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Posts Tagged ‘Winter roach fishing’


Over the last couple of weeks Geoff and I have been targeting a carp lake in Kent for it’s roachy inhabitants.  Just for a change it’s not far from where I live, so none of this 200 mile round trip nonsense!  I became aware of this lake a couple of years ago and we tried it a couple of times in less than favourable conditions.  At the time we managed to tempt a few roach but nothing special and almost forgot about the place until recently.

A mate of mine has been fishing over the winter for the big perch that inhabit this venue and so Geoff and I decided to return and have another go for these legendary large roach.  We decided to fish more thoroughly and give it a real concerted effort.  We both enjoy float fishing over the feeder method and so that would be our main attack.  Chatting to the bailiff and a couple of the regulars indicated that maggot and sweetcorn fished well, so both of those baits were packed along with a few lob worms and casters.

The weather has been somewhat trying of late to say the least; rain and the flooding of course have kept me off the rivers since around late November but also the constant wind is a bit of a drag (yes, pun intended! :-) ).  There’s barely been a day where it’s not blowing a hooley, with gusts of 30+ almost daily.  Thank God I haven’t resorted to wearing a wig in my dotage, otherwise it would have been fluttering like a kite.  It really does wear you down after a while though.  Still One has to grin and bear it as they say!

Due to the nature of the lake in question there are few places where the wind can be avoided, especially if you’re sitting close to Geoff!  However there are one or two spots protected by the prevailing WSW winds.  Over a two week period we fished the lake 3 times.  Each time we tried a different area in an effort to explore the nature of the lakes bottom (ooh er missus), hoping to identify different depths or features.  Lots of plumbing is a big help and soon starts to build up a picture of what’s in front of you.  Obviously due to the shear amount of rainfall this winter, the level of the lake is up around 18″-2′, however that does bring into play a lot of bankside cover.  A lot of the tress and bushes around this water are partially submerged now and offer a great feature to fish to.  Although the fish do tend to show further out in all fairness.

Tactics were fairly simple; a waggler fixed with float stops and the majority of shot fished around the float with only a couple of No 8 dropper shots down the line.  Careful plumbing indicated the required depth (and it is deep here, at around 6-7ft in the areas we targeted).  A size 16 hook to nylon attached to the 4lb mainline finished off the simple set-up.  The idea was to keep feeding maggots regularly and hopefully get the shoals of roach feeding competitively.

Bites came fairly quickly and pretty steadily all day on all three occasions.   I like to get my baits Pallatrax’d up and so add some of the Winter Almond overspray to both the maggots and sweetcorn and I combine this with using the excellent Bloodworm and Maggot Crush groundbait.   It just gives it that extra edge as far as I’m concerned and as Tesco would say “every little helps”.

Vital ingredients

Vital ingredients

The roach here seem to move around quite a bit.  One spot will produce steady bites and then they just seem to dry up, only for another area further out to start producing. This is probably due to having to put the fish back, they eventually spook the rest of the shoal and so they move on.    It’s worth keeping a few spots baited up and when things start to slow down, move the float to the next area.  This tactic worked well and both of us caught a lot of roach over the first two visits.  The size and quality of the roach here are superb.  We caught lots of fish around the pound mark with numerous fish over that weight to 1lb 5oz, with the majority of fish averaging around 8oz.  The real biggies proved elusive but the quality of the fish are extraordinary; they are in absolutely mint condition.

I tried casters, worm, maggots and sweetcorn.  On two of the visits they completely switched off the maggots and would only take corn but on our latest trip we couldn’t get a touch on corn.  They don’t appear to be too finicky either, with 3 or even 4 maggots producing lots of bites.  That said the float needed to be shotted down to hit some of the delicate bites, otherwise quite a few would be missed.  Fishing just a single maggot on a 18/20 hook produced lots of very small fish, so that’s best avoided.

Roach to 1lb 5oz

Roach to 1lb 5oz

The last trip saw one chap catch well over 150 roach on the hemp and caster approach, so on our next visit we’ll be giving this a try.  It’s a bit more intense in that you must keep the hemp constantly going into the swim, so a shower of hempseed is falling through the water layers all the time.  I’m hoping to get back soon for another go and hopefully find some of the bigger roach that this venue is well known for.

Still its wonderful catching so many roach in such superb condition.

