A busy afternoon on the River Cut compensates for Jubilee disappointment.

October 13, 2023 at 5:47 pm

With rain forecast for late afternoon, I decided to try Berkshire’s newest waterway, the Jubilee River for the first time since it was opened as a flood relief channel in 2002. The Jubilee cost £330 million to construct, its aim being to protect affluent Maidenhead and Windsor from flooding, which it has proved to do, but at the expense of towns and villages downstream of the confluence at Datchet. No fish were stocked into the waterway, but attached to the Thames upstream and adjacent to some well stocked lakes, natural stocking has taken place to the point that on it’s day, the Jubilee river can fish well, with bream, roach, perch and pike in abundance.

Fishing reports have been patchy, anglers catching from a swim one week, only to blank the next, however I decided that it was about time that I gave it a go and walked downstream of a weir to set up in a gently sloping swim. The structure of the relief channel has shallow edges, that drop off rapidly into 12 feet of water, so my 14 foot Browning was set up with a 3 gram Bolo float to a size 14 barbless hook, ready to fish a 7 mm punch of bread, over hemp ladened balls of ground bait, while I lose fed hemp seed over the top four rod lengths out.

Despite the weir, there was a gentle flow and the firm groundbait balls were sinking quickly, while there was plenty of time for a pouch of hemp to be sprayed toward the float. When I started fishing, the wind was hard over my left shoulder, aiding casting, but it soon veered round to blow donwnstream creating waves. With the weight down toward the hook, the bolo was unaffected by the wind, the antenna riding through the waves, but when the bites began, they were slight dips and lifts and hard to spot, let alone hit. A lift just after a cast resulted in slight resitance on the strike, then a lost fish, that turned out to be a bleak, that just swam in. Another lift and a better fish, that came off half way to the surface. At least I was getting bites. I had been fishing for 30 minutes for one bleak!

I shallowed up two feet and caught a roach, when the float buried and I kicked myself for not doing so earlier. I had been feeding hemp and balls of groundbait regularly and brought the fish up in the water.

With a feeling of making up for lost time, I pulled two more roach off the hook, before they reached the surface. I’m not used to fishing so deep at range and it was showing. Constantly mending the downstream bow in the line to the float was dragging the float off line. A waggler, not the Bolo float would have been the answer today, over casting and sinking the line. The wind was getting up, blowing a bleak off the hook, before I could grab it. This was getting frustrating. Time for a cup of tea, a sandwich and a think. It was too late to move round the bend to a more sheltered spot, so I stuck it out for another hour. A smaller roach and four bleak, plus more missed and bumped fish made my up mind. There was still time to pack up and fish my local River Cut, where I could guarantee catching roach, or maybe a carp in the time left before the rain. That is what I did.

What a contrast, I had searched out the deepest swims that I know on the Cut and this one was three feet deep and had to slash my way through 6 ft tall Himalayan Balsam plants to reach it. Setting up the Browning again, this time I attached a small 3 No 4 stick float, as there was minimal flow, while the wooded valley gave full protection from the wind gusting through the trees. While I tackled up, I watched a four pound carp slurping down balsam seeds, that had catapulted into the water, when I had chopped down the host plants. The carp had it’s back out of the water, as it cruised the shallows on my side of the bank, the dorsal and tail fins gently powering the feeding fish in my direction. I made a mental note, that I did not want to make contact with this bruiser today on my light tackle, as there would only be one winner and it would not be me!

A small ball of groundbait close to my float had the desired effect and a hard fighting gudgeon was soon hugging the bottom trying to shed the size 16 barbless hook.

If only gudgeon grew to several ounces, I would be happy to catch them all day.

That ball of gound bait had started a feeding frenzy beneath the surface, as more gudgeon queued up to take the 6 mm punch of bread. A flash of silver lifted my hopes, as a roach dashed around the swim putting a bend in my rod, before sliding into the awaiting landing net.

More small balls of feed, just encouraged the gudgeon, which were coming one a minute and I was soon tiring of the mini barbel. Catching gudgeon under my rod top was repetative and I tried a new tactic; casting downstream away from the feed in an attempt to find a roach. It worked.

Still gudgeon, but also a few silver fish began to push their way through at the back of the shoal. Even a rudd took on the drop, skating away with the bread.

An hour into the session it began to rain, the heavy shower knocking dead leaves from the trees, covering the surface of the Cut, making it difficult to find a clear gap to place the float into. I was back to dropping the rig in off my rod top. Hoping to attract a stray carp, I scraped up the last of my groundbait and put it in, but there were no bursts of tell tale bubbles to be seen. The rain soon stopped, to be replaced by drizzle as the gudgeon, plus the occasional roach found my bread bait. At 5 pm, I swung in my last gudgeon. It had been exactly two hours since my first fish, a gudgeon.

The day had begun with optimism on the Jubilee River, which had become hard work and a hiding to nothing. Without that wind, I would have stuck to it and caught more, but the certainty of a possibly better result had drawn me to the River Cut. I’d landed seven fish on the Jubilee in two hours and over 50 on the Cut. Despite this result, I’ll be back on the Jubilee soon.