The description of The Saxon Ponds that follows (in italics) is an archive outlining the ideal situation on the ponds as it was until 2016, an idyllic and very fine fishery that was the product of many years of careful management. The aim is to restore it to this state after the events of 2018; as such it represents a sort of target.
If you wish to skip the description below and head for the Diary section, it's here.
The Top Pond contains just tench and crucians and both spawn freely so that after a couple of years - we crop the pond every other year - there are plenty of small fish of both species. You can catch crucians in a range of sizes, from just a couple of inches up to 2lbs. In fact you can catch them even smaller than 2" if you run a landing net through the water lilies to find the fry. I try to ensure that all year classes of crucians are represented. Every other year I crop out most of the over-abundant 4"-8" ones, returning just enough to maintain the balance I like to see in a pond of this kind.
The tench are the secondary species, in there to provide a bit of variety in the fishing, and I crop them as heavily as I can, aiming to leave in just a sprinkling of the best fish - they go up to over 3lbs now, nice fish in a half-acre pond like this. Small tench command a good price so they're an important part of the economy of the pond. However many tench I remove, I know that many will have been missed in the netting operation - they hug the bottom more than crucians and bury themselves in the silt to avoid the lead line.
In 2010 the fishing was as good as ever, with NH doing particularly well with both species, on a mix of baits but largely on his favourite bread-flake. It's possible to catch 30 - 40 fish in a day, of mixed sizes. Fish seem to come in spasms: first tench, say, and then crucians - it's not usual to catch a crucian, then a tench, then another crucian - it's usually several tench followed by several crucians, presumably as the shoals come and go in the swim. Bubbling is intense, whichever species is being caught.
The Lower Pond is my mixed species one, with just a few biggish carp, roach to about 1½lbs, perch to a similar size and growing fast, one chub, tench to nearly 4lbs and the crucians, averaging 1¼lbs. Here, the crucians don't reproduce successfully - small ones are quite rare and those that survive the perch and competition as fry from the roach and other fish tend to be hump-backed and rather tatty until they grow too big for the predators to eat. I'll explain this in the fishery management section.
Sport in this pond can be quite dour sometimes, especially when conditions are bright and the water clear. Then, late evening fishing can be productive. There is no night fishing on these ponds but fishing into dusk doesn't seem particularly productive - the bites fade away towards the end of an evening session. It could be, of course, that the crucians come seriously on the feed later in the night, but that remains just a guess.
Given a dull day, though, and normal water colour, the mornings seem the best time to fish and although most people use pellet, in fact the fish are not very fussy about baits and can be caught on all the traditional ones. Light float-fishing is adequate. Poles are not allowed, for the simple reason that they would look out of place on such a small water - they'd probably be too efficient as well for the welfare of what is, after all, not a big population of fish.
Few of the members target the carp, apart from IB, and he has caught most of them at one time or another, up to over 20lbs. Just occasionally they are hooked by accident, usually a brief encounter! Numbers of carp are kept strictly under control. Fortunately, like the crucians, small ones are very rare.
Hybridization between the carp and crucians is not a problem, as can be guessed from the low survival rate of fry; only once or twice we have found a crucian × carp during one of the nettings, which take place every other year.
At one time there were plenty of signal crayfish in these ponds but they seem to be a problem of the past. Occasionally a nasty black rattly thing is caught but the nettings and earlier trappings seem to have reduced numbers drastically. I imagine that they may become even rarer in the Bottom Pond as the perch hopefully continue to grow.
The Saxon Ponds' Diary:
The Saxon Ponds' Diary is a decade old this year; in that time it expanded to a size that made it overlong and slow to load. So The Saxon Ponds' Diary page now carries only the two most recent years' entries, and the rest reside on the Saxon Ponds' Diary Archive.
After encouraging everyone to send in reports about the fishing - not with very much response, I might add! - I'd better step up to the plate myself.
For once I treated myself to a good, long session - over five hours, the longest in living memory. Chose to go early afternoon and fish till supper time. Not a good choice, too late to begin and too early to finish.
I fished for bites with maggots in Jim's swim, because like him I like to overlook the pond. I fed in a small amount of crumb and micro-pellet and waited for the bubbles, which appeared now and then but with no enthusiasm.
To start with I had no crucians, just the occasional small roach and a little perch - after losing three fish thanks to a defective hook. Out of the blue, late afternoon, I had a nice crucian of about a pound and a half, which had lost its top lip (that's a shame). Then a half-decent roach and a smaller crucian. By the time I came to pack up the swim was just coming to life, with plenty of lily movement and bubbling. I'd have had a shedful if I'd stayed, of course! I lost one fish that charged for the lilies, possibly a tench, but the hook pulled.
Plusses were plentiful. I had a horrendous tangle, which with patience I managed to sort out so I can still do that. All the fish were in good condition. The weed is in decline except in the third of the pond nearest the dam. I was strafed by a dozen swallows. The moorhen family were busy but not a nuisance. I saw and heard a buzzard. I had no problems with Jim's crayfish. The sun shone just enough and the pond is a wonderful place to be. There are small fish in good numbers but not enough to be a pain. Dave from the landscaping team came to chat and told me they were thinking of moving the sluice back towards the house on the bottom pond, with a proper winding mechanism - wow! Perhaps the promised dredging this winter. There'll be a site meeting "soon", me included.
Minuses - none except I should have stayed on to catch some crus. Oh, and I didn't see Moby Dick, though a crucian, perhaps the one Duncan reported, was surface feeding in the margins in front of me - picking up the habit from big cousin, perhaps. I do suspect that the cormorants thinned out our big crucians but that there are some left to challenge you.
The lower pond level is very low. Dave told me that one of his guys went in in chest waders and could feel fish (eels, he said, though I'd be surprised) brushing up against him, sooo…
…the plan is to let out all the water come the autumn, and try to catch the fish at the sluice. We'll then move them up into the top pond, protect it with the ropes as usual, perhaps augmented. If there is work on the lower pond that should help deter the cormorants.
