Christmas Crackers

It’s that crazy time of year again if you’re a postman, or one of Santa’s helpers! The daylight is at it’s shortest and I’m at my busiest, so fishing trips are hard to squeeze in. However, I have managed a few after work trips and a couple of hours in the morning on my day off. All on my local river of course, as travelling is out of the question because things are just too hectic in December.

Every now and then the river gives you a nice gift and this Christmas I’ve had mine. After the goosander troubles had rendered all my usual roach swims as no go areas, due to no fish being there!, I was walking the banks, fish spotting, when I came across a shoal of nice chub. The water was really low and clear so I crept up on them. I disturbed them slightly and they headed for the middle, where there was a bit of weed for cover. It was at this point I became rather excited. Yes there was 3 nice chub to look at, but the rest were great big roach. I watched them for a while, illuminated by the low winter sun, and I was sure they were fish I’d not seen before. I headed home for my tackle and was back on the bank an hour later, after preparing some mashed bread for feed.

I baited the swim for half an hour or so while I assembled my tackle. If these roach weren’t fished for, I was pretty certain they’d be easy to catch straight away, but it’s always nice to give them plenty of time to lower their guards and get a taste for the bait before starting. The first run through of the stick float saw a redfin of just over a pound come to the net. This was slightly disappointing as most of the roach looked bigger than that. I was happier after the next trot because a lovely fish of 1lb 10oz gave me that familiar heart in mouth roach tussle. That fish had made my day, but things got better on the next cast. I thought I’d hooked one of the chub at the bottom of the swim, but as it came within netting range I could see a cracking roach. I prayed the hook would stay in place and it did, which saw 14.5 inches of silver and red slip over my landing net.

The weight was bang on 2lbs, and another new fish for me at this weight, which probably confirmed my suspicions that this was a new shoal of big roach I’d found.

The light was starting to fade so I called it a day. I phoned Martin with my news and would you believe it, he’d already found the shoal and had caught a 2lb fish himself! What made this news better though was that after comparing photos, they were obviously different fish and again, it wasn’t a fish we’d seen before. I couldn’t wait to get back.

My next day off work saw me waiting on the bank for it to get light, while feeding a little mashed bread now and then to get them ready for my piece of flake, hopefully! The conditions were poor for roach, freezing cold and clear, but at least the lack of wind would make float control easy. After a couple of hours I’d landed a dozen prime roach with several over one and a half pounds. It was dream fishing, but alas with no ‘2’s this time, the best fish being 1lb 11oz. I could have continued but I had a busy day ahead of me. I’d just have to fit more sessions in when I could.

I ended my next session early. I could have carried on catching these magnificent roach, but a pike, possibly around 8 to 10lbs was attacking everything I hooked, even fish it had no chance of fitting down it’s mouth. This was marking a few of the roach badly so I decided to do something about it.

I returned and quickly caught it on a small roach deadbait. Now I could never kill a pike for doing what it does naturally, unlike some people, so I ran as fast as I could with it in my sling before placing it about 100 yards away, in with a large shoal of small to medium sized chub. I told this most aggressive of pike that they taste far nicer than roach, and I think she realises this as she hasn’t bothered my roach since!

My next session was an after work quiver tipping job in the dark. Again, the weather was freezing and I was expecting chub more than roach. This was what happened on the first cast as the tip started bouncing with a chub trying to make away with my bread. An hour later though and it was turning into another cracking roach session as more chunky roach banged the tip round, almost like barbel do. I could have sworn the best fish was going to be 2lbs, but it fell short at 1lb 13oz. It looked all the world a ‘2’, but when I measured her at 13.5 inches I could see she needed to grow just a tad longer. I know roach are built differently from river to river, and stillwaters of course, but the general length of 2 pound fish in this river is between 14 and 14.5 inches long, thanks to those genetics that give them their broad backs and pigeon chests.

As I write this I’ve just come out of hospital after my eye operation and the good news is my sight has been restored, far better than I could ever have hoped. It’s just a tad sore at the moment and I’ve a bit of double vision, but in a couple of weeks everything should have settled down nicely. Even better news is Martin has landed another ‘new 2’ from the shoal at almost 2lb 2oz, so it seems we’ve discovered another cracking shoal of redfins. We’re not going to hammer them though, probably only going once a week at the most. While we know that the great fishing can end as quickly as it started, we don’t want to be the ones to cause the demise. There seems to be at least a few other ‘2’s in the shoal, but even if we don’t catch them, how can you not be happy with a few over 1.5lbs every time in a short session?

All I need to do now is wish everyone who reads this blog a Happy New Year for 2018 and may your lines always be tight! All the best