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Bread punch chub and roach feed, despite pollution and cormorants on the Cut

March 9, 2022 at 2:58 pm

Following my outing last week, when I netted some big chub from my local River Cut, I decided to have a last session on the town water, before the end of the river fishing season. Controlled by the Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club, the river here has been recently cleared of fallen trees and the banks tidied up by the Environment Agency and I walked down to a swim, that I’d not fished for many years.

A tree had stretched across this swim, restricting the trot, now it would be possible to run a float along the tangled bushes reaching down into the river on the right. It looked very chubby. I mixed up a simple 60/30 combination of liquidised bread and ground hempseed, which I damped down enough to form compressed balls of feed, dropping one down the middle and the other over to the opposite bank.

I set the float shallow to follow the first ball and watched it slide away as the float cocked, when a roach took the 6 mm punch of bread, a good roach, that had obvious signs of being attacked by a cormorant.

Despite the injuries, this roach fought well.

The following cast alongside the bushes saw the float hold down, the strike bending the rod into a chub, that dived into the snags. Side strain pulled the chub out to the clear water and the waiting landing net.

This had all the makings of a good session, when the third cast produced a rudd, three species in three casts.

I put another ball along the opposite side and followed it down, the rod bending over again as another chub unsuccessfully tried out the right hand snags, only to switch to the near bank in a charge downstream toward a log, thankfully steering it away, bringing the net out once more.

The river had been coloured, when I arrived at noon, but now the flow picked up with a flush of brown water. I had come to fish in the afternoon, as most mornings suffered from the influx of this dirty water, but here it was at 1 pm. The effect was immediate, the bites faded away. A small roach and a tiny gudgeon were the only fish in the next twenty minutes. Time to get out the sandwiches.

This is a deep swim with four feet down the middle and so raised the float to fish over depth, resting the rod and laying on. Ten minutes later the float bobbed and sank, while I had a cup of tea in one hand and a sandwich in the other. The float popped up again. Missed it. The bread was gone. Oh well, that was a good sign. Refreshments over, I held the rod and studied the float. I waited. Eventually it bobbed again, then went under. A small gudgeon. Then another. Next a good sign, a roach.

Time to set the float higher and trot through again, following a ball of feed. A small chub, then another.

The dead period was over, lasting an hour. The flow receded and the brown stain washed away. This has been reported to the Environment Agency on numerous occasions, but nothing is found. Over an hour the discharge must be many gallons washed down the rainwater drains, or from a sluice upstream. No fish seem to die and no action is taken, but if like me, you are investing in time to build up a swim, it is annoying. Some people have turned up to fish, only to find no fish biting at that time and pack up again, not realising that an hour wait will see them taking the bait again.

It was not fantastic fishing, but the float was going down, even if it was only a few small gudgeon, roach, or even dace.

The landing net came out for a better sized rudd. It was still early and there was a chance to redeem the session yet.

The rod was bending again and I was backwinding a running chub, that turned and swam back to me.

Now a decent roach was fighting all the way to the net. I was back in the catching groove.

These fish were a long way down the swim, bobbing the float as they followed the bait, before they took the float down. More dace, then a better roach.

The float skated sideways across the river and I assumed it was a small rudd, but I was pleasantly surprised when the rod arched over into another good chub. It made for the downstream log along my bank and snagged itself. I got up, landing net in hand, to persuade it out again. My 14 foot rod caught in the alder above me. The chub came out of the snag, flapped on the surface mid water and came off. The line pinged back becoming more tangled in the tree above. I’m sure, that if this had been filmed and put on Youtube, it would have gone viral, very funny for some, but not for me. I managed to retrieve the float, which was wrapped in line and shot. Cutting the line allowed me to pull the rest through from the tree. I had other float rigs, plus another rod made up ready to fish in my holdall, but decided enough was enough and packed up.

Walking back to the van, the river was now clear, but the bottom was sandy. Was this building sand and cement washed off the roads of one of the many new housing estates surrounding the town?

Not a good way to end an improving session. Rain is forecast for the next few days. Monday will be my last opportunity to fish. Where will I go?

