Big roach shine on the River Blackwater for the bread punch

February 22, 2023 at 8:03 pm

With only three weeks of the UK river fishing season left to run, my wish list of waters to visit is becoming crowded, following weeks of freezing weather and floods. On the list for today was the Farnborough and District’s stretch of the River Blackwater, but heavy drizzle and a cold wind gave me second thoughts about going. I’m getting soft in my old age and the thought of shivering in the wet hoping for a big roach did not appeal, however, one look at the weather forecast for the rest of the week, showing rain and even lower temperatures to follow, made my mind up for me. Bread was taken from the freezer, tea and sandwiches made and I was on my way.

Arriving at the Blackwater, I’d never seen it so low and clear and made my way to a swim that I know has some depth, hoping that it was unoccupied. Of course it was. Who else would volunteer to fish on a day like this? At the tail of a bend, this swim usually has the benefit of the flow being directed along the opposite bank, but today a tree had fallen across the bend, speeding up the flow and sending whirlpools coursing through the middle of the river.

To my relief, the rain stopped as I began setting up my 14 foot Browning Sygma float rod with a 3BB ali stemmed stick float, to a size 14 barbless hook. I set the depth at 30 inches, intending to fish overdepth with a long tail lifted on and off the bottom. Trotting through with a 6 mm pellet of punched bread to test the depth, the float disappeared at the over hanging tree and a dace was fighting on the surface.

I decided to see how far I could go without putting in any feed and trotted though again, the float going under at the same point and a larger dace was rolling on the surface. Another trot and this time a roach.

One a chuck so far, smaller roach, and dace. It was time to put in some feed. Putting in a ball of plain liquidised bread, I watched it break up, being disbursted by the swirling water. I put in another ball with the same result and thought that heavier groundbait would be needed today. Trotting through, the float travelled beyond the tree and dived, the rod bending into a better fish, as a small chub took the bread. I could see the chub flash over when I struck, the bread was not sinking.

Putting in another ball of liquidised bread, I shallowed up by six inches to fish through the cloud and began getting fish only yards down the trot, this quality roach requiring a rapid lift of my finger from the ABU501 spool to avoid a break.

Small dace, roach and chub were taking turns to attack the punch, but the fish were retreating further down beyond the tree. It was time for that heavier groundbait mix. Liquidised bread, ground hemp, ground carp pellets with a spicy annaseed mix, were formed up into tight balls and a couple dropped in upstream. These brought bites and fish closer to me again. I raised the float to the original depth and hit into the best roach yet, that fought all the way to the landing net in the strong flow.

There is a sand bank just before the tree and I think that the heavier feed was accumulating behind it, bringing in better fish. This was now a hotspot and after a few more fish, I was into another clonker roach.

These roach were the reason for turning up today and it wasn’t long before another was putting a good bend in the rod.

Small roach had moved in over the feed, but every half dozen fish there was a rod bender.

The river level was dropping fast and the bait was dragging bottom, even submerged rat burrows under the bank were now clearly visible. I reckoned that there was only 18 inches of water passing over the sandbank, the increased flow causing an eddy behind it. I stepped up the feed and shallowed the float up again, easing it over the sandbank, then letting it run, the float disappearing each time. All the fish were broaching, when I set the hook, none less then the best roach yet, which kited in the direction of a now visible sunken branch from the overhanging tree. I had to swing the rod from my right, round to the left to draw the deep flanked roach away, while avoiding a dangling stick float wrapped in a tangle of line. The hook hold held and the redfin hugged the bottom, while it was causiously reeled it back toward the waiting landing net.

After this roach, it was time for a cup of tea and to open my untouched sandwiches. Arriving at noon, it was already 2:30 and I was seriously in need of sustenance. I fed another ball of feed upstream, while scoffing down one of my wife’s lovingly prepared sandwiches, swilled down with tea, before getting straight back to the fishing. The float had travelled two yards, then sunk out of sight. Bang! I was in again, this fish taking line off my fingertip at a rate of knots. I lost sight of the float, until a splash warned me that the unseen fish was attempting to snag the far bank trailing ivy. Pulling the fish free, I could see that it was a decent chub and kept up the pressure to bring it over to the middle, it’s gaping white mouth a sign to keep it coming toward the net. A solid chub.

Although the cold upstream wind was proving uncomfortable, the thought of more good fish to come kept me going. After wading through a raft of smaller roach, I was rewarded with another rod bender, this one coming into the shallows on my side and burying it’s head among a tangle of sunken twigs and heavy black line, the lot scooped into my landing net.

Unhooking the roach was the easy bit, unwravelling my float line and the tangled oak twigs was not. I gave up trying, instead cutting the black line away with scissors proved quicker, dumping the mess into my bait bag for later.

I had not fed the swim for ten minutes and it showed, the shoal had drifted further down following the remnants of feed. Small roach were obliging, but their bites were not positive, dipping the float as the bait carried downstream, either stripping the punched bread, or eventually burying the float.

The bait tray was now almost empty and I scraped together enough for a few more balls and introduced them every three or four fish. I was catching from the sandbank again, but only small roach, when I contacted another decent fish, that slapped the surface in the shallow water, throwing up spray, before diving away. I let this fish play itself out on the rodtip before reeling back, as it was rolling like a big dace, not thumping like a roach. Surprise, surprise it was a roach and a good one too.

With this one in the net, I called it a day, one of my best for big roach on the Blackwater.

The last time that I fished this swim, I was plagued by a pike, that took several of my decent roach and dace, while actually having it to my net, until it let go of the roach in it’s mouth. I expected a pike attack today at anytime, while retreiving fish, but today I’d been allowed a full four hour session and this was the result. Over 10lb of hard fighting silvers.