Monday, 25 February 2013

Canal Roach — Heads or Tails

So tired I've become of not getting bites that the other night on the Avon where not getting bites was the order of the evening for me and Martin both till last knockings when I finally did get a savage bite only to pick up the rod and find fish absent at the other end, I decided that if I'm going to have to wait so long between one and the other that I might as well fish a method and at a place where waiting hours and hours is actually worthwhile.

That venue is the North Oxford Canal and the target would be roach. Now, the way I've gone about catching these exasperating fish in the past is to fish a big fat lobworm on each of two quiver tip rods and just wait for it to happen, as it always does, in the end. Out go the worms and then time ticks down to the bite which may come within an hour or in the seventh hour of a succession of short sessions. I never know which it's to be. All I do know for sure is the inevitability of that bite to come.

Waiting fora big roach on the Oxford Canal

It's like micro barbel fishing. None of that roachy pernicketiness here! Bites are unexpected, and savage...

Two short 9 foot rods sit quietly on their rests but eventually one will judder, then lurch every bit as violently as the legendary 'three foot twitch' received from barbel when a roach moves off with a bait so large that it cannot spit it out, in fact the worm's head or tail will be down the gullet, past the throat teeth, and in process of digestion before I see any sign of the bite.

There's a problem with that though — half the bites are missed and half are hooked. Roach have comparatively small mouths and suck a big worm down lengthwise but if the hook doesn't make it past the lips before it moves away then usually I don't get the worm back, the fish wins a meal, and probably doesn't even notice anything amiss. The upside is that if the hook does pass the lips then hooking the fish is pretty much inevitable because the worm is trapped down the throat. So, it's all or nothing and my records show that this heads or tails, win some, lose some fact, is inescapable.

"But why not use smaller worms, Jeff? "

Big worms work, but small ones do not. Don't ask me why, because I don't know why...

But what fish they are when they do trip up. All over a pound, most well over, some I've had scraping two pounds and probably some of huge size swimming about out there because the average weight for the venue of a pound and seven ounces says that must be true. If only there was a way to catch more of them then I'd know.

So back I went to endure the punishment once again. First time I've been able to face it in years but now with a determination to crack the place wide open or freeze to death in the process. It's always cold there, exposed to the wind, fishes best when it's like that but I can't stick it for more than three hours at a time.

More waiting for big roach on the Oxford Canal!
I decided to start off fishing lobs as I always have but intend to try all manner of things over the next months in an attempt to up the catch rate to acceptable levels. When the water warms up worms won't work any more and nor will maggots because small hungry perch will invade any territory that smells of either but for some reason they never bite when it's cold at this place and in fact zander are more of a nuisance than they ever are. Till then, both are going to be the baits I'll use and experiment with. Bread can wait till spring.

With such big worms the majority of bites are going to come from roach, so I sat back to await that first one with confidence.

If it's not so cold that I'm worn down and no bites have come I'll move at the two hour mark. When that mark came around without a bite I began to prepare for one...

Then the rod juddered in its rest, my hand moved over the butt, when the tip flew around a good two feet in less than a second. I grabbed the rod — there was nothing there — and the worm was gone too.  Heads or tails. The fish won a free meal.

Ahh... (followed shortly by 'bollocks!')
But roach?

No doubt about it — the bites are always like that with them and worms.

It wasn't such a long wait though, only two hours, so I cast back to the same spot, an approach that never works in my experience and it didn't. An hour later I packed up and walked home. Three hours spent for one bite is no ones idea of roach fishing, is it?

Then again it was the only bite I've had on the canals since January so it was cause for optimism even if it wasn't cause for celebration on this occasion.


  1. Are you still using my worms Mr Hatt ?

  2. Yep, they go a long way fishing like this. I even put them back in the tin afterwards because the skin is only lightly pricked. Stingy fishing...

  3. I thought so, Same um we will need them for the Thames next week.
    You may need sharper 'ooks' though than the ones in you previous blog

  4. What day are we going?

    Them ooks sold for thirteen quid I'll have you know!

  5. Great read with a large red chianti Jeff! .... Waiting for one of your blog posts to develop is almost as nerve racking as waiting for a roach bite!....

    Can I sugguest to you thinking out of the creel for a moment jeff.... If I was you I would for a trail period only...... a large lobworm....but only half of it & hook it through the broken end where the jucies leak...
    2...On the second rod fish bread punch... Casting both rods every 15 mins....remember jeff, you are looking/searchingfor bites.... You can compare what bait is more successful...
    3....Feed hemp and liquized bread....known killer winter roach baits to work a frenzy..
    So whats your thoughts on that lot jeff?..... hook or by crook im gonna nail that 2lb coventry canal roach this year....and im gonna do it just for you for all your hard work with the above tactics....bring it on ......TEAM JEFF!

  6. That's pretty much my plan Ivan, but including maggot feeder tactics too. I used to feed hemp over the worms but it worked just the same without it. Never had a bite from anything but perch on broken lobs for some reason but that may be irrelevant, chopped worm works on commercials for roach, it should work here. I'm going to try all kinds of different approaches to get that bite rate up where it needs to be.

  7. Maggot bolt rig? Works everywhere

  8. I will be giving that a go just to see. Before the perch get going it might well....