Not a bad result considering.




Trout anglers get ready for the 2022 season on the River Whitewater

March 7, 2022 at 12:16 pm

The small Hampshire chalk stream controlled by Farnborough and District A.S, is looking in good condition for the 2022 trout fishing season, after working parties cleared away fallen trees from the River Whitewater and cut back over growth.

More a social event, than work, members were able to catch up on last season’s successes and failures, while notes were swapped over what was caught from where and with what fly. With only a small fly fishing membership, it is rare to meet another angler on the bank during the season and the preseason work parties are ideal for getting feed back.

Covid restrictions had limited the amount of work that could be undertaken on this natural river last year, but members have been busy making up for lost time. Above, willows were beginning to restrict the flow, while making casting impossible. Below, brambles had grown out across the river, catching flies, while the preseason haircut will allow casting to trout sheltering under the opposite bank.

Running through working farm land, the Whitewater fishing has to be a balance between the angler’s interests and the farmer’s commercial requirements. The land is rotated between arable and livestock, the anglers happy with a recent change over to sheep, following years of rearing frisky young bullocks, which roamed around in gangs terrorising any angler that they spotted on the bank. After a few near misses from flying hooves, I avoided any of the fields where they were pastured, preferring personal safety, over catching trout.

A dedicated team that has removed literally tons of signal crayfish from this little river over the last few years, resulted in successful spawning of wild fish, which are showing up in greater numbers.

There are now all year classes of trout showing.

The Whitewater was stocked with a wide variety of trout in the years before triploids and now has a mix of classic browns, and more silvery browns similar to the this one below, that I took last season on a mayfly.

Whatever their variety, these brown trout fight to the maximum effort and all require nursing back to full strength, before releasing. With only a few weeks to the start of the new season on April 1st, we can only look forward to balmy spring and summer days and the chance to net one of these beautiful fish.








Bread punch chub fight among the snags

March 1, 2022 at 5:51 pm

Always looking to try other waters, this week I followed my local river downstream to a point that it flows beneath a road bridge, where there is access to a short overgrown bit of bank. Being at the side of the bridge, the bank slopes steeply down to the river, but a small flat area was just big enough to get my tackle box located, adjusting the feet to counteract the slope, although it meant sitting back six feet from the river.

The main current passes against this bank, flowing out of a narrow shallow tail of the pool, which creates a muddy eddy that flows back toward the bridge along the opposite bank. In the summer this bank is an impenetrable mass of Himalayan balsam and stinging nettles, that spill over into the water and today I could see their remnants still lining the bankside.

I’ve not fished this pool for some years. It looks really productive, but it was always evident that it had regularly been fished for food, either by men, or cormorants. The main channel is about four feet deep with a steady flow, ideal for roach, but I have only had one in the past, no gudgeon, or perch either, unlike the wooded river a mile upstream. A few decent chub it did have, again no small ones, another sign of cormorants.

Why was I bothering if it is so bad? Well, I think that all anglers are optimists and I like a challenge. So here I was setting up my trusty 14 foot Browning float rod with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed Drennan stick float, while combining liquidised bread, ground hemp and a jar of Haiths red spice mix, damped down to squeeze up some tight balls of feed.

I started off putting in two egg sized balls of feed, six feet out into the flow upstream under the concrete sill of the bridge, holding the float back as the balls sank. In the past I have caught a chub first, or second trot right under the rod top here, but today nothing and watched the float travel unmolested along my bank.

After fifteen minutes of casting and recasting, the float dipped as I held back at the end of the trot. “Go on, go under” It dipped and held. Missed it! Bread gone. At least there was some thing there. Even a gudgeon would do this afternoon. I swapped from a 6 mm punch to a 5 mm on the size 16 barbless, put in another ball and followed on down, holding back hard at intervals. The float dipped at the same spot, then went under. Probably a snag, I left it for a second and struck. Woomph! I was into a decent fish that ran off downstream, while I back wound the ABU501. Keeping the rod high, I lost sight of the line, reeling back when the fish allowed. Too late, I saw that it was heading for the tangled roots along my bank and laid the rod over in an attempt to pull it away, while reeling hard. It all went solid. I could see the float. I pulled and the fish pulled back. I gave it slack and on the third pull it came free. I bullied it back out into open water, seeing the three pound chub for the first time, as it spiralled round in front of me, getting it’s head head up and into the net.