 

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More rain has fallen since my latest trip to Bury Hill in Dorking.  In fact we’ve had 65mm in around 72 hours in Sevenoaks!  The rivers must be over the banks again in a lot of areas but the good news is things look like they are going to settle down now, well for a while at least.

Due to the dire forecast, Geoff and I opted to try for some more roach.  Old Bury Hill has a reputation for good quality fish and has produced good numbers over 2lbs.  Our drive through the Kent and Surrey countryside highlighted the effects of the recent storms.  Most of the fields were like lakes and the occasional view of a river showed them to be high, coloured and very turbulent.  It wouldn’t take much to send the river levels up and cascading over the banks and back into fields, roads and houses.

Bonds lake in warmer times

Bonds lake in warmer times

It was a rather grey day and the forecast was predicting heavy winds gusting to around 30mph and heavy rain showers.  We managed to persuade the gentleman in the shop to rustle us up some toast and marmalade and a nice cup of tea, as the cafe was closed.  That was a very nice gesture and was very much appreciated.  As we walked along the banks we realised just how bad things were.  Most of the banks were sodden and there was large amounts of standing water.  In some areas water was actually flowing across the banks.  Thank goodness we had put our boots on.  We also discovered that a small bridge across the stream which runs adjacent to the lakes had been washed away in the floods.

We were soon at our chosen lake and after some plumbing around, both selected swims.  By now the wind had already picked up but the rain seemed to be holding off for the time being at least.  My set-up was very simple.  My Maver Reactolite 13ft float rod, Drennan fixed spool, 4lb mainline and a 3.6lb hooklink and 16 hook.  I like to use a swivel to connect the mainline and hooklink and then mould some tungsten putty around this to set the float.  By doing this and using float stops, I don’t pinch any shot on the line and therefore avoid any line damage whatsoever.   There are downsides to using this method of course, for instance if you want to fish a long drop between hook and shot.  Then you may need to revert back to split shot, bulking it up at the float and fish a very small dropper shot around 1/2 way between float and hook.  This may well be a better method for roach, as they often take on the drop after a prolonged period of feeding maggots.

After around 90 minutes without a bite, I decided to have a look around the lake.  By now the wind had picked up and it was blowing directly into my face.  This was causing a  few problems with presentation and I wasn’t happy with the results.  I found an area slightly sheltered from the strong wind and with a reasonable depth of around 3ft.  Feeding small golf ball size balls of Bloodworm and Maggot Crush and loose feeding maggots flavoured with Winter Almond overspray, I then fished single maggot over the top.  I lost a couple of fish early on and then managed to tempt a couple of pristine roach of around 8oz.  Despite looking good, the swim just didn’t seem to be producing many bites.

Pallatrax Winter Almond

Pallatrax Winter Almond

By now Geoff had also moved and seemed to have found a few fish.  He had taken around 12 nice roach in the 8oz-1lb bracket.  He wandered over to see me and said that bronze maggots were producing more bites.  So I duly pinched a few of his and mixed them in with my flavoured reds and then out went the float again.  The float had barely settled when it disappeared.  After a very spirited fight a beautiful, pristine roach was netted.  I popped it on the scales and it registered 1lb 7oz and proved to be the best roach of the day.   The swim then produced a small bream and little else, so another move was in order.  By now the heavy rain showers had started and some were quite prolonged.  Due to the nature of the swims and the severity of the wind, an umbrella wasn’t really an option.  It was a case of hunkering down in our winter clothing and just trying to keep the rain out.

1lb 7oz

1lb 7oz

I moved across the lake and settled in next to Geoff.  He had found a deep swim of around 5ft of water close in and adjacent to some marginal reeds. He continued to catch steadily for the remainder of the day and ended up with around 20 nice roach to 1lb 1oz.  I seemed to elicit less bites with my set up than Geoff.  Geoff had opted to fish a long tail and an 18 hook.  This I suspect made the difference.  However I was treated to quite a mixed bag; I ended up with a tench of around 3lbs, a couple of bream, a couple of roach to around 10oz and just as the day was drawing to a close the float buried and something took off like a high speed train.  I had obviously hooked one of the resident carp.  It fought long and hard on the light tackle but with steady pressure I coaxed it into the waiting landing net.  I was fairly convinced it would go mid doubles but in fact it was smaller than I had at first thought.  It was a stunning common and weighed 9lb 13oz and was an exciting finish to a rather mucky, wet and windy day.

003

As Arnie would say in that heavy Austrian accent; “I’ll be back”!

