Too many pike in the River Blackwater, or is it just me?

December 1, 2022 at 9:02 pm

On a cold misty afternoon, I drove to the River Blackwater this week, for an afternoon catching winter roach on the bread punch. Walking to my intended swim, I saw that a tree had fallen into the river from the opposite bank, completely transforming a gentle glide into a swirling torrent. Ok, plenty of swims to choose from, so onto the next. This one had a long branch broken off, still attached, but trailing into the water with no room to cast a 14 ft float rod. The next was on the outside of a bend with a steady flow and plenty of room for my rod. This’ll do. I began unloading my fishing trolley, only to see the remains of another snapped off branch downstream, spreading out under the surface to the middle. I loaded the trolley again. Round the corner, on the inside of the same bend was a better option. A willow had once fallen here from my bank, but had been removed, leaving a bushy stump, that had created a shallow slack on my side, but good flow pushing across to the opposite bank.

In this image, the shallow area ran out to where the dark bankside reflection is and I started off with a couple of balls of liquised bread, ground hemp and ground pellets dropped into the edge of the flow. On the size 14 hook was a 7 mm punch of bread and I cast my 3 BB Drennan stick float in behind the feed. A dip and steady sink put a bend in the rod, as a very nice roach flashed over in the clearwater and I took my time to bring the fish over the ledge. Whoosh! The long shape of a pike broke through the surface and dived down to the roach, carrying it off to the far side, with my Browning bent double. Just my luck to have yet another pike, on the first cast too. After that initial run, the pike cruised slowly along the far bank and I began thinking about how I would get it up and over the shallow shelf to my landing net. I needn’t have worried, as the razor sharp teeth soon made short work of the 3 lb hook line.

Although there were obviously decent roach out in front of me, so was the pike and I began throwing balls of feed over toward the foam covered obstacle on the other bank, following down with my float. I was fishing overdepth by about a foot, with the main shot bulked at 18 inches from the hook, while holding the float back to half speed, stopping the travel with my finger for a second every five yards. Just as the float was going out of sight, I stopped it, then let go. It did not resurface. I struck to feel a small roach fighting and reeled back as quickly as I could. The pike would have swallowed that roach by now. The small roach fell off the hook as I swung it in.

At least there were fish to be had further down. My next trot hit into a better roach and I brought it back on the surface as quickly as possible. There was the pike again, like a dark torpedo heading for my fish and I reel down, swinging it in to my hand.

I decided that the next fish would be guided across to the shallows along my bank, this worked and another winter roach was in my hand.

Stopping the float, then letting it run was the answer in the fast current and next cast I was in again, this time a smaller roach was speeding back to me. A bow wave formed up behind the roach, which cleared the surface in panic and beached itself. I walked back and managed to free it from a bunch of twigs. As I was up, I decided to investigate the next swim downstream, which was in line with the area that I was getting the roach from.

The swim was no good for float fishing, with a tree hanging over the shallow shelf. I went back, drank my tea and finished off my sandwiches in the hope that the pike would be gone.

No such luck. Another nice roach was on and I pulled it back as quickly as possible. There was that bow wave again, just like the film Jaws, it stalked the roach, all that was missing was the relentless sound track, Bmm, Bmm, Bmm….. Bmm, Bmm, Bmm. Panic took over and the roach skittered across the surface and I swung it.

I was not enjoying this and neither were the roach. I considered packing up. I had started at 1:30; it was now 2:30; another hour and it would be too dark to fish. I gave it another cast and yes, I hooked a much bigger roach, this fish fighing hard using the flow and fighting upstream along the opposite bank. It was at least 8 oz and I got the landing net ready. Too late, the pike took from underneath, rolling on the surface with it’s prey between it’s jaws, then diving back to the dark depths. The hook pulled free from the roach. I felt guilty for being responsible for that pristine roach’s horrible death.

I tied on another hook, but put the rod back in the bag. My last outing on the Blackwater from a swim upstream had been the same. That pike had been half the size of this one and I almost landed it, but the roach was ejected with the pike a foot from the net. The ejected roach below.

It took more quality fish, including a large dace, intercepting roach once hooked. Easy prey.

The bread punch is a very effective method for roach, but it seems to bring the pike on to feed too.

This session was very disappointing on several levels for me, pike will naturally lie where shoals of roach are and it must be a bit like nipping into the buffet for a bite to eat. Maybe I have the wrong aproach. I should turn up with my pike gear, get the potentially offending fish out of the swim, take it further up, or downstream, then release it, THEN fish for roach on the bread punch.

The Survivors.

 

 

 

Jeanes Pond roach queue up for the bread punch.

November 23, 2022 at 9:18 pm

Heavy rain gave way to a cloudless sky this week, a pattern that is becoming familiar as November comes to an end. With other commitments, a short afternoon session once again was my only option to fish and I decided to keep local with my choice of venue. Jeanes Pond is only two miles from home and I was pleased to see very few floating leaves on the surface, when I arrived after lunch, being set up by 2 pm.

