Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Roach Trip goes wrong. Very, very, wrong.

Saturday, 6.15am, snow

6.30am, snow

6.45am, snow

"Aah, let's go anyway, it's the only chance I'll have"

...and go I did.

A few weeks ago during the New Year mild spell a couple of unseasonal tench enlivened proceedings on a wide North Oxford Canal bend never before fished; well, others had fished it, but I hadn't

So yesterday, in the snow, I ended-up there again, albeit two or three pegs to the left

I had recalled some big fish crashing in this area, the culprits unknown but probably not roach, however I still fancied there might be some big roach in the area and, being without any lobworms, it was to be bread all round

Plumbing-up offered a pleasant surprise for, though the depth was not as great as the narrower stretches, it was deep well across against the far shelf at around 11m.

Water clarity perhaps a touch better than could have been expected with visibility about a foot down  
Bread flake had not been presented before at this distance and it was likely to prove tricky to get the bait out there without it falling-off from under the initially snow-covered green mushroom I refer to as a brolly. 7m out was also fed, that being the deepest point, and, after 10 minutes on that line, I was soon tempted across after a large fish rolled just one peg to my left but again not a roach, so what were they? I had been tempted to think chub, as a few lived not far from here many years ago, but, although that seemed unlikely in the cold light of morning, no other obvious options presented themselves from experience

The bread I had was a touch stale and it took three attempts to get a hookbait over the feed but a couple slices I had steamed did the trick and straightaway I struck into something hefty. In fact I have only experienced this phenomenon once since returning to fishing and that was the very first time I tried the lift bite method and large flakes of bread on the pole when a bream of exactly three pounds had risked a nibble; the strike hit a fish so large that when I lifted the pole the float stayed where it was and the elastic just stretched...and stretched!

Battle commenced. No fast, furious fighter this fish but clearly a heavyweight for this canal. After much aquatic chugging, burrowing and plodding-around the defendant became somewhat more animated when close to the net and it took a good while to drag a bream over the landing net. 3-1-0 it went, and a North Oxford PB by an ounce...good start

At this point a small brown bird alighted on some dead willowherb opposite and slightly to my left. "Troglodyte", I thought [Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)], and as it proceeded to strip seeds from the plant I very quickly had to backtrack. This was no wren, an out and out invertebrate devourer, but at the same time I could not see any diagnostic features and so took a series of long telephoto lens shots for later scrutiny
A redpoll. If anyone out there in blogland recognises this as anything other than the 'lesser' variety please do let me know

Regular tremors of the float occurred throughout the session as well as outrageous bites as bream came to the net at regular intervals together with two that slipped the hook and they all fought with some gusto it has to be said, which is often true of canal bream of course

As an old friend not seen for at least 20 years, who passed by, commented, these were largely old fish. There was certainly something 'funny' about them but I couldn't quite put my finger on it; something that made these fish, in varying degrees, not quite bronze bream. Two of the two pounders fought with that additional vigour of hybrids and the scales were, well, more roach like in places; and then there was the Roman nose-like mouth shape of the big'un; something is bugging me about them but, for the time being, they are bronze bream until proven otherwise

Not a roach to be seen but the catch certainly knocked all previous bream records for the canal, for my part and my memory at least, into a cocked hat. The 5 chunky fish weighed 10-14-0 and the prospect of a big bruising redfin in their company remains to live on as a hope for another day, as certainly it is not unheard of for such a dream fish to accompany nets of bream and such like on occasion
In case you thought I was fishing a touch heavy - that's not a yellow-tipped float giving some scale to the fish! The 'bream' on the right in hindsight is probably a hybrid explaining why it fought like one
Duncan (the passer-by) informed me that he had noticed more bream in the canals recently but cited stretches of the Grand Union and conjoined GUC and Oxford canals rather than the North Oxford per se. So I think I can quietly risk remaining justifiably pleased and, at the same time, more than mildly staggered by this catch. I recall very rarely more than a bream or two in catches since the days when Hillworton Wide was the place to go for the species pre-1980 before boat activity took it over and the stand-out catch of skimmers in a match taken from a different wide bend in a short evening competition was just 6lbs, although, as anglers familiar with the canal will know, 6lbs was quite some match weight from the North Oxford in the past

The activity in the swim was equally surprising with numerous feeding fish betrayed by much bubbling and blowing and, had I not been restricted, as I was, to bread I feel a bigger weight was quite possible but that will now have to wait for another day

Plenty of width but an otherwise unremarkable swim alive with bream
This is a good spot for a good bird list too and the first drumming great spotted woodpecker of 2013 was heard to the north together with bullfinch and green woodpecker in an almost forgotten incidental list when concentration on avian fauna was not at all high on the agenda

So the start to 2013 continues in a rich vein interspersed by blanks and the next brief two-hour session this very morning saw me wandering an unbelievably boggy canal bank I had never before set eyes on in the hope that I could track down that elusive roach in excess of 1-4-12. January and February had always been something of a nemesis with some seasons not a pound of fish registered on any day in their whole length. Again, unusually, an early bite resulted in yet another 2013 12oz roach, tempted of course on bread flake, coming to the net and two missed bites. Incidentally, on this trip, I trialed a Warburtons extra thick (green) loaf but it was just too thick and doughy, I'll be back to the blue in no time but if you don't ask the question you don't find out!

Lesser redpoll, bullfinch, chaffinch, goldfinch, long-tailed tit, robin, blackbird, song thrush, starling, dunnock, magpie, jackdaw, carrion crow, woodpigeon, feral pigeon, mallard, moorhen, mute swan, cormorant, black-headed gull  


  1. Almost certainly a lesser redpoll - 1st winter if I had to guess, although I've long since given up keeping up with the silly buggers who obsess about redpoll species / sub-species - here's a Birdforum thread from 2007 by way of demonstration!

    Nice bream btw - all of my best GUC fish (albeit I've only fished it a handful of times) have been bream of this order on bread or maggot. All waggler, must get down there with a pole at some point.

    1. Lost the will to live after reading two of the comments on that thread Mr Toad but thanks anyway :) least you agreed with the lesser diagnosis, I'm sure one day I'll come across one that's completely different!

      As regards the bream, yes the GUC carries some good ones, and some decent shoals of course, but I'd never experienced anything like that on the NOxC - 'quite an eye opener. You certainly wouldn't be wasting your time with a pole and a steady trickle of maggots on the GUC in your part of the world.

  2. nice blog mate, will be following from now on

  3. Thanks Jamie

    Looks like you've been doing well! 'Takes me back, though not so successfully

    I'll be following you too