Roach miss their cue on the Middy Stick.

January 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Just when I had set my sights on some winter roach fishing, it began to rain with a force not seen for years, being driven from the river during a biblical storm that brought hail and thunder, which raised water levels by two feet in a matter of minutes, as roadside drains were inundated.

The rains continued for another two weeks before abating and it took the river another week to drop and fine down enough for me to pay another visit, a hard frost giving way to a weak afternoon sun.

The banks were now coated with fine mud and the surrounding bushes festooned debris, evidence of the flood’s height. Not a pretty sight, but this swim has given me chub, roach, rudd and skimmer bream, all in the same session on past visits and  I had that buzz of anticipation, as I set up my 12 foot float rod, to fish my favourite method, bread punch under a stick float.

A Middy 3 x No4 bodied stick float works well on this little river, it’s ali stem and balsa body give it enough weight for casting to the opposite bank, while the tip is sensitive enough to show the slightest interest in the bait, a must have on the bread punch.

These days to save time and fuss on the bank, I keep my stick floats on pole winders, a throw back to the days, when fishing with my Dad as a kid. Then I had four floats in a box, all on winders on “cat gut”, that he had made up, each with it’s own use, a roach float porcupine quill for bread, a round float with a quill through it for perch, a cork bodied double tapered avon for fast flowing water and a 1/4 inch parallel red and white plastic, flat topped float for heavy baits like cheese paste and lob worms. This last float could also be fished bottom end only with a bomb and paternoster rig, float ledgering I learned later. The reel was plastic and the line silk. Very ancient history, but they all caught their fair share of fish and taught a ten year old boy the art of fishing. I have never lost the wonder of watching a float go under, not knowing what will be on the other end of the strike.

Back from my foggy memories, this swim has a fast run under the opposite tree, where I’ve taken chub from the roots beneath the undercut bank, the flow fanning out to steadier water on the left, where I was expecting to catch a variety of silver fish, but mostly roach. With the rod set up and everything to hand, this is always the best moment for me, what will the session bring? A 5mm pellet of bread on the size 14 hook and I was fishing, just running the bait through to search out the bottom and get a feel for the flow. Sometimes the float goes under, but not this afternoon.

I squeezed a couple of balls of liquidized bread into two egg sized balls and threw them slightly upstream of me and watched as they broke up on the way down. This was like a switch being operated and the float bobbed, then disappeared. Resistance and a deep swimming fish, which pulled to the end. A monster 2 oz gudgeon. A bit of a disappointment,  but a fish. Another trot and another big gudgeon. I shallowed up six inches to get off the bottom and missed a lightning bite, that tugged the line. Chub? Another ball of bread went in and I followed down with the float, which sank away as it drew level with the tree. On the lift, all went solid. The bottom? No. A flash and all hell let loose, as a chub dashed off downstream, while I back wound furiously to stay in contact without breaking the 2 lb hooklink. After a head burying session in the muddy shallows, it made an attempt to get in among the roots opposite, but pressure brought it’s white mouth out of the water and over to my net.

Chub are greedy fish and will always get to the front of the queue, when food is on offer and my next cast saw the float skim across the surface before it cocked and I lifted into a much bigger fish, that was heading down stream just below the surface. The chub powered away, running twenty yards, before broaching and flapping on the top. Stay on! It obliged, making another run with the flow, then turned and began swimming back, under pressure, towards me, a nice chub of two pounds. Drawing it close I realized, that the hook was in it’s gill cover, the barbless hook taking a hold, when it had swept through the bread cloud. This meant the chub was constantly swimming away from me and needed to completely exhaust the fish before I could net it. I thought I had it, the back half in the net, then the hook pulled out. Not the best of feelings.

That was the end of the chub and I changed tactics, going well over depth and holding back hard, then easing the float. Each time the float eased, it sank and another big gudgeon would be battling it’s way back to the net. With the sun out, rudd had started to top well down the swim in the slower water and I shallowed right up and cast downstream towards them. These rudd have washed down from the lakes further upstream and grow to netable sizes. Lift bites confirmed my guess, but hooking them proved difficult, managing to drop a few on the retreive, 6 oz fish that thudded off the hook. More bumped fish sent the shoal down and out of range.

This interlude had given me a rest from the gudgeon, but they were still there waiting for my return. I tried a couple more balls of bread and went hard on the bottom again, my reasoning being, that any roach present would force the gudgeon out. It worked. The float dipped a couple of times, then sank and a decent roach was pounding away, like the chub, making a beeline for the opposite bank.

Definitely one for the landing net, this pristine roach was approaching 8 oz, very deep and round. I dropped in again, but another gudgeon. A small ball of bread was plopped in, followed by the float. It dipped and sank with a slightly smaller roach bouncing away on it’s route to the net. Cracked it! More feed needed. More gudgeon. No more roach showed and after another half hour of swinging gudgeon in; with the light going, I called it a day.

Good to be back on the river again and a busy three hours fishing, even if it did not go to script.