Angling conclusions? Well, we know there are plenty of fish there from early season catches. I imagine that early morning and later afternoon/evening sessions would be best, but who can tell!
In a fishery that relies on nature rather than artificial stocking, there are always highs and lows. Experience tells me that the good times will return and that increased activity should deter the darn birds, I foresee good fishing for crucians, roach and perch (!), and of course our big tench, in the top pond and cherry on the top of the cake fishing in the lower pond when all the necessary work has been done. My licence gives us the right to fish down there though I would always respect The Landlady's wish for privacy now and then. We can re-stock the lower pond from the top one, I have no doubt.
My conclusion is that in such a rich pond the angling is a challenge, that there are plenty of fish there and that I'm already looking forward to the next time.
Your reports to follow, I hope, even nil returns.
A very brief report following an impromptu visit to the ponds last week.
It was Thursday evening, and the weather was doing its best to remove at least one of my usual excuses - it was mild, overcast, a touch of drizzle from time to time...basically pretty much perfect.
There was plenty of activity, and the top pond was looking grand. Unfortunately Peter, the lower pond was looking pretty sorry for itself, and although there was the odd blow of bubbles at the dam end I didn't find the urge to give it a go...sorry.
With maggots on the hook it was, I suppose, predictable that the small fish would feature heavily, and so it was with roach pecking and nibbling at my bait 'on the drop' almost every cast.
There may well have been some better fish in front of me but I didn't catch any - there was certainly some bubbling, and occasional knocking of pads too.
Around dusk the mood changed and the telling eruptions of fry at the surface would suggest that the perch are doing their best to balance things up...but no stripy monsters graced my net sadly.
Photo is of the biggest roach I had...a far cry from Cole's 2 pounder! But each and every one was fin-perfect and sparkly, very pretty fish indeed.
All the best to you all, and good luck if you get out for a fish.
There's been a small leak in the boards of the top pond and the level dropped a couple of inches. I've done a staunching job with sawdust and I'll renew as necessary.
Today, I did some more work on that. It seems to be working OK, with the level rising again - so no real worries.
Except that when you stop the flow from the top pond, the bottom pond loses supply and gets shallower! Again not a real worry as I'll explain but it will look more and more like an old-fashioned farm pond instead of the fine small lake it will one day be again.
The leak level in that lake seems at last to have been reached and today it looked not much lower than it did a week ago. The fish that remain should be OK as long as we don't get a prolonged heat wave - crucians, tench and even roach can put up with quite low oxygen levels and there probably aren't too many in there after the winter.
HOWEVER, it would be helpful to have some idea of what is left and we really need some brave person or two to go and fish it. The water is quite muddy in patches but whether this is from fish activity or birds I don't know.
So, gentlemen, as an incentive to waste some of your valuable time fishing the bottom pond, I am offering a BOTTLE OF WINE, red or white, your choice, for the first fish caught there from now on. I shall also put up your name in lights! Please just tell us all via email, that is the only condition.
The kingfisher, a heron and a little grebe all seem to believe that there are fish there. I wonder how big. Don't expect to get more than 18" of water, though.
The top pond fishes well. Please send reports to us all, even when you don't catch much. Weed is abundant and though the swims are largely clear, there is the rake at the top end of the pond.
It would be good to see some evidence of people's fishing swims other than the first two! I'm sure that the fish are everywhere so be adventurous!
Parking in the evenings is not a problem down at the yard; during the day there's a spot or two beside the track on the field side of the dam gate. It's discreet there. Or, of course, just walk down, a good reason to travel light.
Please don't forget to display permits.
Tight lines to all!
P.S. You'll notice that I can't make up my mind whether they are lakes or ponds. The lawyers wanted them to be lakes; traditionally, they are ponds. Email discussion of this abstruse issue is welcome.
In the spring I was quite depressed at the prospects for the summer's fishing. On my visits through the winter, I'd seen cormorants, usually two but sometimes more, on the lower pond. Once or twice I spotted them in the trees on the Donhead bank, wings out to dry. The ground was often covered in guano so I knew they were eating our fish - and there was nothing I could do about it, except hope that some fish were surviving in our refuges.
Once I frightened two birds off the top pond. Another time I saw a huge disturbance of fish where they were trying to find shelter in the sedges. One day on the top pond I found a nice crucian in a puddle on the bank, where it had jumped out of the water to escape.
There was no sign of fish anywhere during April and very little in May and I feared the worst. But I was unduly pessimistic and in fact the fishing in the top pond from the beginning of the season has been very good. Cole has been the main beneficiary so far and has done very well, with tench to nearly 5lbs, a stunning 2lbs 2oz roach and crucians to about 1lb 12oz, with plenty of small ones as well, including just a few perch. If you go the Cole's website you can see photos of his catches: http://www.anotherangler.net
The only other reports I've had have been from Duncan, who's had some nice crucians to over 1lb. If you've fished, please let us all know your successes and failures, to help build up a picture of what is happening there.
Things are not so good on the lower pond. The level is steadily dropping because of the leak. Nigel has some clay which might stop the flow once we can be certain how far down the bank it is. But until them we can only wait and see. Getting a work party together in these Covid 19 days is obviously not straightforward and we may have to leave this to contractors - to do it properly is a major job needing machinery.
I've only once seen signs of fish in that pond and there's no way of knowing how many have survived. I was unduly pessimistic about the top pond so perhaps I'm wrong about the lower one. If anyone fancies a challenge, how about fishing there?
I don't yet know what landscaping is planned for the lower pond. If it's going to be dredged and generally altered, we'll need to think about how best to rescue the any fish that remain and put them into the top pond temporarily. We can re-stock later and it may be that contractor activity will keep the wretched birds away this coming winter. The ropes obviously worked to some degree on the top pond so we'll have to do the same again at the end of the season.
There's plenty of weed in both ponds and you may need to use the rake that's kept at the top end of the top pond, though up to now the actual swims have been pretty clear.
