Thursday, 12 November 2015

Canal Roach — NOXC2LB5OZ

The long cold wait commences...

It's just a mile distant but I haven't fished the North Oxford Canal much since the winter of 2009. Occasionally I'll roam out that way on a zander mission because heavy boat traffic really isn't a problem where that's concerned but otherwise I'll fish the relatively quiet Coventry Canal on the outskirts of the city. 

I have ignored it since because I found it nigh impossible to fish there with bread fished under a float. And that method is my preferred one these days. The one that I have developed specifically to tackle canal roach. But it requires time to work and uninterrupted time is what the NOXC does not give. So I've concentrated efforts nearer to home in order to refine things in relative peace.

Milky white lobworms dug from a back-filled section of the Oxford Canal behind the Coventry Canal at Longford Junction. Because of a labyrinthine and controversial toll debacle when the canals were first built in 1777, the two ran parallel for a mile. The issue was resolved in 1803. Hawkesbury Junction then became what it is today — the point where both join at a stop lock, and the closed section of the Oxford Canal eventually filled with Coventry's household waste and capped by the 1920's.   

However, the head of roach in the Oxford Canal seems lower than that of the local Coventry Canal, but the average stamp far higher. I've caught just seven specimens there. Six were fooled by huge lobworms in 2009/10 but just recently I had one on bread. In ascending order they weighed, 1.00, 1.00, 1.01, 1.03, 1.08, 1.13, and 1.15. An average of 1lb 6oz compared to just 15oz for my local hunting grounds on the Coventry Canal. 

Back in 09 I thought the numbers so impressive that they surely predicted that two-pounds and better were not just possible but very likely. I'd missed that weight by just half an ounce with what was the second roach I'd banked there. How could it not be certain when the first was over a pound too?

However, averages cannot be trusted when they are drawn from such small data samples and I just could not catch enough of them. Fifty fish would be needed to validate and a hundred to set it in stone. I was catching one in every three five-hour sessions at that time. Outlandish baits sizes may have selected only the very largest but stumped the smallest. Add twenty half pounders to my list and the average would be reduced enormously. I just couldn't be certain.

A roach is 'big' only when you'll hold it close and it still looks enormous

Molly took a swim that afternoon. Springers are born impervious

February 6th 2009.  Temperature -2 degrees Centigrade

A very near miss at just half an ounce under

A fish that was warmer than the air!

Oh, my poor frozen hands 


Then George Burton began fishing the Oxford Canal for roach but some miles down the way from where I'd fished. He'd always use bread and so I'd pounce on each and every blog update just as soon as he'd hit the 'publish' button. I was fascinated. I had a brother in arms! 

Doing on the Oxford what I was doing on the Coventry, I just knew by gut instinct that he'd stick at it through the many trials and tribulations to come and therefore establish facts one way or the other. 

Perhaps he'd even succeed where I had failed and break through the two-pound barrier?

It was my sincerest hope he would...

His results, now that he's fished it three years or more, are remarkably similar and his average just the same as mine even though he has at least three or four time the quantity of roach to his credit. He had his second best just the other day at 1lb 13oz. For any canal that's a great big roach but his very best came in at just under two-pounds and four-ounces which is a truly astounding fish because that's just a few drams below the weight of the best roach caught from any canal in this country.


His account of that close call with the history books quivers with excitable disbelief. I read it again and again because it tallies with my feelings when I had my early near miss with a 'two'. I simply could not believe that such a dirty canal could produce such a pristine marvel. I wasn't concerned at all that it was half an ounce under. It was magnificent!

(And yes of course there's a link. But you can finish this first before dashing off!)

George had validated my numbers and my belief in them and gone and done something better. He'd made the Oxford Canal the truly great roach fishery it really is by banking its very first documented and properly weighed two-pound fish.

It was about then that I decided a better way must be found than fishing lobworms...

Now I must go catch a two-pounder myself, because I have set myself the demonstrably preposterous target of catching two-pound roach from river, canal and still-water all in the same winter season. I have the still-water prize done and dusted. The river prize will be very challenging locally but there's a trip to the Itchen planned for early December where such fish, though undoubtedly hard work, are more than possible for both Mr Newey and Mr Hatt.

But for the canal category, I'm afraid that boat traffic notwithstanding I must mount a long and possibly arduous campaign alone on the crayfish burrow riddled banks of the North Oxford because it is never going to happen on the City Coventry Canal in a month of Sundays even though it certainly does hold them. 

And worse still. I want to set a new canal record for roach. Currently standing at 2lb 4oz for a fish caught way back in the 1970's by Mr A. Swan fishing the Gloucester Canal — one extra ounce is what the Oxford must provide nigh fifty years on because it deserves that crowning title.

Such a roach is there for sure. The numbers say it must be. 

