Monday, 19 March 2012

Stillwater Roach and Perch - Lemington Lakes

Lemington Lakes in the Cotswolds was our venue for the day. A complex of five or six lakes all carefully manicured and just as carefully stocked. We chose Abbey Lake because of its potential for a sizeable roach and I believe they have been caught well over two pounds there so I was raring to have a go for them and try, for once, to at least break what has been a paltry one-pound personal best in the category of 'stillwater roach' (ponds and lakes, but not canals. They're not still waters to my mind) that's been hanging around unbeaten for far too long.

I set up my margin perch fishing outfit because I intended to fish close up the whole day long. This comprises of a pair of Shakepeare 9ft wands that barely poke over the water when set up on the double rod rests, which is very neat and very tidy, as I have found you have to be when fishing two rods so close to the bank with a hooked perch flapping about on a short line. However I was not fishing my usual float set up for perch, I was trying a technique that I have been developing for shy biting roach on the canal.

The floats in use were a pair of Drennan 'Glow Tip' Antennae carrying 3BB shot. These I set up in a certain way that gives exaggerated bite indication. The float is attached to the mainline by a rubber so its easy to slide up and down, and the reason this is necessary is that the shot is bulked just above the hook-link knots and a single shot is placed just a couple of inches from the hook. The single shot near the hook is fished to just touch bottom which drags the float down to the tip, but when it is lifted off the deck by a fish, the float rises in the water and the tip shoots up two or even three inches. The float needs to be constantly adjusted to take into consideration even slight depth changes, or it just wont work. Fish it too shallow, and the float sinks out of sight, too deep and the tip is exposed too much limiting the exaggerated bite indication the set-up gives when correctly fished.

Click on picture for a closer view
The canal roach never give sail away bites with this method, they always spit the bait long before that can happen because they either feel the bulk shot, or, and this something I don't quite know how to fix, they feel the single tell-tale shot it being so close to the hook. Then again, roach are masters of bait spitting whatever the method and bait.

With this rig it's rather like quiver-tip fishing for the species in that the bite must be seen as it develops and the strike very well timed indeed, so it's not a technique for really slow days when the float might suddenly shoot up unexpectedly after an hour of inactivity, but a technique for active days when bites can be expected sooner rather than later. The strike is made when the float reaches almost the limit of its rise, not before, nor later. Just as with a quiver tip, roach fishing this way demands focussed attention, well-honed reflexes and good timing, otherwise you'll find yourself striking away, but missing the lot!

On a commercial still water like Lemington's Abbey Lake, I had no idea if the roach would so wary and shy biting as the wild canal fish, who are famously so, but with Lemington's careful and conservative stocking policy, I guessed they'd be fewer and further between than they would on a water crammed with small fish, and therefore less likely to be so hungry they'd make suicidal mistakes. Bait, was caster, of which I had just half a pint, intending to be very sparing indeed with the loose feed.

About half an hour in I had my first bite, a clear rise of the float that exposed almost the whole antennae, and the first fish of the day, a half pound roach, came to the net. The right hand rod was retired from caster now that I expected the roach to come on strong and on went half a lobworm to fish just a foot off the cropped down reed bed to my right in hope of a perch. The caster rod began to get more and more attention and soon another clear rise was struck resulting in contact with a good fish. I hoped it was a roach and sure enough, it was, and a good one too. I thought it might be as much as a pound and a half in the water but on the bank it brought the balance down to one-pound, four-ounces. A beautiful fish this, not unlike a canal roach in fact, but longer in the body and not so fat in the belly as they tend to be. That old PB was now a thing of the past!

