River Blackwater roach among the snags

October 5, 2021 at 6:11 pm

Heavy overnight rain had coloured up the River Blackwater, when I arrived this week, with an additional foot of water pushing through at a rapid pace. My usual swims were unfishable and I went in search of some slack water, finding what I wanted below a bend, where a willow had fallen across from my side creating a long eddy, with fast water forced along the opposite bank.

Setting up my 14 foot Browning float rod with a 5 No 4 Ali stemmed stick float, I plumbed the depth to find only 30 inches on the inside, gradually increasing to three feet, three quarters across. With the river carrying so much extra water, I had expected deeper, but having caught plenty of fish in only 18 inches on the Blackwater in the past, I was not deterred. In fact I couldn’t wait to wet a line, it looked so good.

I put in a couple of egg sized balls of liquidised bread, mixed with ground carp pellets and ground hemp seed, on the crease half way across, casting in with a 6mm punch of bread on the size 16 barbless. The float travelled a yard and sank out of sight. Tensing for a decent fish, I was disappointed to see a minnow wriggling on the line. Another cast, another minnow. I don’t think that that I have ever caught a minnow in the ten years that I have fished the Blackwater. I cast out another yard, keeping the line off the surface, while I eased the float down the swim. The float dived, this time feeling resistance, rather than the vibration of a minnow, but it was nothing to get excited about, swinging in a six inch chub.

Next cast the float travelled further before sinking. Strike! The rod bent over and stayed there. A snag. Pulling for  a break it moved and a blackened branch was dragged to the surface to be deposited on the bank. Once I had untangled the line, I put in another ball of feed, followed by the float. A slide away. Chub? No a minnow. More minnows, then a snag. I was putting the minnows in the keepnet to keep them from my swim. After I had hooked and added another branch to the pile, I realised that the river had dropped 3 inches since plumbing the depth. I shallowed up and continued to catch minnows. Time to feed the minnows off. Each cast I put a small ball of feed in a yard further out. More minnows, then a snag that moved. A decent fish, a roach was fighting back.

From my position from the high bank, I could see the roach heading for a sunken log close to the fallen willow, but turned the fish and it swam straight into the outstretched landing net. At last, perseverance had paid off. I fed another small ball. The float held under. A minnow. Not even a gudgeon, or a small roach. I put in another ball, the float held down and the rod bent over with a larger roach flashing over on the strike. The river had fined down since I had started fishing and the roach was clearly visible as it fought midstream, taking my time to bring this precious fish over to my net.

What a beaut.

Like the first, the hook came out in the net. I rebaited, having put in another small ball and cast back in with anticipation. The float held under and I struck, the rod bending over into another snag. This seemed solid and I handlined for a break. It moved, with a tangle of heavy line attached to a long branch, which I slowly dragged across to the bank, using the landing net to take the weight, swinging it onto the bank. More line was attached to the branch and I handlined in a heavier branch. This was no longer fishing, it was a dredging exercise. Searching through the muddy mess for my own line, I discovered a sweet corn pop-up artificial bait on a hair rig. Not my style of fishing at all, but capable of landing a carp, or barbel.

The river level had dropped by another six inches and I could now see the sandy bottom. I kept at it for another 30 minutes. Even the minnows had gone off, although with over 50 in my net I was not surprised. Although I had reduced the depth on my float again, the twigs and branches kept coming, until finally one snag did not move and the 3 lb hook link snapped at the loop knot. At least I got my float back.

Two roach worth catching, but where were all their relatives?