Sunday 21 April 2024

Back in the Red

Over a decade ago the search for bigger canal roach commenced, inspired by Jeff Hatt, author of the long defunct, "Idler's Quest", his methods and his results. 

Jeff and I started to research the situations around each capture even to the extent of a shared access spreadsheet giving us the possibility to find trends, if indeed there were any to find. 

The ultimate aim was to prove whether, or that, 2lb roach existed in local canals, the Coventry and North Oxford (NOxC) in his case, being located close to Hawkesbury Junction, and the Grand Union and NOxC in my case. 

Jeff had taken a couple of 1.15 fish in extreme cold, by fishing whole lobworms over a bed of hemp and we were both catching fair numbers of pound-plus fish with some regularity. 

Jeff of course then left the scene, but I continued for some time in a lone quest which culminated in a 2lbs 3ozs fish in September 2013, which at the time was considerably bigger than anything else I'd tempted with the trusty Warburton's blue.

Around 2020, Eric Weight (who incidentally has started a new blog), and I released a tentative video outlining the methods we had been using in building quite a list of roach over a pound and a quarter, which, it had transpired, appeared to be some kind of threshold greater than 1lb that had proven to be a clear obstacle for some time.

I then found that by feeding more heavily with bread mash it was possible to break the 1.4 barrier and then to maintain the run of bigger fish with some regularity. This peaked at the capture of that incredible fish of 2.3.10 in September 2013 which was immediately followed by an impromptu Pizzaland family dinner, The Old Trout and The Late Old Duffer joined us too, by way of celebration. Photographs were shared. 

After the video was put out, however, the continual effort in compiling the footage left me seeking alternatives with the enthusiasm for the quest truly exhausted and, save the odd trip every few months or so, canals had been off the agenda, until, that was, around a fortnight ago. 

An early close season campaign for roach from Rocky Res had produced five or six over a pound and up to 1.6 but the fishing was deteriorating and so I resolved to give it a rest until water temperatures were around 15°C and the tench might be more forthcoming.

This left me with a quandary that was solved by commencing a search for canal big silver bream over 1lb. A fish of this species over 12ozs counts as a Stonefish in my tiny mind. 

A recent landslide on the North Oxford Canal caused the canal to be closed west of Rugby which meant less, or no, boat traffic and  theoretically, clearer water. In reality this proved to be the case quite close to the landslip but further afield the water remained coloured, largely due to incessant rain. 

After a couple of fairly fruitless trips, west of Rugby, I decided to try the canal to the east of the town and, using the same tactics as in the past it soon became apparent that the fish were still there, and that maybe I had also stumbled across a gathering of big old fish by revisiting an old haunt. 

Four 2hr sessions over a 10 day period produces some incredible general NOxC catches and developed a repetitive pattern in rest of the feeding of fish. 

Bream would be first to show at dawn or dusk but, in amongst them, would be some quality silver bream from twelve ounces up to, so far, 1lb 1oz, which in turn were eventually replaced by roach later in each session and this was where the fun began. 

On the first session of precisely two hours before dusk, 17lbs+ of fish hit the net. This included bream to 2lbs 13ozs and silver bream to 15ozs but the eye-opener was a brace of roach as darkness set in going 1.9.6 and then 1.14.6 on the Ever Rite scales. A best ever brace, for me at least, and some chunky old life-fashioned fish they were too. 

So taken aback was I that I was late leaving, due to having to sit to compose myself after returning the larger fish. I couldn't see for another cast and eventually drifted back home in a dazed state. 

This trip was to prove a template for the rest of the week with no nets below double figures and on the fourth visit a staggering 26lbs of fish were caught in 90 minutes (no extra time or penalties here, but opposition did give itself up rather easily). Highlights of this catch were frankly other worldly, silver bream to 15ozs again, bream to 2.12 but the unquestionable highlights were a roachXbream hybrid of 4lbs 11ozs that took just under a fortnight to land on light tackle, a PB canal fish, and a trio of roach going 1.3.0, 1.9.0 and topped show-type pause...drum roll...2.1.10. 

In the space of 4 trips totalling no more than 11 hours' fishing the following list of big roach was compiled:

2.1.10, 1.14.6, 1.11.8, 1.9.6, 1.9.0, 1.4.0, 1.3.0 & 1.3.0. 

...and to think I couldn't crack 1.4 earlier on the learning curve!

Tactically, nothing had changed since 2013 but when the 26lb catch was being built it was time to experiment. Instead of the usual BB tell-tale for the lift method, accompanied by a piece of flake the size of a 20p piece, I pondered going to excessive lengths manifesting in a AAA holding down a decent piece of crust or a chunk of flake, and it was in this manner that the PB hybrid and 2lb roach were snared.

Who'd've thought it?! 

I had intended to stop this plundering but a few trusted friends have pointed out that it won't last and that I should make the most of it. They are correct of course. The fishing hasn't been quite the same and my opportunities limited but we did add a further fish of 1.7.14 to that list yesterday in bright sunlight. 

Despite being used to catching pound-plus canal roach this spell has been exceptional. I wrote in the past about the impact I believe offline marinas have on fish size and numbers, and remain convinced that these act as holding areas for big fish with young ones harvested by Zander leaving the bigger fish to wander the canals at spawning time. 

Long may it continue. 


  1. George !! Fantastic to have the pleasure of reading your writing again . Hope you are well and will write again .. Best wishes Baz Peck

    Colossal fish goes with out saying !!!!!

    1. Blimey Baz, you were on it quick!
      Lovely to hear from you and I hope you're fighting fit again now.

  2. Good stuff George, I've been looking forward to what comes on each and every trip, just to make me even more jealous. :)

    1. No need to be jealous with the fish you catch, Mick!
      Thanks for reading.

  3. Absolutely special, I think canal Roach over 2lb are far rarer than their riverine cousins, hats off to you GB for sticking with it, I know I would have!

    As a side note, have you had any recaptures that you can tell?

    1. The weights have generally been different enough to suggest unlikely but I haven't checked the pics tbh. Plus I'm fishing a length of perhaps 1/4 of a mile rather than a couple of swims. Well worth me checking though!
      Thanks for commenting.

  4. Fabulous fish George and just reward for the work and hours you’ve put in on the cut. Your reference to off-line marinas caught my eye as I’ve some potentially relevant feedback I’d happily share with you by private email via .

  5. Thanks for visiting, Richard.
    I've sent you an email.

  6. Welcome back George, your writings have been sorely missed!
    A 2lb plus roach from a canal is a remarkable capture. Well done Sir!

    1. Oh thanks J., much appreciated. Everyone of those listed fish caused palpitations to be frank.