Council Fun Day promotes fishing at Braybrooke Pond

August 31, 2023 at 12:46 pm

The local council held a Fun Day at the Braybrooke recreation ground this weekend, to promote a variety of council backed activities and fishing was one of them, taking advantage of the prolific Jeanes Pond, tucked away in a wooded hollow within the grounds. I was invited, along with several other local anglers, to take part as instructors, to supply taster sessions on fishing to youngsters, boys and girls between the ages of five and ten, who had never fished before.


Waiting for the Off

The event was over subscribed and to accommodate as many as children as possible, the sessions were reduced to fifteen minutes each, with the organisers kept busy collecting up the entrants and walking them to the instructors positioned around the pond.

Tackle, a box to sit on and bait in the form of red and white maggots were provided, so all that the would be anglers had to do, was to sit down, take hold of the 3 metre whip, cast out and start to catch fish. We had prebaited the swims with maggots and the swims were boiling with small roach and rudd.

Most got the knack of casting within minutes and the prolific pond provided plenty of striking practice, as the float disappeared within seconds of hitting the water. A size 14 barbless hook, with two to three maggots on, resulted in few gorged fish and several of my trainees, boys and girls, were soon removing their own hooks, leaving me to refresh the maggots, while keeping the swim fed.

The amazement on the faces of the children, at catching their first fish and the pride that they demostrated to their mothers, who hovered within photo snapping range at all times, was rewarding to me. They were all interested in the “worms” and got a quick education on the life cycle of a fly, there being plenty of casters visible in the bait box. Each session was over too quickly, most catching at least a dozen fish, but they were all well behaved and handed over to the next entrant.

One lad was trailing his bait through the water close to the bank, when it was grabbed by a small perch, which he swung in, the dorsal spine being erect and the dark stripes clearly visible. I got him to repeat the process and he hooked another two, much to the interest of the onlookers.

The instructors were all provided with a packed lunch and during the break, I hooked on a 7 mm pellet of bread, dropping my rig away from the maggot baited area, with the bait just off the bottom. These bites were slow to develope in comparison, but the roach and rudd were much bigger.


The break over, I was back to impaling maggots again, although one very keen lad spotted my punched bread in the tray and asked to try it. As on the break, I cast for him to one side, close to the overhanging trees, where I could see tench bubbles rising. Warning him that this could be a big fish, I put my hand on the landing net ready. The float raised and slid away and he lifted into a better fish, not a tench, but a good rudd, which he tried to lift straight out and lost it. I replaced the bread and we tried again, this time giving instruction in pure Mortimer and Whitehouse style. The float went under and he tried to lift another nice fish out of the water with the same result. Bob Mortimer never listened either.

My last session was with three young girls competing with each other to catch and hold fish, the oldest swinging in a 4 oz perch from the margins. It had been a busy and sometimes hectic five hours. There was never a dull moment, with plenty of humour and some avid concentration by my students. I just hope that some of that enthusiasm rubs off, as it did with me many years ago, with my family on the bank of the River Thames at Walton, catching bleak on bread paste one after the other.

Red fin letter day with roach and chub on the River Blackwater

August 23, 2023 at 2:43 pm

Arriving at the Farnborough and District’s stretch of the River Blackwater this week to fish the stickfloat with bread punch, I turned left at the bridge and walked upstream, having ignored this shallow reach in recent years. It was difficult to find a swim that offered casting room for my preferred 14 foot Browning, settling on short gap between trees, with barely room for my 12 foot Hardy. Giant hogweed bordered the bank preventing a side cast, so that was the next task, knocking it flat. Having sorted out the house keeping, it was time to set up the Hardy with a 4 No 4 Ali stickfloat to a size 14 barbless hook to 3 lb line. This small river has some big chub, bream, barbel and carp, apart from some quality roach, plus my nemasis, pike, so it is better to be safe rather than sorry. Being so shallow, a hooked fish only has one option, RUN!

This swim is on the outside of a bend, with a narrow channel five yards from the bank, but plumbing the depth showed less than two feet, with the bottom visible to the far bank. I was not confident and set up my box well away from the bank, adjusting the float to fish over depth with a long tail, to be held back against the hot downstream wind from the south.

A run through the swim with a 7 mm pellet of bread on the hook got no response, but a three way mix of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, damped down enough to form firm balls, made an instant difference; one either side of the channel bringing a small chub, that dragged the float under.

Next trot, another small aggressive chub, that dived away with the bread, then cartwheeled across the surface, when I set the hook.

