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.

 

Carp, roach and rudd come in from the cold on the bread punch

February 28, 2024 at 7:31 pm

Heavy rain, floods, gale force winds and freezing weather, or a combination of all these have kept me away from the bankside for over a month, but a window in the forecast showed a frosty morning with little wind. Ok the temperature was not set to rise above 7 Centigrade, but I could live with that, so with thermals and extra layers, I headed down to Allsmoor Pond to catch some fish, hopefully to repeat my January performance.

Mud over the path indicated again that the pond had overflowed, due to the outlet being blocked, while the winds had snapped off a couple of trees, and deposited them in the pond, blocking two good swims. I continued round and stopped at the January swim. It was full of floating branches, but I soon used my landing net to steer them into the reeds, although one remained, being too heavy to remove, I managed to pull it into the bank out of the way. My tackle box was now positioned in line with the old lily bed, a bit too close for comfort for landing a decent fish, but first hook a decent fish!

I mixed up half a tray of groundbait, 50% liquidised bread, 20% ground pellets, 20% ground hemp and 10% of strawberry essence, adding enough water to form soft balls of feed, which break up just below the surface, due to the pond only being 30 inches deep. These I put put 6 to 7 metres out in a line in front. I then assembled my pole to five metres with a long line to a 4 x 14 fine antenna float and size 14 barbless hook. Looking at the image below, it’s hard to believe that it was exactly noon, it was also very cold.

I cast out over the feed and waited. There was not a sign of a bite. I at least expected the float to move off with small rudd nibbling at the 6 mm punch of bread. The float vanished in an instant, with the elastic pulling straight across the pond. Raising the pole was an effort as the elastic traced a V toward the far bank, the fish just kept going against the 16 -20 lb elastic, until the inevitable Ping!! and the float shot back. The 3 lb hook link had snapped. I have landed carp over 5 lb from this pond, but I have seen bigger. A heavier hook link would have held, but would I have had a bite?

I looped on another size 14 barbless to 3 lb, going up a punch size to 7 mm, following another ball of feed with the float rig. The antenna lifted slightly, then settled just above the surface. Lifting the pole, it went solid for a millisecond, then all hell let loose with a carp thrashing on the surface before heading straight for the lily bed. I pulled hard to the right, trying to keep it away, but it was in there in seconds, stretching the elastic. The line begame a dead weight, the carp was deep in the lily roots. Swinging the pole round to the left eased the pressure. It was on the move again! Pulling the pole back round to the right, put pressure back on again and it swam out into open water, where it was just a matter of time before the common was on it’s side heading for the landing net.

Two in fifteen minutes. Things were looking up. Another ball of feed and I cast in again. Not a movement, then a tremour of the antenna and slow sink. I lifted and felt a smaller fish fighting back, which skated across the surface. Breaking the pole down to the top two sections, the decent sized roach was quickly swept into the the net.

How your expectations change. I would have been happy catching roach like this all day, but now that there were carp about, I wanted more.

I didn’t have long to wait, the float dithered, moved three inches and stopped. A crucian? Was the bread still on the hook? When wet, it puffs up and crucians will sit there sucking it off the hook. Shall I, or shan’t I strike? I struck. This was no crucian. It rushed straight over to the right, where a no fishing sign once stood, only the post remaining. I pulled in the opposite direction and it surfaced, a smaller common over a pound that began to run to the lily bed. I stopped it and after a few lunges was on it’s side, sliding toward me. I reached for the landing net, but it was tangled in a bramble. I tugged and the carp waited, head out of the water. The bramble unwound from the bush, but the net would not reach. I wrenched it free at about the time that the carp got a second wind and began rolling in the edge. The barbless popped out. Gloom!

At least I was catching, probably pneumonia in this temperature. I missed another speeding bite. I told myself that it was a small rudd. Another fussy bite followed and a hard fighting roach was pulling the elastic from the pole tip.

A clonking rudd followed, lifting the antenna and slowly moving off, before storming off on the strike, the elastic out again, flashes of gold making me think that I had a crucian carp.

The small rudd and roach were missing to day. The bites took longer to develop, but were worth the wait.

