Bread punch dace from the Dirty Ditch.

July 22, 2015 at 8:09 pm

My number one river target this year was a small brook, that borders an ancient common, the fishing rights having become available to my local angling association this year. Once named the Dirty Ditch, due to much of it’s water originating from the outfall of a major town’s sewerage treatment works, it has always held large stocks of dace, roach, chub and perch. As lads, we would cycle to where the brook entered the Thames, standing shoulder to shoulder on the bridge, catching roach from it’s black, putrid, untreated torrent. Today it runs clear, benefiting from years of water treatment legislation, it’s warm, nutrient rich flow, aiding rapid growth.

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Parking up the van, I found that I’d been beaten to my preferred fishing spot by another angler, who had a couple of nice dace in his net within minutes of starting to fish. Walking upstream a further 50 yards, I found a swim, where the main flow was shaded by an oak tree. All looked perfect apart from thick weed, which extended from my bank to the middle, any large fish would have to be lifted over this to reach my landing net. First catch a large fish.

I’d intended to fish the brook last week, but forecasts of the hottest day yet, forced a change of plans and despite this, found myself tackling up on another hot morning, this time blessed by a cooling breeze.

This water has been in hibernation for many years, fished by a select few and I was keen to find out what would be the result, if I only fished the bread punch as a method. Many years ago, matches were held here and a Scandinavian matchman won, or was placed in all of them. I was picking up places with the stick float over lose fed maggots at the time and wondered, just what he was doing, that was special. Being pegged not far from him on the last match, I went up, before the match began, to glean a few secrets. For a start he was using a pole, while every man and his dog was using a rod with running line to a stick float. The other revelation was, that his bait was a bag of small cubes of rolled bread crust, these to be introduced in a bait dropper to keep the fish close. He was obviously a competent angler and went on to win the 5 hour match with 15 lbs of silver fish, mostly big dace, with a smattering of roach and chub, many being swung to hand on the pole. Incidently I was second with 12lb of perch, backed up by dace and roach, my maggots attracting the predators. No more open matches were held on the water and this was my first visit since then. Time to put bread to the test.

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With a depth of only two feet, I set up with a 3 No 4 Ali stemmed Middy stick float, to a size 16 barbless hook. With dace I prefer to use my 12 ft Hardy match rod, which has a soft through action, ideal for the tumbling, diving fight of dace, but with the weed bed extending beyond it’s length, I opted for the stiffer Browning 14 footer. I was tempted to use a pole with heavy elastic, but thought that this was a bridge too far. As well as liquidised bread and rolled punch, I had a safety net of red maggots, just in case the brook was full of perch.

An egg sized ball of  bread was squeezed hard and dropped in a yard upstream along the opposite bank, sinking quickly amid a cloud of lose particles, soon followed down the swim by my float. It was dragged under by an eager dace, swinging the first of many to hand.

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Not big, but a hard fighting first fish, which was followed by another next cast. Without feeding any more, bites were coming thick and fast, many of them too fast, the float dipping and bobbing in classic dace style, but most sinking out of sight before they reached the shade of the tree. A better fish took and the landing net reached out over the weeds for not the last time.

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Many of these dace were not pristine, evidence that, so close to the car park, these swims were already getting a hammering from other anglers. Each time the bites slowed, a small ball of bread would bring them back, shallowing up the float, resulting in it diving out of sight, with yet another small dace jiggling on the end.

As the sun climbed, so the wind increased, blowing hard upstream to halt the progress of the float, which I countered by increasing the depth. A rare, twenty yard trot without a bite, saw the float bury, taking line and I struck into what I thought was a chub, that dived beneath a bramble bush. With the initial fight over, I reeled the fish back to see not a chub, but 12 oz dace, a monster for this species. It dived into the weed, but was able to bring it back to the surface and stretched the net out to reach, only for it to dive again, this time to transfer the hook in a flash of silver.

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The sun and wind were now blow drying my punch bread, curling the edges like a Bitish Rail sandwich, which remained moist on the underside, while the top dried out. Wrapped in cling film to keep it fresh, I tore off small pieces to punch. Missing from my armoury was an atomiser spray, which could have controlled the rapid dry out of my bait, but a judicious approach and keeping the supply covered, saw me through.

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After losing another fish in the weed, I walked down to my fishing neighbour, putting a ball upstream when I left. He had been catching steadily, a mix of  perch, dace and small chub on red maggots, while my bread had only caught dace, many being netters. He was getting ready to pack up, although bites were still coming strong and I took a pic of his fish, and was surprised to see the chub. I hadn’t had one. He had about 3lb of fish, not bad for a morning’s work.

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Back at my swim, the wind had now become much gustier and decided that fishing over depth was the only answer, swinging the tackle downstream and holding back hard. This worked, the float sinking steadily away and a good dace was fighting to the net, playing it to the surface, then sliding it across the weed to be scooped to safety. Then I lost three fish in succession, the short line to the float allowing these better dace to bounce off against the stiffer rod, a rapid backwind on contact, solving this problem.

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I was now netting some real clonker dace, or “kippers”, due to them being the size of herrings, these fish on the bottom Hoovering up the bread feed.

dace 014 It all ended with another good fish slipping the hook before the net, the float pinging up to wrap round the rod top. I was sure that I had an identical float on a winder in my box and snipped the tangled rig off.

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I was wrong. In the close season, I had made up new float rigs and put them on a multiwinder ready for this very occasion, but where were they? Still sitting on my work bench awaiting transfer to my box. Oh well, I was only going to give it another 20 minutes anyway, it was now too hot for comfort and decided to call it day.

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Over 40 dace, which put 6lb 6oz on the scales, vindicating my use of the bread punch and a good reason to return.