Big roach shine on the River Blackwater for the bread punch

February 22, 2023 at 8:03 pm

With only three weeks of the UK river fishing season left to run, my wish list of waters to visit is becoming crowded, following weeks of freezing weather and floods. On the list for today was the Farnborough and District’s stretch of the River Blackwater, but heavy drizzle and a cold wind gave me second thoughts about going. I’m getting soft in my old age and the thought of shivering in the wet hoping for a big roach did not appeal, however, one look at the weather forecast for the rest of the week, showing rain and even lower temperatures to follow, made my mind up for me. Bread was taken from the freezer, tea and sandwiches made and I was on my way.

Arriving at the Blackwater, I’d never seen it so low and clear and made my way to a swim that I know has some depth, hoping that it was unoccupied. Of course it was. Who else would volunteer to fish on a day like this? At the tail of a bend, this swim usually has the benefit of the flow being directed along the opposite bank, but today a tree had fallen across the bend, speeding up the flow and sending whirlpools coursing through the middle of the river.

To my relief, the rain stopped as I began setting up my 14 foot Browning Sygma float rod with a 3BB ali stemmed stick float, to a size 14 barbless hook. I set the depth at 30 inches, intending to fish overdepth with a long tail lifted on and off the bottom. Trotting through with a 6 mm pellet of punched bread to test the depth, the float disappeared at the over hanging tree and a dace was fighting on the surface.

I decided to see how far I could go without putting in any feed and trotted though again, the float going under at the same point and a larger dace was rolling on the surface. Another trot and this time a roach.

One a chuck so far, smaller roach, and dace. It was time to put in some feed. Putting in a ball of plain liquidised bread, I watched it break up, being disbursted by the swirling water. I put in another ball with the same result and thought that heavier groundbait would be needed today. Trotting through, the float travelled beyond the tree and dived, the rod bending into a better fish, as a small chub took the bread. I could see the chub flash over when I struck, the bread was not sinking.

Putting in another ball of liquidised bread, I shallowed up by six inches to fish through the cloud and began getting fish only yards down the trot, this quality roach requiring a rapid lift of my finger from the ABU501 spool to avoid a break.

Small dace, roach and chub were taking turns to attack the punch, but the fish were retreating further down beyond the tree. It was time for that heavier groundbait mix. Liquidised bread, ground hemp, ground carp pellets with a spicy annaseed mix, were formed up into tight balls and a couple dropped in upstream. These brought bites and fish closer to me again. I raised the float to the original depth and hit into the best roach yet, that fought all the way to the landing net in the strong flow.

There is a sand bank just before the tree and I think that the heavier feed was accumulating behind it, bringing in better fish. This was now a hotspot and after a few more fish, I was into another clonker roach.

These roach were the reason for turning up today and it wasn’t long before another was putting a good bend in the rod.

Small roach had moved in over the feed, but every half dozen fish there was a rod bender.

The river level was dropping fast and the bait was dragging bottom, even submerged rat burrows under the bank were now clearly visible. I reckoned that there was only 18 inches of water passing over the sandbank, the increased flow causing an eddy behind it. I stepped up the feed and shallowed the float up again, easing it over the sandbank, then letting it run, the float disappearing each time. All the fish were broaching, when I set the hook, none less then the best roach yet, which kited in the direction of a now visible sunken branch from the overhanging tree. I had to swing the rod from my right, round to the left to draw the deep flanked roach away, while avoiding a dangling stick float wrapped in a tangle of line. The hook hold held and the redfin hugged the bottom, while it was causiously reeled it back toward the waiting landing net.