I chose peg 5, which juts out into the pond, giving deep water in close, allowing just the top two sections of my pole to cover the drop-off down to four feet deep. The air temperature was 8 degrees C, but the autumn sun was strong enough bring added warmth as it shone across recreation ground, although I was sure that I would appreciate my thermals and extra layers later on.

The pond has been ignored by club anglers lately and with no local knowledge available, I started off causiously, dropping a single ball of plain white liquidised bread over the drop-off. On impact with the surface, a ring of bread spread out and slowly sank through the crystal clear water, casting my 14 x 4 fine antenna float through the cloud. Despite a 5 mm punch of bread on a size 18 barbless hook, I had to wait a few minutes before the first sign of a bite, a single ripple radiating out from the antenna. A gentle dip of the antenna and a slow sink into the depths was responded to by a firm strike, the flash of a roach clearly visible deep beneath the surface. A short fight and a scoop of the landing net put a decent sized roach in my hand.

The fish was freezing to the touch, but the following bite was instant, a few bobs of the float and a steady submerge resulting in another hard fighting roach.

I rationed the amount of feed that I put in, very aware that at this time of year, little and not very often is a good policy, it being too easy to feed them off.

Due to the clarity of the water, I moved my tackle box back from the edge; if I could see these fish the instant that the hook went in, they could certainly see me. Into a rhythm catching fish, this was demonstrated to me later, when a mother and young child approached to watch. Wearing a purple coat, she stood alongside. The bites stopped. With no fish biting, they walked away and the bites started again. Another exagerating fisherman, who had said of the dozen roach taken in the first half hour!

A heron flew down to wait for small roach hiding beneath the water aerator. Being so cold there was no surface activity and I think that I was the only one catching fish that day.

This old soldier of a roach showed evidence of a pike, or cormorant attack, with ragged fins and scale damage.

This was one of several rudd taken.

As the sun began to sink behind the houses, the temperature dropped along with it, and it was time for a cup of hot tea, although each cup took at least four fish to drink, due to the float constantly going down too.

The roach were like peas in a pod, sunset at 4 pm dictating my time to pack up, the light was too dim for more photos and the cold was beginning to creep into my body, despite hot tea and my thermals.

 

Just a few ounces of plain liquidised bread had been all I needed to keep the red fins feeding today. I dropped several roach, that were just hanging onto the bread, many hooks falling out once in the landing net. A 4 mm punch may have been the answer, but it was hard enough hooking the 5 mm pellets of bread with cold wet hands.

Over forty fish on a cold afternoon from a water often ignored by Braybrooke Fishing Club members.

Roach feed on the bread punch despite the floods.

November 18, 2022 at 7:58 pm

Unable to fish all week, I nipped down to my local river Cut for a couple of hour’s fishing after lunch and was surprised to see the river over the banks. Fortunately the controlling Braybrooke club, had helped finance a disabled fishing platform a few years ago, which was still above water, just!

Time was tight, as sunset was just after 4 pm and darkness follows soon after, so appreciated having my 12ft Hardy float rod already made up in its holdall. Having no idea how it was going to fish, I only made up a small quantity of ground bait, liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, this damped down and squeezed into a couple of firm balls.

The area in front of me is usually only inches deep, but now my keepnet was being dragged to one side by the flow. The swim is on the inside of  a bend and the main flow was rushing along the opposite bank, so I dropped in two balls of feed upstream of my rod top. Having plumbed the depth at two feet, I set my 5 No 4 ali stemmed stick float six inches over depth and cast in with a 7 mm punch of bread on a size 14 barbless hook. Allowing the float to run down with line feeding off my ABU 501, the bait was lifting off the bottom as it trotted down, a finger on the spool stopped the float and the float went down. First cast a fish!

Not a big roach, but a good sign. A small roach a cast continued, the fish coming from a slack area at the end of the trot. Then I found a snag. A big willow branch had drifted into the slack and I had hooked it. I began dragging it upstream toward me. It went solid against the bottom and I lost the hook. With a new hook link looped into place, the roach were coming again, another ball of feed attracting some better fish.

The roach were further down the trot and it wasn’t long before another hook was lost. A few more roach and I was in the snag again, managing to bring it over toward my bank. I walked down with my landing net, determined to  pull it out, but this time it lodged on the bottom under a larger branch. At least it was now clearly visible, sticking out of the water. I pulled for a break, but the line was now wrapped around a willow branch and a loud crack signalled the main line broken. It was gone below the float with only a few shot left. It was easier to get out another float rig, than reshot the rig. This new one was 6 No 4, better suited to cope with the increasing flow.

I mixed up some more feed, as I wanted to bring the fish up away from the snag, firming up more balls to drop in ten feet upstream. This brought gudgeon into the swim.

The roach had also moved up, taking several right under my rod top, which made for a few frantic battles on the short line.

Dace also put in an appearance, I caught three on the trot, then no more. Their name derives from the Old French dart, which describes them perfectly, dashing in and out after the bait and rapid bites. Mine all gave unhittable dips of the float, but dragged it under, when I held the float back.

The dace were very plump and fought all the way to the net.

By 3:45 the light was going rapidly, despite a glorious sunset, this quality roach was only just in focus, with the colours washed out.