I left a bite too long and the bread was gone, rebaited and cast to the same spot. The float sank down a hole and I was playing a bigger carp. It’s back was black, when it leapt clear of the water, its bronze flanks reminding me of a tench, but no tench that I have caught has the solid feel of a carp. Swimming in an arc, it would stand on its head, tail flapping, trying to rid the hook to no avail. When the carp began rolling, I new that unless the hook came free, it was mine and I took my time getting in the net.

At least a pound heavier that the first, this common had had an encounter with the resident heron at some time, judging by the scale damage on it’s flank. There was no flab on these carp, they were all muscle.

The roach were in fine condition too, these better fish turning up from time to time, as do the tench in summer.

Roach, or rudd. I’m sure this is a roach above, with a turned down nose, but it was very deep with a long anal fin. The last fish of the afternoon was definitely a rudd.

My wife came down for a walk to see how I was getting, bringing the sunshine with her, but with the sun the bites stopped. If I had stayed the crucians may have come on the feed, but the cold had got into my bones and there was tea and a hot cross bun waiting at home.

Big Roach, rudd and crucian carp bonus on the bread punch at Allsmoor

January 30, 2024 at 3:03 pm

A sudden change plan left me with a few hours spare for an afternoon fishing on my doorstep at Allsmoor Pond this week, but unlike most days this year so far, the sky remained blue after a frosty start, although a strong icy wind from the north west would mean that only a couple of swims would be fishable. Walking to Allsmoor from home was a head down affair against the gusting blast and I hoped that no-one else would be crazy enough to fish today, six degrees Centigrade had been forecast, but so had a minus two wind chill!

It was obvious from the state of the paths, that the pond had been over the banks in recent days, but it was free of ice, while more importantly the high bank behind me, and the wood to my left was was giving me cover from the wind, although twigs continued to rain down on me all afternoon. As I had guessed, there were no other anglers prepared to take a chance today, even dog walkers were few and far between.

In my corner at 1 pm, it was quite cosy as I mxed up half a tray of  groundbait, putting three balls in a line 8 metres out, a metre apart. In summer a lily bed takes up half this swim and my aim was to fish along the edge of the died back bed and out into the open water. Fifteen years ago, there had been a small weir under my feet, where the water from the brook fed out into a culvert, but now this end was silted up, while at the far end, silt had encouraged the growth of bull rushes, that were slowly creating two ponds. Unfortunately, the maintenance of this pond was handed over to the local council by the EA, and like many UK councils, there is no money in the kitty for such projects.

The official purpose of this session was to test the setup of my new 16 – 20 pole elastic, but first I needed bites and I was beginning to think that size 16 barbless hook to 3 lb line under a 4 x 16 antenna  float was too heavy. After several minutes a bite developed, then stopped. Induce a bite? The float was moved slightly to the left against the drift. It dived and the first of several three ounce rudd was tumbling across the surface.

The hook was just in the top of the lip, a sign that the rudd was just pushing the 6 mm punch pellet around, moving the bait had forced a snatch and grab. The rudd and water were ice cold, but at least they were showing interest. I put in another small ball and cast over it, the float vanishing immediately and the elastic stretching out as a better fish erupted onto the surface. The pond is only 30 inches deep and the only instict for the fish is to run. The elastic was working well and a quality roach was soon on its side sliding into the landing net.

What a beaut.

This roach had obviously been awoken by the strawberry flavoured liquidised bread and ground hemp balls of feed, inducing the bites not necessary now, as all the bites were unmissable slide-aways.

Rudd were now taking freely, pristine quality fish taking the 7 mm punched bread. The elastic had been pulled down inside the pole and I tightened it up by one turn on the winder. A larger rudd was soon testing the new elastic setting, absorbing the shock of another snatch and grab take.

I continued to feed small balls of feed into the area and my keepnet was steadily filling.

Pinprick bubbles were appearing on the surface, a sure sign that crucian carp were now feeding on the groundbait. I added another three inches to the depth, but began dredging up small twigs and branches, although one snag made off across the pond. A hard fighting crucian!

The sun had gone below the trees and I have found that these crucians tend to avoid bright sunshine and so it was this afternoon, with only a few rudd now being taken, as the crucians took over.