The lake contains lovely fin perfect roach of good size
The worm rod stayed inactive. The caster rod was slow. The bites I had expected to continue after such a good start, tailed off to few and far between, with just one more roach caught in the next hour, nevertheless I continued to feed little and often in the hope that an even better roach than the pounder would sooner or later, grace my net.  Martin, fishing nearby but on the bank opposite and in the teeth of the persistent cool breeze, had lost a carp but had had rudd, roach, and a rudd x bream hybrid that I would have liked to have seen with my own eyes. Then I see him walking around with a fish in his net that could only be a good roach for accurate weighing on my scales

Another super looking roach this, and at one-pound, three-ounces, an encouraging sign that I believed might indicate that one us would put a two pounder on the bank by evening, if they continued to feed. However, my swim was looking less and less encouraging by the half hour and by lunch break seemed to have died completely. Just before we broke for a batch and a brew, I tried prawn on the worm rod and just as soon as it hit the deck, the float rose two inches, and then zipped under. Not a roach bite this! Sure enough, a perch came up in the water, an enormously fat little thing with a bubble membrane protruding from her vent, A hen fish full of spawn, almost ready to drop her eggs, and just waiting for a small rise in ambient water temperature, probably only a degree or two now, to lay strands of them on the bankside vegetation.

Couldn't get any fatter, surely?

Immediately recasting prawn to the same place, the float rose in the water and slipped away to one side, but I missed the bite. Then we went for lunch at Lemington's all day cafe. After suffering from a day without food or tea at Bury Hill because they failed to open their cafe that day to a good twenty ravenous anglers, this was a luxury indeed! 

On return the swim was dead and nothing more could be done with it so after feeding the resident swan and taking a few pictures of this and that, I moved swim to look for more in the way of perch, and because there was a picture on the wall of the cafe of a perch approaching four pounds caught from the same lake, fish in that bracket.

The next peg chosen was dull looking, but seemed to have some peculiar promise up close when a small patch of 'interesting' water just off to the right was spied. The first bite came from this area about half an hour later after feeding the patch with diced prawn and fishing small chunks of prawn on the hook. Another hen fish this and an encouraging one-pound, four-ounces, fat, but not fit to burst as with the first perch of the day.

Fins flared, mouth agape. This is what all perch should do on camera, but they don't often!

Over the next hours a succession of bites came along, some missed, some hooked. All followed the same pattern. A rise of the float followed by a slow sinking away quite unlike the roach bites to caster I'd had, which had all been typical for the species, just like those experienced on the canal in fact, and that is, hard to hit. Four perch came along. Half were hen, and half cock fish. The hens were not quite as rotund as the little porker caught early on, but were all well on the way. All were over a pound and the best a hen, at one-pound, seven-ounces. Not exceptional fish, not one of them, but encouraging fish all the same. Also, it was interesting to note that prawn should win over lobworm on the day, and I did try worm in this second swim to make sure of the fact, but it seems to be true that perch will have either one or the other, but never both at the same time, though more often than not it is the worm that wins out.

Always a good thing to have a bag of prawns about though... I really don't think I'd have had any perch at all without.

Then it started to rain, and it came down in buckets. Rain either kills or cures. I hoped it would not kill as I was sure that I could get a two pounder out on the magic prawn by dusk, if only the bites would come as they had over the last hour...

A lift of the float caught on camera, but it wasn't a perch!

I prayed that the right fish would bite, but of course, Martin's prediction that the carp would now be on the prowl around the margins for any bait chucked in by anglers at the end of their day, came true, and whilst trying to get a shot of the float up close, it lifted in the water right on cue, and zipped under. I was suddenly attached to a troublesome 9lb mirror carp that took some beating on the little wand, destroyed all hope of further perch by thrashing the swim brown with silt, but who was beaten, in the end.

Still, that's two carp around double-figures I've hooked and banked on these little rods over the last week, so I'm certain now that they can handle most of the inevitable nuisance fish that come along from time to time whilst fishing prawn and worm on commercial fisheries for perch.


  1. That sounds an enjoyable session Jeff and the sensitive float approach interests me greatly .


  2. Stayed in the beautiful lodges there for a 21st birthday present last may (she's a gudden). Fished all the lakes except the specimen carp lake as I didn't want to even ask, as I don't fish with bite alarms, so I probably wouldn't pass her "grades" :/. The tench lake was brilliant though, fishing chopped worm and caster had well over 50lb's of tench, with best 6lb 10. I didn't find any of the 2lb roach in Abby either Jeff!


  3. I'd certainly stay over for a weekend, Daniel. Great facilities all round for the money. I fished the tench lake last year and caught well, now Abbey and was fascinated. Have yet to explore the rest, but wouldn't miid trying!