Monday, 12 January 2015

Big Chub and Roach, Fresh Impetus (Part 1)

Laid-up, as I have been, with the lurgy since the New Year it was with genuine excitement that after some months (extending perhaps to a couple of years) I eventually tracked down, at the right price, a copy of 'Big Chub and Roach...Thoughts and Encounters' by John Etherington which thudded onto the door mat just two days ago

Not as thick or as large as I had expected but, I was sure, packed with useful information and, therein, enlightenment

Already in the first couple of pages he talks of the ceiling for chub being double the average size caught causing me to reach for my notebook and work mine out for the Leam. 31 chub, totalling 64-14-0, average 2-1-8. So my 4lb target complies with his thinking too, pretty neatly in fact. That said, I don't record chub under a pound and a half in my list but then I suspect he doesn't either, and they really are few and far between anyway when fishing big baits

My biggest at 3-13-0, while close to the possible ceiling of 4-3-0 is my only one over 3-8-0 so it implies I am not quite there yet but if you apply a +/- factor of, say, 10% this would give a range 6.5 ounces either side of that i.e. 3-12-8 to 4-9-8. So this is what he implies a Leam angler should be aiming at

From my perpetual 4lb Leam chub target you will we aware that these thoughts coincide, albeit mine is on a more woolly basis of simple observation, but to have it confirmed externally is of some comfort and gives me the resolve to carry on pursuing something larger. This is only my third season at it and as he also states that once you break through the barrier it will happen again and again, I hope to have something to look forward to yet. My biggest problem in that regard, as I have explained before, is that I do tend to want to go fishing when the conditions are against the likelihood of bites quite regularly, but maybe, on those occasions, I ought to take a more match-style approach and just fish for anything that swims or pursue dace which will feed in lighter conditions than most species

Speaking of conditions...later he discusses light levels at which big roach, in particular, are likely to feed. He states that Richard Walker determined a level of 6.5 footcandles as being the level below which this occurrs, and, using his camera (a 35mm SLR, I would assume) found that the same reading of 6.5 in the viewfinder coincided with roach feeding (although he didn't know whether the units of measurement were actually the same)

It is clear that big roach are very much affected by light levels when it comes to feeding. On my local canal I usually struggle to get bites from them once the sun comes up if there is no cloud and when there is cloud it needs to be fairly thick to provide any chance of fish from an hour or two after actual (i.e. Civil) sunrise. That is if the boats haven't turned the water to treacle by then anyway!

I have never measured light levels when fishing but it is beyond question that this general theory is true. There will always be exceptions of course but for serious angling is should be seen as a rule

This lead me to wonder how I might measure this in the modern age. Walker's books were obviously written decades ago and my current reading fodder was published in 1985 (although from the clothing, tackle and grainy black & white imagery one could easily be mistaken, quite frankly, for thinking they were from the 1960's!). So some research enlightened (sorry) me to the point at which I now understand that 1 footcandle = 10.8 lux and they are measures of illuminance. Below is a table which rather neatly also corresponds with the above theories (footcandles in the middle column, lux on the right):

Full Daylight     1,000 10,752
Overcast Day        100       1,075
Very Dark Day       10      107
Twilight                   1        10.8
Deep Twilight   0.1 1.08
Full Moon.           0.01        0.108
Quarter Moon           0.001 0.0108
Starlight                   0.0001 0.0011

6.5 footcandles therefore equates to 70.2 lux and, as can be seen, this level is lower than 'very dark day' at 107 lux and heading toward twilight so the cloud needs to be very heavy to result in this light level during the day but it gives us a clue as to the benefits of dawn and dusk, although moonlight can then come into play but probably in a different manner. Turbidity of the water is also a factor of course and accounts for those occasional days when roach will feed throughout daylight hours in certain flood conditions if combined with some cloud cover, however it is beyond my wit to combine the two and produce a method measuring that! (Perhaps a jar of flood water between a device and the sun? Moving on...)

I got to thinking about how I might measure this on the bank. Cricket umpires use light meters to determine whether it is safe for players to continue (we know it usually is, but they'll take 'em off anyway!) so that was an option and a quick delve into ebay confirmed that light meters these days start at around a tenner for a digital model, which is manageable. Although you have got to carry it with everything else of course and in my drive to travel light every appendage is to be analysed for necessity

So I started to ponder whether there might be an app. available. Of course Messrs Walker and Etherington will not have encountered such wonders in their time but, sure enough, even on android there they are...and they're free.

