River Blackwater roach queue up for the bread punch

August 4, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Following a visit to the busy River Thames at Windsor last week, I swapped a ten foot deep swim for the shallows of the fast flowing River Blackwater for my latest outing. Only a fifteen minute drive from home, I was able to park close to the river due to the closure over the Lockdown of a large industrial building, which had previously policed its private car park. Unloading the van, I was soon following the winding path that led to the weir pool.

Crystal clear, the tail of the pool just shouts fish and I set up my twelve foot Hardy float rod with a 4 No 4 Drennan ali stemmed stick float to fish along the edge of the flow fifteen yards out. As can be seen from the image, there is an eddy under my bank pushing the reeds back and the flow splits to carry the float along the opposite bank, or into the back eddy. With such a light float, set at two feet with the shot bulked at nine inches from the size 16 barbless hook, my aim was to just fish my side of the river.

The sun was in and out of the clouds, being driven by a strong wind from the north west. One minute I was being baked, the next chilled by the wind, which was blasting upstream, not ideal for keeping the bread slices fresh and the liquidised feed moist for throwing, but preferred for trotting a stick float.

Deciding to just use plain white liquidised bread feed from the super market bread bag, that I use to store it in the freezer, I reached in and squeezed up a tight ball, throwing it out into the edge of the flow, watching it break up, swirling in the current. An underhand cast out into the breaking mass of bread particles, saw the float sink out of sight and the first of many roach was putting a bend in the rod.

The wind was proving difficult, the float carrying across easily from my ABU 501 reel, but the line was being blown back into a bow and I was having to mend the bow with my rod, while reeling back to the float, often the float being long gone by the time the line was tight to the float. Fortunately these fish were roach and not fast biting dace, the 6 mm pellet of bread being well inside their mouths when I struck.

These roach were not shy and once the float went down it stayed down, the occasional ball of feed keeping them lined up and coming to the landing net.

In this shallow river most fish kited off across into the faster water and I often needed to backwind to avoid the hook pulling free, being able to watch every twist and turn from my box on the high bank, the red fins visible in the clear water.

So it went on, roach after roach sinking the float, the shoal slowly dropping back as the bread began to coat the bottom. I shallowed the float up to 18 inches, the depth of the tail of the pool, casting down and across to stay in contact. When the float sank a one second pause guaranteed a fish, most of them having the milky residue of bread in their mouths from the bottom.

I was troubled by wasps all afternoon, this one taking a shine to one of my roach.

Whether I was finally getting through the roach, or not I don’t know, but big gristly gudgeon began to get in on the scene.

Reeling in a couple, a perch appeared each time and chased them in, until a smaller gudgeon was not so lucky and I watched the perch beat it up and swallow it head first. I was now playing a perch that ran across to the fast water, again with me backwinding the reel until it slowed and turned, bringing it back to the landing net.

Once in the net the gudgeon’s tail was still flapping, then it was ejected completly. Fortunately for both fish, the hook failed to make contact with the throat of the perch, if it had, I’m afraid I would have had to cut the line and left both fish to their fate.

The roach kept coming and I was surprised that even in this really shallow water there were no dace. By now the sun had moved round revealing the golden gravel at the tail of the pool, the fish invisible until they flashed over on the strike.

There were now more gudgeon than roach being hooked and with my self imposed time limit of four hours approaching, I made this clonker my last fish.

The bait tray told the story of a successful session. Anglers talk of this type of pellet and that sort of additive, but a back to basics plain white bread and a rod in the right hands can still work wonders.

I had expected dace, a few chub and maybe the odd skimmer bream, even a barbel from this swim, but my first love, the roach failed to let me down.

A quick weigh up put just under 9 lbs on the scales, the Blackwater a river of hidden potential.