Dr Mark Everard catches eight 2lb-plus roach in a day

Roach expert Dr Mark Everard made a haul of eight 2lb roach this week to take his tally to a staggering 786 fish over that weight.

The Wiltshire all-rounder used floatfished breadflake, and here he explains how the bumper winter session unfolded…

“The river has always been my first port of call for roach – not surprising when you consider that I live just a 30-second walk from the Bristol Avon in Great Somerford, North Wiltshire.

“The backend of the season is normally when the roach are feeding hard ready for spawning, but two successive bad winters have ‘knocked’ the fish out of their normal habits.

“A quick check on the river last week saw it running coloured but more of an issue was the fact that we had experienced a deluge of freezing rain, dropping the water temperature to 2.3ºC. The few fish I had caught from it recently were like lumps of ice in the hands, so no wonder bites had been few and far between.

“Reassessing my options, I headed for a very large lake on the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire border for a quickfire dusk session – it had to be better than staying at home, again! Pulling into the car park, my spirits dipped when I saw that most of the lake was still frozen, but I headed to a downwind corner where I could see that the ice shelf was slowly retreating. From experience, I knew that the fish tend to feel secure under the edge of an ice shelf as it begins to melt, and I also knew, or rather hoped, that they would be hungry.

“I decided to keep it as simple as possible, opting for a pinch of slow-sinking breadflake under a waggler a couple of rodlengths out against the edge of the ice sheet, trickling in a loosefeed of liquidised bread to cloud the water column. I also knew that there was a drop-off in exactly the same spot, plus an influx of warm groundwater which the roach often liked to patrol.

“For the first half-hour my neon float tip remained motionless as the light began to drain from the winter sky. Thirty minutes later my luck changed, the float slid under and the first of a procession of plump silver roach was played gingerly towards the net. 

“As darkness began to fall I switched to a black-tipped float, giving me a decent silhouette on which to focus.

“The bites continued thick and fast, and by the time it came to pack away my keepnet held a dozen sparkling roach, all of them over 1lb 14oz, with eight being 2lb-plus to a best of 2lb 3oz – not bad for an evening on a largely-iced stillwater!

“Why does nobody else bother to fish these prolific lakes for silverfish in winter?”