Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bread Roach on Canals (and Small Rivers?)

Bread and flake punches of various types and sizes

Bread was certainly my preferred bait over the years and the preponderance of blog posts on the subject in recently times has set me thinking before I soon take the plunge again in search of the present generations of roach and their cousins

One thing that immediately struck me was the number of parallels between the type of bread fishing I had done in the past, always on canals and (occasionally) drains. Apart from pleasure sessions, which in my past were few and far between and frankly purely geared towards sussing-out a likely method for a forthcoming match anyway, bread was employed in match situations usually either as a starting option on difficult venues where a weight might be built using a variety of methods over the duration of a 3 to 5 hour period or as part of an overall plan on canals with a greater head of fish just simply to usefully occupy the first so many minutes while other baits or methods started to work (and gudgeon weren't present). There was another occasion under which bread was in fact a far more critical ingredient and that was the occasional venue where it seemed, to me at least, bread was the only way to catch anything, let alone have a chance of doing well...something I never understood the reason for, and never will, but the fact remains. I note from current match results that on certain stretches of the Shropshire Union Canal match anglers are still very much reliant on this simplest of baits (if you don't bake your own!) to do well just as they were in the '90's

One of Lady B's loaves, complete with obligatory Jamie Oliver bread board, knife and pink cloth baggy thing - definitely not what you want to fish with...besides, the board would float. Nice eating though, it has to be said

So what were the key factors in 'fishing the bread'?

Time of Year
Bread would work at any time but of course 'its' chances of success against other baits in summer on venues holding, for instance, large bream shoals were minimal and so its usefulness would be limited to being one of a number of options on the day, it may not even see its way out of the bag. As autumn sets-in, and we move through that peak September to November period when fish are at their easiest to catch (peak date November 7th, you heard it here...it's official. Global warming notwithstanding), the colour starts to naturally drop out of the water when temperatures consistently fall at night and the suspended aquatic life diminishes resulting in often perfect bread conditions if boat traffic was not too heavy and yet conversely still sufficiently high to ensure the colour in the water did not disappear altogether over that period time

Time of Day
Based on the above it is probably clear that the time of day could be described in a similar manner and it is therefore probably fairly obvious that morning and evening would be best with the former, before heavy boat traffic, distinctly prime roach time and early afternoon, following the lunchtime boat lull, the worst period with water clarity at its lowest

Water Clarity
The clearer the water the better within limits (i.e. not that sort of gin-clarity that would result in the fish moving out). That perfect Oxford/Grand Union tinge akin to green or brown washing-up water before the pans go in seemed to be perfect to keep the fish coming and the average size up. This was, I think, the main factor in bread's success on the day; it needed to be clear enough to see it (the fish that is, not the angler; if the angler couldn't see it, it was too foggy and way past home time) and yet sufficiently murky to give them the confidence to feed steadily

Fish and Size
Roach are of course by far the most likely species to be encountered (in excess of 90% of fish caught) followed by bream (skimmers) and then the odd gudgeon followed by fluky fish such as perch from time to time (I've yet to have the dubious pleasure of discovering whether dear old Gobio gobio is now extinct locally, as they were noticeably the first species to be hit when zander appeared in any stretch, which was very sad). The number of fish caught and average size would be greater in the colder months but the most noteworthy factor in this type of fishing was that the biggest fish always came first in a session and afterwards the size tailed-off the more one caught, although another introduction of feed could cause another, though less significant, increase in size and subsequent tailing-off. Possibly the only exception to this I can recall would be one of those stretches of the Grand Union where the fish were shoaled-up in winter and all the same size, as used to occur at Nether Heyford for instance

Ignesti Series 10, former favourite bread float...'shalln't be needing any of those! Just for clarification - I do not have a leather float box, although I do have a nice pair of wooden underpants...proper boxers

So how does that reflect in today's world and compare on small rivers?

I note Jeff Hatt commented that the size of his very first roach on bread would set the stamp for the shoal on the Warwickshire Avon at Saxon Mill recently (link below). On the basis that 'fish of a fin' will stick together on rivers that makes sense unless perhaps, as might be more evident on middle and lower reaches, the shoal moves on and is replaced by another during the session for whatever reason. Canal fish are less likely to be peas in a pod and a greater size and species variety is likely, from marrowfat to petit pois

The actual method which would have been used back then, on the face of it at least, appears very different but, in reality, is in fact very similar to the type Jeff and Co., employ if one strips away the irrelevances. Traditional bread punches produce relatively tiny baits but clearly the use of such bait on, for instance, the Upper Warks Avon would be completely pointless where a much larger bait is the order of the day partly to avoid tiny fish or unwanted species but largely as the design of the bait size is based around the target fish size (i.e. BIG)...Ikea pastry cutters at the ready (see Mick Newey's link below)

The feed is very much the same. Liquidised or mushed bread in fairly conservative quantities as an attractant with the amount offered into the swim reflecting, initially, the perceived population present and then in response to the events of the session

Expecting quality fish in reasonable numbers, and adding chub and dace to the canal species options, makes the forthcoming temptation of some river fishing with bread very enticing for me even if the close season (which I have to say I am relieved to find still in existence on my return to the sport, on our most natural of waters) is fast approaching

As for the time of year/day and associated water clarity...that conundrum I personally have yet to expose and dissect for myself but what I have noted from my recent avid blog-reading is that, in general terms, anglers seem attracted to small rivers when they are coloured as being the peak time to catch the resident fish, how does that work in relation to bread as a bait? My gut feeling is that dirty water might equal smelly baits

But all that remains to be seen...

Lady B's twee photograph archive


  1. Good luck with the blog George, it looks set to be a good read. What is it with the Warwickshire area and bloggers?

    1. Thanks Ian, nice to have some words of support so early in the process!

      I found your blog just yesterday too and was quite enthralled. I shall certainly be keeping an eye on that one

      Not sure about the Warks thing but there's a bit of a bloggers nest in these parts it seems


  2. George, beautifully written and food for thought for me. I shall go back over this tomorrow and digest it, crumb by crust, as its quite a fill. Don't overfeed me!

    I'll link back. We'll have to meet on the bank sometime as I need all the expertise I can get when it comes to canals and you if you have some to impart, and you clearly do, then I want it!

    And I too have no clear idea why the Wark's region should be Blogging Central, but Cov has always been at the centre of British Angling, one way or the other. It must be something in the water...


    1. Beware Jeff - taking ideas from match angling experiences may leave you as troubled as the helicopter rig! (What is that anyway?)