River Blackwater roach and chub workout

August 30, 2019 at 6:28 pm

With a free pass to go fishing, while my wife went into town shopping, I arrived before 10 am at the Farnham AS Yately complex to fish the river Blackwater this week, driving the van to the eastern side of the carpark, which is bordered by the river. There are a couple of deep swims here, ideal for trotting a stick float, where along with quality roach and dace, there is a good chance of a chub, or even a barbel. The other bonus is that it is less than a hundred yards to the river. Judging by the number of cars in the car park, I had been beaten to it and walking the bank confirmed my fear, both swims occupied by anglers fishing “The Meat” on feeder rods. What a waste of good stick float swims.

Back in the van, I now drove to the upstream end of the carpark and unloaded my fishing gear ready for the quarter mile walk to my next swim, another deep run, where the river is restricted in width. Not many anglers venture this far, preferring to fish close to their vehicles and the path narrowed the further I ventured along it. Looking out for the swim proved impossible, as mature stands of Himalayan Balsam crowded out the open banks.

I think that the swim is in there somewhere, but was not prepared to start hacking through this jungle. I have only fished this area in the autumn, when the balsam has died back, leaving a clear bank. Continuing up the path, brambles were now restricting the width, snagging the wheel axles of my trolley as I searched for a suitable swim. They were either choked with streamer weed in the open and covered with more balsam, or clear of weed, but shrouded with trees with no casting room overhead. Finally I reached the top of the stretch, where a fence crosses the river. I turned around and headed back, finding a gap in the trees wide enough to cast. This would have to do. It was now gone 11 am and wanted to be on my way by 2 pm.

The river is very low and clear at the moment, our part of England is in near drought conditions, whereas the West and North of the country have had more than their share of heavy rain for weeks. I could see the bottom right across, the main flow passing down a channel only twenty inches deep, but this did not put me off, some of my most successful stickfloat sessions recently coming from equally shallow swims.

I started off by lobbing a compressed ball of liquidised bread into the channel, to watch it break up in the flow and hopefully be attacked by fish as it sank, but it was soon gone in the shadows. Setting a 4 No 6 bodied stick float just over depth, I punched out a 5mm pellet of bread for the size 16 hook and followed the feed down. The float shot under and the first of several very small chub were hooked and released. Finally getting a keeper.

I put in another ball to help feed off the minichub and went up to a 6mm punch, watching the float travel further downstream before it disappeared, the twelve foot Hardy rod taking on a bend as the fish broke surface on the strike. It was a better chub, but not big enough to cause problems and on its side by the time it reached the landing net.

More small chub followed from much further down the swim and I damped down the bread to form tighter balls of feed in an attempt to bring the fish closer. Dip, dip, sink, the float was under and a roach was putting a bend in the rod again, reeling back slowly to the net.

I had gone deeper again for the roach, letting the line pull off the reel, allowing the bread to swing in the current, hoping for one of the big Blackwater dace, but was surprised by the solid pull of a perch, its black stripes clearly visible.

Perch aren’t supposed to take bread, but here was one yet again, this ending up being the largest and the first of three that took down the middle. No doubt there were a lot more there, if I was a maggot drowner, there would have been a netful.

A cool wind was now blowing hard downstream and across, causing a bow to form in the line and dragging the float off line into shallower water, so I called a halt, getting out my tea and sandwiches, while I changed rigs for a heavier 4 No 4 float, that allowed me to mend the bow in the line back to it.

Fifteen yards down the swim, I picked up another nice roach, but by now I would have expected a lot more bites, including some dace. It was very slow going, often the bread still on the hook at the end of a long trot. Another roach got my hopes up that I was doing something right, this was the last of a trio.

The bites were now coming from twenty yards down the swim ahead of a weedbed and difficult to see, often the shadow of an expanding ring, where the float had been, the only indication. I could not move closer due to the overhead trees, so stuck it out for a little longer, hooking a small chub.

With the bread in my tray in need of topping up, I decided to pack up early, ready for the long trek back to the van.

Not much to show for over two hours fishing. Next time I will bring some worms for the perch. The highlight of the session for me being my spicy chicken and ham sandwiches.

On the way back, I located my deep swim among the Himalayan Balsam, leaving it undisturbed in the hope that it will be unoccupied on my next visit.