Spring has finally sprung (roach article and video, entry 292)

Spring has finally sprung

After a difficult winter, spring has finally arrived and just like a greyhound on a lease with a rabbit running away from it, the burst of energy when it is finally released is electric. And so it has been in the natural world over the past seven days or so. From one extreme to another, the lifelessness of winter has suddenly been elbowed out the way by a spring eager to make up for lost time. From just small clusters of brave snowdrops battling the elements, whole sections have shot up from nowhere. The birds are beginning their mating displays – I watched a female great spotted woodpecker being pursued by a male through a copse – and a very early pair of magpies were attending a well constructed nest.


Back on the Stour

My plans for the week consisted of a number of sessions on the local River Stour. Afternoon-into-evening trips meant that I was able to fish the river three times. The conditions this side of the water had a big bearing on what was happening beneath the surface, and the temperature rose from 6.5C at the start of the week to 8.7C by the time I finished the last session. Yet in spite of the upturn, I didn’t see any real payback in what I caught.

I did net a few roach, but all were short of the 1lb mark. But what they lacked in size they more than made up for with good looks. None of them showed any sign of mouth damage through angler’s ill treatment or ragged fins because of being crammed into a poor quality keepnet. I am not going to make the bold statement that they have never been caught before, because I can’t qualify that, but they certainly looked top notch.

In the main I have had the whole stretch to myself and the one or two other anglers that I have seen on the river have all packed away by 3.00pm – just as I have been arriving. I know that we all have to fish around other factors – myself included – but I do feel that a lot of anglers miss out on prime time fishing by leaving too early.



A good looking Stour roach


A good fish lost

I did lose a particularly good fish during dusk on the second trip of the week.With no snags it was a case of simply playing it in and it was all mine. However the hook pulled and so all I got to take from it was a few seconds of being connected. As it turned out, as far as my Stour sessions were concerned, this fish was the thin line between ‘success’ and ‘failure’ and in this case I was on the wrong side of the line.

The Stour is one of those rivers that, although it can rise quickly, also tails off equally so. And with no rainfall of any sort to drop on its catchment area for several days, it was normal level, which for a small river like the Stour means that dusk through into dark will always be the best time to tempt fish into feeding.

I also caught a couple of gudgeon while on the river, but as I avoided the big shoals that are in some stretches, I continued to fish with single maggot. If I did encounter gudgeon I would simply have switched to a larger piece of bread or paste to help avoid them.

The canal to round the week off






Tip of the week


Dusk and into dark is a prime time for big fish.

So if possible, stay that extra hour or two and you will find that it is definitely worthwhile.


To finish the week off though I switched from the river to the local canal. With the temperature on the rise I fancied a crack at perch. So on the Friday morning I was up while it was still dark and on my way to my chosen stretch as the sun was rising. Although a little behind the river, and no doubt affected by the first overnight frost in a while, it was still a good 5.9C. So it was with confidence that I cast a small waggler float about a length or so out.

The maggot was taken almost immediately by a small gudgeon and that went out on the livebait rod. Within the hour, the 5g bob suddenly and without any warning whatsoever, disappeared. The result was not a perch as I hoped, but a small pike. I added more gudgeon but it was at 12.20pm, as I entered the last hour of the session that the float once more came to life and I netted another pike, this one much bigger. A week that was so promising, certainly as far as the water temperatures were concerned, had in reality been a struggle. The best week of the year but one of the hardest. That’s angling for you.



A pike right at the end of the week

Clash of angling cultures

The peg that I fished on the canal was a good 15 minute walk from the access point and on the way I passed numerous swims that remained vacant. Yet in spite of that, an hour into fishing along came another angler who promptly set up within pole-touching distance next to me. Sometimes people do this out of arrogance or a couldn’t-care-less attitude, but more often than not it’s just a clash of angling cultures and no harm is intended. Many anglers fish commercials where in some cases they sit shoulder to shoulder and fish the small section of water in front of them.

But for the specialist fisherman, anything less than 50 yards of frontage to himself is bordering on the claustrophobic. So when someone pitches up right alongside you, and particularly when the rest of the canal is empty, it is a case of cramping your style. But my style wasn’t cramped for long as a couple of hours later he went and I once more had the feeling of freedom return.


Click on the icon for this week’s video clip


The week ahead

At the time of writing I haven’t got a clue! I’m thinking perch or roach but the upward turn in the temperature has me considering barbel for the first time this year. But whatever I do, I’ll definitely be out somewhere, that’s for sure!

(Originally posted February 2009)

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