Bread punch fishing against the odds on the Basingstoke Canal

October 30, 2022 at 4:35 pm

With only an afternoon available to fish, I tried a new section of the Basingstoke Canal this week, driving to Pondtail Bridge at Fleet, intending to fish the downstream flash, where the canal has been widened to allow barges to turn round. These areas hold bream and I had brought along my sensitive canal wand to fish over into it using a swan shot link leger. Walking toward the flash, I could see that it was choked with fallen leaves, while the canal was crystal clear, despite nights of heavy rain.

I decided to fish as close to the flash as possible and cleared a swim of brambles just upstream. The bottom was visible right out to the boat road seven metres out and I assembled 8 metres of pole, which would allow me to fish along the near shelf and to the middle in three feet of water. Being so clear, I did not expect the bream to feed and set up a light 4 x 14 antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook, starting with a 5 mm punch of bread for roach. I put out two small balls of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets, one at 7 metres and the other at 8 and fed out the rig.

The float had barely settled, when it began to kite off to one side and sink slowly away. I lifted into the bite and saw the silver flash of a decent roach, as it resisted the elastic. Feeding the pole back , the elastic suddenly stretched out. Oh no! Not a pike first cast!

The pike powered away downstream, while I fed out the rest of the pole and pulled against the run with the pole bent round. The float pinged back. The 2 lb hook link was cut through. At least the rig had survived and I looped on another size 18 hook link. This had been the best outcome, the swim was undisturbed and the pike was gone for now. Ready to fish again, I dropped in over the fed area and the float was gone again. The canal was so clear, that the response from another roach was visible immediately and I pulled the pole back conscious of that lurking pike. The end of the pole thumped against the garden fence behind me and I had to reach forward to disconnect the top two sections, before I could grab the landing net.

Quite a nice canal roach. This would do for a start. At least the pike had not put them off. The next cast brought an instant bite, this time from a small rudd, not the biggest in the world, but they all count.

The bites kept coming, as did the fish, mostly roach from that same patch over those two balls of feed. The problem with the Basi Canal is that it is a public right of way, with walkers, pram pushers and cyclists constantly expecting you to move your pole off the towpath, when unhooking a fish or rebaiting. I also didn’t realise, that my bit of the bank was a short cut from the the local Sainsbury at the bridge, to a path giving access to housing estate 50 yards away. I asked one man with a dog, if he had a twin, as he had passed by several times!

I tried bulking the shot to get through to the bottom, but found a covering of pond weed, when the bread wasn’t taken on the drop. Stringing the shot out again and reducing the depth slightly brought more positive bites, plus greedy roach.

The canal began to speed up, which could only mean one thing. A barge was coming. Looking to my right, I could see it approaching the upstream bridge and managed to net a couple more roach, before the good ship Bramble glided past. Thanking me for pulling in my pole, the lady passenger explained that they had hired the barge for the day at Odiham ten miles upstream and would be turning around in the flash, before heading back. Oh well, I’d not had time for a cup of tea yet, due to too much roach action, so got the flask out.

The barge reversed back and got stuck, churning up mud. It shunted back and forth until finally getting free of the shallow flash, when the wife and two children went to the front to shift the weight forward. The barge bow was now embedded in the towpath bank and the wife jumped off with a rope, pulling the front round to face back upstream. Panic over, at last it was free and chugging past, stirring up the bottom as it went. Time for more tea, while the mud settled.

I put in a couple more balls of feed and continued taking small roach. The wind had got up, blowing leaves from the trees and it was becoming difficult to find a gap for the float rig. No bites meant a leaf on the hook. I considered packing up.

A small skimmer bream gave me encouragement to continue and I scraped up the last of my feed to put two more balls over to the middle. Roach continued to take the float under, then I cast and the float just lay flat, stuck on another leaf. I lifted the pole, the float was two feet clear of the surface, when the line went solid with a big fish, that at first did nothing, then slowly swam upstream. I could see the deep bronze flank of a bream, waking up to being hooked, shaking it’s head, before exploding into life. The elastic was beneath the surface, rhythmically following the slow fighting fish. I managed to get another length of pole attached as it slowed. It turned, making short runs along the opposite bank. I was winning the battle, but conscious of that tiny size 18 hook to 2 lb line, letting this dustbin lid of a bream make all the running.

