Wednesday, 29 December 2010

River Roach - Small Stream Adventures - Disciples of Rutilus - Part 2

On the day after boxing day, a day that has always been and shall forever remain as nameless as the back of the knee or the inside of the elbow, me and Keith went roaching. We decided that we'd target a stretch of the stream that we knew held a good head of roach having observed them there in summer. I arrived first and set up above the favoured spot, a short stretch of water fringed along the far bank with reeds and with reasonable depth just below a confluence with a side stream.

I got bites first cast - the very same tap-tap-taps I'd experienced on Christmas Eve. I had my suspicions that these fish were not the roach we were looking for and when Keith turned up I found out exactly what they really were when I managed to hook a fish I'd not yet encountered in all the time I'd fished the watercourse - a tiny minnow.

A little later Keith had one too...

This was an unwanted complication as I'd always assumed that every single bite I'd ever had to bread in this stream had come from roach, large and small, but now finding a swim where bites could be got was no longer the infallible indicator of the presence of roach it had once been, these minnows had rubbished that certainty forever. We soon moved on downstream when it became clear that the summer population of roach had vacated premises and found somewhere more amenable for the winter.

Keith took up position in the first likely looking spot found whilst I searched for somewhere further along. I found a slow chicane where the water had frozen right across but it proved barren, as did Keith's peg, and so we moved again. As we walked I spied a proper roach swim, instinctively veering toward it and settling in. Keith walked on.

The swim consisted of deepish water running along the far bank with small eddy and a fallen sapling in the water providing both cover and a snag to avoid if a fish were hooked. My first cast was into the snaggy area behind the sapling and when bites were forthcoming here I decided to explore the swim by casting into every likely looking spot to find the taking zone - the certain place in any roach swim where the fish will bite more confidently than elsewhere.

Keith returned some time later after walking some distance downstream and not finding a likely spot - he sat beside me watching the bites I was getting in the eddy. As we sat there discussing our chances and where, if no good fishing could be had here, we should go next, a large fish flashed in the water right below the sapling, We both caught sight and I was certain it was a good roach rather than a small chub.

Two blokes in a very small swim. Normal rules do not apply here. This is the only fishy swim in a half mile...

We split the swim to try for one of these 'roach', Keith fishing a few yards above the snag and me below in the eddy. After a further half hour or more without hooking anything between us Keith moved even closer so that we could put two baits in close proximity and right in the snag.

We'd already decided to move upstream to my beloved stretch, a place that Keith calls 'Hallowed Ground' if nothing was forthcoming within fifteen minutes. Of course such an incantation often produces a shock and sure enough Keith then hooked a good roach that immediately got hung up in the snag. I knew right away was a pounder and thankfully in unhitched itself from the branch and I got the net under it as quickly as possible...

This was Keith's first roach from the stream, and was more or less the exact size of fish that I opened my account with last January. It went dead on one pound. A lovely looking fish too. Of course I imagined that now we'd had one we'd pick up a few more as I'd always managed to do elsewhere but we were to be disappointed. After a another hour of frustration we decided it was time to move once again.

It was strange taking a fellow angler along to this place. I've always had it to myself and have developed a deep knowledge of it through many, many hours of frustration interspersed with just a few brief hours of simply amazing roach fishing. It tends to fish in the hour before and around nightfall and that was when we arrived on the bank. I took Keith along to the banker peg, a place where I have caught probably all the large resident roach by now, and urged him to fish there while I went upstream to experiment in a swim that has a population of fish but that has frustrated me over and over.

I knew he would catch and sure enough over the next hour a brace of fish were landed, not quite pounders but still rather lovely fat fish of thirteen and fourteen ounces respectively. And for me, well, I received an array of bites from tippitytaps to savage jerks and pulls on the tip but only connected to a six ouncer despite them all. It's one of those swims. Frustrated once again!

Very happy for Keith though, who seemed quite spellbound by the swim he'd fished, a magic created by the very close proximity of unseen large roach moving rhythmically in and out of radar as they patrol up and down the black water below. It's a spell I am very familiar with!

There's a saying that when a man bores of London then he's bored of life, well, I'd paraphrase that and state that when an angler bores of roach then he's simply a 'fisherman' thereafter.

There is a difference. Become a disciple of rutilus and you'll know what I mean...

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