For Mark Pollard, there’s no finer sight than a big bag of shimmering redfins glistening in the sunshine.
The prolific match angler and silverfish expert is a dab hand at putting such a net together, a catch like that pictured in the following few pages.
Here he gives his 10 vital steps to roach success on the pole on a variety of stillwater venues this spring including commercials, big natural lakes and park lakes such as the one he was targeting today, Furzton Lake in the centre of Milton Keynes.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned long pole angler, you’re bound to take plenty from his sound advice. Over to you Mark…
1. Pick your spot
Where you choose to fish your pole line and put your bag at the start of the session is often a deal breaker. Too close and you might not get bites, too far out and you’ll make it harder than you need for yourself.
If you’ve got a coloured lake with a good ‘chop’ on the surface caused by the wind, you’re more likely to be able to catch closer. However, if it’s clear or calm, you’ll probably have to fish a bit further out as the water is still quite cold.
A range of 11m-13m is a good starting point, especially on these larger stillwaters and park lakes. Fishing at this distance usually puts you out beyond any shelves and on to a flat bottom. On a small, well-stocked commercial fishery you’ll probably be able to catch on a short pole.
2. Use dark groundbait
At this time of year I’m still a fan of using a dark groundbait mix for roach. My choice is a simple even quantity of Dynamite Frenzied Hempseed Match Black and Silver X Roach. The Silver X gives it a bit of food value and is quite an active mix, while the Hempseed groundbait darkens the mix and is hemp-based, great for roach.
To this I add casters and a bit of tinned Frenzied hempseed. Unless you kill them beforehand, you can’t add maggots to balls of groundbait because they’ll break up the balls and generally wreak havoc!
When deciding how many balls of groundbait to feed remember this – you can’t take out what you’ve put in, but you can build up the peg gradually! It’s far better to cup in, say, two or three large balls cautiously, than blow the peg immediately with too much groundbait.
3. Elastics and setting up
A No.4 Matrix solid elastic is my choice for roach on stillwaters – there’s no need to go lighter. I put a light elastic like this through the No.2 section and a bit of the No.1, which is cut back for my pole bush. This is enough cushion for small fish but isn’t so stretchy that it will be difficult to swing and land fish.
You can’t do this for heavier elastics and bigger fish, however, because your elastic won’t have enough stretch in it! If bigger roach and the occasional bonus fish were on the cards, I’d use a grade five or six through the full top three kit.
4. Swing your rig
There are various ways of getting the bait to the bottom and presenting your offering to the fish. You can lower a pole rig straight down vertically, which you might do if you’re looking to catch all your fish hard on the bottom with the shot bulked. Or, you can lay the whole lot in horizontally straight out on the surface, which can be good for catching fish on-the-drop as the bait falls through the water, with the shot spread out shirt-button style.
The best way I’ve found, however, is to lift the pole and swing the rig out beyond the tip away from you. Let the rig land in a straight line then keep a tight line to the float and the bait will swing in an arc back towards you. Let it go slack as the bristle cocks upwards. This is a great way of catching a slightly bigger stamp of fish which seem to sit on the far perimeter of the main feed.
5. Avoid slim floats
Although you could use a slim float for roach, and many do, I like something with a bit of body on it such as a rugby ball shape, to hold the line tight against. On these bigger waters a slim float would get carried around in the tow and wind, offering poor presentation. I like to have control of the rig and today, for example, in 5ft of water, I’ve gone for a 0.75g MP roach as I’m fishing on the bottom.
6. Light hooklengths
Roach aren’t daft wherever you go and light tackle is still needed to fool them. On a big natural style venue such as this I’ve got a 6in length of 0.08mm (1.7lb) as my hooklength, although I wouldn’t drop lower than this on a stillwater. On a really coloured venue where bigger fish are on the cards, I would consider stepping up to 0.10mm (2lb). As long as these are matched and balanced with light elastics you shouldn’t get broken. Where barbed hooks are allowed, I prefer the Kamasan B511 in a size 20 if it’s difficult, or an 18 if I’m bagging.
7. To loosefeed or not?
Do you pick up your catapult and fire in some bait or not? In my book it all depends where you’re catching fish. If you’re only getting bites on the bottom then don’t be inclined to loosefeed, just rely on the groundbait to keep the fish there on the deck where they are easier to catch. You can top up with a small tangerine- sized ball of groundbait in the cupping pot whenever the swim starts to slow up.
However, if the fish are taking the bait on-the-drop, before the rig has a chance to fully settle, you might catch quicker by loosefeeding maggots or casters little and often. Use a lighter float and spread the shots out but bites will be harder to hit when the fish are moving about at various depths off the bottom.
8. Use an olivette
An olivette weight is a great way of shotting a pole float. It’s compact and means you don’t have to attach loads of shot to the line in a huge bulk. Use an olivette for heavier pole floats of 0.75g (4 x18) and above (for lighter floats a group of shot is more versatile). I like an inline olivette fixed with two No.10 shot or Stotz either side. I’ll use a size slightly lighter than the actual weight of the float so that I can spread out three or four shot beneath it. An olivette is usually placed between 18in and 2ft away from the hook itself.
9. Lubricate your elastic
A bottle of pole elastic lubricant is useful with smaller-sized solid elastics. Applying it keeps the elastic working smoothly because it can stick and jar in the pole, causing lost fish on small hooks. It’s not so important with thicker hollow elastics and large diameter pole bushes. Squirt the lubricant into the thick end of the pole section and pivot it upwards so it runs down the pole. You can also pull the elastic out with the tip underwater to help it work.
10. Entice a bite
Lifting the float out of the water and lowering it back down to settle again is a great way of bringing a quick bite when pole fishing for carp. It also works surprisingly well for roach, because it shows the bait to any nearby fish. You only need to bring the float 6in or so above the water’s surface, then gently lower it down again to a fishing position. Don’t simply let go of it and let it drop down.