Making Short Sessions Count

It’s that time of year when not only are the nights really starting to pull in, but postmen also get really busy helping Father Christmas deliver all of his presents! Because of this I have to try and squeeze short after work sessions in on local waters, where I can, plus choose what to fish for on my day off, which conditions will often dictate.

First off I was exploring a small river for big roach. A different river to where I normally fish, but one where I’ve lost a big roach before. Unfortunately, we’d just had our first frost of the winter, so the fishing was slow. Trotted bread eventually brought me a few chub between 2 and 3lbs, but it was Martin who nearly stole the show. The big roach he’d hooked did what a lot of big roach do and slipped the hook at the net! We’ll return to try again though, I’m sure of that.

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Over the last week we’ve finally had a decent bit of rain up here. That meant for my next session I was racing to the Trent straight after work and when I arrived it seemed a few other anglers had thought along the same lines. The good news was that all had caught at least one barbel, so I was hoping for a pull or two!

Just as dusk was falling, my downstream rod banged over and I was playing barbel number one. It was quickly landed and might have weighed between 6-7lbs, but I never weigh these fish. The scales in the photo are just for reference. It was quite a plump fish and in prime Autumn condition.

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Just after this action the ‘Super Moon’ came out from behind the clouds. It was like fishing in daylight and I don’t think it was a coincidence that when it went back behind cloud cover my rod tip banged round again!

The culprit was the twin of the first fish, but straight after I was in again. This time the fish became snagged a few times, but by taking the bail arm off, I kept making contact again and eventually landed a ‘scraper’ double.

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I checked the line for damage and it was just the coated braid that had suffered with a bit of the coating rubbed off here and there. You have to fish tough tackle to fish the boulder strewn Trent. I’d have lost this fish on a standard mono or braided hooklink.

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The moon came out again and lit up the Trent Valley, it also lowered the temperature a lot. Just as I was thinking of calling it a night, I was in again, all four takes coming to the downstream rod. I could feel a grating sensation during the fight so I bullied the fish hard. This time though my luck ran out and the hooklink parted. It’s part and parcel of fishing here which is why I use running rigs and barbless hooks. A fixed rig is just irresponsible, but some anglers still fish like this!! Anyway, after the loss I made my way home.

The temperature had plunged when it came to my day off work, but I still ventured out after a big river pike. It was great fun watching the float, under which a deadbait sat, slowly move away and plunge under the surface a few times. The culprits were always hungry ‘jacks’ but it was good sport all the same, and you never know, the next fish could be a ’20’+!!

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After another bout of warm rain, I just had to see if it had stirred my local river roach into feeding. I shot to the river straight after work and it looked just right. There was a tinge of colour, but the light was failing quickly so it was quiver tipped bread instead of the usual trotted casters. I wasn’t to be disappointed as the tip yanked round on several occasions. The first fish was a new fish for me, a 2lb 1oz redfin, and it was backed up with a few more quality samples.

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The only negative was another lost big roach that would almost certainly given me a brace of ‘2’s

Incidentally, out of all the big roach I’ve caught from the river (11 over 2lbs I think!) and the many around 1.8+, I’ve only ever had 2 recaptures. One was a 2lb+ fish and the other around 1.6. It just shows what a great little river this is.

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Roach Magic and Barbel Blues

After last months bream sessions, I have now moved onto flowing water to try and catch some more of my favourite autumnal fish, barbel and roach. Both species can be caught to specimen sizes close to home so they fit into my working week nicely. If I go straight after work I can usually winkle out a big roach or two, and the same for barbel, though the latter suits me better because I can stay a couple of hours into darkness, probably the most productive time for a big fish.

The rivers I fish, and I suspect most others, are painfully low and clear as I write this and have been for some time. They are in desperate need of some sustained rainfall. The clarity means fish are very easy to spot, but they’ve become very nervous as we move into November. The weed they use for cover is dying off and they are using anything to conceal themselves, especially on the smaller rivers. A seemingly barren river can hold many surprises as fish tuck themselves away into the undercut banks or a tangle of tree roots.

Some of the big roach that I’ve previously caught from my local river are doing such a thing. After a couple of days where I couldn’t spot anything, suddenly half a dozen good fish drifted downstream, out of nowhere, right in front of where I was stood. Even better was most were around the 2lbs mark. As quickly as they came, they vanished again! I couldn’t find them so decided to move on for now and use the clear water to my advantage. I walked a lot of the river to see if any more good roach were about. I wasn’t disappointed.

I found a handful of new shoals which taught me a few good lessons about estimating their sizes. The first shoal I found had me believing I’d found the holy grail of roach, a big shoal of 2lb+ fish, with some looking very big. A quick early morning session seemed to prove my eyes were right, as I landed a couple of beauties well over a pound, with a chunky redfin of 2lbs 2oz topping off the morning. All fell to my trotted casters, they just can’t seem to get enough of them!

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The next day I returned to fish the swim hard. I fed a lot of casters and soon had loads of big roach queueing up for more. They weren’t hard to catch once I’d got them going, but the sizes were a shock. Most were around a pound, give or take a few ounces, but I thought they were all a lot larger. I was puzzled, but carried on catching numbers of good roach to 1lb 9oz, with a few more around the pound and a half mark.

