Posts Tagged ‘trotting for roach’

The babbling brooks, streams and rivers that surround us are so mesmerising, so enchanting to anglers that you can find yourself drifting into a reverie just thinking about them.  They are so full of life and shrouded in many a long yarn or stories of magic and myths.  Many of the southern chalk streams are the preserve of the rich and famous, those a tad more fortunate than most.  Of course when you see the idyllic setting of these wondrous rivers , who can blame those that part with the vast sums of money necessary to partake in such a decadent indulgence.  I certainly would if money was no object.

There are a few beats here and there that fortunately can be fished for a fairly modest sum.  There are places on the Itchen, Test, Frome, Kennet and numerous other delightful chalk streams in Southern England that can be fished on a day ticket, coarse fishing syndicate, fishing club or even free fishing in some places.  As always it helps to know the right people and that can make a big difference.

Anyway I digress, I headed to one of Hampshire’s finest accompanied by good mate and Team Pallatrax Manager Jez Brown; the Baron himself.  We were primarily targeting the big roach that can be found in these hallowed waters.  Of course there was also a good chance of some decent grayling, dace and those ever present trout that enjoy the deep pools around the old mill house.

With significant rainfall over the last few months most of the area shows signs of the flooding, with large swaths of land under water.  This is when your dream house overlooking the river can become your worst nightmare.  Fortunately the floods have abated somewhat and the level of this particular chalk stream was perhaps 18-24″ up on its normal level.  It was bombing through of course but the pools looked very fishable and there were a number of very enticing slacks to be found close in amongst the partially submerged marginal trees and bushes.

We headed to our chosen spots and I opted for a cage feeder packed with liquidized bread, 3ft hooklink and a size 10 barbless hook with a decent piece of breadflake on.  We were soon fishing and Jez had some early success with a couple of trout.  However it soon became apparent that the recent good form of this beat had possibly come to an end.  Sadly the bites dried up and neither of us could tempt so much as a twitch.  Jez was experiencing the powers of Nathan ‘Jonah’ Walter first hand.  I seem to posses the uncanny ability to turn even the most productive of swims into a desert this season.

It was time for a change and so I decided to try maggots and changed the cage feeder for a blockend.  This decision paid off immediately, with knocks and decent bites signalling activity.  Soon a number of fish succumbed to the new tactics and I landed some cracking grayling to around a pound and a half, some big trout and a number of nice dace.  Jez decided to run a float through the swim but sadly this produced nothing.  We kept some feed going in and I tried the float after increasing the depth a bit.  This seemed to make all the difference and first trot through produced a fish.  I then returned to the feeder and targeted an area where the pool started to shallow up before running off downstream.


The action started to hot up and each cast produced a fish, with some good grayling.  Jez was also beginning to get a fish a chuck and he took some lovely grayling on the float.  However even this action soon dried up.  Perhaps the heavy frosts of the previous two nights had put the fish down a bit.  It’s been so mild lately that frosts must come as a bit of a shock to the poor old fish!  So it was time for a change, as the afternoon was wearing on.

By mid afternoon the sun was out and it was incredibly warm.  A hint of early spring was in the air and there was no need for any winter thermal clothing for a change.  That constant  gale force south westerly wind that has been so prevalent this winter, had at last abated and we were able to enjoy the warm rays of the sun.  It really was a pleasant day and that was enhanced by being privileged enough to be on one of Hampshire’s finest chalk streams.

Maggots - Pallatrax Style

Maggots – Pallatrax Style

Jez decided it was time he went for a wander, whilst I concentrated on the hot peg.  Well if anyone can freeze hot pegs, it’s me.  Another hour passed by without so much as twitch.  However the move had been the right decision for Jez and he had just landed a pristine 1lb 9oz roach from a marginal slack.  He soon followed that up with a slightly bigger roach.  It was time for me to have a go!  Yes you’ve guessed it; two immediate bites and two fish bumped off!  Bugger…or words to that effect.  With Jez shouting “watch out for the snag” and me shouting “what $%#@ing snag” both fish came adrift.  Still I’ve got used to this type of result this season, if it can go wrong it has, with one cock-up after another.  Still hopefully I’ve had so many cock-ups this season there can’t possibly be any left for next season……!

1lb 9oz

1lb 9oz

So I returned to my original spot whilst Jez worked on his Karma after my disastrous attempt at his swim.  One of the roach I lost was a good fish but these things happen I guess.   As the light faded the rod top started to indicate more action.  I had opted to touch leger for the majority of the day, mainly due to the presence of grayling.  I don’t really like quiver tipping for grayling as they have a habit of swallowing the hook.  If you touch leger and hit the slightest knock the problem is almost eradicated.  Its also a very rewarding way to fish as you feel all of those tiny taps, quivers and trembles on the line.

The rod tip whacked round aggressively and at last the target fish was netted; a beautiful river roach of 1lb 5oz.  By now it was dark and Jez was still downstream.  I wasn’t going to call him up to photograph the fish, if it had been a bit larger I would have.  So I popped her back and carried on.  Almost immediately the tip hammered round again and this time a really chunky grayling was the culprit.  It went 1lb 12oz on the scales and I popped it back as quickly as possible.  A couple of big trout followed and I started to think the action was really hotting up.  Big mistake….it died a death.  Not a touch followed. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Naught.  Well you get the picture.

Jez Brown's Stunning Roach

Jez Brown’s Stunning Roach

I decided with around 15-30 minutes left to go for a wander and find Jez.  He had lost one fish but that was all he’d had since I lost my two fish in his swim.  So after a 10 minute try in a slack, we decided enough was enough.  I was due on the Kennet the following morning, being picked up at 6am.  It was nearly 8pm now and with a 2 hour drive ahead of me it was time to call it a day.  I had thoroughly enjoyed myself, in great company and in a truly magical setting.   Although I hadn’t tempted any of the big roach that call this stretch home, I’d had some cracking sport and some really lovely and pristine conditioned fish.

