Pike and Paddleboards feature on the River Loddon at Sandford

August 11, 2023 at 7:32 pm

This week I decided to visit a little fished stretch of the River Loddon, a tributary of the River Thames below Reading, the attraction being that anglers can drive their cars along the river, offload their tackle at a chosen swim, then park their car close by. After a couple of long walks lately, this was ideal and I was soon setting up to fish the stick float in peaceful surroundings.

Plumbing the depth, I was surprised to find six feet under my rod top, much deeper than expected, but adjusted my float to fish just off bottom. Running through to test the depth, the float dragged under on the weed. One lost hook. I shallowed up again, casting further out. Another lost hook. I sorted through my hooks and tied on a 14 to 4 lb line, casting beyond the middle. The float dragged under further downstream. This time the weed lost the battle.

Right, let’s get some groundbait sorted out. I had boiled up some hemp seed that morning and added a good handful to liquidised bread, ground pellets and a spicey seed mix, squeezing up some firm balls, that I put over along the tree line. It looked chubby over there and trotted into branches trailing in the water, with a 7 mm punch of bread. A good bite straight away was missed and I trotted down again, the float holding under long enough to strike. A brief resistance, then a bleak skidded across the surface.

I’d forgotten about bleak. We don’t catch them in my other local rivers, the Cut and Blackwater, but so close to the Thames, the Lodden is full of them. They are a surface fish, but they had followed my groundbait balls to the bottom. I missed every other bite, as they were just hanging onto the bread, but you can try to fish them all out, or feed them off.

I began throwing the balls of feed further upstream, while bulking the 4 BB of shot closer to the hook. A small roach interrupted the flow of bleak. At least it fought back.

The sound of voices coming from upstream broke the silence, followed by splashing. Branches were now being broken by someone kneeling on a paddle board, attempting to break through an overhanging tree to my downstream side of the river. The male boarder succeded, paddling through to my swim, followed by his girlfriend. “What are you doing. I’m fishing here!” Ignored, they paddled on. This was my first encounter with this new craze. Others in the Twyford Club had said about “hoards” of these paddle boarders and kyakers on the club’s waters close to the Thames at weekends, but this was on a secluded part of the river in the middle of the week. I watched them continue toward the arches of the road bridge downstream.

The swim was now dead. I made up some more hemp laced groundbait and began feeding again. Bites began again. More bleak went into the keepnet, then a small roach, followed by another slightly larger roach that was rattling my rod top.

At last a decent roach was fighting deep from under the trees. I got the landing net ready, while I drew the roach across. Wham! A pike surfaced from under my feet and took the roach, pulling my rod down level with the river as it swam to the far bank. The pike was not big, maybe 5 lb. I could land this. When it pulled, I gave line. When it swam back, I retrieved. Soon it was on the surface, drifting downstream and I guided it back. The net was out, but the pike dived under it. It went round again and lay doggo. Lifting it back toward me, the hook flew out!

The fine wire barbless was the weak link in the chain. It had opened out. I wanted that pike out of my swim and would have walked it upstream. My stock of hooks was going down, but I found my last on 4 lb line and tied it on. The paddle boarders were coming back through the arches. I took a photo and got back to fishing.

A few more balls of feed went in upstream of my float, which I eased back down the flow. Holding back, the float sank. It was another bleak and I dragged it across the surface, just as the pike shot to the surface like a rising trout and took it. The boarders were rowing closer and I called to them, saying that I was playing a big fish. Of course, they do not understand fisherman talk. They continued to approach, despite the sight of my rod bent over double. The pike was spooked back upstream and swam past at speed. The line was cut on it’s teeth. Great! The boarders were now in front of me. “Do you have a license for those things?” I asked. “Oh yes,” said the girlfriend smiling. “We have kyak licences” I replied that I have to have an Environment Agency Fishing License and pay my club a lot of money to fish this river. Her reply was that they were there to keep the waterways open. As she rowed back through the gap, that they had made through the overhanging branches, she wished me a pleasant rest of the afternoon. My reply was not for publication. I tipped my fish back and packed up.

Arriving home early, I got no sympathy from my wife, who replied that they had as much right to enjoy themselves on the river, as I did sitting there fishing. We had the same problem on the River Stour in Dorset, where paddle boarders were using their boards as diving platforms. It is a sign of the times I suppose, we have all grown too selfish to acknowledge the rights of others.