1 Maggots aren’t the most exciting of baits, but you can boost their pulling power with essential oils. A couple of drops on a pint of maggots transforms them and roach just can’t resist. Top choices include geranium, aniseed and tea tree oil.
2 It might be cold but you can still catch roach on the drop, especially in heavily-stocked commercial fisheries that aren’t too deep. A float or pole rig with only a few small shots spread out down the line will let you present a slow-sinking bait.
3 Try presenting your hookbait at differing current speeds on rivers. This may be half pace or it may be the merest of trickles along the riverbed and the pole is the best method to achieve this, especially when you run the bait over a bed of groundbait.
4 Few fish alive won’t turn their noses up at a worm and the roach is no exception! You’ll need to use a small piece of worm to catch well, most anglers favouring the head of a worm or the tail of a lobworm. Worm works particularly well on rivers carrying colour after heavy rains.
5 What’s the best time to fish for roach? Experts agree that the last hour of daylight and the first hour into dark are the prime times as roach lose some of their inhibitions and really get their heads down. This is especially true of the biggest roach in the shoal.
6 Roach are delicate feeders and can easily spit out a bait if they feel the weight of the hook. That makes a fine wire pattern essential and good choices for the pleasure angler include the Kamasan B511, Mustad Canal Seed and Drennan Fine Match.
7 River roach can sometimes be sitting right at the head of the swim following an hour of constant feeding and the angler who casts slightly downstream can miss out on a few extra bites. Halfway through the session, try casting just a few yards upriver.
8 Fast taps on the quivertip when legering can come from roach eager to snatch the hookbait. Convert these taps into fish in the net by lengthening the hooklength, often up to 5ft! This gives the fish more chance of taking the bait properly without feeling resistance.
9 A great river angler’s trick to winkle out a big roach is to rig up a very light link leger, often as little as 2SSG and cast this downstream but only a rodlength or so out from the bank.
10 They may be bold in summer, but roach on a commercial when the cold strikes can give very delicate bites and a fine-tipped pole float or insert waggler lets you see every indication. You must make sure the float tip is dotted right down to only a speck.
11 River roach are not unlike chub in that they will seek out a part of the swim where a slack area meets faster flows, known as a crease. You will see this above the water on the surface as a ‘boiling’ area of disturbed water. This allows the fish to sit in the slack and dart out to pick off food carried by the current and makes for the number one area to present a bait. Bends in the rivers are particularly good areas to find these features.
12 Moods of roach change and on some days they will only take a bait held still while on others they’ll happily chase their meal down the peg. That makes the stick float a very good method for slowing a bait right down or trundling it through at full speed. The pole also allows you to do this, but only at the limit of its length.
13 For picking out a better stamp of roach there’s little to beat hempseed as a hookbait, but hooking the grains can be the stuff of nightmares. Enterprise Tackle makes fake hemp, a plastic seed that is simple to hook and is a great dodge to use when the fish are feeding well.
14 Town centre stretches of river are classic roach magnets in winter as they tend to have water temperatures that bit higher than in the countryside and they also offer protection from predators and easy meals from the public feeding bread to the ducks.
15 On clear rivers, roach will often sit well down the peg away from the bankside commotion and you’ll need to feed to attract them. A few maggots or casters loosefed every minute or so will create a steady stream of goodies travelling down the peg and draw in the fish.
16 Commercial fisheries see a lot of competition for food from their stocks, but roach will happily feed at short range, making for a comfortable session. A pole line of 6m will be enough, providing it is into the deeper water at the bottom of the marginal shelf and you can also feed this by hand, caster a good bait for picking up the better stamp of fish.
17 Extra water doesn’t mean no bites, especially where the roach is concerned. You will need a different approach, though, and one of the more recent innovations is the flat float or lollipop. This allows you to nail a bait hard on the riverbed and keep it perfectly still, just the job when used in conjunction with a baitdropper. Bites will be very slow and deliberate, though, so don’t strike at the slightest indication.
18 Groundbait is a great way of concentrating roach in your peg but in clear water conditions, it can be a non-starter. Faced with this, a baitdropper is the best option, allowing you to deposit a large pile of hemp, casters of chopped worm in one spot. This is especially deadly when fishing the pole. All you need is a baitdropper, a pole top kit with strong carp elastic and some strong line.
19 You can prebait for roach, especially on narrow rivers where you might only catch a couple of decent fish per swim before moving on. Mashed bread is the feed for this job, introducing two or three tangerine-sized balls into each swim. It’s then a matter of fishing a light leger or a stick float with a thumbnail-sized piece of breadflake on the hook.
20 Breadpunch is a fabulous winter roach bait when combined with liquidised bread, especially on clear canals and rivers but it can be an error to feed it as a ball, especially in shallow water. Faced with around 3ft, a better option is to feed the bread loose, which creates an instant cloud as it hits the water that attracts the fish.
21 When your river peg goes quiet after a run of roach, a bold approach can pay off. Some anglers even ball-in another six to eight balls of groundbait in an attempt to kick start the swim. This bombardment makes a noise, known as 'ringing the dinner bell' and will squeeze out a few extra bites.
22 Roach are one of the few species to feed consistently off the bottom in winter whether on a river, canal or lake so when you’ve plumbed up on the float or pole, begin the session by presenting your hookbait an inch or two off the bottom. This works particularly well on canals where the bottom gets disturbed by boat traffic.
23 You can catch roach one a cast when you find them in numbers and this is the time when the whip should make a rare outing. The whip will catch up to four fish to the long pole’s one and in ideal conditions ¬ a light wind off your back ¬ can put together a frightening weight of fish. There’s no place for light rigs, though, with a float over 0.5g a must.
24 Winter roach can be spooky creatures and often won’t stay in one spot for long. One great trick is to cast just past where you’ve fed, especially if bites have tailed off. Not only do the fish back off here, but they also tend to be the bigger ones in the shoal. Don’t be afraid to cast as far as 3m past the feed area.
25 Coriander might normally go into a curry, but it makes a fantastic additive for roach. It has been used by the England team as part of their groundbait mixes on foreign venues dominated by the species. All you need is a jar of the dried herb, adding a couple of teaspoons to your dry mix. This provides a highly aromatic scent to the crumb.