I dropped in a ball of feed, then inched the float down behind it. Rings radiated out from the float tip as it ran through at half speed. I eased the rod back and the float sank, the roach hooking itself with a flurry of red fins on the surface. Quite a nice roach in the landing net.

My doubts of earlier had been dispelled, now I was trying to control a fish that had snatched the bread and was heading downstream at a rate of knots! I wasn’t sure if I had actually struck, guessing that the hook only had a light hold, as it headed across to the far side creating a bow wave. I could see the shape of a chub and reeled back line, the Hardy soft enough to resist the head shakes. Drifting it across to the landing net, I could see the hook barely hanging on to the white lips.

There was a bite a chuck, mostly from small dace and roach. The dace would hit the bread at speed, often knocking it off the hook, while the small roach nibbled and dipped the float, both difficult to hit, especially while the red float tip travelled through the dappled sunlight. I tended to watch the line for movement, or a surface ring left by a sinking float. The better fish were no problem, the float going down and staying there.

I went down to a 6 mm punch, the catch rate went up and now I was hooking dace.

I had started throwing the groundbait further upstream, which brought the fish closer, out of the dappled light, although this meant that most fish were hooked under my rod top, which could cause heart stopping moments with roach like this one.

In contrast, a rare run through the swim resulted in a downstream take, that hit into one of my best dace for years.

What a clonker. Like all dace, they never give up fighting, even out of the water!

I was running out of groundbait, throwing in my last offerings, while I mixed up some more and refilled my energy banks with a couple of sandwiches, washed down with tea. I say washed down, as I had added  two feet to the float depth and layed on in about a foot of water at the edge, missing a couple of rod bending bites, that saw the contents of my cup go everywhere.

The quality roach continued to fill my net, but the strong sun had veered round to shine directly on my back and I was considering packing up, although the roach were still tightly packed in the shade of a the tree downstream. It is always difficult to walk away from a productive swim. In my match fishing days, the whistle blew and you stopped fishing, today it was a pike. Bringing a nice roach close to the landing  net, it suddenly dived under my keep net. I thought that I had seen a green flash, but there was no mistaking the surface boil. A pike had finally followed the activity of feeding fish.

This roach survived for another day.

I was now on edge, worried about a pike taking a captive roach and did not waste time netting the next few, swinging them in.

Feeding roach to pike makes me feel guilty, so after another swirl and a follow, the roach below was my last fish.

It had turned out to be a hot sticky afternoon and had been shaded by trees for most of it, while the fishing had exceded my expectations, helped no doubt by only using the bread punch and groundbait.

Three dozen fish does not sound many for three hours fishing, but I was happy with it.








Flash flood brings a mixed bag to the bread punch on the River Cut

August 19, 2023 at 4:20 pm

Storm Betty brought a deluge of rain in it’s wake to my area, briefly flooding many roads, before passing through to leave a humid afternoon. I decided to take advantage of the increased flow on the Braybrooke Club’s River Cut, which acts as a drain for the excess rainfall across the town housing estates. Parking up the van near the river, I could hear it before I could see it; the natural river rushing under the bridge to join the weir beneath the town outfall.

The river was not a pretty sight, more like chocolate swirling downstream and I considered putting my gear back in the van, but continued down the path to a swim that had been productive last year. I had to hack away some Himalayan Balsam to get to the water’s edge and placed my box downstream of an over hanging alder. With the humid conditions and warm drizzle, it was more like sitting in the rain forest beside the Amazon, than beside the usually sedate Cut in the Home Counties of England.

The river was really pushing through and at least six inches higher than normal, setting up with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to cope with the extra flow. My 14 foot Browning rod had 5 lb line running through to a size 14 barbless hook on a 4 lb hooklink, as carp are now to be expected everytime on the Cut. The main flow was down the middle, flowing into my bank and I dropped a few balls of heavy groundbait, laced with ground hemp, a rod length out, followed down with the float. Easing the float down at half speed, it disappeared and the rod bent into a tumbling fish, that was invisible in the mirky water, until the landing net revealed a decent dace.

This dace dismissed my fears of no bites from the turgid river and the next cast a small chub followed.

The inevitable small gudgeon were now managing to get their mouths around the 7 mm pellet of punched bread, before a positive stab down of the float, saw the bouncing rod top response of a roach.

Next trot, the float ran twenty yards without a bite. This was repeated several times. I shallowed up, then added depth. Trotted the shallow far side. Nothing. I can only assume that the daily brown polluting water had come down unnoticed in the already coloured water and fast flow. My cup of tea and accompanying Kit Kat came out early, while I waited for it to pass through. Usually taking up to an hour to clear, the float tipped and held after just twenty minutes and a roach was fighting under my rod top.


