Pigeon-chested and fit to burst with spawn, stillwater roach all over the country are piling on the ounces – but what is their favourite meal?
Sweetcorn? A great bait, but not quite on the top table. Maggots? To win a bite there is little better but (and it’s a big but) it is not selective in terms of stamp of fish. Surely it has to be casters then, accompanied by a side dish of hemp? A classic combination I’d always be happy to use, but still not my number one choice.
A decade ago I wouldn’t have picked this bait, and at the time some experts said roach didn’t like them, but we have ‘trained’ the fish to adjust to them and they now relish fishmeals with a dollop of oil. Yes, if you want a top roach bait on stillwaters then look no further than pellets.
I’m unsure whether this ‘junk food’ is good for fish, but it’s almost viewed as their natural diet on some fisheries, especially commercials with a large head of carp. To be honest, though, after months of struggling on our rivers, I’m just happy to see roach whatever they are fed on, and their fuller figures at this time of year can point to a new personal best.
Once I favoured winter roach fisherman, but now April is my purple patch, so last week Wayne Little strolled down the hill towards the lake with this species firmly on our minds. We passed a few daffodils that were brave enough to expose their heads in a defiant blaze of yellow to the bitter easterly gusts and sub-zero windchill.
We, on the other hand, were swathed from head to toe in numerous layers, and soon we were scanning the water for signs of fish.
For the roach, daybreak brings with it a temptation to ‘prime’, and once one broke the surface it was a fair bet that a large percentage of the lake’s population would be sitting below. We watched and waited for no more than a minute before ripples came into view.
Staying mute, not difficult given the scarves wrapped around our faces, we simply nodded, knowing full well what this sign meant, and headed off to a couple of swims that would take in the disturbance.
I didn’t want to take my gloves off, but without doing so I simply couldn’t fish. At least I had rigged my Drennan Classic rod up at home in the garage when my fingers weren’t so numb!
The detachable dolly butt section transforms it into a two-piece rod, which allows a pre-rigged outfit to be carried with ease.
The reel line was of a stout 4lb breaking strain, tough enough to deal with extracting big fish from a lake that still held a fair amount of weed.
Importantly, however, I had degreased the line with washing-up liquid to ensure that it would sink – vital when floatfishing a stillwater, especially with a crosswind. My float of choice was a heavy 4g glow-tip insert waggler that could be easily cast a fair distance, attached via a float adaptor should I need to change it for a lighter or heavier pattern.
Locking this widget in place weren’t split shot, but small float stops. These would allow the cocking weight to be used at three-quarters depth, helping to pull the bait down quicker because conditions strongly suggested that catching roach on the drop today would be out of the question.
Finally, I attached the hooklength via a loop-to-loop knot, and being a big fan of ready-tied rigs it was no surprise that I chose to use Drennan Silver Fish Bandit, in the 4lb line/size 14 hook combination.
I admit that my set-up could, at face value, appear crude but the roach I was targeting had spent their whole life competing with the carp and seeing carp anglers’ tackle. I also firmly believe that you can step up your gear if you’re using a relatively large bait because while the natural appearance of, say, a maggot is impeded by a large hook and strong line, these do little to affect the look or behaviour in the water of a pellet.
I had taken along two varieties of 8mm pellets – the first was purchased from the local tackle shop and was a high-oil trout version, while the second contained more flavour. Richworth Xtracta pellets may have a barbel pictured on the packet but they will catch everything with fins!
By using a reasonably large bait I would be able to avoid the attentions of the smaller roach, and sometimes it pays to be prepared to accept few bites in order to eventually land the specimen you are seeking.
The plan now was to recast every five minutes, feeding a dozen pellets each time. Why? Well, I’ve found too many times that a freshly cast bait is extra- attractive for it to be a coincidence. Everything was now set, with Wayne mirroring my approach, and the only thing left to do now was catch a roach.
The weather was horrible and the method simple, even crude, but did that mean that the sport was poor? Of course not.
A pellet addiction is a hard habit for a roach to kick and the string of big blue and silver flanks heading in our direction reflected that.
If more proof were needed Wayne then supplied it with a magnificent creature of well over 2lb. Roach cannot resist a pellet – that much is certain – so why not prove it yourself this coming weekend with a palmful or two of silver?
Stillwater roach fishing tips
1 To fish a pellet, use either a bait band or drill it and mount it on a standard hair.
2 When waggler fishing on stillwaters, always degrease your line with washing-up liquid so that it sinks.
3 When targeting specimen roach, 8mm seems the perfect pellet size – any smaller just draws in too many smaller nuisance fish.
4 Cast regularly – roach seem to home in on a freshly cast bait.
5 Make sure you take a Starlight so that you can fish into darkness if possible, as this is often when the big roach feed.