Monday, 19 January 2015

Big Chub and Roach. Fresh Impetus. (Part 2)

So where was I?

Oh yes, light levels and big roach feeding...

Richard Walker identified 6.5 footcandles as the threshold below which big roach would feed and John Etherington agrees

Now 6.5 footcandles equates to 70.2 lux in modern units which is darker that a 'very dark day':

In my experience I would say this is possibly a touch pessimistic but there are so many variable factors in play here.

How big is a big roach?
How turbid is the water?
How deep are the roach lying?
Is the water shaded?
Are they affected by other influences in their feeding?
Is it as applicable to stillwaters, rivers and canals in equal measure?
...Are they even there?

When I have been in pursuit of big canal roach, and regular visitors will know this means anything over a pound (Walker might have considered that 'nice, but small'), I have most likely caught the majority of them outside those parameters, i.e. at light levels in excess of 70 lux having tested what that level really looks like with the benefit of the new app. 70 lux is definitely 'last cast' territory for the float angler

Having the benefit of some thinking time since I posted Part One together with the always helpful and pithy responses of Jeff Hatt and comments of others there are a number of situations which clearly contradict the 70 lux theory:
  • Match fishing is always undertaken in the brightest part of the day and I can think of no situations when I personally have taken large roach in light levels of 70 lux or less in match conditions. I doubt whether light levels that low would ever have occurred in my 15 years at it. So all my match-caught roach and the vast majority, if not all, of those of other match anglers would have come in ‘daylight’ 
  • Regular feeding has on numerous occasions produced what I consider may be the biggest roach present in a swim during the day after, often, two to four hours constant feeding effort. On canals this would usually have been on caster or occasionally hemp and on rivers caster or maggot (I’m sure The Old Duffer, were I to consult him, would say the same about hemp and tares) 
  • ‘Smaller’ roach will feed right through the day on canals and on rivers when the conditions are right (less likely in clear water)
The upshot of this is that, like many things, it's just another guide to help us make the most of our precious time on the bank and shouldn't be rigidly applied but there is definitely something in it and I certainly would not waste my time fishing for big roach during a blazing hot day on any venue...but I won't be the only one to recall the frantic feeding of roach in midday heat of the 1976 heat-wave on hemp and tares when on one memorable occasion fishing the Great Ouse at St Ives they became so apparently drugged-up on the stuff and preoccupied with feeding that they were literally taking anything that floated by, including leaves - I kid you not. 20 to 30lb bags were comfortably possible and even I, then barely a teenager, had double figures of them in times when those sort of roach weights were very much the exception and bream shoals normally ruled the roost

So is it a question of what we deem to be ‘big’ roach?

The examples I give above from personal experience can be bulked-out by the inclusion of big roach bags winning matches on the River Severn on a cyclical basis (currently underway again) and the true tales of certain anglers taking multiple two pound roach when pleasure fishing the same and similar stretches during the peaks of those cycles

I think we need to separate some aspects out here to make sense of the 70 lux theory

We do not expect to catch the very largest fish when match fishing. We might from time to time ‘fluke’ the odd one but we must assume that the fish caught in matches are not the highest few percent of roach present in terms of weight. Those odd pound fish I was fortunate enough to net in the old days would have been either one of many or there would have been others that we never managed to tempt that may have been even larger. Those wise old fish, perhaps of around six to ten years of age, might well have been pushed along by the walking anglers off the match length anyway…ever wondered why the far end peg was always favourite, especially in clear water conditions?!