Hopefully Jez will let me join him again here next season when hopefully the levels are back to normal and maybe we can don the waders and get in and trot a float through some of those glorious gravel runs for some of these enormous roach and grayling.

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I have recently visited the Lower Itchen Fishery on two occasions but only for the roach fishing.  At one time you couldn’t have prized me away from the big grayling that used to be commonplace here but sadly those days seem to have gone and the desire to catch decent roach has taken over.

The Itchen has become quite famous for the quality of the specimen roach that it produces.  It regularly throws up good 2s and there seems to be plenty of fish over the 1lb mark to be had.  As always, a well run fishery with a good river keeper, seems to be the key.  They manage the river in all of its seasonal moods very well and this encourages quality fish reproduction and a very healthy environment for them to grow big.

The Mill Pool

The Mill Pool

On our first visit here, which was just after our Welsh trip, I was advised by Jez Brown to target an area just below the main mill.  It did look ideal with water gushing into a pool having passed under the old Mill itself.  It created a lovely big crease and I have to say, screamed roach.  So I decided to just sit it out here all day and feeder fish maggots.  The trip was on behalf of the Barbel Angler website and owner Micky Holtom was one of the guys down to fish.  We met as usual at the Winchester services where for the price of a small Principality you can buy a mediocre breakfast.  I declined the offer to eat and opted for a coffee instead.  All in all there would be about 20-25 of us.

So as I said I set-up a feeder rod and fished a medium sized Kamasan Black Cap to a 16 hook and double red maggot.  Casting out regularly to build up the swim, I kept bait going in continuously throughout the day.  However the first cast produced the biggest roach of the day for me at 1lb 4oz.  I followed that up with about 20 more roach to just under a pound but later in the day a pike moved in and I think spooked the roach.  All I could get after that was very sharp bites that were unhittable.

1lb 4oz Roach

1lb 4oz Roach

As well as the roach I had quite a mixed bag really.  Small chub, dace, gudgeon and about 6 or 7 Bream to 4lb 12oz came my way, so I had a lovely day’s mixed sport.  It kept me busy all day and and I rarely had any period of no action of some sort.  Perhaps I should have moved once that pike turned up and despite the Pallatrax boys (JeZ Brown and Luke Ayling) trying to coax the pike out on a dead bait, the swim was never quite the same.

4lb 12oz Bream

4lb 12oz Bream

We all met back at the car park and it seemed some had done reasonably well.  Jez and the other boys had taken grayling to a fraction under 2lbs, with numerous other rods taking some nice fish to around that mark too.  Keith Speer stuck it out in his swim, despite the slow going, and was eventually rewarded with a lovely roach of 2lb 8oz.  Geoff fished a spot that I particularly like at the lower end of the fishery and managed a number of nice roach to 1lb 11oz but sadly lost a couple of better fish.  Around 8 of us retired to the White Swan public house for one of their excellent carveries before the journey home.

Geoff's 1lb 11oz Roach

Geoff’s 1lb 11oz Roach

It was another great day in great company and lets hope there are many more to come.  Thanks lads.

On the second recent visit I again set out my stall for the roach.  I targeted the area Geoff had fished the week previously and my intention was stay there pretty much all day.  Both Kevin and Geoff opted for the top end of the fishery hoping for a decent grayling.  The river appeared to be really pushing through with a touch of colour.  The flow was perhaps a bit more than we would have liked but we had to make the most of what we had.

It seemed to be a busy day.  There were quite a few booked into the LIF stretch and lots of guys on the fee stretch.  None of this affected me as the spot I wanted to fish is awkward to access from the other bank so I had this spot to myself.  The usual tactics were employed: Avon float, bulk shot, 3lb mainline.  I started with breadflake to a 10 hook and on one of the first casts I landed a lovely 15oz roach shortly followed by another.  I then lost a fish and the swim seemed to die.  I took a break and poured myself a cup of steaming hot coffee and watched the planes appear over the treeline as they made their decent into the airfield nearby.  The roar of the jets engines rang in my ears but I’m so used to it I find it, in a perverse way, an enjoyable distraction from the fishing.

The Eastleigh Spitfire

The Eastleigh Spitfire

I phoned Geoff and it seemed the fishing was quite frustrating upstream.  The flow was making things difficult and Geoff had either bumped off or lost quite a few good grayling.  Between him and Kevin they did end up with a few though to about 1lb 13oz I think, but it was rather slow going.

Keith Speer wandered down for a chat late morning/lunchtime and we chewed the fat over coffee for a while when we were joined by one of Keith’s fishing pals.  He had already caught a couple of nice roach going 1lb 14oz and 2lb 1oz, so the big girls were feeding.  Keith had only managed to find the chub but had already taken around 8 or 9 nice fish.  Later on Keith’s mate had a further 2 good roach of 2lb and 2lb 8oz, so what a tremendous result that was and I think Keith ended up with about 15 chub.

The Itchen

The Itchen

I carried on fishing and swapping baits from maggots to bread.  The maggots certainly produced more bites and I had several fish around the 1lb mark.  As the light faded I hoped that some of the bigger fish would put in an appearance but sadly they failed to show.  Geoff struggled for bites once he moved down into this area mid to late afternoon but Kevin got amongst the chub below the road bridge and ended up with 11 and a couple of small roach.

A decent grayling

A decent grayling

So all in all another pleasant day on the river and with just a short time to go before the end of the season, here’s hoping for a successful final fling to one and all.

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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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