Moby Dick still swims up and down. If anyone can explain his/her behaviour, please let me know. I have seen him/her feeding on, presumably, larvae on weed stems and leaves but he's shown little interest in baits. Perhaps a fly rod and a Wickham's Fancy or a nymph? Jim? Nigel? Steve?
The paths are getting pretty overgrown so anything you can do to improve access will be welcome.
But, whatever, enjoy the ponds and the wildlife while summer lasts. There's always plenty to see and more fish to catch than we thought.
This is the new boy here - I had a lovely morning fishing last Friday - great to meet Steve. Whilst he was emptying the pond of all the trench and some good crucians, I caught only two small crucians! :-)
However, returned this morning and caught a lot more small ones ( all in good condition - no cormorant marks ) one half pounder crucian (with cormorant marks) and a two pound tench. Great fishing and was still going when I left. Only the odd small 'fizz' though at the moment. I suspect that might improve when the temperature climbs later this week.
It's great to have joined you all fishing in a very lovely pond.
I fished the top pond for the first time on Friday morning. Lots of fish bubbling, had five tench to about 3lb and a few small crucians plus one better one of about a pound and a quarter. Moby did the usual sail past to taunt me! Lots of activity with vehicles and machinery from the landscapers coming and going in numbers! I did have a walk to look at the bottom pond but saw no signs of fish but it’s very weedy.
Nice to meet new member Martin who also fished for a few hours.
Photo below of one Houdini crucian which has had a close encounter!
Popped over to the ponds earlier this morning for a quick one to enjoy the sultry weather. Managed to get about 20 small cru's in the first swim then went for a wander and saw some interesting bubbling in another swim. Poked my rod through a gap in the reeds which caught me a brace at one and a half pounds which seemed enormous after the smaller ones. Much better than the blank I suffered on opening day! :-)
A beautiful morning with beautiful crucians in great condition.
Very very hot...
...which is why I didn't arrive until 4pm. Even so, I was counting off the minutes until the sun dipped below the dogwood on the left of the swim, and wondering if the umbrella pitch on the Lower Pond might not have been a better idea. I had a new hook to try, a proper '16' but strongish and went with my little loaded bobber and a single no.4 shot, ¼" from the hook. The first bite, a proper 'lift', yielded the first of four fish, but what a fish. It is not often one sees a roach of this size at all - never mind in a small pond - I was expecting a sluggish tench after a run or two, but a large roach was quite unexpected. This instantly explained the weighty swirls seen about the water, that were at once 'not tench', 'not crucians' and 'not Moby Dick as he's up the other end'. Aha.
"Well, that's me done." I said to myself, "I can go home now..."
I nabbed a decent 'netter' a little later and then had only two more bites until a good tench turned up then missed two more between that and the last tench at dusk...
Very little fish movement, no crucians priming at all, a few signs of spawning in the weeds in the middle, very few bubbles one might be certain were fish, still a lot of midges hatching when and where the sun was on the water and again, not easy fishing. Eight bites, four fish. But worth it.
Damn it's early; despite this and the soul jarring squawk of an unwisely selected alarm tone, right in the middle of the a deep-sleep cycle, it is simply beautiful to walk across the field in the half-light and the mists that open ahead of me as fast as they swallow the old straight track behind. The pond looks perfect at dawn, although I generally eschew getting up to see it. I perch in my pitch, tackle up, cut off last September's rod-tip tangle, then for over an hour the promising signs do little but engage anticipation while I sit in the grey and the silver and listen to the mist-muted dawn chorus...
...I recall my provisions and tuck into 'first breakfast', a pork-and-black-pudding sausage bap, a hard-boiled egg and a cup of 'brewed that morning coffee'. Ahh...when the float-tip lifts an inch it takes me by surprise, as does the solid weight of the cause, although it comes to the net rather more easily than it might, due probably to its on-board spawn. I scale the tench at 4lb 13oz, which is big for a small pond, carrying weight or no. The day under way.
Despite this fine start, it is hard going thereafter. The tiny float-tip, fished on a 1×no.8 'lift-or-sink', does little that is positive, and I miss half of the bites. I nab two roach in the next hour, the sun's first rays streak across the far corner of the dam, then, at 7am or so, I whip out a small crucian. This is cause for celebration so I take a second breakfast, a replica of the first. The sun burns off the last of the mist and the birds and sheep noises have risen reciprocally.
I speculate the difficult fishing is a product of the vast continually midge hatches, a combination of busy fish feeding on the emergers and a host of fry joining in. Then there was a couple of roach, then a couple of crucians, slightly under hand-size but good sport, a couple of perch, a second tench a little under 3lb...and by this time some hours have slipped past. This is the day's pattern, fish seemingly arriving in pairs, with the rule something like "fish will arrive in pairs and no two consecutive fish will be taken on the same bait".
I alternate fishing off the bottom by the lilies at the front of the swim and the baited patch a rod length or more out, this regular changeover facilitated by using one of the silicone float stops as a top marker. I nab one or two fish on bread, another couple (and one of the perch) on a piece of shrimp, then catch a suspiciously familiar large tench, then more crucians and roach. The sun rises, beats down on the water, the temperature rises, and by the time Pete arrives I'd more-or-less had enough. It was tricky work, although there were enough fish to show that the pond was healthy, that there was minimal impact from the feared predation and also sufficient numbers for good fishing. Pete goes on, I nick out one more roach and a perch then tromp back up the track, now Mediterranean limestone cracking in the heat. Good enough.
[P.S. This all sounds idyllic. However...the first tench wrestled out the hook, cat-scratched it across my knuckles, embedded it in the net's mesh, then ripped it out, furling the hook-point. This I discovered when I 'bumped off' two crucians a little later. The hook-link then tangled to the extent I could not undo it, so was forced to cut and re-tie the hook. A little later the whole lot pinged around the rod tip...I realised it would be quicker to cut it all off and re-tie it, so reached for the VSSK...another strike later somehow put a turn of line around the rod between the third and forth rod-rings, something that is topologically possible, if not feasible...a little later I struck at a bite and the float was left in the water as the snap link had come undone...but barring this, idyllic. Sure.]
