Blattling the elements at Hitcham Ponds pays off with roach

March 28, 2024 at 5:47 pm

We all have days when we wished that we hadn’t bothered with something, but we still go ahead with it. My day this week began the night before, when leaving my Old Windsor fishing club meeting in the pouring rain. One of the other members had used an exchange ticket to fish another club’s water Hitcham Ponds recently and had not caught much, but had enjoyed his fishing, so seeing our club secretary under his umbrella, I asked if the exchange ticket was still valid, the reply was positive and he rummaged in the his bag, then produced the ticket with it’s key, reminding me that it ran on March 31st.

I had been warned and feeling a bit like Cinderella, decided to fish the Ponds the next day. Checking the weather, it was showing chances of varying amounts of rain from 10 am until 2 pm, topping out at 11 am with 90% chance, with high winds. Chances, right? How accurate had the forecast been lately. I had made my mind up by 9 am. It was sunny with a blue sky. I put a rain proof jacket in the van just in case.

The first bad omen appeared a mile from home. At the crossroad, the lane ahead was closed. I had driven home from the club that way; it was flooded then, but now had a large tree fallen across the road. A fifteen minute diversion put me to the rear of a queue for the Legoland Easter traffic. Soon clear of Windsor, I passed over a flooded River Thames, onto the M4, then north, up hill into the country and the Pond. A good mixed fishery, I remembered my last visit

There was a tench in there too.

I unloaded my gear from the van and started the trek to the locked gate, which eventually opened. I was then faced by another obstacle. Mud. This is the shallow route, to the right it was too steep to climb with a trolley. I got up as high as I could, then forced my way through the wooded area to my left. Not far to go now, but it was raining already and the wind was howling through the trees.

 

Having reached the pond, my way was blocked by more mud and an over flowing pond. The wind was lashing the surface with heavy rain an a hour ahead of schedule. I turned round and headed up a path that joins the pond at the far end, where thankfully the bushes gave some relief from the wind. Many of the permanant pegs were under water, but peg 12 was higher than most and made my tackle box safe on the slippery decking.

I hate setting up in the rain, you try to keep everything dry, but the rain wins in the end. Having plumbed the depth and fixed on a 4 x 14 antenna float with a size 16 barbless hook to a 3 lb link, I fed a line 6 metres out, where the pond drops to about 1.2 metres and another at 8 metres. I once won a winter match from this peg with over 200 roach on the pole with the bread punch, it being so cold that the bank was white with frost all day and the carp did not feed. I kept trying for them too, going over to the island on the waggler on running line, but with roach in front of me, I kept going and won a nice bit of pocket money, plus a pretty rose bowl. Today was warmer, but still in single figures.

That was many years ago and today I hunkered down, hood up, while the rain lashed my back. After ten minutes I got my first bite 6 metres out. I missed it and the next, just slight hold downs, that popped up again with the bread gone. I was keeping my punch bread in my waterproof apron and punching into a small bait bowl, also kept out of the rain in the same pouch. At the first sign of the next bite, I induced it with a steady sideways pull and waited, the float pulling back under immediately. I was elated to feel a fish on the hook, but it was a tiny three inch roach, which I threw back. More followed. I missed some and lost some. It wasted a wet half hour.

This was not a match, I was hoping for a few decent fish, skimmer bream, crucians, or roach, I didn’t mind. Swinging the float out to 8 metres, it just sat there, while the ground bait was now soggy and broke up in a cloud on the surface. It would find its way to the bottom eventually. I had a few steady lift bites, which got me excited, but again proved to be small roach. I missed a proper bite, a slow sink, that held under. I struck, but the bait was gone. After a quick rebait with the 6 mm punch, I cast over the same spot and the float went down out of sight. The elastic came out and a nice roach was being drawn back to the landing net

The hook came out in the net, these fish were just sucking at the bait. The groundbait was having an effect, another roach following a few minutes later. I had the bulk shot just past midway down the line and a pair of droppers spaced to the hooklink

I tried out inducing the bites again, hooking four, but netting only one. It was quick, but they were barely hooked, dropping off if I tried to lift them in. If I waited long enough the float would eventually hold down, even then it was only a 50/50 chance of landing a fish.