But they don't say exactly where!


  1. There must be numerous 2lbers out there in the canals and i bet a few people with them to their name but keeping schtum. This is why I like canals - still a great deal of mystery surrounds what's in them. All the river and lake fish are known and expected. No one knows really what our canals hold. I think the Tiverton canal has fish closer to 2 than 1 but not sure about over the magic figure. I'm certain the K&A holds them, I can't believe they aren't being caught. But where are the reports and photographs!?

    1. I just think people don't understand that catching them requires that you must experiment endlessly on your own cut and then hone an approach to suit. Here that does mean either waiting it out like a carp angler would with really massive lobbies in the hard cold days and nights of the worse of winter, or fighting against boat traffic with bread the rest of the year.

      The canals are an untapped mystery to most. But look what non stop drop shotting publicity has done for their predator potential. I'll guarantee there's an angler within spitting distance of me doing that right now.

      There has to be an easy to understand off-the-shelf method that really works and more or less guarantees results — or no one bothers trying.

      That's our job, Russel. Build it and they will come...

      And then we'll fuck off elsewhere!

    2. Haha, that had me laughing out loud; bullheads n stone loach I reckon. I found some really interesting videos on silver bream on YouTube the other day btw. I'll share them with you when I'm not supposed to be working. They're in another language but well made and include some interesting approaches. I'll publish through my blog tonight if I can find time.

    3. Oh, I'll look forward to that, Russel. Right up my street is what that is. I expect a few whilst roach fishing as they like the same bait very much and respond very well to the same approach. I can't say it's possible to go out and target them except at a certain venue at a certain time of the year. But anything that illuminates the habits of that mercurial species is all to the good.

    4. Well he catches what looks a good two pounder, but I you'll have to watch to see what bait! Btw how do you post documents and video links which show a preview pane of the linked material, eg YouTube clips or the bloggers challenge spreadsheet?

    5. Can't find the one I'm after, but try this one for now...

    6. Found it!

    7. Did you answer your own question?

      Posting the challenge sheet is easy. Just go get code and paste in html mode

    8. Did you watch the two videos. Above? Not sure I'll be trying the successful bait in the second vid but food for thought!

  2. A year or so ago there was a mounted (steady) roach for sale on eBay. From memory I think it was 2.8.0 and the plaque stated caught from New Bradwell canal. Can't remember the date now.
    'Nearly bought it, but it wasn't a perfect job by any means.
    That would be the Grand Union at Milton Keynes these days of course.
    It might be worth checking-out if there's any evidence still around?

    Moving on...
    The average size of roach I've taken personally has increased since the amount of feed was increased and the bait size with it.

    I look forward to reports of your campaign Jeff. They're out there if we can find 'em...and that is also the issue.

  3. I don't see any reason why 2lb 8oz is not possible, George. I can't see any reason to not to believe old stuffed fish either. Other than they were weighed back then on agricultural scales!. Nevertheless, they killed fish and had them stuffed back in the day only for special reason. Had to be something else to waste a whole weeks wages on, I reckon.

    The crude feed and apparently silly bait size thing is critical, as you know. Something very odd about it that onlookers find striking and somewhat outlandish. But they soon come round!

    Beat me to the record, George

    It's possible....

  4. Jeff,

    Not Roachy, but since my visit two weeks ago to the canal I've thought of nothing else. I did mention it would be a "Back Up Water", but things have been ticking over in my mind.

    I'll be on the river on Saturday before the next spell of rain hits us. Then I've got a couple of days off midweek. I'll be on the canal then. I'm hoping it will be much quieter being midweek, its odd, but one visit has got under my skin on what Pike may or may not be swimming about.

    As for your Roach quest, give it some ;-0

    1. I think that getting that map in your head is the only way to really enjoy canals but it takes a lot work to establish, doesn't it? So many miles where anything could be and so many miles that really don't seem worth the effort, at first.

      I know where all the pike live round here. That'll be elsewhere for the most part because of total zander domination. But there's spots that are still worthwhile trying.

  5. I love it Jeff, you will catch one. Like a dog that get's it's first taste of blood, always wants more from then on, you've had your first 2lb+ Roach another one will come your way, good luck anyhow, I'll be seeing you come Sunday too, I fancy blanking again for Zander.........

    1. Perhaps you are right, James. I can feel it is easier than it was before. The path ahead is clear!

      I'm sure Sunday you'll bag a good zed. Hope so.

  6. Fishing gets more difficult as the weather gets colder. Good luck.

  7. Round this way the fishing gets tougher but is more rewarding in the long run. British fish can bite better in winter than in summer and that's certainly true of roach.

    And I might just try your roach bait. It looks good and you know that roach really do like turmeric. We dip maggots in it to catch them. The love it!

  8. Big canal roach....September and wheat.