Angler's Mail match fishing expert Dave Coster of top tackle brand Hardy Greys reveals his latest exploits.
IN BETWEEN match fishing trips I like to explore venues that are a bit off the beaten track and one such place is the Great Southern Reservoir at Whittle Dene, which is on a complex of coarse fisheries run by Northumberland Water Authority.
I like the Southern because it’s a long walk and not many other anglers bother going down there. This means I often have the 20-acre water all to myself. If only the locals knew what they are missing, because this place has provided me with some of the best roach fishing I have ever experienced!
That’s not to say the venue is easy, it’s far from that. Like many roach waters it’s a moody place that can switch on and off for no apparent reason. It can also be a hostile spot when the wind gets up, making some of the best areas virtually unfishable, so I have to always pick my trips with one eye on the weather.
Now I have fished the Southern for several years a definite pattern is emerging. The bigger roach seem to congregate down the left hand bank, which is often the windiest area, unless there’s a north easterly blowing. Prevailing winds are mostly from the west, creating a lot of heavy drift, which rules out float tactics a lot of the time.
However, when conditions are spot on, the pole or waggler can be deadly along these pegs. I’ve had a couple of near-40 lb weights of quality redfins on the pole fishing hemp and tares, also many big roach over the pound mark using waggler and casters.
On a recent trip I even got the roach going well on the pole with maggots. It was one a chuck, fish averaging 4 to 10oz, but I got the feeling that there were bigger ones lurking in the swim.
This prompted a switch to sweetcorn. It took a lot longer to get a bite, but when I did the fish were anything from 8oz to well over the pound mark, the best going a cracking 1 lb 8 oz. But this fish looked a dwarf compared to a huge redfin that rolled right in front of my float towards the end of the session. I’m not joking when I say it looked double the size of my best fish!
Of course I’ve got the big fish bug now and won’t be happy until I get at least a two pounder. But that doesn’t leave me much time because the bigger roach only tend to feed well when the water has some summer algae colour and the levels are low. Once Northumbrian Water start filling the reservoir up for the winter, the colour clears out and the fishing gets much harder.
Another consideration that has to be taken on board when targeting the big roach is how shy they are. I think this is due to such an exposed stretch of water being hit hard by cormorants, even during the summer, which means if you make a wrong move the fish depart very quickly.
This has led me to try a different approach with the waggler in particular. I’ve discovered if you fish it out in open water the fish keep spooking after a few have been caught. But if you fish to the right or left of where you are sitting, and closer in – just down the shelf along the rocky shoreline – the fish keep coming. I reckon this is due to the shoreline rocks and boulders being the only real cover in the place which makes the bigger roach feel more secure. They also can’t see any movement from your rod or you.
There is of course another option and that’s the feeder, but again when using this method the fish tend to back off very quickly. It is possible to switch to a bomb occasionally in order to keep bites coming, but the sly bigger roach don’t tend to fall for this trick that often.
I’ve even tried the specimen roach angler’s helicopter maggot feeder method but that didn’t work at all.
So I reckon it’s a case of getting the average size roach feeding confidently and then trying to pick off the bigger ones that will inevitably be in the area, maybe just hanging back off the main feed spot. I also have a feeling as the nights are beginning to draw in that last light might be the time when that really big specimen redfin is going to come my way.
I’ll keep you posted although I’m not about to get kitted out with camouflaged gear just yet! I still enjoy my match fishing too much to take the green chair and swinger or bite alarm route to catching my fish!
Read Dave’s Coster’s Action Replay in Angler’s Mail magazine this week – and follow his advice in the mag every week!