Monday, 7 May 2012

Stillwater Roach - Bait Your Hook with Love

I don't quite know where I came across that expression, and have always wondered what the hell it could mean. I'm sure it's quoted somewhere in a fishing book of mine, but I don't remember where. Perhaps it means that you must bait your hook with bait lovingly applied ? But that makes no sense to me. What is there to love about baiting a hook? And what fish could tell the difference, if you did?

On Friday evening, we went out to the pit. My only run of the session, one that was in process of stripping the reel of its line, was picked up, leaned into, but there was nothing there. Clearly I'd not baited my hook with love enough ...

Martin had a similar run a little later. What he brought in to the bank was loving what he had applied to his hook, but it was the wrong kind of love for fish, because it was just a silly tufty who'd loved it so.

Sunday morning we went out on a speculative mission after a three-pound roach. The venue was a commercial fishery where by some freak or accident of nature, one of the original ponds that came with the purchase of the fishery contained a very few, but truly impressive redfins. We set out our stall to find them now.

On arrival, keyed up to do battle with our caster and maggot pitched into the pond and toward what we thought was a very real chance of success, a match was about to start. Thankfully the match was taking place on the right pond, not our pond, so we paid our cash moneys up front and then followed up with pointed enquiries of the management about these roach of theirs, their numbers, and their whereabouts. I wish we hadn't, ignorance often being sheer bliss...

Seems we were well out of 'luck'. No, our pond, the one that had produced the giant roach by dint of its natural food resources and good chemistry, had been recently drained down and every single large roach removed, and to guess where? It was with heavy, heavy hearts that we trudged up to what was now the wrong pond, the only option available to us in the meantime, to waste the hours between 9.30am and 2.30pm, when the match would finally end, fishing for whatever they had either left behind, or stocked in place. If we'd known before paying we'd have left it for another day, but we still had enough optimism riding on the chance that would come later, that we failed to demand a refund.

Aw gaawd...
Also, we thought that taking the chance to view the match anglers nets at close of play would give us a useful insight into the whereabouts of the expatriate roach, one that otherwise we would have to work for blindly.

For the first five hours we had a match between us. Weight was not the issue, the fish we were about to catch didn't have any of that, just numbers. One after the other they came, carp, carp and more carp. All very lovely mind, but all very small. We were fishing in a pond that had been purposely reduced, from what may well have been an ancient, idyllic place containing just a few, but special and very rare fish, to nothing more than a stew pond fit for six year olds to dabble in.

Quite why the fishery had drained this pond down is absolutely beyond me. Surely they must have known that the pond only produced those huge roach in the first place because of unique and specific conditions, ones that had ensured fast growth and large weight. What they had done was ruin those conditions by piling in baby carp by what must have been the ton, a fish that in numbers wrecks it all, and forever. That pond will never again produce large roach, or large anything.

Curious Springer
Modern fisheries are just as stupid as they come, aren't they? They spoil what they already have in the pursuit of what they have not yet, never thinking of a moment to come when what they have already, might well provide enough, if it be left just as they found it. Crass. Bad. Stupid. Ignorant. Silly. I cannot go further with ordinary perjoratives, without getting deeply into choice expletives...

About the size of it...
Our 'match' became a farcical, hilarious exercise in catching fish for the sake of catching fish. We lost count about the thirty mark apiece and took to exchanging ripostes and anecdotes instead. That more pleasant match, was a draw...

Blackbird filching maggots for his brood

I could have put anything on my hook, anything remotely edible, and it would have caught fish. I could have used any method and still would have caught fish. I could have fished fifty pound line glued to a size twenty hook and still have caught fish. Perhaps I could have baited a bare hook with love alone, and caught regardless? I should have tried that out, just for the hell of it...

Chicken feed...
The 'other' match came to its inevitable end and we went up to see the resulting bags. The first witnessed was around fifty pounds of carp and just a few silver fish, few amongst them being roach, and those that were, insignificant. The tale was the same as we progressed around the lake behind the scalesman. Lots of what we didn't want or care for, but little of what we did. It was going to be a hopeless afternoon, and we knew it.