This pale crucian buried itself in the old lily bed to my left and would not move, so I eased off the pressure and waited several minutes, until the line began to move off. After a firm pull, the crucian was off running again, dragging a branch behind it, that had tangled in the hook link. The size 16 barbless hook held on long enough for the landing net to do its job, before coming free.

These crucians give a very delicate bite, but go off like a train when hooked, then tumble and dive to the net. The light was now going and the cold creeping in and I was in the “just one more” mode.

That’ll do. I packed up.

Over 6 lb in under two hours.

 

 

 

 

Reluctant roach oblige on the bread punch at Jeanes Pond.

January 25, 2024 at 10:40 pm

My local Jeanes Pond was finally free of ice this week and the last named storm Jocelyn, had blown itself out over Scotland, leaving Southern England with a relatively peaceful day with a strong breeze and threatening grey skies, but well worth a visit in one of the sheltered swims.

Unable to fish for weeks due to the storms, I had been reviewing my fishing tackle and a check of the 10 to 14 grey elastic on my 11 metre medium weight pole, had highlighted chafing from the PTFE bush. It has been a case of “out of sight, out of mind” the pole being put away with an external clean after each use, but I had rarely examined the condition of the all important elastic, which is located in the top two sections. Being “Old Skool”, I do not own multiple top sections for my poles and certainly don’t have a puller section, which allows the tension on the elastic to be varied, when playing a fish. My method is to preset the tension on the bung winder, putting on, or off coils of the elastic before I fish. This allows the pole to be used for small roach, or medium sized tench and carp, depending on the number of turns of elastic on the wider. Being a new elastic, I needed to set up for the minimum pull and the small roach at Jeanes would be ideal.

This was going to be a flying visit, not arriving until after 1:00pm. By the time that I had mixed up about a cup of liquidised bread and added a few ingredients, such as gound hemp, then set out my stall, it was 1:45, not a lot of time before the light goes. Having plumbed the depth at five feet over the shelf at six metres, I put in a couple of small balls of feed a metre apart out in front, swinging the antenna float out to fall through the feed. For ten, or more minutes, there was no movement of the float and I lifted it out a couple of times to check that the 4 mm pellet of punch was still on the size 18 barbless hook. It was each time. I put in another small ball and cast over it. The antenna dipped under, then came up, before slowly sinking from view. Missed it. Each time it sank, I counted down. Five seconds. Missed. Ten seconds. Missed. At twenty seconds the line was moving down. I lifted and felt a fish. It was only a small roach, but the elastic was working, absorbing the bouncing fight. The hook fell out in the net.

The bites were mere dots and dips, until the roach slowly made off with the bread. Each bite took minutes to develope. Sometimes an induced take, a steady draw of the float speeded up the bite.

I was still missing bites, the bread usually intact and a recast over the spot brought an instant response.

These were reasonable winter punch roach, that were working the new elastic and no adjustments were needed.

I had dispensed with the landing net, swinging them in, but the roach before this one caught me out, staying deep it was about four ounces and a last minute flick released the hook, before I could get my hand to it. I have caught many thousands of fish in my time, but I still hate to lose one, even a small roach.

This roach showed signs of a cormorant attack, but it also fought well, testing the elastic.

The wind was now howling through the trees behind me and the drift was increasing, dragging the float to the right, so with a dozen roach in the net I called it a day at 3:00pm.

Despite thermals, I was still cold, although it had been good to get out of the house away from Netflix.

 

 

 

 

 

Water, water everywhere, but nowhere to fish.

January 10, 2024 at 8:47 pm

December in the UK was the wettest for years, with flooded rivers, topped off by storm Gerrit after the Christmas period, but the brand new 2024 started off with storm Henk, which piled on the agony for anyone travelling from A to B, going to work, shopping, or for anglers, fishing.

Heading for a small pond, where there was a good chance of roach and skimmer bream on the bread punch, I encountered a closed road and turned around following a detour of a few miles, only to be met by another flooded road.

There was no way that I was going to attempt this and made for higher ground toward home. The bread could go back in the freezer for another day. Curiosity got the better of me and I drove over the Thames near Windsor, being unable to see where the river started and the sports field ended.