The hook was in the tip of mouth and came out in the net. A very fat chub.

What a lump. Phew! Time for a cup tea and a sandwich. I fed another couple of balls, this time further out. That chub was probably living under the bank and I wanted to encourage any others to feed away from it. The wind got up, blowing from the southwest into my face, putting a bow in the line, making float control difficult, holding back dragging the float off line. The float sank, I paused and struck. Yes! I was in again, this time a smaller fish of a pound and I relaxed, reeling back down the middle. It found a snag on the bottom. Solid. I walked downstream of the snag, but the fish was gone. The float came back minus the hook.

Adding to my woes, the forecast rain had arrived early, sinking the line and causing a few missed bites. I was feeding a small ball a trot and the chub were there. A longer delay and a long swooping strike made contact with another decent chub, which I managed to keep in mid water, reeling back hard, but reaching to my side for the landing net gave enough slack for it to dive into the roots at my feet. A tug of war was won by the chub, another hook to tie on and two fish lost. The Browning is a good rod for roach, but seems to lack the back bone for these bigger chub.

In again and I took no chances, having the landing net ready, while reeling back hard to keep the float in sight, shortening the line to pull the head up for the landing net. Another nice one.

The wind now was driving in heavier rain and covered up as best I could, but it was worth a soaking. Thinking this, when I struck into the best fish of the afternoon, the rod doubling over as it kicked for freedom. The “chub” ran to the opposite bank, lifting a long sunken branch up to the surface, when it dived beneath it. The float line parted and I lost the whole rig. Elation to devastation in seconds.

This was a cue to pack up, but it was still early and I had more float rigs. This new rig had size 14 hook to a heavier line and I punched out a 6 mm pellet of bread to cover the hook. It was difficult to see the dotted down float as the rain increased and it was one of those is it there, or not moments, when I struck into number three. Reeling hard, the chub zigzagged toward my bank, but I drew it away in time, only for the fish to dive beneath my keep net at the last minute, before swimming straight into the landing net. Another clonker, long and slim.

The rain had stopped as suddenly as it had begun and the sky brightened, giving a better contrast between light and dark on the surface, allowing a clearer view of the float. Scraping up the last of my feed, I put more balls down the middle and shallowed up the float, leaving two No 4s to act as droppers. Chub number four took in the shallow tail of the pool, the float looked like it had dragged under, but I struck anyway, the fish exploding out of the water, tail walking like a trout. Although smaller than the rest, it fought savagely, shaking it’s head as though lightly hooked, but stayed on to the net.

Still a good sized chub.

I missed another couple of bites, due to the bow in the line, but the next was well and truly on and heading for a sunken tree at the outflow. I held on as the rod bent over taking the strain, the dark back of a carp, or a very fat chub broached on the surface of the shallows, before the inevitable happened and the 3 lb hook link snapped.

I tied on another hook, but there were no more bites. Even my slice of bread had runout of holes.

It had been a draw, four lost and four netted, not a good average. A heavier line all round might have put more in the net, but then I may not have got the bites. No doubt my friend who fishes a link leger with 6 lb line straight through, with luncheon meat on a size 8 hook would have got more out, but that’s fishing.

Persistence pays off.



Magtech 7002 semi auto .22 ready for the season at the warren

February 27, 2022 at 1:13 pm

After a winter of storms and frosts, I took the Magtech 7002 semi auto .22 to check out the warren this week. My last visit in November was after an attempt to fill in the burrows and flatten the land with a heavy tractor, the deep burrows making the land dangerous for grazing animals.

Passing through the gate I could see movement in the distance. It was rabbits chasing around well out of range of the Magtech and I kicked myself for leaving the CZ452 HMR in the gun cabinet. The CZ is a heavyweight compared with the Magtech, which is the ideal rifle for walking round, but with no cover, the rabbits were making themselves scarce once I came into view. The name of the game today was to reconnoitre the warren for new burrows and I did not have to walk far to discover the first of several.

