Bread punch roach never fail to please on the River Cut

November 18, 2023 at 10:08 pm

I had started the day with a long overdue visit to the river Blackwater, which looked in perfect condition following a couple of rainy days. It was flowing fast, but had good colour and I was optimistic of a busy session catching autumn roach on the bread punch.

Having made up a heavy mix of ground bait, I fed a couple of firm balls down the middle on the edge of the flow and another pair in close into the slacker water. I then assembled my 14 foot Browning float rod to give the feed time to work its magic downstream. A 6 No 4 stickfloat was looped on, complete with a size 14 crystal barbless hook. All that was needed was a 7 mm punch of bread and the rig was cast my side of the fast water and checked at intervals on the way down. My finger checked the line on the ABU 501 and the float disappeared. Yes! A good roach broached on the surface when I struck and I began a steady retrieve. A bow wave appeared to the side of the roach and the green, grey flank of a pike arced over and seized the roach, turning downstream as I backwound my reel. Feeling the resistance, the pike accelerated downstream and my 3 lb hooklink parted.

I had expected a pike at some time, but not this soon. A lure fisherman was working the swim as I arrived with no takes, but I have found that a six ounce roach fighting to escape from my hook, works every time! I don’t enjoy feeding pike with pristine roach and decided to pack up and head for home and my local River Cut, which has no pike, yet…….

The Cut was also up and running, with a hint of colour and I was soon tackled up from my ready to fish rod bag, using the same float rig as earlier, while I had emptied the remaining ground bait into a bag, also saving time, but ready to put in a couple of balls along the opposite bank. The move had taken 90 minutes, but I reckoned that I had two hours to make amends. The float had only travelled a yard before it sank away and I felt the resistance of a decent roach, seeing it flashing over on the strike. It was exactly 2 pm.

Another punch of bread and the float was back out there. Bang! The rod was bending over again with another roach. They seemed to be fighting harder than usual, probably due to the higher oxygen levels in the fast water.

These were decent sized roach, not the 6 to 8 oz beauties of the Blackwater, but full of fight and in tip top condition.

Every few roach I put over another ball upstream of my float. There was only two feet of water over there and the roach were taking on the drop, giving sideways bites.

Holding back hard produced downstream bites. I thought that they were chub, but it was their smaller cousins dace, that were hitting the bait hard, requiring a quick lift of the trigger finger to avoid pulling out of these tumbling battlers.

The roach kept coming, this one hooked in the cheek, a sign of a feeding frenzy, not the expected fussy bite of its species.

What a clonker, this roach was spewing fresh groundbait from its mouth, with barely enough room for the bread.

Dace were becoming more numerous, as were some big gudgeon appearing on the scene.

I decided to begin casting downstream of the feed, where the water was slower and deeper and was back among the roach.

Another clonker from the slower water, where I was expecting a carp, but those big gudgeon were everywhere.

I was rapidly running out of holes to punch and searched out the bread squares for spaces. One of the last to be punched produced this big dace from the bottom end of the swim.

There were no dace in the Cut until they were stocked by the Environment Agency several years ago, following pollution that killed thousands of fish. After this session it is clear that have been successful.

The light was going fast and I had to use the camera flash for the last photos. I had been fishing for under two hours and put over 6 lbs on the scales. A non-stop catching spree.

Rudd reward persistance in the calm after the storm.

November 7, 2023 at 5:05 pm

Fishing has been low on my priority list lately, not helped by yet another named storm Cairan, that has caused chaos and flooding across the UK. My local pond at Allsmoor did not escape the carnage, with trees down and a three foot rise over the paths, when the brook that feeds it burst its banks. Being a balance pond, one of several along the length of the brook, it did its job of protecting the housing developments from flash floods. Following two relatively dry days, I decided that now that the pond was at normal level, I would give it a try, despite an overnight frost.

My previous visit to the pond two months ago in September, had netted me a double figure bag of crucian, mirror and common carp, plus several large rudd, all taken on the bread punch.

I set up in the same swim as September, but did not expect too much, as there was no surface activity, also another angler was on the verge of packing up, having failed to get a bite on bread flake, or red worm.

Confident that the finer bread punch approach on the pole would soon get me bites, I mixed up half a tray of spicy groundbait with ground carp pellets and ground hemp, putting four egg sized balls into a one metre square, eight metres out. I then set up my pole with a 4 x 14 antenna float to a size 16 barbless hook. I usually begin here with a size 14 barbless, but due to the cold conditions, opted for the 16, as I felt that bites would be at a premium. If there was a sign of carp in the swim later, it would not take long to scale up. Adjusting the float for depth, I set the bait to to sit resting on the silty bottom.

