Keeping the best till last (roach article and video, entry 451)

Watch the video   Click images above to enlarge   Angling Journal website


The opening session is the one that features in the accompanying article, and I cover a fair amount of ground there, so there’s no need to repeat the stuff featured. After a few trips for other species, namely barbel and chub, it was great to get back on the roach trail again. I’m not an all-rounder for that reason, but the freshness of targeting different species and using various methods definitely keeps my piscatorial passions bubbling away nicely. And as you can see from the video I ended with a perch (photo 1) and roach (photo 2). Nothing else of any size followed though.

The lake in question has produced some big roach in recent years, but it seems that this season has seen a sharp fall in quality of fish produced. A few day-ticket regulars have really been struggling and as far as I know, I’m the only one on there this time round to have caught a ‘2’. One distressing sign has been the number of dead fish in the margins, either seen by myself, or reported to me by the carp syndicate anglers. Getting to know them in my first season there, they have come to see me as ‘the roach man’ and a number of them share roach-related things with me.

There doesn’t seem to be any smaller fish washed up dead though, so as sad as it may be, it is probably just an age thing. A year class is basically dying off through nothing other than old age. Happens to everything in the end, including us. However in the meantime I’m enjoying the challenge of pursuing whatever big roach are still alive and kicking, and as with all angling it has to be about pleasure. So whether we recognise ourselves as specimen, specialist, predator, carp, barbel or whatever anglers, if we’re not pleasure fishermen then we miss the mark.

In the video I say that the session was going to be the first of several late afternoons/early evenings on the lake. Well, I was saying that not knowing that the weather was going to suddenly turn. Within a couple of days the relatively reasonable conditions were going to be engulfed by sub-zero temperatures, as easterlies brought Moscow weather to the UK. Not that the cold bothers me, but when the lake freezes over then it’s time to look elsewhere for piscatorial pleasures. And it was to a small local river that I turned my attention.

For those of you that read my Angling Journal regularly then you will know that I have fished the River Stour (photo 3) from time to time for roach, particularly in the winter as it does fish well during the colder months. That’s not the famous Dorset waterway though but the one mostly unknown outside of the area – the one that flows through the Black Country, into rural Staffordshire and Worcestershire before finally emptying itself into the Severn, leaving its legacy in the form of the name of the riverside town Stourport.

I only had a short 3 hour session, but as it was up to dark, it was timed for maximum effect. I fished a small bomb and a single maggot on a size 18 hook. The river was normal winter level, so choosing a deep (relatively speaking) slow section I threw my white crumb out by hand as well as the few maggots that went in as well. I had a few taps but nothing developed. But in the conditions, even a slight movement of the tip is a result sometimes!

Regarding the Stour, as with numerous other small waterways it does have a few Environment Agency data stations, and that’s one that you can see above (photo 4) at Stourton. I’m sure most anglers are aware that the EA has a section on their website whereby you an check water levels. They’re updated on an ongoing basis and the graph gives you a great picture of what’s going on. The information doesn’t include temperature unfortunately, but I have found the site invaluable since it went live. Definitely check it out and keep an eye on what’s happening on your local river.

My next outing, with stillwaters still frozen solid, was back on the Stour. This time though I managed to get amongst the fish and had a number of roach and even a small gudgeon. Most of the roach were small and didn’t even need the net but one of them (photo 5) gave me a terrific take as the tip pulled right round and I found myself playing a nice fish. It wasn’t as big as I first though so definitely one punching above its weight. But from the venue it was ok. A lovely plump, fin-perfect small river roach. What more can you ask for?

My next roach trip was back on the lake as milder conditions meant it was no longer one big sheet of ice. I decide to fish two rods, in effect what you would call ‘carp style’, with hangers, bank sticks and bite alarms (photo 6). The only difference being everything was scaled down so I put 6 magnet wheels in my bite alarms for example. Sensitivity was so that even the slightest pluck would set the blue light off, even if the hanger itself didn’t move. And although I did get a few roach enquiries, the only fish to make it beyond the surface was a perch (photo 7).

Back on the bank again for a short afternoon session and I had just one take that saw me playing a double figure carp. I did all the hard work, bringing it in on roach gear. Then I had a hook pull right at the side. I was wondering how it was going to fit in the net though, so that was one problem solved at least! On my next visit I caught, but only small roach and a perch.

With the weather more like spring than winter, I saw the benefits all around me including a fully formed coots nest (photo 8) and my first white-clawed crayfish of the year (4 in the margins), my first daubenton’s bat and 8 pipistrelles flitting between trees and the lake. It’s an art form in itself trying to count bats at last light against dark backgrounds. A bit like plate spinning, trying to keep them all in focus. So there may well have been more than the number I saw, that’s just the total in view at one time.

But what about a nice roach to end the Journal entry with? I always like to get a least one good fish per article. Not that it’s a problem if I don’t because I enjoy fishing full stop. But if I can top the entry off with a decent fish of the species I’m targeting, that’s just the icing on the cake that’s all. So on my final outing would I get my wish come true? Well, as you can see (photos 9,10) I did. As I so often emphasise, it’s not just the weight of the actual fish that’s important, but the venue and so on. And as I’ve been struggling to get something decent out of late I was certainly over the moon.

The lake kept the best till last and it was a lesson in perseverance. I could have given up when just the smaller ones were coming out but I wanted to battle on. Not in a stubborn way – there’s a massive difference between stubbornness and determination. The latter is good, the former bad. And as this was to be my last visit to the venue until summer, it was great to go out on a positive. I’ve really enjoyed my trips to the lake and will be picking up again later in the year. In the meantime though I want to focus on middle Severn chub and see if I can go out on a high there too before the season ends. Want to know how I get on? As they say, watch this space! (article published March 3 2012)

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