John Bailey's Roach Obsession Diary

J

John Bailey

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8.00am, 8th December 2020
Well, here I am, temporary resident at a farm on the middle Wensum with the river running fifty yards from our window. This stretch of river was the epicentre of my roach career between 1970 and 1989 and it was from here that I caught hundreds of “twos” and nearly a dozen “threes” when the Wensum was in its prime. For thirty years it has been on my mind that perhaps the roach are not all truly dead and gone. Even back in the day, it was rock hard fishing and blanks were the norm. Could red finned monsters still lurk, forgotten, secret, roach under the radar? As I have written for FM, I will never have a better chance of laying this ghost to rest. I have somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks here before beginning a new life in Herefordshire and I aim to make this period count with a final Wensum campaign.



Fishing Magic has already been a great help to me. My first two Roach Obsession pieces delivered great feedback – especially on the question of prebaiting. The upshot of that is my decision to stick with bread and bread alone, figuring the pellet route is strewn with hazards and bread worked brilliantly in the past. I am also indebted to the great idea of using a quivertip and a butt indicator IN TANDEM! This seems to me to offer real possibilities but, of course, I’ll need a bite or two before I know for sure.

I’ve been at the farm for three nights now and they have coincided with the first proper frosts of the winter. Night temperatures have slipped well below freezing and barely lifted above that in the day. The flood plain has been continually frosted in silver and the river has smoked as the warmth of autumn has been lost. The cattle are in the yard. The rooks are quiet till mid morning. Winter is here.



Sunday (6th) Enoka and I walked the river at dusk to get the feel of it again, to slip into its world. And how beautiful that world was. The sunset seemed eternal, dancing off low, snow-laden clouds, illuminating the mists on the water and in the lows of the meadows. To have seen a roach roll would have been overwhelming but only odd water hens showed. Last night (7th) I walked the river at 3 pm, this time with a bucket of mash made from two whole loaves. I baited four swims, half a loaf in each. One is by the farmhouse, a slow, deep eddy at the bottom of the garden. It is wise to have a pitch close by, and of course, the presence of the farmyard and its dogs is a cormorant deterrent which big roach will know all about.

The second swim is at the head of the first meadow, a deep, slow run towards a large fallen willow. The stretch was badly dredged throughout the 60s and 70s and this is still one of the few serious features left standing, even after half a century. Never think nature heals herself overnight!

Moving on, I come to swim 3, a deep slack beneath the one gravel run along the stretch. I never did much there in the heyday but I did see two big roach there two summers past. Swim 4 is perhaps my favourite. It is over a mile from the house, buried in countryside so remote you could fancy yourself back 100 years. Two fallen bushes create another slack, 6 feet deep, with a surprisingly clean bottom. Perhaps best of all, the place is almost exactly where I caught my first super roach of 2.13 on Christmas Eve fifty years ago. The memory of that fish burns so bright that the action could have taken place yesterday. Then I was a kid. Now I am all but old but the passion still roars.

Tonight and tomorrow , I will bait again and perhaps I will cast out on Thursday? The weather is milder, or so say the forecasters. I might have pals Ping Pong and Ratters up with me to share the load. ( None of us are expecting triumphs!) It would seem that is the time. I’ll write this diary every day that I have something to say. Perhaps I’ll continue it this evening if I were to see a fish or an otter or anything that is relevant to the Quest. If there is absolutely not a jot of news, than I’ll lie low.

I haven’t been taking my camera but I will. I regret hugely not having shots of Sunday night’s beauty to share and I’ll rectify that if the weather gods are kind. So, this is it. My Wensum swan song and I am happy to have you to share it with.

The post Roach Obsession Diary- 8.00am, 8th December 2020 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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J

John Bailey

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9/12/20-6.00pm
Baited again, all swims, covering around two miles of river there and back. Making firm plans for the start of fishing.
12ft North Western Sealey 2lb test curve tip rod. Too heavy you might think? Well, no, I’m happy. It is soft, it can deal with a rogue chub and it will combine with the bobbin butt approach. At 12ft, it is long enough to cope with wide weed margins.

Reel. Piscario Titanium c’pin. The Wensum is no Trent and a pin can cope with casting and is uniquely sensitive in a big roach battle.

Four pound line straight through to a size 10. A 2/3 SSG paternoster. 2 foot link. 2 foot hook length. Plenty of slack before a roach feels resistance.

Bread (flake)on the hook and mash as loose feed.

Landing net. Bits in jacket pocket. Sack. Scales..smallest I can find. Camera. Torch. Seat? There’s a problem. I’m in Norwich tomorrow. I’ll look around to see what’s on offer.

Tips..Morrisons white is 55p a loaf and mashes beautifully as well as being great on the hook. Mix mash up with hot water before leaving home. Saves using freezing river water.

Chestwaders. Jacket. Beanie. Seal Skin gloves. Thermal socks. Good to go? Or am I missing a trick here fellow Roachers?

