Roach Fishing? Be my guest – Tengisgol pays homage to Dick Walker

The Most Perfect Of Winter Fish – The Splendid Roach

All right, last trick then if you really can’t see it. Don’t laugh, it’s a small feather from my hat. We’ll nick that under the top rubber, and it will show up as a silhouette. You’ll get another couple of casts before its pitch black.

So, you’d like to go roach fishing? Well better that than pike, I know extraordinarily little about those. You’ve asked me at a good time of the year though, as we head into January. Yes, I know you can catch roach all year, but they really do come into their own at the ‘back end’ of the river season, don’t they? Early start you say? No, that isn’t necessary, better to start late and finish late, they really do feed hardest at dusk. I’ll meet you on the bridge at eleven, it’ll give you a chance to keep the other half happy with a cooked breakfast. No, there is no need to bring anything, just yourself and waders. Oh, and stick a torch in your pocket.

Morning Tom, you’re keen! Well, I guess that’s a good thing. So, you had that breakfast then, well done as it’ll keep you going till dark. What do you think of the river? I should say so, clarity at twelve inches but still a bit of pace, it’s a good day for roach with this warmth in the air. No, we shan’t go downriver just yet, we’ll save that for later, I thought we’d get warmed up in the mill pool.

The Classic & Rare Aspindale Avon

Now hold that rod whilst I find the reel. Like it do you? Lovely isn’t it, I took it off Peter a few seasons ago and rewhipped it with new rings and varnish. You can smell it? Of course, it’s the tung oil and it reminds me of the tackle shop back when I was a youngster. If you want one yourself, you’ll need to get lucky, it’s an Aspindale Avon; they knew how to make a good cane fishing rod did that family. I like the fast action you get with the whole cane and split cane at the tip.

Elderpith, Cane & Pin

Well now, that’s the rod ready. I’ve put on an elder pith float as we’ll need the buoyancy today. Where do you think the roach will be then? Well, you can never be certain until you try but I disagree. They won’t be right in that fast water but more likely close by. I do like standing a little in the water but steady, one more step and you’re in the drink and then it’ll all be over! Watch how that flow is coming down the side stream and creating a nice walking pace as it enters the pool; that’s where we’ll start.

Never used a centrepin? Don’t worry, the old Rapidex will look after you. We’ll start with a pinch of bread; there you go and just let it run off from there.

Rapidex & Avon

Don’t let that line get slack…float’s gone! A bite! See, you missed it. You can’t get a strike on when you have slack line, you’ll have to stay tight. That’s better. Here, I’ll put a little groundbait out. What is it? Oh, just a little mashed bread, that’ll wash through lovely and get them moving.

Here we go, much tighter, much better. Doesn’t that crimson tip look great against the dark water? Now, that’s the spot, that’s where I think they will be, just where the mash is reaching the bottom. What’s that you say, weed? It’s on! You’ve lost it! You idiot! A roach fishers curse that is, he’d picked it up, but you just tightened didn’t you! Strike man, when that happens, or you’ll lose more big roach than you land.

Try again, now then, this time, steady…here we go…strike! Yes! He’s on, you ‘pinned’ that perfectly, well done. Yes, they do fight a bit don’t they, in that current. It’s a good fish, you can see the silver and red fins in the sun breaking through. Landing net? No, not for this one, guide it here and I’ll pluck that out for you. Size twelve barbless, I’ll slip that out. Now, let’s have a look at one of nature’s most glorious creatures.

Roach perfection

How big? Well, it’s a nice one and a good handful but you’ll know when it’s a two pounder because you’ll need both hands, and you still won’t see your fingers. About twelve ounces I’d say but we won’t be weighing any today I doubt. What’s that, you’ve never caught a pounder? Well, I suppose there is a chance we’ll get the scales out after all.

It looks like a rudd? Never. Alright, I guess it looks more like a rudd than a tench but look at that mouth; pursed even lips, none of that big chin you have on a rudd. And look at the dorsal and pelvic fin in perfect alignment, the dorsal would be set back on a rudd. Let’s put this one back, we’ve got ‘em feeding now so let’s make some hay.

Easier than you thought? Well, you’ve got a good bloody teacher Tom, so I wouldn’t get cocky. A nice bag of fish though. How many did you make it? Twenty-two roach already, that is a fine catch, but the day’s not over yet. Funny how the biggest one came first isn’t it, you’d be surprised how often that happens.

We’ve still got an hour so let’s get off downriver as I know where we might get a bigger one. Here we are then Tom, what do you think? Yes, it is a bit fast paced coming off that shallow water, but can you see it? Good man! We’ll make a roach fisher of you yet.

Yes, it is that same pace of water that we had this morning only this time it is a bit of a cast.

You know how to do it? That’s right, a couple of loops in your left hand and a swing out, that will get you there. Here, I’ll put in some groundbait. Mend that line, keep it tight. Oh, well done for striking. Yes, I know it was weed. Here, I’ll move the float up a little. Yes, but you never know and if it had been a fish, we’d have got it.

Not so many fish as the pool but be patient. We’ll keep the bait going in and it’s the best time now for a good fish. Can’t see your float? I have a couple of tricks and here’s the first. We’ll change the float for this yellow one, that should help a bit. Yes! That’s better. Strike! Oh, you missed it. You had it on for a second? Oh bugger. Listen up, can you hear those owls? One by the barn I’d say and the other in the copse. Now then, let’s get out there, it only takes one bite. All right, last trick then if you really can’t see it. Don’t laugh, it’s a small feather from my hat. We’ll nick that under the top rubber, and it will show up as a silhouette. You’ll get another couple of casts before its pitch black. No, I’m not going to start yodelling.

Here we go, you can see it in that patch of light. Yes. I’m having to squint as well. It’s in the shadow of that oak now but it will reappear in a moment. I don’t know. Strike! Was it? Yes, I can see the rod tip pulling over, oh that is a better fish. Keep your thumb on that reel and mind that fast water. Steady. Yes, I have it, she’s in the net and she’s a good one. Put the rod on the rest, careful in the dark, there we go. Pull me up and we’ll see what we’ve got.

Do you have that torch? Hooks out already. Oh, that’s a beauty. I’ll get the scales. Shine the torch, that’s it. One pound and five ounces! Well done Tom! I bet that’s made your day. Of course, yes, your year, not your day! Well, it is still only January so there is plenty of time for an even bigger one before the season ends. That feather did the trick see! I told you so, laughing at my hat like that, not laughing now are you!

I know, I can’t see the hand in front of my face either, so that’s it for today. Don’t worry, I know every divot in that meadow, just follow me. Silent out here now isn’t it, there it goes again, aside from that owl down the bottom. Right, what do you say that I let you buy an old man a pint? Oh, all right, if you insist…I reckon I could manage two. We can make plans for the next trip, but I’ll be bringing a rod myself next time!

Written in homage to Richard Stuart Walker, one of our greatest anglers and writers, who wrote in the style of a monologue conversation in Angling Times during the 1960’s. Richard passed away in August 1985. What I wouldn’t give for a day on the bank as a guest of Mr Walker.

Writing & Images Tengisgol – January 2022