Minutes later, I held the float back and the rod bent into what I thought was a chub, which dashed off downstream. Wary of the snag lying in wait, I stopped the run, controlling the pressure with my finger on the rim of the reel, with the little Hardy rod bent double. The fish turned and came back upstream with just the odd shake of it’s head, sliding into the landing net, a perfect roach. Visibity was still good to the eye, but the camera did lie in this instance.

They say that good things come in threes and so it was with my last fish, those big roach were waiting for low light and the last one buried the float half way down the trot, fighting all over the river, getting in the main flow and requiring rapid backwinding of my 501. Fish know when they are lightly hooked and fight accordingly, the lightweight Hardy taking all the shocks to bring the roach to the net, the barbless hook barely holding onto the skin of it’s snout. No picture, but it’s in here somewhere.

It was good to see these quality roach.

 

 

Bread punch nets carp and skimmer bream from the autumn farm pond

November 13, 2022 at 1:06 am

It is a while since I visited a local farm pond and had been advised that it had not been fishing due to low water levels and cormorants. Well I like a challenge and set off anyway. Rain was unlikely for a change and winds were blowing all the way from North Africa, bringing an unseasonal heatwave in mid November. The pond is set among trees and always provides a bank in the lee of the wind, having a free choice, as the fishery was deserted as usual.

Plumbing the depth, there was less than two feet at twenty five feet out, about a foot down on usual. Intending to fish the bread punch, soft balls of feed were made up, the mix being one third each of liquidised bread, ground carp feed pellets and ground hemp. There was no surface activity, apart from the occasional carp breaching around the island and I was unsure how much to start with. It did look dead and so started off with just one small ball, literally to test the water. Casting my 4 x 14 antenna float to the middle of the feed, I had to wait over five minutes for the first slight dip of the float. Eventually the float tracked away and a skimmer bream surfaced on the strike, then dived away, before rolling again. Convinced that I was about to lose the the fish at any moment, I took my time to guide it to the net.

The skimmer was only just hooked in the bottom lip by the size 16 barbless, the bread hardly touched after five minutes of dithering around. I noticed an area of fine bubbles around the feed and cast in over them. The float settled, then lifted, dipped and lifted again. I struck. Missed it. No, contact just below the surface and a minature skimmer swung to hand.

Once more the punched bread was not being taken in, the hook in the bottom lip. I switched the 6 mm punch for a 5 mm, maybe a smaller bait would encourage a more positive bite?

Top lip this time. I had shallowed up by a few inches and strung out a few shot from the bulk. An instant bite and a well hooked fish. Small yes, but they all count.

I was now on a production line. Dip, dip, lift, strike. Another ball had encouraged smaller skimmers and roach into the swim, so tried a firm ball six feet to the right. I had also increased the depth again with 3 inches on the bottom. It seemed to work.

This skimmer pulled out the elastic and fought along the bottom, before kiting to the surface and the landing net. These were a better stamp of skimmer and tried another firm ball over the original feed.

Splashing at the far end of the pond drew my eye, seeing a trio of cattle had entered the pond through a gate for a lunchtime drink. It was now 1:30, half way through my session, time for a cup of tea and a sandwich for me. My wife prepares half a sandwich, then cuts it into four bite sized pieces, so that I don’t need to interupt the flow of fish on a day like this one was turning out to be. A fish a chuck.

There were plenty of bubbles coming from the first area and I dropped the float in over them. The bite  was bobs and dips ending in a slow sinking run. The strike saw the elastic out as the unseen fish fought deep (in two feet of water???) and a golden flash confirmed my guess, a crucian carp, which came spinning up to the landing net.

There were hoards of crucians here once, a double figure bag of these on the punch not impossible, but then I wasn’t complaining, although a small roach gave an identical impression of a crucian bite next cast and I was complaining.

That crucian was not alone, as a smaller version came to the net the following cast.

A bumped crucian and they were gone. Not to worry, the float was still going under, this time with a skimmer.

Small roach and the occasional gudgeon were now intercepting the bread, so it was back to the other area. A steady lift and cruise off saw the elastic out again with another dencent skimmer.

With no pike in the pond, this one was obiously a survivor of a cormorant attack, the still bleeding flank and tatty dorsal fin evidence of these carnivorous birds, that usually arrive at a water before anglers and can devastate a fishery.

There were some better skimmers this side, but several small roach then put in an appearance.

The biggest roach of the day. Where have they gone? Cormorants again? They call them the Black Death for a reason.

With the sun behind the trees, a cool breeze was driving out the sub tropical air of earlier and my camera was beginning wash out the colours as 3 pm approached. Bubbles were rising again in the original fed area and decided to have one last cast into the bubbles. The float dithered and bobbed before slowly sinking. The elastic came out again and I knew it was a crucian before I netted it.

OK, one extra last cast, the crucians were obviously back. Sure enough the float dithered and slowly sank away. Strike! Solid, then the elastic zoomed out in the direction of the island. It was a decent carp, powering across the pond and I bent the pole into it. It slowed and turned. Not that big then? Soon I was down to my top two elasticated sections of pole, ready to slip the other sections on, if it went for another power dive. It rolled in front of the net and I scooped it in.

Four pounds of pure muscle.