After this roach, it was time for a cup of tea and to open my untouched sandwiches. Arriving at noon, it was already 2:30 and I was seriously in need of sustenance. I fed another ball of feed upstream, while scoffing down one of my wife’s lovingly prepared sandwiches, swilled down with tea, before getting straight back to the fishing. The float had travelled two yards, then sunk out of sight. Bang! I was in again, this fish taking line off my fingertip at a rate of knots. I lost sight of the float, until a splash warned me that the unseen fish was attempting to snag the far bank trailing ivy. Pulling the fish free, I could see that it was a decent chub and kept up the pressure to bring it over to the middle, it’s gaping white mouth a sign to keep it coming toward the net. A solid chub.

Although the cold upstream wind was proving uncomfortable, the thought of more good fish to come kept me going. After wading through a raft of smaller roach, I was rewarded with another rod bender, this one coming into the shallows on my side and burying it’s head among a tangle of sunken twigs and heavy black line, the lot scooped into my landing net.

Unhooking the roach was the easy bit, unwravelling my float line and the tangled oak twigs was not. I gave up trying, instead cutting the black line away with scissors proved quicker, dumping the mess into my bait bag for later.

I had not fed the swim for ten minutes and it showed, the shoal had drifted further down following the remnants of feed. Small roach were obliging, but their bites were not positive, dipping the float as the bait carried downstream, either stripping the punched bread, or eventually burying the float.

The bait tray was now almost empty and I scraped together enough for a few more balls and introduced them every three or four fish. I was catching from the sandbank again, but only small roach, when I contacted another decent fish, that slapped the surface in the shallow water, throwing up spray, before diving away. I let this fish play itself out on the rodtip before reeling back, as it was rolling like a big dace, not thumping like a roach. Surprise, surprise it was a roach and a good one too.

With this one in the net, I called it a day, one of my best for big roach on the Blackwater.

The last time that I fished this swim, I was plagued by a pike, that took several of my decent roach and dace, while actually having it to my net, until it let go of the roach in it’s mouth. I expected a pike attack today at anytime, while retreiving fish, but today I’d been allowed a full four hour session and this was the result. Over 10lb of hard fighting silvers.


Jeanes Pond wakes up from the cold with roach and rudd

February 21, 2023 at 10:25 am

A spur of the moment decision to test the waters for bites, saw me arrive at Brayrooke’s Jeanes Pond at 2 pm this week. If I had no bites, then I would be gone by 2:30. The ice has gone and temperatures are scraping double figures, so it was worth a session with a light 4 x 14 pole rig to a size 18 hook and a 4 mm punch of bread.


Arriving at Peg 16, I was not hopeful, the pond miror-like without a ripple from wind, or fish. With some fine plain liquidised bread, I squeezed up a pigeon egg sized ball of feed and dropped it beside my antenna float, 3 metres out. The wait began. The float was dotted down with just 6 mm of the antenna visible above the flat calm surface. Several minutes passed before a ring radiated out from the antenna. There was interest in the bait. The float tremoured a few times before sinking level with the surface, then slowly disappearing with the line following down. I lifted the pole and yes there was a fish on, a rudd coming to the surface to be swung in.

Barely hooked, I was lucky to land this one. The next bite was more bold and the hooked rudd seemed secure, but fell off the hook, dropping close the bank on my left, where it was engulfed by a pike, the swerl throwing up a mass of bubbles. A pike already! I fed another ball of feed to my right and began catching again. Bites were plentiful, but so were missed and dropped fish, the soft bread pellet still intact.

I had begun fishing a foot off bottom and catching rudd, but with more small balls of feed going in, I moved the float up to fish just off the bottom, where roach had gathered around the feed. These bites took longer to devlope, but most resulted in a roach and my net was filling.

My keepnet was now attacked by a 5 lb pike trying to take one of my roach, it’s teeth lodged in the mesh causing it to panic, bucking and rolling on the surface. The bites stopped soon after.

Adding another length of pole, I fed a ball further out and fished over it, the bite starting slow, then sinking away to the depths. A better rudd.

I added more depth and was among the roach again, swinging them in to avoid that pike.

