Bread punch chub oblige after pollution

July 3, 2018 at 4:23 pm

Constant pollution events, caused by a local company dumping oil based waste down the drains at their industrial site, all but wiped out the coarse fish stock of my local river last year. Thames Water and the local Environment Agency did their best to recover the river, with booms to catch the polluted water and work to speed up the flow, but the damage had been done, the once prolific little river, where most  English species would be likely to turn up during a session, was not worth a visit. Three blank days for me a testament to this.

An early Christmas present for the river, was the introduction of a mix of over 3,000 roach, chub and dace by the Environment Agency from their Calverton Fish Farm in an effort to supplement fish lost. The river did not contain any dace before, but the Agency considered the river suitable.

With the country in the grip of a heatwave, I did not fancy sitting by a lake getting roasted today and decided that a couple of hours in the shade by the local river, would be a better option, while giving me the opportunity to test out its recovery.

Walking from the carpark, the first thing I saw was another pollution boom at the outfall weir. Not more pollution? The river runs under the industrial estate, from where the last culprit was tracked down from. The company was given a warning. Surely they are not up their old tricks again?

At 10 am, the sun was already beating down as I walked along the river looking for some flow and shade. No rain has fallen in weeks and the level was well down, with areas of exposed gravel and dried mud in the margins. My original choice of swim is deeper than average, but it now looked like a pond with no movement and I retraced my steps to a shallow run around the outside of a bend, where the river drops over gravel before the bend. The water here would be more oxygenated and likely to hold fish despite being only two feet deep.

Setting up with a 3 No 4 Middy stickfloat on my 12 foot Hardy rod, I bulked the main shot below the float, with just a No 6 shot 9 inches from the size 14 hook. Intending to fish bread punches of 5 and 6 mm, the 14 is a good standby, as I have had chub to 3 lb from this swim in the past. While getting ready, I lobbed a small ball of liquidised bread over beneath the opposite bank and watched it spread and sink. What flow there was did not carry it far.

First cast over, the float sank out of sight and the first of several small chub swung to hand.

Big enough to put a bend in the rod, these bites were unmissable, the size of chub making them likely to be part of the batch of stocked fish.

A different bite, another fish, this time a roach glinting in the sun. Next trot, a classic slow bob and a steady sink away had the rod bending again, as a much larger roach threw up puffs of mud darting from one side to the other. Then the line went solid, when the roach managed to find a snag, leaving the hook in a sunken twig. I pulled for a break, but straightened the hook, releasing the rig to catapult into the undergrowth. Once retrieved and untangled, I was ready again, putting two more small balls over in an attempt to hold the shoal of roach. The roach were long gone, but the bites had changed again. Tippy dips and dives removing the bread bait with ease.

Holding back hard, with a tight line, soon confirmed my hunch, they were small dace.

This then was definitely one of the stockies, the little battler even refusing to hold still for a photo. I will probably be grateful for these dace in a couple of years, when they have put on a few more ounces, but now they were a nuisance, stripping the bait without submerging the float. Going over depth and dragging the float back upstream an inch, or two works on the Thames and it worked here to put a few more in the net.The dace were hard work for little reward, missing far more than I hooked and bouncing a good fish, chub, or roach with a rapid strike.

With the first hour of my two over, I reached into the bread bag and put two larger balls close to the overhanging branches in an attempt to bring out more chub. It worked and the rod was bending again as I netted a better fish.

Better again, these chub were coming out from the shadows to scoop up the drifting crumb, sweeping the float back towards the trees in one pass. Connecting was explosive, with that characteristic chub power surge multiplied by the lack of depth.

The next bite produced a surprise, a perch, not the first that I have taken on the bread punch.

The chub kept responding to the occasional ball of liquidised bread, the dace well and truly crowded out.

They were getting bigger, but I had promised to be home in time for lunch and at 12:30, my cut off time, the landing net slipped under the last chub of the morning.

These latest chub are survivors of the pollution, probably having dropped down from the wild river above the outfall. Missing today were the rudd, gudgeon and roach that usually make up the bag in summer on this little river, but beggars cannot be choosers and will be happy to return.

Once more the bread punch had not let me down, maybe maggots would have got me a shed load of perch, but they would also have meant a dace sucking the life out each maggot. As it was, the bread was in the freezer this morning, and went back in later on.