All I needed now was a bite, but it required another small ball of feed close to the float to encourage movement, this being a slight dip, followed by a very slow sink, which I missed. I went down to a 5 mm punch and dropped the float back over the spot. Another hesitant dip and the float returned to the surface. Was the bread gone? I raised the pole to take up the slack line to the float and the float disappeared. An old trick that goes on producing, saw a rudd breaking the surface in a shower of silver spray. No wonder the bites were so fussy, this rudd felt like a block of ice.

Not a big rudd, but a good start. The feed had woken up a few reluctant fish, but the next bite was the merest of trembles. Again I took advantage of the still conditions and induced the take. The float sank away and the elastic came out as a better rudd arced away to the middle, bouncing the pole tip as I drew the pole back to the top two sections, for the net.

My fourth bite saw the elastic out again, as another decent rudd fought for freedom.

I continued regular feeding into the area in the hope of crucians, or common carp, but the tell tale bubbles of feeding fish never materialised, although the rudd obliged in numbers.

A shoal of gudgeon swam in over the feed, giving positive bites, almost hooking themselves, then they were gone again and I was back to the rudd.

With my back to the tree lined railway embankment, the sun was soon hidden from view and I was appreciating my thermals, coupled with a thick wooly shirt. Clouds had taken over from the clear sky and the temperature had dropped noticeably, my hands were freezing, having handled so many fish in the last three hours, so at 2 pm, this was my last rudd.

These punch holes represent a lot of fish, mostly small stuff, which kept me busy on a cold afternoon.

There were no heart stoppers in this 5 lb net of fat pristine rudd, but they helped keep out the cold.

As I loaded my trolley for the walk back, it began to rain and made it to the railway arch over the lane just as the deluge camedown. A lady dog walker was sheltering. “Did you catch anything?” “Loads!”

A busy afternoon on the River Cut compensates for Jubilee disappointment.

October 13, 2023 at 5:47 pm

With rain forecast for late afternoon, I decided to try Berkshire’s newest waterway, the Jubilee River for the first time since it was opened as a flood relief channel in 2002. The Jubilee cost £330 million to construct, its aim being to protect affluent Maidenhead and Windsor from flooding, which it has proved to do, but at the expense of towns and villages downstream of the confluence at Datchet. No fish were stocked into the waterway, but attached to the Thames upstream and adjacent to some well stocked lakes, natural stocking has taken place to the point that on it’s day, the Jubilee river can fish well, with bream, roach, perch and pike in abundance.

Fishing reports have been patchy, anglers catching from a swim one week, only to blank the next, however I decided that it was about time that I gave it a go and walked downstream of a weir to set up in a gently sloping swim. The structure of the relief channel has shallow edges, that drop off rapidly into 12 feet of water, so my 14 foot Browning was set up with a 3 gram Bolo float to a size 14 barbless hook, ready to fish a 7 mm punch of bread, over hemp ladened balls of ground bait, while I lose fed hemp seed over the top four rod lengths out.

Despite the weir, there was a gentle flow and the firm groundbait balls were sinking quickly, while there was plenty of time for a pouch of hemp to be sprayed toward the float. When I started fishing, the wind was hard over my left shoulder, aiding casting, but it soon veered round to blow donwnstream creating waves. With the weight down toward the hook, the bolo was unaffected by the wind, the antenna riding through the waves, but when the bites began, they were slight dips and lifts and hard to spot, let alone hit. A lift just after a cast resulted in slight resitance on the strike, then a lost fish, that turned out to be a bleak, that just swam in. Another lift and a better fish, that came off half way to the surface. At least I was getting bites. I had been fishing for 30 minutes for one bleak!

I shallowed up two feet and caught a roach, when the float buried and I kicked myself for not doing so earlier. I had been feeding hemp and balls of groundbait regularly and brought the fish up in the water.

With a feeling of making up for lost time, I pulled two more roach off the hook, before they reached the surface. I’m not used to fishing so deep at range and it was showing. Constantly mending the downstream bow in the line to the float was dragging the float off line. A waggler, not the Bolo float would have been the answer today, over casting and sinking the line. The wind was getting up, blowing a bleak off the hook, before I could grab it. This was getting frustrating. Time for a cup of tea, a sandwich and a think. It was too late to move round the bend to a more sheltered spot, so I stuck it out for another hour. A smaller roach and four bleak, plus more missed and bumped fish made my up mind. There was still time to pack up and fish my local River Cut, where I could guarantee catching roach, or maybe a carp in the time left before the rain. That is what I did.

