Autumn Glory Continues

Following on from my mind blowing local roach catch in my last update, I simply had to give the river some more attention. Even though I don’t like flogging venues to death, experience has taught me that good fishing can be here one day, but gone the next.

I’d kept my eye on the shoal of roach, but the river was getting far too low and clear, making the fish very nervous. A few days of rain sorted that problem out, though the extra water and autumnal weather saw all kinds of debris floating down stream. Also, I knew I wouldn’t be able to target individual specimens, so it was just a case of trotting the stream and seeing what was willing to feed.

While I rigged my light stick float rig up, I flicked a dozen or so casters into the swim every 30 seconds. Hopefully this would get any big roach in the area feeding confidently before I started. It certainly did the trick as on the first run down, the float vanished from sight. The strike met firm resistance, then followed the familiar ‘jag jag glide’ sensation from a big roach hooked in flowing water. I took my time in playing it to the net, where it was landed at the first time of asking. After shipping the net back and folding the mesh away I was met by the sight of a stunning fish, not the hoped for 2 pound specimen, but one not too far away. The scales gave a reading of 1lb 11oz, a fish that would have had me doing cartwheels a few weeks earlier, prior to my previous efforts.

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After the good start, a couple of smaller roach fell to my rod, before I landed a couple more belters up to probably a pound and a quarter. By now, steady rain had started to fall, spoiling things somewhat. I continued feeding my casters and running my float over the top of the feed. Every so often the float would jag under and the prize would be a quality roach or a chunky chub. I think the fact I’d fed a little heavier this time had drawn a shoal of chub into the swim. I didn’t like this as I felt that for every fish I hooked in the swim, my chances of catching one of the 2lb roach reduced somewhat.

I did manage to catch a couple more big roach as the light faded. One was unweighed, but around 1lb 8oz, the other I did weigh which pulled the needle on the scales round to 1lb 13oz, a magnificent roach. The steady rain meant I didn’t take a photo of me holding it, I didn’t want to ruin my camera by giving it a soaking!

I did take a photo of some of my final catch on the mat, before quickly putting them back. I’m sure you’ll agree it was indeed a day of ‘Autumn Glory’

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The final catch was 4 chub to around 4lbs and 8 roach to 1lb 13oz. I love catching all fish, but these big roach from a local river ‘up north’ are the real stars for me

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Redfin Heaven

This summer I’ve done a lot of walking on the banks of my local rivers. Some are within walking distance, others require a few minutes travelling in my car. To say I was disappointed with what I saw is an understatement, though I did find a lot of chub in certain areas of certain rivers. Even a local drain, that’s more like a ditch in places, turned out to be stuffed with decent chub, if you knew the exact overgrown spot to look at.

What I wanted was a decent local river roach, but they were very thin on the ground and the best I saw might have gone 10oz at best. Every time I glimpsed at the clear spots in the weed beds, I could have swore I saw big roach before realising the cupboard was bare and my eyes were playing tricks. It was either that or I was seeing the ghosts of the past, big majestic river roach.

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I’ve watched one shoal of roach for a while, hoping they grow to be monsters, but it seemed they never wanted to grow more than 8oz or so. I started to feed them some elderberries on my last walk and I managed to get one of them to come right under my feet, intercepting the berries as they slowly sank in the flow. It looked slightly better than I’d thought, maybe a pound, certainly no more. I don’t know why, but I decided to get my gear and have a go at catching it.

When I returned, I also came with a bag of old casters as well as the ‘berries’. After a few minutes of feeding I had most of the shoal eating my casters. They certainly seemed to prefer these over the more natural offerings. I set up a standard trotting rig, but used a crystal dibber float to avoid spooking any wary roach. I isolated what seemed the largest roach under my feet and trotted my caster right down into it’s line of sight. Straight away it rose to sip my caster in, oh so delicately, then returned to its starting position. I gently swept the rod to set the hook, and this is when the moon, stars, sun and every other thing in the solar system aligned to make my century, never mind day, week or year!

The roach didn’t budge, then realising something was wrong it wallowed out to the middle of the river. I was thinking something was wrong. My rod was bent right round and I had to give line to this ‘average’ sized roach. Just then, as I realised that maybe I’d misjudged things, the roach came to the surface, thrashed once and was gone as the tiny size 18 hook pinged out. It took a few seconds to sink in, but I suddenly realised that I’d lost a BIG roach, certainly over 2lbs, and on my own doorstep!

Despite more careful loose feeding I couldn’t get that fish to feed again, though its shoal mates seemed oblivious to what had just happened. I decided to catch some of the other roach, selecting the ones that seemed slightly bigger than the rest. As before, the first trot was right on the money and another roach was hooked. The fight was as before, but this one didn’t come off. I managed to get it upstream of the other roach where it could fight without unsettling the rest of the shoal then, when it was ready, I eased it into my landing net. I was still struggling to believe what my tackle had been telling me, until I lifted the sagging net handle up and placed my hand under the fish. I knew this was a 2 pound roach at least. It wasn’t very long, but so deep and broad.

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I realised I was onto something very special for a local river, so took the above shot on my phone and sent it to my mate Martin, asking him to come and take some photos. I then weighed it at 2lb 2oz and placed it into my keep net, positioned 20 yards upstream.