Hi Peter and everyone,
Firstly thank you for lending the slasher. We slashed, bashed and chopped our way through the jungle - felt like Indiana Jones and the boy!
Not much sign of fish except for the infamous Moby Dick showing off on the surface - Harry loved that!
I thought the colour of the water looked like pea soup exactly like in the photos attached. Algae? Daphnia bloom?
We managed to complete the path that Cole started on the top pond on the Semely bank. And got three quarters of the way round the bottom pond opening up swims on both ponds.
We both had a great time. Harry completely wore himself out then we went on the bikes after. Beautiful day for it! :)
Looking forward to the new season now!
Duncan (and Harry)
A one person work-party, to continue path-cutting for this year's '16th' with, this year, inclusive 'passing places'. There was a digger in the barn-yard moving a prodigious pile of hard-core, possible for a new dry-ski slope, so I had to spin the car around and park in the field just off the beaten track.
It was sunny, 20°C in the shade, and even with the stiff breeze it was hot sticky work with frequent pauses to remove 'wildlife', both real and imaginary, from one's person. The light was very fine and even using the phone's camera, the below pictures came out very well; it is nice to have some pictures of the path, rather than the water from the path.
Plus, a rather nice panorama, taken from the dam.
An enjoyable morning on the Ponds today with Nigel and they were looking at their best. A selection of photos attached to whet the appetite for the 16th. We put a few handfuls of pellets in a couple of areas on both Ponds but unfortunately no signs of any fish, hopefully they are just a little slow in waking up.
Lots of material in the farmyard ready for the landscaping the Bottom Pond and an area has already been cleared by the sluice which looks like it's going to be a focal point for the Landlady et al to enjoy the view of the Pond, no steps installed yet for the wild swimming sessions but you never know what is planned!!
Hope everyone is safe and well and look forward to seeing you at some point in the new season.
We are living unsettled times, so, lacking the usual work-parties and end-of season activity, I thought it was worth sharing this missive from Dickie:
Morning Donhead folks,
Hoping you are all doing well & keeping your spirits up in these difficult times.
I thought I would share the picture of something I found many years ago in the mud of the Teffont Stream - only a few miles away from the ponds we hold so dear.
I then mislaid this find for over 10 years & found it again buried in leaf litter behind my shed, which I have been renovating over the weekend!!
I wonder if Jim Coward is still around? What a lovely simple phone number!
Tight lines to all & kindest regards, Dickie
Pete then recalled discovering a dump of old "marble-stopped" bottles in the scrub at the head of the Upper Pond, during the Ponds' restoration in the 1970s, including them in a poem written for 'The Net on the Garage Wall':
The billhook 'chock' fills the small-river valley,
Echoes from the white facade of the handsome house,
Sends pigeons aloft in the silent hazel woods,
Where by the track that once the Romans trod
Mysterious heaps of molten metal
Spill into tree-ringed hollows, unexplained.
These two small ponds are ancient, legend says,
Where I slowly trim the fast-grown alders.
But a few old bottles, marble-stopped,
And the brick-ringed island opposite
Are the only signs of history we discovered,
When our yellow-cabbed machine dug deep
Through sticky silt to hard, clean gravel.
A Saxon Abbess ate her Friday carp
Fresh caught from this dark water, so they say.
I speculate how many times since then
This tiny reed-fringed stream has choked
These hidden ponds with mud; through centuries
How many men and beasts have sweated here
With basket, cart and shovel, just to bring
Cool clearness back, for insects, birds, for fish,
And water-spell-bound folk like me.
©1997, Peter Rolfe, from 'The Net on the Garage Wall'.
Let us hope the current predictions are sound, and that we can re-convene on the 16th June. That would be a fine day indeed.
Thanks to Mark, Terry, Cole, Steve and Nigel the lower pond now looks smart and ready to go and the rain kept away just long enough.
Mark frightened three cormorants off from the top pond so the ropes no longer deter the wretched birds. When we take down the ropes in April we'll run a net through and see what they have left us. If the count is very low, I'll make special arrangements for the new season - more details later.
There's a healthy flow of water through the ponds, needless to say, but there is no obvious leak in the lower pond sluice area despite the high water level.
I had the pleasure over breakfast this morning of watching Hugh Miles's film of 'Tom's River' on YouTube and wanted to share it with you. It is about the Avon, not Donhead Ponds, but the sentiments and experiences are very similar - the change of seasons, the necessary work, the interdependence of creatures. I loved it and hope you will too if you don't know it.
Down at the ponds I hope that the activity of the tree planters will keep any curious cormorants away. There were two about much earlier but hopefully our white ropes and sanctuaries will protect our fish from the wretched birds.
There has been heron sign on the banks of the lower pond, but I always regard that as hopeful because he wouldn't be there if there were no fish to catch, and he's a fair fisherman, like us, not a poacher like the cormorant.
After Christmas, when the leaves have finally gone and the cold weather has come, there are one or two routine jobs for us, all on the lower pond. We need to pollard the yellow willows on the dam, tidy up one of the two refuges on the Semley bank and the one next to the 'Armchair Swim', where the willow is getting too massive. I always look forward to our work parties down there, complete with Kelly Kettle and charcoal spuds plus a madeleine or two.
The leak by the sluice was obvious during the recent high water conditions so we'll need to do some more engineering work there, too.
Till then, though, enjoy your well-earned rest and build up your strength for the challenges to come!!! I hope to see you at the book launch on 7th December for a yarn or two.
I've attached one or two of my favourite pics of the ponds.
What a handsome bird. It's been down there for a week now (the trail camera 'captured' it late one evening).
Ponds look good, with a healthy flow of water, as you might expect. NO invaders apart from the swan, as far as I can tell from the camera results. Planting of conifers(!) is about to begin on the field up to Donhead St Mary. Perhaps broadleaves will follow - I do hope so. Anyway, the activity in the yard will discourage cormorants and get them out of the habit of looking at the ponds, if in fact that was a danger.