The carp was a bonus. I have often had carp in the last half hour here. It was tempting to try for another, but at this time of year it gets dark quickly, and I had to pack up, then walk back to the van through the wood.

The bread punch had accounted for over fifty fish in the last three hours from a rarely fished pond.

Autumn carp, crucains and rudd feed on bread punch between the showers.

November 5, 2022 at 7:01 pm

Chosing a day to fish without being deluged by showers, has become a matter of pot luck recently, despite whatever the weather forecasters say. Earlier in the week “a dry, sunny morning, with light winds” saw heavy showers swept in by gale force winds before lunchtime, dismissing my planned fishing session. I kept an eye on the local forecasts and saw that heavy showers for the rest of the week in my area, showed overnight rain clearing, before the next weather system blew in from the west. Well, in the morning, the overnight rain was still clearing, but a glimmer of sunshine at midday saw me taking a chance to fish, raiding the freezer for my bread, gathering up my pole and loading the trolley for the ten minute walk to my local pond.

By the time that I was set up at 1 pm, the sun had found a gap in the clouds and the chill wind had dropped. It reminded me of the saying “the calm before the storm”, a thought dismissed, when the float lifted and sank, with a small rudd being drawn back to my waiting hand. It was surprisingly cold to the touch.

A mix of liqidised bread and ground carp pellets had been formed into four balls and lobbed into an area seven to eight metres out, attracting instant bites from small rudd, but ten minutes in, solid resitance promised a crucian carp. Not so, it was a very nice rudd extending the elastic.

A steady stream of decent rudd had found the baited area, but a good crucian had nosed it’s way among them.

More rudd and even some big gudgeon were keeping the interest going. A cold wind had now begun blowing into my face from the west, making bite detection difficult, keeping an eye on the line for movement.

I put in some more balls of feed and watched the line zoom off, when a small common carp took on the drop.

An identical bite and the elastic was out following a fish toward the lily bed to my right. It slowed and turned as the elastic took the strain. It was not a big common and I began pulling the pole up and back to clear the wooded bank behind me, detaching the top two sections to play the fish to the net, this being when it woke up, proving that it was bigger than I first thought!

These small commons were now crowding round foraging for the bread, next year will be more interesting once they have put on a few more ounces.

Black clouds were now filling the sky and gusts of wind were bringing droplets of rain. I checked my watch, ten minutes to four. I would pack up soon. Another crucian kept me going. They tend to prefer half light.

My camera was already washing out the colours, this golden rudd looking quite pale.

Bites were still coming, but so was darkness, the sun long gone behind the railway embankment. The last small common looking very greyed out, when I called it a day at 4 pm.

It had been a busy three hours, varying the punches between 6 and 7 mm haing no effect on the size of fish taken. Apart from the occasional flurry, the rain had held off, but the temperature had dropped dramatically in the last hour, summer has gone and winter beckons. I made it home before the next storm system raced through into the night.

The final tally, roach, gudgeon, rudd, common and crucian carp, all from a public, stream fed pond.

Bread punch fishing against the odds on the Basingstoke Canal

October 30, 2022 at 4:35 pm

With only an afternoon available to fish, I tried a new section of the Basingstoke Canal this week, driving to Pondtail Bridge at Fleet, intending to fish the downstream flash, where the canal has been widened to allow barges to turn round. These areas hold bream and I had brought along my sensitive canal wand to fish over into it using a swan shot link leger. Walking toward the flash, I could see that it was choked with fallen leaves, while the canal was crystal clear, despite nights of heavy rain.

I decided to fish as close to the flash as possible and cleared a swim of brambles just upstream. The bottom was visible right out to the boat road seven metres out and I assembled 8 metres of pole, which would allow me to fish along the near shelf and to the middle in three feet of water. Being so clear, I did not expect the bream to feed and set up a light 4 x 14 antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook, starting with a 5 mm punch of bread for roach. I put out two small balls of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets, one at 7 metres and the other at 8 and fed out the rig.

The float had barely settled, when it began to kite off to one side and sink slowly away. I lifted into the bite and saw the silver flash of a decent roach, as it resisted the elastic. Feeding the pole back , the elastic suddenly stretched out. Oh no! Not a pike first cast!

The pike powered away downstream, while I fed out the rest of the pole and pulled against the run with the pole bent round. The float pinged back. The 2 lb hook link was cut through. At least the rig had survived and I looped on another size 18 hook link. This had been the best outcome, the swim was undisturbed and the pike was gone for now. Ready to fish again, I dropped in over the fed area and the float was gone again. The canal was so clear, that the response from another roach was visible immediately and I pulled the pole back conscious of that lurking pike. The end of the pole thumped against the garden fence behind me and I had to reach forward to disconnect the top two sections, before I could grab the landing net.

Quite a nice canal roach. This would do for a start. At least the pike had not put them off. The next cast brought an instant bite, this time from a small rudd, not the biggest in the world, but they all count.