I got the landing net ready, as the bream began rolling on the surface. Ding. Ding. A pair of cyclists, were impatiently waiting for me to move my landing net handle from the path. I nodded towards the bream. “I’ve got a big fish on” I explained, shoving the net into the canal edge. They looked at me as though I was deranged and scuttled by. The bream was beaten, but not finished and I managed to detach the top three in time for a glide on it’s side back to the deeper water. It turned and gave up, lying there on it’s side, being gradually pulled by the elastic to the net. I winced at the sight of the hook, barely in the skin at the side of the lip. “Don’t come out”. It did. Too far from the net. The bream righted and spurted away, while my rig found sanctuary in the brambles.

I had considered scaling up to a size 16, when I lost the pike, but continued with an 18, due to the clear water. 4 lb bream were not on my agenda at that time. I managed to retrieve the float rig without falling in, but the hook link was a tangle of bream slime. This time I looped on a size 16.

The roach did not seem to mind the larger hook and I caught several more, before the leaves got the better of me; my last roach, one of the better ones.

It had been an eventful few hours on the bread punch. At least the pike had not returned, although next time I’ll look for a less popular part of the towpath.

Despite problems from the very start, about fifty roach had obliged and kept me busy, the wind was warm and it hadn’t rained. What more can you ask for?

Mirror carp and skimmer bream play in the rain at Kings Pond

October 15, 2022 at 6:49 pm

My only opportunity to fish this week was forecast for intermittent rain later in the day and I figured that I could squeeze in a few hours at the prolific Farnham water, Kings Pond, before it began. Unloading the van before 11 am, heavy mist, was already turning to drizzle and by the time that I had set up my pole, the first drops of real rain were falling. There were no other anglers present and had to rely on the bailiff for a heads up on how it was fishing. “It’s been hard mate. The frost has killed it!” Brilliant. I was here now, so had to make the best of it.

Wearing plenty of thick layers, I ignored the wet stuff and got on with making up my groundbait, 60% liquidised bread, 30% ground carp pellets and 10% ground hemp, with a sprinkling of strawberry flavouring. The rain helped dampen down the mix and I formed up a couple of firm balls, which I put in alongside the lily bed to my right. At least there was little wind and I set up with a 4 x 14 fine antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook, punching out a 5 mm pellet of bread. At five metres the depth was 1.2 metres dropping off at the end of the lilies. Swinging out the rig into the drop off to fall through, a slide away bite brought a small rudd.

The rudd was the first of many. If these were feeding, then it was likely that I would prove the bailiff wrong. I bulked the shot in an effort to avoid the smaller fish going up to a 6 mm punch and had to wait for a bite, but when it came, a stronger pull on the pole, saw the landing net out for the first time with a larger, colourful rudd.

Following another ball of feed, the float dived under as a small fish hooked itself. It was a mini mirror carp.

The next bite took its time before it sank away. The elastic came out momentarily as a larger mirror made off towards the deeper water.

This little fellow packed a punch, diving for the safety of the lily bed, before being pulled into open water. It had taken 30 minutes for these recently stocked fish to find the feed, but now they were taking on the drop. I strung out the shot to allow a the bait to fall through slower and got a bite immediately, with the float half cocked. I lifted and the pole tip rapped round with the elastic following into the deeper water. The mirrors were getting bigger.

I was now getting into a rhythm, waiting for gentle dips of the antenna to progress to a rapid move away, before sinking out of sight. Once hooked these carp exploded into life, running for deeper water. They fought furiously, rushing all over the swim, until they gave in to the heavy elastic, often swimming straight into the awaiting landing net. Each time the tiny size 18 hook barbless held firm.

I now had two strange bites, that dithered around with the float, lifting and dropping the antenna. I thought small roach, crucians, or bream. The first lift bite I missed, with the bait gone. The second I waited for the float to move off and under. Missed again with the bait still there. Small bubbles were rising and I dropped the float among them. More dithering and a slow move off, but I waited until the float had faded into the coloured water. Contact!  After an initial rattling fight, a silver flank broke the surface and a decent skimmer bream was soon sliding across the surface to the net.

A smaller skimmer bream followed, as did heavier spots of rain and I reached for my waterproof jacket. The jacket has very stiff material and I struggled to get my left arm into the sleeve, bearing in mind that I was already wearing long sleeved thermals, a woolly shirt, a thick jacket with a collar and a zipped up hoody, with the hood over my cap. I finally got my left hand into the sleeve, rotating on the spot, as I tried for deeper penetration, fighting to work the heavy camo jacket over my back. This effort seemed to take an age and worthy of inclusion in the You’ve Been Framed TV programme!

At last I was back on my tackle box, laying the sides of the jacket to cover the two side trays, one with the all important bread for the punch. I put in another ball of feed and replaced the punch bread with a fresh one from the wallet in my bait apron, which was also doing a good job of keeping my legs dry.