What a contrast, I had searched out the deepest swims that I know on the Cut and this one was three feet deep and had to slash my way through 6 ft tall Himalayan Balsam plants to reach it. Setting up the Browning again, this time I attached a small 3 No 4 stick float, as there was minimal flow, while the wooded valley gave full protection from the wind gusting through the trees. While I tackled up, I watched a four pound carp slurping down balsam seeds, that had catapulted into the water, when I had chopped down the host plants. The carp had it’s back out of the water, as it cruised the shallows on my side of the bank, the dorsal and tail fins gently powering the feeding fish in my direction. I made a mental note, that I did not want to make contact with this bruiser today on my light tackle, as there would only be one winner and it would not be me!

A small ball of groundbait close to my float had the desired effect and a hard fighting gudgeon was soon hugging the bottom trying to shed the size 16 barbless hook.

If only gudgeon grew to several ounces, I would be happy to catch them all day.

That ball of gound bait had started a feeding frenzy beneath the surface, as more gudgeon queued up to take the 6 mm punch of bread. A flash of silver lifted my hopes, as a roach dashed around the swim putting a bend in my rod, before sliding into the awaiting landing net.

More small balls of feed, just encouraged the gudgeon, which were coming one a minute and I was soon tiring of the mini barbel. Catching gudgeon under my rod top was repetative and I tried a new tactic; casting downstream away from the feed in an attempt to find a roach. It worked.

Still gudgeon, but also a few silver fish began to push their way through at the back of the shoal. Even a rudd took on the drop, skating away with the bread.

An hour into the session it began to rain, the heavy shower knocking dead leaves from the trees, covering the surface of the Cut, making it difficult to find a clear gap to place the float into. I was back to dropping the rig in off my rod top. Hoping to attract a stray carp, I scraped up the last of my groundbait and put it in, but there were no bursts of tell tale bubbles to be seen. The rain soon stopped, to be replaced by drizzle as the gudgeon, plus the occasional roach found my bread bait. At 5 pm, I swung in my last gudgeon. It had been exactly two hours since my first fish, a gudgeon.

The day had begun with optimism on the Jubilee River, which had become hard work and a hiding to nothing. Without that wind, I would have stuck to it and caught more, but the certainty of a possibly better result had drawn me to the River Cut. I’d landed seven fish on the Jubilee in two hours and over 50 on the Cut. Despite this result, I’ll be back on the Jubilee soon.

Roach catching spree interupted by a pike at Jeanes Pond.

September 30, 2023 at 9:42 am

This week has been total disruption at home, while a new more efficent boiler, plus a hot water cylinder were fitted and the sludge removed from the radiators, which meant rooms being emptied of contents, while others became storerooms. Even the loft did not escape, where assorted suitcases blocked access to vital pipework and water tanks. While the West of England and Wales suffered the full force of storm Agnes, our part of the South East enjoyed days of sunshine, but for me no fishing, until this afternoon, when my wife kindly volunteered to repaint the utility room, where the new boiler had left a bare wall.

With other jobs completed, I had little time remaining to travel for my fishing fix, but with my tackle stored in the van and liquidised bread in the freezer, I was soon on my way to Jeanes Pond a couple of miles away at Braybrooke Recreation Ground.

My first task on arrival at peg 5, was to mix up some groundbait of liquidised bread, ground hemp with ground carp pellets and a light covering of a spicy aniseed additive, that I was trying out. With the groundbait damped down, I set about assembling my pole with a 2 gram antenna float to a size 14 hook. Plumbing the depth, there was a steep drop off into five feet of water and I fed a couple of firm balls of ground bait three metres out and another at four. Due to a layer of three inch roach and rudd, I bulked the full 2 grams of weight above the hook link, so that the bait would pass quickly to the bottom avoiding the tiddlers. First cast proved that this was effective, when the float slowly sank and the elastic came out of the pole tip, as a roach reacted to the strike.

A sign of fish to come, the first roach.

Cast back in, another good roach had taken the 7 mm pellet of punched bread and was on the way to the landing net.

The roach were over the feed and the float was going down like clockwork, fishing by numbers, cast in, the float showing interest rings radiating out from the antenna, as the tip sank lower on the surface, before gliding down out of sight and a successful strike.

There was a loud splash twenty yards to my right, as a 5 lb pike lept clear of the water amid a circle of scattering fish. Knowing my luck, it would not be long before the pike came snooping around my swim. Ten minutes later my fears were confirmed, when a swirl disturbed the surface, after I had introduced another ball of feed. I moved my float and feed a few yards to my left, however my next roach was soon flapping on the surface in panic. Ignoring the landing net, I swung it in.

