Blackwater stick float cold cure

October 24, 2015 at 3:51 pm

The onset of a heavy head cold gave me two cure options this week, take loads of medication and sit at home in front of the TV watching repeats on Dave, or get out and go fishing to blow the cobwebs from my brain. Choosing option two, I set about getting organised for the following morning. The remnants of left over bait, already used twice, were taken from my bait fridge and examined. Red and white maggots had been given fresh maize meal a few days before and at least half had turned to casters. Running these through the maggot riddle produced a quarter of a pint of sinkers and put the reds back in the fridge as hookers, while leaving the whites out to turn, picking off more fresh fat casters, before retreating to bed with a hot toddy.

The next day I awoke feeling terrible and could not believe that I was making myself go fishing, wandering around bumping into things, while my wife made me a packed lunch, happy to have my germs out of the house. The last of the casters were picked off and refrozen hemp seed taken from the freezer, before loading up the van, which took extra effort, due to feeling weak, destination a free stretch of the river Blackwater ten miles away.

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With so much good fishing on my doorstep, due to the extra distance, I tend to ignore the Blackwater, with it’s twists and turns, creating fast runs, that give way to deeper pools, offering a challenge to the stick float fisherman. I was tempted to drop my tackle box nearer to the road, but slogged on upstream, dragging my fishing trolley along the narrow path, until I reached a swim new to me, where fast water rushed round the outside of  a bend into a short straight, before sweeping out of sight again.

Positioning my box at the tail of the run, where there was just enough room overhead to fish a float rod, I was ready for a cup of tea, taking my time to lay out my nets and bait to hand, feeding a couple of handfuls of hemp into the channel in front of me, then spraying red maggots over the the top, to get the fish interested. Setting up my 12 ft Hardy match rod rod with a 4 No 4 bodied stick float to 5 lb main line and a size 16 to 3 lb hook link, I was ready for anything, this water noted for some big chub and roach.

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Plumbing the channel, two feet of fast water dropped to three feet ten yards down, then came up to 30 inches, an ideal holding area. Another spray of maggots and I cast in with the float set to only two feet, to run through, but it tilted over and sank seconds after hitting the surface. A silver flash and I was playing a small chub, which ran straight over toward a dead tree along the far bank.

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The initial run halted, this was soon in the net, followed by a few more of similar size, until the bites stopped. I was now feeding  several casters with hemp every other cast, while trotting red maggots on the hook, setting the depth to trip the bottom, running and holding back the float as it searched the channel, small perch and big gudgeon stopping the float every time.

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It was still not midday, but these pics show how dull and overcast it was, the flash of my camera on automatic, the wind was also picking up, every gust raining down ripe acorns from the oak above my head. The good news was, that apart from a sore throat, my cold symptoms had been blown away with the breeze.

Suddenly the maggots were being smashed on the merest flicker of the float, dace were now in the swim, chasing the bait as it fell through. Pulling the shot down into a bulk group, with a No 6 on the hook link was the answer, slowing the float to half pace resulting in a firm dig, that bounced the rod top. The next trot giving a firm take and a dace spiraling up from the bottom.

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With a caster now on the hook, I dropped the float in at my feet and held back hard, the float burying deep with a good fish, that ran for the far side, thinking that it was a chub, but that thudding fight and a deep flash of silver said big roach and I took my time bringing it over the net.

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About 12 ounces, this was my best roach for a while and just what I’d hoped for, the hook falling out in the net. Another caster on the hook and the float sank at the same spot and a slightly smaller roach followed.

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Now only feeding caster it was pot luck what took, the bites unmissable, if it wasn’t a roach, or dace under the rod top, a perch, or gudgeon would oblige, both these fighting deep, punching well above their weight; further down chub were mopping up the stragglers, almost hooking themselves, as they turned away.

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I was now in full flow, cold? What cold? I adjusted the keepnet , pushing it lower to allow more room for the fish and kept feeding, just a few casters at a time to keep them interested, I didn’t want to feed them off. Another nice roach, this time on a maggot.

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Next cast I saw another roach flash, then pull off the hook, the first I’d lost. More feed and I dropped in again, the float sank and another good roach was on. A green flash and a pike had grabbed the roach.  The rod bent over with the weight, then the roach was free, skating across the surface in panic, pursued by the pike. I dragged the fish away from it’s open jaws and swung the half pound roach in, the landing net not an option.

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This once pristine roach, was savaged, but still alive and I walked upstream twenty yards to release it, watching the casualty swim away into the depths, as though nothing had happened. I have caught recovered, pike damaged fish before and hope that this one will survive.

I was now determined to catch the culprit, setting up a heavy feeder rod, the reel filled with 15 lb line and my largest hook, a size 12 forged barbless tied direct. Two AA shot were pinched on a foot from the hook and I was in business, next catch a live bait. Shallowing up on the float rod, I cast over to the shelf along the far side and a small chub obliged immediately. Transferring the chub to the big size 12, I swung the lip hooked bait fish over to where the pike had struck, watching the line sink, then move steadily upstream. I lifted the rod gently, seeing the pike had already taken the chub. I waited a minute for the pike to turn the bait, then struck hard. He was on, all hell breaking loose in the confines of the tiny river, straining hard every time it dived for the roots, eventually wearing the fish down, succeeding on the third attempt to get the 30 inch pike into my 18 inch landing net.

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The hook was set firmly in the bottom jaw, but the size 12 barbless came free with a push from a disgorger and after weighing in at over 7 lb, the pike was released 50 yards down stream, lying dogo in the stream. Returning to my swim, I was not hopeful, that the catching spree would continue, considering the amount of disturbance landing the pike. The next twenty minutes yielded only one chub, taken well downstream, even the perch and gudgeon were gone. I fished on until 2 pm, then packed up, loading my trolley for the long trudge back.

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Without the intrusion of the pike, the roach would have kept coming I’m sure, although I have yet to have a session on this river, when one did not appear, the last time perch were being attacked. On my walk back to the road, I met an East European fisherman, spinning for pike with a 6 inch spoon. His English was not good, but when I showed him the picture on my camera of the pike, he smiled and nodded, making a knife and fork motion with his hands. I shook my head and signed putting the pike back. “No, no eat” he replied. Maybe there won’t be so many pike to bother me next time?