At last I was fishing again and playing another nice mirror. This was turning into a good session, the bream had been pushed out, or more likely the mirrors were getting there first.

The shower was over as quickly as it had arrived, a patch of blue with sunshine taking its place. The jacket came off far quicker than it went on. It was very restrictive of movement and celebrated with yet another mirror.

Here we go again, it was tipping down as black clouds filled the far horizon. The jacket was on quickly this time, the stiff material having kept the shape of my arms.

The first of three small commons fought it’s way to the landing net, these streamlined carp giving an even better account of themselves, than the mirrors. Next year should be interesting, once they put on a bit more weight.

As the rain hammered on my hood, the float almost disappeared as the rain lashed down and I needed to watch the line for movement. More than one carp hooking itself.

Staring out from the hood, I felt that I was in a cocoon, remote from the pond. At least the rain was warm and the float kept going down, regular balls of feed keeping the fish concentrated into a small area, competing for the offerings from above.

Another decent skimmer bream made it through to the bread bait, taking on the drop, laying the float flat, then moving off to the deeper water on the strike. This one fought well despite a stab wound to the back by a heron.

My eyes were constantly on the sky to the west, looking for a break in the clouds, the forecast for intermittent showers should have read continuous. I’d had my fun and was ready to go home.

This big skimmer eased the pressure to leave, splashing on the surface, when it took mid water, then rushing off against the elastic, the hook keeping hold in the top lip. More mirrors and another small common carp helped the wait for the eventual dry spell. Sitting on my box with everything protected from the rain was bearable, packing up in the rain is not. I was able to dry the sections of the pole and not rush packing my box. I hate fishing in the rain!

A soggy bait tray evidence of a busy session.

The afternoon began slowly, then became relentless, a bit like the rain.


Roach among the autumn leaves at Jeanes Pond play hard to get

October 8, 2022 at 11:50 am

Not having fished Braybrooke Fishing Club’s Jeanes Pond for a couple of months, I thought that I would target the water’s roach this week, in the hope of finding the quality fish that were commonplace on the bread punch, once the water temperature had fallen.

Arriving before noon, a strong wind was blowing from the south west, ruling out  half the swims, while the first of the autumn leaves were beginning to fall, so playing safe I chose peg 17 in the lea of the warden’s house, where it was flat calm.

The first thing that I noticed was the low water level in the pond, my peg having rocks and gravel exposed at the edge. I usually start fishing this swim with just the top two of my pole, but when I plumbed the swim, there was only a depth of eighteen inches and had to add another two lengths of pole to find three feet.

There was no surface activity, which is unusual for a water with a high number of fry and small fish, so I decided to only feed the minimum amount of plain liquidised bread. I cast in my 4 x 14 fine antenna float, with a 5 mm punch of bread fished off bottom, dropping a small ball close to the float. After five minutes, I checked the bait. It was still there and cast back over the feed. After a few more minutes, rings appeared around the antenna and it slowly sank. A very small roach fell off the hook before I could swing it in. Back in again and the float sank straight away with a slightly bigger specimen swinging to hand.

At least fish were biting, but I had expected  something bigger. Casting back into the same spot, the float sat for a minute, before dipping and sinking. Ah, a better roach.

The antenna was set to sit just above the surface and the bites took time to develope, starting as a tremble, to dips, then a slow hold under. If I waited too long, the float would pop up again with the bait intact. The bread was still soft and would rub off the hook. Very confusing. They were interested in the liquidised feed, but only half hearted about the bait.

I added some strawberry powder and ground hemp to the feed and punched through into it, leaving a layer on the punch. The bites improved and I hooked more roach, but they were still taking their time .

I started off another line of feed and went over depth. The roach were perking up and the bites improved.

I have found this before, whether the roach see the bait sink, then hover off the bottom and become suspicious, mouthing the bait, then dropping it, I don’t really know, but if it lies on the bottom among the feed, they will take the bread more confidently. When the water is warmer, the fish need to feed, but once the water cools, their metabolic rate falls and they slow down and food becomes a lower priority.

The roach were not a patch on the ones I used to catch here, but they all needed the landing net, after I tried to swing in one of those better roach, only for the hook to pull out.

It was soon time for a tea break and a change of punch bread, the combination of sun and wind was drying the bread out too quickly, making it crumble when put on the hook. I keep the bread in a plastic wallet in my bait apron, where they stay fresh, but once exposed to the air they were hardening off quickly. On a day when they are “Having it”, this would not matter, but when you are scratching for bites, every little helps.

The wind had increased, blowing more leaves onto the water, which were floating round with the surface drift and it was becoming difficult to find an opening to place the float into, the drift then driving leaves into the float dragging it under. Time to pack up after one last roach.

