Sunday, 12 March 2017

BIG CANAL ROACH and the WINTER CHALLENGE - An Update and Summary.

When big canal roach first became the object of the new found angling affections some four years ago the old match fishing bread punch methods had initially been employed but it needed something more selective as the prospect of racing to catch three or four pounds of middlin' fish on the pole had lost its gloss long before.

Larger baits helped although the white crumb feed still meant smaller fish would whittle the bait down until it fitted their sub-hookbait-sized mouths.

The same pole floats used all those years ago happened to be perfect with their long cane tips and body-down shape allowing good bite detection and sufficient bulk shotting to enable the traditional, Fred J Taylor type, lift bite method to be employed for unbeatable sensitivity.

Then research into roach fishing history suggested mashed bread might be the answer as feed. What appealed about that was the likelihood that smaller fish might be choked-off by it. This proved generally to be true and in, perhaps naive, pursuit of the option on canals even the crusts were mashed to a degree ensuring offerings of sufficient bulk to interest and hold a shoal of passing pound-plus fish could at least provide enough of a lull in their ritualistic activities to pluck one or two from the midst of the shoal before they collectively continued their instinctive wanderings.

This certainly worked and soon it became apparent that the target fish could be extracted before the rest were either spooked or simply drifted past.

There were issues with the pole though. The scale of the hook-bait determined the hook size needed to be 16, or 14 in coloured warm weather water, and to sink this hook in on the the strike required reasonably strong pole elastic (for roach on canals) at around no.6. There was an issue here though in that the fish could then go berserk in the feeding zone on the strike.

Others were using rod and line but initially to the, then unflinching, indoctrinated match fishing mind, this could never be as good...until the certainty dawned that presentation couldn't be any worse, as the method was so indelicate as not to require a pole to present it. This was something if a breakthrough in many respects:
- less kit to carry
- the prospect if roving
- no cold hands in heavy early frosts
- no handling a wet pole in the rain
But, most importantly, the ability to strike and draw fish immediately from the shoal combined with benefits in the more inaccurate approach, which enabled the idea of spreading feed more widely to form. Whereas a match angler will be looking to concentrate the fish by feeding tightly this was no longer necessary as often only one fish would be expected and so it helped the prospect of multiple catches resulting in the fed bait being thrown in a metre diameter ring rather than all in one spot.

At this point the peak size was 1lb 4ozs and the average of those over a pound was, unsurprisingly, a touch above 1.2

I knew that bigger average sized fish were being taken on whole lobworms in the depths of winter but with sessions of around two hours available early mornings the thought of sitting freezing awaiting one bite, or no bites, that might easily be missed, was no choice at all. More action was required than that!

One morning in winter a risk was taken, but it was no risk really, if it went wrong it was only one swim and session wasted, and another peg could always be tried. Three or four handfuls of mash were introduced at the outset. Enough to render a winter match peg stone dead with immediate effect....but it worked. Not only was it successful in producing more target fish it also increased the average size to 1.5.10 and the ceiling rose to over one and a half pounds, then further topped by what at the time seemed a freak/fluke fish of a minnow under two pounds four in 2013. I say a fluke because it was fully ten ounces bigger than the next best.

During this whole period the hookbait size was a 15 to 20mm punch but with the advent if greater initial feed quantities came the realisation that a bait that cut out pretty much all fish below the twelve ounce mark would not be detrimental in any way and would undoubtedly pick out the real target, being the biggest fish in the swim. 

Nowadays the hookbait varies from 20mm diameter upwards and is doubled-over and hooked through the thick outer curve created, such that the hook is subsumed within the floating glob of soggy bread in the water.

Bites usually come within about fifteen minutes, sometimes as long as 45, but if it is necessary to wait that long another peg has usually already been primed for the move.

A concerted effort over the past winter has resulted in 27 one pound-plus roach from the Grand Union and Oxford canals, taking the total since returning to the angling fold, and since this particular obsession commenced, to well over 100.



Others: 1.4.10, 1.4.6, 1.4.6, 1.4.2, 1.3.6, 1.3.6*, 1.3.0, 1.3.0, 1.3.0*, 1.2.5, 1.2.5*, 1.1.14, 1.1.10, 1.1.10*, 1.1.10*, 1.0.10, 1.0.8.

[GUC unless *NOXC]

All-time F, F & F Canal
Top 10 Roach:

So what does this show?
- Firstly that canals with an established zander presence have the capacity to be some of the best big roach waters outside the pits and lakes of established specimen repute. 
- Tiny hooks, fine lines and careful feeding are not the way to consistently catch the very biggest roach on canals.
- That there is no substitute for experience, research and implementation in achieving a goal and then extending the boundaries of possibility.
- That the quantity of big roach present is staggering, having only once knowingly caught the same fish twice.
- It is possible to have multiple catches of four and five fish over a pound in one short session.
- 99% of these fish have been caught within 20 minutes of home.

TBW has generally had a tenancy to seek perch on worms and so last weekend he decided it was high time he had a go for his first pound-plus canal roach.

From my own efforts over the previous fortnight it was clear they were 'avin' it and as the weather had remained steady the likelihood was there.

In the 1st swim we both fished either side of the feed zone, our unfathomably large flake torn from a medium slice wafting three inches off bottom, floats set to burst through the surface when dear old geriatric rutilus lifted it's head and dislodged the anchor shot.

Could he get a bite? Four fish to yours truly for no valid reason whatsoever including one at 1.3.6 and a surprise rudd. Then his float tows off and a 4 ounce roach is swung to hand!

An old fish with loose scales, this one
Swim 2 had caused me a nightmare a week prior. Ten bites, 2 fish...but they were there and three of 'em had somehow been bumped-off the hook...biorhythm imbalance or something.

It went much the same, 2 lost fish, both good ones but unseen, and then, after a boat had reduced the perhaps over-clarity of the water a touch, he was in.

A deft playing of the fish on his new rod and centrepin, and, with no hiccoughs at all, it lay sparkling in the net, TBW'S teeth to match.

1.2.10, target well and truly hit and last bite of the morning as the boat traffic grew heavier.

It's not often one catches the target first time but this boy has the knack. I think this is the third time; 3lb chub, 2lb perch, now a pound roach!



For those wondering (we hope there are many!), Russell and I are due to make a detailed announcement on the Bloggers, Challenge in the next week or so in plenty of time for a May 1st start.



  1. ciężka praca zawsze się opłaca...

    1. Tak, rzeczywiscie, pan Hatt

      ...I gdzie jestescie, gdy potrzebuje cie?!