I dropped the next fish as I swung it in and a green flash followed by a surface boil set the mood for the following minutes, as the roach ran the gauntlet between me and the pike. The bites dried up and I scratched around for a fish, going back over my original area to the right. The float sank and I struck, lifting the good roach toward the surface. Suddenly the elastic streamed out. The pike had taken the roach. I had two lengths of pole waiting for such an event, but I struggled to align the pole joints as the pike powered away. The joints slid together just as the elastic swept into an arc and the pike dived along the bottom throwing up a row of bubbles. Small fish scattered in all directions, when the pike surfaced, due to the pull from the elastic. The roach was still across the pike’s jaws. I got the landing net ready. This would be the first of many Braybrooke pike, that I would finally net. As if by magic, when I had this thought, the pike released it’s grip and the battered roach slid out. I netted it for safety and placed it in my keepnet.

Understandably there was nothing doing in close and I squeezed up a couple more balls and lobbed them twenty yards out, adding more lengths to the pole to fish over this feed. Whether my original fish had moved out away from the pike, or not I don’t know, but the float sank and I was playing another roach. The dilemma was, do I bring it to the landing net, or skim it across the surface away from the pike. I skimmed this one back.

It was a rudd.

The pike was now around the outside line and fish were jumping all over, so I moved back inside and caught my last fish, another roach.

The 7 mm punch had kept the smaller fish at bay, giving the better fish a chance at the bait.

Anglers at Jeanes Pond complain about the tiny fish stealing their bait, but the bread punch fished deep, worked well for me in attracting some better fish. If it had not been for the pike in the swim, I’m sure that I would have doubled my catch during the brief two and a half hour session.

I arrived home to find that my wife had completed her painting of the utility room and baked a carrot cake. Lucky me.

Bread Punch roach bonanza on a flooded River Cut

September 22, 2023 at 10:34 am

A storm of biblical proportions had battered the UK for two days, with thunderstorms and winds of 45 miles per hour, but the morning dawned bright and clear with no sign of wind, so I made a last minute decision to fish my local River Cut, before afternoon thunderstorms were due to arrive. Walking over the bridge, I could see that the weir was flooding straight across with no drop, as the joining river was higher than the weir.

On view was the new blue sewage outlet. I was expecting signs of use, but this is connected to a multi gallon storage tank, which will only discharge when full and only after after the waste water has had all th solids filtered out, much more environmently friendly than the old outlet opposite.

I was looking for a swim on the inside of a bend, but they were all still flooded and continued downstream to one that showed signs of violent flooding, but apart from a layer of wet silt, was fishable.

There was a crease between the fast and slower water and I fed a few balls of heavy groundbait just upstream on the crease, expecting them to break up along the bottom in a line with a bush on the opposit bank. With feed mixed and introduced into the swim, I then setup my 14 foot Browning float rod with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to a size 14 barbless hook.

My keepnet can just be seen through the brown floodwater, swept downstream into what is usually a couple of inches of water. First cast the float sank just yards downstream and the first of many roach was on its way to the net.

Only small, but a welcome sight.

The following cast was a better roach.

Even bigger.

I had bulked three No 4 shot a foot from the hook and easing the float down the swim allowed the 7 mm pellet of punched bread to lift and flutter in the flow. Running the float through without slowing it, rarely produced a bite, probly because the water was so murky, that the bait was gone before it could be attacked.

Gudgeon and rudd were now taking their turn going into the net, and I stepped up the feed, dropping a small, but firm ball a yard upstream every trot, soon had the roach queuing up again.

The three No 4 bulk shot on view with this roach.

A couple of hours into the session, the sky darkened and a flash of lightning warned of a loud clap of thunder, that made me jump. It now tipped down with rain. This was a couple of hours earlier than forecast. Fishing in a thunder storm is dangerous, when waving a 14 foot lightning conductor about, but the lightning was a single event, although the rain continued and I pulled my hood over my cap.

The roach kept coming.

 I hit into a carp right under my rod top. It must have been first in line for the balls of feed. It was not happy with being hooked and zoomed off upsteam. I know that there is a sunken shopping trolley there and put a bend in the rod to turn it away, watching it take line still heading upstream to an overhanging tree. It slowed and rolled, showing its bronze flank and big scales. It was about two pounds, and still full of fight as it passed downstream. It turned again heading for the bush and I raised the rod, the line cutting leaves from the overhanging tree. It was now wallowing and I got the landing net ready as it slowly came toward me. Feet from the net, it turned again and headed for the opposite bank, pulling the rod down and the hook from its mouth. I had a tight line as I led the carp to the landing net. I had assumed that the hook link had broken, but at least I didn’t have to tie on another hook with wet hands.

