My search for a 3 lb river roach

Anglers Mail - - Anglers -

FOR me, a 3 lb-plus river roach is the Holy Grail of coarse fish­ing, and my quest for such a fish has been a long and ar­du­ous jour­ney, one that I still haven’t com­pleted. I have been close on a few oc­ca­sions, but no ci­gar!

I have been very for­tu­nate to have caught sev­eral still­wa­ter three-pounders, hav­ing en­joyed the golden pe­riod of roach fish­ing at Sway Lakes, in Hamp­shire, but there is some­thing very spe­cial about river roach­ing, es­pe­cially in the depths of win­ter, when they can be caught on a float and bread.

My lo­cal rivers, the Hamp­shire Avon, Dorset Stour, Frome and Test, all still have the po­ten­tial to pro­duce my dream fish.

It would seem that the big shoals of qual­ity roach that used to fre­quent these rivers have now vir­tu­ally dis­ap­peared, but there are signs of re­cov­ery, with an­glers manag­ing rea­son­able bags of mod­est-sized fish and an oc­ca­sional two-pounder.

Se­lect­ing bet­ter roach, by fish­ing bread un­der a float, is all about get­ting the pre­sen­ta­tion right, a les­son that I learnt from

A big bucket of bread mash and a loaf of War­bur­tons Toastie is per­fect for a day’s fish­ing for spec­i­men roach. the late ‘Fred The Bread’ Smith back in the 1970s. When I saw his set-up, I was com­pletely blown away by his great big balsa floats, his string of swan shot and his thumb­nail pieces of bread flake.

It was a world apart from my small stick float and mag­got ap­proach, but I soon re­alised that Fred’s method was far more se­lec­tive. I could usu­ally catch a mixed bag of mod­est roach, chub, dace and grayling, but big redfins eluded me. Fred ex­plained to me that I re­ally needed to of­fer a lar­gish bait that a big roach could eas­ily suck in, but it needed to be pre­sented slightly slower than the speed of the cur­rent.

To en­cour­age the shoals of roach to feed, bread mash was in­tro­duced lit­tle and of­ten. His float rig was set so that he could hold it back against the cur­rent, al­low­ing the hook bait to flut­ter up right in front of the roach.

You know what? Noth­ing has changed. Fred’s ap­proach is ex­actly the way I set up my stall these days, the only dif­fer­ence be­ing that there are now some very good, com­mer­cially avail­able river floats with load­ings of be­tween

4 and 10 g.

Olivettes are def­i­nitely far more con­ve­nient than a string of SSGs, and I will usu­ally in­clude a mi­cro swivel, for the olivette to rest against, which also al­lows me to tie on a low-di­am­e­ter hook link.

Hook choice is also im­por­tant: it needs to be a light­weight size 12 or 14 with a wide gape and a round bend. If a river is run­ning very clear, I will opt for a slightly smaller bait on A 2 lb river roach for Andy, but he’s still wait­ing to catch a magic 3.

A typ­i­cal roach glide on the Dorset Stour. the low­est di­am­e­ter hook link don’t mask the point. It doesn’t that I can get away with, but in take long be­fore you get the per­fect con­di­tions (coloured hang of fold­ing the flake around and high), a piece of flake the the back of the hook with the size of a thumb­nail is needed. point fac­ing away from you.

The flake just needs to be I will nor­mally make up a big folded around the shank of the bucket of bread mash by cut­ting hook, held in place with a light the crusts off some stale loaves, squeeze, mak­ing sure that you be­fore giv­ing them a good soak

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