Blackwater bread punch roach defy the floods

December 19, 2019 at 4:01 pm

Rain, rain and more rain seems to be the norm so far this December, but a dry forecast today saw me head to the banks of the river Blackwater, as a heavy frost gave way to sunshine. Heavy rain was due by 4 pm, so I wanted to make the most of my session, although by the time that I had scraped the ice from the van and driven to the river it was 11 am. Due to the storms of late, I was not sure what the state of the Blackwater would be, walking to the bridge for a look, confirming my fears. It was the colour of strong builder’s tea and boiling through.

The tackle was still in the van and I stood for a while considering my options, go elsewhere, or stay. Always up for a challenge, I unloaded my gear, crossed the bridge and walked downstream. The last time that I had fished, there had been a dead tree in the water creating a slack. Unfortunately it was now on the bank, the Surrey Council having removed and cut it up. I headed back upstream to another slack on the inside of a tight bend. Too late. Another angler was now tackling up in it.

I now searched for a steady run on my side, out of the main flow; finding a corner where an outcrop from the bank created a narrow eddy.

Setting up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stick float, I plumbed the depth, 3 feet down the inside and 4 feet a rod length out. Knowing the Blackwater, this was at least a foot over normal level. It was now noon, so much for my early start. The choice of the 4 No 4 float was too light, but decided to give it a try. Introducing a couple of tight balls of liquidised bread in close, upstream behind me, following down with the float set at 3 feet. The float dragged under and I lifted to feel a fish, seeing a small roach dive for the faster water and come off.

Not a good start, but at least the fish were in a feeding mood. Putting another 6 mm pellet of bread on the size 16 barbless hook, I cast in again, this time dip, dip, dive and another small roach putting a bend in the rod, as it used the force of the current. Taking my time, I slowly wound line back, lifting the roach clear to my hand.

Next trot a slightly bigger roach was diving away toward the middle, opting to net this one.

It was time to get serious, wetting down half a pint of feed and putting on my bait apron to dry my hands. In this time the river took on more pace, rustling the ivy at my feet as it swept by, taking on more colour. Half a mile upstream, the outfall from a water treatment works empties into the river, its force usually varying thoughout the day. My slack had changed into a boiling eddy and I began to miss bites as the float was washed around in circles. I knew now that a 6 No 4 float would have been easier to control, but stuck to my lighter float, adding another 9 inches to the depth and bulking the shot closer to the hook link. A stiffer ball of feed dropped quickly to the bottom, breaking up as it disappeared from view downstream. Keeping the rod up and the line off the water, I eased the float along the crease of the eddy. Dip, dive, I was in again to another hard fighting roach.

I was now dragging up twigs, but the fish were down there, including a stonking gudgeon.

Feeding a small ball of feed every ten minutes and bumping the bait along the bottom was getting positive bites, the roach below taking the bread in a rush, hooking itself, then kiting across the river, but staying on, the hook dropping out in the net.

The pace of the river dropped back again and I shallowed up, spreading the shot and trotting through the slack, hooking in succession a trio of small chub, that skipped off the hook before I could swing them in. I went deep again and stuck to the formula, keeping the float tip under tight control. The roach kept coming in fits and starts, depending on the force of the river as it moved the eddy around.

The sun had long gone by 2 pm and an icy downstream wind was now adding to my problems, trying to lift the float from the water. I was ready to pack up, but would then hook another roach.

With only a few days left before the shortest of the year, by 3 pm the light was fading, I was shaking with the cold and my warming tea was gone, so on catching this last roach, I packed up.

It had been hard work having to chase the fish. Usually with the bread, a layer of feed will coat the bottom downstream and provide a sweet spot, where drifting the float in will get a fish a chuck, but the varying flow moved the fish about.

I missed plenty of bites and lost several fish in the current, but it had been worth the effort.

Not a good net of fish by Blackwater standards, but on the day, respectable. On the drive home, the expected rain came down with a vengeance, the dry weather window had closed again.