Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A Trail of Crumbs to the Big Roach

A pattern has started to form. Stillwater Saturdays and Canals on Sundays, Parps prefers ice cream sundaes but that will have to wait until it warms up (will it ever?!)

I'd had my eye on a certain estate lake for many years and after a mid-week recce between appointments the time had come. During the actual session, apart from learning about the venue in terms of its topography, etc. I spent a good few minutes in discussion with a passer-by who turned-out to be a former british barbel record holder and subsequently a pursuer of massive Thames chub. He had a bit of useful information on the venue and having spent the morning after roach which produced a 31-fish net of 5lbs with fish to 4ozs including some solid little rudd and a solitary perch I now feel better prepared for a return trip in pursuit of something a touch bigger

A pair of tame, if non-descript, little estate lake ducks
The female took many trips beneath the legs of my box! 

I had forgotten how beautiful rudd could be. The first of the new era 

Sunday the quest to break the North Oxford Canal p.b. resumed with a first return to the same peg since this adventure began. The attack would replicate the previous weekend's except that wandering the towpath the previous evening would stand-in for stalking a topping shoal. Not a single fish was seen on that walk but the changed face of the venue was quite disarming; ten or more years since my last visit and huge rush beds had been removed to leave wide sweeping bends in their wake and frankly the heavier colour after the incessant trend of daily rain did nothing to make it any more desirable, give it a decent pre-christmas cold spell however and that would all change too as the colour drops out and the bready tinge reestablishes itself.

The lack of active roach did nothing to crush the confidence in taking at least one proper fish early the following morning as this was the area I had taken two individual pounders with a 3lb bream a few weeks prior and is historically an area which holds big roach year round. Bread flake over fine white crumb and a coarser freeze dried liquidised bread at the bottom of the far slope was adopted with caster fed 5m to one side.

The Old Duffer was on fire with about ten bites, a couple of pull-outs and a big roach plus some decent perch so show for his maggot attack 3/4 across. His roach went 1-3-0. For my part the attack at the cost of avoiding smaller fish was again high risk but knowing the fish were present it was also no risk at all - one bite, one fish. Quite a strange looking, pre-photoshopped fish in fact like the head and middle of a really decent roach maybe weighing around 1-8-0 attached to the tail of a 12ozer! No doubt in my mind that this was a roach though, despite this. Maybe one which had been touched by the electro-fishing plate years before? When suspended from the electronic scales I was expecting around 1-1-0 but when the ounces went to 20.8 I had to snap myself into conversion mode rather quickly, concluding that this half fish, half fish, fish was in fact the bruiser to break my N Oxford Canal p.b. at 1-4-12. In hindsight the front end was quite chunky compared to its somewhat lacking rear but I suppose we all rather hope that the p.b. will be that perfectly formed Liz Hurley of a fish...never mind you can't have everything!

1-4-12 North Oxford canal P.B.
Next day saw me return to the location of a recent rain affected blank. 'Why?', one asks one's self. Well it was actually an attempt to get to perhaps the most likely area for those pound plus rutilii but again the moored narowboats appeared to have scuppered prospects when viewed through the early mist. Consequently a seat by the bridge on the 'wrong' side would have to do. An extended plan was to be deployed here. Lobworm over chopped worm 5m out at the base of the near slope, bread flake at the base of the far slope and maggot further across towards the concrete piles. However two of these plans needed adjustment on the bank. The tub of lobbies I had amassed over the previous two weeks from the garden when opened looked distinctly like bronze maggots...as did the second box! 2 pints of maggots on a canal unlikely to produce more than a couple of bites seemed a touch excessive and sure enough I had left the worms at home! Conversely the maggots were turning and so I was able to select a few casters to flick across to the top of the far shelf quite regularly and, more to keep me amused than anything else I threw a few maggots to 5m very few minutes As per the previous day the only bite was hit and the resistance of a really solid roach ran though the elastic and into the top four of the pole after it had initially somewhat meekly swam towards me. Once in the net this looked a far more 'text book' fish than yesterday's, the right shape in the right places and quite stocky too. The Duff one eventually tempted a bite, even after he had convinced himself, and myself, that he wasn't going to catch anything at all. His was also a roach, of around 12ozs.

A decent roach is drawn to The Old Duffer's net
A very tame dunnock gave more bites than the fish as I threw him a few maggots and a female mallard with 12 of those little motorised ducklings devoured more of the bread.

That which had devoured a nice piece of flake however pulled the scales down to 1-2-4 and as such goes high in the all-time list for this canal, but not high enough to threaten the top spot

A chunky 1-2-4 roach in the hand
What is becoming apparent is that if one were to draw a graph showing the pound-plus roach taken during this search they would fill a vary narrow band from 1-0-0 to 5ozs above that weight. I remain convinced that fish over this size must exist as Jeff Hatt has taken a number above that weight at the very western end of the canal and I know that the areas I am fishing are capable of supporting fish hovering around the magical two pound mark from past reports of weighed and witnessed fish in years gone by. Obviously big fish will eventually die but the capacity to support them exists and so with that and the generally absence of small fish in mind my confidence stays high while the scope for the piscine biomass remains for the slack to be taken up by roach, perch, odd bream and zander. It may be case of tracking down those larger fish if they are shoaled together or it may be that they exist as the odd individual swimming amongst the pounders; the latter possibility is my preferred dream and I think it's just a case of plugging away until I find one with this neatly targetted method. Next I am inclined to step-up the rigs to a heavier level using larger flakes of bread possibly from a tin loaf (a la chub fishing) rather than using sliced bread. For now the North Oxford canal p.b. is broken, just, and, while not ecstatic, it is a very satisfying feeling to have acheived it, even if only by an ounce.

Roll on next weekend, and warmer dry evenings when the after dark option will present itself


  1. George, just to say that I look forward to your posts. I might be stuck in an office, but theres no reason not to allow your writing to transport me to beside a piece of water. Thanks

    1. Glad you're enjoying it Mart. Sometimes you wonder precisely why you're committing it all to writing but if it's keeping you happy too then it's all the more worthwhile!


  2. Congrats on breaking the PB, at last. An even larger one will be along at some point soon.

    It looks familiar to me George. I think it may have an infestation of Ligula intestinalis, because I had one very similar shaped, though half a pound larger, and extremely fat three, years ago. It was the length of your's, but weighed one-thirteen.


    The fish didn't seem to mind as it was fighting fit, but scales had started to flake away which is a symptom of the body outgrowing the scale's capacity to keep up.

    Your bracket figures of a pound to one-five, tally pretty much exactly with my Cov Canal fish. The largest I have ever had from there is one-eight, but that was the only one that large out of 30 or so fish between the brackets.

  3. I just knew you'd have the explanation sorted Jeff...and the latin name!

    I am hoping there is another tier of roach there to be found. Bigger baits for bigger mouths maybe but, short of catching a spawn-laden female, I suspect the early winter will offer peak potential after the big feed-up from September onwards and bread will work better then too. This rain is colouring the water too much for it at the moment - hence the odd fish (haha 'odd' fish, the p.b. certainly was!) and which was why I had intended to try lobbies...had I not left them in the carport!