Chub and roach make a late afternoon visit to the Blackwater worthwhile.

February 2, 2022 at 6:53 pm

Warmer temperatures and sunshine drew me to a small Farnborough lake this week, but fussy bites and one bumped fish in an hour, saw me put away my pole at 1 pm and head off in the van to the nearby River Blackwater, where I knew the fish would be biting. By 2:30 my 14 foot Browning float rod was set up with a 4 No 4 stick float to a size 16 barbless hook and the first ball of liquidised bread, ground hemp with ground carp pellets had been introduced into the swim.

The sun was already beginning to sink beyond the trees, as I made my first trot close into my bank, following the sinking cloud of feed and missed a bite that held down for at least a second, before my shocked brain sent signals to my right arm to strike! The bait was gone. What a difference to the lake four miles up the road.

Next trot I gave it full concentration as the float half dipped and bobbed. I held back hard and the float sank. Contact, but only a very small roach came skittering across the surface. I missed the next few bites, then another small roach.

They were hanging onto the 6 mm punch of bread, nibbling away until the hook was bare. I went down to a 5 mm punch and shallowed up and fished through a small nugget of feed. There was a dip. That was it, the bread was gone. I had been using a fresh piece of bread to punch out the bait. Maybe it was too soft? I pulled out a rolled piece of bread from the wallet, that had been compressed to a third of normal thickness. Once on the hook, I gave it another squeeze for luck and dropped the float in again. It dipped, then swerved. I held back and it sank. Another small roach? No, the rod bent and bucked as a better roach flashed under the surface and the net was out. The hook came out in the net.

The depth here was only 30 inches and the hook was three inches off the bottom, swinging up higher, when I held the float back. A nugget of feed every other cast was bringing the fish up in the water. I missed a bite, then let the float go again to see the float disappear immediately and I hooked into a tumbling little dace. These are notorious for stripping a hook in seconds. I persevered with a tight line, dip, dip, pull upstream six inches. The dace were hooking themselves, many falling off. Time to change tactics. I was sure that the better fish were down near the bottom, where the feed was laying down a carpet and moved the float up six inches to fish over depth, and bunched the shot closer to the hook above the single No 8, while selecting the 6 mm punch again.

The change worked. The float dipped a few times, then buried as a good roach responded to the rising bait and I was in again, taking my time to reel back to the net. Very nice.

The next roach was as even better, and I back wound the ABU501 as it made a run downstream, then slowly brought it back upstream. This was not a match against the clock and the fish was soon on it’s side ready to be netted from the high bank.

On the next trot I struck too soon, then let the float run a further ten yards, where the float lifted and sank as I struck, hitting into the fish as it moved downstream, instantly lifting my finger off the spool as it surged off. The rod pulled round as I gave line, then back wound. This was a much better fish, that was hugging the shuttering on my side, as I brought it back. It was now making straight for the snag ten yards down from me and I held the rod out in a failed attempt to keep it away. The line went solid and the branch on the surface moved against the pull of the fish. I let the line go slack and the float popped back onto the surface, then moved off. The fish was still on and soon on the surface in front of me. A chub.

The top lip had been ripped at some time and my hook was in the landing net, so I guess that I had been lucky to land this one, despite the snag.

As I put the chub in the keepnet, I was aware of someone standing beside me and looked up to see one of the men from the building site across the river. He was complete with a white protective helmet and a dayglo yellow jacket, stepping forward to look down into the river. “Shallow isn’t it?” I replied that he had probably scared all the fish away now. “Sorry mate.” He left to bother the angler fishing further upstream.

Scare the fish he had and I had to trot much further down before the next bite. It bobbed, and sank. A small fish rattled on the end. It was a perch.

I had a few worms with me and put one on. The float only travelled ten feet before it dragged under.

A perfectly formed little bruiser.

I used the same worm to catch a succession of similar sized and smaller perch, then went back to the bread, when there was nothing left on the hook. The bottom must have be covered with them. I stepped up the feed rate to a nugget a cast in an attempt to pull the fish back up the swim.

All was not lost, a small dace, a swinger roach, then the one above heralded the return of the better fish.

I was now witnessing a glorious sunset, the sky golden behind me and pink ahead. The river was now in shadow and it was becoming difficult to see the tip of the float beyond ten yards, this was compounded when playing a fish, the one above almost at a far bank snag before I was able to persuade it away.

I shallowed up to two feet deep, as the bites were coming in the first five yards, while following the feed down. The roach above rolling on the surface, when I struck, rapidly giving line to avoid pulling the hook out.

This chub took under the rod top, when I dropped the float in, it taking off like only a chub can, hugging the far bank shuttering in an attempt to find a snag.

The light was now going fast as heavy cloud shaded out the last of the sunset and I was lucky to spot the bite of the roach above. One second the float was there, then it was gone and I searched the surface then struck, being lucky to land the hard fighting red fin, as it was hooked on the outside of the nose.

The last roach of the afternoon was another perfect specimen, that fought all the way, trying to find a snag under my feet and being difficult to net.

I scraped up the last of my feed and plopped it in, following on with the float, which ran ten feet before sliding sideways and vanishing out of sight. Chub of this size are manageable on a light stick float rig, once the initial run has been countered, this one making a series of short runs before giving up. It was not dark when I took this pic. My camera could not adjust to the low light and I used the flash. I made this chub the last fish, packing up at 5 pm.

I had been too optimistic expecting the lake to fish well after all the cold weather, but glad that I had forced myself to leave the comfort of a sunny peg, to move to the Blackwater and can only guess at what those extra two hours would have put in the net.