Fellow Donhead anglers
Now we have done everything we can to keep our fish safe in both ponds, so fingers crossed that they come through the winter unscathed. I know there are others who would have been there today if they could have been but particular thanks to Nigel, Terry, Cole, David Redwood (how keen is that!), Mark and Robin for their sterling efforts. I'll send a pic of the finished arrangement of ropes later, or perhaps Terry will. The dam wall has been cleared to make it easier to put the net in position when we come to sort out the fish in the spring.
We worked p.m. rather than a.m. once the deluge had stopped and the sun, believe it or not, began to break through. I've seldom seen the pond higher and the level was still rising when we left. It would have fished well, I have no doubt! We saw bubbles and lily movement and a fish or two broke surface.
Couple of nice shots from the trail camera, the first, sunrise on the pond, and the second? Was it a bird? A plane? Duncan pre-bating for June 16th 2020? Or the black peril?
Time to get the ropes over perhaps.
Well, the long awaited Avon Roach Project fundraiser guest day arrived yesterday - with the two lucky chaps (Gary & Glen) arriving at the ponds at 10 o'clock.
The sun was already warm by then, but at dawn the temperature at home was only just nudging 7 degrees centigrade, so I was already somewhat fearful ahead of a day which was forecast to be bright and sunny.
The chaps were blown away by the natural beauty of the ponds (a reminder of how lucky we are), and Trevor Harrop soaked up the relaxing atmosphere too - no doubt providing a temporary respite from the hectic preparation for this year's fundraiser.
The obligatory tour around both ponds resulted in the inevitable discussion about where to fish, and although the more logical choice would perhaps have been to seek the warmth of the sunshine, Gary and Glen were (understandably) seduced by the intimacy and traditional feel of the more shady bank.
I wasn't overly concerned at this point, as there was still a nice colour to the water, and signs of bubbling fish and twitching pads. However, by mid-afternoon the writing was on the wall, with no bites, and a variety of baits being tried, the fishing was decidedly 'tricky'. The bubbles continued and the pads kept twitching, but the fish simply weren't hungry.
I don't know if I was imagining it, but I swear that by the time the chaps had to pack up at 6pm (ahead of a long drive home) the water looked decidedly clearer, and as the magic last hour wasn't an option we reluctantly walked away from possibly our last chance at dusk.
To be fair, Glen did winkle out two small roach, and thankfully both Gary and Glen were the sort of anglers to appreciate the venue enough to have had a great day anyway.
Peter popped down to check on progress, and remarked that the warmer bank and last-knockings may have provided more fish..probably true, but to be honest it was just 'one of those days' which I suspect we've all experienced at Donhead at least once before.
Two other noteworthy things - firstly, the 'chirring' arrival (or passing through at least) of around 30 Fieldfare...surely the earliest I've ever seen them...cold winter ahead perhaps?
And secondly, another amusing interaction with Moby Dick...I lobbed a free offering of a corner of crust to it, as it lay basking near the dam. The bread landed about 18 inches in front of its nose. The carp casually swam straight to it and looked for all the world as if it was going to stick its nose up and slurp the bread down. However, at the last second, with its nose almost touching the crust, it stopped dead in its tracks and turned away. This wouldn't be particularly note-worthy, but the fish then proceeded to swim at pace out of the weed-bed and straight up to the opposite end of the lake...the first time it had left the sanctuary of the weeds all morning! I suspect he/she may have had an unpleasant encounter with bread before!
Of course despite the lack of fish the day wasn't wasted, with the usual interactions with nature (kingfisher, swallows, martins, dragon flies, kestrel) and the obligatory tea, sandwiches, pork pie and cake made the event very pleasurable.
Fingers crossed we get another warm air-flow soon to prolong the season, I fear further cold nights might make things even more challenging!
Cheers for now,
Just to say, guys, that the ponds look in fine fettle after the rain and cooler weather. The lower pond is over the top board again and the camera has seen no sign of a big black bird since my one sighting. The water is still coloured so the fish should still be feeding.
Management plans are as follows. Once the leaves are dropping, perhaps we can pollard the yellow-barked willows on the lower pond dam and cut new stakes from them for the ropes on the top pond. Perhaps we should put those in place by early October, once the herbage has died down a bit?
I think the netting to thin out the fish in the top pond should wait until early April, when the ropes can come down to make things easier and when the weed and water lilies should be less inconvenient. I hope we'll be able to put some fish in the lower pond then and sell any surplus. It'll be interesting to see how the perch have done - quite well, I guess, unless we have cormorant problems despite the ropes. So far, though, they seem to have done a good job over winter.
I want to keep the tench and perch in the upper pond, together with the crucians and roach; keeping the lower pond for just crus and roach - though of course we could get fry trickling downstream from the top pond to confound my plans!
I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer/autumn down there. The blackberries are abundant.
This Saturday there's a bit of a social organised by Jim. I'm sure there'll be some swims free if you want to turn up!
My first trip to the ponds this year and my first fish........ I did need to wait nearly four hours for my first decent bite though!
It doesn't perhaps look it, however it is over 3 lbs and 18" long!
Nothing exceptional to report, except for a very pleasant five hours on the upper pond. Kingfisher very active, about twenty duck tried to come in at last light, and some small bats buzzed us - pipistrelles?
As for the fishing, we'd have done better had the maggots been in good condition. The fish didn't want to eat anything else. Corn, pellets, wheat - all met with a very limited response. It was slow to start with but after 7pm the surface came alive with rising fish, mostly small, and some spectacular bubbling that grew more intense as it got darker. As we were packing at 9pm bigger fish began to break surface and I'm sure that they would have fed into darkness, so look out your beta lights.
The weed is thicker now but the swims are all nicely clear, though you know where the rake is should you need it. WE fished on the A30 bank, me in the Land's End swim, Neil in Jim's Swim. I also dabbled in Cole's little swim on the other side of the lily bed. There I had a fish a cast, reward for doing a bit of raking there on Wednesday.