I hooked into a decent roach, too heavy to swing in and brought it across the surface as quickly as possible. Too late! The pike zoomed in an arc up to intercept the unfortunate roach and grabbed it. On for a few seconds, the hookline was cut through and the float rig sprung up to finish in a tangle around the pole tip.

That ended a promising session, the bread punch producing fish from an apparently lifeless pond.

Canal tactics with the pole and bread punch work on the River Cut

February 14, 2023 at 6:08 pm

The sun was shining and birds were singing as I walked downstream on the River Cut this week, it seemed that Spring had come early. Intending to fish a new swim, I had left home after lunch, hoping to avoid the daily influx of brown water, that puts the fish off the feed, but was disappointed to see the brown stain again.

I fed a small ball of plain liquidised bread and trotted a 4 No 4 stick float through the ball as it sank, not hopeful of seeing a bite, but slight tremors and dips indicated that something was there. Switching to a 4 mm punch on a size eighteen hook did not impove the bites, so plan B was called for. Last week the brown water had called a halt to catching fish, so this week I had put my pole into the rod bag. Clipping a rig with a 4 x 16 antenna float to an 18 hook into the stonfo connector, I was soon back in business.

With the pole at 5 metres, I was able to drop the rig into a gap downstream of flood debris opposite. Plopping over another small ball of feed, I held the float back, letting it run into the cloud. The antenna, tremored and slowly dipped a few times and I lifted the pole into a small rudd, which felt like a block of ice in my already cold hands.

First cast! The sensitive, lightweight float made a difference. The hook was just in the top lip. I now tried again, the float travelling another yard, before more tremors and half dips, this time a small roach dropped off as I swung it in. After more missed bites and very small roach hanging onto the punched bread, I mixed up some heavier feed with ground hemp and annaseed in an attempt to encourage some better fish to feed. It didn’t make any difference, more small fish.

They began to get bigger.

Then I caught a dace.

The bites were still fussy. The pace of the river had picked up again and I wondered where this volume of water was coming from. I was fishing overdepth and feeding the pole down through my fingers and still had not had a proper bite to take the float under. I began hooking into snags washing down the swim.

The flow was so strong that my keepnet was dragged round and I decided to put on another metre of pole to fish over into the slack water behind the far bank debris. I lobbed over a ball of plain feed and cast to it. The float shot under as a tiny roach took the bait and came off. At least it was a bit of action. A small rudd tracked away with the bread and stayed on. Another cast, another tiny roach, then a swirl and the ealstic came out, the fish boring deep toward the snags. This had to be a perch, as there are no pike in the Cut. It was a good fish, the dark bars across it’s back clearly visible as it turned away and rushed off down stream, taking the roach with it. I had seen small fish jumping earlier, this must have been the cause.

The river slowed and began to take on a greenish tinge. I reduced the pole to 5 metres again, dropping the float in on my side of the debris, to follow a cloud of plain feed. The float sank to half the antenna and sailed away downstream; lifting the pole bringing the flash of a much better roach below the surface.The landing net was out for the first time today. A couple of smaller roach and the net was out again.

The river was back to normal. I was even catching gudgeon. Feeding a pinch of feed every cast, I was into a rhythm, dropping the rig in and pulling it back into the gap in the debris, then letting it go to catch up with feed cloud, then easing it back, the float sinking to order, often with a better roach.

A rudd got in on the act.

A small chub charged off, the hook falling out in the net.

This was a return to the Cut that of old, with a fish a chuck, the coloured water a lottery of if and when it comes. It seems to be random, although usually in the morning.

The pole elastic was out again, a perch had struck again, this time coming to the surface and shaking it’s head, the tiny hook pulling free. Maybe I should bring my spinning rod next time?

The catching spree continued, the feed was on the bottom ignored for hours and now they wanted it.

No apologies for showing more roach.

The last fish, a good roach taken at 10 minutes to 5 to bring my session to a 3 hour close. It was still light enough to fish, but I didn’t want to pack up in the dark and anyway I had run out of holes to punch.

