Colne and Frays roach cold comfort

November 30, 2016 at 5:28 pm

A rare chance to fish a river of my boyhood came this weekend, when a local fishing club offered the use of it’s West Drayton water in exchange for my club’s stretch of the Thames at Windsor. As a twelve year old, I used to cycle the five miles from my home to fish for dace, where the clear water of the river Frays joined the Colne, a few hundred yards below Thorney Mill. At that time stone loach could be caught under the Frays bridge by lifting stones among the clean gravel, while flyfishermen were a common sight pursuing brown trout. Continued upstream pollution events during the 1960’s, transformed these once magical rivers into evil smelling, fishless drains for over a decade. Now with many of the factories gone and water treatment improved, the Colne and Frays are back to their former glory, large bream, chub and barbel the main targets for anglers.


Meeting in the carpark on a cold Sunday morning, this was a new piece of water to most of the club, the match secretary setting off upstream to search out the swims and place a numbered peg in each. After agreeing to join in the club match pools to fish the fast flowing Frays, there were more anglers than swims available, so extra pegs were put in on the two weirs, which spill off the main Colne above Thorney Mill. It was my luck to draw the lower weir, where I was faced with near static clear water, more suitable to the pole, than the stick float rod I’d brought.


Setting up with a 4 No 4 ali stemmed stick float, I plumbed the depth at five feet and ran it through with a single red maggot on the size 16 barbless hook. Not a touch. Not even a minnow. After ten minutes, it was time to try a different approach. I’d also brought some food processed bread to use as heavy mash ground bait for the the Frays chub and squeezed up a small ball, lobbing it upstream.  Baiting with a 5 mm pellet of punched bread and dropping the float  in behind it, I watched as it made slow progress in front of me. A ring spread out from the float tip, then another. A bite! It went under. I missed the strike, almost too shocked to move. Cursing my brain freeze, the float was dropped back to the spot. Again it sank, but this time the rod bent over as a decent roach flashed silver, deep in the pool. The landing net slipped under this fish and the hook dropped out from the skin of the lip.


Canal tactics with the pole would have suited this swim, likewise liquidised bread would have been the feed, rather than the chunky, coarse bread floating down to the fish. It would be a balancing act today, enough feed to keep them interested, while not feeding them off.

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Over the next hour the bites kept coming, taking time to develope,  the roach were very cold to the touch, even with my frozen hands, striking early before the float had fully sunk well away, usually meant a miss. bread-082

With the fish seven metres out, the pole would have been perfect, being able to strike directly above, against striking through four metres of water, while a chilling east wind was putting a bow in the line and dragging the float. Excuses, excuses, a bad workman always blames his tools, I knew what I was doing wrong, but couldn’t remedy the fact that my pole was at home in the shed.


This was the best roach on the day, after which the bites got fussier and the fish smaller, tiny chub and minnows taking over the swim. Word filtered down the bank of some big fish lost and landed from the Frays, on the other side of the Colne and needed some better fish. With the main flow of the weir 20 metres out, I doubled up on float size to 8 No 4, making underhand casts to the lip of the weir, following down with pouches of red maggots. Despite the wind, I could hold back and mend line back to this heavier float, set deep at first dragging through, but when the bites failed to come, the float was shallowed to four feet. There was now a bite a cast, but it was chub, roach and perch of a few inches dipping and dithering the float, even minnows were pulling it under. Big chub, bream and barbel occupy this weirpool, but a couple of empty cans of luncheon meat on the bank pointed to their usual diet, treble maggot and lumps of bread flake not interesting them. The whistle blew for the end of the match and I packed my gear away, waiting for the scalesman, being the last in line. At least I had a few nice roach to show for a very cold day.


The scales went round to 2 lb 3 oz and was pleasantly surprised to be placed second, being squarely beaten by a net of four fish, a 4lb chub included among an 8 lb plus bag.