I repeated the above tactics to the larger roach, catching another beauty of 2lb 1oz before Martin could arrive. When he arrived I could see he was a tad confused, as I was, that the roach i was showing him were 2lbs or there abouts. I proceed to catch the next one before his eyes, then we weighed it together at just under 2lbs 1oz, settling for 2lbs exactly. This prompted Martin to go for a walk to see if he could find any other decent looking roach.

The roach had now backed off to the far bank reeds making it impossible for me to be selective about what I caught. This meant that my next 2 roach were under 2lbs, but over 1.8. A size I’d have been blown away with before my trio of ‘2’s Martin returned and said we’d better take the photos as he had to be home for his tea. I did the obligatory ‘one last cast’ and hooked into another fine specimen of a roach. After a battle where I really had to bully it, due to the appearance of a small pike with eyes bigger than it’s belly, I landed and weighed yet another roach of exactly 2lbs. What a day, one I’d never forget.

When I pulled the net out of the water to show Martin my bag of fine roach, he was blown away. There was well over 11lbs of prime roach in my net, comprising of just 6 fish, with 4 of 2lbs or over!

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I put the smaller roach straight back, something I regret now as any roach over a pound and a half around my local area is a big fish, worthy of a photo.

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After the individual shots of each fish, I then took one last photo of the full catch before heading for home. The difference was this time there was no 4 hour drive back. Absolute bliss, and a day I’ll probably never repeat for as long as I live!

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Late Summer / Early Autumn Ramblings

Sorry for a lack of updates of late. I’ve not done too much fishing, but I’ve done a fair bit of walking on my local rivers. I’ve come to a conclusion that my local rivers are dire to say the least, or at least the smaller more intricate rivers are. I’ve walked miles of the Torne, Idle, Ryton and Poulter and the cupboard is very bare. There’s the odd decent fish to target, but compared to 20 years ago these rivers have been destroyed. There’s a lack of water, lack of maintenance, lack of fish and more importantly (these days) a lack of people that care. The commercial fisheries attract most anglers now, for many reasons, but that shouldn’t mean the EA let our less known rivers go to the dogs. The icing on the cake is that theres a lot of small carp in some of these rivers, thanks to the EA letting everybody and his dog stock stillwaters to the hilt with them. I thought the EA were supposed to protect the environment, not completely change the face of it!

I’ve recently heard a rumour that the EA have now classed the rivers Torne and Idle as drains rather than rivers. What this means I don’t know, but if true, I bet it means they don’t have to bother maintaining them to a decent standard. As an example of whats happening, heres a photo of the Torne that I took a few weeks ago while looking for some decent sized chub.

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Can you believe I used to trot this part of the river 19 years ago for it’s shoals of specimen roach? That was the last time I trotted on this particular stretch, landing 8 good fish to over 1lb 8oz! Now, it’s chub or bust and I did find about 8 of them through the thick weed, with the odd one looking a pretty good size. I soon gave up trying to catch one though as I lost both fish I hooked, which isn’t surprising with all that weed. Maybe I’ll go back in winter.

Just to check the river wasn’t drying up, I drove a few miles downstream to where I know there’s a weir, one we used to play in as teenagers, after rowing our dinghies there. Sure enough, the river was actually ABOVE the level of the weir, something that normally happened when the Torne was carrying a drop or two of extra water

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Anyway, my last piece on the torne is this photo back from the mid 1980s when it was a fantastic big roach river. It’s the same stretch as the top photograph. What are we all doing to this planet?

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Locally, some of the good points though are that the River Don seems to get better and better, and my local canals are full of good fish. Thank goodness! But how long before the cormorants  try to put a dent in those?

Moving on, with Autumn approaching, I decided to try and catch a big roach or three! I tried Sway, but just a few decent perch and small roach were caught. Apparently it’s fished tough there this year after heavily cropping the small fish numbers. Lets hope as the natural food dies off the big girls start to eat our baits.

I followed Sway with a trip to the Hampshire Avon. Heavy rain hampered my fishing, but it also put the slightest tinge of colour into the river, something that can make those big specimens lose a bit of their caution.

Trotting was the order of the day with baits as diverse as casters, hemp, tares and elderberries. All were tried under a 3 number 4 stickfloat, but the dace were onto everything in a flash. I ended up with about 15lbs of them, many were quality fish between 4-8oz, as well as many more smaller samples. I did lose the best dace out of my hand while placing it in the keepnet. I reckon it must have been between 10-12oz, a ‘double dace’ is always a good fish, but this fish was having none of my planned photos!

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Pike were a problem throughout, and while they had a go at many fish, they never managed to get any off my hook. I’d been forewarned about these pike by Stuart, the river keeper, so I’d brought a pike rod too. I landed a couple and placed them in a large carp keepnet until I’d finished the session. One was around the 7lbs mark and I’ve never met a more aggressive esox. It was jumping out of the river after my dace! What a bad tempered thing. Still, I bet all those dace twisting before it drove it mad!

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In between the silver darts and aggressive pike I did manage 3 decent roach. Nothing massive, probably between a pound and a pound and a half for the best fish (unweighed!) These were still cracking fish for me though and made my day. They were caught on tares and elderberries, those most traditional of autumn baits.

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As I finish, after just watching the Autumn Glory episode of the ‘never to be equaled’ A passion for Angling series, I’ve decided to have my own Autumn glory. I think the rivers are slightly too low and clear for a barbel session. The weather is a tad too warm for some big perch, meaning I’ll get plagued by eels and small fish. That just leaves big roach. Lets see if I can get my own ‘Autumn Glory’ with some prime river roach!