This one even had very recent footprints exiting and entering the new burrow. Twenty yards further on there was another. The rabbits had been busy.

From this vantage point, I could see rabbits moving from the high ground of the warren, to the tree lined ditch further down the field. Once again well in range of the CZ HMR, but the Magtech was set on a 30 yard zero for shooting around the farm buildings.

I decided to set up a target to reset the Magtech zero to 50 yards, which would give me a better chance on the warren today. I walked to the far end of the field, which is bordered by a hedge line and set up a paper target fifty yards away, walking back to the rifle which I rested on my shooting bag for prone shots. A group of three covered a 25 mm diameter 50 mm below the bull, demonstrating the drop over the extra 20 yards of the 42 grain Winchester .22 subsonic bullet. I adjusted the scope turret, until a five shot group was placed around the bull, good enough to cleanly dispatch a rabbit at that range.

While lying there reloading the ten shot magazine, a rabbit popped up twenty yards to the left of the target and I quickly fitted the ten shot magazine back into the rifle, flicking the lever back to shift a bullet into the breech. The rabbit  trotted a few yards, then sat up. The cross hairs were on and I aimed for the upper chest, squeezing the trigger and feeling the recoil, as the rabbit backflipped and lay still. Got it! A clean dispatch at sixty yards.

Rabbit casserole this week.

No more came out and I walked back to the centre of the warren, with an oak tree behind me to break up my outline on the horizon. With the Magtech on my shooting tripod, I could cover much of the warren and waited for something to show.

Apart from a couple of rabbits along the far tree line, nothing stirred  and soon the cold north wind persuaded me to call it a day. Next time I will bring the HMR on a warmer afternoon. Even rabbits don’t like the cold.

The River Cut performs despite pollution

February 18, 2022 at 3:46 pm

Driven by a 200 mph Jest Stream, storms continue to batter Britain and this week I fitted in a session on my local River Cut at the tail end of Storm Dudley and the beginning of Storm Eunice. Having witnessed dead fish and pollution of the Cut first hand last week, I was keen to find out if the fishing had been affected, arriving around noon to find the river coloured and rushing through, after heavy rain from Storm Dudley. The Cut runs from south to north, which meant that the Braybrooke Fishing Club west bank was protected from the wind by the high flood bank and trees, and once settled down in my swim, the surface was flat calm, despite the gale howling through the trees above.

Due to the cloudy river, I added some Haith’s Spicy Mix to my liquidised bread and ground hemp groundbait, putting two egg sized balls past the middle into the main flow. First trot of my 4 No 4 stick float saw the tip bob and sink, a lift of the rod bringing an opposite reaction from a roach some where in the mirk.

I had had my doubts about the river and did not put my keepnet in at the start, but the positive bite from that roach changed my mind that it was worth putting it in. Another small roach next trot confirmed that it was going to be a good session.

Next trot I eased the float close to the opposite bank bush, holding it back burying the float, as a decent fish took the 6 mm pellet of bread. Again I could not see the fish, but it stayed deep rushing off upstream and when the big white mouth appeared on the surface my hunch was confirmed. A chub.

It was a bite a chuck from the off, more small roach, then the float held down and the rod bent over into a fish that ran downstream with the current. I had to put on side strain, while backwinding the ABU501 to keep it away from the bush, steering it into the shallow water on the inside of the bend and getting a brief sight of a better chub. It was now just a case of letting the chub have its head each time it fought back, getting the landing net ready, once it’s mouth was out of the water.

The variety of fish in the Cut was evident, as a couple of red finned rudd followed the chub.

Big gudgeon and dace were vying for the bread.

Now better roach put in an appearance, as I trotted the float down to the bush. I demonstrated the holding back technique to another angler, who had come up to watch, my 14 foot Browning holding the float out into the hot spot as it buried each time.

With the roach on the scene, I stepped up the feed, following a small nugget down every cast. The float slid sideways in the first yard and the rod bent over again with a chub that took time to wake up, shaking it’s head violently before heading off down stream. Back winding and reeling, the size 16 barbless hook kept hold and it was number three in the net.