Once again the bread punch had done its job on a hard day. I was the only person fishing and could not judge whether any other bait would have worked better.

All roach and not a rudd in sight. After I returned these fish, I found another five roach in my keep net, which would have pushed my total to over thirty. Not bad for hard day.

Mr Toothy ruins the afternoon on the River Blackwater

October 4, 2022 at 2:13 pm

Due to knee surgery, I had been unable to fish the Farnborough and District stretch of the River Blackwater this season, but this week was fit enough to take advantage of a warm, dry weather forecast. Despite heavy rain over the weekend, the river was running clear, being able to see the bottom right across to the other bank.

At the tail of a bend, the river here runs along the ivy covered shuttering, before sweeping across to the middle where it shallows up, passing under trailing branches, as it turns again for a right turn. I tackled up my 14 foot Browning float rod with a homemade 3BB heron quill stick float, that I had used with great success the week before on my local River Cut. The Blackwater has double the pace of the Cut and I was interested to see how this vintage style float would perform.

After damping down a mix of some heavy liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, I squeezed up a couple firm balls and lobbed them over to the shuttering, watching them sink, twisting in the current, as they were swept downstream. Baiting my size 14 hook with a 7 mm punch of bread, the rig was cast over to follow the bread, checking the float, then letting it run.

The float had only travelled a few yards, before it dived beneath the surface, the yellow tip visible as it cruised downstream. Lifting the rod, the hook set into solid resistance. A couple of bounces and the fish dashed off downstream, while I backwound. The ten yard run slowed and I could see a decent chub shaking it’s head, before turning to run back along the shuttering, it’s white mouth soon on the surface. A few more rolls and the 2 lb chub was in the landing net.

The hook was just in the top lip and I reached for my disgorger to take it out. This was the chub’s cue to leap about it the net. The barbless hook came out OK, but the line was wrapped round the fish and covered in slime. The rig was now in an impossible tangle.

I cut the float off and put on a Drennan 5 No 4 ali stemmed stick from a new winder, bulking the shot 18 inches from the hook. Another ball of feed and I was fishing again. Half way down the trot, the float lifted, then sank and a nice roach was flashing away in the clear water, gently reeling it back to the landing net.

After a couple of smaller roach, another decent redfin was on it’s way to the net, this one taking further down mid river, where the feed was settling on the gravel bottom.

Next cast the rod bent over into a big dace, which came straight to the surface. The long green shape of a pike arced over from the shuttering and took the dace, pulling my rod round. Backwinding, I stayed in contact. The pike was only five, or six pounds and I was confident that I could get it out, but the line sprung back minus the hook link. Pike are the bane of my life.

I started again, but the decent fish were gone, just a few dips and lifts from small roach. I thought that I was in for a reasonable afternoon, but Mr Toothy put paid to that. I ate my lunch. I noticed that the river had gone down by six inches in the first hour.

I mixed up another tray of feed, putting in regular balls, which brought the roach back, trying not to rush the fish, but wary of the pike.

I hooked a dace, which ran to the shallows in panic, followed by the pike, which turned away.

That big dace had not satisfied the pike’s hunger and bites had disappeared. I considered packing up, but there was still feed in the tray and carried on. The river was now down by a foot and I shallowed up again. The bread was visible now under the float and I began casting downstream along the shuttering to the deeper water. The float went down and I was playing a better sized roach. A swirl and the pike had it. Once again I held onto the pike, taking my time to bring it level with me, but now I had a beach in front of me and stretched out the landing net. It released the roach, which sprung to the surface and I netted that instead.

What a mess. A few minutes earlier this had been a pristine roach. Fortunately it was only superficial scale damage and I released it upstream, where it slowly swam off.

There were no more bites to be had close to me and I edged the float over the shallows, where small dace were hammering the bread under the tree. Holding back hard they were hooking themselves, only to come off again. One fish that stayed on was a perch.

I call them bread punch perch. This one was probably attacking one of the small dace and got hooked.

The rod bent over as I held back under the tree, a decent roach taking the punch in a foot of water.

This roach swam back along the edge in the shallows, the pike was still about. It didn’t take long to find out. Casting downstream to the shallows by the tree to save time on the trot, the float pulled under with another good roach. I had just begun to reel back, when a bow wave engulfed the roach. It was so shallow, that the pike was flapping it’s tail out of water. I pulled the rod round and the pike swam down through the sunken branches, snagging my line and I lost the rig.

That was the last straw. I had only been fishing for just over two hours, but too late to move now.

 That pike would have kept going, and I felt guilty feeding it with prime fish.