I piled in more feed after losing the carp and a pair of chub paid me a visit, their mouths choked with groundbait. Small dace were also snatching at the punched bread.

The roach kept coming.

This was my last.

Rain had begun falling again and it was time to pack up. The sky was turning black again and I rushed around putting stuff away.

Over six pounds in under four hours, a busy afternoon on the bread punch.





Crucians, Mirrors and Common Carp take the bread punch at Allsmoor

September 14, 2023 at 5:12 pm

Not fond of sitting baking in the sun, or being soaked to the skin during a thunder storm, has meant no fishing for me lately, but this week the rain stopped for long enough to chance an afternoon at my local Allsmoor Pond. Although within walking distance from my home, I tend to ration myself to only a few visits a year, as this prolific water, within a public recreation ground, has a tendancy to flatter the competant angler.

Arriving at 1 pm, I was not too impressed with the look of the water. Heavily stained with run-off from overnight rain, there was no surface activity, not a sign of cruising carp, or even rudd. I wondered whether there had been an oxygen crash, due to the sudden drop in temperature. Oh well, let’s mix up some feed and get the pole out. I have never fished this section of bank before, as it continues to get silted up from the inlet, with bull rushes soon to meet in the middle.

I damped down a mixture of coarse liquidised bread, ground hempseed, and a spicy ground seed mix with a scattering of mixed 2 mm pellets, that had been lurking at the bottom of a ground bait tin. They are not fussy in this pond and I have had equally good nets with curry powder and liquidised bread. Convinced that the fishing was going to be hard, I fitted a rig with a 4 x 16 antenna float, to a size 16 barbless hook, the overall depth being set at two feet, with the bait resting on the soft black mud.

I had put a couple of balls of feed out on the 7 metre line, before setting up the pole and could see bubbles rising already as I made my first cast. The float cocked, then lifted and I struck into a small rudd.

That was quick. Maybe it was going to be better than I thought? Into the area again and the float dithered and dipped long enough to strike and the elastic was out for a decent crucain that burst onto the surface, then came off. Wait for them to take it away next time.

Bubbles were everywhere in the baited area and there was no messing with the next fish, when the float disappeared followed by the line.

Wow, a beatifully scaled mirror carp put on a turbo charged performance, as it rushed about trying to avoid the landing net.

What next? A small common, that’s what. This one swimming in an arc away from the bank.

A small ball of feed to the left, or the right of the float each cast, kept these commons active, while they sifted through the mud.

The bites were still very cautious and leaving them to develope to a sink away was the answer.

Schoolboys had started arriving armed with rods and landing nets, some on foot, while others cycled. One was still in his school uniform. The peace of the pond was now filled with chatter, reminding me of similar times years ago, when I would have been shoulder to shoulder with friends and strangers, fishing with hempseed for roach and dace on the bank of the River Thames near Windsor.

Small carp were coming out at a predictable rate now, with all eyes on my actions, rather than their own. A couple attempted to cast over into my swim, but fell short, their floats like bouys compared to my fine antenna. I never saw any of them catch a fish. Hopefully they will learn.

Despite the distractions, I was zoned in and the commons kept obliging.

A small mirror seemed to throw a switch, as crucian carp moved over the feed, sending up bursts of tiny bubbles.

This hard fighting crucian had a massive growth on it’s side and was returned immediately.

Brown goldfish, or crucian/common hybrid?

The carp came back with a bang, larger carp pushing the crucians off the feed. This one taking my breath away, when it flashed through the swim hooking itself.

By now it was nearing my going home time and I had a pair of polite goal hangers asking questions. They already had slices of bread and I persuaded them to add weight to their floats to dot them down to the surface.

I hit into a much larger carp, that took some playing, as it was trying to reach a post standing up in the water to my right. This brought the rest of the tribe round to my swim to watch me land, or lose it.

A nice common landed. About 2 lb.

A fat crucian was followed by another fat crucian.

With five minutes left of my four hour session, the elastic was out for the last time and I was playing a decent common, with this band of eger beavers breathing down my neck, one standing on the landing net preventing me from using it.

That was the end of a busy session and I sat back drinking a cup of tea, while the hoarde jockied for position, keeping my head down, while rods swished overhead. The lad in the school uniform asked what I had been using. “Bread”. “We’ve got sweet corn!” He began ladling it in.

My humble bread punch had been enough on the day to get them all shouting at once, when I pulled my net out, the quiet pair holding the landing net open, while I emptied the keepnet.

