It’s prime time for a dream 2lb roach. Here’s how to get one...
...and here’s how to do it this winter
ILOVE catching big river roach, and only last week I hit my winter target of a two-pounder with a 2lb 2oz fish from the Wye.
My best-ever big-roach day was in a match back in 1987 when I won a contest on the River Severn below Bewdley on a rising river with 18-7-0, a catch that included three roach over 2lb! Two of them were 2lb 1oz apiece and the biggest went 2lb 3oz. I also picked up £500, which was a good prize at the time, so it was a memorable occasion! Since that glorious day I’d only added a couple more 2lb roach and it was long overdue that I caught another one.
Now I want another, but quite where I’ll be fishing for my next ‘two’ I’m not exactly sure. I’ve pencilled in a trip to the Ribble and am hoping to take in some of the rivers down south, including the Hampshire Avon and the Test.
In addition to new southern venues, I’ll be visiting more familiar haunts like the Severn again, of course. I was interested to see that new England International Matt Godfrey had landed one of 2lb 7oz in the recent Home International on the Quarry Park length at Shrewsbury. That is one hell of a roach from the Severn, and one that I would love on my list!
So how do we go about catching big roach? For me, the best time to target them is when the river is carrying a little extra water and colour. I’m not talking about heavy colour, but a colour where you can throw maggots in and see them around 6ins-8ins down. This sort of visibility in the water means fish can see the bait and will sight-feed rather than relying on smell, which is how they feed when the river is highly coloured.
As long as roach can see the bait coming at them and the water temperature is consistent, you will catch more on float gear than you will on static baits.
In the colder months it pays to fish swims which are deep and where the shelf is close to you. This allows you to present your bait more easily than having to fish well out.
My favourite float pattern in these situations is the DH No2 Alloy Avon. This float, in sizes from 2g to 6g, is perfect for delivering your hookbait exactly how the roach want it in the colder months. It has a very pronounced shoulder, and the taper at the tip of the float allows you to dot it right down on days when there is no wind. That means you can detect even the slightest of bites and movements on the tip.
The shotting pattern for this rig is simple. I use an olivette as the bulk and position this about 2ft
from the hook. A No6 or No4 shot is then positioned about 10ins above the hook.
As a general guide to float size, use 1g of float capacity for every 2ft of water. A 10ft deep swim would therefore require a 5g float.
There are several ways to present this rig when you are fishing deep and pacey water. The first way is to just let it go with the current, but only rarely does this approach pick out the bigger fish.
A much better way is to slow the bait down as it travels through the water, either by using a centrepin or by backwinding the rig down the swim.
I’ve had an old Leeds centrepin for many years and always carry it in the winter months, as there are days when it can be unbeatable on certain swims. There are no handles on my reel and I have the line coming off the top.
To wind a fish in, I simply put my finger in one of the big holes and wind backwards. It’s a very enjoyable way of catching big roach and the feel through the rod as a big roach kicks is something I will never tire of. I keep adding shot to the bulk in BBs until the float tip is only just visible. A long rod is good for this style of fishing, as it will allow you to keep a tight line to the float-tip.
Backwinding the rig is something many anglers still have to master, and if you learn nothing else new this winter, I’d urge you to get into this style of presenting your hookbait. It’s not easy, and you’ll probably get tangles to start with, but in the long term it will be worth it, as it will definitely help you to hook more fish.
All you need to do is cast your rig in downstream, let it settle then close your bail-arm. Now the tricky bit starts. You need to keep up with the speed of the current by winding backwards on a tight line. Once you’ve mastered that, you can do all sorts of little things to tempt a fish into taking your hookbait. You can slow the rig down by backwinding slower than the speed of the current, or allow it speed it up by backwinding quickly. As with the centrepin, you can also keep adding extra weight in the form of BB shot.
For big-roach fishing with these rigs, I’d recommend you to use a 0.18mm or 0.20mm mainline and 0.12mm or 0.14mm hooklengths. A size 16 or 14 hook with two or three lightly coloured bronze maggots will complete the rig.
If, like me, you enjoy catching big roach, try these approaches once the levels on your favourite rivers state to come up. Time your trips right and we will hopefully both achieve some magical 2lb fish over the next few months!
Quality river roach like these have seen it all before.
My handle-less centrepin reel.
Slow your float down for the bigger fish.
It’s high time I caught another roach like this!
DH No2 Alloy Avons, perfect for slowing a bait down.