Taking the long way home, I stopped at the Jubilee River Relief Channel, which was dug to protect Maidenhead and Windsor from flooding, but the confluence joins the Thames half way along the image above and that is flooded! It had been intended to continue the flood relief all the way to the Tidal Thames twenty miles away, but it never materialised due to planning issues and of course money! The consequences of this are that towns and villages downstream now have regular flooding.

The usually placid waters of the Jubilee River below Maidenhead were turbulant when I arrived. Walking down to the swim that I fished a few weeks ago, there had been a gentle gravel slope to the river’s edge, where there is a line of small trees and bushes. Today I would have need chest waders to fish in the same spot. In front of me was a swirling eddy, there may have been fish sheltering there, but I did not hang around to find out.

Arriving home, there was a Facebook post from one of my other clubs, Twyford. This was an aerial image taken from a drone, which shows the Thames over the banks, engulfing a prolific Thames backwater, invisible in this image, that was restocked with barbel, chub and roach in December. One comment wondered where those fish are now. Tilbury? was the answer from one of the other members.

The floods are now subsiding. but now we have had snow and heavy frosts. I think that I will be sitting by the fire for a few days yet.

 

Floods force a change of venue and tactics for winter roach

December 21, 2023 at 3:10 pm

Bad weather and family commitments have meant no fishing for over a month and finally a dry, if cold day was forecast and I headed to a local river, where big roach are guaranteed, or so I thought. Approaching the lane, which runs parallel to the river, there was a flood warning sign on the bridge. Why? Crossing the bridge I saw the reason. The river had burst its banks and was speeding down the lane, in fact the brown water looked fishable! The lane was under water to the next bridge, which looked dry beyond it. I took a chance and drove the van out into the flood, passing over the bridge, which was acting like a dam, spewing foaming water downstream through the copse bordering the lane. There had been two days of rain, but that had stopped leaving a clear frosty night. I had assumed that the river would be high, it fishes well when it is, but this? I continued past my favoured swim, where the town treatment works outfall enters the river, adding pace. At the conflence, a brown, swirling whirlpool had been created. There would be no fishing here today.

What next? Go home and get under the feet of my wife, who had taken the opportunity of an empty house for a top to bottom pre-Christmas vacuuming session and declutter. I decided that my only chance of fishing, would be a visit to Jeanes Pond close by, although it also meant a return home to collect my pole. After a quick coffee and a moan about the floods, I was on my way again, parking in an empty carpark at Jeanes Pond.

A strong wind was blowing through the trees above me, but I was in the lea and a weak, low sun was approaching it’s Winter Solstice warming the air. I was setting up in comfort, when a friend Keith, on his lunch break, stopped by to advise me that I would struggle to get bites. A very good angler with years of experience on this pond, Kieth had finished second in a recent club match on the pond with only three roach for 4 oz, while others had blanked. I was already prepared for a hard session, setting up with a fine antenna 4 x 14 float to a size 18 barbless hook. I made up a sweet mix of ground bait with liquidised bread. Having been intending to fish a fast flowing river, I only had coarse liquidised bread with me, a fine, double ground mix would have been better. Not over confident, I hadn’t even put my keep net in.

After plumbing the depth, I found that the bottom dropped off between four and five metres out, setting the float depth to fish just off bottom, where I hoped to find some better sized roach. I dropped in a couple of pigeon egg sized balls of feed along the drop off, cast in between them and waited. And waited.

The float antenna hung just in the surface film. There was no movement. I checked the 4 mm punch of bread. It was still on the hook. I dropped in another small feed ball and cast over it. The antenna trembled and dipped, then held just under the surface. I lifted and felt a fish, bringing it slowly to the surface and swinging it clear to my hand.

Ice cold, this was a decent sized winter roach for this pond. I put in another small ball and watched it break up as it sank. The pond was very clear with a brown tinge. I cast close to the feed and the float sank immediately. I missed it! Another 4 mm punch was on the hook and the float was back in. The float sank slowly, I left it longer, until it had gone from view. I missed this one too! The bread was gone and I tried going up to a 5 mm punch. Trembles were followed a slow sink out of sight. I was in; a roach was flashing deep down as it came to the surface. This one had swallowed the punch, the hook just inside the mouth.

