Sunday, 18 November 2012

Big Roach Quest with Bread Rolls On

Frost, fog and funnels

Having clocked-up twenty-five two hour trips over the course of this year, with a break from June to August, chasing bigger roach from the North Oxford Canal on the old favourite bait, bread, it is high time for some rationalisation of the findings
Before embarking on this quest a summary of a previous match fishing approach to bread fishing was set-out in back in February but that was a delicate punched bread approach and just part of a wider plan to snare anything that swam in the hope of keeping fish coming for the whole period of a match
This method potentially needed to consistently catch roach over the pound from venues known to hold them prior to about 1995, when the formerly unquenchable urge to stride-out on the competitive treadmill waned, and to be successful it had to directly target those fish, precluding their fry and cousins from diluting the result
Extensive knowledge of changes occurring on the specific watercourse, resulting in larger fish dominating and smaller fish almost disappearing, helped to formulate the concept fuelled by absorbing the occasional exploits of other largely Warwickshire-based bloggers
Prior to 2012 the extensive vault of results from the former life shows four roach at weights higher than the newly set bar had been caught in matches on the North Oxford. This wasn’t anything like a good average of course considering a conservative 200 matches (let’s say average 600 hours!) would have been involved over a decade or two but of course the beginning of this period involved teasing-out as many tiny fish (with the odd bonus) as possible, looking for 25 to 50 in two to four hour matches whereas towards the end the preponderance of small fish had evolved into an altogether different biomass as subsequently zander swept through and reduced the remnant population of natives to those over two ounces from whence they grew, and grew, to such a level in fact that fishing for their little brothers and sisters was no longer an option and slowly a new balance was restored with big fish needed to have any impact on the frame
It was unlikely therefore that things would have reverted back and the suspicion that the British Waterways policy of electro-fishing the zander over twelve ounces annually would not have been perpetuated, due, one can be certain, to falling revenues from canal angling, did nothing to change that expectation
So a brief dalliance in 2010 supported that theory with 3 one pound-plus roach in two trips that autumn with a gentle bread punch tactic 
By comparison, this year’s circa 50 hours targeted big roach fishing have thus far produced 12 roach over a pound using bread flake and crust, five to ten pence piece-sized, suspended 2 to 6 inches off the bottom with a lift bite method
Adopting a new method so religiously over a long period tends to focus the mind initially on the advice of, and gleanings from, others but then, as successive events unfold, one’s own experiences begin to influence the standard set-up. I say ‘standard’ but in reality of course it is an ever, if slowly, changing approach
The initial rig has not changed much. A 0.75g long cane-tipped ‘body-down’ wire-stemmed pole float with a bulk 15 inches from the hook and a string of 3 number 6 shot holding a 5p piece of flake close to the canal bed and a size 12 nickel wide gape hook to 0.08mm (1lb 12 oz) hook-length has only changed slightly in that the no.6’s have variously become a no.1 or a string of 3 no.4’s as bigger baits have been deployed (a string when bites are not so positive as fish are less likely to feel their weight). The hook need be no bigger than a 14 in reality and occasionally 16's have been used without detriment to the result

Tricks which seem to be useful however are probably more important; after all the only reason for the size of the weights on the deck is to hold down the piece of bread of whatever size; but the length of tail and therefore the distance between bait and deck has greater importance and the changing of it can have an immediate detrimental or positive impact. The default position is 2” off but when the signal crayfish move in (most trips) this has been increased to 4-6” and also when things are simply in need of change. It seems the crays aren’t so aware of the bait if it is higher above the bed but if fish are floating above them to keep out of the way of the ravenous beast’s claws they can occasionally be picked-off. The crayfish give themselves away when feeding as they produce little dimples on the surface like gentle fizzing something akin to tench bubbles and occasionally their tugging at the line to reel in the bread results in it suddenly appearing on the surface after it has been dislodged...time to re-bait!
Thursday: Roach of 1-4-10 & 0-11-3 with small hybrids. The big one was taken away from the fed area
Another thing which can pick-up the odd fish is to drop in a metre or so downstream of the feeding point to snaffle the odd fish hanging off the main feed picking-up crumbs floating by or, again, keeping away from the crayfish
The rate and quantity of feed has been a bit of a conundrum. Initially the impression was that it was counterproductive to feed more than once and on that basis a good helping in at the start and a patient approach waiting for the action was employed, relying on changes to the rig and its disposition to bring bites but more recently it has become apparent that at some locations a regular light feed after the initial helping has produced bites too. This still isn’t clear however, as it worked yesterday in a swim which suddenly came to life after ninety minutes (a kind of injury time recovery) producing 5 fish for 3lbs 10ozs, whereas today nothing would work and all that was caught was a small bream when trying to avoid what appeared to be a crayfish bite. Having said that, yesterday’s session only produced one probable crayfish bite and today it was one every put-in

Roach of 1-4-6, 0-14-10, 0-13-6 and 0-8-6 all taken in a twenty minute burst
The likelihood of getting an early bite seems to be quite low. Bites rarely materialise within half an hour of commencing and it is often over an hour before that massive lift bite associated with a quality roach bursts above the watery horizon. All sessions have been for around two hours after dawn, suggesting that interest from fish probably occurs when patrolling individuals or shoals simply pass through the stretch, and that the time a bite will be received is entirely unpredictable. This is why I have started to favour a regular light feed after the initial substantial introduction as, if fish are close-by, they might be drawn-in at that very moment

In terms of size, there seems to be a one pound four ounce ceiling at present, or the scales are stuck! I remain convinced that there are bigger fish to be had but the top few for 2012 have been 1-4-13, 1-4-10, 1-4-6, 1-3-12, 1-3-6 the p.b. having been shaken twice in a week without falling

The immediate future appears to suggest an attempt to avoid crayfish-laden locations but currently they just seem to be everywhere. If I lived on a boat the first thing to do would be to get a licence to catch them and then eat the armoured bottom feeders!


  1. Interesting George. I'm going to have to get out and have another go because I've hardly bothered with the roach this year. Then again, the two I have caught whilst fishing for tench and bream were both 1lb 7oz! One on corn and one on caster, the first on a bolt rig (shameful!) by accident but the second more by design under a float and within the rules!

    What remarkable is your reporting of that half hour mark when bites are likely to suddenly appear because that's exactly what I get with bread ground bait. It sometimes takes up to an hour but I generally move if nothing occurs in that time frame so maybe I should just wait on till the ninety minute mark?

    Oddly, when I started picking up roach at the bream and tench peg, I started fishing bread tight to the far bank where they'd arisen from in the hope of even better fish but never had another amongst a constant stream of good sized bream and tench even though the tactics were those for roach, more or less.

  2. Thanks for the reply Jeff, more interesting anecdotes there

    There is so much to say on the subject. I am preparing a follow-up covering what I've found so far, some of the points you raise and more

    Watch this space!