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Sorry, couldn’t resist that!  Well it has certainly rained a bit recently.  And oh boy when it rains it really rains.  Most of the country seems to be under water, with the vast majority of the UK’s rivers on flood alert.  The news channels are awash (sorry) with pictures and stories on the latest developments as they happen, minute by minute.  Some areas have had devastating water level rises and to all of those poor souls who have had their homes flooded out, my deepest sympathies.  Let’s hope we’ve seen an end to it for the remainder of the winter.

Of course generally winter floods means warm rain and milder weather.  All that basically means feeding barbel.  However when levels rise this much you have to be very careful indeed.  I love to catch barbel but I’m not risking life and limb to do it.  You need to know your stretch like the back of your hand before attempting to fish in these exceptionally high conditions.  The fields are flooded and you need to know every nook and cranny of the beat you are going to fish.  Ditches, holes, uneven ground, crumbling banks, feeder streams etc. etc. can all become death traps if you go wandering off kitted out in your waders oblivious to the dangers.  Unless you are 100% confident, then don’t bother.  Wait for the river to drop to a safer level and then give it a go.

I did manage to venture out after a 3 week hiatus.  This was mainly due to work but also a chest infection which has lasted the best part of 4 weeks and has left me a little run down.  Danny and I met at the world famous (or is that infamous) Max’s Cafe for the full Monty before exploring a couple of sections of the Kennet.  The river had burst it’s banks around the upper Benyons, however the car park side appeared to be OK.  A walk downstream confirmed that it was safely accessible.  Danny and I found a number of good looking spots to try but wanted to look at another stretch first.  So we drove to the second beat and due to the time, decided to fish it.  However once we had walked the beat with the gear, I realised it was a mistake.  There were far less areas that looked fishable to me, whereas we had left a stretch that had a number of excellent opportunities on offer.  We persevered but unfortunately failed to get a bite.  By 4pm the river was rising and spilling out into the adjoining fields.  It was time to head home and after being poorly for so long I felt completely exhausted from all of the walking.

With the kind permission of Micky Holtam

With the kind permission of Micky Holtam

With the kind permission of Micky Holtam

With the kind permission of Micky Holtam

The next day saw Geoff and I heading to an old haunt in search of some roach.  These are a group of small lakes in Herne, Kent.  They are renowned for the quality of the roach fishing.  The wind had sprung up and became very blustery and remained that way all day.  We opted to float fish in an area of around 4ft (which is good for these lakes) and slightly sheltered from the wind.  My swim had a sunken tree in close which I thought offered a nice feature to fish to.  The set up was fairly simple; 13ft Maver Reactorlite, fixed spool reel with 4lb line and a 3.5lb hooklink with a size 14 hook.  The float was a simple Drennan loaded waggler.  I had a number of baits at my disposal including Pallatrax Hidra small snails, maggots, luncheon meat cubes and expander pellets.   Additionally I had sprayed the maggots and Hidra’s with the Winter Almond over spray and also mixed up some of my favourite groundbait which is the excellent Pallatrax Bloodworm and Maggot Crush.

Bloodworm and Maggot Crush

Bloodworm and Maggot Crush

Bait Selection

Bait Selection

After carefully plumbing the swim, I opted to fish close to the sunken tree at around 1 rod length out.  I mixed up the groundbait and put out two small balls and some maggots.  I continued to feed golf ball sized balls of groundbait throughout the day.  Initially I opted to fish on the bottom and alternated between all of the baits at my disposal.  Bites came almost immediately and unfortunately it seemed that small skimmer bream had become quite populous here.  In the past it was rare to catch bream on this particular lake and now they were far more prevalent.  Still it was nice to get the rod bent.

A few decent roach put in an appearance and numerous fish were netted up to 10oz for me.  Geoff managed a couple of better ones at 13oz and 14oz.  In the past we have caught good numbers of 1lb plus roach here but it wasn’t to be today.  The bream were generally small with the odd better fish, possibly up to a couple of pounds.  Both Geoff and I had a couple of surprise captures; we both had two nice chub apiece, with the biggest about 3lbs.  I also lost a big common carp near the net when the hooked pulled.  We saw the fish on numerous occasions before it came adrift and it looked to be well into double figures, so I was a bit gutted to lose that.   Then just to keep up with the Jones’ as they say, Geoff also lost a good carp.