The scales bottomed out at 6 kg



Council Fun Day promotes fishing at Braybrooke Pond

August 31, 2023 at 12:46 pm

The local council held a Fun Day at the Braybrooke recreation ground this weekend, to promote a variety of council backed activities and fishing was one of them, taking advantage of the prolific Jeanes Pond, tucked away in a wooded hollow within the grounds. I was invited, along with several other local anglers, to take part as instructors, to supply taster sessions on fishing to youngsters, boys and girls between the ages of five and ten, who had never fished before.


Waiting for the Off

The event was over subscribed and to accommodate as many as children as possible, the sessions were reduced to fifteen minutes each, with the organisers kept busy collecting up the entrants and walking them to the instructors positioned around the pond.

Tackle, a box to sit on and bait in the form of red and white maggots were provided, so all that the would be anglers had to do, was to sit down, take hold of the 3 metre whip, cast out and start to catch fish. We had prebaited the swims with maggots and the swims were boiling with small roach and rudd.

Most got the knack of casting within minutes and the prolific pond provided plenty of striking practice, as the float disappeared within seconds of hitting the water. A size 14 barbless hook, with two to three maggots on, resulted in few gorged fish and several of my trainees, boys and girls, were soon removing their own hooks, leaving me to refresh the maggots, while keeping the swim fed.

The amazement on the faces of the children, at catching their first fish and the pride that they demostrated to their mothers, who hovered within photo snapping range at all times, was rewarding to me. They were all interested in the “worms” and got a quick education on the life cycle of a fly, there being plenty of casters visible in the bait box. Each session was over too quickly, most catching at least a dozen fish, but they were all well behaved and handed over to the next entrant.

One lad was trailing his bait through the water close to the bank, when it was grabbed by a small perch, which he swung in, the dorsal spine being erect and the dark stripes clearly visible. I got him to repeat the process and he hooked another two, much to the interest of the onlookers.

The instructors were all provided with a packed lunch and during the break, I hooked on a 7 mm pellet of bread, dropping my rig away from the maggot baited area, with the bait just off the bottom. These bites were slow to develope in comparison, but the roach and rudd were much bigger.


The break over, I was back to impaling maggots again, although one very keen lad spotted my punched bread in the tray and asked to try it. As on the break, I cast for him to one side, close to the overhanging trees, where I could see tench bubbles rising. Warning him that this could be a big fish, I put my hand on the landing net ready. The float raised and slid away and he lifted into a better fish, not a tench, but a good rudd, which he tried to lift straight out and lost it. I replaced the bread and we tried again, this time giving instruction in pure Mortimer and Whitehouse style. The float went under and he tried to lift another nice fish out of the water with the same result. Bob Mortimer never listened either.

My last session was with three young girls competing with each other to catch and hold fish, the oldest swinging in a 4 oz perch from the margins. It had been a busy and sometimes hectic five hours. There was never a dull moment, with plenty of humour and some avid concentration by my students. I just hope that some of that enthusiasm rubs off, as it did with me many years ago, with my family on the bank of the River Thames at Walton, catching bleak on bread paste one after the other.

Red fin letter day with roach and chub on the River Blackwater

August 23, 2023 at 2:43 pm

Arriving at the Farnborough and District’s stretch of the River Blackwater this week to fish the stickfloat with bread punch, I turned left at the bridge and walked upstream, having ignored this shallow reach in recent years. It was difficult to find a swim that offered casting room for my preferred 14 foot Browning, settling on short gap between trees, with barely room for my 12 foot Hardy. Giant hogweed bordered the bank preventing a side cast, so that was the next task, knocking it flat. Having sorted out the house keeping, it was time to set up the Hardy with a 4 No 4 Ali stickfloat to a size 14 barbless hook to 3 lb line. This small river has some big chub, bream, barbel and carp, apart from some quality roach, plus my nemasis, pike, so it is better to be safe rather than sorry. Being so shallow, a hooked fish only has one option, RUN!

This swim is on the outside of a bend, with a narrow channel five yards from the bank, but plumbing the depth showed less than two feet, with the bottom visible to the far bank. I was not confident and set up my box well away from the bank, adjusting the float to fish over depth with a long tail, to be held back against the hot downstream wind from the south.

A run through the swim with a 7 mm pellet of bread on the hook got no response, but a three way mix of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, damped down enough to form firm balls, made an instant difference; one either side of the channel bringing a small chub, that dragged the float under.

Next trot, another small aggressive chub, that dived away with the bread, then cartwheeled across the surface, when I set the hook.

I dropped in a ball of feed, then inched the float down behind it. Rings radiated out from the float tip as it ran through at half speed. I eased the rod back and the float sank, the roach hooking itself with a flurry of red fins on the surface. Quite a nice roach in the landing net.

