Big Roach Against The Odds

This trip was the story of everything going wrong, but one bite making everything worthwhile. It started with me wanting to fish for big chub on the Dorset Stour. Heavy rains put paid to that plan so I thought the Avon might fish well for big roach, especially with a drop of water on. A quick call to Stu the river keeper told me that the river was also out of sorts, and only 10 pegs were fishable. Further heavy rains and flood warnings had me looking for an alternative. I’d got big roach on my mind so I decided to take a trip to Sway Lakes, a venue I’d always fancied fishing in the winter.

The 225 mile journey usually takes me 4 hours so I set off at 3.30am. The car was loaded with light line tackle, 2 float rods and a sensitive bomb rod. Also there was my chair and a carryall stuffed with many different baits, because I didn’t know what to expect. 3 pints of maggots, 3 pints of casters, the same of hemp, plus 3 bags of pellets were taken as I didn’t know how the roach would feed, if at all, in the colder conditions. Also, I had my cooking gear and sleeping bag because I was going to fish for a couple of days.

Unfortunately the traffic was really bad and the snowball effect of all the jams meant I didn’t arrive in the New Forrest until 8.30. Then it got worse, a closed road and the school run traffic meant I didn’t get to the lake until 9.30. Then there was a really heavy frost and a bright blue clear sky. It was a fantastic morning, but according to all the text books, as bad as it gets for roach!

As I lugged my gear down to the lake I was disappointed that I’d not arrived at dawn, the prime time to see where any big roach are rolling. Because of this I headed to the part of the lake that I’d caught a few 2lb+ fish from in October. At least I knew there had been fish here in the not to distant past. When I reached my chosen peg the view was stunning. The mirror like lake reflected the ‘naked’ trees on the far bank and the only movement was that of an electric blue kingfisher. He didn’t seem to mind me being there at all and carried on catching his breakfast.

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Because I was there for two days I primed my swim with a couple of pouches of both hemp and casters. I wanted a reasonable amount of bait that would stop any passing roach in my swim and give them something to munch on. If it didn’t work I could always fish another swim the next day. A light crystal waggler was my float, with a fine hook link and size 18 hook. My bait would be a single caster. If this was very slow I’d change over to a link leger in the same swim.

It took about 20 minutes for my first bite, which was a micro roach. After that I received a bite on most casts, which I wasn’t expecting in such cool conditions. My 5th fish pulled my rod right round and I took things easy on my first decent fish of the day. A few seconds later a big roach rolled on the surface and was scooped into the net. It was a good size, but I was unsure whether it would make 2lbs, the magic weight. The needle pulled round to 1lb 13oz, a fantastic start and a fish that gave me hope of more to come.

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As morning turned into early afternoon, the sun was very bright, yet the roach hadn’t read the textbooks. 3 more roach over 1lb 8oz up to 1.15 had graced my net along with some decent perch and plenty more micro roach. I was now feeding the swim heavily with casters and the fish were responding well. The odd one was coming up in the water, but because I hadn’t seen a good fish roll all day, I tried to feed them so they would stay around the lake bed.

Again, my float slid slowly under the surface, but this time the strike hit solid resistance. The fish went on a run then nodded in a roach like fashion. Then it went on another run forcing me to back wind steadily. I put some more pressure on because there were quite a few snags to my right. I knew if the fish didn’t turn now it was probably a carp, but turn it did! Again I felt the’ thump thump’ of what felt like a big roach and I started to get twitchy. I knew this was definitely over 2lbs, a fish that would make my trip a fantastic one. Slowly, I eased the fish towards me. Unlike most fish a big roach on light gear has to be ‘caressed’ into the net. Light lines and tiny hooks mean no bullying and any mistakes will end in disaster. About 10 yards out from me the tiny dropper shots started to come into view, meaning I was about to get a glimpse of what I was attached too. A red dorsal stuck out of the water meaning it was a roach, then I saw it’s head and tail with a huge silver flank in between, this was a very big roach and I didn’t want to lose it! After a couple more dives the roach came to the surface again. It looked larger every time I saw it. Inch by inch I eased it towards my net. Just as it was sliding over the rim there was a splash of spray as the fish made a last dash for freedom, but it had dived straight into my net!

I shipped the landing net back into my lap. I tried to get my hand around the roach but I couldn’t. From my days at Linch Hill I knew that this meant the fish was going to be around the 3lbs mark. After unhooking it I placed it onto some carefully zeroed scales. The needle sailed round to 3lb 2oz, I was thrilled. I’d caught larger roach before, 15 of 3lbs and over to be exact, but this was my first caught on the float and totally unexpected from Sway. I took a few quick photos, but the sun was causing havoc ‘whiting’ the roach out. Because it was such a special fish I placed it into my retention system until a cloud came along. In the mean time I texted a few mates with the good news.

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When a cloud came over I took a few more pics of my giant and because I was still a bit shocked at what I’d caught, I weighed the roach again. This time the needle was just under 3lb 2oz, so I called it 3lbs 1oz. Still a fantastic fish. I slowly slipped her back, hoping she’d make someone as happy as I was at that moment.

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I carried on fishing, though I was in a daze. A couple more decent roach came to my rods before dusk including a fish of 2lb 7oz. This would have made my day, never mind the 3lb+ monster. I made a right hash of the photos of this fish though. They were well out of focus, despite me having a large flip screen on my camera! I suppose it shows how scrambled my brain was.

