Too many pike in the River Blackwater, or is it just me?

December 1, 2022 at 9:02 pm

On a cold misty afternoon, I drove to the River Blackwater this week, for an afternoon catching winter roach on the bread punch. Walking to my intended swim, I saw that a tree had fallen into the river from the opposite bank, completely transforming a gentle glide into a swirling torrent. Ok, plenty of swims to choose from, so onto the next. This one had a long branch broken off, still attached, but trailing into the water with no room to cast a 14 ft float rod. The next was on the outside of a bend with a steady flow and plenty of room for my rod. This’ll do. I began unloading my fishing trolley, only to see the remains of another snapped off branch downstream, spreading out under the surface to the middle. I loaded the trolley again. Round the corner, on the inside of the same bend was a better option. A willow had once fallen here from my bank, but had been removed, leaving a bushy stump, that had created a shallow slack on my side, but good flow pushing across to the opposite bank.

In this image, the shallow area ran out to where the dark bankside reflection is and I started off with a couple of balls of liquised bread, ground hemp and ground pellets dropped into the edge of the flow. On the size 14 hook was a 7 mm punch of bread and I cast my 3 BB Drennan stick float in behind the feed. A dip and steady sink put a bend in the rod, as a very nice roach flashed over in the clearwater and I took my time to bring the fish over the ledge. Whoosh! The long shape of a pike broke through the surface and dived down to the roach, carrying it off to the far side, with my Browning bent double. Just my luck to have yet another pike, on the first cast too. After that initial run, the pike cruised slowly along the far bank and I began thinking about how I would get it up and over the shallow shelf to my landing net. I needn’t have worried, as the razor sharp teeth soon made short work of the 3 lb hook line.

Although there were obviously decent roach out in front of me, so was the pike and I began throwing balls of feed over toward the foam covered obstacle on the other bank, following down with my float. I was fishing overdepth by about a foot, with the main shot bulked at 18 inches from the hook, while holding the float back to half speed, stopping the travel with my finger for a second every five yards. Just as the float was going out of sight, I stopped it, then let go. It did not resurface. I struck to feel a small roach fighting and reeled back as quickly as I could. The pike would have swallowed that roach by now. The small roach fell off the hook as I swung it in.

At least there were fish to be had further down. My next trot hit into a better roach and I brought it back on the surface as quickly as possible. There was the pike again, like a dark torpedo heading for my fish and I reel down, swinging it in to my hand.

I decided that the next fish would be guided across to the shallows along my bank, this worked and another winter roach was in my hand.

Stopping the float, then letting it run was the answer in the fast current and next cast I was in again, this time a smaller roach was speeding back to me. A bow wave formed up behind the roach, which cleared the surface in panic and beached itself. I walked back and managed to free it from a bunch of twigs. As I was up, I decided to investigate the next swim downstream, which was in line with the area that I was getting the roach from.

The swim was no good for float fishing, with a tree hanging over the shallow shelf. I went back, drank my tea and finished off my sandwiches in the hope that the pike would be gone.

No such luck. Another nice roach was on and I pulled it back as quickly as possible. There was that bow wave again, just like the film Jaws, it stalked the roach, all that was missing was the relentless sound track, Bmm, Bmm, Bmm….. Bmm, Bmm, Bmm. Panic took over and the roach skittered across the surface and I swung it.

I was not enjoying this and neither were the roach. I considered packing up. I had started at 1:30; it was now 2:30; another hour and it would be too dark to fish. I gave it another cast and yes, I hooked a much bigger roach, this fish fighing hard using the flow and fighting upstream along the opposite bank. It was at least 8 oz and I got the landing net ready. Too late, the pike took from underneath, rolling on the surface with it’s prey between it’s jaws, then diving back to the dark depths. The hook pulled free from the roach. I felt guilty for being responsible for that pristine roach’s horrible death.

I tied on another hook, but put the rod back in the bag. My last outing on the Blackwater from a swim upstream had been the same. That pike had been half the size of this one and I almost landed it, but the roach was ejected with the pike a foot from the net. The ejected roach below.

It took more quality fish, including a large dace, intercepting roach once hooked. Easy prey.

The bread punch is a very effective method for roach, but it seems to bring the pike on to feed too.

This session was very disappointing on several levels for me, pike will naturally lie where shoals of roach are and it must be a bit like nipping into the buffet for a bite to eat. Maybe I have the wrong aproach. I should turn up with my pike gear, get the potentially offending fish out of the swim, take it further up, or downstream, then release it, THEN fish for roach on the bread punch.

The Survivors.