Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Big Bend Theory - Fact

Now don't you just know that it must be worth writing about to see this post after a gap of two months and very little blogging activity since May?

Many months ago the idea that bends in the North Oxford Canal might be places to target for big roach formed. A couple of visits to likely spots produced the goods, without doubt, and bream to over three pounds, cracking 'more roach than bream' hybrids and even some unseasonal (and somewhat unbelievable) tench ensued, but no exceptional roach, just the odd twelve ouncer

So, with my initial intensive dalliance with the syndicate water ended for the time being (more of that some other time), and the summer holidays over. I decided to try a bend I had intended to take the plunge in for over a year. An area from which I recalled a former travelling companion winning an evening match with around 6lbs of skimmers approximately 20 years ago, otherwise the noteworthy feature of this bend was its lack of 'previous'

It really is completely, so completely, featureless physically as well. So much so that it is not so much a case of words failing to convey it as it not requiring any words, there being is nothing to describe

One thing that was striking however was the depth, which, for the North Oxford, was surprisingly shallow as the float stood at least a foot proud of the water on plumbing, at which point the prospect of an instant death at the passage of the first boat became a fact

On top of this I had cadged The Old Duffer's pole with a view to buying it from him if it proved suitable for what I had in mind...thin, stiff, 11 metres packing into one piece, while at the same time light enough to rove with in a bag with a rod and centrepin set-up too

Arriving at the bridge just after dawn the dash to park was at first delayed by the sight of a number of moored boats, such that the initial reaction was to move on, but something made me turn back and soon, with the bare minimum of tackle now taken to the highest levels, the towpath was consumed by the marching of wellies headed for the spot

The peg I chose, and those for a good distance either side, had not been fished this season it seemed. Nothing unusual for canals these days of course but I was able to gently compress some vegetation leaving that close to the edge in place in the hope of concealing my presence from the quarry

The water had that bready greenish tinge, many years' experience had taught, to about 8 inches down and, with a heavily overcast sky and a mild morning temperature, confidence of at least a few bream to go with those previously caught bend-inhabitors grew from possibility, through probability, to definite in the mind

Having plumbed, a line about 9m out was targeted with three handfuls of mashed bread and a lift bite pole rig lowered over the top offering a 20mm bread disc to potentially be consumed. This was the first time I had fished the pole this season having sold an old DAM model to make way for other tackle and this one was very much more stiff and slender for the purpose

Very soon after the rig settled the tip lifted clear of the surface and a strike met with staunch resistance. The fish was neatly drawn to the right due to the incredible rigidity of the pole and as it was shipped back the elastic tore out towards the centre and one of those all-powerful subsurface eruptions of boiling water reached the surface numerous times

It soon dawned on me that this was not the fight of your average bream but a lack of prior use of this pole left me at something of a loss as to what to predict, such did it differ from the feel of the old model which had much more 'action', but certainly this fish did not seem to have that extra power of a big hybrid

Next, as the excitement moved closer to the near bank, a distinctly, and bright, red fin was glimpsed

Now over the course of this stop/start big roach quest such a sight had so often been backed-up by a decent hybrid that I was reluctant to show any great signs of interest but then, when it rolled toward the net, a truly massive, MASSIVE, roach revealed mistake

The fish shot into the net and straight over the opposite edge in its initially unbeaten state! A quick tazz around the near shelf and this time it was in the all-but undersized net. The brute took quite some lifting clear of the water but as soon as it was visible in the full glory of it's silver clad flesh this was clearly a special fish

It was going to blow the previous 1lb 8oz canal p.b. out of the murky water with comfort and in the heat of the moment I convinced myself it would go 1-12-0. Partly because I could not face the prospect of being wrong if I guessed higher and partly out of a sort of innate pessimism

Photographs were taken on the iPhone (why never a decent camera when it really matters?!) and then the truth was to be revealed. Even without the result of this first cast, first bite, fish the idea to target wider bends was certainly justified in this moment

The scales, I allowed myself to admit as the hook took the strain of the bag, needed to slip past 32 ounces to make this past five minutes the five minutes of a lifetime. 35.6 they settled and locked. Again, to be sure, doubt, but of course I already knew this to be a monster, how much of a monster was now confirmed. Yes the five minutes of a lifetime, the fish of a lifetime and, this time absolutely no doubt that this fish was one hundred percent roach without the slightest hint of any other species mixed-in. Although, if I am honest, it was about 97% roach as a slice of the top of its tail was missing but with no signs of recent injury this must have been a long-term feature of the fish
Roach 2-3-11. Canal and overall PB. Not the time for poor photo's but these are all I have! No doubt about it nevertheless

...and again
I wasn't sure whether to fish on or to simply call it a day after one bite, nothing that followed could match it, I knew that, but, if there had been a shoal of big roach, now might have been the time to have one of those rare exceptional nets of fish, albeit I had no keepnet today. Two hybrids followed of around 12 ounces each and then another good roach concluded the catch before the first boat did indeed kill the swim, churning the silty bottom to a beige soup. This one would sit at around 4th or 5th in the Float, Flight and Flannel all time canal list at 1-4-11 but that was the least of my worries as a warm glow and broad smile lead me back home

Roach of 1-4-11


  1. Worth waiting 2 months for - congrats George ... do you think there's bigger to be had?

    1. Thank you, but I daren't even think about it yet Ian!

  2. You know how I feel George. This fish is merely the first of many. If only people would begin taking canals seriously as big roach venues, two-pounders. well they'd roll up all the time. But when only two anglers in teh entire country bother to undergo the trials and errors necessary to sort them out then it's bound to be a long wait. That perseverance has paid off at last, and with the size of fish that forces others to take these venues and methods very seriously indeed. Sterling work to be proud of my friend. Hard earned, and well deserved. Jeff.

    1. Thanks Jeff.

      You're quite right, as always. Mind you I am secretly quite content to have the cut to myself with it's unsuspecting stocks!