The bites kept coming, as did the fish, mostly roach from that same patch over those two balls of feed. The problem with the Basi Canal is that it is a public right of way, with walkers, pram pushers and cyclists constantly expecting you to move your pole off the towpath, when unhooking a fish or rebaiting. I also didn’t realise, that my bit of the bank was a short cut from the the local Sainsbury at the bridge, to a path giving access to housing estate 50 yards away. I asked one man with a dog, if he had a twin, as he had passed by several times!

I tried bulking the shot to get through to the bottom, but found a covering of pond weed, when the bread wasn’t taken on the drop. Stringing the shot out again and reducing the depth slightly brought more positive bites, plus greedy roach.

The canal began to speed up, which could only mean one thing. A barge was coming. Looking to my right, I could see it approaching the upstream bridge and managed to net a couple more roach, before the good ship Bramble glided past. Thanking me for pulling in my pole, the lady passenger explained that they had hired the barge for the day at Odiham ten miles upstream and would be turning around in the flash, before heading back. Oh well, I’d not had time for a cup of tea yet, due to too much roach action, so got the flask out.

The barge reversed back and got stuck, churning up mud. It shunted back and forth until finally getting free of the shallow flash, when the wife and two children went to the front to shift the weight forward. The barge bow was now embedded in the towpath bank and the wife jumped off with a rope, pulling the front round to face back upstream. Panic over, at last it was free and chugging past, stirring up the bottom as it went. Time for more tea, while the mud settled.

I put in a couple more balls of feed and continued taking small roach. The wind had got up, blowing leaves from the trees and it was becoming difficult to find a gap for the float rig. No bites meant a leaf on the hook. I considered packing up.

A small skimmer bream gave me encouragement to continue and I scraped up the last of my feed to put two more balls over to the middle. Roach continued to take the float under, then I cast and the float just lay flat, stuck on another leaf. I lifted the pole, the float was two feet clear of the surface, when the line went solid with a big fish, that at first did nothing, then slowly swam upstream. I could see the deep bronze flank of a bream, waking up to being hooked, shaking it’s head, before exploding into life. The elastic was beneath the surface, rhythmically following the slow fighting fish. I managed to get another length of pole attached as it slowed. It turned, making short runs along the opposite bank. I was winning the battle, but conscious of that tiny size 18 hook to 2 lb line, letting this dustbin lid of a bream make all the running.

I got the landing net ready, as the bream began rolling on the surface. Ding. Ding. A pair of cyclists, were impatiently waiting for me to move my landing net handle from the path. I nodded towards the bream. “I’ve got a big fish on” I explained, shoving the net into the canal edge. They looked at me as though I was deranged and scuttled by. The bream was beaten, but not finished and I managed to detach the top three in time for a glide on it’s side back to the deeper water. It turned and gave up, lying there on it’s side, being gradually pulled by the elastic to the net. I winced at the sight of the hook, barely in the skin at the side of the lip. “Don’t come out”. It did. Too far from the net. The bream righted and spurted away, while my rig found sanctuary in the brambles.

I had considered scaling up to a size 16, when I lost the pike, but continued with an 18, due to the clear water. 4 lb bream were not on my agenda at that time. I managed to retrieve the float rig without falling in, but the hook link was a tangle of bream slime. This time I looped on a size 16.

The roach did not seem to mind the larger hook and I caught several more, before the leaves got the better of me; my last roach, one of the better ones.

It had been an eventful few hours on the bread punch. At least the pike had not returned, although next time I’ll look for a less popular part of the towpath.

Despite problems from the very start, about fifty roach had obliged and kept me busy, the wind was warm and it hadn’t rained. What more can you ask for?

Mirror carp and skimmer bream play in the rain at Kings Pond

October 15, 2022 at 6:49 pm

My only opportunity to fish this week was forecast for intermittent rain later in the day and I figured that I could squeeze in a few hours at the prolific Farnham water, Kings Pond, before it began. Unloading the van before 11 am, heavy mist, was already turning to drizzle and by the time that I had set up my pole, the first drops of real rain were falling. There were no other anglers present and had to rely on the bailiff for a heads up on how it was fishing. “It’s been hard mate. The frost has killed it!” Brilliant. I was here now, so had to make the best of it.

Wearing plenty of thick layers, I ignored the wet stuff and got on with making up my groundbait, 60% liquidised bread, 30% ground carp pellets and 10% ground hemp, with a sprinkling of strawberry flavouring. The rain helped dampen down the mix and I formed up a couple of firm balls, which I put in alongside the lily bed to my right. At least there was little wind and I set up with a 4 x 14 fine antenna float to a size 18 barbless hook, punching out a 5 mm pellet of bread. At five metres the depth was 1.2 metres dropping off at the end of the lilies. Swinging out the rig into the drop off to fall through, a slide away bite brought a small rudd.

The rudd was the first of many. If these were feeding, then it was likely that I would prove the bailiff wrong. I bulked the shot in an effort to avoid the smaller fish going up to a 6 mm punch and had to wait for a bite, but when it came, a stronger pull on the pole, saw the landing net out for the first time with a larger, colourful rudd.

Following another ball of feed, the float dived under as a small fish hooked itself. It was a mini mirror carp.

The next bite took its time before it sank away. The elastic came out momentarily as a larger mirror made off towards the deeper water.

