Bread punch chub and roach reward persistence on the Blackwater

November 19, 2020 at 5:14 pm

The river Blackwater in Surrey is notorious for flash floods, acting as a rainwater drain for the towns and housing estates along its valley, it goes up and down like a yoyo and I was fortunate to catch it on the way down, after days of heavy rain this week. The skies were threatening, when I arrived before lunch and was welcomed to a new swim by a light shower, but this had blown over by the time that I had settled my tackle box onto the sloping bank.

I had managed to find a gap in the trees with just enough room to clear my 12 foot Hardy float rod, when my box was perched close to the bank. It was still a bit of a parrot cage, but the swim offered the option of trotting a stick float down the inside, through the middle and across to the bushes on the far side.

On the outside of a bend, the flow was pacy along my bank and I fed upstream a couple of heavy balls of liquidised bread, mixed with ground carp pellets, ground hemp and hempseed, squeezed up hard, watching the feed break up into lumps when it reached the bottom in front of me. Setting the 4 No 4 Drennan stick to trip bottom, with a 7 mm punch of bread on the size 16 hook, I was surprised to see the float dive away downstream only yards away first cast. I missed the bite, but next trot connected further down the swim with a chub that flashed on contact, bending the little Hardy rod over as it absorbed the initial run downstream. The chub dived into the snags along my bank, but pressure pulled it clear and my first fish was soon on its side ready for the landing net.

I followed another ball of feed with the float, the line coming off the ABU 501 spool acting as a brake, lifting the bait from the bottom, the float going down again with a smaller chub battling away under my rod top.

It was good to see these fish, the tiny chublets of a few years ago now giving a good account of themselves. I missed a couple of quick dips of the float and and added more depth, letting the float run, holding back, then letting go again, as it progressed down the swim. I held back and the float pulled down, the instinctive strike boiling a small tumbling dace on the surface, which came off. A few more trots and it happened again, this time with a better dace that stayed on for longer in the fast flowing stream. Shallowing up again, the bites were sharp dips, which took the bait off. The dace were there in the shallow water down the inside, but I couldn’t hit them. I used the next size down, a 6 mm punch, increasing the depth again by a foot, then bulked the shot, thinking that the dace were attacking the shot, mistaking it for the hemp. Easing the float down, the rod top wrapped round, this time a better chub came to the surface and I lifted my finger from the spool and let it run before closing the bale arm to steadily bring it back to the net.

This chub had fought like a dace, tumbling over on the strike in the fast water. Maybe they were chub after all. The Blackwater used to have some really big dace, but they seem to have disappeared in recent years, so maybe it was wishful thinking? Leaves were now being blown like confetti onto the surface, making holding back difficult, the float collecting leaves as they drifted by. I fed a couple of firm balls up and over to the slower water three quarters across, but again the strong downstream wind was causing problems, putting a bow in the line, making holding back difficult, needing to constantly mend the line to straighten it to the float. A good bite and the fight of a roach was unmistakable, as it zig zagged along the far shelf, before being brought across to the net.

It was hard work trying to control the float in the wind, a 6 No 4 float would have been better, but the river was shallow and clear over there and I prefer the sensitivity of a light float. A few more trots and the float gave a couple of dips, then a downstream sink as another roach made off with the bread.

Presentation was still a problem, my long 14 foot Browning would have controlled the float better, but there was not the head room for it, even the twelve footer clipping the branches above me occasionally. Despite the wind and leaves, the roach wanted the bread giving positive bites and I hit most of them.

The roach were a decent size and playing the next fish, there was a swirl behind as a pike grabbed the roach, snatching it from the hook with a sideways swipe. I watched the pike swim upstream opposite me and devour the roach in a shower of scales, then swim, waving its tail in the current to the cover of an overhanging bush upstream.

The bites stopped on the roach line, but the float carried further down alongside the bushes and disappeared, the strike bending the rod right round as a chub tried to make it to the safety of the far bank snags, keeping the pressure on to turn it away. This chub fought me all the way back to the net.

I fed a couple more balls toward the middle, ringing the changes with the float, tripping through, to well over depth. The roach came back, taking them at all levels, but a tight line to over depth seemed to work best, often hooking them just five yards from my rod top.

The coarse feed had settled among the gravel and the bites, when they came were unmissable.

The wind had picked up again and I had dropped a few balls of feed down the inside line, shallowing up to try the 7 mm punch stopped and started down the swim with a longer tail, taking this chub at the far end of the trot near the fallen birch tree, the float lifting high on the surface, then sinking out of sight. This was a battle as it tried to snag me all the way back to the landing net, running upstream then drifting back to be scooped to safety.

My bait tray told a story of missed bites and a few dropped fish on a day when effort exceded results.

By 3 pm the light was fading fast, the rain had held off, but that wind, although from the south, was getting colder. Five chub and seven roach on light tackle was a just reward in difficult conditions.