Saturday, 5 February 2011

Canal Roach - My Quest for the Magic Two - A Blessed Relief

The prospects for the success of this late winter campaign of mine hinge upon two things, firstly that the local canals contain two pound roach, which is an established fact, and secondly, that the Avon at Stratford contains them too, which is a fact I have to establish myself. It also requires that I be able to catch them.
Now, I have already proved that the Stratford roach are easily caught if they can be located, but the canal fish, not so easily caught under any circumstances have been caught through the last two winters by the simple expedient of chucking out big lobworms left and right, and then waiting a few hours, have this winter proved really very hard to catch, in fact I have not yet caught one despite having chucked lobworms left and right on many occasions.

I have caught a few perch though, a fish that I hardly ever saw after the first hard frosts of late autumn till the onset of spring in previous years, and that single hybrid last time out, but of roach I have seen nothing. The six week long cold spell that capped the canal with up to six inches of ice has certainly changed the way the canal fish are behaving and in ways that I don't pretend to understand.

As I practically live on the canal I can get out and fish a couple of hours most days if I wish without it ever being an inconvenience family wise. I often walk the dog and fish too if the fishing doesn't require total concentration - float fishing dead baits for zander, for instance, or lobworm ledgering at Grassy Bend with its 100ft wide grassy bank where I can keep Molly amused with a thrown ball for hours on end.

I got out there on for two hours on a sunny Thursday afternoon not expecting to catch much in the bright conditions as the lack of recent boat traffic (itself, as unusual as the behaviour of the fish) has left the Oxford Canal, who's waters are usually a murky tea brown all year round, in a state of unusual clarity. But actually I did catch; two small perch in fact and there were plenty of bites to keep me wide awake. No roach though...

Yesterday I got out again, my third attempt in a week at a big canal roach. In the morning I'd rifled through the blog back catalogue in search of numbers and answers as to the question of past frequency of roach caught over time spent and found that I'd had 20 odd roach over the target weight of a pound and had had to fish two and a half hours for each, which is not too bad a rate at all. This winter so far, the figure has been rather worse.

The wind has been blowing hard from the South-West for the past few days and my fishing spot on the cusp of the curve at Grassy Bend was the only calm spot for miles. This is because the bend completes a right angle here and the canal runs in a southerly and westerly direction from it so if the wind is blowing from the exactly right direction you get a strong blow up each and the forces cancel each other out where they meet.

I caught from the off. Perch, and plenty of them with a brace of two plump fish at a pound apiece crowning the catch. The bites were either blistering takes with the bobbins slamming up to the blank, or jumpy, jerky affairs. In the end I would pull into a bobbin jerk that had not re-jerked within twenty seconds and more often than not this resulted in a hooked fish. The bobbins were telling me things that quiver tips don't show nearly so well.

It was just as well that I'd adopted this practice of striking whilst in doubt as a one inch lift of the bobbin was struck twenty seconds later and I found myself looking at the first pound plus canal roach of the year. Hoorah...!

Oxford Canal roach never have red eyes, whilst Coventry Canal roach do

A lovely example of the type but not quite heavy enough to add any more points to my challenge total and nowhere near the weight I am aiming for in this campaign but at least I know now that I am not wasting my time chasing after them. Then, in the last minute of the session came the last bite of the day and I found the smallest zander I have ever seen dangling off the end of my size ten Kamasan B911. Very cute!


  1. That baby Zander is sooo cute :)

  2. crack jeff your on aroll this week keep up the good work