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.