The Oxford Mail’s monthly columnist, Gerald Stratford, reflects on a tough time after the pike at Farmoor

THE two-week pike fishing session at Farmoor Reservoir didn’t have the result I would have liked, with only one fish of 14lb caught by a boat angler on the last day.

I gave it a good go and spent several days up there, but eventually had to pack up because I was pestered by big brown trout up to 15lb (estimated) taking whole my large mackerel and herrings baits.

It didn’t matter where I fished, they still found me, so I packed it in because I felt they were jeopardising my chances of catching a pike.

I know some will think me a little mad packing up when I was catching big browns, but I took no pleasure in taking them on bait – on the fly it would have meant something.

As soon as the floods die down, I’ll be off roach and chub hunting on the tributaries of the Thames.

I’ll use just one 13ft match rod, employing Avon type floats with good old breadflake and mash.

It’s an old bait, but still one of the best. You need a fresh loaf for your hookbait, just pinch a piece out the size of your thumbnail and squeeze onto a size 12 hook.

For breadmash, I use any household bread. Lay the slices on trays and leave it in a warm oven overnight, you will find it goes very crunchy and it will not go mouldy.

Take it in a bag when you go to the river and put some in a bowl. Top up with water and leave for ten to 15 minutes to soak it up.

You can use additional flavourings, but I don’t. When ready, just squeeze a handful of mash and you should have a ball the size of a walnut.

You can take paste, sweetcorn, cheese or maggots if you like, but if you bide your time with the bread, you will be rewarded.

When the water is over the banks in flood conditions you would be amazed where the fish will go. Any ditch or backwater could give you a real mixed bag.

I’ve caught over 50lb bags like this and just lately I’ve started catching escaped gravel pit carp, which makes it real fun on float tackle.