Friday, 18 December 2015

Canal Roach and Perch — The Grubs Don't Work

I could tell that the dogs needed their serious weekly walk but I had plans to get my serious weekly fishing done so I thought I'd combine both and take them to the open space at Grassy Bend where they could run themselves into the ground and I could get a few hours in . The idea of fishing bread was out of the question because it demands my full attention and having dogs about makes that impossible. Then I thought about going after zander. No need to concentrate very hard with them apart from keeping baited hooks out of canine gobs. But I plumped for two rods fishing helicopter maggot feeder rigs for roach. 

I have had some encouraging success trialing this approach on the Coventry Canal where a couple of good hybrids fell, but both times I tried it on the North Oxford it proved useless. Nevertheless, I thought I'd learn something because I'd shortened the hook links to three inches down from six or seven and added an inch of tubing to keep them stiff. I really need to make this approach work if I can because it allows fishing to be conducted during spells of heavy boat traffic and throughout the day where effective bread fishing requires being up at dawn just to get an uninterrupted hour in. 

I need an answer! 

The weather is mild and heavily overcast with intermittent rain. It is perfect even if it's grim. The approach is simple. Cast out the rigs, tighten up and attach bobbins, chuck a handful of hemp and a handful of maggots over each. And wait. 

An hour and a half later without a touch I'm beginning to believe the approach a poor one and maggots next to worthless. Wishing I'd brought a float rod and a loaf of Warburtons along I occupy myself taking pictures of nothing happening just to entertain myself. Might as well practise something worthwhile...

I'm tapping my Timberlands to that infernal tune again. The ground beneath is getting rather sticky, but then I look down and there's a lobworm. This is the third time this has happened now.  I know it is simply that worms respond to tapping by crawling out of their burrows — a habit that buzzards exploit and that old time bait collectors called 'worm charming' or even better, 'fiddling' —  but I can't help thinking this is a sign.

I resist the urge to use it. But this time I do put it in the baitbox for later. Because if these damn grubs don't work soon enough it's going on the hooks instead!

But the trial is not yet over. A trial requires persistence. Another hour and I'll know if maggots are worth persisting with... 

The picture above is no fake. I was trying to get myself 'in swim' together with two yampy springers running about like lunatics in the same shot. A big ask. What I didn't bargain for was that the first bite of the afternoon would come just as the camera's 12 second self-timer began beeping the last second countdown. Good timing, and the very reason I take so many selfie-style establishing shots.

No one ever took a photograph of a 2lb roach bite...

But no one ever took a worse selfie with a small perch!

Nevertheless, the bite was the classic twitch and drop helicopter rig one. Maggots have their stay of execution. And I've a lobbie in reserve...

But nothing happens after. The bloody maggots are just no good and that juicy worm is exerting an ever greater pull on my gut. Just as soon as I detect a fall in the light levels I open the box, halve the poor thing, nip tail and head on either rig and cast them out.

The response is absolutely instant. Within seconds of clipping up the bobbins the right hander drops to the floor. A roach hybrid. The left hander drops while I'm unhooking it. A perch. 

The grubs don't work, they just make it worse. These fish were there the whole time but ignoring them! 

Maybe they were preoccupied with hemp?

Yet another hybrid. But at least it's got roach in it...

Perhaps. But the worms do work and make it better. The rest of the session is a blur of dropping bobbins and frantic Estelle fuelled worm fiddling securing fresh supply of this wonder bait of which I get a further two that I quarter to make eight baits just to keep pace. Unfortunately, not one bite is from a roach. All thereafter are perch around the pound mark and I believe there's seven or eight or nine of them who've tripped up...

Now all this begs a few questions, not least of which is why I have never fished for perch this way. But actually, and more importantly, why it is not seen as an essential part of perch fishing...

None of that fiddling about with disgorgers down the throat or finding the hook hold all over the random place. Each and every single one was hooked squarely and securely in the lower lip. Very clean and tidy. Surgical, you might say.

Also, why did I not realise earlier in my long life that I was an expert worm fiddler?

I could have made a bleedin' fortune!

But most importantly of all. How can I fish worm but avoid perch when it is roach that I'm after?

That is the question...

PS. If you're thinking the lobs don't work for roach, then think again...

Dan's opposite experience


  1. Interesting as always Jeff. I struggle with maggots on the Lancaster canal but have found that double caster float fished around 6 inches or so on the bottom seems to produce some better roach and also bigger perch. Saying that though I'm still struggling to break the 13oz barrier with roach and the pound one with perch. I'm contemplating evening sessions up to 11pm or so. Met a guy a while ago - an old timer, very experienced- who was convinced that the large roach were all nocturnal in their feeding habits. It has to be worth a try with ledgered bread especially as this mild weather seems to be here to stay. Worms are a magnet for ruffe up here.

  2. The old timer is not wrong. Mark. A good third of the roach I caught on lobworms during 2009/10 were taken after dark. And I mean after dark right up to 9pm. I guess they can be caught throughout the entire day. I would have stayed around on this session but had work to do evening time. Perch seem to shut up shop not long after dark.