Ask any all-round angler and they’ll tell you there are few better sights in fishing than a big roach.
I’ve caught a few of these in my time, but nothing can ever prepare you for the awesome sight of a ‘two’ or even a three-pounder coming over the front of your landing net.
Most of us grow up catching small roach but when they grow to specimen proportions they’re almost like a different species altogether.
As with most big-fish angling, locating the fish you want to catch is paramount.
Fortunately for the roach angler they have a habit of rolling at dusk and dawn. At dawn, in particular, they will often roll while it is nearer to dark than light, but as long as the water is calm you can generally see the ripples they make, even if you cannot see the actual fish.
Quite often their rolling activity only lasts for a few minutes so it pays to be looking at the water as soon as dawn starts to break.
Although roach are more likely to show themselves at dawn and dusk, they can be caught throughout the day in winter.
I have found that a short burst of feeding activity can occur at any time and it pays to be organised so you can take advantage of any such purple patches.
Make sure you have spare hooklinks set up and scales and camera to hand so that you can maximise your chances when the roach switch on.
Generally, the colder the weather, the shorter the feeding spell. While overcast conditions are generally best in the winter months, I am sure roach will feed at some point in the day regardless of the weather, so don’t be put off if the conditions appear to be less than ideal.
Over the years I’ve used many rigs for roach but I’ve found one to be head and shoulders above all the rest at putting a specimen fish on the bank – a simple heli rig.
Here’s how to fish it…
Casting heavy feeders puts quite a lot of stress on the mainline so I like to use a robust line such as Korum Xpert Reel Line or Gardner hydroFLO in 6lb breaking strain.
B) HELI SET-UP
The great thing about fishing these days is that there’s so much gear that’s ready to use from the pack. I’m a huge fan of the Korum Ready Heli Kit that allows me to set up my heli rig in seconds.
The kit is slid straight on to the mainline and comprises two rig stops and beads either side of a rotating quick-change link which I use to attach my hooklink to. This is covered with an anti-tangle sleeve to help kick the hooklink away from the mainline.
By moving the rig stops up or down the line the distance between the hooklink and the feeder can be varied.
I start with it about 6ins away, and if bites are not forthcoming I will move it further away on one rod and closer on the other.
On some days the fish will show a distinct preference for one or the other but on other days it appears to make little or no difference.
D) SHORT HOOKLINK
This rig works best with short hooklinks of no more than 3ins.
Over the years I’ve tried many different lines and have found Preston Reflo to be the best.
I generally start with 0.13mm Reflo (4lb 12oz) as I have found this to be a good compromise between fine presentation and strength.
On occasion I will drop to 0.11mm Reflo, particularly in clear, shallow water and in bright, sunny conditions.
I used to tie my own hooklinks but nowadays I use Preston PR 355 hooks to nylon, in size 16 and 18, using a loop tyer to shorten the line to just 3ins.
It is then a simple matter of threading on a rig sleeve and attaching the hooklink to the quick-change bead.
E) FEEDER LINK
My swimfeeder is attached via an Avid Quick Change link tied to the end of the mainline.
I like to use a quick change clip for two reasons – it enables me to change the feeder easily and the feeder can be removed at the end of the session, which makes it easier to pack the rods away still set up.
My number one choice is maggots. I like to use a mixture of red and white maggots and invariably start of with one of each on a size 16 hook.
If bites are not forthcoming I will try just red or white maggots and in really cold weather it’s even worth trying a single maggot on a size 18.
I never go below a size 18 as big roach are strong fighters that jag around a lot and I feel that a smaller hook increases the likelihood of a hook pull.
I’d rather hook fewer fish but have a better chance of landing them.
In many waters, big roach are thin on the ground so it is important not to overfeed them, or you can ruin your chances of a bite.
I usually only introduce bait in the swimfeeder and am wary of recasting too often and putting a lot of bait into my swim.
I want any roach present to pick up my hookbaits rather than fill up on free offerings, so typically I’ll only recast every two hours or so.
The beauty of this rig is that it very rarely tangles ,so you can be almost certain it is fishing effectively for that length of time.
H) FEEDER SIZE
The rig is best fished with a fairly heavy feeder to maximise the self-hooking properties of the rig and I use 50g Preston Quickload feeders in both medium and large sizes.
Roach fishing tips
Always use soft rods
Big roach are finicky feeders. My favoured rig incorporates fine hooks and lines, so it needs to be used with a soft rod to prevent line breakages and hook pulls.
I like a rod with a soft tip and a test curve of 1.25lb or less. Currently I am using Korum 1.25lb Neoteric rods which have a lovely soft tip but can still cast a feeder well over 50 yards.
Fish with tight lines
The bolt effect of the rig is enhanced by the use of heavy bobbins that keep the line tight.
Some bites can be very vicious so I like to use reels with a freespool system.
Alternatively, you can slacken the drag off on your reel to ensure a big roach does not break the hooklink on the take.
Playing roach safely
Big roach fight really well on light tackle with a distinctive jagging style. Play them with ‘soft hands’ and take your time. If you try to bully them they are far more likely to come off.
This rig makes it easy to make changes, be they to the hooklink, hook size, distance from the feeder, maggots colour, the number of maggots, even the size of feeder. Give it a go and ring the changes to bring a big roach to your net soon.
For more great tips from top anglers head to this year’s The Big One Show