The level is up to and over the top board, but flows are reducing and the lower pond is slowly falling, though not to crisis level.
We had roach to half a pound and crucians to about a pound, in good numbers, plus one PERCH to Neil! That's the third one reported. Over half a pound and in very good condition. Given the number of very small fish in the pond there may be some big perch in there in the near future - they grow fast in the right circumstances. Trouble is, they can breed fast as well! The roach have bred and there are plenty of tiddlers - they move out of the swim when the crus move in and the smaller crus move out when the big ones move in, it seems. No sign of any tench or of Moby Dick, unless the disturbance in the reeds opposite was the carp - though it could have been birds. Moorhens active as the evening drew on - she has four young ones, now well grown.
Enjoy the September fishing - it can often be very good there. But you'll need to dodge the tiddlers or work your way through them. We'll thin out the fish this winter.
Fished Donhead Top Lake yesterday from 12:45 - 16:45 and caught crucian, largest 1lb 12oz (picture below), roach to 8oz and a tench around the pound mark. All on maggot and caster. Slight rain and mainly overcast. Saw the carp cruising and swallows diving for flies on the waters surface and many colourful dragonflies, all making for an enjoyable afternoon. Will try again soon.
I travelled up to the ponds today and fished both upper and lower, my only success came from the upper being a small roach. Fishing for me has been a bit odd over the last few days as I tried a new acquisition a Milwards Spinversa (1959) yesterday and only caught roach also from another water.
Moby Dick was taunting me I even dropped a bait right under its nose to no avail, a very wary character!
P.S. Leigh toook this nice little video of Mody Dick. Enjoy! BR, Cole
As I hit Exeter on my journey up to the ponds the rain was still biblical and I questioned should I turn around and try another day, it was still early morning and I thought things may improve and with a family holiday over the next few weeks, opportunities would be limited to try again.
By the time I arrived at the ponds the clouds and the skies were clear, a quick telephone call to the wife that confirmed we still had the rain back home. The upper pond as always looks mystical as I walked around to see if Moby Dick was showing an appearance but he couldn't be seen this morning. For myself, the challenge was now the lower pond and will be for the foreseeable future.
There were no signs of life, no telltale crucian bubbles to give me any indication of where to place myself for the day but I chose an area to tuck myself into should the rain arrive later in the day. After plumbing the depth several times I could see that I was fishing fairly shallow and a small scattering of hemp was used to tempt any fish moving to stop and possibly grace my landing net. As before two fine roach came along in quick succession and were probably my personal bests, I did not weigh them but slipped them back quickly after a quick cellphone snap.
The next few hours passed with no motion on the float, my eyes were beginning to feel strained watching the tiny float head so I walked both ponds probing the subsurface with the underwater camera to hopefully capture some fine footage, which later after view was rather disappointing as i noted only small roach darting around the bottom. I had to leave by early afternoon as I had to pick my son up from nursery by 18:00 and I had to do some explaining as he was disappointed I had gone fishing without him! A return to the float rod and I connected to a roach that slipped the hook just as I was trying to get the landing net underneath, this would have been my PB! Another hook pull to what possibly could have been a crucian left me to think was I going to have to try and fit another date in prior to returning to work after my holidays. Terry arrived and provided a welcome relief from watching the float, but with time ticking away I decided one last cast. After around 15 mins a tiny knock on the float, yes another roach to my angling adventure today. Did I keep thinking about where are the crucians? why only large roach today and no smaller ones chomping at my hookbait?
I decided as we always do this had to be my last cast as I did not want to hit all the rush hour traffic. The tiniest of bite indications followed, lift the rod or wait? Thankfully I stuck into a crucian, I could tell instantly by the way it moved around in the water, thankfully I managed to land it despite slipping on the steep bank slope and was pleased to see this little character finally grace my landing net. A quick return to the van and goodbye to Terry had me on my way home already thinking of when I can return.
I had an unexpected few hours free on Sunday evening, and so I grabbed the chance to fish the top pond.
Rob had arrived just before me, and he quickly settled into catching steadily on maggots - roach, smaller crucians, and a couple of real clunkers came his way. He was clearly enjoying himself.
In contrast, things were slow on my side of the pond. I'd set myself up under the shelter of the big oak (it rained briefly as I tackled up), and I fished next to the little overhanging willow between the reeds and lily-pads. I didn't take any maggots, and so I raked the swim and put in a bit of groundbait - then squeezed a bit of stinky paste around the hook, and sat back to await events.
The fizzing and bubbling started quite quickly, and then the float started giving the odd indication that there were fish in the swim. But I'd set myself up with a fairly crude 'lift-method' rig, and so I sat on my hands and waited for a proper bite.
For some reason, I chose to use my childhood float rod rather than the cane 'Kennet Perfection' which has been my weapon of choice at Donhead since the season began. The rod I was using was a Shakespeare 'Radial Carbon' - a real throw-back to the first generations of carbon rods, which over time has grown to have a rather pleasing retro charm. It's the perfect rod for crucians and 'pond-sized' tench, and so I was perfectly confident that it would (as it has done in the past) happily handle anything the top pond could throw at it.
The fizzing and bubbling slowly subsided, and still without a fish, I was starting to think about throwing in a bit more groundbait, but then, in text-book style, the float smoothly rose up out of the water, pausing momentarily at the point of balance, before falling flat on the surface.
I'm afraid I wasn't patient enough to wait for the final sliding away, instead I lifted the rod smartly upwards and set the hook.
It was really at this point that things got a bit weird...the three or four feet of line beyond the rod tip were obviously taken up on the strike, but unlike the hoped for 'lively yet firm' resistance, there was a solid weight which was totally static.
I lifted the rod a bit more, but rather than anything giving way, the rod simply bent further towards the handle and made no impression on what I'd snagged at all.
Unbeknownst to me, the creature on the other end of the line was also pondering the situation, and it came to the correct conclusion half a moment before I did.