More roach.

This was turning into an epic session, a bite a trot, often by small roach and monster gudgeon. This one fought so hard that I thought it was a small chub. If only they grew much bigger.

The pace of the river picked up and the fish got smaller. I guessed what was coming. More pollution.

The river changed colour rapidly. I assumed that the white “emulsion” was coming through the outlet pipes again. The bites by the bush stopped.

I brought the float in close and laid on over depth in a relatively clear area and was surprised to get a bite from the quality roach above.

Soon there were no more gaps in the cloud. Four inch gudgeon were still feeding out of the flow, but the colour was completely from bank to bank.

I had been too busy to eat my lunch before, but now I poured a cup of tea and got out my sandwiches, finding that my wife had put a surprise in my bag. A retro Wagon Wheel biscuit, marshmallow, with jam inside on a crunchy biscuit, covered in sweet chocolate. We would do any chore for our mothers back in the Day, if we knew that there was going to be a Wagon Wheel at the end of it!

I sat and waited for the river to clear, taking the occasional tiny gudgeon as compensation over the following half hour. I could see fish topping in the main flow, the thick pollution causing them to gulp air from the surface.

The river began to clear and I tried back down the main flow to the bush. The bites were now dithering, this roach giving a lift bite, like that of a much smaller fish. I added three inches to the depth and went down to a 5 mm punch, bouncing the bread along the bottom. It worked. I was back in business.

The chub above took well below the bush, again a dithering bite, maybe from a small roach, that suddenly sank out of sight. Charging off downstream, this fish was almost at the bend before it turned back, getting a second wind and attempting to get among fallen branches trapped in the bush by the latest spate. It came out, the rod taking the strain, the chub exhausted almost swimming into the landing net.

The roach were all sizes, this fatty, more rudd than roach.

I had decided to pack up once I ran out of holes in my bread, but gave in and got out another piece. They were still feeding, a small chub giving me a wake up call as it dashed about.

It had rained followed by an icy wind blowing downstream and float control became difficult, but the rudd didn’t seem to mind and I put several more in my net.

The last of the day.

The sign of a successful afternoon, slowed to a halt by the pollution, but recovered to make up for lost gains. Judging by the number of punched holes, I had put over a hundred fish in my net in the four hour session, at least 50% being gudgeon, but topped out with five chub and quality roach.




Pollution continues on the River Cut, a river in crisis

February 13, 2022 at 2:11 pm

Only a day after the Environment Agency were working on improvements to my local River Cut, I was driving past the club water, when I saw another member fishing and decided to stop for a chat, turning the van round to park in a layby at the top of the section, where outlet pipes flow out into the river. Pulling up, I could see across to the outlet and witnessed its water turn from clear to white in seconds, spilling over the sill at the weir to cloud the water. By the time that I reached the outlet, the whole river had changed colour.

On the sill was a lone roach flapping in distress, before lying still. I had called the Environment Agency on their Incident Line 0800 807060, which was answered immediately. Once the call was finished, I took the image above, by which time the rate of flow had slowed. The EA had contacted Thames Water, to send out a technician to test the water quality, who by the time he arrived four hours later, found the river to be clear with no sign of pollution. This had been the case the week before, when a club member spotted dead fish on the sill. They had been flushed through by pollution down inside the tunnel, then washed out onto the sill to die. These were river fish, roach and gudgeon. One roach was still alive, when the EA arrived. The water quality was tested and found to be up to standard, the coloured water having washed away.

There were over two dozen dead fish, which had been in top condition before they were killed.

These fish are a mystery, as there is no known stream inlet upstream of this point, although they could have entered through the overflow grille from the Mill Pond as fry, to grow on to become healthy adults in a deeper section of the pipework, like Ninja Turtles of the fish world.

In the past this was Downmill Brook, a natural stream that flowed from Swinley Forest above the small market town of Bracknell, then known for it’s brick making. Passing to the west of the town, the stream flowed through lakes at Southill Park, a stately home, then on to power a water mill, before entering the River Cut, named in the 1820’s when it was diverted to flow directly into the Thames at Bray, rather than meandering through meadows, where it caused annual flooding westward toward the town of Twyford, finally entering the Thames twenty miles upstream of Bray.

