Cold toes in May! (roach article, entry 461)

 Click images above to enlarge 

If you read my Angling Journal even casually, then you will be aware that when I go fishing I always target a specific species. However, I always have one eye on what’s going on in terms of other fish. For example, I may be after tench, but lots of fry scattering in the margins has me storing information on pike for the future. And one of the signs that I always focus on is roach topping at dusk. A very visual sign that not only tells us that the species is present but also where, and important to a specimen angler like myself, the size of fish in the venue. And with decent roach showing on a place where I have fished for perch, sooner or later it was obvious that I would have to get stuck into the potential on offer.

 Needing to cast a decent distance of about 30 metres or so, I opted for a 1oz glass quiver tip and 20g cage feeder filled with brown crumb, live and dead maggots. A hook length of about 4 inches led to a size 16 hook and double red maggot. The venue isn’t small (photo 1) and so even more than normal, location is the key. A bright sunny day with not much of a ripple on the surface meant I was expecting the fish, if any present in the swim, to come on the feed later on.

So it was a nice surprise to have a pull on the tip early evening that saw me hook into what turned out to be a very nice debut roach for the venue (photo 2). I love roach and while they may not be as popular as the likes of barbel and carp, without doubt I would sooner catch a 2lb roach than a 10lb barbel or a 20lb carp. So although the fish was the only one of the session I was certainly contented with it. Big roach are brilliant!

My next outing was a short one and to the local canal, where I have focused on other species such as perch and carp in recent years but largely neglected roach. Well, with the cost of fuel these days combined with the number of outings I do, I need local venues. Plus most of my sessions are quite short and for cost-effectiveness then definitely the less travelling the better. Again as with the first session, I set off for a stretch where I have seen roach topping at dusk when I’ve been after perch previously.

My bait attack was a grain of corn on the hook fished over hemp and corn flavoured with SBS tutti frutti groundbait mixer (photo 3). Like many products, its use extends far beyond the remit on the label. I cooked the hemp at home and placed it in a bag with some liquid, making sure it was well distributed, and then put it in my bait freezer so that the hemp drew the flavour in. The same with the corn. I fished with a small float, 1lb 6oz line and a size 16 hook.

It was very slow going and not until well into dusk did I get my first fish (photo 4). Not a big one but it saved me from a blank and that’s something to be thankful for. I did fish a little into dark and while the fish didn’t provide any action I was well entertained by my bat listening device (photo 5). On my recent 50th birthday my wife wanted to get me something special and that’s what I had. If you read my angling articles even casually you will know I have a passion for British wildlife and incorporate the natural world into my writings.

Bats often feature, particularly as a lot of my angling is done in their busy time. In the past year, I’ve seen daubenton’s, pipistrelle, serotine and noctule while out angling. Well now, not only can I see them but I can hear them as well, as the bat device enables you to tune in to the frequency of the species. In this instance I was listening to a brown long-eared bat on 41khz! I also picked up common pipistrelles as well, although I didn’t see anything from either species, just heard them.

It really is fascinating stuff and I would say even if you aren’t particularly interested in the natural world you would find listening to bats intriguing. I know I do! Something else to keep me occupied on long, lonely nights while I’m waiting for that big fish to turn up! But my next session was back to the venue that opened this article. And as it was a day session, the bat device stayed at home. Plus I was fishing two rods so needed to be focused, particularly at dusk when any decent roach might be putting in an appearance.

It was a murky overcast day, that by the time I packed away, was also very wet as well. And cold toes daytime fishing in May? I can’t remember if I’ve ever experienced that before. But you have to be in it to win it and that’s my set-up (photo 6) which to all intents and purposes looks like I am carp fishing. And my approach was very similar except that everything was scaled down. It’s a big venue and you need a decent chuck to get amongst the fish.

Oh and by the way, for the eagle-eyed amongst you, the keepnet was just placed where it is in the photograph at the start of the session. When I did catch my first fish it was positioned properly in deep water. And the one that had the honour of going in first was a bream (photo 7). I had been getting a few roach plucks on the double maggot so when I had a proper bite I was quite hopeful. But it wasn’t to be and from the initial fight (smaller bream definitely put up a greater struggle than their bigger counterparts) I knew what species I was playing.

I was fishing cage feeders and my mix (photo 8) consisted of a new groundbait I’ve got hold of from SBS called sweet fruit, wheat, casters, dead maggots and some CSL tutti frutti mixer. It certainly looked the business and produced the goods as well, although an all-bream catch as opposed to any of my target species. I wasn’t disappointed though, it was just great to catch (photos 9, 10) in the conditions, which were made worse by the fact that the reservoir was being pumped and my baits were pulled round the right within seconds of casting out.

And finally, don’t forget to check out my Angling Journal website. You can find the link with this article. I update it every Saturday with a piece that is always species-based. I always fish in a focused way anyway, and it is easy to access in terms of information gathering. So if someone is thinking of making a trip to the middle Severn after barbel for example, they get an article dedicated to that as opposed to a few paragraphs and then roach, tench or whatever. And if you want to follow my angling adventures from the bank, check out my twitter account. The link is on my website. (article published May 12 2012).


Check out the  May video here and this is the link to  my angling website And if you like the article, why not share it via the buttons below? Thanks if you do. And I’ll see you next week when I’m back after canal perch and I get a real surprise turn up!


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