Tuesday, 23 April 2013

When you're on a Roll, Butter it and add Jam

Saturday's events left me reeling with the suggestion that a fish I had not given a second thought as anything other than a hybrid might be the roach of a lifetime, or perhaps a hundred lifetimes...with tapeworm

As the warmth of home was left on Sunday morning for another pre-boat traffic mildly frosty dawn start I had no clue where to go. As usual I was armed with the simplest of baits, lobworms and a loaf of bread, but I really could not go back to the same area as the previous day as it would have become a pursuit of the impossible. Equally I couldn't go somewhere with any potential and so in the interest of a challenge the least likely place to catch a decent roach I could think of mysteriously rose to the top of the list of options, but, the lobs could come into play as it was possible that a few perch might inhabit the area, as well, these days, as zander of course

The infinitesimally tiny likelihood of a decent catch from this stretch cannot be over-exaggerated. in matches it would often be missed-out, of such dubious repute was it. I had never seen a weight of even two pounds from there in around 25 years' knowledge and didn't recall personally even having a pound of fish from it in the former angling life before the late 1990's. Not great then. I had not considered the prospect of the crayfish population either, not yet having had much trouble with them this year, but this was one of those places they might relish, deep inside, shallow across, a rocky towpath edge and a tree-lined far bank

I introduced the now customary three helpings of mashed bread down the base of the far shelf at the start despite the lack of form on the basis of an emerging notion that the quantity of this type of feed is important to stop a marauding roach shoal in their tracks in a manner that white crumb or liquidised bread simply appear unable to match

Soon it was apparent that a substantial crayfish population did indeed exist here with the float constantly being pulled about by the line caught around them...and those tell-tale tench-like bubbles they create punctuating the surface immediately above the feed. Casting slightly away from the fed zone to avoid them gave had a tentative lift, little different to those movements attributable to the crays, but, enough to make the trigger finger twitch. the result was the head-banging resistance of a roach of around 8-10 ounces from which the hook pulled-out in mid-water

Not dejected as such but nevertheless convinced that was my chance for the session gone the worms were reached for together with the wand. Feeling around in my bag and behind me the realisation...no worms. They, it seemed, were conveniently tucked next to my shoes in the car boot. A blessing, perhaps, that would ensure I stuck to the bread, fully focussed. Some prospect however!
Constantly checking left and right, primarily for signs of topping fish and then for approaching boats I glanced back at the float to see it twitch and postively sail away. This was either a crustacean on speed or another creature with bream-like tendancies. I struck into a fish which took fully five minutes to land, a monstrous hybrid the like of which I could never have dreamed existed in any water let alone this narrow little canal
Humungus mixtupipiscillana at 3-14-0
I hate to keep repeating myself, genuinely I do, and my limited writing skills don't help when attempting to convey the exponential levels of amazement at the current 'form' of the canal, but, yet again, the hybrid PB has been broken with this lump of fish flesh and scales, the progeny of both roach and bronze bream. Although it is never perhaps fully conceivable that one might be impressed by a hybrid, simply because the disappointment at not having caught a pure roach or bream get's in the way of those feelings, I could not deny this was something special. Yes, despite the monster of the previous day that was more roach than bream, this more bream than roach example was over half a pound bigger, the largest North Oxford canal fish I had ever caught for the third week in succession! Surely this would not be beaten ever again unless a rare carp or large zander entered the equation?

This session was unusual from there on to it's conclusion three and a half hours after setting-up, in that bites then came at regular intervals rather than in a burst of 3 or 4 bites in quick succession as was fairly standard when a shoal passed through. Roach then took centre-stage as they moved-in and for a change apparently stayed hovering over the feed which had been topped-up every hour with two more helpings if bites had tailed-off