As the day wore on the bream took over.  So I decided to fish up in the water and shallowed up the float.  Alternating between baits I fished at around 18″ deep.  Now when bites came roach were the culprits.  It made a big difference and soon I had notched up a couple of dozen nice roach.   I think by the end of the day I had counted 59 fish for me, give or take one or two.  So all in all a fun day.  Geoff trailed a little with probably high 20s I think.  Perhaps my superior angling came good on the day or it could have been the groundbait and flavoured maggots that made the difference! Or maybe I was lucky, who knows.  Geoff normally excels at this kind of fishing, so it made a pleasant change to dish out a can of whoop ass! :-)

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“Well bugger the weather, I’m going fishing no matter what” was my answer to this latest spell of heavy snow.  Sevenoaks ended up with about 8 inches (and that’s a real 8 inches not just a ‘man’s’ 8 inches, so there girls) which made the roads pretty treacherous.  This meant that my planned trip to the upper Thames on Tuesday with my good pal John Kemp had to be cancelled but we hoped to still get out to maybe the Medway. However after snow falling all day Monday and throughout that night, the roads were a nightmare Tuesday morning and we had to surrender to the conditions.

Still come Hell or high water I was going Wednesday.  Geoff hoped that if things improved, he would also come out to play.  Luckily things did improve and we headed to the small Thames tributary that we have been targeting of late.  As usual the river was quite coloured.  This seems to be the norm in winter.  The water was quite low too and we had found it seemed to fish better with a bit of water on.

It looked like there were already a few fishing.  Not surprising really as it was the penultimate day of the season.  We decided to walk from the very top section down, trying the odd swim if we fancied it.  The upper section was fairly shallow and narrow.  The whole river is pretty diminutive and very overgrown.  It certainly suits a short rod approach.  A long rod would be a pain in the proverbials here.

Its a fairly urban river too, despite running through several fields.  The urban jungle sprawls fairly close by but not close enough to see into any bedroom windows er I mean living rooms!  Mind you once you’re tucked away behind the trees you seem a world away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  There’s just the odd dog walker or horsey types to contend with.

The fishing was slow to say the least.  After a few exploratory trots through a swim I soon managed a few bites.  The end result was several dace and a small roach.  I tried a few of the productive spots discovered on previous visits but they only produced the odd fish.  Eventually a few slightly better sized roach came my way.  Nothing particularly big, perhaps 12-14oz.  Still they were beautifully proportioned roach nonetheless.   Bars of silver, with those oh so delicate mouths and red fins.  The roach perhaps is the perfect fish.  Wondrous to behold and the stuff of boyhood dreams (well, amongst other things!).

I moved upstream as the afternoon wore on.  I was having the sort of day where everything went wrong.  I ended up with at least two knots in the main line, which would get stuck in the top eye every trot through.  Of course when the knot got stuck in the top eye the pin would continue to spin resulting in a nice birds nest.  Then there’s the impossible hook length knot.  This forms out of nowhere and is caused by the most imperceptible of flicks.  It creates a lovely and unpickable   knot in the hook length.  Pass the packet please!  Then there was the constant snags on the bottom to contend with, resulting in numerous lost hooklengths.  Oh and the bankside jungle snagged me at every opportunity.  If I sound like I’ve got grumpy old man syndrome or a touch of whingeitis, well yes I have.  Thank God there was no one around to hear my curses.  Ah well, except for that chap that was just about to move into the swim just above me.  He didn’t see me ensconced in amongst the trees.  When I burst into a frenzied maelstrom of obscene profanities he beat a hasty retreat that’s for sure, scuttling back from whence he came.  He may well of thought it was aimed at him.  No, it was to Mother Nature for all of the things she sent my way just to cause me grief.

Anyways, I continued upstream loosing bits and pieces as I went.  As the light faded I managed to tempt a few final suicidal roach and gudgeon.  Big ones too.  The gudgeon that is.  So I ended the day with a nice dozen lovely roach.  Nothing big but wonderful to catch river roach and on the stick and pin.  Geoff had some lovely fish too however he could only muster 11, so came a poor second.  Well something had to make my day, after all of the disasters I’d had.

We have both enjoyed our time here.  We’ve caught some really superb fish.  Not monsters but tremendous sport.  I’m certain we’ll be back next winter.  Until then dear roach; adiós muchachos .

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As far as I am concerned (and I have no doubt thousands like me) the roach is one of our brightest stars of the freshwater fishing world.  To see that magnificent flash of brilliant silver in a river as a roach fights for freedom sets the pulse racing and that boyhood thrill takes over as you coax another red finned beauty into the waiting net.

