Chub and roach on bread flake welcome the new year

January 5, 2015 at 7:06 pm

The Christmas and New Year festivities over, I was suffering from severe cabin fever, having played host to family members over the period, some in varying states of colds and flu, keeping outside activity down to a minimum, while my fishing gear was certainly off limits. A wet New Year’s Day, made way for a glorious sunny morning and the van was loaded ready for a visit to a Thames tributary not far from my home, arriving to find the river fining down, after heavy overnight rain, at midday.urbanfieldsportsman 1084

My intended swim is about half a mile from the road, but having reached a spot where the river takes a sharp left hand bend, I stopped, seeing this swim as if with new eyes. I usually fish the water in early autumn, before the leaves drop and this part is choked with weed, but now it was clear, beckoning me to fish it.

urbanfieldsportsman 1083

Opposite, the flow came round along the bank, washing past the remains of a willow, that looked very chubby, while a slower run went down the middle, blending into an eddy on my side. With a tree at my back, I was able to place my tackle box upstream, just out of range of it’s overhanging branches, having decided to set up my fourteen foot float rod to fish bread flake on a size 14 hook under a 6 No. 4, ali stem, bodied stick float. Plumbing the depth, there was over four feet just past middle, which ran almost to the opposite bank. Perfect for trotting a big piece of flake.

urbanfieldsportsman 1085

I had some prefrozen slices of white medium bread, from which I tore an inch square and folded it over the hook line and pinched it on, pulling the hook back up into it. Once in the water it fluffs up and is irresistible to chub, roach and bream, especially on a cold day. Despite bright sunshine, the air temperture was about 5 degrees Centigrade, chilled by a steady northwesterly breeze. Feed was to be bread “mash”. When I was a lad, we used to fish this method under a heavy porcupine quill, the mash being created on the bank, by putting scraps of uneaten bread, saved from home, placed in an empty Hacks throat sweet tin (scrounged from the sweet shop), water added and pounded with a stick to break it up. Then the water was squeezed out and thrown into the swim in balls, sinking quickly and releasing a stream of bread along the bottom. The tin came with a screw on lid and with a string through the top sides, could be hung on the handlebars of your push bike. It also did service as a means of transporting live baits for pike fishing.

Today we have food processors, which produce a coarse crumb, ideal for the Mash, but like the old days, stale bread is best and I’d saved left over rolls and French bread to run through the processor, there may have been the odd bit of turkey stuffing in there too. Once on the bank, just enough water was added to allow the mix to hold together, when squeezed, then the ball was thrown upstream of the deep run and I watched the bread breaking off as it fell through.

This method gets me excited every time, as big fish are the target and bites are not fussy. I set the float to fish about a foot off the bottom and cast it in behind the bread ball, checking the float every foot to allow the bait to swing up, then letting it run again. Half way down the trot, the float gave a couple of sudden jabs as I held it back, then sank when released. I paused to allow the big bait to be taken in and in that moment the  orange float top popped back into the sunlight, slanted over and then dived. My strike was more in shock than planned and my rod bent over into solid juddering resistance. There was an initial downstream run, which was countered with a backwind, then the pounding fight of a good roach, but no match for the 14 foot rod with 5lb main line to a 3lb hook link.

urbanfieldsportsman 1093

That was quick, a quality roach in the net first cast. Next time in, the float carried further down the swim before again scything off towards the opposite bank. Keen to get into another fish, I lifted too soon and felt brief contact as I bumped it. On another trot, the float pulled down as I held back. I was in again, this time the zig zag run was longer, making for branches along the far bank, collecting a washing line of sunken weed stems, as it searched out the water’s edge. The white mouth and black back of a chub surfaced for seconds, before another surging run, using the pull from the shallower water at the tail of the swim to kite across to my side. With the odds of landing this fish now in my favour, I took my time netting it, being aware of a pair of dog walkers, who had stopped on the path to watch the action.

urbanfieldsportsman 1094

Not big by chub standards, but rewarding on a cold day and the first “big” fish, that my onlookers had seen any fisherman take from the river. Once settled after the chat, I continued with no more bites, so chanced another small ball at the top of the swim and set the float 18 inches deeper to bounce the bait along the bottom, also pinching on a smaller piece of flake. The response was immediate, holding back hard, just inching the float down, gentle dips of the tip resulted in a slow submerge and another prime roach sliding into the net.

urbanfieldsportsman 1100

A roving approach is the ideal of fishing the Mash, where it tends to seek out the bigger fish, moving on to likely lies without fear of overfeeding the swim, but I was settled on my tackle box for two, or three hours and needed to keep fish feeding for as long as possible. With another couple of roach in the net, the bites dried up again. Shallowing up and trotting down to the weedbed produced only one missed bite in ten minutes, even casting across to the bay opposite and letting the float skirt the dead willow drew a blank. I’d not fed any more since the chub and decided another slight change of tactics was required. Clipping on a bait dropper, the bowl was filled with more crumb, then lowered into the swim to give a couple of light feeds, while the bread punches were brought out to scale down the bait.

urbanfieldsportsman 1087

Punching out a 7 mm pellet, I tried running through again and fishing over depth with no results, so the last resort was to go 2 feet over depth and pull the shirt button spread of shot down to bulk, 2 feet from the hook with a No.4 and a No.8 on the tail. Resting the rod with 10 feet of line to the float, I then sat it out to wait for a bite. There were still fish in the swim and a bite developed, then stopped. The bait was gone. On about the third attempt I hooked another roach. Ah well, I’d only been there for an hour, the sun was still warm, when it appeared from the scudding clouds and I had nothing else to do. I kept picking up the odd roach. I tried red worm and red maggot. The worm got trotted all over the river with no bites, which was surprising, as the river was teaming with gudgeon and perch earlier in the year. They must have gone dormant in the cold water. After two hours all the bites had stopped and with nothing to lose, put away my float rod and made up a link leger block feeder rig.

urbanfieldsportsman 1088

I had a quiver tip rod with me and was on the verge of packing up anyway, so thought the five minutes spent making up the rod was worth while, tying on a size 16 hook to a three foot tail to scale down again. The bay opposite was my first target, the feeder filled with more crumb and a 7 mm pellet of bread pinched on, settling beneath the roots. Watching the tip, it pulled round half an inch and flicked back. A strike and yes, a fish, another roach of a few ounces, not the big chub I expected. Nothing else came from there. I rang the changes with bait and placed the feeder in several likely looking spots, but nothing. Time to go. I’d been there for under three hours, but it seemed a lot longer. With that thought in my mind, the rod top bent round steadily and I was playing a fish. A worm tail had done it’s job. A perch? No, another nice roach had swallowed the worm, hooking it’self.

urbanfieldsportsman 1102

This was the last fish of the day, another fat roach, the payoff for persistence. The river was now clear, having lost the brown tinge of earlier, maybe the cause of the slowdown in bites. As I pulled out my keep net, it was full of silt to prove a point.

urbanfieldsportsman 1091

A lone chub among a respectable net of roach was the outcome of a crisp, bright winter’s day, when it was a joy to be on the bank, a group of mallards benefiting from my surplus bread, while the highlight was to witness a sparrow hawk tumbling through a whirling flock of sparrows, as it tried in vain to catch one. By the time my trolley was loaded, the sun was behind the trees and there was a chilling wind gusting through the bare branches. Perfect timing.