Floods force a change of venue and tactics for winter roach

December 21, 2023 at 3:10 pm

Bad weather and family commitments have meant no fishing for over a month and finally a dry, if cold day was forecast and I headed to a local river, where big roach are guaranteed, or so I thought. Approaching the lane, which runs parallel to the river, there was a flood warning sign on the bridge. Why? Crossing the bridge I saw the reason. The river had burst its banks and was speeding down the lane, in fact the brown water looked fishable! The lane was under water to the next bridge, which looked dry beyond it. I took a chance and drove the van out into the flood, passing over the bridge, which was acting like a dam, spewing foaming water downstream through the copse bordering the lane. There had been two days of rain, but that had stopped leaving a clear frosty night. I had assumed that the river would be high, it fishes well when it is, but this? I continued past my favoured swim, where the town treatment works outfall enters the river, adding pace. At the conflence, a brown, swirling whirlpool had been created. There would be no fishing here today.

What next? Go home and get under the feet of my wife, who had taken the opportunity of an empty house for a top to bottom pre-Christmas vacuuming session and declutter. I decided that my only chance of fishing, would be a visit to Jeanes Pond close by, although it also meant a return home to collect my pole. After a quick coffee and a moan about the floods, I was on my way again, parking in an empty carpark at Jeanes Pond.

A strong wind was blowing through the trees above me, but I was in the lea and a weak, low sun was approaching it’s Winter Solstice warming the air. I was setting up in comfort, when a friend Keith, on his lunch break, stopped by to advise me that I would struggle to get bites. A very good angler with years of experience on this pond, Kieth had finished second in a recent club match on the pond with only three roach for 4 oz, while others had blanked. I was already prepared for a hard session, setting up with a fine antenna 4 x 14 float to a size 18 barbless hook. I made up a sweet mix of ground bait with liquidised bread. Having been intending to fish a fast flowing river, I only had coarse liquidised bread with me, a fine, double ground mix would have been better. Not over confident, I hadn’t even put my keep net in.

After plumbing the depth, I found that the bottom dropped off between four and five metres out, setting the float depth to fish just off bottom, where I hoped to find some better sized roach. I dropped in a couple of pigeon egg sized balls of feed along the drop off, cast in between them and waited. And waited.

The float antenna hung just in the surface film. There was no movement. I checked the 4 mm punch of bread. It was still on the hook. I dropped in another small feed ball and cast over it. The antenna trembled and dipped, then held just under the surface. I lifted and felt a fish, bringing it slowly to the surface and swinging it clear to my hand.

Ice cold, this was a decent sized winter roach for this pond. I put in another small ball and watched it break up as it sank. The pond was very clear with a brown tinge. I cast close to the feed and the float sank immediately. I missed it! Another 4 mm punch was on the hook and the float was back in. The float sank slowly, I left it longer, until it had gone from view. I missed this one too! The bread was gone and I tried going up to a 5 mm punch. Trembles were followed a slow sink out of sight. I was in; a roach was flashing deep down as it came to the surface. This one had swallowed the punch, the hook just inside the mouth.

The bright sky of earlier had clouded over and now it was raining. I pulled my hood over my cap. So much for the forecast! I kept going with the 5 mm punch. Bites were slow to develop, but if I missed the fish, a quick drop back into the spot was rewarded by an instant bite, until I eventually hooked it.

Another decent roach. I had been feeding two areas a metre apart along the dropoff. After each roach, I switched sides. It seemed to work. I was waiting for a bite to develop, when a fellow club member came by walking his dog. The float went under. I missed it again, until the third try, when I hooked a much better roach. I reached for the landing net. Fatal! I must have eased the pressure on the fish and the tiny size 18 barbless came free. Curses!

Whenever I lose a fish, I feed the swim in the hope of holding the fish in the swim, this time it did not work. I went back down to the 4 mm punch and after ten minutes, weak ripples were radiating from the antenna, followed by a hold down and a smaller roach, which fell off as I swung it to hand, only to bounce back in. Double curses.

The rain had soon stopped, but the wind had got up, howling through the trees and blowing the few remaining leaves onto the water. There was now an anticlockwise drift on the pond, hindering my float placement.

Although not yet 2 pm, the light was going fast and I was having trouble seeing what the antenna was doing under the surface. A lady was feeding the ducks, causing ripples and the antenna silhouette to blink off and on. I was still catching the occasional roach, but I was missing more than I caught. I had tried antenna grease, which improved bite detection, but with eight roach in the net, I decided to put this session down to experience and pack up.

The bait tray told the story of missed bites, but eight roach for a possible pound in weight, was not a bad result for two hours in the cold at the back end of December. Merry Christmas everybody!