The bright sky of earlier had clouded over and now it was raining. I pulled my hood over my cap. So much for the forecast! I kept going with the 5 mm punch. Bites were slow to develop, but if I missed the fish, a quick drop back into the spot was rewarded by an instant bite, until I eventually hooked it.

Another decent roach. I had been feeding two areas a metre apart along the dropoff. After each roach, I switched sides. It seemed to work. I was waiting for a bite to develop, when a fellow club member came by walking his dog. The float went under. I missed it again, until the third try, when I hooked a much better roach. I reached for the landing net. Fatal! I must have eased the pressure on the fish and the tiny size 18 barbless came free. Curses!

Whenever I lose a fish, I feed the swim in the hope of holding the fish in the swim, this time it did not work. I went back down to the 4 mm punch and after ten minutes, weak ripples were radiating from the antenna, followed by a hold down and a smaller roach, which fell off as I swung it to hand, only to bounce back in. Double curses.

The rain had soon stopped, but the wind had got up, howling through the trees and blowing the few remaining leaves onto the water. There was now an anticlockwise drift on the pond, hindering my float placement.

Although not yet 2 pm, the light was going fast and I was having trouble seeing what the antenna was doing under the surface. A lady was feeding the ducks, causing ripples and the antenna silhouette to blink off and on. I was still catching the occasional roach, but I was missing more than I caught. I had tried antenna grease, which improved bite detection, but with eight roach in the net, I decided to put this session down to experience and pack up.

The bait tray told the story of missed bites, but eight roach for a possible pound in weight, was not a bad result for two hours in the cold at the back end of December. Merry Christmas everybody!

 

Bread punch roach never fail to please on the River Cut

November 18, 2023 at 10:08 pm

I had started the day with a long overdue visit to the river Blackwater, which looked in perfect condition following a couple of rainy days. It was flowing fast, but had good colour and I was optimistic of a busy session catching autumn roach on the bread punch.

Having made up a heavy mix of ground bait, I fed a couple of firm balls down the middle on the edge of the flow and another pair in close into the slacker water. I then assembled my 14 foot Browning float rod to give the feed time to work its magic downstream. A 6 No 4 stickfloat was looped on, complete with a size 14 crystal barbless hook. All that was needed was a 7 mm punch of bread and the rig was cast my side of the fast water and checked at intervals on the way down. My finger checked the line on the ABU 501 and the float disappeared. Yes! A good roach broached on the surface when I struck and I began a steady retrieve. A bow wave appeared to the side of the roach and the green, grey flank of a pike arced over and seized the roach, turning downstream as I backwound my reel. Feeling the resistance, the pike accelerated downstream and my 3 lb hooklink parted.

I had expected a pike at some time, but not this soon. A lure fisherman was working the swim as I arrived with no takes, but I have found that a six ounce roach fighting to escape from my hook, works every time! I don’t enjoy feeding pike with pristine roach and decided to pack up and head for home and my local River Cut, which has no pike, yet…….

The Cut was also up and running, with a hint of colour and I was soon tackled up from my ready to fish rod bag, using the same float rig as earlier, while I had emptied the remaining ground bait into a bag, also saving time, but ready to put in a couple of balls along the opposite bank. The move had taken 90 minutes, but I reckoned that I had two hours to make amends. The float had only travelled a yard before it sank away and I felt the resistance of a decent roach, seeing it flashing over on the strike. It was exactly 2 pm.

Another punch of bread and the float was back out there. Bang! The rod was bending over again with another roach. They seemed to be fighting harder than usual, probably due to the higher oxygen levels in the fast water.

These were decent sized roach, not the 6 to 8 oz beauties of the Blackwater, but full of fight and in tip top condition.

Every few roach I put over another ball upstream of my float. There was only two feet of water over there and the roach were taking on the drop, giving sideways bites.

Holding back hard produced downstream bites. I thought that they were chub, but it was their smaller cousins dace, that were hitting the bait hard, requiring a quick lift of the trigger finger to avoid pulling out of these tumbling battlers.

