Thames roach, better late than never on hemp and tares.

August 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Continued high temperatures drew me to the banks of the Thames at Windsor this week, with the hope of a decent net of roach on hemp and tares, following reports that the day ticket water at Home Park was responding well to these seed baits. Memories of school holidays spent on this very stretch, shoulder to shoulder with my friends, pulling out roach and dace, as the fish flashed through the water chasing the hempseed, will never be forgotten, or repeated; the Thames of those days being very coloured and highly polluted, but full of coarse fish, eager to grab our bait. Today the Thames runs clear for most of the year and the Environment Agency have figures to prove that it is in better condition, but try convincing the old timers that it is so and you will see their eyes glaze over, hearing tales of catches past.

As I made my way down to the far end of the water by the road bridge, I met young Vince, who was busy creating his own memories of sunny days on the Thames. Having set out his stall on the shallows, he proceeded to net a quality roach on his pole line, making it all look too easy. Baiting with tares over a bed of hemp, the modern day matchman gave me a lesson on how it should be done, his light weight, but expensive pole and finely balanced terminal tackle, giving him perfect presentation of the bait and the best chance of hooking a fish.

Arriving at my chosen spot, the idea of trotting a stick float down the swim, was defeated by thoughts of Vince and how well the pole had presented the bait in the deeper water. Setting up the pole with a 6 No 4 ali stemmed, bodied stick float, I plumbed the depth and found the river bed shelving away to about seven feet at nine to ten metres, well within range, but a two handed affair with my twenty year old pole.

Clipping a bait dropper to the line, I repeatedly filled it with hempseed and dropped a path of the seeds along the nine metre line, adding a few tares for good measure, before trying a tare on the hook. The float dived the first trot and held. I lifted straight up and felt a slight rattle on the end of the line. A tiny dace of a few inches had taken the 6mm dia tare. From a bite like that, I was prepared for the thumping fight of a good roach. Over the next ten minutes, such bites were missed, or more small dace and bleak were brought to the surface.

Still feeding a pouch of hemp each cast, I tried double maggot on the hook. This time a couple of  dips of the float and it sank away. The strike pulled out the elastic. A good fish? No, a small perch fighting for all it was worth. Another trot, another perch. At least these gave a good account of themselves. More followed to a half pound, needing the net. Each time I put on a tare, or elderberry, another good hemp hook bait, I would get dips and dives from bleak and small dace. Bringing a small bleak to the surface, there was swirl and the elastic came out again, boring deep. A large perch had seized the bleak, hooking itself and now running hard, parallel to the bank. Too late, I saw where it was heading, a submerged shopping trolley. It swam in and out again, leaving my hook among the caging.

I rang the changes with the hook bait, swapping between tare, elderberry, maggot and even hemp seed it’self, but apart from the occasional small perch, small bleak and dace lined up to get on the hook.

I’d continued bait dropping hemp, with a spray of seed upstream of the swim and two hours into the session the float held down and the distinctive bounce of a roach pulled out the pole elastic to absorb the shock. Only a four ounce roach, but the landing net went out anyway and the first of my target fish on a tare was finally in the keepnet. It was 4 pm.

The small dace were still queuing up, but once again a slow solid bite and this time the elastic came out and stayed there, the flash of a larger roach, deep beneath the surface, giving plenty of warning to get the net ready, as I passed the pole back behind me and reduced it’s length to seven metres.

At last a better roach, this time on an elderberry. The bright sunshine and heat of the day was now gone and it seemed that a good bag was on the cards. I had intended to pack up at 5 pm, but a call to my wife was now needed to advise her of a late arrival home.

A couple more roach, then the solid rolling fight of a big dace kept the elastic out. As I began bringing it towards the surface, the line went solid, and the pole bent into the weight of a pike that had grabbed the dace. All I could do was follow the pike around with the pole, but when the pike tried to turn the dace to swallow it, the line came free and the dace skittered to the surface, followed by the pike, lifting the damaged fish clear, just in time.

Another big dace, this time grabbed from behind, possibly that large perch, lost earlier. I’d already had one snatched from the line and another with the pike on and a broken hook link. It was only  big dace though and I continued to catch small ones and roach without trouble.

This was my last roach of the five hour session, my decision to pack up coming from a large barge rushing downstream for a late appointment, that sucked the water from my swim in passing, dragging the keepnet clear of the water, to leave the fish thrashing, only to be tumbled over again from the back wash. a hazard on the Thames that seems to be increasing.

I was sorry to see that many of my pristine roach had lost scales, due to the constant passing of boats at speed and the best, that I could do was to return them, after a quick photo.