This little fellow packed a punch, diving for the safety of the lily bed, before being pulled into open water. It had taken 30 minutes for these recently stocked fish to find the feed, but now they were taking on the drop. I strung out the shot to allow a the bait to fall through slower and got a bite immediately, with the float half cocked. I lifted and the pole tip rapped round with the elastic following into the deeper water. The mirrors were getting bigger.

I was now getting into a rhythm, waiting for gentle dips of the antenna to progress to a rapid move away, before sinking out of sight. Once hooked these carp exploded into life, running for deeper water. They fought furiously, rushing all over the swim, until they gave in to the heavy elastic, often swimming straight into the awaiting landing net. Each time the tiny size 18 hook barbless held firm.

I now had two strange bites, that dithered around with the float, lifting and dropping the antenna. I thought small roach, crucians, or bream. The first lift bite I missed, with the bait gone. The second I waited for the float to move off and under. Missed again with the bait still there. Small bubbles were rising and I dropped the float among them. More dithering and a slow move off, but I waited until the float had faded into the coloured water. Contact!  After an initial rattling fight, a silver flank broke the surface and a decent skimmer bream was soon sliding across the surface to the net.

A smaller skimmer bream followed, as did heavier spots of rain and I reached for my waterproof jacket. The jacket has very stiff material and I struggled to get my left arm into the sleeve, bearing in mind that I was already wearing long sleeved thermals, a woolly shirt, a thick jacket with a collar and a zipped up hoody, with the hood over my cap. I finally got my left hand into the sleeve, rotating on the spot, as I tried for deeper penetration, fighting to work the heavy camo jacket over my back. This effort seemed to take an age and worthy of inclusion in the You’ve Been Framed TV programme!

At last I was back on my tackle box, laying the sides of the jacket to cover the two side trays, one with the all important bread for the punch. I put in another ball of feed and replaced the punch bread with a fresh one from the wallet in my bait apron, which was also doing a good job of keeping my legs dry.

At last I was fishing again and playing another nice mirror. This was turning into a good session, the bream had been pushed out, or more likely the mirrors were getting there first.

The shower was over as quickly as it had arrived, a patch of blue with sunshine taking its place. The jacket came off far quicker than it went on. It was very restrictive of movement and celebrated with yet another mirror.

Here we go again, it was tipping down as black clouds filled the far horizon. The jacket was on quickly this time, the stiff material having kept the shape of my arms.

The first of three small commons fought it’s way to the landing net, these streamlined carp giving an even better account of themselves, than the mirrors. Next year should be interesting, once they put on a bit more weight.

As the rain hammered on my hood, the float almost disappeared as the rain lashed down and I needed to watch the line for movement. More than one carp hooking itself.

Staring out from the hood, I felt that I was in a cocoon, remote from the pond. At least the rain was warm and the float kept going down, regular balls of feed keeping the fish concentrated into a small area, competing for the offerings from above.

Another decent skimmer bream made it through to the bread bait, taking on the drop, laying the float flat, then moving off to the deeper water on the strike. This one fought well despite a stab wound to the back by a heron.

My eyes were constantly on the sky to the west, looking for a break in the clouds, the forecast for intermittent showers should have read continuous. I’d had my fun and was ready to go home.

This big skimmer eased the pressure to leave, splashing on the surface, when it took mid water, then rushing off against the elastic, the hook keeping hold in the top lip. More mirrors and another small common carp helped the wait for the eventual dry spell. Sitting on my box with everything protected from the rain was bearable, packing up in the rain is not. I was able to dry the sections of the pole and not rush packing my box. I hate fishing in the rain!

A soggy bait tray evidence of a busy session.

The afternoon began slowly, then became relentless, a bit like the rain.

 

Roach among the autumn leaves at Jeanes Pond play hard to get

October 8, 2022 at 11:50 am

Not having fished Braybrooke Fishing Club’s Jeanes Pond for a couple of months, I thought that I would target the water’s roach this week, in the hope of finding the quality fish that were commonplace on the bread punch, once the water temperature had fallen.

Arriving before noon, a strong wind was blowing from the south west, ruling out  half the swims, while the first of the autumn leaves were beginning to fall, so playing safe I chose peg 17 in the lea of the warden’s house, where it was flat calm.

The first thing that I noticed was the low water level in the pond, my peg having rocks and gravel exposed at the edge. I usually start fishing this swim with just the top two of my pole, but when I plumbed the swim, there was only a depth of eighteen inches and had to add another two lengths of pole to find three feet.

There was no surface activity, which is unusual for a water with a high number of fry and small fish, so I decided to only feed the minimum amount of plain liquidised bread. I cast in my 4 x 14 fine antenna float, with a 5 mm punch of bread fished off bottom, dropping a small ball close to the float. After five minutes, I checked the bait. It was still there and cast back over the feed. After a few more minutes, rings appeared around the antenna and it slowly sank. A very small roach fell off the hook before I could swing it in. Back in again and the float sank straight away with a slightly bigger specimen swinging to hand.

At least fish were biting, but I had expected  something bigger. Casting back into the same spot, the float sat for a minute, before dipping and sinking. Ah, a better roach.

