Sat, as I was, on the outside of a bend I had meant to but never actually fished before with two fish in the (though bagged up at home) net, so to speak, a wonder of technology interrupts me from deep in my pocket...
"What do you reckon the chances of a NOC 2lb roach this winter?
They don't seem to be shrinking. By your recent results I 'd say not.
There's a very big surprise out there you know, George.
It's 06.45 hours and the recently christened 'Blogfather' is pestering me, having recently remembered I am an early riser. How to reply to Jeff?
Why was I here?
Because it would be out the wind, dry and full of promise, but promise of what? Truth be told I had arrived with no great intentions other than to 'go fishing'. The previous evening had been consumed with financial stuff and it was simply an opportunity to get out there for a couple of hours before a 10am appointment.
By now a hybrid of around 1.8.0 and a tiny perch had succumbed.
A reply grew in my mind. Just answer the question I thought, what do you really think? Well, I was fishing the roach method and expecting whatever came along on large flakes of bread (I've gone past punches to squeezes now, as we've progressed) plus the usual quivertip to one side with whole lobworm, enticing not much of any size as it happened.
"Trying to catch one as we speak!
Pretty good I would say, albeit my latest ones have been on GUC".
I kept plugging away but I was pestered by various chattering walkers and lost concentration missing many bites in what was a 'bite a chuck' session. Roach to 9ozs, Bream to 1.4.0, Perch to 7ozs, Zander to 8ozs and a lot of topping small roach told me this wasn't the swim for bigger fish. It was however a peg I would definitely have run to in a match back in the 1980's.
With 45 minutes to work time I moved the other side of the road bridge, next to which I had been sat, on a particularly narrow and featureless stretch of the North Oxford Canal. I could fish past middle without letting any line out on the 12' rod.
In went two hands full of mash and, first cast, up popped the float and an initially pathetic battle commenced, soon enough though young rutilus realised this was for real and had a proper go at getting away, at which point I too had a realisation that he maybe wasn't so young
A cracking roach surfaced and slid without fuss in to the waiting cradle
Pictures taken with a bait sample for scale and the scales deployed to show he went 1-6-12. From memory the best NOXC roach of the season
Well, it is I early November, it is mild and the canal colour did scream, "Bread!". So what else should I have expected when combined with Jeff's prompt?!
Then a boat. Then another boat immediately, the other way, but, being near moored craft, they were very slow and by the time I'd moved somewhere wider, three pegs further along, the silt was already settling out of sight.
Three more hands full of mash went in and out went the rig.
The phone rings, it's work. I take the call and hook, play, land, unhook and return a bream of around a pound during the call. Time was short, no time to waste
"One more cast", I tell myself
Instantly up pops the float again and this time something more solid risks its secrecy and fights with vigour. It can only be hybrid (perhaps not powerful enough though) or roach; and if it's a roach it's better than 1.6.12!
Soon it is in view. It's over a pound and half for sure and it has red fins
Then it gets tangled round a rope a boater has left dangling from the piling under my feet, unseen 'til now. I can see it underwater and decide to net it in that state but only succeed in pushing it off, further out, and the fight recommenced but very quickly was over once the fish was given a gulp of air
Preoccupied at having almost lost it, I momentarily lost sight if it's sheer size. A smartly dressed country gentleman with dog appears over my right shoulder and snaps me back to reality. Yes, it was landed.
"My goodness that's of some size! What sort of fish is that?", he exclaims.
Being at this point somewhat chuffed with myself I tell him, "Roach. A two pound roach is the fish of lifetime and that must be a pound and a half so I could not be more happy". "At least", he replies and trots off with Fido into the fields
Opening the net and gazing at this otherwise concealed beauty of the canals I am dumbstruck. A quick clear photo and he's in the bag being weighed, scales zero'd twice for certainty
One pound thirteen ounces on the mark.
The fish takes the, drug-free, silver medal without dispute in the all time F,F&F all canals roach table
Both fish were relatively young and so, yes Jeff, I think there's a chance of a 2lb North Oxford Canal roach this winter. How far beyond that they may go I dare not guess, but I'll be out there searching too