Thames roach fishing at Home Park, Windsor

October 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm

In the shadow of Windsor Castle, Home Park, dedicated to the people of Windsor by Queen Victoria, offers some of the best roach fishing on the non-tidal Thames. With good car parking within a few hundred yards of the river and safe swims cut into the bank by Old Windsor Angling Club, who manage the half mile stretch on behalf of Windsor Council, this day ticket water has to be high on the list of any angler.

The upper section is a relatively narrow, but deep canalized stretch giving boats access to Romney Lock, opening out to a natural bank on the inside of a big bend, which allows safe wading on gravel to trot the stick float for dace, roach and chub. Armed with red maggots, it was my intention for an afternoon’s fishing on this lower section, but one look at the river changed my mind. Heavy rain over the weekend had raised the level a few inches, increased the pace and put more than a tinge of colour into the water. I needed a swim with a slack out of the mainstream, finding what I was looking for towards the end of the canal section.

 Having intended trotting the open lower end, I’d taken my pole out of my rod bag before I’d left home to save weight. This swim was ideal for the pole, but would have to compromise with my 14 foot float rod. Once tackled up, I plumbed the depth at ten feet, two rods out, just on the edge of the crease between fast and slow water. I then discovered something else was missing from my armory, a bait dropper; needed to place maggots hard on the bottom. Loose fed maggots would end up well past the lower tree before they got to the bottom, where the roach are. Another compromise. I knocked up a stiff groundbait  mix and folded in maggots, making a ball that was lobbed in upstream on the crease at the tree on my left. I’d set up with a 5BB bodied balsa stick float, bulked 30 inches above the size 14 barbless hook, with two No. 6 shot evenly between them. This would allow the maggots to swing up in the flow, while holding back to the bulk shot, irresistible to the  roach, I hoped.

An underarm swing of the rod dropped the float at the head of the swim, it settled then ran halfway down before I checked the float with tension from the rod top, released more line from the reel, then held back again. The float bobbed, then sank from view. A steady lift and the rod was bent into a fish, the regular beat from below indicating my first roach of the afternoon.

Not a big roach, but the first of many to come. The float continued to sink out of sight, sometimes halfway down the swim, but always before reaching the downstream bush. I began to get a rythme going, swinging them in, but then began pulling out of fish halfway to the surface. Any pressure and they were off the hook. This is where the pole comes into it’s own, the elastic keeping a constant pressure to the fish, while my rod was a bit too stiff for these roach, bouncing them off in my eagerness to get them in the net. I was catching so fast, that the maggots were not even damaged, taking three, or four roach before needing to change, a single maggot on a size 14 looking wrong, but doing the trick.

A ball of groundbait was going in every 30 minutes, plus the occasional loose fed reds and a different fight indicated a small skimmer bream, which dropped off as I swung it in. Back in again, the float sank away and this time, I netted it just to be safe. A skimmer of a few ounces. A shoal had moved in over the feed, but I struggled to get them in the net, most coming off in the first few feet. The slow thump of a decent skimmer got my full attention, it stayed down and when it came beneath my rod top, I began a gentle raise of the rod. Again the hook pulled free! Another of around 12 oz was sliding across the surface to the landing net and came off. I’d already changed my hook and was at a loss, being as easy on the pressure as I could. My conclusion was that maybe I’d overfed the swim and they were just playing with the bait. Non anglers ask why I still enjoy fishing after all these years, but it’s trying to solve problems like this one, that keep you going. No day is the same, there are so many variables.

A river cruiser charging upstream against the flow soon solved my problem, the wash causing a mini whirlpool in my swim that sucked away the feed along with the fish. When the river had settled down again, another ball of bait went in, but the feeding frenzy was over, the skimmers were gone, replaced by the occasional roach. The light was going, so I decided to call it a day and get home before rush hour clogged the roads. My three hours of  effort accounting for over forty red finned roach in the net. My next visit will be with with a pole and bait dropper.