The antenna was set to sit just above the surface and the bites took time to develope, starting as a tremble, to dips, then a slow hold under. If I waited too long, the float would pop up again with the bait intact. The bread was still soft and would rub off the hook. Very confusing. They were interested in the liquidised feed, but only half hearted about the bait.

I added some strawberry powder and ground hemp to the feed and punched through into it, leaving a layer on the punch. The bites improved and I hooked more roach, but they were still taking their time .

I started off another line of feed and went over depth. The roach were perking up and the bites improved.

I have found this before, whether the roach see the bait sink, then hover off the bottom and become suspicious, mouthing the bait, then dropping it, I don’t really know, but if it lies on the bottom among the feed, they will take the bread more confidently. When the water is warmer, the fish need to feed, but once the water cools, their metabolic rate falls and they slow down and food becomes a lower priority.

The roach were not a patch on the ones I used to catch here, but they all needed the landing net, after I tried to swing in one of those better roach, only for the hook to pull out.

It was soon time for a tea break and a change of punch bread, the combination of sun and wind was drying the bread out too quickly, making it crumble when put on the hook. I keep the bread in a plastic wallet in my bait apron, where they stay fresh, but once exposed to the air they were hardening off quickly. On a day when they are “Having it”, this would not matter, but when you are scratching for bites, every little helps.

The wind had increased, blowing more leaves onto the water, which were floating round with the surface drift and it was becoming difficult to find an opening to place the float into, the drift then driving leaves into the float dragging it under. Time to pack up after one last roach.

Once again the bread punch had done its job on a hard day. I was the only person fishing and could not judge whether any other bait would have worked better.

All roach and not a rudd in sight. After I returned these fish, I found another five roach in my keep net, which would have pushed my total to over thirty. Not bad for hard day.

Mr Toothy ruins the afternoon on the River Blackwater

October 4, 2022 at 2:13 pm

Due to knee surgery, I had been unable to fish the Farnborough and District stretch of the River Blackwater this season, but this week was fit enough to take advantage of a warm, dry weather forecast. Despite heavy rain over the weekend, the river was running clear, being able to see the bottom right across to the other bank.

At the tail of a bend, the river here runs along the ivy covered shuttering, before sweeping across to the middle where it shallows up, passing under trailing branches, as it turns again for a right turn. I tackled up my 14 foot Browning float rod with a homemade 3BB heron quill stick float, that I had used with great success the week before on my local River Cut. The Blackwater has double the pace of the Cut and I was interested to see how this vintage style float would perform.

After damping down a mix of some heavy liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, I squeezed up a couple firm balls and lobbed them over to the shuttering, watching them sink, twisting in the current, as they were swept downstream. Baiting my size 14 hook with a 7 mm punch of bread, the rig was cast over to follow the bread, checking the float, then letting it run.

The float had only travelled a few yards, before it dived beneath the surface, the yellow tip visible as it cruised downstream. Lifting the rod, the hook set into solid resistance. A couple of bounces and the fish dashed off downstream, while I backwound. The ten yard run slowed and I could see a decent chub shaking it’s head, before turning to run back along the shuttering, it’s white mouth soon on the surface. A few more rolls and the 2 lb chub was in the landing net.

The hook was just in the top lip and I reached for my disgorger to take it out. This was the chub’s cue to leap about it the net. The barbless hook came out OK, but the line was wrapped round the fish and covered in slime. The rig was now in an impossible tangle.

I cut the float off and put on a Drennan 5 No 4 ali stemmed stick from a new winder, bulking the shot 18 inches from the hook. Another ball of feed and I was fishing again. Half way down the trot, the float lifted, then sank and a nice roach was flashing away in the clear water, gently reeling it back to the landing net.

After a couple of smaller roach, another decent redfin was on it’s way to the net, this one taking further down mid river, where the feed was settling on the gravel bottom.

Next cast the rod bent over into a big dace, which came straight to the surface. The long green shape of a pike arced over from the shuttering and took the dace, pulling my rod round. Backwinding, I stayed in contact. The pike was only five, or six pounds and I was confident that I could get it out, but the line sprung back minus the hook link. Pike are the bane of my life.

I started again, but the decent fish were gone, just a few dips and lifts from small roach. I thought that I was in for a reasonable afternoon, but Mr Toothy put paid to that. I ate my lunch. I noticed that the river had gone down by six inches in the first hour.

I mixed up another tray of feed, putting in regular balls, which brought the roach back, trying not to rush the fish, but wary of the pike.

I hooked a dace, which ran to the shallows in panic, followed by the pike, which turned away.

That big dace had not satisfied the pike’s hunger and bites had disappeared. I considered packing up, but there was still feed in the tray and carried on. The river was now down by a foot and I shallowed up again. The bread was visible now under the float and I began casting downstream along the shuttering to the deeper water. The float went down and I was playing a better sized roach. A swirl and the pike had it. Once again I held onto the pike, taking my time to bring it level with me, but now I had a beach in front of me and stretched out the landing net. It released the roach, which sprung to the surface and I netted that instead.

What a mess. A few minutes earlier this had been a pristine roach. Fortunately it was only superficial scale damage and I released it upstream, where it slowly swam off.