So I just downloaded 'Lux Meter Level' and it sits here next to me reading 8 and if I tilt it toward the window it reads 79. 79? Whoah!! Hang-on. Where are my rods?!

I'll finish this later...


  1. These light level measurements mean absolutely nothing on the Wark's Avon, George. The roach stop feeding an hour before dusk! They'll feed in the brightest of conditions, in fact. Strange but true. I think chalk stream roach are different. On the Itchen its true that roach feed hard around dusk, but that's when they throw you off the game fishery, the spoilers. The water is gin clear though.

    The Wark's Avon at Saxon Mill is deep. 10ft or more in places. I guess that has its say, so an hour before dusk for them is equivalent to dusk on the Itchen. That's why they switch off early. They cannot be caught after dark.

    I've caught roach up to one-eight at night on both the Oxford and Coventry Canals and believe they feed all night long though I never stayed past 9 in wintertime to find out. Who would?

    If the Leam is deep, then they should follow the same rules for the Warks Avon. If they don't then these things are river specific, don't you think?

    1. It's an interesting point you make Jeff.

      I wonder if we were able to analyse it in detail armed with all the knowledge we'll never have and were able to combine them whether it would prove true? The level (6.5/70.2) might be wrong or perhaps variable but if we could weigh-up cloud, shade, depth, turbidity, ripple and, importantly for me too, population of big roach present

      I'm sure it's a simple safety response, if they feel comfortable they feed, we wouldn't eat if we were nervous. Anyway more to follow, as you may have gathered

      I'm glossing over the match anglers' ability to take bags of pound plus fish in the past and again now it seems from the Avon and Severn of course, I'm thinking about the top few percent of fish in terms of size in a watercourse

      How big do they go at Saxon Mill then? I've not heard much about roach there, mainly cracking dace!

  2. Saxon Mill is crammed with large shoals of small roach. I saw a shoal in the shallows just before the weir one day and it numbered in the thousands. Not one was much over half a pound. There are large roach there and Baz Peck had a two pounder amongst a catch of ten to twelve ounce fish. However, they are very hard to find indeed. That's mostly because it contains so many small fish. The numbers are in their favour.

    However, it is a great place for honing skills because of the sheer quantities. Dace dominate the mill race. Roach swims are further out. I'd be looking at using up a whole bait tin crammed with bread disks on a good day. When they are really going for it bites come on the drop as the feeder sinks. When its like that I'm casting every minute or less!

    1. The Sowe is interesting. I've had many catches of stunning roach from 12oz to 1lb 4oz there. They are very large fish indeed for the size of the water. Roach are found only in the deepest water. Deep there is three feet maximum and the average depth just a foot or so! If you cannot see bottom easily, that's where they'll be. Unlike the Avon, they will feed into darkness and switch off about an hour later. They are caught in daylight though...

  3. Thanks Jeff, all interesting stuff. I wonder how many big roach would show after dark on the Avon?

  4. Hi George. One of the few books I haven't managed to get my hands on. The light reading sounds interesting and I have downloaded the app. Hopefully I'll get down to the Avon soon and we'll see what it brings to light!! :-)

    1. Hi Nathan,
      Blimey, it took me a while to find that 3 year old post to recall what it was you were commenting on!
      The light levels thing doesn't seem to apply so rigidly in the turbid waters of the Midlands so I hope it helps you at least.
      Thanks for dropping by. I hope you're catching a few, it's tough at the mo.

    2. Hi George, haha I hadn’t realised how old that post was! It’s quite interesting info though and knowing that Dick Walker fished a lot on the Southern chalkstreams, I guess that’s where it’s mainly relevant. I shall at least keep notes when fishing in future. Yes very tough going at the moment. Was hoping to get down to the Frome next week but it’s begining to look unlikely with this weather. The levels are up and it’s running a bit coloured. Not ideal grayling conditions. Anyway thanks for sharing the info. Could be useful.

  5. Would love to meet up with you down there sometime if the opportunity ever arises I must admit!

  6. I'm sure I could sort you out a guest ticket, although it's a slightly complicated affair, for our bit of the Frome. However it's an amazing stretch of around 2-2.5 miles. You'd be more than welcome to join me there at some point.

  7. Or of course the Hampshire Avon below Salisbury. Another wonder bit of river.