The first was a fish of 3 drams over a pound, followed by a fourteen ouncer and at this point I became drawn in to the incredible bird song surrounding me so started to mentally compile a list of species from song as a bit of additional entertainment. Warblers were making themselves known in some numbers for the first time this year and a swathe of violets carpetted the bank as it dipped toward the hedge behind me. A hybrid of just under fifteen ounces intially interrupted the test but great tit was the obvious starter for ten, 'Teacher, teacher!', the male urgently cried as the contrastingly contemplative, 'Chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, chiff', emanated from a distant twig in tree-lined scrub to the south. Blackcap, greenfinch, mistle thrush and stock dove joined the musical throng as the list approached twenty species, the larger proportion of which were not ever seen

Perfect roach of around the pound started to show-up
The third roach was a muscular chap akin to the barrel-chested 'All Canals PB' of the previous weekend. The fight was something he or she could be proud of as it continually attempted to get round tree roots under the near bank and, at one point, managed to somehow get the line behind a log laying in the side which increased his chances of returning to the shoal considerably. Fortunately (for me) however the help of the landing net in dragging the log to the right brought the line back out into open water and the fish apparently became disorientated soon to be beaten. For the third time since the new year I was convinced this fish could be another PB but with the 1-7-3 fish in the back of my mind this time I knew it would be close and not a huge increase, if any. The capture of pound roach earlier in the session helped to gauge the scale. In the wetted bag the read-out appeared to gleam the result with some excitement as 24.3oz...converting to 1-8-5 and, yes, another All Canals PB to boot

The best roach from a canal so far at 1-8-5
Another thickset spawning season fish but how had they eluded me last year at this time I thought? In fact, checking 2012's notes they hadn't, I just have a bad memory but that ceiling of around 1-4-0 was quite obvious and the average was slightly smaller than this year, they are a year older after all. Could it be that simple? Well, it could but a theory is starting to formulate on this which I will share in a future post when updating current thinking on the tactics of this big canal roach quest

As a hint of water movement started to take effect a last bite of the day produced a fourth roach of just 8 drams below the pound as the first willow warbler of the year struck-up its melancholy descending song and soon after my photography ability was found wanting trying to make something of the literally fantastical catch of six fish for nine and half pounds from this previously angler-forsaken stretch. I shall not be rushing back there though, much preferring instead to seek-out a new challenge but it will not be ignored so freely in future certainly!

The whole nine and a half pounds of the blighters
In the words of the recently deceased Baroness Thatcher, "I'm enjoying this!", but how much longer this streak of unfathomable luck can continue I have no idea. I feel destined for that inestimable balancing event known as a series of blanks to descend upon things any day and I could not complain if it were indeed to do so

Soaring buzzard and kestrel sought thermals over the road and reflected the light-headed mood as I headed back not noticing either the load on my back or the ground under my feet, angling gets no better than this

The four canal roach in all their spring sunlight glory, totalling 4-5-11
Species list:
Rabbit, roach, (roachxbream hybrid), great tit, blue tit, mallard, moorhen, canada goose, heron, wren, chaffinch, bullfinch, carrion crow, woodpigeon, blackbird, mistle thrush, willow warbler, chiffchaff, robin, greenfinch, blackcap, skylark, stock dove, dunnock, buzzard, kestrel


  1. Class roach George - awaiting the "theory" in the next post

    1. I'm not sure about 'the next post' Ian (did I say that?), but as soon as this peak tails off I'll commit it to 'print', no doubt

    2. No i miss quoted you - you say a "future post" in that case I'll look out for the 2lb canal roach post instead

  2. What a brilliant result George, some simply beautiful looking roach there.

    1. Mark, I guess I've just been lucky that they're shoaling where I've been going, but it's certainly excellent sport at present

      Thanks for your comment

  3. People may think this a really nice catch of splendid roach. It's not. It's something else — the best roach haul I've seen from a canal in my five year canal angling life! Very difficult to achieve something like this in the past but I think you have proved it's not only possible once in a while but feasibly reproducable on a regular basis.

    The two pounder is on the horizon, and I can't wait for 'the theory' George, but I think I have an inkling what that might be!

    1. You are very generous young Sir but they still need to be in front of you to catch 'em! It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few sessions as currently I'm somewhat shell-shocked and feel it must come to an end

      You have the inside line on 'the theory' of course but it'll be out in the open soon enough I'm sure...come the next blank!