There were no more bites to be had close to me and I edged the float over the shallows, where small dace were hammering the bread under the tree. Holding back hard they were hooking themselves, only to come off again. One fish that stayed on was a perch.

I call them bread punch perch. This one was probably attacking one of the small dace and got hooked.

The rod bent over as I held back under the tree, a decent roach taking the punch in a foot of water.

This roach swam back along the edge in the shallows, the pike was still about. It didn’t take long to find out. Casting downstream to the shallows by the tree to save time on the trot, the float pulled under with another good roach. I had just begun to reel back, when a bow wave engulfed the roach. It was so shallow, that the pike was flapping it’s tail out of water. I pulled the rod round and the pike swam down through the sunken branches, snagging my line and I lost the rig.

That was the last straw. I had only been fishing for just over two hours, but too late to move now.

 That pike would have kept going, and I felt guilty feeding it with prime fish.

Heron feather transformed into a stick float, becomes a fish catcher

September 26, 2022 at 11:04 am

Walking along my local river Cut last week, I stopped as I was about to cross a narrow girder bridge. In the river a heron was standing neck poised, concentrating on a shoal of fry, waiting for them to come within range. In a flash it’s beak stabbed at the water and a fry was swallowed down. I watched as the heron repeated the feeding ritual, unaware that I was watching, until a mountain biker rode across the bridge at full speed. I stepped back to let the rider pass, in time to watch the heron rise in panic from the river and flap away upstream, a lone wing feather becoming detached to spin to the ground.

I picked it up and immediately thought that it would make a good float. As a young teenager, all my floats were made from the quills of birds. Swan quills were prized, but crow quills were plentiful and most were stripped, with the tips dipped into scarlet Airfix kit paints, meant for model Spitfire propeller spinners.

These days I am very particular about what stick floats I buy, my old favourite Middy Ali Stemmed floats are no longer available. I bought up stocks, but they are now gone to be replaced by Drennan Ali Stems, which are going the same way. Are these that important? I decided to strip back the heron feather, rub it down, spray it with satin black, dipping the tip in white emulsion, before applying some florescent yellow once the emulsion was dry. Not a pretty sight, but it should work ok.

With a rubber top and bottom, I shotted it up level with the top rubber to 3 BB and put it on a winder ready for my next river session on the Cut. I still have the old sheet metal box that my father made for me many years ago, containing similar floats on Perspex winders. Starling quills and crow quills for canal and river use, nestled with porcupine and swan quills. I used to catch many fish and won matches with these, but abandoned them once I joined my first sponsored match fishing team, replaced by a set of Ashurst balsa and greenheart stick floats of various sizes. Today all my floats are on winders, we have gone full circle on that one.

I would liked to have fished with the float, where I watched the heron, but the trees hung low over the water and it would be a shame to lose it first cast among the branches. I chose a spot well upstream with plenty of room for my 14 foot Browning float rod.

Without any rain for weeks, the river was low and clear, the bottom visible right across. On my last visit to this swim in July, I topped out a net of decent roach, with a monster 3 lb 12 oz crucian carp from a coloured river, but I did not expect a repeat performance today and would be happy to watch my new, old style float showing bites and going under.

I mixed up a half tray of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, adding enough water to hold a ball together, then put a couple of balls over toward the opposite bank, where the flow followed the outside of the bend. The balls could be seen sinking slowly downstream, spreading along the bottom. Not a lot of flow, even there. I plumbed the depth, only two feet. I was already considering a move to one of the deeper swims further downstream.

Oh well, let’s give it a go. I cast down close to a dead branch on the opposite bank, below my feed. The yellow tip was clearly visible for a second before it was pulled under. I struck and saw a small roach twist and turn beneath the surface, swinging it to hand.

The float had caught its first fish, this small roach having taken a 6 mm punch of bread.

Not a fluke. Next cast another small roach, dip, dip, down, perfect bite indication. There were plenty of them down there and I began swinging them in. I could watch the bread sink, then disappear in time with the float going under. I decided to bulk two No 4 shot close to the hook link and increased the depth to fish hard on the bottom, casting downstream and tightening the line to the float. This provoked an instant bite, but this time a decent gudgeon was putting a bend in the rod.

It was a fish a chuck, gudgeon and small roach, but nothing big, until the float held down and a better sized fish turned over as I struck. It was not a roach, but a perch that had taken the bread, either mistaking the bread for a small fish as it fluttered down, or hooked attempting to take a small roach feeding on the bread. Whatever, the landing net was out for the first time that afternoon.

There were a lot of small perch about, chasing fry across the shallows, bullying them and scooping them from the surface. A kingfisher was also busy, dropping from a branch at regular intervals to plunder the small fish.

More feed brought better roach on the feed, but gudgeon kept filling the net. even another bread punch perch got in on the act.

Time was getting on and I was running out of punch bread, this roach taking a 5 mm punch offered on the size 14 hook.

The bread punch had provided another busy session and as usual, I’d run out of holes to punch.

There were no decent roach and where were the chub? Not even a small one, although a few small dace stayed on long enough to go into the net. Ironically it was a heron’s feather quill float that accounted for this lot.