The increased flow had probably pushed the pollution through, all I know is that I was back in the business of catching fish, the dace had returned and I missed a few rapid bites, until I went down to a 6 mm punch and shallowed up. A downstream bite produced a rudd.

Then a better rudd was skating across the surface to the landing net.

There were all species today, a small chub was followed by a hard fighting roach.

During the lull, I had still been feeding small balls of groundbait into the swim and now the fish were queuing up to eat it. Even the gudgeon were getting bigger.

The float moved upstream under my feet. I was into a decent carp that ignored my efforts, continuing against the flow, as I followed it with my rod and the reel freewheeling. Further upstream there were obstructions in the river and I put on side strain, while allowing line to slide over my finger. It slowed and turned, hugging the far side, churning up mud along the berm, then came back to the middle. I got the landing net ready as it rolled. A 2lb common? It was on the surface and I raised the rod to guide it to the net. The rod top became entangled in the overhead alder. I was now playing carp and tree. With the net at 3 meters the carp was out of reach. Tugging at the branch with the rod had one result. The hook came out of the carp and shot up into the tree. Misery!

The scissors came out and I was minus four yards of line and needed to rethread the top joint, coiling the wasted line and cutting it into two inch pieces. The river had slowed and I had considered a lighter float, but was still catching, but now I fitted a 4 No 4 ali stick. There was now an upstream wind, which was ideal for this very sensitive float. Not for long. While bashing out gudgeon and small roach, I missed a bite and the float tangled in the tree.

I still had half an hour before I was due to pack up, so rooted around in my tackle box for a replacement, finding a pole float on a rig that would do. I was now scraping up the groundbait, feeding a pinch a cast, while searching for areas to punch on the bread. A better roach was netted.

A gudgeon-like dithering bite resulted in another carp rushing off. It was only small this time and I initially thought that it was a chub, but the on rails feel of the fight, as it searched for a snag, said otherwise. Keeping my rod top clear of the tree, my last fish of the afternoon was soon in the net.

It had been a strange few hours, warm rain and drizzle, a raging river that dropped then slowed, the quiet spell without a bite, plus the two up the tree errors, which would not have happened, if I had been using my preferred 12 foot Hardy, that would have been no match for the first carp. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Very few holes left to punch and float No.3.

A mixed bag, mostly small stuff.

Quality roach and a bonus carp shine among the showers at Jeanes Pond

August 15, 2023 at 10:22 am

Just lately the weather forecasters have been getting it wrong, but the predicted heavy shower was bang on time at 2pm, when I arrived for an afternoon fishing at the Braybrooke Club’s Jeanes Pond this week. Others were already fishing, erected umbrellas evidence of a wet morning. Being an optimist,I didn’t even have a water proof jacket with me, but then the rain is always warm at this time of the year, isn’t it? There was a strong wind blowing from the west and the sun had come out by the time that I had set up in the shelter of peg 15.

Due to the rafts of surface fry, I use a heavy 2 gram antenna float at Jeanes to punch through to the bottom, where my firm balls of grounbait end up. The ground bait is liquidised bread based, with ground pellets, ground hemp and strawberry flavouring, which soon brought in some better sized roach.

With the shot bulked within a foot of the hook, the rig looks crude, but it works. The shot is set just off bottom and any fish picking up the bait, results in a positive lift of the float antenna and another roach in the net.

Regular mini balls of feed brought instant bites and with three metres of pole, fish were swung to hand from the margins. I had started using a 6 mm punch on a size 14 barbless hook, but a change up to a 7 mm pellet of bread meant fewer smaller fish attacking the bread, before the better fish on the bottom had a chance.

This better stamp of roach meant constant use of the landing net, the hooks coming out in the net easily removed, being barbless.

A fussy bite, with gentle lifts of the float, that moved away slowly, had me poised for something bigger, the float staying still and the elastic stretching out on the strike. This WAS bigger and I quickly added another two lengths of pole, as it steadily moved off toward the middle. The fish stepped up a gear, making runs to the left and the right, boiling the surface with each turn, but with the pole now at 5 metres, I was in control. A surface roll revealed the bronze scaled flank of a deep bodied carp and got the landing net ready, although several attempts to net it resulted in last minute bursts of speed in the opposite direction.

Finally, the 4 lb 8 oz carp was in the net.

Time for a well earned cup of tea and a KitKat after this one.

Despite the disturbance of landing the carp, the first cast in resulted in another good roach.

