Thursday, 27 January 2011

River Roach - Small Stream Adventures - Pastures New

The mild spell is over. The forecast for the next five days is for temperatures in the West Midlands to hardly rise above zero by day and at night to stay well below, which means a frozen canal no doubt, and no fishing to be had in it for some time to come. They even say that a little snow is possible today...

With all this in mind I went out with Molly Monday last on a ten mile round trek along my favourite small stream, hoping to come across a number of new spots containing the pristine roach I have come to adore so much over the past couple of winter seasons.

The first spot found was way upstream of my usual haunts, a place always overlooked en-route in fact. I poked my head through a hole in the bankside bushes only to witness a small pike launch a ferocious attack upon some unseen quarry. As the waters calmed, a small shoal of roach ghosted into view as they moved out of harms way upstream, the best fish a three quarter pounder by my increasingly accurate roach-seen-in-water estimations. I did not see any other members of what I guessed to be a larger shoal split in two or three by the pike attack as the roach holding swim - as usual, a glide of deeper than average water where the bottom could not be seen - was easily large enough for twenty or more fish of good size.

Another two likely looking spots were found in the same meadow and duly noted before I crossed the road and made my way past my old haunts, down past the mill and into an area never explored before. Here I found a couple more promising areas of deep water that could hold fish before entering a mile long stretch of artificially straightened and broadened water that was an average of only six inches in depth, rapid, and without impedence to flow in the form of fallen trees or logs that might create character, in fact with hardly any variation whatsoever in its monotonously swift and rather too efficient fall. Small grayling and trout would probably thrive there if the EA would stock them, bullheads probably already do, but coarse fish cannot exist in such a place.

An orphaned and silted up naturally narrow and deep section of the original river...

... and the broad and too shallow 'new' river, here with the only obstacle to its progress downstream for over a mile. Note that the flow is altered substantially and the habitat improved significantly by even this small slight to the expediencies of flood prevention. A pool is scouring out behind the obstacle and stones are piling in front - never will be roach territory but starting to look like a trout stream, I think

I didn't find another likely looking fish holding spot till I reached almost the last half mile of the five miles I would have to walk before I came to a stretch that I had fished before. That's not good for what is a perfectly healthy and thriving watercourse. If anyone in the EA is listening, and I know you are already involved in some kind of work there because I talked to a couple of your surveyors the other day who were working in the upper reaches, then get out there, start throwing logs into the water and plant reed beds to created a more diverse habitat for the stream's beautiful roach!

Wednesday afternoon I set out to fish for the roach of the first swim found on Monday morning and then to explore the next two along if it didn't fish well. First cast in I knew the fish were in residence, their presence heralded by taps on the tip just as soon as the bait settled. I let the bait stay put and waited till the tip pulled around as a fish, till now completely ignorant of the hazards of anglers baits, confidently swam downstream with the prize morsel. The fight was, as always with these roach, a good scrap, the fish showing its full strength against the very light gear and fine line.

A further three fish followed her into the keepnet, well actually the last of them escaped when I made a blunder, a blunder that I felt would surely put the shoal down when the fish returned to it, and all were from eight to ten ounces in weight. The fish obviously got lost on the way as the next put in recieved a bite almost immediately, the strike failing to find hold, the white bread planing up through the water only to be snaffled mid-water, by guess who?

The pike, of course!

And what a scrap this was on a two pound bottom...

After five minutes of the fish powering up and down, splashing around and threatening to tail walk at any moment, I finally got the net under her - and only then was the line finally severed by her teeth.

She was the most curious looking pike I've ever seen, otherwise, all a pike should be and beautifully marked, but with the most curious snooked snout! Shovel-head is her name from now on. And also the most lively pike I have ever handled on the bank, the fight having hardly tired her. I was lucky to any picture let alone one that shows the full glory of that odd proboscis.

That was it for that swim, all the roach having had fled elsewhere, so I moved down to the next unexplored places where I found fish biting but none hooking. The bites were quite different affairs too, but on this stream I have long learned that the type of bites one recieves in one place are not necessarily the same bites one will recieve in another, even if it is the same species and size of fish that is causing them as the habitat and conditions are so varied, yard by yard.

Eventually I moved down to my 'regulars' for the last half hour but I had only a small roach from there despite, at first, getting plenty of seemingly good bites. The bites stopped altogether at about half light and as by then I was freezing cold in the chill wind, I decided that enough was enough, and went home having again failed to improve upon my challenge score for roach, which is proving a rather difficult nut to crack actually, and I'm fishing in places where pound plus roach are not at all uncommon catches, but pleased with the potential of the new swims and now an eagerness to explore those I'd not the time to get to on the day.


  1. You are still my hero. Way to get after it in the new water. Fishing in this hemisphere is not always easy in January. well done.

  2. Steve in Colorado28 January 2011 at 01:25

    Well done indeed. I can't help but think the angle of that pike's jaw would be an asset in a shallow venue like your stream... and especially for snaffling bread floaters, it seems.