I was just starting to think that I'd maybe hooked the bottom when the entire swim exploded. The area of water between the pads and reeds bulged up in a big dome of water, and lines of waves marched out into the pond away from the epicenter. The one and only 'Moby Dick' plunged into the bed of lilies to my left, lifting them upwards on the crest of an impressive bow-wave, before turning right and bolting out into the middle of the pond.
The 5lb Maxima line graunched around the plant stems, and my poor old rod (which wasn't designed to cope with this type of onslaught when it was brand new, let alone 35 years later), buckled like a twig. I still don't know how it remained in one piece.
The line tore off again as the fish made a second run, burning my thumb on the paint-chipped rim of the Speedia centrepin, before a swirling heavy splosh way out in the middle of the pond heralded the end of our brief encounter.
By this point Rob's head was poking over the bush on the far side of the pond, and with a rather startled look on his face he simply said 'I saw the splash'!!
That 'slack line winding in of shame' is always a strange sensation, the feelings of shock and disappointment mixed with excitement and wonder after an event like that are a heady cocktail. My thumb was stinging, and the water was still gently rocking across the entire pond as I miraculously recovered my tackle - minus the last two inches of 4.5lb hooklength, which snapped at the point my single shot had been pinched above the hook.
I was especially pleased to get my float back - I'd only just made it, and this was its first time in the water. Next time it will be attached to 12lb line and a much more sturdy rod!
So there it is gents, Moby Dick 1, Jim 0...but it proves that he/she will take a bait, and as the former governor of California would say - 'I'll be back'!
Hopefully the barbless hook won't have bothered him/her for long, and I hope I've not wised it up too much ahead of collective future efforts to repeat the scenario - except with the right tackle in hand hopefully. I did wonder if maybe the cane rod would have fared any better, or maybe fate protected it from a grizzly splintered death - I'll never know. So there is the challenge folks - who's next?
All the best to all.
PS: I did re-tackle, and eventually got my consolation prize in the form of this lovely crucian. Then I packed up and called it a day - sucking my thumb as I drove home!
This is what you missed out on today and to prove that I am completely mad... :)
Over 30 cru's in the end. Mostly small one's. All in immaculate condition enjoying the conditions unlike me!
Dear Saxon Pond Dabblers,
I have fished both Upper and Lower Ponds today. The Lower Pond produced a few roach but did not show any of the normal fizzing and bubbling that we normally see with crucians so I decided to move to the Upper Pond which did.
Immediately I caught another roach and then another! Then the crucians came along one after the other and probably around 30 were caught in all shapes and sizes. To top it off I also caught a small tench.
Finally the Daiwa 123M decided to give up on me, I could see the problem but thought the ponds had paid me kindly for my long journey this morning so decided to call it a day.
The mirror carp was patrolling the surface and looked bigger than my original estimation, if only I had my carp rod!
I've had a few trips so far, all upper pond & lack of time has meant updates to all have been difficult!
I have had 2 × 2lbers so far and a number of good 1lb+ fish - best has been 2lb 6oz.
The tench have eluded me - one about thumb size, lovely to see, big bunch maggos the greedy thing, and another (male) of about 1lb 8oz.
Absolutely loads of tiddlers - think I had 40+ one day including some thumb sized fish - all good fun! The roach are sparkling bright fish.
Doby Mick has been in my swim a few times with tail in the air - usually I then lift my float out of the water in fear of smashings.
Trips are as magical as ever, although no swallows, martins to talk of unlike previous years - swifts on increase I think, lovely to hear them screaming about the place.
Song thrush singing loudly at dusk has also been a joy along with the spotted fly catchers, long tailed tits and ever present kingfisher.
Here are few pics, tight lines to all, Richard
Hi Peter & All,
Just a brief report from our day on Monday - which was hugely enjoyable.
The weather was kind, the tea and pies tasted good, and the fish were 'on the munch'!
All the species showed up, fin-perfect sparkling little roach, a handful of hard fighting tench - including a brute which Mike hooked which went right out into the middle of the pond leaving a trail of silt and bubbles. For a while we thought he may have hooked the carp, but a bit of steady pressure turned the fish and eventually a lovely 'big' tench of over 3lb was in the net.
The crucians ranged from coin-sized, through to the biggest of the day which weighed 1lb 12oz - a handsome fish for sure.
As discussed with Peter during the day, once he is totally satisfied that no hybridisation has occurred it may be a good idea for us to have a concerted effort to move lots of the smaller fish down into the lower pond - or elsewhere, if Peter thinks that's a better option...we shall await your instructions Peter!
All in all it was a terrific day, topped off with the most beautiful big moon rising over the hills as we packed up.
I think it'll be time for me to have a crack at the bottom pond next time - whenever that might be.
Cheers for now,
PS: Photos of a palm-sized nugget of perfection, a medium-sized fin-perfect tench, and the rising moon!
Finally caught my first Upper Pond crucian. Now do I get a badge?
Terry, thanks for the maggots your brother caught some lovely crucians.
Best regards to all
The plan was to capture the carp. At 4pm it's still 30°C in the shade and I tackle-up behind a handy bush, as it was lurking not 10 yards from the dam. By the time I'd done, it had scooted off to some lilies against the dam wall. I sneak round and lower bread. This fails and it mooches further down the wall. I cast over the fish and it obligingly sidles up and sucks at the bread; when I strike the bread remains...the fish pops up further out, in no hurry...so I sit quietly on the wall for some time, with sweat running down my back, waiting fruitlessly for another opportunity.
I head for one of the lily-pad swims, wait for the carp to arrive and when it does, a vortex on the far side of this patch, I cast over, see the big tangle and move too much to deal with it; that was that.
I muse on this and decide to fish the fizzing swim for crucians, put on 6lb line, feed pills of bread and fish flake on the hook. For ninety sticky minutes the float ignores the bubbles, then a breeze springs up, blows across the pond in my face and almost at once I start catching fish. Despite the stout rod and the clutch set as light as it would go, I am utterly lost in the black-and-white ripples and fish until I can barely see the little yellow porcupine quill.
