What a contrast!
When Stu Maddocks got in touch with me regarding a big roach water that he had come across, my heart started to beat faster. And when he said that the carpers were moaning because they caught fish to 3lb, well at that, I had my gear packed ready. And the day couldn’t come quickly enough; in fact I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve when I went to bed the night before. I ought to have been tired, after all I’d been on a marathon work day which ended by getting to bed at 12.30 am. And with the alarm clock set at four something, I really ought to have been catching zeds. Not Sander lucioperca either, but grabbing some shut-eye. Instead I did little more than cat nap, often waking with the prospect of monster roach making me feel more like seven years of age instead of forty seven. And long may that child-like appeal continue, I say!
But soon the time did come to rise properly, and after tea and toast I loaded the car and set off on a journey to the roach lake. While it was still dark I found myself in the car park with a reply text from Stu saying that he would be a couple of minutes. At the very first sign of daybreak I found myself walking the venue, with Mr Maddocks giving me the benefit of his insight into the lake so far, although pool might be a more appropriate word to reflect the size of the water. Stu’s first visit saw him catch half a dozen fish over the 1lb mark, but his return trip left him seriously struggling. That’s specimen angling for you and I was under no illusions as we settled on where we were going to set up camp for the day. I knew that I would give it my best shot and then it was down to the roach whether or not that shot hit the target.
A great start to session two
The very first thing I did on dumping my gear at the water’s edge was to get the shelter in place, and with rain and wind forecast for most of the day I went for my Trakker brolly which is much more secure than a bog-standard job. Then with shelter ticked, the next item on the agenda was to find out the depth of the water in front of me. This is so important, the last thing we should be doing is turning up and casting out blind. I want to know as much as possible not only what is in front of me depth-wise but also the make-up of the bottom and the presence of any snags that may be around. A rod length out I found that it was 10 feet deep, this steadily became 12 feet and 14 feet. Casting my 5g pike bob and lead out a few times I got a complete picture of what was before me. The next step was to take the water temperature. Although it was my first visit, a reading would give me a general idea of where things were going, and at 8.2C I was confident.
I had already given the session much thought and had gone for a 20g cage feeder packed with brown crumb and live maggots. And with so many of my sessions revolving around a bite alarm recently, I was looking forward to watching a quiver tip – a 0.75 ounce glass tip to be precise. I did use bite alarms though in case you see the video and are confused – but they weren’t switched on. Casting out and gently tightening to the weight of the feeder I was very excited. However my pregnant anticipation didn’t result in the birth of anything other than a few tiny roach and perch, none of which needed the landing net. It was the same all round, with Bruce’s later appearance (this was Stu’s friend who had put him on the venue in the first place) resulting in a single foul hooked perch. Stu did manage a decent fish though of one and a quarter pounds, and was gutted to have lost a very good two-pounder, but apart from that he struggled too. One of the advantages of fishing with others is you have comparisons for your own day.
Just short of the magical 2lb
But not to be outdone I was back a couple of days later, this time alone. I headed for the same swim, believing that it still had unfulfilled potential. My tactics and everything were exactly the same; just because I had struggled previously there was no need to press the panic button. I had full confidence that it would come right, and on this occasion my faith was definitely rewarded as you already have seen from the photographs on this page. In fact from the moment I cast out at first light and tightened up to the cage feeder it was pretty much regular action right the way through till dusk. And the great thing about the session is that I didn’t get the usual sucked maggots that you so often end up with when roach fishing; so there wasn’t the frustration of all those lightning quick bites that you keep missing. Well I do anyway! And to complete the rundown of my tackle, I was using 4lb Maxima straight through to a single maggot fished on a Drennan Super Specialist size 18. The short hook length of four inches was created by a size 8 shot on the line and covered with a 5mm ESP rubber bead. Keep it simple!
Keepnets aren’t allowed on the venue but the opening shot of two roach was because the moment I caught one, the other rod was alive as well, so I ended up with two in the landing net, having had just enough time to get the hook out the mouth of the first fish. Some of the bites were amazing wrap-arounds, more like a barbel take than a roach. I think I could have fished a 2.5lb test curve rod and still caught the fish that I did! It was just one of those days, and as the article states, what a contrast. Just two days separated the sessions and yet how totally different they were. That’s certainly angling for you isn’t it. We have to do everything that we can but ultimately it’s down to the fish. They are the ones who dictate what goes on. But on this occasion they were certainly up for it and I wasn’t complaining. I ended the session with a total of eleven fish over the 1lb mark and as I tweeted (twitter.com/stewartbloor) the ongoing tally, I know that people were watching it increase in number, as they later told me. I’m just surprised that I had time to tweet with all the action!
Another quality orange fin!
The best fish of the session was just a shade under 2lb. In fact if my scales are out slightly in the ‘wrong’ direction then it may well be over the magical mark. But I’m not really bothered about that, as you can see from the photograph it was still a magnificent fish. I could quite easily have passed it off as a ‘2’ though, I’m sure some anglers may have done; whether by a casual approach or a much more deliberate intention, you wouldn’t be able to argue from the photograph the weight of the fish. But all we do is deceive ourselves, and with angling riddled with enough bad attitudes as it is, if I’m to give someone reason to be jealous I prefer to do it the legitimate way! One thing you will notice from the shots is that I wasn’t able to use the usual ‘red-finned’ insertion when anyone ever talks about roach, as they were of a very definite orange hue!
The birding was ok, with the highlight being a flock of c.300 lapwings in flight around the area. These were resident birds as I saw them on both sessions. There were also very large numbers of gulls present on the site. Black headed gulls were the predominant species, but lesser black-backed, great black-backed and herring were also present in significant numbers. The common alder tree behind my swim also hosted a single redpoll which I managed to capture on film as well, and that features in the accompanying video. One thing I love about this time of the year is not only how the long tailed tits flock together but how they are joined by other tit species, in this case a blue tit and two great tits. I love my fishing but I also love the broader package of the British countryside that I get to enjoy when I’m out and about.
(click icon above for this week’s video)
(Originally published November 2009)