If a quiet, idyllic setting is an essential ingredient of your fishing, then Ponders End is not for you. But if you don’t mind dirty, noisy industrial surroundings, you can enjoy some excellent sport all through the season at this venue.
In summer, big nets of bream can be taken on bread, while casters work well for the large head of roach and perch. But now it’s late October, and bloodworm is taking over as THE bait for all three fish.
So why hasn’t Ricky brought any with him today? Well, if this was a match he wouldn’t dream of fishing without it, but this isn’t, and he’s keen to show you can catch quite well here with other baits when pleasure fishing in autumn and winter.
The best swims at Ponders End are opposite the Ford factory. A side stream enters on the far bank, and a regular supply of scraps thrown in by factory workers for the ducks, swans and geese also feeds the fish. Being so close to the road, though, it’s very heavily fished — even midweek you must get down early to be sure of a spot.
The weather is right to catch a few fish today, thinks Ricky: it’s mild with good cloud cover. Water conditions could be better, though: the river is much clearer than usual, and barely moving.
He expects the fish to be in the deep water beyond the sloping nearside shelf, which extends to about 6m (20ft). He reckons he could catch roach and perch at the bottom of the shelf, but decides to fish a bit farther out to give himself a better chance of a few bream as well.
Plumbingup at 10m (11yd), Ricky finds 2m (6½ ft) of water. He chooses a lg, wire-stemmed, bristle-topped float with a slim balsa body. His bulk is made up of shot: an AAA, a no.6 and a no. 10. He nips the AAA on over a small piece of silicone rubber tubing so he can move it easily without damaging the line. Setting the float to fish 5cm (2in) overdepth, he puts the bulk 70cm from the hook (a fine wire, microbarbed 22 to a 12oz/0.34kg hooklength). In between are four evenly spread no. 10 dropper shots . Main line is 1 /4lb (0.68kg), and he decides on No. 4 elastic through only the top section of his pole.
Next Ricky knocks up a fairly dry 50/50 mix of Van den Eynde River Ace and Superlake. River Ace is a heavyish ground-bait, Superlake a lighter one. In go three tangerine-sized balls containing a sprinkling of squatts. Squeezed hard, they sink straight to the bottom where they slowly break up and release enticing titbits. ‘Groundbait doesn’t put the roach off here,’ he says. ‘They’re used to it because so many people feed bloodworm in groundbait. And using groundbait increases your chances of catching some bream.’
Baiting with a single bronze maggot, he begins loose-feeding little and often with hemp and squatts. ‘Hemp and squatts seem to go together well,’ he says, ‘but if I start getting a few fish I’ll feed casters and big maggots instead of the squatts.’
The orange bristle of Ricky’s float rides the oily ripple, obstinately refusing to go under. He tries different hookbaits – caster, double squatt, even hemp – but none brings any response. ‘It’s much harder than I thought it would be, to be honest,’ he says, ‘but they’ll come.’ All along the bank the story is the same. Everyone is struggling to catch today.
Back on single bronze, the float suddenly slides away and an 8oz (230g) roach is on. Next drop in, another roach is netted. Then just as suddenly, all goes quiet again.
Ricky is still loose-feeding hemp and squatts little and often, but since the two net roach he hasn’t had a bite. He adds sections to his pole and tries fishing and feeding farther out, at about 12m (13yd).
The response is immediate as a plump 12oz (340g) perch snatches his bronze maggot hookbait and puts the elastic through its paces. But again, it proves a one-off. ‘All I can think,’ he says, ‘is that they’re staying out of pole range because the water is so clear. I’ll have to try the waggler.’
He sets up an insert waggler rig with two AAA locking shot and four no. 10s down the line, and starts fishing towards the other side, at the bottom of the far-bank shelf . He can’t loose-feed squatts this far, so substitutes casters and bronze maggots. He also leaves out the groundbait this time – with hindsight, he reckons it was a mistake to use it today, given the clarity of the water.
That’s better! Ricky’s getting a few bites now on single bronze, although only from small roach and perch. He would like to fish overdepth, but there is still a fair bit of weed left over from the summer so he is having to fish just off the bottom.
A couple of skimmers raise hopes of a few bream, and sure enough, his next strike meets with heavy resistance. Playing it coolly, he soon has the 3!/2lb (1.6kg) beauty wallowing on top, and nets it first go. ‘Now let’s see if we can snare a few more!’ he says.
Alas, no more of the bream show up, despite all his best efforts, and after netting his second good perch Ricky decides to pack up — he has some groundbait to deliver. ‘I reckon I probably would’ve caught more if I’d started on the waggler,’ he says. ‘And I’m pretty certain I would have caught more fish on the pole if I’d used bloodworm, but I don’t think I would’ve caught the bigger ones on it today.’