Winter Roach Fishing
Winter Roach Fishing on the River Blackwater
Well, the plan was three days Pike angling over the Christmas break, "bivvied" up...rods on alarms and basically "crash-out" on the bed-chair, lazy ass fishing. But when do angling adventures ever go to plan? Rarely, I can tell you.
An advanced weather forecast gave very little rain over the week ahead, ideal I thought for Skip (my ageing Jack Russell) and I to relax. A possible chance of a decent River Pike, and perhaps more importantly, a large helping of peace and quiet. But of course, this was never going to happen!
An hour after settling in, rods out, bivvy in situ, a dropped run and a landed four-pound "Jack", this session seemed promising....... then the heavens opened and the deluge of destruction began. The river showed signs of flood water almost immediately, and coloured up from a dark, murky slow moving flow to a faster pace and distinctly chocolate appearance. Within a couple of hours, Pike were no longer the target species, having switched off the feed almost immediately. And who could blame them!
Not a pretty sight by this stage!
There were now several options. Pack up, and head home? Well, as further rain wasn't forecast, quitting was perhaps a tad premature, and with a bit of luck the river could settle over the next day or so. Maybe a move to another venue un-affected by heavy rain? To be perfectly honest, I couldn't be bothered with all the added hassle, and Skip seemed too cosy to annoy!
Let sleeping dogs lie!
Forget about Pike by this stage, perhaps dig out the feeder rod? I have a pint of mixed maggots and caster and some ground-bait amongst the kit, and there's a chance of good sized Roach and specimen Gudgeon on this venue! Gudgeon are a recent addition to the specimen hunters list, and there is an outside chance of ticking that box. Happily, Roach aren't quite as temperamental as Pike regarding changing water conditions. Decision made, a change in tactics, and if the floodwater abates, there is always a chance of that Pike!
I suppose the purpose of this short article is to show newcomers to river fishing that adverse conditions doesn't mean you won't catch fish, you just have to be adaptable. And it's always useful to have a back-up plan on any angling adventure, even if only to find the nearest pub if all else fails!
When the river takes on a larger volume of water, you have to approach it in a different manner. Firstly, a varied selection of swim feeders is handy, in various sizes and weights with the aim to deliver a free morsel and a baited hook on the river bed and be able to hold reasonably fast in that area.
Important to have a range of swim-feeders for all scenarios
With the rod tip elevated, less main line is in the water, resulting in less drag allowing a greater chance of the swim feeder staying put! The same effect is also achieved by casting a lot closer to the near-side bank. With rod tip high, and the feeder in place, tighten up putting a reasonable bend in the quiver tip.
Whatever it takes to keep the water tension off the line
Under these circumstances, with the water coloured, you can normally fish a little "cruder" regarding line strength and hook size. I opted for a size ten Kamasan whipped to a short three-pound hook-length. With the Roach in a confident feeding mood, they generally hook themselves giving a dramatic, lightening fast slack liner followed by the "machine-gun" rattle.
Pristine, scale-perfect example of a healthy Roach
Good fun it has to be said, reminding me of days gone by on the mighty River Bann, fishing winter flood-water conditions in search of those huge Roach-Bream hybrids that were so common in the 1980-90's.
Don't be too hasty to pile in the feed. Yes, Roach CAN feed just as well during cold winter months, but it pays to be cautious. On this occasion, I added Caster and Maggots to the crumb as was needed, and gauged it from there. This worked well, getting a "feel" for the swim and numbers of fish in front of me.
A few Maggots and casters
Plugged with groundbait
On this occasion, the Roach were a good stamp, averaging eight ounces or so, making it quite easy to knock up twenty or thirty pounds of fish in an enjoyable afternoon, despite the foul weather! No specimen Gudgeon unfortunately, I don't know if they still exist here, or simply weren't able to get a look in, but still, a session salvaged rather than staring at a blank for the day, only through being able to adapt.