The cold week that was (roach article, entry 85)

We’ve had a relatively mild winter so far, but all that changed over the last week as Arctic conditions swept across the whole of the United Kingdom. I know from visiting various angling Internet forums, many fishermen simply stayed at home and put their feet up by the fire. However, for us die-hards, the call of the water always proves irresistible!

Therefore, with Tuesday being the first day that I had free to go fishing, I loaded the car and set off for the Middle Severn, in pursuit of my elusive specimen roach! At this time of the year, roach will shoal up, often quite tightly, and all I can say is that so far this winter I haven’t found the shoals! Although I have caught the odd fish, the ‘biggie’ is still playing hard to get. Still, that’s the challenge of angling. I know there are some anglers that claim to catch 2lb roach every cast, but unfortunately for me, I’m not one of them!

Arriving at the River Severn, although there was no snow (the eastern part of the country had been most affected) it was certainly cold. Even at the height of the day the air temperature was only marginally above zero, and with the wind-chill factor it was minus. But of course, what happens above the water is not that relevant. What really counts is what goes on beneath the surface.

And on that front it was bad news, with water temperatures plummeting and heading towards the 3C bracket. Whilst forever the optimist, I am also very realistic, and I always knew it would be hard going. And so it was. When you get excited about one sucked maggot then it shows that you are scraping the barrel! The only real excitement was when the snow came just after mid-day. It really started to fall heavily, and call me crazy, but I actually enjoy fishing in the snow!

By the time I packed away, which was into darkness, it was pretty cold all round! But driving home, the only thing on my mind was working out the details of my next trip! Although I really liked the look of the area I had fished on the Middle Severn (it was my first visit there), I felt that it needed a raise in temperature before I could make a judgement. Therefore, with the cold weather predicted to hang around for a little while longer, I decided to visit the River Teme.

Therefore, Thursday saw me heading westwards to fish a river that I haven’t been on for a good twelve months. Although I was still hopeful of enticing a roach or two, at least I knew that I’d get some action from the ever-reliable grayling, should the roach not be obliging. The stretch I chose had a deeper run towards the end, which is where any roach would be found – providing they were there in the first place of course!

The river looked good, and apart from the water temperature, it was quite inviting. I fished with a cage feeder containing crumb and dead maggots with three maggots as hook bait. Almost immediately I caught a fish – a small grayling. For anyone that really wants to catch no matter how cold it may be, then the grayling is your species. It is the one fish that you can always depend upon. I’ve had them when the banks have been so hard that you can’t even get your bank stick in to set your rod rest up.

Over the rest of the session I caught five more grayling, each one giving a good account for itself. They really do fight well and certainly pack a punch far more than the weight of the individual fish would suggest. If they grew to double figure weights then I have no doubt that they would achieve the cult status that several other species have. I feel a bit sorry for them sometimes – game anglers don’t really want to claim them as one of their own and the coarse angling fraternity doesn’t always acknowledge them either!

Although I didn’t catch any roach, I did have a brown trout and a chub that was just under 2lb. And to be honest, with the conditions the way they were, I’d have settled for anything at the start of the week! Although there wasn’t any snow on the banks of the Teme, there were plenty of snow showers that came in concentrated bursts, driven in by the very cold NE wind.

Even people who know my total dedication to angling were surprised that I had even considered going out, never mind actually done it. But my wife was not fooled; even at the start of the week she asked her usual questions…’What day are you going?’…’What do you want to take to eat?’…’Will you be staying out all night or coming back home?’

We are just a couple of weeks away now from the end of the river season, and I shall be continuing to pursue both roach and barbel. As to which species I actually focus on each week, well that decision is out of my hands, it’s all down to the weather. But hopefully, as far as the roach are concerned at least, I will be able to catch something decent. But as they say, a bad day’s angling beats a good day’s work anytime!

(Originally published February 2005)

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