Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Roach and Crucian Carp - Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box

On a recent trip to the canal after silver bream, I saw a carp the like of which I'd never have guessed would be swimming around in it. I'd seen a twenty-pound plus koi moving swiftly up and down the far bank the previous day, but she was not interested at all in the bed of bread ground-bait I'd set up, passing across it time and again without stopping off for a bite to eat. I'd guess she was looking for hot sex under the weather conditions prevailing at that time, not a cold snack.

The next carp witnessed was also moving quickly, but this time right under the near bank. In the distance I could see a large bow wave. The fishing was very slow, so I wound in and went off to investigate. There was no bird associated with the wave that I could see, so it had to be either a big fish, or even bigger rat causing it. As I arrived at the spot, the fish spooked making a huge boil of water as it powered off in fright. About an hour later, still without a bite in all that time and about to call it a day, the bow wave reappeared but this time coming quickly toward me. 

I intercepted the wave and peered carefully over the edge to see what kind of fish could cause such a large sign of itself. It was a massive black-backed mirror carp, and one that I immediately estimated as being about the size of Molly in body length and girth, she being only other sizable creature I've ever seen swimming about in a canal and comparatively speaking, similar in appearance from above. 

It kept on going, passed under the rods, and vanished into the distance. Later the fish turned on to feed, and unhooking a bream on one rod, I noticed that the far bank float, that had been fishing just a foot from the brambles, had vanished, and then a large bow wave shot out from where it had been. The strike met thin air, but winding in thinking I'd missed the bite, the line suddenly tightened and I was playing a big fish, for just a second, before the three pound line parted above the hook. It was a chew off, not a break off. 

At home I weighed Molly in a sling made out of one of Judy's pinnies. I thought about twenty five pounds or so, but I was wrong. Thirty six pounds or more was her real weight, I estimate, because the needle of the 32lb scales went twice around the dial, and hit the stop. I didn't think she weighed so much as that, and wonder now, just how big that carp I saw, really was? 

And do I need a new set of scales if I set out after it!

Too many fish, too often, is never a good thing...
On Saturday morning, Martin and I went off to a local commercial in search of sport. I wanted to get myself a personal best rudd, a fish that seems impossible to find growing large enough to be interesting around Coventry, because my 1lb PB for the species, expressed as a percentage of the record weight, languishes in very last place on my list at a measly 21%. This fishery does have them over that weight, if they can be found. 

crucian carp
First crucian of the year, but with a ragged caudal fin
I tried to find them, and had a few encouraging perch on prawn in the margins and the first crucian of the year there too, whilst waiting for them to find my casters, corn and bread baits fished on the other rod. I also hooked and banked a ten pound carp on the margin rod, but lost a second and third though, whilst Martin filled his boots with a match winning weight of 20 carp off the top, on dog biscuits. The anticipated rudd never came along though, just an endless succession of smallish roach, skimmers and hybrids. It was a wet, and very, very slimy day.

My set up
I'm a confirmed lover of a pair of short rods when fishing commercial fisheries for perch and crucians having found that my standard canal outfit is ideal for the purpose. I've seriously lost the love and the need for long float rods when canal fishing. They make casting tight to far bank features something of a gamble, and too often end up hooked up in the brambles and bushes, not to mention the catching up in the green stuff back of swim. Short rods give great control when casting, with their limited chucking power and short sweep. They're also very tidy on the towpath. A pair of short rod rests with worm screws on the end set just a few feet apart will go into the hard pack where standard rests won't, the rod butts don't extend backwards into harms way, and the tips are just a few feet over the water, meaning that they can be left where they are when boats pass by. It's a set up that is compact, neat, and tidy, which is very important on canals.

Lemington Lakes Crucian carp
Two nine foot rods make life easy after crucians and perch in the margins

On commercials, where I invariably have one rod fishing just a foot or so from the bank and off a bed of reeds, or by a overhanging bush, and the second fishing within ten yards or so, I find the same set up very effective, but for different reasons. The short rods make margin fishing, where a long rod might well poke out three or four feet beyond the point where the float is, easy. On hooking a fish close up, the short rod works straight off the bat, the lunges of the fish quickly absorbed on a short line coming at right angles off the rod top rather than at an acute backwards angle on a long line, as with a thirteen footer. 

crucian carp

Lemington Lakes
Micro fish one and all...
Again, too many fish, too often...
Monday we went off to Leamington Lakes to fish for crucians, and what I also hoped to find, which was big roach. We had plenty of crucians, probably 30 or 40 apiece, but none of any size despite the fact that they are supposed to be in the pond, and at weights up to three pounds and more. My best was 14 ounces, Martin's, 15 ounces. The best around the pond was one 'almost too big for the net', but it was a very small net indeed, and we didn't see it, either in it, or out of it. 

The pond we chose is certainly spoiled by the millions of tiny tench it contains. They are voracious, and will eat anything and everything thrown at the water, so you can't properly fish for roach, as I had wanted to. I tried caster, but soon found I'd created a boiling swim of what I hoped were rudd, and when I shortened my rig and fished in the top foot, had one straight off. Rudd it was then, needing a PB, but unfortunately, the majority of those fish up top proved to be nothing more exciting than a horde of tiny perch, so that line of thinking was off too. 

Throughout the day I'd caught six species of fish -- perch, crucian, rudd, tench, gudgeon and carp -- and it then became a matter, because the pond contains no more than than seven species in total, of adding the last the water has to offer, which is roach.

On Leamington's Abbey lake, roach fishing is a pleasure. You can build a swim carefully, nurture it into life, and eventually have a string of nice fat roach of a very good stamp for your efforts. Here on Priory, that proved nigh impossible what with all the competing species nabbing everything edible before roach could ever find it. But, it does contain some really large roach too.

When Martin finally pulled up a fish that actually was a roach, and it weighed just over a pound, it seemed possible after all, but still a matter of wading through smaller, more voracious fish first.

When the sun was low in the sky, the activity started to wane, with fewer fish, and fewer bites. I thought, and hoped, that just might mean better bites and better fish, and was eventually proved right when a bite in the margins met not with the furious exertions of tiny tench, the wild head thumping of mini crucians, or the jag, jag of a micro perch, but with a substantial, splashy, gliding fish, that just for a second, I truly thought would be a two pound roach...

It wasn't, but it was long enough to be, if only it had the belly for it, which unfortunately, it didn't. A male fish this, covered in breeding tubercules from head to tail, and rough as sandpaper. Also, a still-water personal best roach for me at one-pound eight-ounces, so at last, I was now happy with the day having extracted something worthwhile from it, and against stacked odds, right at the end. 

Roach from Lemington Lakes

I suppose if you go to commercials after big fish, then you'll get what's stamped on their cardboard cartons, which is lots of fish, and too many fish too often for comfort, and you'll have to lump it till that one specimen out of a thousand miniatures comes along... 

And they do sometimes, but what a trial it is getting to them.


  1. I like your rationale behind the short rods - I'm a big fan of keeping things neat and tidy and fit for purpose. You should see the number of fly fishers around here who use totally inappropriate gear because of the label and the fact it cost a fortune!

    As ever, a thoroughly entertaining read.

  2. I too fished that pool at Lemington Lakes..And like your Pal in the end I had a couple of big Roach....I enjoyed all the Tench and Crucians getting there.The Perch had the blackest of stripes I ever did see.

    Did you use the 9ft rods in the pool, on the float.I used me woolworths roachfisher.10.5 ft ideal it was.