I thread back between the shadows to the car and go through a familiar re-stowing routine. The lizard-brain doesn't like the barn's sepulchral creaks and groans and urges me to shine a light into the dark shadows at the back. The more evolved brain knows it's sheep scratching themselves on the far side. I consign the barn-sprites to the pit of rationalism, but muscles on my back crawl as I get into the car. Outside the double-gates I slip the boots off, a relief, and head for home.
I arrived at the ponds around 16:00 it had been a horrendous drive from Tamworth with the heat and traffic, my old van does not have air conditioning.
Thankfully, the early start of last-minute revision paid off as I passed both written and practical elements of my exam. Thankfully no resist was required so I was away by 12.
I watched the lower pond for some time and used the new camera underwater to see if any crucians were hiding away under the rhododendron but no joy.
The upper pond had shown signs of crucian activity so I set up the centrepin and light float tackle but was surprised to see what I believed to be a small mirror carp around 4lb keep making waves around my swim.
With repeated comments of one last cast, I finally called it a day at 20:00 as by now the eyelids were feeling weary and it was still a distance to drive back to Dartmoor, arriving home around 23:30.
Unsuccessful this time but I shall return in a few weeks better prepared and feeling much more refreshed.
The dappled sunbeams striking through the water looked rather impressive from below.
Tight lines and good luck to all.
Once again, I was at my favourite ancient pond in Wessex looking for what was now an elusive summer Tench. Weather was warm and sunny, again not great fishing weather but it was just good to be fishing today. An odd day today, I did not even catch a Roach. The fish were just not interested.
I fished today, arriving in a deluge of rain, which continued on and off (mostly "on") until about 8pm. In one of the "off" periods I had my only bite of the day, and landed a nice roach, getting on for 8 oz. Rain stopped at 8 pm, and I fished on until 10:30 pm, with just a few bats and a lonesome, rather unenthusiastic tawny owl to keep me company. On the way back to the car I managed to to slip over, full frontal into the mud etc., launching my rod into a large puddle of mud and sheep poop, and cracking my knee on a stone. Somehow I managed to drive home without being run off the road by a band of marauding badgers.
The coming week looks perfect for some "evening into dark" sessions, but I'm busy every evening until a week on Monday...
I awoke at four am to the sound of heavy rain. Good and welcome news for the garden and allotment, but not when I was about to take a car journey of over three hundred miles. Although traffic wold be lighter at this time in the morning, I knew that further into my journey the rain would compound delays, I was not wrong. Disregarding an unexpected road diversion that added forty minutes onto my journey, I arrived at my destination eventually around 12:30. I had two options - to check into my accommodation and then track back to do a couple of hours fishing, or I could go straight to the tackle shop to purchase bait and go fishing straight away. The decision was made for me when I called my B&B and there was no answer.
I arrived at the pond to find another member already there and I introduced myself to one of the new members. It did not take me long to get a line in the water. The weather was warm and sunny, not perhaps the best fishing weather; but it was pleasant to be back at this ancient pond again. Fishing in a familiar swim, it did not take long before my orange tipped quill float slid away. Roach after Roach came to the bank, along with a few lovely palm-sized Crucians, and two Crucian 'corkers' later that day. A great afternoon was had, but sadly there were no signs of a summer, new season Tench for me today.
Well, it was a pretty tricky day by Donhead standards - finicky fish and cool blustery conditions kept the float-tip for the most part distinctly above the water.
However, between us we managed to winkle out a few nice fish, and as is often the case there was a brief spell later in the evening when things picked up a bit.
In the end I managed a handful of crucians (all perfect condition), and a dozen or so roach which really came on the feed at last light (again, all of them were fin-perfect) - but the highlight was a lunatic male tench which thrashed through the reeds and generally went ballistic. A great start to the season!
It was bats not swallows buzzing me in the farmyard by the time I left...which was rather later than I'd planned, but I'm glad I waited to see how things developed, and it was encouraging to see the increase in activity as the fish bubbled and rolled into the dusk.
Thanks for your fine company, and look forward to the next time.
Cole fished the Upper Pond as well and the full account is here, managing a single crucian and a few roach. Dreadful quiet and he naturally left just before the fish came on to feed...
On the day we had Steve, Nigel, Leigh, Mark and Terry, with Pete supervising. Paths and swims were cut on the Lower pond (you're welcome) and also on the Upper. Some old wood was burned and cleared and the place given its final spring clean. All set then. Many thanks all for the hard work.
Three fine pictures taken on the day by Leigh and one by the webmaster;
Finally, a nice little video taken by Leigh; an underwater shot of crucians in one of the refuges built last year. This one is under a rhododendron , so pretty good cover. This tells us the fish use the refuges and that some crucians have survived the winter. Now we need to catch them.
A few thoughts after this morning's walk round.
The fish food is in the bins waiting for the water temperature to reach about 15°C, when I'll start to feed the top pond fish. That pond is now several inches deeper as a precaution against summer drought and looks very good, with a slight green haze after all the sunshine and no sign at all of the dreaded Canadian pondweed. Water lily pads showing well. Some starwort in the bottom pond; nothing else yet. Cole's brook still flows, though less confidently after the dry spell.
The first sheep have arrived - the other side of the barn so far. The track is dry and easy. The yard is now nearly clear of bales as the last signs of cattle management disappear.
Plenty of birds around - pics of mallard, tufteds, little grebe, Canadian geese, moorhens, coot, heron. Today a crow harried a buzzard. No sign of BP. Chiffchaffs are back.
At BW there are plenty of fish showing in the predator pond but nowhere else, though there are plenty of rudd in the other ponds too. Can't explain that!
Everything coming back to life - just thought you'd like to share a bit of it.
Pete said; "I know you're a bit worried about your back. Why not bring your rod instead on Sunday? Any info about the fish in the top pond would be useful."
Even by the standards of the great Claude Shannon, where 'no information' is in itself 'information', regret have no info. about the top-pond fish to offer.
...meanwhile a fine body of men was hard at work clearing and 'roofing' a refuge.