Monday, 26 October 2009

Scratching the Itch - Perfect Cadence

A river roach personal best...
Morning was over, in fact it was way past noon when we arrived back at the fishing hut where the other members of the party, Leyton, Simon, Sash and Paul were already gathered brewing up the tea and we got to sit and exchange stories over a steaming mugful and a bite to eat after what had been, by every account, a fabulous morning
of angling. Some had caught grayling after grayling but no trout so the bug to catch one gnawed at their souls and so the afternoon was reserved for the pursuit of one, but those who'd taken a trout or two were I guessed, in the same mindset as myself...

After lunch, it was all out for a big fat roach!

Actually locating and catching roach would have been uppermost in my mind all morning but the catching of what was actually present in the swim out front as we had worked our way downstream had taken over completely. I'd not seen or hear of any coarse fish all morning and so I doubted very much if they were present in any numbers in the gamey beat we had fished so far. My plan was to get back out, start off where I had left off and then get down to the 'coarse' beat as soon as the time was judged right.

Trotting with pin and cane

I went straight back to the swim above the pool but as I approached, cast a prospecting line into the peg above and this first trot resulted in yet another ISG, except that it wasn't, and in came a chublet! Another couple of chucks went nowhere so I settled back into my preferred swim of choice after all, but happy to have caught a coarse fish after all this time!

Here the ISG continued to fall to my maggots, in fact my total must have been well over forty landed so far, and with no sign of them ever relenting. I then hooked up to was was undoubtedly another trout but this fish got away a few seconds after getting itself snagged.

Keith moved into the peg opposite me in the pool where he got no bites at all in half an hour and then moved out of sight around the bend below, and after a little time there reported ( we had walkie talkies! ) that he'd just had a roach of five ounces or so. This was just the news that got me really itching for the fishin' for an Itchen roach and I could no longer stay where I'd put myself down. After ten minutes of restlessness I just had to up sticks and find roach of my own. On the way downstream I found Keith ledgering and struggling with passing weed, loads of which was running through in the main current, hitting the line and making things difficult.

I noticed a freshly dead fish just off to one side and netted it for scrutiny, a grayling of a pound and twelve ounces...

By then I'd become convinced that this poor dead thing would be our only chance of actually seeing one of such a size today.

The footbridge

I walked right down to a wooden footbridge before finding an area that spoke clearly to my mind, 'big roach!'. Here I had a a lot of choices but I decided to fish below the bridge and ledger bread flake below a cage feeder stuffed with moist breadcrumbs into the crease between the current and the deep slack water of a large eddy on the inside of a bend. I cast and sat back expecting to have to wait some time before the quivertip twitched but in no time it trembled and hooped around. A better than average fish, I thought to myself, a roach perhaps? but in came a grayling, best of my day at around the fourteen ounce mark, but it had taken bread meant for roach...

And this put me off my stride...

I no longer believed in the swim and after missing a second good bite, attributed to grayling of course, and missed through a lack of due care and attention because of that peculiar 'roach only' frame of mind, put the rod in the rest and went for a walk 'sans tackle' to find the next 'roach peg' that spoke to me! I walked all the way to the road bridge above the mill where I found some of the party ledgering with bread. Paul, who'd had no trout was still hankering after one but the next fella down, Sash ( who'd been 'plagued by sea trout' on a previous trip here) had had his trout fill in the morning and was now fishing for roach. It transpired that he'd had more sea trout! That's fishing!

Evening falls, prime time for roach...

I needn't have bothered with the roach recce, I didn't find another swim that appealed, eventually returning to the swim I'd left alone and deciding, because I was actually too knackered to move again, to fish it out for the rest of the evening, relax, enjoy the rapidly failing light and fish pleasantly for whatever swam in it.

I sat back down and cast my line. For ages the tip sat quite still but when it eventually twitched and trembled, the strike did not connect. A recast saw the tip come alive to tiny plucks that I put down to fish attacking the feeder, probably fish too small to take the bait. On perhaps the fifth cast, the tip made a decisive lunge to the right and the hook was set. A short tussle and a silver flash as a good sized fish came to the surface and then promptly buried under the raft of floating weed under the near bank. Grayling, I thought, as I pushed the rod under water and cajoled it out from its holt. The fish moved and broke free...

Big roach!

I hustled the net into the water and aligned everything with exacting precision, no way would I lose this particular fish! It rolled dutifully over the lip and was in the safe folds of the mesh and up on the bank in a flash.


A perfect chalk stream Roach

What stunning creatures roach can be. This individual was not going over the specimen mark, around a pound and twelve I reckoned, but it was as perfect a roach as I have ever seen in my whole life. They really never do get any prettier than this, only larger. On the scales it went a pound and ten ounces, was quickly snapped and returned well upstream so it might not get back too quickly to the family and tell them all about me.

I called Keith up on the walkie talkie so that he might scuttle down to the swim, if he'd not had one or two fair roach already where he was, and fish the remainder of the light for one of these big un's. The battery had died though, so both physically and electronically we were well out of earshot of each other. So, I fished on, laughing at the fact of my earlier impatience costing me the best part of an hour of prime roach fishing and now having less than half an hour of twighlight left..!

I never got another bite, but couldn't have cared less.

The rivers tune had come to its closing chord in this fine roach at the end of this fine day, all that had gone before now resolved in full...

The perfect cadence...

Time for home!

From moonsunrecords


  1. Stunning roach Jeff ! Just goes to show what great fisheries the southern chalk streams are and what a well kept secret they are too.

  2. You just have to fish this place to appreciate the stark difference between a properly managed business fishery and an ordinary club or day ticket stretch. They are just great, the banks may be preened so that the clients feel they are well taken care of for the considerable price they pay for their day on the fly after salmon, but the coarse ticket price is only £21, dawn to dusk, which seems pricey until you step out into the fishery and then you have already got your moneys worth even before you cast a line!

    Fabulous fishing, just amazing really.

  3. Great write up Jeff, glad you enjoyed your day.

    We may well return later in the winter months to try again, i'll let you know

    Tightlines till then!