The post Roach Obsession Diary - 9/12/20-6.00pm first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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rubio

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Good luck. Effort deserves some rewards. Kinda glad you have foregone the pellet approach. You'll get plenty of opportunities to test them on the Wye I'm sure.
Slightly surprised you haven't added hemp. Just seems wrong somehow. But then if it doesn't add confidence why would you.
What's your experience of using brown loaves?
 

peterjg

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Just to repeat, the idea of a quivertip with a bobbin; it needs to be a very soft quivertip to gain the least resistance to the bobbin. I have used this many times and it does work.

I have also tested it by setting up two rods: one an 11ft Avon and the other an 11ft quivertip rod with a half oz tip. I then added SSG shots to the line and every time on the quivertip rod the bobbin lifted with less SSG shots, proving that the quivertip rods aids sensitivity - this is because the friction of the tip ring (90 degrees) on the Avon rod is reduced by the bending of the soft quivertip. Of course it does not matter if you are able to point the rod at where the bait is.
 
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peterjg

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Another thought which might be worthy of consideration which reduces resistance. Instead of using on a link leger the usual swivel or Drennan ring use instead a bead. The beads I use look like green glass but they are actually plastic. I buy them from Hobbycraft, they are about 3mm diameter and the edges of the holes are nicely rounded. If say you put a half oz weight on a link swivel and run it backwards and forwards on a bit of reel line it will jerk and hesitate now do it with a bead and it will travel smoothly. Also the longer the link the more the weight will jerk and bounce!
 

tigger

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None of my buisness but I think a 2lb test rod is the wrong choice completely. I wouldn't use bobbins either as the first place you will see a bite is at the very tip of the rod. Down by the but is the last place a bite will register.
If it was me I would float during the daylight hours (water levels allowing) and fish as light a rod and carbon quivertip as possible at dusk and into dark in swims where I was having some luck. I'd try upstream legering also as you need much less weight to hold bottom. I would vary my bait from maggots and casters to sweetcorn and bread. I would try each as individual baits on the hook and try maggot corn/maggot and caster cocktailes also. Rather than a feeder i'd use a small bomb.

I remember using a 1.75lb test drennan barbel rod whilst fishing for barbel and chub and by accident I caught a number of roach of 2lb plus (this was at dusk and into dark). The roach were taking a string of hair rigged sweetcorn and hooking themselves. It felt awful catching them on the rod to the extent that I packed in. It just felt felt wrong to me using such heavy gear for roach as any fight from the fish was knumbed to nothing and gave no pleasure.
In reality there was nothing actually wrong with it but it just felt like a horrible way to catch roach, and gave me no pleasure whatsoever.
Any half decent quiver rod will be able to cope with the unexpected, maybe it'll bend a fair old bit but at least it would be enjoyable....I know, jmo.
 
J

John Bailey

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11/12/20:
A night of driving rain and wet till late morning but little wind and temperatures of 8 degrees. As promised Pingers and Ratters came up for the day and in nicely coloured water we fancied our chances. We were NOT on my prebaited stretch which we deemed just too difficult for a friends’ day and chose a private beat close to an A road, a bridge, a factory and some shops. Where there is constant activity to keep avian predators away, you find roach almost everywhere and so it was this damp Friday.



Pingers missed four bites on flake fished under an overdepth float in a marginal slack. This is a great method but can be tricky when bites are tentative and even when they are not! Meanwhile, a couple of hundred yards downriver Ratters picked up a 1.04 fish on exactly the same method and after just one bite. Hmm.

Around noon, the river went dead. Time to explore and bingo, in a deep, churning slack we found a heap of roach between 8 and 1.03, all crackers, all falling to four maggots on a 12. These we fished under an Avon float which chugged round the swim, finding fish as it went. At 3.30pm, I left them both, still happily plundering the shoal and went upriver to keep my mash baiting routine underway. Despite the mild air, despite the lack of wind, despite the failing light, the surface was dead. This quest is not going to be an easy one. What I would give for the gift of a week’s fishing as it was half a century ago. But I fear Santa isn’t listening..

The post Roach Obsession -11/12/20 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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mikench

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I always assume that I should go small for roach ie an 18 hook, or smaller, and a couple of maggots. I've never used a size 12 with four. Something for next time perhaps.
 

peter crabtree

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Using a big hook and 4 maggots is more suited to river fishing where the bait is moving around and roach are competing for food, Mike. It may not work as well on a Stillwater ( which seems to be your preference) where the roach have more time to inspect the bait before committing themselves. You are more likely to attract carp.
 

steve2

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Going back a few years one of my best catches of roach was taken on lob worm fished on a size 8 on a flooded river. I had 12 over 1lb that day. In the summer we usually fished light lines and small hooks just to get a bite on the same river. Fish can be such fickle creatures.
 

markg

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I have always use a 14 hook, it is my go to size, I have caught just about everything on a 14, 16 occasionally but I have none in my bag at present. I go bigger sometimes 12 or 10 for a bigger bait maybe but 14 to my mind is the best all round size for pleasure fishing. If I was a match angling I would need smaller hooks but I am not going for large number of small fish, I think a 14 is a good balance between hooked and held fish and bite rate for most pleasure fishing.
 

