Early autumn is a fantastic time of year to be a river angler, and with roach having made a comeback on many waterways in recent years, the next few months offer the real chance of a 2lb roach for those determined to put in the effort.
To help you along the right lines, we’ve tapped into the knowledge of one of the finest river anglers ever to grace the banks – Dave Harrell.
Read his tips here and go bag yourself a big net of plump redfins!
Roach generally prefer rivers from 3ft to 6ft deep with some pace in the warmer months, and slower swims from 6ft to 12ft in the winter. If you’re looking for new venues, do your homework before venturing out. Check out the Angling Times venue guides, and then talk to the anglers fishing there. You’ll learn a lot in a short space of time.
To match the fine line, always use fine-wire hooks for roach. My No1 choice is the Drennan Carbon Match. Another pattern I really like is the Red Maggot, and if you start to catch very big roach, in pacey water, try the Wide Gape version.
FISH FINE LINE
A 2lb roach is a specimen fish, but most redfins that you catch will be considerably smaller than this. You’ll get more bites on hooklengths between 0.08mm and 0.12mm. For mainline I’d recommend you use diameters of around 0.14mm-0.16mm.
As with lines and hooks, you don’t need heavy elastics for roach. There are plenty of good ones on the market now, and my advice would be to go for a solid No4 or No5. If big roach start to appear, switch to a No6. Always set your elastics so that they just ‘creep’ back into the tip of the pole when not under tension.
POLE RIGS – DEEP WATER
In deep, steadily flowing water my favourite pole floats are the DH11 and DH13 in sizes from 0.5g upwards. In a faster flow, I’d choose to fish a DH16 pattern in sizes from 1g upwards. The shape of this float is perfect for pole fishing in swiftly-flowing water. For all deep-water rigs I use an olivette as a bulk weight and one to three No9 or No8 dropper shot underneath the bulk.
As the season progresses, maggots come more into play as roach baits. Quite why this is I’m not sure, but it’s been like this since I started fishing, so I’ve no reason to believe that things will change. I use single maggot on size 22 or 20 hooks and doubles on 18s and 16s. On the rare red-letter days when big roach are feeding, three maggots on a size 14 can be deadly!
POLE RIGS – SHALLOW WATER
For pole fishing in slow-moving, shallow swims 4ft-6ft deep, I use strung-out shotting with DH14 and DH15 floats from 0.10g to 0.6g. These are shotted with No8, No9 and No10 shot, equally spread throughout the length of the line. For pacey, shallow swims I use the smaller sizes of my own DH16 pattern from 0.2g to 0.8g, again with a spread-out shotting pattern.
Bread is a fantastic bait for redfins of all sizes. I use it with breadpunch in conjunction with punch crumb, or in flake form for bigger fish alongside groundbait and casters. It’s also a good bait to use in punch form with a cage feeder filled with liquidised bread.
LAY IT ON
If the river is coloured, fish slack water close in and lay the bait on the bottom by at least 6ins. This tactic works particularly well when the river level has been up for a week or two.
Good baits for quality roach as the season goes on are casters, especially when the river runs clear. I fish a single big caster on a size 18 or 16 hook with the hook buried inside.
Worms are a great coloured water hookbait and feed. Use them with feeder gear or via a bait dropper. Try whole worms or worm sections on the hook. Dendrobaenas and lobworms are essential in these situations.
Sensitive floats are the order of the day for roach. I favour Sensitip or peacock wagglers for slow-moving water and a straight float for pacey situations. Always keep shotting on the light side. For the Sensitip and insert floats, use a No8 shot for every 2ft of depth. For the straight waggler, use a No6 shot for every 2ft of depth, with a No8 on the hooklength, 10ins from the hook.
LITTLE AND OFTEN
To get the very best from roach swims, you often need to tempt a whole shoal. The best way to do this is to feed little and oftens. Keep dripping in six to 10 baits every minute or so – whether that’s hemp, casters, maggots or even pellets, you’ll create a food column in the water that roach can’t resist!
This tactic has fallen out of favour but there are still days when a link-legered bait can outscore floatfished or feeder fished baits. Use a 6ins link with enough AAA or SSG shot to hold bottom, and a 3ft tail to the hook. Try it!
LAST TWO HOURS
As the light begins to fade, big roach tend to lose their inhibitions and start to feed better than at any other point in the day. I’ve found the last two hours are often the best, so try to plan some trips where you can fish until it’s almost dark.
It can pay to introduce several big balls of groundbait at the start of a session on the pole. Thereafter, top up with smaller balls of feed, or with loosefed over the top. My favourite balling mix is Bait-Tech Pro Natural with 25 per cent soil.
SLOW IT DOWN
On certain days it can pay to slow your presentation right down in order to get bites. This is very often the case when big roach are the quarry, so hold back on a pole rig, and slow your running line rigs right down to try and tempt fish on to the hook.