and upstream, the flow off the bend behind me carried the float tight to the shuttering and I checked the over depth float to keep the 6 mm pellet of bread clear of the bottom. As it approached the protruding branch, the float dived and my 14 foot Browning bent with the weight of a decent fish, that disappeared downstream at a rate of knots, easing the load by lifting my finger from the ABU501 spool, then clicking over the bale arm to backwind direct to the fish. Steadily reeling back on the fish, a long flash of silver beneath the surface said chub and after a late run along the opposite bank, it’s white mouth was open on the surface as it slid into the landing net.

The hook was just holding on, being on the outside of the chub’s mouth. I was lucky to land this one. I threw over another ball and followed it down with the float. The flow was quicker than expected and was tempted to swap to a 6 No 4 float to keep the bait closer to the bottom, but the attraction of the stick float is that you can fish well over depth with a long hook link and light shot down the line, fluttering the punch over the ground bait. The float stabbed down and I felt a fish. Damn! Then again with the bait gone. I reckoned dace were snatching at the bait. Too much feed.

Each time the float reached the branch, the float dipped, then popped up, then dipped again. No bait again. On the next trot I decided to hold back hard at the next dip. The float dipped, I stopped the float with my finger and it disappeared, pulling out line. Bang I was in! Definitely not a dace as the rod was pulled down to the water, lifting my finger to feed out line, while I raised the rod and back wound the reel. An even better fish ran off, then fought with a slow kick, thump, thump. A bream, or a big roach? Then I saw the silver flash of a pound plus roach, bucking and sliding towards the shallows on my side, there was a branch protruding from the water and I steered it away, getting my net ready as it turned on its side. A last roll before the net and the hook pulled free. It hung in the water for a second, then was gone in the flick of a tail. No matter how many fish we catch, it does not get any easier to lose a decent fish. This would have been my best roach for years. Blow it!!

I put in another ball of feed, then got out the flask and sandwiches. The wind had begun to blow hard downstream and oak leaves were falling like confetti, making it difficult to hold back the float, the leaves following the flow along the shuttering. Finding a gap was difficult, the float collecting leaves, when I held back. The float reached the branch, I held back, then released, the float was gone again. This was another decent fish, dace, or roach it tumbled out of sight as I reeled it back, zig-zagging to the surface, a plump roach.

Again lightly hooked, I was pleased to net this fish. There are some quality roach in the Blackwater and this was one of them. My next trot the float went down and yes, I was in again. The rod went over, then stayed there. A snag. It began to move. I’d hooked a long length of heavy line attached to a branch, which I pulled in. Unravelling the tangle was a latex lure hooked into the branch. I wound up the tangle of line to take home, while the lure will be added to my lure box.

Another trot among the leaves, the float dipped, I held back, but it popped back up, I twitched the float back and it sank hooking the fish. The initial rattling fight made me think that I had finally hooked one of the bait stealing dace, but a row of black bars on a green flank proved that it was a perch. I know perch aren’t supposed to eat bread, but this was far from the first that I have caught on the punch. I’m sure that they think that the fluttering bread is alive and take it, or a small fish is nibbling at the bread, either way I don’t mind, it’s a fish.

My next fish was another good roach, bigger than the last and I took my time bringing it in.

Wow! The roach were getting bigger. This fatty falling for the hold back, release and hold trick, burying the float, then running off like a chub.

At last a dace, this one sinking the float half way down the trot and staying on to the net.

Look at the hook in this perch, outside the lower lip, how it stayed on I don’t know, but it did. Yet another bread punch carnivore. Time to get the worms out. Two perch on the bread must mean that there is a shoal down there.

I often take worms with me, just in case, but rarely use them, there is something about going back to the days of being a child, fishing with my Dad, when the only bait we used was bread and worms and I wished that all fishing was as straight forward as in Bernard Venables classic fishing book, Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing. “Put on a worm Peter and you will catch a perch.”

I put on a worm and trotted it down, the float dipped a few times, then went under, just as Mr Crabtree said it would to his nephew Peter. I left it, then struck back in a sweep. Missed it. Half the worm was gone. Leaving the worm on, the float went beyond the branch and dipped. I pulled back and the float submerged and stayed down. This time there was a fish but a small one, a perch as expected. I cut a worm tail off and tried again. More dips and a twitch were followed by a run to the right, this time more resistance as a better fish fought all the way back from thirty yards.

