Friday, 1 November 2013

Wide Options Narrowed (or The Big Roach get Bigger)

Cracking the glass ceiling caused a rapid repair to the metaphorical understairs cupboard contemplating zone. From thence some noteworthy conclusions were drawn
Sadly however, a month or two ago, all records for 2012 and 2013 literally disappeared in front my very eyes from the screen of my iPad together with a lifetime's list of pound-plus canal roach. 'Sadly' as a word is of course no true reflection to an avid lister and recorder of the feeling of loss at this event. Apparently it was something to do with my phone and tablet syncing but not being backed-up to the cloud, and all that clap-trap, however it has continued to happen arbitrarily since so I'm not so sure

Anyway, cue a watershed decision not to let 'the system' have control of my information henceforth and the subsequent investment in a set of superb moleskines; one for the initial returning dabblings of 2010 and 2011; one for what remnants of 2012/2013 I can glean from the blog (thank goodness for the idea to commit so much of it to that!) and one for general species records but, as that one is red, mainly for roach

Thankfully I know that, at the time the glass ceiling was breached, 37 rutilii in excess of a pound had been enticed from the murky depths, for which I thank the industrial revolution generally. Since that time, brightly I thought, individual records of each trip had been made but some of them had also subsequently been lost so there are definite gaps in the record however a few of those relate to sorties to the Grand Union and conjoined Oxford and Grand Union between Napton on the Hill and Braunston (that's another story!)
In compiling a resume on rolled moleskin it became apparent that this year individual captures over the 2012 PB of 1-4-12 (and the average of 1-2-4) had become quite regular. The average for the year must be around, if not higher than, 1lb 4ozs but the facts will never be entirely known now, although I do realise that henceforth the record can be recalculated to determine loose figures to hang a somewhat woolly and holed hat on

The change from liquidised bread, to mashed bread, to quantities of mashed bread as feed around March/April this year has had a notable impact on results, and the number of fish over last years PB is already past five.
This apparently simple change has been the most striking during the big roach quest
I have commented before on the problems with being unable to sustain bites over a decent period on bread with this feeding technique but it is by now certain beyond doubt that the downside is comfortably outweighed in fish above the 2012 average. Fish that were 'of dreams' last year have become sufficiently regular in 2013 to confirm that around three mashed bread satsumas on arrival are the key factor in weeding out the also-rans
It is no less easy to put together a weight of roach however, and, for that, the previous line of thought of a slightly more 'little and often' approach would still be the preferred choice but with the prospect of really big canal roach currently perfectly possible on every trip it is rare that this tactic be adopted unless prevailing conditions suggest it may fail (usually based on water clarity)
In many ways it feels as if the two-pounder came a little early in proceedings. Here we are less than two years into pursuit of the largest of the species, with a formerly unimaginable barrier broken, and yet with the follow-up list well behind, over half a pound in fact, which, in a species that doesn't grow too large, represents a considerable gap in results
Certainly it is perfectly possible that the biggest was a fluke, the last or at least one of a tiny group of monster roach I just happened to cross paths with, it's highly likely in fact, but it has been so noticeable that the largest fish at any one time has been a small incremental increase on its forerunner that it makes this one stand out at being in excess of half a pound bigger than its nearest rival at 1-9-11

The back-up list would nevertheless have been unimaginable pre-2012, and fanciful until April this year, but on two occasions since no less than two fish over the 2012 average have been taken in one session, but, with mention of the word 'session' comes the predicament

The North Oxford Canal benefits from various factors that make it a waterway able to produce these kind of results:

  • It is relatively deep in a good number of stretches,
  • (almost) always carrying some colour in at least one of the two key lengths (which I separate as above and below Hillmorton Locks), and,
  • has a generally low fish population, but,
  • a high relative predator population together with,
  • a correspondingly low range of successful species; these could be listed simply as Bronze Bream, Roach, Perch and Zander, with Silver Bream a little way behind.
  • It also snakes on its winding course through the Warwickshire countryside such that, no matter how horrendous the weather, there is always somewhere worthwhile that one can find sufficient shelter to fish
All of this serves to demonstrate that the canal has the capacity to hold bigger roach and, in roughly equal measure, provide the circumstances for their capture
The downside though is that it carries a high level of boat traffic and, while it is deep, it is also generally a touch too narrow to cope as a fishery, as compared to say the Ground Union in Northants where, on a decent peg, it is possible to resume catching straight after a boat. Fish seem to scatter when a boat passes and it is very time consuming to bring them back onto the feed, it can take as long as an hour and the chances of another boat, or in fact numerous boats, in that period is high which reduces chances to close to zero. When fishing with bread this is even more of an issue but is exacerbated by the fact that the heavier one feeds at the outset the shorter the initial catching period will usually be because the fish can be fed-up (in the falconry sense) within minutes
Evenings are not much better as narrowboats currently have no idea of when to stop moving and a recent trip met with boats after dark making a mockery of the effort
So, it is very much a case of starting at first light and continuing until the boats start but, on those days when the boats are lenient to the angler, it is very clear from experience that when bites are forthcoming immediately the session starts they will end with the rising sun. The heavy bread feed and 20mm-plus punched flake generally limits caught fish to those over 14ozs and the littl'uns only get a look in when they have whittled the bait down to something manageable but it is abundantly clear that what equates to one and a half to two slices of bread being thrown-in at the outset quickly encourages those roach over the pound and, more often than before, over 1lb 2ozs to have a go
Roach of 1-8-5 and 1-5-8 together with a hat-trick silver bream of 0-14-13. Quite a catch!
Soon I will try upping the initial feed even more, expecting it to kill it before I've started, but I would have expected that with the current level of feed so who knows? Secondly, the hook bait can be increased to over 25mm and that will make a logical combined step. Nothing ventured...


  1. With the recent larger than average fish I reckon your average weight is now approaching mine for the North Oxford, George — 22.2 ounces.

    However, all mine were caught on outrageous lobworms that were far more of a nutritious mouthful than the largest piece of bread and would be a week's protein for even a two pounder!

    I only had six fish though, because since my enormous early effort there, pulling my hair out between freezing my nads and a fish every 10 hours, I generally have fished the nearby Coventry Canal because of the vastly reduced boat problem that makes an hour or more of pleasant fishing during daylight possible.

    Worms worked just as well on the Coventry but the average was lower — 18.3 ounces. Far more of them though — 14 fish there for the same time and effort expended on the Oxford.

    I do have complete records of every single roach I've caught on both canals. I might well publish them just to scare people off!

    Just 41 roach...

    For three years work!

    Nice average weight though — 15.25 ounces and that includes every fish caught on every bait.

  2. If I could somehow recreate the list it would make an interesting and wide-reaching comparison. I've started and have a fair idea of how it should look but of course mine was only of 1lb+ fish

    I notice the time between your fish is increasing...I think you are getting more pessimistic as you get older!

    1. More realistic I reckon. Looking back it was bloody tough fishing with worms on the Oxford and the time between banked fish ridiculous. I had bites between but with worms you only seem to hook every other one because of their size — strike before it's all the way down and it comes back mangled or chopped in half. I should have float fished really, then I could have timed it better. With a quivertip suddenly jumping about in the rest after two hours with two rods sitting dead still, all timing went out the window!