Perhaps its their shape, or the red fins that capture the angler’s imagination but there really is something quite magical about roach.  Of course most of the roach we catch tend to be relatively small, perhaps in the 2-6oz range.  So when a better than average fish turns up, it really is that youthful childlike exhilaration that kicks in.

Lately some rivers are beginning to throw up some excellent specimen roach again.  The Hampshire Avon and the Itchen are both performing well.  Often in the winter it tends to be the side streams that produce as the roach seek a safe haven away from the frothing torrent of a flooded river.   These side streams gain from having the extra winter levels and offer the winter roach angler an excellent opportunity to trot for these magnificent fish.

Geoff and I managed to get out and fish a small Thames tributary recently, one that was known to hold some good roach stocks.  It was an overgrown and narrow river, with a mixture of deep glides and bends, shallows and some nice deep pools.  There was overhanging trees, rafts and snags galore and plenty of long creases to trot a float down.  Sadly the water was heavily coloured when we arrived and the river was pushing through a bit.  We also had a sharp frost on the morning we arrived, which left our initial optimism a little deflated.

As is often the case with these small and intimate side streams, fishing a long float rod puts you at a distinct disadvantage.  With so many tight spots and overhanging trees something a little shorter than the norm can make life so much easier.  I recently purchased a 10ft float rod (a John Wilson) with lines recommended from 2-4lbs.  This seemed ideal for the type of fishing I do and so for the princely sum of £10.50 I was the winning bid on eBay.

John  Wilson Mirage Float Rod

John Wilson Mirage Float Rod

The rod wasn’t as sensitive as my Drennan but then I didn’t expect it to be.  However it was ideal for fishing in these tight spots and I didn’t suffer the normal tangle induced swearing bouts that seem to plague me on these tight venues!  A small centrepin with 2.6lb mainline and a 2.4lb hooklength with a 16 hook complemented the rod nicely.  When you’re used to handling a 14ft float rod, I have to say these much shorter ones take some getting used to.  They just feel a bit odd but it performed well.

We opted to fish the lower section first and then work our way back upstream towards the car.  The adjacent fields were full of flood water and we had to trudge through thick mud and water to get to the river.  The swims towards the lower end proved deeper than expected, with up to 5′ of water and generally a nice pace.  There are lots of underwater snags and overhanging trees but despite this some really good trotting spots.

I had two baits with me; bread and maggots.  I started with a niece piece of punched bread on a 14 hook.  After trying a few spots I finally found one of the deeper glides and soon found a nice fish attached to the hook.  Sadly it came adrift and after that I couldn’t buy a bite.  Geoff on the other hand seemed to be filling his boots.  When he wandered down to see what I was up to and have a cuppa, I think he’d had around 9 or 10 roach.  I hadn’t actually caught anything yet.  “Let me have a try” he says and after just a couple of trots through, he’s in!  “Bugger that” I thought and almost pushed him in.  I take control of the rod again whilst Geoff drinks his tea but nothing transpires.  So Geoff has another go and guess what.  Well I’m sure you’ve worked it out, golden whatsits has another roach.  With that I banished him from my swim and all subsequent swims in the future.

So whilst Geoff continued to catch I eventually found some fish and by lunchtime had 6 to exactly 1lb.  They were all beautifully conditioned roach and looked absolutely stunning.  Sadly the colour seemed to be getting darker and by mid afternoon we found we were struggling for bites.  By now Geoff had caught 16 to my 6, so things were not looking so good for me.  However that said we were both over the moon with the quality of the roach and the numbers, especially  considering the conditions.

1lb Roach

1lb Roach

We moved upstream some distance and found a couple of nice swims.  Time was marching on relentlessly and we only had maybe a couple of hours left. With the sound of Ring Necked Parakeets squawking all around us (and yes, I would like to wring their necks :-) ), we continued to fish in earnest.  I was in to a roach quite quickly and then it went quiet again.  However during the last hour or so the roach went a bit potty.  Both Geoff and I were getting lots of action and from some really decent sized fish.  Most seemed to be in the 6-12oz bracket, with the odd bigger one thrown in for good measure.  As the light faded the rain started and the bites just seemed to dry up.  It seemed like a good time to pack up and retire to a coffee shop somewhere.

One things for certain; we’ll be back.  Hasta la vista baby.

 

 

 

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