Sure enough it was. But the hopelessness was compounded by the fact that the pests we about to catch were far larger than those of the morning, and took an inordinate amount of time to get off the hook, once on it. Martin fared worse than I did, for unwittingly he chose 'Carp Corner'. At least I had only four carp with a few baby barbel, small tench and some bream between them. He was plagued, with one after the other snapping up his single red maggot hookbait and towing him about the lake.

At one point I went over to fish my caster line having built it for an hour or more without fishing it. The bites that came were very fast, and very typical of roach, and so I was really hopeful that at last they would show, but then the bites slowed down to the point where they were hook-able, but it was the inevitable wrong fish were grubbing about for them.

We retired early knowing full well that the rare specimen roach were never going to be found in this heaving puddle of voracious carp, lost amongst them and probably never to be seen again. The pond that produced them in the first place, vandalised and beyond hopeful repair. They will never again breed successfully in their new home, their eggs wiped out by ever-hungry carp who will eat anything in their path.

And so on, and so on, ad infinitum...

I should have tried building a love line. That might well have worked, as that old quote suggested it might, where nothing else had. But what kind of love might it be that that a roach does like, but that a carp does not?

And where might such a thing be procured?

I ain't about to go into Lanes of Coventry and ask for a pint of hot love, and a half of tough, am I?


  1. That photo of Martin with duck is my new desktop wallpaper.

    The look on both of their faces is class.

  2. And that about sums it up.
    I'd fixed my hair end everthing.

  3. I'm sure you have tried this but we have a very similar situation in our neck of the woods and to get around this we fish extremely close to our margin bank (sometimes even touching depending on the depth at that point.

    On this water the roach appear to use this area as a patrol route but most surprisingly you hardly ever get bothered by the carp

  4. Jeff, your thoughts on modern fisheries ring very true with my own feelings towards how some of these types of water can be.

    The picture of Martin holding the duck is rather brilliant, the way the duck is looking slightly sideways has an almost ominous atmosphere to it.

  5. Anincorrigible, We do the same for perch on these commercial carp fisheries and are not bothered so much by them tight to the margins. I don't know if that would have worked on this one though, it had more carp in it than I've ever seen anywhere, at least the pegs we chose did! I think on a good day, when the carp are crammed up one end, there may be a space in which to fish comfortably.

    Mark, it's a shame they are so out of balance. Take a couple or three hundred carp out and it might be better for the general fish health. The bagging boys won't like it though!

  6. Nice post Jeff.. Distilling many of the reasons why commercial fisheries are not for me into words and pictures..

  7. You've hit the nail on the head with the word 'balance'. Everything in moderation...

    The trouble is not so much the fishery owners but their 'clientele'. Anglers visiting commercials demand carp. And lots of them. It is their inalienable right to "Bag Up". If a dozen or so of them can't each catch 40-60lb of carp they'll be off.

    One of the clubs I'm a member of has a small pool. It's quite new but is a lovely place. The best thing about it is that there is no carp. Yet every year you hear rumours that carp are to be stocked because some anglers are 'complaining'. It's probably the only pond without carp in a 100 mile radius! There are dozens of commercials and farm ponds with carp in the area but some people just cannot get their head around the concept that this little pond does not. Very sad.

    Another local club had a big fish kill (ice, lack of oxygen, not 'overstocking', apparently). An old clay pit, quite deep, some nice tench, skimmers and bream, silverfish, the odd double figure carp under the lillies etc........ Crabtree, basically. Anyway, it's now been re-stocked with a bit of everything including 1000s of small............. Carp........ Great!

  8. Jeff, your comment about anything on the hook would have caught reminds me of a comment from our local ballif. The only time he's fished a commercial he was using a gold-coloured hook as he was going to start with sweetcorn. Whilst getting the shotting right on his waggler, with no bait on the hook he started catching!! Says it all I guess.

  9. I have caught on bare hooks before. Women mostly, who are very much like carp when it comes to crashing your party...

    I have never chosen a women, they alway keep that prerogative very much to themselves, I find, or 'have found' I should say, just in case Judy is looking in?

    And she might be...