Thursday, 19 September 2013

Canal Roach — Magic Numbers

For years I've believed that roach to surpass that 'magical' two-pound weight were not only possible to catch from the canals of the midlands but certain if only enough anglers bothered to try for them. For at least three years I know for certain that I was the only angler in this country who was concerned with trying after that fish and underwent the Labours of Hercules to prove it. I failed over and over, coming so close though that I truly thought that at least one other angler would finally believe it possible and back up my claim with his own efforts.

One-pound, fifteen-ounces, 8 drams. My best remains a cruel half-ounce under critical weight.

However, backed up with plenty of mid one-pounders and stacks of fish around and above the benchmark one-pound weight telling you it's worth persevering, I thought that the sheer weight of my numbers would convince, but I was wrong. Two-pounds and in excess is for some unfathomable reason the only number that will make anglers take a roach venue seriously enough.

That's very sad. A terrible indictment of modern angling if only when there's proof banked in excess of an arbitrary numerical target do people want to bother.

To all intents and purposes, my best fish was a two-pounder. The difference a gob full of water...

But it wasn't above two-pounds. And that was crucial. A fish that more or less proved that larger fish were swimming in the same shoal and that simply couldn't have been the best the canal had to offer was ignored as evidence they were there in numbers!

The numbers say they must be. Numbers are never wrong.

Then George Burton arrived on the scene. An angler who fishes canals nowadays for specimen roach but was once a canal match angler who'd scratch a net of blades for the same weight as one good fish, he took my work seriously. He's also a great one for numbers — though not arbitrary ones — as proof.

George began to adapt my outrageously heavy methods for the pole, refining and refining till the rig was a fraction of the size, the baits tiny by comparison and the feed as fine as powder snow. He caught good roach and plenty of them but failed over and over to break through the one-pound four-ounce barrier for what seemed like an age.

Then abandoning refinement he went as coarse as I (and you) should like.

Bread discs the size of a quid, roughly mashed bread with chunks of crust in it for feed. Suddenly he'd bagged a pound and half roach.

I wasn't at all surprised. He'd discovered for himself what I'd worked out through my own experiments — that big canal roach like big canal baits, coarse feed and plenty of it, and that big canal roach do not respond at all well to tiptoeing delicacy.

Employing scales of approach seemingly ridiculous on venues considered fit for only the finest methods and microscopic baits, we'd discovered what everyone else had overlooked. That our canals are no longer scratching venues but true specimen waters ranking alongside any other and surpassing many, where two-pound roach are numerically commonplace, but where serious roach anglers who might catch convincing numbers of them are not...

While George fished I'd hardly wet a line after the canal's roach. Dabbling now and then but never too seriously, it's no surprise that I caught few in the meantime because you can't do it lightly and get away with it. Canal roach require all the attention you can muster and your effort must be entirely focussed upon them. Failure is certain otherwise.

I'd taken a long break from it content to watch as George plucked fish after fish from the murky waters till his total in terms of numbers caught matched my own and his results in terms of catch weight data matched mine perfectly. What we then had were two sets of proof that argue very convincingly what truly great roach fisheries these canals are. And they are — beyond any shadow of a doubt.

And then... finally... it happened.

George surpassed my achievement (but not my unswerving belief) by supplying the proof in cold number that others will require in order to bother themselves when he banked that 'fish of a lifetime.'

So. Rifle through the back catalogues of both blogs and you'll get the gist of it. The way to go about it is explained both here and there. And, we'll see you on the towpath, no doubt, soon enough. Where George has set the bar high...

But believe me, they run bigger still.

Numbers are never wrong.

Float, Flight & Flannel — Big Bend Theory

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Avon Perch — A Change of Sky

Our regular Thursday evening sessions over the last month have seen night draw closer and closer to afternoon and now arriving at the river means hitting dusk running rather than taking a leisurely stroll up the bank toward it. Martin has toughed it out for that monster barbel 'with his name on it' and I've persisted trotting bread for roach. Neither successfully.

Chub, I like. But catching little else for what's seemed like months on end with every approach employed resulting in more and more forces a rethink. A worm crawls out the grass of the towpath verge during a damp dog walk and she/he gives me an idea...

What better fish for the short autumn evenings can there be than perch?

I'd clean forgotten how engrossing this form of fishing can be but I'm reminded soon enough...

Flicked into the eddy of the pool the float ambles about a while. You'll wait ten minutes sometimes, twenty or thirty often enough, an hour or more if they're lazy but they'll come by. Dip, dive, bob and slide. The wait is rewarded within minutes.

The dithering bite sets me on the edge of my seat. It's missed. That's fair enough. It won't bother perch. Sure enough the next bite up comes a specimen a tiny fraction of the size I'm after. But at least it's not a chub!

The worm threaded up line not down the throat is rehooked and sent out once again to do its business. Ten minutes later the float performs that unmistakable dance. When to strike, when to strike? It's been said you should always give them enough rope but how long is long enough rope to hang a billy?

I don't know!

Often perch are right under our noses but they're so sensitive to depth you might never know they're there fishing too high, too low. It's eight feet deep right under the reeds, ten a few yards further out, but I feel I'm fishing too shallow in it.

The worm lowered a foot to hang the same from the riverbed creates an immediate reaction and from then on in it's never much longer than I can bear to wait hung on tenterhooks before it's nabbed. Between approaching dusk and inky darkness a series of five strapping perch around and over the pound mark are banked.

I haven't done such a thing since boyhood but after dark a stationary torch is set to shine a beam across the water to illuminate the float...

Drifting on the lazy current in and out of view, one minute bright as a beacon, the next almost invisible but never quite lost from view, modern contraptions may have made such a thing anachronistic practice but it still remains a fabulously exciting way to fish!

A better specimen is lost. Powerful enough to be a convincing chub if it wasn't for that jangling head shaking sensation transmitted up the line, I'm at least assured that next Thursday evening I might have my reward with a perch to gorge on the pounders I've had tonight.

Last bite and along comes a surprise!

Odd that none are reported for what must be a year then three come along in separate blog posts from different people in the last few days....

The first ruffe I've had in ages and the only one ever caught from a river.