Carp and skimmer bream beat the cold on the punch at Hitcham Ponds

November 16, 2021 at 7:42 pm

Each year I try to fish a prolific farm pond before winter sets in, but this year the clocks had been set back to Winter Time and frosts had lowered water temperatures, before I had an opportunity to fish. The 15 mile journey from home was the usual series roadworks and traffic queues, that seem to be the rule these days for urban travel, while attempting to avoid passing through two major towns on the way.

The car park was empty and I had a choice of swims, setting up in a corner. Earlier in the year, the surface would have been full of activity, topping fish and cruising carp, but the sight before me was far from encouraging. Not a bubble, or a rise, the only good sign being the lack of wind, the hill top pond on the edge of the Chilterns often windswept.

I decided on a cautious approach, feeding one small ball of  squeezed up .liquidised bread, ground hemp and ground pellets, six metres out, where there is a slight increase in depth to about a metre, casting a 4 x 14 antenna pole float over the top, with a 6 mm punch of bread on a size 16 barbless hook. After five minutes the float showed signs of interest in the bait, the antenna shotted down to half way, raising and lowering by millimetres. This went on for for another five minutes, until the float very slowly sank away. I missed the bite and the bread was still on the hook. Very fussy today. I dropped the bait back in, for a repeat performance, but when the float sank this time, I left the strike for ten seconds. On cue, it popped back up after nine. More dithering and it went down slowly again. Missed again and no bait.

I went down to a 5 mm punch. Same again, a dithering bite and very slow sink. Leave it and lift. Solid. The elastic was out and following a V that was zooming out across the pond. My timid roach bite, was a full blown common carp, that was bending the pole as  five metres of elastic applied relentless pressure,  flashes of gold beneath the surface tracking each change of direction. It boiled on the surface momentarily, then was gone again, throwing up a chain of bubbles as it tried to remove the hook on the bottom. The surface rolls increased, until it was being drawn back to my bank by the heavy 12 – 18 elastic. Without breaking down the pole, I swept the carp back across the surface to my net, praying that the the size 16 barbless would keep hold.

About 4 lb, it had been a slow, then thanks to this carp, a very busy start to the afternoon.

As it was past my lunchtime, a sandwich and a cup of tea were needed to settle my nerves, while a couple more small balls of feed were required to attract the fish back into the swim. Back to a dithering bite and a slow sink of the antenna. Anticipating another carp, I lifted into a small roach.

Oh dear, what a disappointment. From the bite, I at least expected a crucian carp. The roach was ice cold, the water temperature was well down and the fish, being cold blooded, not really interested in feeding. I kept missing unmissable bites, making contact always being another small roach.

The sun had come out, taking the chill from the air, but putting a glare on the surface and I moved the float round in line with the island, where I had a dark contrast for the antenna. Plumbing the depth again indicated a slight increase and adjusted the float to just off bottom. The softly softly approach had caught a lucky carp, but I now went for a change of plan, adding more ground pellets, with a sprinkling of strawberry flavoured ground bait, damping the mix down to allow soft balls to be formed. I put in two balls to start. More small roach, then bang! I was into another carp that ran straight for the island. I added another length of pole as it ran and raised the pole to take some of the shocks, when it rolled on the surface. This was much bigger and faster than the first, running straight through lilies to my right and thrashing about on the surface. The hook came out, the rig flying back.

I put another couple of balls into the swim, the area a mass of bubbles from the fight. It was not long before the float was under again and a better roach was swung in.

For the first time bubbles were coming up in ones and twos and soon I had an answer to the cause, when a dithering bite of lifts and slants drifted under and I struck into a fish with a familiar fight, the slow thud of a skimmer bream, being followed by it flapping on the surface. This was one for the net and I steadily drew it back as it rolled on the surface, the last yard, or two the most dangerous for slipping the hook .

The very next bite produced a smaller skimmer, which again fought well following a protracted bite, when the float would not go under. Once again the hook was barely holding onto the bottom lip, the small piece of punch bread blown in and out of the mouth, until it moved off with it.

The brief interlude of sunshine soon passed to haze, as mist formed across the fields and the sun sank beneath the trees, the temperature dropping in unison. Another ball of feed brought a few very small skimmers, some coming off the hook as they were lifted through the surface film. A smaller hook and a 4 mm punch may have been the answer, but it would have been game over, if I contacted another carp.

More small roach followed and I scraped up the last of my feed and put it in, a lift bite laying the float almost flat, striking into a skimmer well off the bottom, that surfaced in a flurry of spray, skimming across the surface on its side, but staying, on despite the hook being in the skin of the lip.

A cloud had come over making bite detection difficult in the gloom, the last skimmer being hooked, when the ripples from the bite stopped and I assumed that the float had gone under. It had and I took my time bringing the fish over to the net.

Gudgeon now crowded round the feed and with visibility at a premium, I packed up at 3:30 pm.

The bread punch had once again provided reliable fishing on a hard day, when I experience cold hands for the first time this year.

About fifty fish in under three hours, but where were the crucian carp that used to dominate this pond?

By the time that I had packed away and loaded the trolley, passed through the wood, unlocked the gates at either end of the field, loaded the van and got on my way, it was rush hour and dark, The stop, start journey home taking over an hour, but eased by the thought of the hot chicken casserole waiting on my return home.