Another small perch, convinced me to switch back to the bread punch, the next trot being text book, the float following a ball of feed down to the branch, where I held the float back hard, then let it go, the float sinking followed by the line. The strike was automatic and I was playing my fourth quality roach of the afternoon.

My bait tray was almost empty and I scraped up another nugget of feed to throw over to the shuttering, then followed it with the float, which reached the sweet spot and half submerged as I instinctively struck. It was another roach, the smallest yet, but a good size by my usual standards.

I still had half a worm left and double hooked it on the size 14 hook, trotting it down beyond the branch, as it carried out to the middle of the river. The light had faded now and I had trouble seeing the float, pulling it back at intervals to see the ripples. The float was out of sight, had it gone under? I pulled back and a fish surged away taking line as I backwound furiously. This was a good fish, I had no idea where it was and retrieved when it let me, eventually seeing the float tracking along the opposite bank, then the barred flank of a decent perch cruising beneath the surface. It turned and dived, returning to the surface to shake it’s head. Don’t lose it now. The net was under it and I relaxed. Phew!

The light was going. My eyes could adjust, but my camera could not, washing out the colours. Time for one last cast and it had to be on the punch. The leaves had all drifted off downstream once the wind subsided, leaving time for an untroubled trot, the flow had decreased all afternoon as the level dropped by three inches, allowing more control of the float. When it reached the sweet spot under the branch, I slowed the float and it dutifully sank, connecting with the last fish, a clonking great roach, which did not come quietly, giving me a scare, when it hugged the shallows below me, pushing through dead leaves, but being guided into the landing net without any fuss.

A superb fin perfect roach was the ultimate end to a too short afternoon. The fish were there, I just had to figure out how to catch them. Once again the punch had worked well, while the worms had added bonus fish.

The result of a cold, dull, afternoon in December, when I spent more time playing fish than fishing for them.


Environment Agency restock the polluted River Cut

December 16, 2021 at 1:48 pm

Following recent pollution events on the River Cut, the Environment Agency were welcomed by members of the local Braybrooke Nature and Fishing Club, when a mixture of dace, roach and chub were introduced to the small Berkshire river to top up previous stocking visits.

Watched by an interested dog, Nick, from the Environment Agency’s Calverton Fish Farm in Nottinghamshire, made his first delivery of the day with 600 fish stocked into the Bracknell river.

One of the club members asked me if the club had paid for the fish, but I reminded him that Fishing License revenue is ploughed back into benefits for all anglers, including upkeep of the fish farm and the supply free fish to clubs. Laurence Hook the Environment Agency coordinator for the day, has history on the Cut, having helped to install flow improvement berms a few winters ago, standing up to his waist in freezing water.

Job done, Nick and Laurence were off to their next delivery, this time to the Abbey River at Chertsey, a small backwater of the Thames belonging to Runnymede AA. Final visit of the day was back to Berkshire and the village of Eton Wick, where the Thames Valley AA control the Roundmoor Ditch, which flows into the Thames a mile away.

Sad to say, moments after the Environment Agency had driven off from the River Cut, polluted water could be seen flowing from one of the outflow culverts, that pass beneath the Bracknell town, going over the weir into the clean natural river.

These pollution spills are a regular occurrence on this small river, the result of unthinking people tipping unwanted liquids down the drains. Out of sight out of mind. Most of the time that is where it ends, being dissolved in the river, but sometimes fish and other wildlife are the innocent victims, causing death.


Winter chub and roach queue up for the bread punch at the weir

December 11, 2021 at 12:46 pm

With my wife ready to take a drive into town for some Christmas shopping, I loaded up the van for a fishing session on my local river Cut, hoping to fish the outfall weir of the town water treatment works. Handing me a flask of tea and freshly made sandwiches, my wife waited to see me off, when I climbed into the van, only to watch me get back out again. The starter motor was jammed and would not turn the engine over! I had only started the engine the day before as a precaution due to the freezing temperatures and lack of use. It had fired up immediately then. I checked the battery. A full charge.

Today was chosen by both of us, as it was the only calm, mild day between those of bitter winds and rain. “You take the car, I’ll have to go another day,” my wife offered. Knowing that the following week would see far more shoppers in the Town Centre, I said that she should go now. On her refusal, I agreed to fish, but to pack up by 2 pm, to return home in time to take her direct to the Centre, then pick her up, when she was ready.