Bracknell became industrialised after the war, with  most of the streams that made up the Cut being culverted, as the once rural land was concreted over for houses and industrial estates, the rainwater drainage running directly into these hidden streams. Here lies the problem of the beleaguered Cut, an out of sight out of mind, out of mind attitude of many residents and business owners, is that it is far easier to pour old oil, and paint for instance, down the drains, than it is to take it to the council tip, which has imposed restrictions of access, requiring proof of a Bracknell address before applying online for a time and date to attend, usually a week after applying. Much easier to chuck it down a drain, when no one is looking.

Only a day after my my photo at the head of this post, a fellow club member took this image of the outlet of yet another industrial scale spillage into the Cut. No dead fish were seen this time.

In 2017 the Environment Agency recorded 13 serious pollution events on the River Cut, one of which, traced back to a company on the Western Industrial Estate, resulted in a total fish kill downstream of the same outlet. That company was never prosecuted, but advised of environmentally suitable disposal. The oily substance from that single event four years ago, still oozes from the mud along the banks of the Cut.

Having fished the river since moving to the town twelve years ago, I have enjoyed excellent fishing for roach and chub, despite it being overgrown and full of rubbish. Before the formation of the Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing Club and a general clean up, one of the areas renowned for it’s chub was the Shopping Trolley Swim. Older locals speak of the 60s and 70s, when the river was a dumping ground, where if you had tried to fish, the men in white coats would have soon been by your side!

What of my friend Mick, who was fishing further downstream on the day I stopped for a chat? He had been catching some quality roach, until the river changed colour, then only a few small gudgeon, before packing up.

Mick’s swim

Thanks to the dedication of the local Environment Agency officers, who wish to see the Cut continue as a viable fishery for local people, they have made regular restocking of fish a priority, but how long their persistence can continue, will be a decision of higher management considering costs over returns. Annual testing of the river has rated the general water quality as moderate, while each test for chemicals has rated it with a Fail.



Environment Agency add value to the River Cut

February 8, 2022 at 7:42 pm

The Environment Agency returned after thee years to the tiny urban River Cut this week, to carry out repairs to berms and to remove fallen trees from the river. Controlled by Braybrooke Community Nature and Fishing club, a small Bracknell based club; the Agency have proved that Fishing License money is available for improvements, whatever the size of organisation.

Looks can be deceptive, this little river holds chub, bream and carp and crucians to 4 lb, roach and perch to a pound along with dace and some of the biggest gudgeon around. Stick float and light leger tactics account for most of the fish, although chub and perch have fallen to a variety of lures this year.

This tree had conveniently fallen on top of an existing berm, the new wood and brush added to speed the flow.

Fallen trees were incorporated into the existing berms

Overhanging branches were reaching over to the near bank and cut back to open up a new swim.

Club members lent a hand in clearing away trimmed branches.

An angler fishing, while the Environment Agency stopped for lunch. Shortly after this photo was taken, he netted a 2 lb chub.

This view shows how the shape and flow of the river has altered since the introduction of the berms, this once being a straight, shallow stretch, full of silt, that now has deep runs, curves and eddies.

An example of a recent catch of mine from the River Cut.

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.

Stick float chub bonus on the bread punch at the River Blackwater

January 20, 2022 at 1:42 pm

I chose the one day without frost for a revisit to a swim on the River Blackwater this week, but had to contend with heavy drizzle instead, which was dripping like rain from the tree above for the first hour. Not to worry, I tackled up with the same rod and rig, that I had used before Christmas, to net some quality roach and perch, hoping to improve on that result.

Fishing the bread punch on a 5 No 4 ali stemmed stick float to a size 16 barbless, I fed a single ball of liquidised bread, with ground carp pellets, heavily laced with ground hemp, over to the ivy covered steel shuttering along the far bank. Trotting close to the shuttering, the first cast saw the float slide away down stream as a small chub made off with the bread.

