Ten out of ten for trying (roach article, entry 81)

With a very cold week in prospect, most sane people were probably looking forward to evenings at home sat in front of the fire. Outdoor activities were going to be confined to walking to the car, and that was about the limit for most folks. However, as far as I was concerned, I was looking forward to getting back to some roach fishing, after three weeks of pursuing barbel. Every cloud has a silver lining if you look hard enough, and freezing weather means you invariably have the whole venue to yourself. The optimist can see something positive in everything!

I decided to have the first session of the week on the Middle Severn. It was a very windy day, and after a couple of attempts to set up the umbrella, I quit. Although there were several bursts of rain, it was bearable! I was more concerned with the fact that I couldn’t position my rod close enough to the water to eliminate the effect of the wind on the tip.

It was just impossible to know whether I had a bite or not, and so as darkness drew in I finally gave up. Not that I stopped fishing, I just moved to a more suitable peg! It takes a lot more than gale force winds to cause me to head for home! I settled into a swim that enabled me to fish properly, as the rod tip remained still, sheltered by a bush to my left that offered respite from the forces of nature.

After a day that had produced a dace and a couple of gudgeon, well into darkness the tip gently started to pull round. Striking, I connected with a fish that was certainly much bigger than the ‘tiddlers’ I had earlier encountered. It put up a very energetic fight, and within a few moments I realised that I had hooked into another small barbel. I use the word ‘another’ because so far on my roach campaign, although my target specimen fish have eluded me, I’ve had several barbel and chub on the bank.

After a scrap that lasted a little longer than normal, due to the fact that I was fishing with roach gear, I eventually slipped the net under the fish. I didn’t bother weighing it, but returned it to the now very cold river, where it swam back to join its friends. It obviously didn’t give them a very good report, as none of them decided to follow its lead. But as I was targeting roach, that didn’t bother me in the slightest.

As it happened, the barbel was the final fish of the session. Although the wind had dropped slightly, the cold was now biting deep, and so walking back to the car across the meadow, I was happy just to get my toes defrosted a little, as the friction of movement generated some heat. I’m sure all winter anglers appreciate what I am saying!

But like me I’m sure you never let the battle with Mother Nature get you down. No matter how cold it gets, within minutes of setting off for home in the car I am thinking about my next session! I fancied a go at some still-water roach on the gravel pit that is my alternative when the rivers aren’t too good. And although there was nothing wrong with the river on this occasion, I still wanted to fish the pit. On the couple or so sessions I’ve done so far, I’ve had a few lightning quick bites that I have been unable to hit.

Fishing a massive gravel pit for a particular species may appear to be a challenge in itself, but once you get to know the underwater topography, it’s not such a daunting task as may first appear. Having done the groundwork in plumbing the venue, I knew where the deep water was, so I could focus there and hope to connect with the roach, as they shoal up for the winter. Fishing a new peg, the moment I arrived I was almost mobbed by a number of water birds. Obviously used to people feeding them bread, after a while they dispersed when they realised they were getting nothing from me.

Although I had come with maggots only on this occasion, I made a mental note to bring bread on the next visit, as no doubt the fish were already used to the odd crumb or two making its way through the water. Fishing two rods, I had to wait until almost dark before I had a bite. And as my concentration was being drawn by a passer-by that was talking to me, I missed it!

But over the next few hours of darkness I managed to hit a couple of the other bites that followed. Not big fish by any stretch of the imagination, but when you have been struggling on the roach front like I have, then any fish is more than welcome! I did try a pose holding fish, as well as a couple with just a hand shot, but the latter definitely won. The truth was that the fish were just too small to do a full shot any justice. Even my wife said it looked like I was holding a goldfish!

Nevertheless, goldfish or not, I was certainly encouraged that I had at last located some roach. Excitedly I returned for a final session of the week. This time I intended to fish maggot on one rod and bread on the other, as per the observations on my previous visit. Well, I won’t bore you with all the details, except to say that I lost 0-2. That’s two bites (and very quick ones they were at that!) and no fish.

Looking in my angling diary, I noted that this was my fourteenth roach session this campaign. Turning the superstition factor well and truly on its head, it had been the thirteenth trip that had produced the only roach of the week. Not that I entertain the notion of luck (good or bad) anyway. But with my overall tally of quality fish this winter being non-existent, I think that it is very apt to say that I deserve ten out of ten for trying at least!

(Originally published January 2005)

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