Blackwater chub saves the day

October 16, 2020 at 9:12 pm

I was optimistic for my first visit in a few months to Farnborough and District’s River Blackwater. Recent heavy rain had caused flooding, but I now expected the river to be fining down with a decent bit of colour; just right for some autumn roach fishing. As I walked over the bridge, I was disappointed to see the bottom right across. It was crystal clear and lower than I have ever seen it, but undeterred I pressed on upstream to one of the few swims where fishing the stick float is possible from the bank. Stopping at the swim, I realised that I had left my landing net pole back at the van. Being on the Blackwater Valley public path, there was no way that I was going to leave my trolley unattended, so it was back to the van again, then back upstream to the swim.

Three quarters of a mile walked and half an hour of wasted fishing time. I placed my box in the only gap in the trees. It had greatly reduced in a year and my first retrieve saw the rod top line get caught in the overhang. I would have to be more careful next time. First fish, a gudgeon, was safely steered through the gap, but later as I leaned out to net a roach, the rod top got caught again, leaving the roach jiggling about on the line until it fell off, springing the line up into the branch, causing a tangle. I managed to snag the line and float with my landing net and pulled it free, but the float broke in half. Another broken float.

I decided to load up the trolley again and to walk back downstream to a swim past the bridge that has no trees. When I got there, it was occupied by another angler. What next? Go home? Getting back to the bridge, I decided to fish above it. I had caught roach here before until a pike had turned up. It was worth a try.

I am not one to chop and change swims, but was not too happy with this one either, as from the high bank, I could see right across the bottom. Attaching another float from a winder, I trotted through, finding the depth was under two feet, but with no wind, float control was easy from the top of the high bank. I fed  liquidised bread, mixed with ground hemp, damped to allow small balls to be squeezed up. The idea was to let the feed carry down the swim toward the bridge, where I assumed the roach would be holed up. About the fourth trot, the float dipped then sank and a big gudgeon was swung in.

This was taken about half way to the bridge, and following down another ball of feed, the float went again in the same spot as the rod bent into another gudgeon. Encouraged, I repeated the process, again another bite in the same spot, but missed it. There must be a hollow there, holding the feed and fish. Another missed bite and I scaled down from a 6 mm punch of bread to a 5 mm. That’s better! The lightweight Hardy bent round, the flash of a roach clearly visible as I struck, taking my time to bring the fish back upstream against the strong flow. I guessed that the weir half a mile upstream was fully open to run off the overnight rain. From the high bank, I had to lean over with the landing net to get the net near the roach, the angle to the water too steep for comfort, but I guided it over the rim and scooped it up.

A fussy bite and another gudgeon followed, but the next cast the float passed the hot spot, drifting round to a side eddy where the float sank. I struck, the rod bent, then dead weight as I reeled back a stick. Another trot that passed through into the eddy brought back another twig. I now cast out to the middle, allowing the float to swing round to fish six feet further out, the float taking its time to reach the bridge, where I could just see it. Suddenly it was gone and I struck as the line stretched tight. Wham, the rod bent double as a long silver fish rolled on the surface and ran downstream, while I backwound the ABU 501. This was a reasonable chub, which was now searching for snags along the side of the bridge. It rolled again in a foot of water alongside the wall, thankfully heading out to the middle away from the snag filled eddy, while I held, then reeled to keep contact. Ten yards downstream, the chub’s white mouth was clear of the water and I steered it toward the net, again having trouble getting it stay in, lifting the pole with my foot to finally secure it.

A sigh of relief and time for a cup of tea and a sandwich. I fed a couple more balls out and down, followed by the float. Another bite in the same place, I paused and struck. Nothing. The bread was gone. A chub would have run with it. The float again travelled all the way to the bridge without a touch, then a dip and a dive. Another monster gudgeon was bending the rod again. They fight hard for their size. I tried back over the hollow. A couple of dips, but no proper bites. I think the fish could see the float in the shallow water and were wary of the bait.

Back over to the middle and the float worked its way down and under the bridge. It disappeared with line following and I swept the rod back. A definite fish, not a gudgeon, but a roach by the feel of it, as it tapped the rod top on the return. For safety, I leaned out with the landing net and brought it in.

This was my last fish landed, a smaller chub did manage to reach the snags in the eddy, depositing the hook in a branch. I let the line go slack for the chub to swim out, which it did leaving my hook behind.

All in all it had been a frustrating session, I couldn’t be bothered to untangle the hook link with cold hands and the light was going, so I packed up, the saving grace being the chub in my net, my personal best for this part of the Blackwater.