The next cast, the float travelled further before burying, when a slightly bigger roach took.

A couple of small roach later, my 14 foot Browning bent over as a 6 oz chub steamed off down stream and the landing net was out for the first time.

Another ball of feed over brought more small roach, then a rapid missed bite. Then another, the bread gone each time. Dace? My answer for these was going down from a 6 to a 5mm punch, a tighter line, with a stop and let run control of the float. Usually the float holds under just as it runs again. An instant strike and I was into a tumbling dace, followed by another to prove the technique.

It was now apparent that this was going to be a different session than my last visit. Then it had been large roach, but today it was mostly small stuff, some so small that they came off on the retrieve, not hooked, but holding onto the bread. There was no mistaking the the next fish, the float going down and staying there, while the rod reacted to the steady thump of a very decent fish, that turned and disappeared off downstream at a rate of knots, only checked by the release of line under my finger on the Abu 501 spool. Once it had slowed, I clicked in the line pickup and played it on the reel, backwinding as it made lunges downstream again.

I had not seen the fish, until it was close and the big white mouth of a chub broke the surface, allowing me to guide it toward the landing net. A fat fish, I guessed it to be at least two pounds and it had certainly given me a wake up call.

The river level was dropping all the time, it was three feet deep out in front of me when I started, but a tide mark on the shuttering showed that the level had dropped by six inches and I was constantly adjusting the depth. Further down was a sand bar, where the float needed to be lifted over to avoid snagging. I assumed that the bread feed had accumulated there, as better sized roach were taking with confidence, breaking the surface each time I struck.

At this point the river was now less than two feet deep, but the roach were not put off in the clear water. The hot spot was a twenty five yard trot, I could have moved closer, but decided on the side of caution, not wanting to scare off the shoal.

The conditions now were ideal for the stick float, the wind had picked up, blowing from the north, cold but upstream. The bites were predictable, some lifts of the float, others slight hold downs. I struck everything, these usually small roach, dace, or chub, straight down was always a better fish.

One of those straight down bites was a much better fish, that ran another ten yards down stream. I thought that I had at last hooked one of the big roach, but no, it was a nice chub of about a pound.

I had mixed up some more feed earlier and was putting over a small ball every other cast in an effort to feed off the small stuff. It hadn’t worked, as I was still swinging them in, but the size had improved with odd good’un.

That north wind was now getting into my bones and I set my pack up time to 3 pm. All my tea had been drunk and I was in that just one more decent fish mode.

It was beyond 3 pm, when I finally called it a day, the failing light affecting the picture of a hard fighting chub that took among the roach. Once in the landing net, I said “that’ll do, time to go home”.

It had been an interesting few hours, constantly chasing the fish, inducing bites, changing depths and shotting patterns. These shallow rivers can give great sport on the stick float, it requires constant work, but the rewards can be satisfying.

Bread punch beats the frost with roach, rudd, crucians and carp at Allsmoor

January 13, 2022 at 7:53 pm

Freezing overnight fog had effectively welded the locks and doors of my van shut, when I went to get my fishing tackle out for the walk to my local pond this week. A quick nip into the kitchen to boil a kettle soon put things right, once the hot water had a chance to work its magic on the frozen metalwork. The grass was still white, but the low winter sun was soon burning off the last of the fog, as I walked toward the pond pulling my trolley. A well wrapped up walker commented that I was brave going fishing in this weather. As we passed I replied “Demented more like!” Family commitments over the Christmas and New Year period had kept me away from the bank for three weeks, while foul weather had also played its part. Today was forecast as dry, but very cold and I chose a swim that offered all day sunshine. At midday the frost was still on the grass.

Setting up a small waggler rig and my pole at 8 metres, I mixed up a shallow tray of liquidised bread, ground carp pellets and ground hemp, with a liberal dusting of strawberry essence, intending to feed lightly with just two egg sized balls of ground bait. Strawberry flavouring has worked well for me on still waters this year and I was confident that it would work without needing to overfeed the shallow swim.

