Monday, 31 January 2011

Roach - My Quest for the Magic Two - Cold Start

What with one thing and another my traditional winter specimen roach campaign, a pursuit that should have been well under way by mid-December at the very latest, has been postponed and delayed, deferred and waylaid to the point where half of its potential has already been spent leaving just two months in which to attempt to scale the slippery peak that all British coarse anglers with a soul call, 'The Magic Two.'

American and overseas readers may question my sanity in choosing to devote months of each year to the pursuit of this fish when I say that the roach is the commonest fish of all that swim, one that lives in every conceivable type of water from muddy farm ponds to tinkling streams, reservoirs, ditches, broad rivers, canals, dykes and what have you, indeed if you dig a hole in the ground and it rains overnight most likely the puddle will contain a population of roach by breakfast next morning - a ubiquitous, omnipresent, commonplace and everyday fish that every British angler has caught many thousands of, they are the backbone of the British piscine ecosystem, pike food, perch food and lately zander too, and, they rarely attain a weight beyond a pound, they are regarded as not only poor fighters (wrong) but makeweights in bags of said species not to be regarded in their own individual right as specimens.

All this is true and they are loved for it, indeed they are the most loved of all British fish and it seems they always have been. However, they are no longer loved when they grow big, but revered...

When a roach gets over a pound in weight it suddenly starts to look very large indeed, an illusion created by the many hundreds of small roach you have caught in the past that have conditioned the mind to think of 'all' roach as being small in scale. Consequently when a roach gets to a pound and a half it begins to look enormous and a two pounder, well, one has to be seen in the flesh to be believed. They are occasionally caught at the unthinkable weight of three pounds and more, and the British record is the holiest of holies, a fish of four pounds four ounces, the sight of which would surely blind any ordinary mortal and the catching of which is the special reserve of the divinely inspired and the idiotically fortunate.

Now, I have only ever seen one roach approaching the threshold of such breathtaking size and that was not quite the magic two as it weighed in at the worst possible weight for a roach angler to attain - one pound, fifteen ounces, eight drams.

Even so, my legs were jelly in awe of its enormity.

They still jellify whenever I think I have a perch or chub on my line only to see that unmistakable flash of bright silver flank and bright red fin that heralds the rare arrival of a proper lump of a roach. You've been bullying the fish, whatever it is, into submission without a care in the world and then suddenly you see the sign, and are now coaxing it to the net through your gritted teeth. No-one plays the fight as delicately as an angler with a big roach on, because no-one fears more the losing of a big fish at the net than a roach angler.

So you can see that I have to break that two pound barrier soon. This year and before March would be nice. I only hope I have not left it all too late...

Session 1 - Napton Reservoir
Keith and I went along to Napton chasing after rumours of big roach. They are there alright if reports are to be believed, but on arrival the water looked not only enormous but very bleak in the the chill north wind that was blowing down our backs - finding roach would be a matter of chuck it and see and we would, I thought, be very, very fortunate indeed to land our baits anywhere near the big fish that we were after.

I fished maggot feeders at medium range, with bobbins and buzzers, a technique that is entirely new to my roach fishing but one that here, on this windswept expanse, seemed appropriate. Neither of us had so much as a bleep over three hours and the session was over in the blink of a LED.

Session 2 - Oxford Canal, Grassy Bend
This is where I had that near two pounder two winters ago, the thin ice sheets had parted in the morning to reveal the very spot as fishable, so I just had to give it a go. Baits were the usual large lobworms fished on what is a standard river set for roach up of long flowing three foot tail and a paternoster to the lead, a rig that gives the fish the time required to swallow the large worm and take the hook in properly - shorten the tail and you get missed bites and crushed worms due to the worm getting down the throat but the hook not going in at all - the whole experience of my first winter, in fact.

Once again, I had not a touch in three hours with air temperatures falling rapidly and water surface temperatures of just two degrees.

Session Three - Upper Avon, Bretford
I have never had a big roach here despite once finding a shoal of roach with the potential for them but that I never, ever, located again.

Danny managed a strapping chub of four pounds eight ounces whilst my hopeful bread flake was snaffled by a passable imitation of a two pound roach in the form of a chub of exactly that weight, and not an ounce either way - the cosmic joker at work, methinks!

It was cold once again but I managed to get completely out of the wind and catch the first warm rays of the coming summer ...

Mmmmm... 2lb rudd...


  1. I'm a Stoneleigh AC member and they held a stretch there at the start of the season.

    I had a letter about 3 months ago from them, informing me that I couldn't fish Bretford any more as they had given up the rights to it.

    Danny's peg looks exactly like a peg I fished on the former Stoneleigh stretch last year - if I've identified it right, it's probably within 100 yards of the road bridge on the upstream side.

    Assuming I've got the right one, is it officially open again, or is it a case of "he who dares, wins!"

  2. Great reading and I know exactly what your talking about with Roach and fishing for them.
    The bit about playing them is spot on as well. Around two seasons ago I was geting some good fish off the Ribble, Roach to just shy of a pound. The next fish was a lot bigger, Chub I thought. So I lent into it. The moment the big silver flank broke the surface and the red fin arched out the water my approach changed. I edged it closer if the fish that lay beaten bfre me had been a 3lb Chub then it would have been handed out. To this day I wish I had, at least I would have touched it! Instead being waist deep in the river I reached for my net "slung over my shoulder" The rod may have been lifted a little high but whtever the reason the hook pulled and a fish of a lifetime slipped away.
    Like I said great read hpe you get one.