Thames Bolo float trial, a game of two halves, roach – pike – bleak

July 29, 2020 at 9:47 pm

Having bought a set of Bolognese floats, or Bolos as they have become known, I was keen to give them a try out on the Thames at Windsor this week, taking my wife along for the ride, so that she could visit a few shops in the town, while I was bagging up. That was the plan anyway.

The Home Park stretch of the Thames is managed by Old Windsor AC, who had kindly given me a list of swims that had recently produced good bags of roach, but with all the time in the world to get ready, I had left it at home. Not to worry, this stretch used to have roach and dace throughout and I walked along until I found an open bank, with steps down to the river, where I could safely place my tackle box.

I had boiled hemp seed that morning and added it to a mix ground hemp, ground carp pellets, plus some heavy ground bread crumbs. Damping it down, I pressed up some firm balls of feed before setting up my rod, starting with a 2 gram bolo, assuming that the water would be about six feet deep about three rods out.

In close under my bank it was six feet deep and by two rods I had plummeted ten feet, far deeper than I had expected, but there was little flow on the river and an underhand cast saw the float almost stationary. I had bulked the main shot two feet from the size 16 hook, with a two No 4 against the nine inch hook link, hoping to get through any resident bleak. I was too comfortable to move to one of the shallower downstream pegs, and decided to stick it out. For someone, who spends his time catching fish in rivers under three feet deep, this was going to be a steep learning curve.

I dropped in two tennis ball sized balls of feed a few feet upstream, which went straight down, just before the float began to move off downstream. They had opened the lock half a mile upstream and the flow increased helped no doubt by a flotilla of pleasure boats.

The first of many.

There was a gusting downstream wind blowing over to my side, but the bolo float coped well with all the weight well down and only half of the tip showing. Half a dozen trots without a sign of a bite had me worried, but by then the river had slowed again and following another ball speeding to the bottom, the float dipped, then sank and yes, I was in, a good fish fighting deep down, taking my time to bring it to the surface and my landing net.

What a cracking roach, taken on a 6 mm pellet of bread. I had been giving a running commentary to my wife, who looking up from her book dampened my excitement with the comment that it was “Just a fish.” For me this was just the start and next trot the float dived and the rod bent into a much smaller roach.

Not to worry, they were down there and I held off the feed for a while. I bounced another good fish. Too eager. These bites were going straight down and I needed to give them time. Bang! I was in again. another nice roach came to the net.

1 pm seemed to signal boats in both directions, what are sea going Sunseekers doing on an inland waterway? The 80 foot Queen of the Thames passenger boat swept by from Runnymede to Windsor, closely followed by an ex WW2 torpedo boat, now converted to a sleek house river cruiser; they all have their place in the life of the Thames, but what came next took my breath away.

This was yet another Sunseeker, towing a shrieking teenage boy on some form of lilo inflatable, which skated from side to side across the river. The mind boggles?

Despite the madness on the surface, on the bottom the roach were still feeding, although the float was submerged half the time. When it did not appear beneath the waves, I struck and sometimes I had another roach.

A bait dropper would have been the answer here, able to deliver small, but regular offerings down to the bottom. I have one, but guess what? It was at home, along with all my heavy items like swim feeders. When I was a match fisherman, I carried all that I needed for any situation, in fact I usually had two bait droppers with me, but these days I travel as light as possible, only carrying what I think that I need for the day. The heavy balls of feed seemed to be working ok, although I would have expected a higher catch rate by now, the roach were no longer taking the bait confidently. I suggested to my disinterested wife, that I thought that a pike was in the swim, her reply being that she thought that she would now take a walk into Windsor. Bye!

As I brought the next roach to the the net, the water boiled beneath it, but I netted another nice roach.

My guess had been proved correct and a dead period followed. I tried feeding further out, shallowing up,  going well over depth and laying on, the latter giving me two deep pulls of the float but no fish. Going back on the old line, the float dithered and I thought bleak, but the rod bent over again and I was playing a roach, until the line went solid as a pike took the fish. I let it go, as it sank away downstream and across, having to bury the rod when a boat cruised too close, the lady on board thanking me for avoiding her boat. I had the pike on for several minutes, it spending time sulking deep under my rod top, while I waited landing net in hand, before heading off again, only to cut through the 3 lb hook link, when I tried to stop it.

It was now the turn of bleak to make my life a misery, the float lifting and bobbing, a strike often hooking these slim shiny fish, only for them to fall off the hook in the wind.

My wife returned with cake and I related the story so far over cups of tea, while she nodded in the right places. She had been unable to buy the sheets that she wanted from Mark and Spencers either, so we were both having a bad day. I decided to pack up, but a roach kept me going for another ten minutes and more bleak. Overall I had been happy with the float, it held back well without tilting and indicated bites from ten feet down. I would have liked to have shown the Old Windsor boys how to catch their roach on the bread punch, but I fear that a couple more visits may be needed to sort out the method.

That clonking great roach made my day and I was pleased that it and the other roach had avoided the bashing from the boat wash in the keepnet.