Monday, 24 September 2012

Avon Roach — Underprepared & Overgunned

A new swim, somewhere on the river I've never fished before, and it looks good. The stretch is far shallower than expected. On a recce just a few months ago it was full of brown water and almost up to top of the banks. Now it's more like a southern chalk stream than a midland mud stream, with its crystal clarity, wafting rafts of weed, and deep, promising pools.

Martin fishes upstream for barbel in the tail end of a wash of white water, but I'm downstream in the glide below, angling after what I hope could be big chub, because it looks the part for a big fish, it really does, and I'm hoping my big bait might well tempt one.

An hour in, and things are looking promising, I've had a few wary taps, and a few slow few inch-long pulls, but nothing more committal. By evening, I'm certain something good is going to happen — because the weather might be vile, but the thick obscuring layer of drizzling cloud that's scudding by, will not only bring evening early, but extend it by an hour or more, and that's a good thing.

A medium sized fish rolls over my bait. A half minute later the rod top jerks once, then settles. A quarter of an hour later, another fish rolls by the near bank. The sound jolts me out of my concentration — it's so quiet here that even the sound of a single splashing fish is a sudden shock.

As the light fades, the activity in the glide increases, with fish rolling and splashing every few minutes. By now I'm starting to believe I've made a terrible mistake, because I've not got a suitable rod and reel in the bag, and have also failed to bring the right bait! Those fish rolling in the swim can only be the one thing, and that is roach, and they are not small... so I need bread, and need it now!

It's a kind of hell for a roach angler to go barbel or chub fishing, and by chance, find a cache of redfins such as these, but be quite unable to do anything about it. Given barbel and chub, both in a swim, but together with a small shoal of great big roach, and I'll fish for the latter. There's just no contest. But here I am, stuck with no choice but continue fishing for chub or barbel, when there's great big roach rolling all around!

This happens so very rarely too. I was living out a paragraph of an old John Wilson article about Wensum roach, where he urges the angler to 'watch out at dusk' for 'porpoising roach.' Here they were, porpoising and frolicking in front of me, and right over my bait, pecking and pulling at it too, just to add insult to injury, and there was not a damn thing I could do about it.

Martin appears, breathless and trembling after losing 'an enormous' barbel — I commiserate, of course, but barbel are one thing, roach quite another, to my mind. Barbel will keep, roach won't. As darkness falls the activity reaches a crescendo, I imagine flicking a piece of bread amongst them, and to that I'm sure they'd fall, but here I am fishing a boilie on a size-six hook tied to twelve-pound line, which is a combination that's hopeless under the circumstances.

This is a roach swim, of course it is — how could I have failed to spot it? With such a smooth glide of steady water and only just depth enough for cover, how could it be anything but! The desired chub are simply not around, because even a small one would have had that bait by now. As it stands, I'm buggered, and the roach fishing will just have to wait till next time!

When the moon breaks through the cloud, the activity promptly stops. The roach are off the feed till morning comes, but I'll not be back here for another week, and only then, if I'm lucky. What was I thinking? I always pack a roach rod, and I always pack roach bait, but tonight I didn't, and therefore, I went without.

Still, at least I've found them out, and that's half the battle, in roach fishing...


  1. That looks a lovely bit of river Jeff and knowing how much you really love redfins, I bet you felt sick as a parrot.

  2. great stuff check out my blog at

  3. Jeff,

    Two years ago last month or so I was Pike fishing,on a dull and drizzly Autumn morning.

    Nice Roach were rolling for an hour at first light.I promised myself I would be back next week and then the weather changed.Other species came and went and I have still not fished that area for Roach.

    Reading the above has given me a kick up the 'Arris.Must try and remedy that soon.

  4. Pete. will add you to my sidebar

    Mark, it was torture, and Monty, it was torture because I won't get back for a while, and that's means hunting them down again under different conditions! Should have packed the bread and quiver...

  5. Thats a great piece and some fabulous pictures of an amazing river.