Snippets of information like this are all part of reading the situation on the bank. If when you arrive at the canal you can see the end of the cloud for instance, and blue sky behind it, maybe it isn't the time to expect a few pound-plus roach, but, if the water is what I would describe as perfect for bread (clear to about eight inches down and naturally coloured, i.e. not floodwater coloured) and it's cloudy, prepare to fill your boots with quality fish, if they are there and all other factors point to it


So have been on the bank of the stream lately? You bet! Both Saturday and Sunday in fact, moving from swim to swim and approaching the stretch from different access points each day to cover the whole water in one weekend and, as usual at this time of year, the fish were in identifiable pockets with the level about 0.8m above normal, or about '2 foot 8' in old money. There was no great pattern to it other than that generally they were near good cover and a reasonable depth but I did find a shoal of roach in a nearside slack in the open but all too briefly as the full sun rose and scuppered the chances of bites

Saturday afternoon I found the fish in my very last swim and managed to lose two small chub at the rim of the net resulting in a resounding blank and a few choice words, twice. I was using lobworms and instead of bread I thought it time I moved into the modern age and used a proprietary Cheese paste in pegs I expected to hold chub. The chub I lost came to two sections of worms

I tested the light level app on this trip and found the level at which I was getting bites initially to be around 170 lux but it certainly did improve in terms of bites per minute ratio as it got darker, and as one might expect, until I was amazed to find it reading 1 lux when I could still see some shapes quite clearly

Sunday was quite a challenge. A heavy frost first thing and the line freezing in the rings. Again I persevered with the cheese paste whenever I thought it might work but with no nibbles and all the bites came to sections of lobworms. First bite was in an open area with a noticeable nearside slack where a roach topped as I approached. I had one first drop in at around seven ounces as soon as it hit the bottom. One more missed bite but by now the sun was bright and it was time to move on

Next swim was the one I had down as the banker but just one tremor had me moving to the next one fairly soon, which happened to be where I ended up the day before. A nearside slack again but with a good depth and shade from the sun. Here both rods were deployed with multiple worm sections and I enjoyed regular bites taking another eight ounce roach, a twelve ounce chub and smaller roach plus a few missed bites from small fish and one which came off the hook. The bites hadn't tailed-off when I left, though they were more tricky to hit...definitely a peg for the pole and bread method to be tried-out this one

Pleased with the action in such demanding conditions I headed home to look up some taxidermy I'd been tipped-off about and logged the things I'd learnt about this intriguing water. I am confident that on one or other trip I would have had a chub bite on bread, as the conditions have been stable for some time now, so next trip I'll probably revert back to that from cheese paste, not least because I have confidence in it...and it's cheaper too! The forecast is for more of the same at least until Thursday, temperatures not above 2 deg C all through and often cloudy, so there will come an opportune moment and I hope to be there to take advantage of settled conditions, however cold they may be. The chub and roach, and probably the perch if (I could find them), don't mind it so why should I?

Mouse Training Update:

Monica hasn't yet ventured onto my hand, although she did think the whole hand was food yesterday when she bit my finger and tried to drag me into their food store. She will take a treat from the end of my nails however

Potty ventured right up to the top of my fingers on my outstretched palm for a peanut, by-passing lesser offerings on the way tonight. Now that is a breakthrough and she should soon be scurrying over my jumper while the football's on...and leaving incidental deposits no doubt


  1. I think the 70 lux threshold was probably observed on chalk streams such as the Hampshire Avon, George. I can vouch from my Itchen experiences that roach are catchable morning and evening and between times it's very hard to tempt them. However, I fished the game stretch directly above the Southampton free stretch. All that separates them is a weir but the two waters are chalk and cheese. Simon Daley introduced me to the method for switching roach on to feed on the free stretch in bright daylight. He uses a gallon of red maggots and four pints of hemp as feed and fishes a single red on a size 20 hook. The feed is introduced every cast by catapult and hits the far bank where there's no public access. A trot of 50 yards takes no time at all in such swift water, and fishing so far off there's no way to hold the bait back so it just flies downstream at brisk walking pace, and yet the roach when they switch on get preoccupied and will intercept the feed flying over their heads. Simon swears that the hemp is what brings them on the feed, not the maggots, and he should know. He's a master of an art!

    1. That takes me back Jeff, a gallon of maggots eh?

      It was always a case of trying not to get the fish fixated on the hemp when we used to fish like that. I recall taking large quantities of maggots in big square tubs that previously carried liver

  2. Some interesting points made above. A big river roach has long been on my list of 'wants'...

    1. Thanks for reading this Jimmy.

      Now's the time of year!

      What river are you fishing?