Bread punch roach on the stick float from Roundmoor Ditch

October 30, 2019 at 8:06 pm

The clocks have gone back and summer is just a fond memory, but good fishing is still abundant in my area, deciding on an afternoon fishing a small tributary of the Thames, the Roundmoor Ditch, this week. Parking the van in the recreation ground carpark, I loaded up the trolley and hiked round the football pitches to the tiny fast flowing stream. I tried to locate where I had fished twenty years ago, a tight right hand bend passing under trees. The bend was still there, but the trees were gone, the open area giving plenty of sunshine for a thick growth of impenetrable surface weed. I continued downstream to a tunnel of trees, where the weed stopped short, allowing a trot down the inside into a weedless area.

Average depth here is two feet over gravel and I was expecting big dace to 8 oz, plus the occasional chub, but being only a quarter of a mile from the Thames confluence, anything could turn up, even barbel.

Crossing the recreation ground to the river, I had been blasted by a cold easterly wind and my main reason for choosing this swim was that it was sheltered by the bushes and a large oak tree. I set up my 12 foot Hardy float rod with an ABU 501 reel and a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stemmed stick float, shotted for the weights to taper down toward the size 16 hook. Due to the fast flow, I wetted down liquidised bread, so that the balls would sink quickly and disburse along the bottom, dropping them in at my feet.

First trot, the float had only travelled ten feet before it sank away trailing line, the strike putting a bend in the tip as a small chub made its initial run.

Dropping the float in at my feet avoided tangles with an overhanging willow above my head, while a branch protruding from the opposite bank required a flat upstream strike. My next cast brought a much better chub, that ran upstream into the weed, burying itself and snagging the hook, which was lost. Only my second cast and I needed a new hook!

A fresh hook tied on with already cold hands, was baited with a 5 mm punch of bread and trotted down, the float disappearing again as another small chub charged off with it. This time, keeping the rod low, I let it fight further downstream, until it was on the surface, guiding it into the narrow weed free channel on my side, then past me to be lifted clear upstream in the wind. This was not an easy swim to fish, no wonder that I seemed to have been the only one to try it this year, having to clear room for my tackle box among the stinging nettles lining the bank.

The bouncing fight of a roach, next put the rod to work, succeeding with the navigation of the natural obstacle course, swinging it to hand upstream.

Smaller roach and chub followed in quick succession, then a better roach made it to the sanctuary of the weed, but this time releasing the line saw it swim free to continue the fight.

At last a dace was tumbling on the surface, although it was well short of my expected size.

That was the only dace that I saw, which is puzzling considering ideal conditions and Roundmoor’s previous history as a dace water. The rod was soon bending again to a decent roach, which I took a chance to swing in.

Due to the overhanging willow above my head, I decided to move my tackle box upstream by four feet to allow safer netting of fish, although I was now in the full force of the wind, which was colder as cloud cover increased. Somehow in the move, my line had broken close to the reel and picking up the rod to rebait in the hook, I was bemused to see the wind carry the float over into the weed in front of me, followed by the line flowing out of the rod rings. The float snagged in the weed and after several attempts, I managed to wrap the loose line round the landing net and to grab the free end, pulling the float free, but loosing another hook on the coarse weed. What a disaster, just as better sized roach had moved up into the swim, I was unable to take advantage of the situation.

I had only been fishing for ninety minutes and had to set up again, thankful that I had found time to tie some more hooks to nylon over the weekend. After a calming cup of tea and a sandwich, I wound the loose line around my fingers, cutting it through, making two inch lengths, that fitted into my now empty sandwich bag, ready for disposal at home. After what seemed an age, I was ready to start fishing again.

During my forced interval, I had continued dropping balls of bread in at my feet, the float burying first cast and the rod bending to the butt with a very nice fish, that dived away downstream. My first thought was chub, but the pounding fight of a good roach said otherwise. Again this fish found the weed bed too inviting, but the slack line technique persuaded the roach to drop back, while the barbless hook hung on.

What a clonker, this roach showed signs of a healed pike attack.

Despite going up to a 6 mm punch, I was still catching nuisance minnows and small chub, but there were still better fish to be had.

This roach had a bright orange stain under its throat, like many taken today it had dropped scales, but was otherwise fighting fit.

I lost another good roach in the weed shortly after and the swim died for ten minutes, being on the verge of packing up, when I netted my last roach.

While packing up, a local fisherman came over to see what I had caught, pleasantly surprised with my catch, saying that although from the village, he had never tried this little gem of a river, let alone the bread punch, preferring to walk the extra yards to the Thames itself.

I had thrown back many smaller fish, my final net testament to an interesting, if not chilly three hours.