A couple more balls of feed saw the fry scatter when I put them in and the reason was soon revealed, when I hooked a perch, that had taken the bread on the drop.

It had been an afternoon of sunshine and showers, but the roach had never stopped feeding, the last one after three hours, being another clonker.

The humble bread punch had once again come up trumps for me.









Pike and Paddleboards feature on the River Loddon at Sandford

August 11, 2023 at 7:32 pm

This week I decided to visit a little fished stretch of the River Loddon, a tributary of the River Thames below Reading, the attraction being that anglers can drive their cars along the river, offload their tackle at a chosen swim, then park their car close by. After a couple of long walks lately, this was ideal and I was soon setting up to fish the stick float in peaceful surroundings.

Plumbing the depth, I was surprised to find six feet under my rod top, much deeper than expected, but adjusted my float to fish just off bottom. Running through to test the depth, the float dragged under on the weed. One lost hook. I shallowed up again, casting further out. Another lost hook. I sorted through my hooks and tied on a 14 to 4 lb line, casting beyond the middle. The float dragged under further downstream. This time the weed lost the battle.

Right, let’s get some groundbait sorted out. I had boiled up some hemp seed that morning and added a good handful to liquidised bread, ground pellets and a spicey seed mix, squeezing up some firm balls, that I put over along the tree line. It looked chubby over there and trotted into branches trailing in the water, with a 7 mm punch of bread. A good bite straight away was missed and I trotted down again, the float holding under long enough to strike. A brief resistance, then a bleak skidded across the surface.

I’d forgotten about bleak. We don’t catch them in my other local rivers, the Cut and Blackwater, but so close to the Thames, the Lodden is full of them. They are a surface fish, but they had followed my groundbait balls to the bottom. I missed every other bite, as they were just hanging onto the bread, but you can try to fish them all out, or feed them off.

I began throwing the balls of feed further upstream, while bulking the 4 BB of shot closer to the hook. A small roach interrupted the flow of bleak. At least it fought back.

The sound of voices coming from upstream broke the silence, followed by splashing. Branches were now being broken by someone kneeling on a paddle board, attempting to break through an overhanging tree to my downstream side of the river. The male boarder succeded, paddling through to my swim, followed by his girlfriend. “What are you doing. I’m fishing here!” Ignored, they paddled on. This was my first encounter with this new craze. Others in the Twyford Club had said about “hoards” of these paddle boarders and kyakers on the club’s waters close to the Thames at weekends, but this was on a secluded part of the river in the middle of the week. I watched them continue toward the arches of the road bridge downstream.

The swim was now dead. I made up some more hemp laced groundbait and began feeding again. Bites began again. More bleak went into the keepnet, then a small roach, followed by another slightly larger roach that was rattling my rod top.

At last a decent roach was fighting deep from under the trees. I got the landing net ready, while I drew the roach across. Wham! A pike surfaced from under my feet and took the roach, pulling my rod down level with the river as it swam to the far bank. The pike was not big, maybe 5 lb. I could land this. When it pulled, I gave line. When it swam back, I retrieved. Soon it was on the surface, drifting downstream and I guided it back. The net was out, but the pike dived under it. It went round again and lay doggo. Lifting it back toward me, the hook flew out!

The fine wire barbless was the weak link in the chain. It had opened out. I wanted that pike out of my swim and would have walked it upstream. My stock of hooks was going down, but I found my last on 4 lb line and tied it on. The paddle boarders were coming back through the arches. I took a photo and got back to fishing.

A few more balls of feed went in upstream of my float, which I eased back down the flow. Holding back, the float sank. It was another bleak and I dragged it across the surface, just as the pike shot to the surface like a rising trout and took it. The boarders were rowing closer and I called to them, saying that I was playing a big fish. Of course, they do not understand fisherman talk. They continued to approach, despite the sight of my rod bent over double. The pike was spooked back upstream and swam past at speed. The line was cut on it’s teeth. Great! The boarders were now in front of me. “Do you have a license for those things?” I asked. “Oh yes,” said the girlfriend smiling. “We have kyak licences” I replied that I have to have an Environment Agency Fishing License and pay my club a lot of money to fish this river. Her reply was that they were there to keep the waterways open. As she rowed back through the gap, that they had made through the overhanging branches, she wished me a pleasant rest of the afternoon. My reply was not for publication. I tipped my fish back and packed up.

Arriving home early, I got no sympathy from my wife, who replied that they had as much right to enjoy themselves on the river, as I did sitting there fishing. We had the same problem on the River Stour in Dorset, where paddle boarders were using their boards as diving platforms. It is a sign of the times I suppose, we have all grown too selfish to acknowledge the rights of others.