The rain was now easing off, but the wind was swirling around the pond, dragging the foat and I was constantly mending the bow in the line to the float. A bonus roach got my hopes up, a fat hard fighter, but as the sun came out, the fish got smaller and more spread out

I was disappointed that no skimmer bream had shown up, even a few blades. I usually fish at the other end, where they out compete the roach for the bread. There were four inch waves piling into the bank during the rainstorm. Mind you I had not seen, or heard any carp crashing about around the island either.

Grey clouds were forming again and the temperture dropping a degree or two, when I missed my last bite and decided, that I needed plenty of time to dry out everything, ready for the obstacle course that waited in the woods.

Providing that Intertype issue exchange tickets next season, I’ll be back as Arnie would say!

Roach and rudd brighten a dull afternoon at Jeanes Pond

March 20, 2024 at 11:33 am

A wet morning cleared by lunchtime and I headed out to the Braybook club’s Jeanes Pond to test the waters, following reports of rafts of tiny roach and rudd grabbing any bait that was offered, while better fish were impossible to catch. For me it was going to be a case of nothing given, nothing gained. I had bread from the freezer, which could go back in, if the reports were true and there were plenty of jobs to do at home, if I returned home early.

My usual swim had a gale blowing through it, so I dropped off at peg 17 before it, setting up my pole with a 4 x 14 antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook. Not confident that I would be staying long, I only mixed up a cupful of groundbait, liquidised bread, ground hemp with ground pellets and a dash of strawberry flavouring. Having plumbed the depth, I set the bait to fish just off bottom and cast in with a 5 mm punch of bread on the hook. The float did not move. I positioned my keepnet, wondering if would need it? There was no surface activity either, but once I put a small ball of feed in, everything changed. Small fish appeared from nowhere. Every put in the float lifted and another tiddler was swung in.

This was a big one.

I bulked my shot a foot from the hook and fished away from the feed, dropping the bait straight down. After a five minute wait, the antenna very slowly sank. Waiting for the float to sink out of sight, I lifted. A slightly bigger fish, a roach was swung in. I went up to a 6 mm punch on the 18 hook.

Another wait and a bigger roach from the edge of the feed, 5 metres out.

I took a chance and squeezed up the rest of my feed, making four very firm balls, which went in forming the corners of a metre square. These sank quickly, releasing the crushed hemp as a marker. It began to drizzle and the wind increased, while the temperature dropped. I thought that I would stick it out as long as the roach continued to feed.

After another flurry of small rudd, the bread was getting down to the roach again, the bites taking their time, but unmissable. The landing net in use constantly, as the roach got bigger.

Drizzle now turned to rain and the the hood came up over over my cap. The square of punch bread went back into the big pocket of my bait apron to keep it dry, only bringing it out to punch. The Scots have a word for weather like this, Driech, damp, depressing and cold. At least the float was still going under.

Catching from the inside of the fed area, the bites were drying up, so I fitted another length of pole and fished the pond side. Rudd were this side, instead of the slow sink of the float antenna, it was all change with a positive lift and move off with the bread.

The wind was affecting the drift and I had to keep adjusting the bow in the line, but the rudd were not as fussy as the roach and they continued to come to the net.

These rudd were not monsters, but they fought well, usually rushing off and breaking the surface on the strike.

The local school had now turned out and the peace was regularly shattered by the screams of young girls eager to attract the attention of groups of boys. At least it had stopped raining.

I was still getting bites, this rudd being my last fish of the afternoon. At least I had proved that there were better fish to be caught. Hopefully, as we enter the Sring Equinox this week, temperatures will rise enough to wake up the tench and carp at Jeanes, while these roach and rudd will put on weight.

Today proved to be another learning day for me, which will mean more fish in the net next time.

 

 

Chub, roach and dace provide a bonus, despite a flooded River Cut

March 14, 2024 at 11:11 am

Looking back over my blogs, it has been four months since I last fished a river. In fact it was a flooded River Cut back in November, that I fished, being rewarded with a net of roach and dace, all taken on the stick float with bread punch as bait.

It was mach warmer then and fish were in top condition, but since that date the little River Cut close to my home has been polluted twice and flooded constantly. When not flooded it was freezing cold. With only one day of the UK river season left, after more days of rain, I felt it was now or never for me to try my luck.