Switching the tackle to the car took precious time and the look on my wife’s face as I drove off, said that she did not believe that I would be home in time. The parking space and the weir swim were empty and I set about tackling up my 14 foot Browning with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to a size 14 barbless hook.

The river was murky with silt from recent flooding, while the outfall had blackened pollution booms across it. Not a good sign. Water treatment works have had bad publicity recently, regarding the release of untreated sewage into rivers in times of flooding. This sight seemed to confirm that a similar event had occurred here.

I mixed up a tray of groundbait feed, half a loaf of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, damping it down to form firm balls, that would sink quickly, then spread along the bottom.

Undeterred by the possibility of pollution affecting the fishing, I put in two decent sized balls along the middle of the swim, followed by the float baited with a 6 mm punch of bread. Easing the float down toward the foaming overflow did not attract any bites and after half a dozen trots I added another 6 inches to the depth to hold the float back hard to bounce the bread across the bottom. As the float approached the foam, the float slid under and out of sight, a firm strike setting the hook into a fish that swam hard into the fast water. Due to the mucky water, the fish was unseen, rushing about, only confirming my guess, when the white mouth of a 4 oz chub surfaced before the net.

The hook fell out in the landing net and I was glad that I had not tried to swing it in from the high bank. It felt ice cold to the touch. I put in a small ball of feed and laid the float over it, watching the feed drift past the float, which slowly sank under my rod top. A steady lift put a bend in the rod, as a larger chub burst into life and rushed off downstream, while I lifted my finger to allow line to pull from the ABU 501 spool. Another hectic fight followed, before I was reaching out with the 3 metre landing net.

A more subtle bite indicated a roach, which fought in the characteristic bounce and glide style, the net coming out again for a slightly tatty fish.

The next roach was more pristine, as was the following fish, the float dipping and holding, only submerging when I stopped its progress.

I now struck into a much bigger fish, which fought hard under my rod tip, going beneath the keep net, the bouncing fight saying roach, but then the rapid run to the fast water said chub, as I gave line, the rod bucking when it rolled in the foam, then came off. Whatever it was, it seemed to have taken its friends with it and I was without a bite for 15 minutes. I put in another two balls of feed, then fed myself with a cheese and piccalilli sandwich, washed down with hot tea. Lunch over, I got back to fishing.

I had noticed that the outfall had increased its flow, causing an eddy to form on the opposite side of my swim, backing up the river. I put more balls over, making an underhand cast to the feed, watching the float drag round then under, when a chub took the offering.

Once more the hook fell out in the net, being surprised that the chub stayed on after a manic fight.

These roach were right on the crease of the eddy and the foam, the bites indicated by slight holds before they disappeared into the foam. As can be seen in these images, the hooks were just in the top lip.

I had begun putting in a ball a cast, which brought a succession of hard fighting chub, every one rushing round the shallow swim, before suddenly giving up to slide into the net.

The chub were within a small area, where the balls were going in, their mouths spewing  groundbait.

Maybe the chub were becoming cautious, or had been caught, but roach were beginning to show,

With an hour to go before my 2 pm deadline, the roach switched on again, having moved up into the eddy following the regular balls of feed.

These roach were all clonkers and I was aware that I had made a promise to my wife Julie, that I had to keep this time. The roach were lined up and in a feeding frenzy. They were getting bigger with each cast.

Just one more cast and I hooked another beauty that ran off down the outfall, while I backwound the reel to ease the pressure on the hook. Bringing it back out of the foam, another run and it was gone. I looked at my watch. It was bang on 2 pm. It would only take seconds to punch out another pellet of bread. I was like a drug addict offered another fix, but no I had to stop. There was at least another hour of light left and would have easily put a double figure net of fish on the scales. I picked up the punch and returned it to the punch wallet. There, that’s it. I’d packed up.

Proof of at least fifty fish in just over three hours, when I’d caught some of those shy biting roach on the same piece of punched bread. My back was aching from leaning out from the high bank to net most of these fish, but it was a well earned ache.

Closer to nine pounds, than eight, this had been a busy few hours, when the eddy had changed course, but had managed to remain in contact with the fish.

Arriving home before 3 pm, there was a look of disbelief on Julie’s face, when I walked though the door, but in the time it took to unload the car and hang up my nets, she was ready to shop. Later it was all smiles, when I picked her up ladened with Christmas Goodies. She had not expected me to be home. Why would I change the habit of a life time?