It had been a tricky start to the afternoon and I’m sure that if I had stuck to the stick float, I would not have had half the fish in my net. Pity about the perch.


Against the odds, bread punch finds the fish on the River Cut

February 7, 2023 at 4:48 pm

At home the grass was white with frost and I had to scrape ice from the car, but bight sunshine promised to raise the temperature to a heady 8C; the forecast for the rest of the week going down hill there, so I loaded my tackle into the car for my first fishing session this year on the local River Cut. The closest swim to the car park is the disabled platform, where when I last fished in November, the river was over the banks, whereas today, with patches of exposed mud and crystal clear water, it was the complete opposite. It could be a hiding to nothing, but nothing ventured nothing gained, so they say.

Intending to fish the bread punch, I started cautiously, setting up my 14 ft Browning float rod with a 5 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float, with just two No 8 droppers down the line to a size 18 chrystal bend barbless hook, fished over depth with a 5 mm punch of bread. A small ball of plain white liquidised bread was lobbed over, just short of the opposite bank, followed by the float rig, which was slowed to half speed, stopped and released to search along the bankside vegetation.

The dotted down float showed no sign of interest, until the third trot, when the float paused and dipped level with the surface. An automatic response brought the flash of a fish under the water and a gudgeon did it’s impression of a mini barbel, before it was lifted out to my hand.

That was a very timid bite, but at least it was a bite and more gudgeon followed, until a dip and a lift resulted in the bright flash of a roach, as it dashed around the swim. Although small, the landing net came out for this one. I put over a second ball of plain white feed, watching it break up as it drifted down to the bottom.

More gudgeon and then a better roach, this one definitely needing the landing net, the hook just in the skin of the top lip.

It was a bite a chuck from the eager roach and gudgeon taking the punch, but then the flow increased and the bites slowed to a stop in ten minutes, as the river became murky. This was a sign of pollution washing down from the industrial estate upstream, a daily occurance these days. Whatever it is puts the fish off the feed, usually lasting for a biteless hour. The Environment Agency are not interested, as no fish are killed, but for the angler it is time to get out the sandwiches and wait. Going through the motions, continuing to trot the float through, with no fish to attack the bread, I began finding snags on the bottom, losing hooks  and locating a few unsavoury items discarded by the many dog walkers.

I went for broke and mixed up a tray of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets, ground hemp and a spicy additive with a strong anaseed aroma, putting in a couple of balls close to the opposite bank.

I had gone down to a 4mm punch on the size 18 hook and had a few nibbling bites as the flow slowed, then the float sank and a small gudgeon was on!

Like a switch had been flicked on, I was catching again, gudgeon, a small roach, then a dace.

I went back up to the 5mm punch. Even the gudgeon were getting bigger.

Just when I was busy making up for lost time, there was a massive splash to my right. It sounded like someone had fallen in. It was worse than that, a golden retreiver had run down the bank and dived in after a pair of ducks, bounding after them downstream though my swim. I lifted my float out in disbelief, looking round for the dog owner, who was still walking down the path. She called the dog, it waded back upstream then climbed out. The owner scolded her pet, saying what a naughty doggy it was, clipped on it’s leash and contined behind me along the path without an apology.

I put in a couple more balls of feed and started again, it taking ten more minutes before the next bite.

A good roach raised my hopes, a fussy bite producing the best fish yet, the landing net reaching out over the muddy shallows.

This roach had all the colouring of a fat dace, but it was a rare roach / dace hybrid, dace have black eyes, not red. Lightly hooked, the hook fell out in the net.

As if to prove the point, my next fish was a hard fighting dace, a fat one too.

These fast biting dace took when the float was stopped on the trot, grabbing the bread bait as it swung up from the bottom, sinking the float.

It had been a frustrating session, but in the end a satisfying one, with a mixed bag of fish to show for it.