Crucians and skimmers compete for the punch at Hitcham Ponds before the carp moved in.

August 4, 2023 at 4:07 pm

Heavy showers and a list of jobs at home have kept me away from fishing for a couple of weeks, but with enough fishing points earned and a weather forecast free of rain, saw me setting up my pole for an afternoon’s fishing for crucian carp at a tree lined farm pond on the border of South Bucks.

Most anglers fish this club pond for the resident carp, but my target is always the “silver fish”, especially the hard fighting crucian carp, although the days of double figure nets of these golden fish have declined since the introduction of free biting skimmer bream.

Strawberry flavouring has been my top additive to my groundbait mix for the bread punch. Based on 50% liquidised bread, with ground carp pellets and ground hemp, I added enough water to form stiff balls that pass straight to the bottom in an effort to avoid the tiny surface feeding roach and rudd.

Within minutes of putting in a few nugget sized balls of feed seven metres out, bubbles were breaking on the surface. I had set up a float rig with the bulk shot just off bottom and a size 14 barbless hook buried in an 8 mm pellet of bread. First cast the float sailed away and I cursed the likely tiny roach, but no, the elastic came out as the hook made contact with a decent rudd.

Back in the float settled, then bobbed. A few more bobs, then the float slowly moved off. I lifted and the elastic was out again with a fish fighting deep, a flash of gold confirming a crucian carp.

This was a good start. A lift of the bulk shot lay the float flat and I struck into a fish that the broke the surface. It was a small skimmer bream, that was soon in the landing net.

What next? Another decent rudd that grabbed the pellet of bread as it drifted down.

A quality roach followed, which I assumed was another crucian as it fought deep, before coming to the net.

I’d been fishing for only 30 minutes, feeding a nugget of feed after every fish and the area in front of me was fizzing with bubbles. The fish had come up in the water and I shallowed my depth stringing out the bulked shot resulting in more positive bites. Skimmer bream were coming steadily.

The occasional crucian was also beating the skimmers to the punch as my keepnet began to fill.

I now lifted into something big. It remained deep, slowly shaking it’s head, swimming to my right toward a lily bed. I attached another two lengths of pole to give me more control, without overstressing the hook, being able to steer this unseen lump as it speeded up toward the island. I was convinced that I had hooked a big bream, which tend to glide around using their weight and depth of body to fight. It came in close and I prepared to net the Thing, removing the bottom two joints again. Whether this jogged the fish into action, I don’t know, but it now shot off to the left toward the base of a tree and all I could do was hang on, while the elastic stretched out. I could see the fish. It was a white koi carp with bright orange markings. The barbless hook came out. Most of my fish had been lightly hooked, this was another one. It was time for a cup of tea and a Wagon Wheel chocolate covered biscuit.

It was back to the skimmers, some of them a respectable size. A surprise tench found it’s way through the skimmers. Not big, but a welcome sight. I don’t remember catching tench from here before.

The next lift of the pole saw the elastic stay down. Another carp! I quickly slipped on the extra two lengths as the carp beelined to the island. The elastic stopped it and the carp turned, running to the right toward the lily bed. It was not a big carp, long and thin and I was able to wear it down, until it began rolling on the surface. Shipping the pole back, I broke down to the top three as the carp appeared on the surface ready for the net. It weighed just over 3 lb 8 oz.

In the shade, my camera washed out the deep bronze of the carp and took another in the light. After this shot, I returned the carp to avoid damaging the silvers in my keepnet.

Controlling a carp on the pole at seven metres is hard work. After a cup of tea and a sandwich, I was ready again. I needed to be. I was in first cast, the elastic stretching out. With the two extra lengths of pole back on, this new fish was easier to handle, it was smaller and was soon sliding into the landing net. The colour washed out of the image again. It weighed in at 3 lb.

The next shot was better. I will have to check out the exposure settings.

It was getting close to going home time. Having had to pass two towns and a motorway to get here, the rush hour traffic crush would be worse on the way back. I scraped up the last of my feed and put it in.

This crucian was last of eight caught this afternoon, although skimmer bream were still eager to seize the punch. When you are catching, it is always difficult to stop fishing, but my mind was made up by another carp, that zoomed off, streaking out the elastic and snapping the 4 lb hook link like cotton.

The 8 mm punch stopped most of the very small fish from taking the bread and accounted for for six different species in the net. There was over 8 lb here, plus the carp; 15 lb, not bad for four hours work.