The humble roach is one of our smallest freshwater species but it's one of our most sought after, especially when they reach specimen proportions.
They are a sleek fish having silvery blue flanks, large orange-rimmed eyes, white/cream underbelly and red fins. The lips of this fish are level, unlike the very similar size, shape and coloured rudd, whose lower lip protrudes.
Roach tend to undertake a slight colouration throughout the year. In summer their flanks become quite brassy, while in winter the scales upon the flanks take on a really attractive blue tinge.
The dorsal and forked tail fin are darkly coloured and tinged with crimson.
In normal conditions the average size of roach caught on rod and line will be around the 4-8oz mark. In lush and food-packed venues it will quickly pile on weight and can quickly ascertain a specimen size of 2lb and over.
If there weren't any anglers the roach would be content feeding upon its natural larder consisting of freshwater shrimps, midge larvae, insects and small molluscs. They prefer their food small, but, as most of you will know, even tiny roach will take triple maggot intended for a much larger fish.
Great baits to try for roach are bloodworm, caster, pinkie, maggot, squatt, half a dendrobaena worm, sweetcorn, breadflake, hemp and tares. These are the most widely-known roach baits of many years, but since the angler's bait table has developed over the past few years, so has the roach's taste - you could also tempt roach on luncheon meat, mini boilies and pellets.
Roach (to the right) and hybrids
Depending upon water temperatures, roach spawn between the months of April and June, moving into the shallower areas of lakes and rivers in the search for weed.
Here they will thrash around on or near to the surface for hours, ultimately laying their eggs on submerged weed or on the underwater roots of trees.
But during this time it won't solely be the roach that have breeding on their minds. Bream and rudd will also be working their way towards the shallows to breed, and often they will mix to produce roach/bream hybrids and roach/rudd hybrids.
Roach can be found in almost any venue - lakes, commercials, canals and rivers. They generally prefer a decent amount of water having a fairly substantial depth - generally over 3ft. They also prefer still or slow-moving water - very rarely will you find them in torrents or very fast-flowing water.
Roach thrive in steady-paced water so if you are targeting this species on a small, narrow river, look for long glides immediately downstream of a bend - roach will be found shoaled up here. If there are swirls and eddies on the water's surface move elsewhere - roach do not like rapid changes of water direction.
In big rivers, when temperatures are high and the river is running slow and low, roach may be found in the most unlikely spots, from the shallow margins holding cabbage beds, through to the swirling water of a wierpool. But in winter, when the water is cold and clear, they change their habits completely.
In these conditions the roach shoal up tightly for added protection, moving to areas that offer some additional protection, like overhead bridges, trees or even steep marginal shelves where the water runs slow and deep.
Never ignore feeder streams and backwaters because roach will move into these areas when the main river is high and flooded - it's possible to find literally thousands of roach taking shelter in these small, shallower areas.
Roach also thrive in canals. In summer, when the canals are rich in food you may catch the odd roach anywhere along its length, from the nearside marginal shelf, right across to the far bank shelf. But in winter things can be very different indeed.
They will shoal up tightly in winter leaving many yards of bank devoid of any fish and areas that are simply packed solid. A steady walk along the banks of a canal, armed with polarised sunglasses will help locate these fish as they occasionally pimple the surface, or you notice the swirl of a pike or perch chasing the shoal.
Roach in ponds can become over-populated and therefore stunted as they compete heavily for whatever food they find. In these venues it will be near impossible to find any substantial-sized roach. Only a stocking of predatory species might help thin the population down and allo the odd roach to grow large.
Commercial fisheries and estate lakes will also hold roach, but because they will be living alongside larger, hungrier and more brash fish, the roach will lose the food battle, so they again often become stunted.
Old, well established gravel pits are the place to target if you are seekign a roach of specimen proportions. In these venues the abundance of leaf litter, the many dips and indentations in the lake bed and the overghanging trees and bushes all combine to provide the roach with a rich source of food, and protection - that's why they can grow so large in gravel workings.
Look out for...
Find the crease between fast and slow water and you'll find roach.
Evenly paced straight glides are sure to hold plenty of roach.
Find roach in tributaries when the main river is in flood.
Best baits for roach...