Parking up the van and unloading my gear, I was soon looking down on the confluence of the weir from the industrial estate and the natural river, which winds its way across fields for five miles to this point. The weir had disappeared, brown water flowing straight across into a swirling brown eddy.

On another day, I would have turned around and found a pond to fish, but would have had to wait three months for my next opportunity to fish a river, as still waters are not governed by a close season. Following the Cut down along the path, many of the swims were under water, with no access. I found a swim where the river had receded enough to allow room for my tackle box, although my feet were in thick silt. I decided to give it a go, setting myself a time limit of 30 minutes without a fish, before I packed up and moved to a nearby pond.

The river was the colour of strong tea and running level with the bank, but being on the inside of a bend, my side offered some shelter from the flow. Setting up my 14 foot Browning float rod with a 6 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float to a size 14 barbless hook, with a 7 mm punch of bread, I set the float over depth with a 300 mm tail. Squeezing up a tight ball of liquidised bread, I dropped it in 6 feet from the bank and followed the ball down, checking the float at interals to swing the bait up in the current.

Trotting the length to my left, the float went under, the strike bringing back a sunken branch. Elation and depression in two seconds! The float was dropped in again, to follow another ball downstream. Ten yards down the float dipped and slid under, my strike, an automatic reflex as the rod bent over. No snag this time! Second cast! A good sized fish was slowly waking up beneath the surface, intially swimming upstream toward me, then turning and running over to the opposite bank, while I allowed line to spill over the spool of my ABU 501 to ease the shock loading on the 3 lb hooklink. It was a few minutes before I had a glimpes of the fish, a broad black back and a large white mouth unmistakenly a decent chub. Aware that this may be my only fish of the afternoon, I sunk the landing net and drew the chub over it, lifting it clear of the surface. A solid two pounder.

As the image shows, the hook was just in the skin of the upper lip and came away with a minimum of pressure. How is that for luck?

I dropped in another ball of white crumb and tried again, the float sliding under in the same spot. I braced for the strike, but this time it was a small roach. No worries, this looked like it was going to be a bumper session. Gudgeon and more small roach followed, then a decent dace.

I now began to miss bites, just taps and and dips. Was it more dace? Do I need to need more feed, or less? The decision to replace the size 14 hook with a 16 was made for for me, when the snag at the bottom of my trot refused to budge. A size 16 to 2 lb line was looped on, going down a size on punch to 6 mm too. The bites were still fussy and I managed to hook a couple that were about three inches long, just hanging onto the bread before falling off. Time to change tactics.

Running along the opposite bank is an eddy, caused by a fallen tree upstream and after lobbing a couple of balls of feed over, cast into the fed area. This eddy has held a good head of rudd on previous visits and was worth a try, but nothing was happening. I added depth to the float and raised the rod to keep the line to the float off the water. The float lifted and sat half cocked for a minute. A snag or a rudd? I lifted the rod higher. It was a snag. There was always one over there. Pointing the rod at the snag, I pulled for a break. It was coming free, when the rod top nodded. It was a big fish, but it was not fighting, just lying there keeping pace with the river. Aware that I only had a size 16 hook to 2 lb line, I gently drew the fish over to my side. Mid river it decided that it didn’t want to play this game any more, rolled and shot off downstream, showing a deep bronze flank before snapping my hooklink. Not a carp, but a big bream? I landed one of over 3 lb from this swim in the past. This was much bigger.

I percivered trotting the far bank for another 15 minutes with no sign of a bite and came back to my side, again no bites. The pace had picked up and now there was a distinct farmyard smell from the river. Could it be the daily pollution that put me off the Cut before, due to suddenly the bites drying up, then starting again an hour later? I added two feet to the depth and cast my float five yards downstream, laying on with my rod rested on the keepnet. The flask and sandwiches came out. Every ten minutes I checked the bread on the hook. It was still there. Not even a gudgeon was interested now. Eventually the float dipped and pulled under with a decent fish fighting deep. It was a good roach.

There were no more bites, whatever method I tried. It hadn’t been a complete disaster and I had some nice fish in my net, but I’d had to work for them. That three hours seemed a lot longer.