Autumn bread punch roach feed on the River Thames at Windsor

September 30, 2020 at 10:55 am

The Indian Summer has given way to cool days and I was hoping for a pleasure boat free day, while fishing for roach at Old Windsor AC’s Home Park stretch of the Thames this week. It was not to be, in the shadow of Windsor Castle, as I walked across the cricket pitches from the carpark, I could already hear the drone of river traffic.

Having fished one of the deeper upstream swims a couple of months ago, I was keen to try further down off the shallows, taking my wellie boots to avoid getting my feet wet, but luckily found a swim raised up from the water ideal for my tackle box, while there were a couple of feet depth off the gravel bed to lay out my keepnet.

Due to river craft trying to cut the corner on the inside of the bend, the river was dredged years ago, giving eight feet only two rod lengths out and I elected to use my 2 gram Bolo float again on the 14 foot Browning float rod. Feed was going to be liquidised bread, ground hemp, ground carp pellets and hemp seed, damped down to give firm balls of feed. I also intended to start off by using a bait dropper to get the feed down quickly to avoid the bleak, which were topping all over the surface. On the size 16 hook was a 5 mm punch of bread.

To begin, a few bait droppers full of the heavy mix helped set the depth of the float, fishing just off the level gravel bottom. The shot was bulked 18 inches from the hook with no tell tale shot, preferring to allow the bread to sink freely to the bottom and lift up when the float was held back. First trot the float dipped and sank as a small roach took the bread, swinging it in to hand.

Next trot the float dipped, then popped up again, as it ran down the swim, each time it dipped I reacted to strike, only for it to come up again. I held the float back and it sank out of sight and I was playing another small roach.

This was working. They were only small roach and I had hoped for better fish, but the net was filling and after ten roach put in another couple of bait droppers. I caught another roach, then the river sped up. They had opened the lock gates and boats were coming.

This barge barley rippled the surface of the river, but he next one caused a bow wave that dragged my keepnet from the shelter of the bank.

The bites stopped while the flotilla passed and I wondered what the capacity of Romney Lock was as the waves pounded the bank. Was it five, or six of these massive sea going cruisers? I lost count. I put in another couple of bait droppers and went up to a 6 mm punch and caught a better roach.

They were certainly down there on the feed, the float going in with an underhand flick, settling and usually diving straight away. I would always miss this bite, but if left, it would bob back up, hold and dip and any strike in the next yard usually resulted in the tap, tap of a roach being brought to the surface and over the weed bed in front of me, then swung to hand.

I netted a clonker roach. At last the better fish had moved in over the feed. Next cast another good roach was fighting back for a change and I took my time landing it, amazed to see a perch of the same size rush out of the weeds on the attack.

Another flotilla was out of the traps and racing down toward London, the skippers purposely leaning over their steering wheels. With such a good view of Windsor Castle, you would have thought that they would have eased off the throttles to take in the view?

I began to get lift bites. Bleak? No, it was roach, the boats must have stirred up the bottom and the fish had come up. I lowered the float a foot and switched to feeding small balls by hand. More lift bites and more roach, but also bleak.The bleak would swirl on the surface, perch would rush in causing an explosion of tiny silver fish. A perch grabbed a bleak on the way in and I enjoyed a brief tussle with a six ounce perch, that eventually let go. I had a few red worms with me and shallowed up again, dropping the float among the swirl, the float speeding off downstream, the rod bending into another perch, that dived down into the weeds, shedding the hook and snagging me. Pulling for a break, I got the rig back. That would teach me.

Back to the roach. Resetting the depth, I found that the hot spot was two feet off the bottom, where I guessed that the balls were breaking up, the surface eruptions coming from the bleak that were feeding on the outer coating of the balls as they dropped through.

The earlier sun had gone and now it started to rain. My tatty hoodie was back on and I began coating it with roach slime as I swung in fish after fish. Due to the walk involved in getting to the swim, I was down to a minimum of tackle again, my float rod doing a good job, but a pole would have done a better one.

A rod bending chub made straight for the weeds, but was persuaded back out again into the waiting landing net.

I was now down to my last piece of punch bread and at this rate I would soon run out, estimating that I had at least a hundred fish in the net, mostly small, but perfectly formed.

I was soon scratching round discarded crusty bread to punch holes in, as the roach seemed to be getting bigger.

Finally there were no more holes to punch and my last roach was netted, again another weight builder.

It was time to pack up anyway, having proved my point that the bread punch continues to be a timeless bait. I had fished this same swim as a 15 year old, using bread crust on a size 12 hook under a porcupine quill float, feeding balls of bread mash and hemp seed mixed with Kellogg’s corn flakes, my secret mix of the day, to catch a string of sizable eight inch roach.

Pulling in my net, this catch looked impressive, expecting to at least top 10 lbs, but the scales settled at 9 lb 4 oz, not a club match winner by today’s standards, but an enjoyable session anyway.