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As darkness fell I decided not to fish the next day. I’d had an incredible day and doubt I could have come close to equalling it. I had a few other places I wanted to fish so I headed back home. Sadly, the weather put paid to those trips, but I’m not complaining. A 3lb 1oz roach on the float is as good as it gets for me.

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A Quiet Start

The first two trips of 2014 have been and gone with little to report.

Bob Roberts talked me into an evening after barbel on the River Trent. The water was very high and fast, but we both fancied a barbel. A strong wind made things pretty uncomfortable, but we stuck it out for one chance. That chance fell to me and I made a pigs ear of it! Still, it was nice to be out after working hard in the run up to Christmas.00912

The next trip was to a local canal for pike.

I caught a small jack on my first cast, a small dead roach doing the business.

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After that it was a day of frustrations. I started waggler fishing on casters for roach while I left my deadbait rods to fish for themselves. Just as I started putting a nice net of roach and skimmers together a couple of pike started grabbing every fish I hooked. I changed my deadbait rod into a livebait outfit, but the pike seemed to know. A couple of times the fish veered away from my baits at the last second, I’m sure they knew I was onto them. They didn’t seem very big, low doubles at best, but it would have been nice to have known. As Arnie says, ‘I’ll be back’

2013 Angling Year in Brief

Happy new year everyone! let’s hope 2014 is kind to us all. Personally I couldn’t wait to see the back of 2013 because of all the curve balls life threw at me. I suppose it should make me thankful that I still have my health and try to make the most of it while I still can. If 2013 taught me any lessons it’s not to take being here for granted and if you want to do something in life, do it now! Those 2lb roach might be gone tomorrow, so might those 4lb perch, or 3lb grayling. Whatever you enjoy, go and do it because this isn’t a rehearsal!

With this years tribulations my records show me that I spent a paltry 22 days on the bank. To be exact it was 11.5 days and 10 evening sessions. However, in such little time I still had a few decent catches. My main aim this year was to improve a few PBs and try not to fish for big roach too much. I do love my big roach though so I did spend 2.5 days chasing them. Here’s a breakdown of this years results.

JANUARY; This was just before all the trials and tribulations. A barbel session on the tidal Trent resulted in a blank but a few days later I caught a 4lb chub and an unwelcome ide on the middle Trent. I don’t like to see fish in our natural river systems that shouldn’t be there

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APRIL; My next trip wasn’t until April when I spent a day and a half after big roach. I managed a scraper ‘2’ plus another fish of 1.11 A 2.9 bonus perch was also welcome. It was very cold for April

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MAY; I had a couple of after work sessions on a local canal for roach. I caught a few decent fish, but they weren’t there in the numbers of the last few years where 10lbs in an afternoon was a doddle. There were also a few bonus bream and hybrids that turned up. Canals are very neglected but cracking fisheries these days.

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JUNE; June was a fishing disaster for me, though I did witness some lovely fish. First I failed to catch a big crucian. I did catch a few small tench, but not my chosen quarry. More frustratingly, I had some good crucians rolling over my baits. I also failed to trouble the scores on a 36 hour tench trip with my old mate Dai Gribble. I did have a big tench roll over my baits and miss a good bite, but it was worth it to see Dai’s fish. 5 tench, including 3 doubles fell to his rods. It was a pleasure to see those fish and at least I know where to go back this June!

SEPTEMBER; In September I had a couple of recce trips to see if I could find some decent grayling for some winter action. The fishing was tough, but when you caught a fish, it was usually a cracker. The first trip saw me nudge my PB up to 2lb 4oz, before smashing it several times on my next trip. 4 good ‘2’s up to 2lb 10oz were topped by a fish that weighed exactly 3lbs. What a days fishing in fantastic, wild surroundings.

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OCTOBER; This month saw me have a couple of weeks annual leave so I managed a few days on the bank. The weather was very mild for the time of year so I went after some estate lake bream. A long day was interrupted by just the one bite during a heavy downpour. It turned out to be a lovely bream of 12lb 9oz, not bad from an estate lake!

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Several evenings chasing barbel followed and I had been a little peeved at not catching any of the River Trent’s better fish. After 2 blanks and another day where I caught 3 average sized fish, I finally caught something a little better. A fish of 13lb 1oz came out of the blue and I followed it with a 10.4 for a brace of doubles. Another blank followed, but at least I was inching my 8 year old PB up

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By now I was getting big roach withdrawal symptoms so the itch had to be scratched! A day fishing for them produced 3 crackers over 2lbs and a few more near misses. There is no finer sight in angling than a big bar of silver!

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NOVEMBER; A chub session on a local canal produced a near 5lb fish and I had another barbel from the Trent. I also had another blank and that ended my angling year. When I look at my results it was certainly a cracking year for results considering the amount of time I put in. Let’s hope I’m just as lucky this year!

My exact results are as follows

7 evenings after barbel for 7 fish including 2 doubles up to 13.1                                   5.5 days on roach including 2.5 after specimens resulting in 4 over 2lbs                         2 days after grayling for 5 over 2lbs and 1 of 3lbs                                                             2 days chub fishing for 4 fish up to 4lb 14oz from a canal                                                 4 days blanking for big tench and big crucians                                                                  1 day after bream for a 12lb 9oz fish

My targets for 2014 will depend on weather and what time I get off work, but I fancy another big river roach or 2! Also, I’d love a double figure tench, plus I need to start doing some predator fishing. I used to love fishing for big perch and  I’d love to beat my old PB of 3lb 13oz (3 times!) I will also promise myself a decent pike after only playing at it in the past for a few low doubles.

Keep your eyes out on here to see if I can achieve my goals and tight lines everybody!