Thursday, 6 January 2011

River Roach - The Eternal Shoal

This new year's fishing challenge is warming up even before it's really began. I've entered six scores (for five species, roach twice) in three days and am for the time being, in first place. I don't expect to stay there long... Most of the 16, yes 16, contestants have yet to enter a thing on Keith's all-singing, all-dancing, shared and interactive wunderkind spreadsheet, the like of which I have never encountered in all my days. This is not documents, this is Keith's Finest documents.

I think it's very much a matter of adopting either a calculated Seb Coe or maverick Steve Ovett approach to the long race ahead. I'm now looking to slip back into the pack now after an early burst of speed and take full advantage of the slipstream of others...


Keith & I 'enjoyed' one of the hardest days imaginable out on the Avon, Tuesday last. We started out at Wasperton, where we got badly beat up by a harsh and unavoidable wind blowing directly into our faces; chill breezes blowing in from the West ahead of some incoming weather that slowly wore us down, sapping the will to fish on. Wisely, we elected to cut and run for the town waters at Stratord where we hoped, after hours of bleak disinterest, to get both shelter and bites and perhaps a fish as well, of any species, at any size, to save our faces...

Stratford was sheltered but still as hard as nails, however, after an hour and half of patient swim building we both began to get the first faint signs of interest. The river has barely recovered from a recent salt assault and the fish do seem sick to the gills. Bites, when they did eventually come were hardly interested affairs, just small few taps and pulls on the rod tops but we hoped for more confident action as the light failed from three o'clock onward.

I have figured out a trick for fishing at Stratford that other anglers might want to heed. The swans, geese and ducks are there in vast numbers due to the efforts of bread chucking tourists. The ducks and geese are not a problem (unless they scrap) as they rarely tangle with anglers lines being clever enough to recognise the dangers, however mute swans are about the most stupid of all Gods creations, undeniably beautiful, but thick-headed creatures who think nothing of ploughing straight through any impedance to stately progress.

I have found that feeding them ten pinches of maggots under the rods and then ceasing the feed until they bore and move away, more or less ensures that on the next (and inevitable) pass of their feeding patrol they will make a bee line straight for you and pass harmlessly under the rods and lines, and you repeat this process, ad infinitum, till it's time to go.

It works. try it!

I only had the one suitable rod in my rod bag for effective quiver tip fishing, but also had a powerful fast action heavy feeder rod too that I thought could be pressed into action for a long cast right across the flow to the shallow water off the far bank, fifty yards distant. No ordinary rod would handle all that water passing by without folding over but this rod I thought probably could, and so I set it up with a heavy feeder to hold bottom against the pressure, and cast it out. It was a crude solution, but better than nothing.

Of course this rod was the one that began to get the most action, with a bite every twenty minutes or so from what I was sure were roach and not bream, who unlike roach, usually hang themselves if they pick up the bait. The fact that the very stiff tip coupled with a near right angle cast to the bank made bite registration troublesome and insensitive with even the lightest movement dislodging the feeder because of the forces involved, was neither here nor there as it was the only rod of four to receive constant interest as the afternoon wore on.

The first fish however, fell unexpectedly to my mid water rod, a small roach of four ounces who saved me from drawing a blank. The bites on the long range rod continued and as the light faded they became more emphatic till at long last came a proper bite as a fish hooked itself, It felt like a small bream at distance but as it came closer I began to feel the unmistakable jag - jag - glide fight of a good roach.

Roach can get big at Stratford - quite how big nobody knows as they are hard to locate in the vast open area of slow moving water. There was a report doing the rounds before Christmas of a two pounder from opposite the theatre, and both Danny and I have had fish over a pound from around here so I was hoping this would be one of these elusive fish.

It was a roach alright but the heavy duty feeder made it feel a lot weightier than it really was. Nevertheless it was a plump fish of eleven ounces and on such a tough fishing day was quite enough to keep me happy!

I invited Keith to cast into the same general area for the last of the light and he got bites almost immediately. I could just imagine a shoal moving along an endless, repetitive linear patrol route, behaviour that is so typical of roach in small streams, eternally moving up and down a strip of water ten yards off the far bank, surviving just as that same shoal has always survived, against ice, flood and foe, for a hundred millenia, and more...


  1. Jeff, your first pic makes you look like some of the Chav "Zulus" who populate St Andrews (Birmingham City FC to the non-cognoscenti).
    As a season ticket holder I feel qualified to make that comment. However don't take this as a personal slight as I know from meeting you at the pre-Christmas drinkie you're a fine chap.

  2. Thank god for fishing as the state of west midlands football is dire at present isn't it Dave.I fully agree with you there mate and as an Aston Villa fan have met the afforementioned fans on several occasions .

    Well done on the roach Jeff ,I intend on working on my smaller species this weekend at some point .Hopefully the rain will not make too much of an impression on the river level and I can get the 15ft float rod out .

    Tight lines .