The norm here is to catch rudd from the off, but today I waited fifteen minutes before the yellow tipped float stirred and gently bobbed. A dog walker was passing the time of day, when I exclaimed “Look a bite!” The float edged under and I lifted into a gudgeon. I rebaited the size 14 hook with a 6 mm pellet of bread and cast over the feed again. Only a five minute wait later, the float gave a couple of bobs, then sank from sight and I lifted into a fish that ran to the left at speed, pulling out a foot of elastic. In this swim there is a high bank behind and I had to lift the pole high into the bushes to pull it back, before I could unship the top two sections. I was surprised to see a silver flash and not the gold of a crucian and even more surprised to see that this was a good roach.

I have not caught a roach in this pond for years, let alone a decent sized one, but I was not complaining. It had fought better than an equally size rudd, keeping deep and tumbling like a crucian. Next cast, the float settled and sank and I struck into another hard fighting roach.

What do they say about buses? You wait for ages, then two come along. This roach was even bigger. I cast back in and the float went down a again, another roach? No, a small rudd got there first.

The rudd had moved in with avengence, taking the bait on the drop. I had not put any more feed in, but they had certainly woken up. No complaints again, as some were a decent size and kept me warm and busy, constantly passing the pole up behind me to reach the fish.

The gudgeon get bigger every season, but are still a nuisance, giving a very crucian like bite and disappointment every time you hook one.

Another good roach managed to find my bait, fighting all the way to the net and I wondered how many more might be down there?

A few more rudd, then the elastic was out as a crucian carp exploded into life, the solid bundle of energy, diving and weaving its way to the landing net.

These crucians were one a chuck, when I first fished here a dozen years ago, but now they are few and far between. A lift and a steady slide away had me poised for another rudd, not the sudden rush of a carp, that ran out toward the far side stretching elastic behind it. Pulling against the strain, it curved round in an arc, breaking the surface and rolling, before coming back toward me. More rapid feeding back of the pole followed, until I had the top two metres of pole to hand. It dived beneath the bushes to my left and when I failed to pull it away, giving a slack line persuaded it to swim out again. Soon it was on the top and in the landing net.

I had been putting in the occasional ball of feed, but now I scraped up the last from the tray, throwing four balls in a line nine metres out, then sat back and had a cup tea with a sandwich. Where there is one carp, there are usually more. Casting back over the feed, the float sank away on the drop. Bang! I was straight into another carp. Good job that I had had that fortifying break, as once again I followed a carp, while it ran around in circles in the shallow pond, the leverage at my end of the pole being intense as it made run after run against the elastic.

We wore each other down, but in the end it was me with the landing net, that succeeded and it was time for another cuppa followed by a sandwich. The light was now fading as the sun tracked behind the leafless trees, while the temperature had noticeably dropped and I decided to pack up after another 15 minutes. A colourful crucian carp helped change my mind, when after a brief battle, I netted this chunky fish.

These crucians tend to swim around in tight shoals and another tentative bite saw me waiting for a more positive movement of the float, as often they will sit sucking the bread, until it is gone. Tap, tap, tap. I lost patience and lifted. The elastic came out and the pole bent over. Not a crucian, but another carp zoomed off kicking up a trail of black mud, while I followed it with the pole, as it ran from left to right, then back again. When near the net, I could see that it was a distinctive ghost carp with spectacle markings round its eyes, one that I had caught a few years ago as a half pounder.

Back out again there was another tapping bite, which stopped. Convinced that the bread had been sucked off the hook, I lifted to have the elastic come out as small crucian was still holding on.

These were like peas in a pod. Each time the bait went in, they would latch onto it, usually with an initial rapid bobbing of the float, then nothing, or the merest movement. I bumped a few. A smaller hook and bait may have worked, but with carp about, I was not prepared to take the risk.

I was still getting the occasional rudd, the one below having a badly damaged top lip. Why do people still use barbed hooks?

I ended up with five of the ornamental crucians, this one being my last fish of the afternoon.

The bread punch had proved itself as a cheap and effective bait, accounting for about fifty fish during a very cold session.

This small stream fed pond in a very urban environment, is always full of surprises, today it was the trio of big roach topped off by a few bonus carp.