If you have followed my Angling Journal over the last couple of years, you will be aware that I have spent a lot of my time pursuing the bigger species such as barbel, pike, bream and so on. Therefore it has been a refreshing change to target fish such as roach. Even the maximum sized roach would be just a baby compared to the previously mentioned species. In many ways we do live in a society where ‘big is best’ and this will invariably filter into angling. I for one enjoy all species, and whilst I will be trying to catch the biggest I can of that fish from any particular water, nevertheless I’m totally happy with whatever comes along.
I managed a couple of sessions this week, both on the local canal and both after roach. The first session saw me arrive as the day came to an end and so any boats that were around would have been moored up for the night. Not that I object to boats on the canal of course, they have as much right as I do to be on there. But I do prefer to time my sessions so that I avoid them. At the height of summer, as soon as one passes another is there to take its place. And whilst the odd boat is no problem (and can actually be beneficial in some ways) an endless stream will no doubt kill the swim.
So setting up as the sun set, particularly at this time of the year, I knew I had no problems ahead. I was still fishing pretty much how I had on previous visits, although I had stepped up the hook length very slightly due to having lost a few fish, which I suspected to be small carp. I didn’t even go down the road that they may be big roach! Fishing bread on the hook, I was hoping to eliminate the gudgeon.
However, I didn’t eliminate them totally, as on this session I caught two! In fact it was just as well, as they were the only fish that I did catch! Although I had a few dips and shudders on the float, nothing developed further than that. The roach seemed to be totally absent from the swim, or at least not showing any interest at all in the bait. I suppose at this stage I could wheel out the well worn ‘there must have been a big pike in the swim’ excuse that is often used. However, I won’t and couldn’t really, as the stretch is not noted for them.
It was a very slow session overall, and I did try to analyse why I had struggled. But sometimes you just don’t know the answers, and in many ways I am glad of that. That’s what makes angling what it is. Imagine if everything was so predicable, that every session you made, before you even left the house, you know exactly what you would catch, when you would catch it, and how big it would be!
Returning to the same spot a couple of days later, it was noticeable how the leaves had now started to fall off the trees along the far bank. With it being windy, the autumn process had been accelerated. I know people complain about the English weather, but I really do appreciate how we have four very distinct seasons and certainly as anglers, our quarry is determined by the time of the year that we are fishing.
I did say the same spot, but that wasn’t quite true though. The stretch in question is littered with dog mess and so I was forced to move slightly, otherwise I would have been sitting directly on a very unpleasant substance! People just don’t care; I watch them walking along the bank, throwing litter, letting their dogs mess everywhere and so on. There was a time when perhaps I would challenge people about this sort of anti-social behaviour, but not any longer. My car was parked in an obvious place indicating that it was mine; and the last thing I want to see is a scratch down the side or a screwdriver pushed into the tyres. So now I just keep out of things and let people get on with what they are going to do anyway. Sadly that is how society is these days.
But as darkness set in, the people disappeared, leaving me to fish in peace. Well, apart from the late barge that was! After all I have previously written about fishing late and avoiding the boats, one went through the swim. Still, It has been the only one I have encountered so far on the stretch so I shouldn’t grumble.
But the fishing was just as hard as the first session. And again I had just two gudgeon to show for my labours. Well, until the very end that is. As the float dipped I struck into a fish that immediately started to take me up and down the canal. Using light line I had no option other than to let it go. Apart from overhanging tress and reed beds there are no other snags in the swim, so as long as I could let the fish wear itself out, I knew that there would be a good chance of netting it.
After a fight that lasted a couple of minutes or so, eventually I lifted a common carp out of the water and onto the bank. It would have been nice if it had been a roach of course, but at least I had something to illustrate the article with other than a gudgeon in the palm of my hand! But the fish had been a lesson in perseverance. It had been a terrible night, weather wise. The wind and the rain had been beating down and many a sane man would have been sat by the fire, but instead I kept going. And it was just minutes before midnight that I hooked the fish, just as I was about to pack away.
(Originally published October 2005)