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To start with, I was walking the roach 30 yards upstream before releasing them, but after doing this about 15 times I was getting tired, so I slipped the rest in a keepnet instead. The above photos were snapped on my mobile phone. I kept sending the pictures to Martin at work to tease him! I took so many photos of roach that the battery went flat!

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As I tackled down at dusk, I couldn’t believe how many big roach I’d landed in just a few hours after work. I also couldn’t help being slightly down that all the fish I’d estimated at around 2lbs were just over half of that size. Still, I shouldn’t be complaining in these tough times where if a river roach just reaches adulthood its an achievement.

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After all the roach fun I decided to try for a good barbel. I knew my normal boilie tactics would be hard work until nightfall due to the low clear water, so I tried the particle approach instead. After I had patiently fed a few pints of both hemp and casters into my swim over a couple of hours, I finally made my first cast. Gone were the 12b lines and coated braid hooklinks used in coloured water or at night. In their place was one rod, 8lb main line and a 6ft long, 5lb fluorocarbon bottom, tied to a size 14 hook. Bait was a couple of real casters and a couple of fake ones.

It didn’t take long for the rod tip to crash round, with a manic barbel of around 7 to 8lbs the culprit. I landed it reasonably quickly, despite the light gear, because the flow is almost non existent.

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This process was repeated a few times, including into dark, but none of the barbel were much larger. The best fish was an ounce under 10lbs. One thing what amuses me is how hard these smaller fish fight compared to the double figure fish. They go off like rockets, stripping line from the reels drag, unlike the larger fish that tend to sulk on the bottom before begrudgingly giving up.

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I reverted back to my boilie approach on my next trips, because I believe it singles out the larger barbel. Despite a couple of sessions well into dark, all I could muster was a net full of 5lb bream, plus a few chub, though one of these was more than welcome at 5lbs 9oz.

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The odd big fish is still getting caught though so I shall return, rain or no rain, but for now I decided to concentrate on the roach instead.

On my next roach trip I was joined by a mate. I wasn’t too bothered about fishing on this day because the weather was dire. It was chilly and throwing it down. We went to a new swim where I’d recently spotted some roach and chub. I snuck downstream and saw a few roach, with a couple of belters amongst them. They were very hard to see in the gloomy light though. My mate trotted the swim manfully, despite the dire conditions, and was rewarded with a 4lb+ chub and a chunky roach of around 12oz. A  small pike had launched itself at this roach, but let go, allowing it to be quickly landed.

When the weather was at its worst my mate had had enough, allowing me to take over. It was a bad error as I soon swung in a small roach, which the pike jumped out of the water for! It was certainly a bad tempered or very hungry pike, which was confirmed when I struck into my next fish. I could tell it was a big roach, but knowing the angry ‘esox’ was around, I cranked it quickly to the bank, where I shouted at my mate to quickly land it for me, which he did in the nick of time. The pike had almost stolen my prize in the commotion, a few missing scales being the only damage thankfully.

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The scales gave a weight of 1lb 13oz, not quite a ‘2’ but at least it would get the chance to grow on and possibly attain the ‘special mark’

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The next trip was to a completely new area, and obviously another shoal of good sized roach. Initially I had been fooled. Martin and I saw this shoal on one of our walks and he asked me to check them out when the light was better. This I did, getting them taking my casters freely, but I wrote the sizes off at being around 12oz at the best. I realised I’d cocked up big time when Martin rang me one morning to tell me about his catch of good roach, topped off by a couple of low ‘2’s, from that very swim!!! A few days later, at my first available opportunity, I was in the same swim, landing my own silver bullion with the best two fish of the morning going 2lbs and 1lb 10oz The ‘2’ had certainly been in the wars, but seemed fit and healthy.

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In this catch was another half a dozen roach all between 1.4 and 1.8, plus a number of smaller fish from an ounce upwards, so hopefully there are plenty of roach to be going at for the next couple of seasons.

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I walked the same area the next week, wondering how I could have misjudged the sizes so much. What I saw blew me away. This time I approached on the opposite bank to the one I fished. The roach looked very big, in fact there were a lot of big roach, so many that I have to return soon! To confirm my thoughts, I walked miles so that I could look at the roach from the opposite bank, where this time they again looked 12oz at best! The only thing I can put this down to is that if you’re almost level with the water, the light is bent and makes the fish look smaller, but if you’re on a higher bank, this doesn’t happen as much and the fish look nearer to their true size. That’s what probably confused me with the other shoal where they looked bigger than they were. I suppose the moral is don’t judge the size of any fish you spot, at least until you’ve caught a few!

The only downside to this great roach fishing is the loss of the odd big girl. Tiny hooks and light lines means playing a big redfin in flowing water will always be a nail biting affair and this was proven on the 31st of October. I’d singled out three very large roach in the bright autumn sunshine and managed to get the two I wanted most to take my bait. The first was lost after playing it for 30 seconds or so, without ever getting it close in. The second fish came off after just a few seconds. I don’t know how big they were, both of which would have given me a clear picture of the rivers potential for roach, size wise. As Martin said to me later “You’ve had a nightmare on Halloween” It still hurts, but I try to focus on the good times!

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