My doubts of earlier had been dispelled, now I was trying to control a fish that had snatched the bread and was heading downstream at a rate of knots! I wasn’t sure if I had actually struck, guessing that the hook only had a light hold, as it headed across to the far side creating a bow wave. I could see the shape of a chub and reeled back line, the Hardy soft enough to resist the head shakes. Drifting it across to the landing net, I could see the hook barely hanging on to the white lips.

There was a bite a chuck, mostly from small dace and roach. The dace would hit the bread at speed, often knocking it off the hook, while the small roach nibbled and dipped the float, both difficult to hit, especially while the red float tip travelled through the dappled sunlight. I tended to watch the line for movement, or a surface ring left by a sinking float. The better fish were no problem, the float going down and staying there.

I went down to a 6 mm punch, the catch rate went up and now I was hooking dace.

I had started throwing the groundbait further upstream, which brought the fish closer, out of the dappled light, although this meant that most fish were hooked under my rod top, which could cause heart stopping moments with roach like this one.

In contrast, a rare run through the swim resulted in a downstream take, that hit into one of my best dace for years.

What a clonker. Like all dace, they never give up fighting, even out of the water!

I was running out of groundbait, throwing in my last offerings, while I mixed up some more and refilled my energy banks with a couple of sandwiches, washed down with tea. I say washed down, as I had added  two feet to the float depth and layed on in about a foot of water at the edge, missing a couple of rod bending bites, that saw the contents of my cup go everywhere.

The quality roach continued to fill my net, but the strong sun had veered round to shine directly on my back and I was considering packing up, although the roach were still tightly packed in the shade of a the tree downstream. It is always difficult to walk away from a productive swim. In my match fishing days, the whistle blew and you stopped fishing, today it was a pike. Bringing a nice roach close to the landing  net, it suddenly dived under my keep net. I thought that I had seen a green flash, but there was no mistaking the surface boil. A pike had finally followed the activity of feeding fish.

This roach survived for another day.

I was now on edge, worried about a pike taking a captive roach and did not waste time netting the next few, swinging them in.

Feeding roach to pike makes me feel guilty, so after another swirl and a follow, the roach below was my last fish.

It had turned out to be a hot sticky afternoon and had been shaded by trees for most of it, while the fishing had exceded my expectations, helped no doubt by only using the bread punch and groundbait.

Three dozen fish does not sound many for three hours fishing, but I was happy with it.








Flash flood brings a mixed bag to the bread punch on the River Cut

August 19, 2023 at 4:20 pm

Storm Betty brought a deluge of rain in it’s wake to my area, briefly flooding many roads, before passing through to leave a humid afternoon. I decided to take advantage of the increased flow on the Braybrooke Club’s River Cut, which acts as a drain for the excess rainfall across the town housing estates. Parking up the van near the river, I could hear it before I could see it; the natural river rushing under the bridge to join the weir beneath the town outfall.

The river was not a pretty sight, more like chocolate swirling downstream and I considered putting my gear back in the van, but continued down the path to a swim that had been productive last year. I had to hack away some Himalayan Balsam to get to the water’s edge and placed my box downstream of an over hanging alder. With the humid conditions and warm drizzle, it was more like sitting in the rain forest beside the Amazon, than beside the usually sedate Cut in the Home Counties of England.

The river was really pushing through and at least six inches higher than normal, setting up with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to cope with the extra flow. My 14 foot Browning rod had 5 lb line running through to a size 14 barbless hook on a 4 lb hooklink, as carp are now to be expected everytime on the Cut. The main flow was down the middle, flowing into my bank and I dropped a few balls of heavy groundbait, laced with ground hemp, a rod length out, followed down with the float. Easing the float down at half speed, it disappeared and the rod bent into a tumbling fish, that was invisible in the mirky water, until the landing net revealed a decent dace.

This dace dismissed my fears of no bites from the turgid river and the next cast a small chub followed.

The inevitable small gudgeon were now managing to get their mouths around the 7 mm pellet of punched bread, before a positive stab down of the float, saw the bouncing rod top response of a roach.

Next trot, the float ran twenty yards without a bite. This was repeated several times. I shallowed up, then added depth. Trotted the shallow far side. Nothing. I can only assume that the daily brown polluting water had come down unnoticed in the already coloured water and fast flow. My cup of tea and accompanying Kit Kat came out early, while I waited for it to pass through. Usually taking up to an hour to clear, the float tipped and held after just twenty minutes and a roach was fighting under my rod top.