The roach kept coming, this one hooked in the cheek, a sign of a feeding frenzy, not the expected fussy bite of its species.

What a clonker, this roach was spewing fresh groundbait from its mouth, with barely enough room for the bread.

Dace were becoming more numerous, as were some big gudgeon appearing on the scene.

I decided to begin casting downstream of the feed, where the water was slower and deeper and was back among the roach.

Another clonker from the slower water, where I was expecting a carp, but those big gudgeon were everywhere.

I was rapidly running out of holes to punch and searched out the bread squares for spaces. One of the last to be punched produced this big dace from the bottom end of the swim.

There were no dace in the Cut until they were stocked by the Environment Agency several years ago, following pollution that killed thousands of fish. After this session it is clear that have been successful.

The light was going fast and I had to use the camera flash for the last photos. I had been fishing for under two hours and put over 6 lbs on the scales. A non-stop catching spree.

Rudd reward persistance in the calm after the storm.

November 7, 2023 at 5:05 pm

Fishing has been low on my priority list lately, not helped by yet another named storm Cairan, that has caused chaos and flooding across the UK. My local pond at Allsmoor did not escape the carnage, with trees down and a three foot rise over the paths, when the brook that feeds it burst its banks. Being a balance pond, one of several along the length of the brook, it did its job of protecting the housing developments from flash floods. Following two relatively dry days, I decided that now that the pond was at normal level, I would give it a try, despite an overnight frost.

My previous visit to the pond two months ago in September, had netted me a double figure bag of crucian, mirror and common carp, plus several large rudd, all taken on the bread punch.

I set up in the same swim as September, but did not expect too much, as there was no surface activity, also another angler was on the verge of packing up, having failed to get a bite on bread flake, or red worm.

Confident that the finer bread punch approach on the pole would soon get me bites, I mixed up half a tray of spicy groundbait with ground carp pellets and ground hemp, putting four egg sized balls into a one metre square, eight metres out. I then set up my pole with a 4 x 14 antenna float to a size 16 barbless hook. I usually begin here with a size 14 barbless, but due to the cold conditions, opted for the 16, as I felt that bites would be at a premium. If there was a sign of carp in the swim later, it would not take long to scale up. Adjusting the float for depth, I set the bait to to sit resting on the silty bottom.

All I needed now was a bite, but it required another small ball of feed close to the float to encourage movement, this being a slight dip, followed by a very slow sink, which I missed. I went down to a 5 mm punch and dropped the float back over the spot. Another hesitant dip and the float returned to the surface. Was the bread gone? I raised the pole to take up the slack line to the float and the float disappeared. An old trick that goes on producing, saw a rudd breaking the surface in a shower of silver spray. No wonder the bites were so fussy, this rudd felt like a block of ice.

Not a big rudd, but a good start. The feed had woken up a few reluctant fish, but the next bite was the merest of trembles. Again I took advantage of the still conditions and induced the take. The float sank away and the elastic came out as a better rudd arced away to the middle, bouncing the pole tip as I drew the pole back to the top two sections, for the net.

My fourth bite saw the elastic out again, as another decent rudd fought for freedom.

I continued regular feeding into the area in the hope of crucians, or common carp, but the tell tale bubbles of feeding fish never materialised, although the rudd obliged in numbers.

A shoal of gudgeon swam in over the feed, giving positive bites, almost hooking themselves, then they were gone again and I was back to the rudd.

With my back to the tree lined railway embankment, the sun was soon hidden from view and I was appreciating my thermals, coupled with a thick wooly shirt. Clouds had taken over from the clear sky and the temperature had dropped noticeably, my hands were freezing, having handled so many fish in the last three hours, so at 2 pm, this was my last rudd.

These punch holes represent a lot of fish, mostly small stuff, which kept me busy on a cold afternoon.

There were no heart stoppers in this 5 lb net of fat pristine rudd, but they helped keep out the cold.

As I loaded my trolley for the walk back, it began to rain and made it to the railway arch over the lane just as the deluge camedown. A lady dog walker was sheltering. “Did you catch anything?” “Loads!”