Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Tricky Art of Catching Bits

Fickle roach...
'Bits' is what us anglers call fish too small to get excited about, especially when they are hauled out one after the other. Actually it's far harder to haul a net of bits than it might seem, as I have found out.

I have been trying to learn the arts of trotting and have got to the point where I am beginning to see how to do this successfully, not that I usually can, I am a very long way from understanding all the intricacies that would get me to that point, but I have made enough mistakes to understand the basics. The place I have chosen that best suits my purposes is a string of swims along the middle Avon that do contain an awful lot of small fish. They may well also contain big fish too, but because of the sheer quantity of tiddlers present I doubt if they will ever get a look in until the weather turns very cold and the water temperature falls

What is interesting about these swims is that they are not reliable, that is no one swim can be counted upon to produce well on any given day, but if I try each in turn, one will usually outperform the others. The fish are a mix of roach, chub, and dace with relative quantities of each in that same order, far more roach than chub and more chub than dace.

I am after the roach. They are the fish that interest me and though my ultimate aim with roach is to be able to catch large fish and preferably heavy specimens, I feel the need to be master the art of catching the small ones at this time. They are very good practice because they are just as variable in their responses to baits and presentation as their elders but not any where near as cagey, in fact if you find them in sufficient quantities and get the right bait under the right rig they become very easy. The hard part is the finessing. Get the presentation just slightly out and they become almost impossible to connect with.

I've been keeping a mental tally of the amounts of fish caught over the days I've fished this particular place and keeping special notes of the time is has taken to catch the fish.

Day 1. Three hour evening session and caught a total of 24 fish - 14 roach, 7 dace, 3 chub.

Day 2. Four hour session and caught a total of 14 fish - 4 chub and ten roach.

Day 3. Long day session for 12 fish - 10 roach, 2 chub

Day 4. Long day session for 36 fish - 29 roach, 1 dace, 4 chub, 1 gudgeon and a minnow

What none of this tells you is how very different each day really was and how difficult or easy it was to fish.

Take the first session for instance - all the bites were very hard to hit indeed both for maggots and for bread and the swim was heaving with fish attacking not just the bait, but the shot, the float and the line too. It was inevitable that sooner or later a fish would take the bait and be hooked but there was very little skill in this, it was just pot luck.

The second day was bread then hemp fishing and the bites were very easy to see and connect with.

The third day was almost impossible on hemp, lightning fast bites and the fish once again attacking the rig as well as the bait.

The fourth day was different again, very slow with occasional bites and occasional fish then a late change of swim brought a roach a chuck on maggots, bites very decisive but a change over to bread on the same rig saw a succession of very fast tugs and pulls and no hook ups whatsoever. Back to maggots and the bites become easy once again.

What I can deduce from all of this is that the roach do like to have the bait they want on the day and have it presented just so.

I have been using a stick float with the bulk shot just above the hook link and have been varying the depth all the time finding that the right depth to fish is always somewhere in the last three feet, sometimes tripping bottom but mostly six inches to two feet above with six inches or so usually about right. What I will do next time is rig up two rods, one with bulk shot and the other rigged up shirt button style to see if this makes any difference, and I think it might.

The other thing I want to find out is what effect the cooling weather has upon the fish. I expect the small fish to retire from the fray and the bigger fish to show, and this is the very reason of course that most specimen roach anglers start their campaigns after Christmas.

Winter is coming. I can't wait for those icy days and at last the chance of big fish showing. Bits like kids are fun around tea time but as the evening wears on you just can't wait for them to go to bed!

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