Festive chaos among the roach and dace

December 31, 2019 at 6:26 pm

With the Christmas festivities over, I found a few hours before New Year to fish my local river, bright sunshine and no floods promising a rewarding session. The tiny river runs through a public park with a path along its banks and the sun had brought half the town out, while the other half were shopping. Whole families seemed to be riding on shiny new bicycles, dodging dog walkers and duck feeders, as they competed for a place on the path. Pieces of bread drifted downstream unchallenged by the many mallard ducks and moorhens, that patrol this waterway, no doubt, like us, brimmed with too much food, enthusiastically offered more as a ritual, than a necessity by willing mothers of children.

For myself, bread is the main bait on this river, ducks ground baiting for me, as they nibble there way through the slices. Setting up to fish bread punch on a running line and stick float rig set 30 inches, I was joined by a fellow club member, Michael, who asked if I minded him fishing 30 yards downstream. As I was intending to trot 15 yards down to a bush, I had no objections. Having already put a couple of small balls of liquidised bread over to the main flow along the opposite bank, I made my first cast over, seeing the float disappear in the first five feet of travel. A lift and I was playing a nice roach, which impressed Michael, making sure of my catch with the landing net. Too many fish swung in to inflate my ego in front of an audience, that then came off the hook, taught me a lesson; always use the landing net.

The roach were soon lined up in my swim, invisible in the clear water, until the hook was set, flashing silver, when they turned away.

These were just the right size to build a weight, plenty of fight, but predictable on the way to the net.

Another ball of bread brought dace on the feed, holding back hard producing firm takes from these notoriously fast feeders, the Anglo Saxon name of dart an apt description.

These have grown well since being introduced by the Environment Agency a few years ago.

Roach and dace now took turns in taking the 5 mm punch of bread on a size 16 hook and all seemed set for a red letter day.

As lunchtime approached the “Caught anything mister?” and “Oooh the man has caught a fish” brigade increased. I don’t mind a bit of attention, but when they stand peering down into the clear shallows, where I am catching fish and the bites stop, it gets a bit wearing. When a pair of twins in identical pink coats arrived to ply me with questions, “What have you got in your net mister?” followed by “Can you see the big fish in there Maisy?”, it was time to get out the turkey and gammon sandwiches.

Audience gone, I put on my bait apron, realising that my jeans, clean on that morning, were already getting slimed up. I began to catch again, including another decent roach.

Splash!! A large dog had taken a flying leap into the river, chasing ducks through my swim, it’s furious owner shouting ignored commands, until the woolly beast gave up and returned to the bank, showering everyone with ice cold river water.

This was the last straw. The river was now muddied and I took the opportunity to move my stuff in stages, twenty five yards down stream, where the main path rose away from the bank, placing my tackle box on a narrow strip that sloped toward the river. This still did not deter a few more young adventurers from threading their way through my strewn accessories, or several dogs from sniffing out the contents of my bait bag. Michael had long moved on to another downstream swim, having complained of dace smashing his maggots.

The river had picked up pace, creating an eddy down my side, the muddy water was gone, but replaced by a thick orange soup, my keepnet now hidden in the murk. First cast in the float bobbed and dipped and I lifted into a big gudgeon that hugged the bottom.

It was now a gudgeon a chuck, not ideal, but at least the float kept going under.

The river was clearing again and I caught a roach. This river suffers from several industrial outfalls and daily changes colour to this dirty orange. The origin is a mystery, but it puts the roach, chub and dace off the feed, while gudgeon seem to thrive in it.

As the river clears, so the roach come back. I had more gudgeon, then my last fish, another small roach. I couldn’t wait for more roach to show and packed up while the sun still shone.

It had been a busy few hours, even if all had not gone to plan, there were a lot of fish in my net, about 4 lb in weight, although half what I had hoped for at the start of the session.