The punch tempts fussy roach on the River Blackwater

July 1, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Last year I fished the weir on the free stretch of the nearby River Blackwater with a double figure net of roach and dace after four hours and was keen for a repeat performance this week. Having trudged to the top of the water dragging my trolley through nettles and brambles, I arrived at the swim to find it occupied by a friendly pike fisherman, who was trying to coax a small pike into taking his worm bait, offered under a pike bung. The pike could be seen in the clear shallows of the weir pool, and we watched as it attacked the worms, running off into the deeper water, but failing to be hooked several times.

After Magnar had shown me more pike pictured on his phone, I backtracked along the bank to find another swim a hundred yards downstream, which looked promising.

Like most of the Blackwater this far up, it is shallow with a good flow, this side at the tail of a bend from the weir being about two feet deep close in, but only having a depth of eighteen inches fifteen yards down at the end of the trot. I was using a 6 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float, bulked under the float with four No 8 shot  spread to the hook link and a size 16 barbless hook.

To start, I squeezed up a dampened ball of liquidised bread and dropped it in close to my bank, following the cloud down with my float. Usually the float would dive away with a fish, but not today. It took another ball of feed and the sixth trot through before the float dipped and held under with a dace tumbling in the flow for the few seconds that it took for the hook to come out. That was a big dace!

In again and another small ball brought an instant response, as a spirited juvenile chub dived for the weed bed, but stayed on long enough to be swung in.

The next trot, the float was near the end of the swim, when it dipped twice and disappeared. The 12 ft Hardy float rod bent into another fish, a roach this time and I slowly brought it back against the stream, swinging in a small roach.

I now missed a succession of quick dace bites, that stripped the hook. I added six inches to the depth and eased the float down in steps, hold back, then release, hold back and release. The float dived and another dace was solidly fighting  the flow, spinning and turning. This one came off too. The weir was roaring again as more water was allowed over the sill and the river had doubled its pace. I brought the bulk shot down a foot and raised the float, holding back hard. The float held under and the rod bent into a better roach. Roach tend to keep on an even keel, darting from side to side and slowly winding back, it was in the landing net.

I had continued to drop a small ball of feed in every few casts and reeling back a small roach, noticed a swan, neck down, Hoovering up the bread on the bottom, working its way upstream towards me. I got up and looked for a stick. Finding one, I broke it in half and threw it close to the swan, when it surfaced. The second stick got it’s attention and I waved my arms about like a looney, making hissing sounds and other words. It got the message and crossed to the opposite side of the river heading upstream.

In this image you can also see the litter left by a mum, dad and child, who stopped for a picnic, while admiring my fishing technique from the other bank. The English can be a messy lot!

I missed a couple more bites, that were dips and bobs, which did not develope, so I went down to a 5 mm bread punch and hooked another roach first trot.

As I felt that the swan had eaten all the feed, I had mixed up some more and stepped up the rate, but now realised that I had probably overfed the swim. They had not been crawling up the rod and decided to feed more. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The bites were still coming, but not very positively, dips and holds, which I suspected were unhookable dace. Checking the float down the swim induced bites and I hooked another roach.

Splash! A big black dog jumped into the river, swimming half way across to retrieve a ball. A rather stout lady wearing shorts that were too small for her, had used one of those curved launchers to catapult the ball into the river. This was not an accident, surely she must have seen me glaring at her? She walked a few yards upstream and did it again, directly opposite. Splash! The dog was in again! I shook my head and reached for my sandwiches and tea. It was past my lunchtime and I tried to enjoy my cheese and pickle sandwiches, while the lady received the soggy ball from her pet. She continued upstream, repeating the process every ten yards.

A call came from further upstream. It was Magnar, who was playing a pike in the weir pool. Once netted, he held it up in the air for me to see. About 3 lb, it had not fought for long. He now packed up and stopped at my swim. He said that he had released it, as it was too small to keep. I am not sure that we are allowed to keep pike these days. He is a nightworker and said that he would come back at five, before going to work. Does never sleep?

It was now raining and the wind had got up, blowing leaves and branches into the water. I was under a large oak tree and was quite sheltered. Just as well, as the heavens opened catching the dog lady in the open. There is some justice in the World after all.

The surface of the river was a mass of heavy droplets and my float was gone. I struck and the rod bent into the best roach yet, taking my time bringing it upstream to the landing net.

I think water may have got on the lens for this pic, but it was a nice roach anyway. I hooked another big dace. Yes! It was firmly hooked, this one was not getting away, but it did. A roll on the surface and it was gone.

It was time to put my waterproof jacket on and pack up, as the rain was now penetrating the leaves of the oak.

By no means a memorable result, but one with plenty of frustrations and side distractions. Maybe I will have to try some micro barbed hooks for those dace?