To any people who like to read this blog, I’d like to apologise for the lack of recent updates, but I’ve simply had very little time for fishing.
In 4 months I’ve had a handful of trips lasting a couple of hours on my local stream, plus an evening on the Trent and a trip to the Hampshire Avon. This is because my girlfriend dismounted her horse doing a triple salchow (with pike) and has damaged her knee. Unable to get around the house, or even get into the shower, this has meant all my spare time has been spent trying to help her. Even now she’s still on crutches and can’t get upstairs, but is just about good enough for me to maybe start sneaking in some longer days out on the bank.
On a couple of short recce’s to my local stream I spotted 2 big roach, but they were living in different shoals with a lot of smaller roach acting as bodyguards. One looked so big I simply had to try for it, but despite several near misses, it refused to take my caster hook bait. I did catch a few of it’s smaller shoal mates though, and plenty of perch which seem to be increasing in numbers.
It was puzzling me where all the big roach had gone. Hopefully they were hiding and have not died or been predated on. I tried a couple of possible holding spots. The first has produced a few 2lb+ roach to both Martin and myself, but this time I only had a few lovely smaller fish and a perch around 2lbs.
The next spot was one where I had a good bag of big roach from last autumn, and again I could see some shapes milling around under some willow branches. I couldn’t be sure if they were big roach or not so I just tried to catch what was on offer. They certainly looked big roach size, but alas, it was those big roach imposters of the river, the chublet of around a pound! There were a few nice roach mixed in with them, and the obligatory perch, but the swim left more questions than answers.
Speaking of those chublets, 3 years ago there was a shoal of similar sized fish that gave good roach impressions whilst playing them. I cursed when they used to surface, but I fished for those same fish a few weeks ago and they’re now almost all over 4lbs, with some over 5lbs!! They gave me a great scrap on light float gear, but if they keep growing they’ll be real specimens. I doubt they will keep growing though because most chub in this river top out at 4lb 8oz, with the odd ‘5’ Again, this catch included the obligatory ‘stripey’
Just when things were looking bleak on the big roach front, I received a late night call from my mate Martin telling me he’d just caught a belting fish for these parts of 2lbs 4oz. At the time he was without his mobile phone, so instead of ringing me to take the photos he had to call on the services of his eldest son Joseph, who did a fine job.
Martin told me there looked to be a few more big roach in the swim so I paid the same area a visit 2 days later. It was a place we’d never tried before so we hoped we’d struck gold, but the big fish looked to have gone when I arrived. They may have been hiding in some foliage, but I could see some other decent roach so I just assumed they’d moved on. Just to be sure I fished for everything in the swim and put a nice net together. The roach were quality fish, but not the lumps this river can produce.
I also caught some chub and of course a lumpy perch of well over 2lbs!
The highlights of the day were these little fellows. I’ve not caught any for ages but I’ve a real soft spot for the gudgeon. When I was a kid they saved many blanks for me and most venues seemed to be teeming with them.
Finally I had a chance to fish for several hours so Martin and I headed for a stretch of the Trent that we knew held big roach as well as big barbel. The plan was to fish for roach until the light started to fade, then switch to the barbel gear. Last year we both caught some cracking redfins from the same swims that we again jumped into on this trip. Plenty were around or over a pound, but the stretch has produced several confirmed 2lb+ fish, so we were full of hope. Unfortunately the roach were not in residence. Last year our quiver tips never stopped twanging and banging, but this time we just caught a few small dace apiece. There may be a reason for this though because powerful forces may have been at work!
Martin and I have always been interested in the ‘unknown’. Right from our middle school days Ghosts, UFO’s and everything in between has always been discussed openly and debated as to whether we think things are true or not. This fishing trip saw the spoon bending psychic Uri Geller being discussed. If anyone searches online they will find evidence that he’s a ‘fake’ and how he achieves his deception, especially in James Randi documentaries. This saw Martin and I openly criticising him and anyone who thinks he’s genuine. He even claimed to move the football for a penalty during the England vs Scotland Euro 96 match! Anyway, while I was slating Uri and his believers I stood up to take a pee, when I heard a crash behind me. I turned just in time to see my Shimano Baitrunner, attached to my rod heading towards the sea at a rate of knots!
It was obviously a barbel that had done this but how it didn’t break the fine ‘roach’ hook link that I had on, before it flattened the rests and dragged the rod away, heavens only knows……….or was it Uri getting revenge?
Anyway, I was gutted at losing all that tackle and having a fish drag my rod through the swims. The long hook link was very fine so it should snap like cotton as soon as the rod reaches the snaggy bottom, but it was still bad angling, especially as I was using a baitrunner. Lesson learned and no more fish caught!
For my last trip I visited the Hampshire Avon to check some big roach out. I’d been invited down by a friend and he told me to prepare myself for seeing something special. At dawn we were on the banks, walking the meadow, looking for signs of roach. Eventually I spotted a fish gliding over some thick weed and said “there’s a chub over there” To which my mate replied “I’ve never seen a chub in this area of river before” We watched the fish ‘waddle’ over the weed, turn to face the flow, and saw its size. We also saw it’s red fins and tail. It was a roach of goliath proportions! “told you you’d see something special” said my mate. And he was dead right, for as the sun rose, we caught sight of more and more roach in the swim. They were very wary though, sticking tight to the weed stems where they entered the river bed, allowing the flow to push the rest of the weed over their backs, making them almost invisible to predators and anglers alike.
Soon we were able to get a handle of the numbers of roach in the swim. There were loads of ‘bodyguards’ probably well over 100+ fish in the 8oz to pound plus size. Then there were the ‘2’s probably around 20+ in numbers ranging from ‘scrapers’ to near ‘3’s and then there were the giants of the shoal. Probably half a dozen, possibly into double figures in numbers, these were the fish to make any anglers lifetime. Genuine 3lb+ river roach swimming just feet from where I was stood, and eating my introduced casters! One must have been almost 18 inches long, with flanks like a bream. I’d hate to estimate what that weighed. It’s a sight that I’ll always remember.
It was obvious from the start these giant roach were tackle shy, but due to the thick weed, you couldn’t fish too light. There were several near misses as a giant would go for my caster only to shy away at the last moment. Unfortunately some of the bodyguards took the bait before I could get it away from them. I knew that for each one landed, the giants would be a lot harder to tempt. The smaller roach had to be admired though. They were perfectly conditioned, so deep and broad that they had to be future giants themselves. Most were in the 12oz to pound plus size, still making for a good day.
We knew that dusk would provide our best opportunity, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, almost falling in the river as I fell asleep stood up! I was privileged to have seen such roach though, and I’d only just set off for home when my mate messaged me with a roach he’d just caught that was well over 2lbs. I daren’t read any more messages he sent after that, but I couldn’t help wishing I lived 200 miles closer! Here is his prize alongside one of the mint ‘bodyguard’ fish we caught.