The increased flow had probably pushed the pollution through, all I know is that I was back in the business of catching fish, the dace had returned and I missed a few rapid bites, until I went down to a 6 mm punch and shallowed up. A downstream bite produced a rudd.

Then a better rudd was skating across the surface to the landing net.

There were all species today, a small chub was followed by a hard fighting roach.

During the lull, I had still been feeding small balls of groundbait into the swim and now the fish were queuing up to eat it. Even the gudgeon were getting bigger.

The float moved upstream under my feet. I was into a decent carp that ignored my efforts, continuing against the flow, as I followed it with my rod and the reel freewheeling. Further upstream there were obstructions in the river and I put on side strain, while allowing line to slide over my finger. It slowed and turned, hugging the far side, churning up mud along the berm, then came back to the middle. I got the landing net ready as it rolled. A 2lb common? It was on the surface and I raised the rod to guide it to the net. The rod top became entangled in the overhead alder. I was now playing carp and tree. With the net at 3 meters the carp was out of reach. Tugging at the branch with the rod had one result. The hook came out of the carp and shot up into the tree. Misery!

The scissors came out and I was minus four yards of line and needed to rethread the top joint, coiling the wasted line and cutting it into two inch pieces. The river had slowed and I had considered a lighter float, but was still catching, but now I fitted a 4 No 4 ali stick. There was now an upstream wind, which was ideal for this very sensitive float. Not for long. While bashing out gudgeon and small roach, I missed a bite and the float tangled in the tree.

I still had half an hour before I was due to pack up, so rooted around in my tackle box for a replacement, finding a pole float on a rig that would do. I was now scraping up the groundbait, feeding a pinch a cast, while searching for areas to punch on the bread. A better roach was netted.

A gudgeon-like dithering bite resulted in another carp rushing off. It was only small this time and I initially thought that it was a chub, but the on rails feel of the fight, as it searched for a snag, said otherwise. Keeping my rod top clear of the tree, my last fish of the afternoon was soon in the net.

It had been a strange few hours, warm rain and drizzle, a raging river that dropped then slowed, the quiet spell without a bite, plus the two up the tree errors, which would not have happened, if I had been using my preferred 12 foot Hardy, that would have been no match for the first carp. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Very few holes left to punch and float No.3.

A mixed bag, mostly small stuff.

Quality roach and a bonus carp shine among the showers at Jeanes Pond

August 15, 2023 at 10:22 am

Just lately the weather forecasters have been getting it wrong, but the predicted heavy shower was bang on time at 2pm, when I arrived for an afternoon fishing at the Braybrooke Club’s Jeanes Pond this week. Others were already fishing, erected umbrellas evidence of a wet morning. Being an optimist,I didn’t even have a water proof jacket with me, but then the rain is always warm at this time of the year, isn’t it? There was a strong wind blowing from the west and the sun had come out by the time that I had set up in the shelter of peg 15.

Due to the rafts of surface fry, I use a heavy 2 gram antenna float at Jeanes to punch through to the bottom, where my firm balls of grounbait end up. The ground bait is liquidised bread based, with ground pellets, ground hemp and strawberry flavouring, which soon brought in some better sized roach.

With the shot bulked within a foot of the hook, the rig looks crude, but it works. The shot is set just off bottom and any fish picking up the bait, results in a positive lift of the float antenna and another roach in the net.

Regular mini balls of feed brought instant bites and with three metres of pole, fish were swung to hand from the margins. I had started using a 6 mm punch on a size 14 barbless hook, but a change up to a 7 mm pellet of bread meant fewer smaller fish attacking the bread, before the better fish on the bottom had a chance.

This better stamp of roach meant constant use of the landing net, the hooks coming out in the net easily removed, being barbless.

A fussy bite, with gentle lifts of the float, that moved away slowly, had me poised for something bigger, the float staying still and the elastic stretching out on the strike. This WAS bigger and I quickly added another two lengths of pole, as it steadily moved off toward the middle. The fish stepped up a gear, making runs to the left and the right, boiling the surface with each turn, but with the pole now at 5 metres, I was in control. A surface roll revealed the bronze scaled flank of a deep bodied carp and got the landing net ready, although several attempts to net it resulted in last minute bursts of speed in the opposite direction.

Finally, the 4 lb 8 oz carp was in the net.

Time for a well earned cup of tea and a KitKat after this one.

Despite the disturbance of landing the carp, the first cast in resulted in another good roach.

A couple more balls of feed saw the fry scatter when I put them in and the reason was soon revealed, when I hooked a perch, that had taken the bread on the drop.

It had been an afternoon of sunshine and showers, but the roach had never stopped feeding, the last one after three hours, being another clonker.

The humble bread punch had once again come up trumps for me.