I recced, liked the look of it these 30 years on and above all, had the mighty luck to regain permission to fish.
The stretch is slow, shallow and ABOVE a mill. This is the thing. We sort of have it in mind that by mid March roach are beginning to think of spawning and therefore moving upriver to shallow rapids BENEATH mills where there is the oxygenated gravel we are told they need to procreate. I wonder? True, March, April and May I have seen roach in quick, fast water and assumed spawning is on their mind. Equally I have seen roach in slower, siltier stretches during the same period where I now realise they are equally happy to shed eggs on reeds and tree roots. John Wilson once said to me roach can spawn in a bucket and he was right. Could it even be that roach are on the gravels during the spring for a quite different reason? Perhaps they are there to hoover the eggs not laid by them but by dace, chub and barbel? This makes sense to me after 40 years of observation though I have no doubt expert views will shoot me down?
Whatever, the roach I have found on my unnamed river (preserving the privacy of my benefactor, sorry) are hungry. Two pints of whites are needed to keep them keen for every hour of fishing. I’ve gone for a 14 and three maggots as they are not shy and a bigger hook slips less often. Also, with pike about, you can hustle pound plus fish on a 14 like you can’t on an 18. As ever, maggots bending over the hook point and blunting the strike are a hazard. Try two real maggots on the shank and an artificial on the bend and this seems to solve the issue. The hook is also nicely balanced.
So, plenty of fish and a good helping of “ones” to 1.13 and a couple of fish bumped that felt bigger-but don’t we always say that? What is a tragedy is that 70% of the fish are recently cormorant scarred, even the biggest roach. They have made it thus far in their precious lives but will next winter see their luck run out? A roach, whatever its size, is never safe of the winter plague and even “twos” can be wiped out in the flash of a beak.
Is the angling world ever going to wake up to this annihilation happening in all our waters all over the UK? Compared with every other European country, apart from Ireland, why are we so unheeding and so apathetic to this curse? And now we have so- called “got our country back” are we ever going to see a statutory authority with the gumption to tackle challenges they find uncomfortable? An Environment Agency fit for purpose would be a fine thing for our roach future, which at present looks dark beyond belief.