john step

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I am a bit reluctant to put this on here as I am sure JB has many times more experience than I but what the hell....
When laying on with an avon on the river (Thames,Lee ) in a deeper slack I favoured having the weights on a link of about 9 inches or so with what then becomes a paternoster hooklength long enough to lay along the bottom.
The bites were good as its my belief the fish felt less resistance.
The float can be lifted and eased down the swim a gentle amount at a time or left stationary.
 

ian g

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Thanks for that post John , I had thought of something similar when perch fishing on the Severn . Incidentally I've caught a few good roach , above a 1lb on lobworms on the Severn this year , they tend to give fierce bites
 

ian g

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I gave the paternoster a go to day on a favourite slack on the Severn , it's around 6 foot deep , I tried a 2 swan loafer overshot with 6 aa shot on a sliding paternoster held in place by two float stops with all the shot on the sliding line . Works really well , I sure there is less resistance when the fish takes , no shot to damage the main line and easy to slide the weight up and down the line to adjust the length between the weight and the hook . I managed 3 perch and lost 2 more , no roach. Sorry for diverting the thread and thanks for the tip John
 
J

John Bailey

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14/12/20:
My way has faltered just a little I know. Saturday was taken up by pike fishing. Sunday and the afternoon descended into a cold, driving rain which didn’t stop Enoka and me from baiting. Fishing was however a different matter. In fact, I began to wonder if friends were right and that I had been putting off the evil moment I had to actually get out and fish. Today though I had no excuse. A mild westerly wind, scattered cloud and temperatures scraping double figures brooked no excuse.

Enoka and I set out at 3pm to bait the five swims, electing to return to the farm and fish The Rookery, the big eddying run within hailing distance of the cottage itself. I decided on the North Western tip rod, a two SSG paternoster, and a size 12 baited with flake. I hadn’t fished the farm at dusk for thirty years, or a little more, and little superficially had changed. Quietness ruled. A heron flew over ahead, death-defyingly close. Bats flitted in the gloom and an owl called close by. The rooks returned before true dark and sparked the farm dogs into a minute’s fit of barking.

Yes. All was wonder, especially as the rod flicked and twitched from the off. Of course, the crayfish curse haunted me as bite after bite fizzled to nothing. Or smaller fish? Or spooky fish? At 5.05 I struck into a heavy weight. A moment’s joy turned to disgust. I swung the cray in, squashed it underfoot as the law says, and packed then and there.

Now, at 6.06, I’m deep in thought. Crayfish I suspected and crayfish I got. But were ALL those hits from them alone? As the night wears on, as gin warms the cockles, hope springs eternal. Perhaps tomorrow, in the day, I will take an hour out of the morning’s work and get me down to The Rookery with maggots and trotting gear. Then I will know a little more. This is a battle of the spirit, a campaign of the soul. I have to remember one bite from one fish would change my roaching world.

You’ll be the first to know.

The post Roach Obsession Diary - 6pm 14/12/20 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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J

John Bailey

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15/12/20: Last night, and that crayfish, really took the wind out of my sails, to be honest. I’d more than half expected crayfish attention, but those first flicks and twitches had led me to be super-optimistic. Hence the let-down. I brooded all night that this is a wild goose chase, that a big roach is half a century in the past.

So, late this afternoon, I set out with my long-suffering Enoka to bait the swims down the river, and then came back in the last of the light to trot The Rookery swim with pole float and maggots. After a dozen passes through, I actually hooked a fish that came off almost instantly. The third maggot had bent over the size 14 hook, masking the strike, bumping the fish. It was not large, though. Encouraged, though the light was going, I fished on.

Five minutes passed when again the float vanished and I struck into something that I knew at once was BIG. For two minutes it was touch and go, give and take, a tug of war. The fish won that one, moving irresistibly down the river, forcing me to do what I hate – following it. Enoka followed with the net as I was forced to climb a fence and trip over the rope of a stray, forgotten crayfish trap. None of this helped, and I never even began to sense the gaining of an upper hand.

Suddenly a slack line. That was it. Gone. The hook slipping. Big roach? Surely not? A pike? Perhaps. You know how they grab a small silver fish the moment one is hooked. But I don’t think so. A barbel, too, I doubt. Has one ever been caught so far up from the one-time hot spots? Everything smacks of a seriously big chub, one of the mid/upper Wensum monsters that linger on, achieving colossal size. If a “seven” had managed to keep across the flow, then that would explain its immovability.

Exciting is hardly the word to use but, still, my big roach is a distant dream. What that battle has done is immeasurable, however. Last night my heart was in my boots, and we all know that pessimism is a killer, always looking for an excuse to skip a dark, cold, wet night session. As I write, I cannot wait for tomorrow and might even set the alarm for a dawn outing… something I have not considered here since 1978 I think! Age is no obstacle to obsession!

The post Roach Obsession Diary - 6.00pm 15/12/20 first appeared on FishingMagic Magazine.

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