Autumn Starters

Autumn and spring are my favourite seasons, both in general and fishing terms. Once the trees start to shed their leaves you know that its time to make plans for fishing in the colder months. You also know that fish will start to feed harder to store up energy for the colder times ahead. Also, as is normal in my case, it’s another chance to reflect on a poor summers tench fishing!

Anyway, I kicked off my autumn fishing with a trip to my local river for big roach. The day before I’d had a chat with Martin, which had him telling me he was now only a couple of ‘2’s behind me on our local gem. We’re both a bit competitive, which goes all the way back to our school days when we were strikers in the same football team. It was always a competition to see who could score the most goals and that’s what we’re both still like today, so this time I set off to find some big girls instead of the normal ‘shoal’ fish.

In a usual holding area, I came across half a dozen chunky redfins, possibly 8-10oz. I threw a couple of handfuls of hemp in the swim and sat down to watch. Blow me, if 6 big roach didn’t ghost out of the weed and start tearing the bottom up to get to my hemp! I knew this swim would be a patience game so I threw some more hemp in and went for a walk, armed with some bait.

A few hundred yards away I came across a shoal of medium sized chub. After studying them for a while, I noticed in the middle a couple of them looked like roach, but it was hard to tell, so I crept right to the margins for a closer look. After feeding some mashed bread slightly upstream, I could clearly see three big roach, that were almost as long as the chub! I gave them a few good helpings of mash, then headed back to my ‘hemp’ swim.

On my return the roach were still going crackers for my hemp. I started feeding a few grains every minute, and in doing so, I managed to manoeuvre the fish all over the swim, which is perfect for singling out individual specimens. I soon had them feeding right under my near bank and noticed one with a shredded tail. I remember Martins last ‘2’ had such a tail so I targeted this fish.

My tiny dibber float was used to trot a single grain of hemp on a 20 hook. I managed to hook my target fish on the first run through and after a great scrap on the light gear, I was looking at her in the net. But it was obvious I’d been fooled, as this was an imposter, only weighing just over a pound and a half!

I settled back into my feeding rhythm, but the fish were a bit more nervy now. I noticed a couple of the big fish were hiding under some weed, but were darting out to intercept the loose feed on most occasions. I ran my dibber through once again, tight to the weed. The float jabbed under once more, and I was attached to another good fish. This didn’t put as good a scrap up as the first roach, but it was bream like in it’s depth, so I suspected a good sized specimen. I landed her with no problems, despite the tiny hook, and knew as soon as I picked it up that it should be over 2lbs.

At over 14 inches long (I’ve started measuring some of my ‘2’s now) It weighed in at 2lb 1oz. I sent the photos to Martin straight away, who was at work, just to let him know I’d stretched my lead! I then took a couple of rather poor self take photographs. It’s tricky trying to show a roach to it’s full potential on a ‘selfie’

After this roach I managed to land another of well over a pound, but this spooked the shoal full stop. I didn’t use a keepnet and I think that was the problem. The returned redfins headed straight back to their shoal mates and they knew what my game was! Time to move on to the ‘bread’ swim

When I got back to the other swim all of the fish had gone, but a couple of handfuls of more mashed bread had them returning. While I steadily fed them, I rigged up a small stick float rig, with a size 12 hook this time, just the right size for a piece of flake.

I was beginning to think it impossible to target the roach over the chub, but I noticed the chub would drift 5 yards downstream just after some bread was introduced, but then they quickly worked their way upstream to eat it. The roach however, seemed that little bit braver and on occasions were isolated at the front. On my first attempt I had to quickly reel in when a chub and roach went for my bait together, but a few minutes later, one of the roach was a full 5 feet or so in front of the other fish at the head of the swim. I couldn’t cast in quick enough, and held my float back hard so the flake fluttered right in front of the roach’s eye line. I then let the float through at the pace of the current, and the roach did the rest.

It felt like a real chunk when I set the hook, but by using a size 12 hook, I was confident that if I didn’t make any errors, she would soon be mine. That proved to be the case, despite the roach using the flow to it’s advantage. Once on the mat I could see this roach  was well over 2lbs, despite being the same length as the 2.1 I’d caught earlier. This was so deep and broad, and the scales confirmed this when they said 2.4, my best redfin from this river. I called Martin to see if he’d help with the photos. In the hour it took him to finish work and walk to the river, I managed to catch one of the chub, but the remaining roach had long gone. Still, I think it had been a good day!

After work the next day, I was straight back in the ‘hemp’ swim. This time I never had time to ‘bait and wait’ so it was a case of catching like I was in a match. I also used a keepnet and had a great evenings sport, though all of the roach were between 4 and 12oz. They were so pristine and chunky, they all looked like future 2 pound fish, so they were all treated with respect. I did lose a big fish at last knockings, but as I knew from the day before, it could have been anything from 1.8 to one of the ‘2’s You can’t complain with a nice bag of hemp caught river redfins though.

After having my roach fill, and stretching my lead over Martin, I looked for some new areas to fish for barbel. As I type this, I’ve had a couple of short trips after work that have produced plenty of these.

Just when I was getting sick of catching bream, the rod bent double and I leant into my first barbel of the autumn. What a great fight they put up. I managed a couple, both around 8lbs, but it’s a start.

I think I’ll stick to barbel fishing for the next few weeks, though Martin has reduced the 2lb roach deficit by one already!