The changing season had nurtured the urge to seek out that regular cold weather adversary, the roach, and not hand-sized roach but two-hand roach. Anything over a pound of silver would be considered gold.
Since spending a month increasing the carp P.B. by way of a distraction from the generally poor angling conditions other options had seemed so unappealling.
A couple of dawn sessions delivered only hybrids and smaller roach but the changing of the clocks and the prospect of a couple of hours trap-setting at dusk proved a suddenly irresistible challenge.
The idea appeared justified but the sound of oncoming narrowboats up to and after dark stretched the F, F&F congeniality reserves to the brink.
After around five sessions of this nature it seemed fairly obvious that not to have started on a Sunday would have been wiser. Midweek has been more palatable but not a single evening has gently drifted by without it being punctuated by chugging death at a time so late to be at best plain rude and at worst in contravention of the CRT Boaters Handbook.
Initially the same bombardment of bread mash habitually applied at dawn was introduced on arrival but, with late boats, this was ripped, swirled and deposited everywhere but 'the spot', rendering the whole palaver futile.
Subsequently feeds were only introduced when it seemed quite unlikely that boats were just round the corner poised to send me round the bend, but, even so, on not a single occasion has this proven correct.
On that first visit it was very difficult to detect lift bites with an isotope so the wand was unearthed, fitted-up and engaged. A single swan-shot link was used with a flake of bread popped-up 2 to 8 inches, and, despite the boat irritation, on all but one trip the target aimed at has been hit.
Four roach from 1lb 4ozs 6drms to 1.5.8 have been netted but at the rate of no more than one bite per trip and always at dusk; leaving the post-daylight, apparently likely period, devoid of activity.
I'm left wondering whether bread is an unsuccessful option after dark. I've always thought of it to be a visual bait for roach and so it wouldn't be a huge surprise if that proves to be the case.
To advance this however there is another issue, that of signal crayfish being increasingly active at, and after, sunset and maybe a bait change would be necessary.
Emotionally it was a challenge on the most recent attempt, just yesterday...
A firm, determined pull on the tip on an unusually crayfish-free night resulted in a battle with a good strong fish. So much so that the clutch needed adjusting. Trying a new area, nothing above an ounce had been seen to rise at dusk and so even the bite was a relief but during the fight I allowed myself to dream.
It felt very roach-like and heavy. The pinkness of the fins on surfacing in heavily coloured water added further to that diagnosis but above all when the fish eventually lay flat and beaten on the surface it had that unmistakable shape.
A heavy sudden gasp for breath and the breathless words, "My God, it IS a roach" hissed out into the darkness like a burst tyre, and well over two pounds for sure; as confirmed when I had to lift it onto the bank.
Incredulous, wired and shaky, with the fish getting ever closer and the dream it represented then laid out on the bank, the head torch illuminating its features, blankness.
A vacuum of thought.
As close a hybrid in appearance to a roach as one could imagine (in the dark), but a hybrid indeed, and somehow the disappointment barely registered. I've come to like hybrids for that extra fighting dimension and their ability to outgrow their slimier parent in canals.
There's time yet for a bar-raising roach with winter waiting to take over.