This special online feature comes from Duncan Charman, as he takes a look at how to catch big roach. He mainly covers small rivers but there is top advice for all sorts of running waters, especially during the cooler months.
YOU have to present your bait as near to perfectly as possible when you’re river roach fishing.
If there is one thing that I have learnt over the many years or targeting specimen roach on small rivers, it’s this detail.
Poor presentation and clumsiness is just a recipe for disaster as roach. Redfins that have been around for some time are not stupid.
In fact, they can drive an angler to distraction as they suck in a single maggot… and blow it out again, in just a split second.
At times, if they do this, you can classify yourself as a lucky angler!
Keep an eye on the weather!
There are ways however to increase your chances of regular success with your river fishing efforts.
This very much involves keeping an eye on the weather and arriving just after some rainfall, a time when it will be carrying some colour.
This may seem easy but it’s far from it as roach prefer a river that’s fining down with the colour slowly decreasing from it.
Knowing just how your local river acts, and timing your arrival correctly is imperative to success and only comes from frequent visits and then experience.
Get it right and some remarkable catches can be taken as every roach in the river seems to drop its guard.
These red-letter days are rare, very rare. Most times you will be left scratching your head and returning home a frustrated, yet hopefully more determined angler!
Choosing the right bait
Rarely does an angler have the luxury of using maggots as often small fish will intercept these first and spook the roach. But it’s always worth having a few just in case.
Bread is without a doubt the best roach bait.
And it’s worth remembering that if you do take maggots, never start a session by using them.
Only fall back on maggots if bread doesn’t work, which is rare if they are hungry!
I have had occasions when both maggots and bread attract other more aggressive species. In these instances, which again are rare, it’s worth trying sweetcorn.
If you are loose feeding maggots or corn then watch where the flow takes these.
Corn will fall quite quickly, yet maggots can get swept down in the current. They’ll then take all the fish with them – so always feed little and often and watch what’s happening.
If you’re using bread then feeding liquidised bread is best, finely ground with the crusts removed.
Watching what happens to this is easy, however it’s worth mixing some water into this and creating a slop if needed to get it down quickly.
It’s also worth tacking a small selection of pike tackle and deadbaits as pike aren’t that far away from a shoal of roach.
The best way to present a bait
Small rivers really do lend themselves to float fishing.
The best type of float is a stick float and if you are looking for the best possible presentation then it’s worth investing in a centrepin.
They do take some getting use too, but once perfected, believe me you will never look back as they allow a bait to be guided down the river at the same pace as the flow.
Centrepins come at all costs but I have been using an Okuma Aventa for years, far from expensive yet brilliant and reliable.
If you know where the roach live then it’s important that you don’t stand right on top of them.
Stealth plays a massive part in catching big river roach. Position yourself upstream and try to long-trot a float. Again, this is an art in itself and something that comes with practice.
By positioning yourself upstream also makes float choose difficult as you need a float that will control the swim, be seen from some distance, and yet still be sensitive enough to show up bites.
Fortunately bites when you are river roach fishing, especially when using bread, are far from sensitive.
Usually a small dip is followed by a much bolder dip in which the float just disappears.
However this doesn’t mean shotting the float incorrectly and having far too much tip showing as they will feel the resistance.
There are two main ways to shot a float and this is dependent on the river condition.
If it’s fining down, faster than normal and coloured then you will need to get the bait down to the bottom quickly. This is achieved by using a bulk and two droppers.
This simply means placing the bulk of the shot to cock the float around a foot from the hook. Then add two smaller shot equally spaced from this to the hook.
If the water is running clear then I prefer to use what’s known as a shirt-button style of shotting for my river roach fishing.
This simply means placing shot at equal intervals from float to hook and decreasing the size of shot as you get nearer the hook.
Another area that’s overlooked in river roach fishing is knowing at what depth to set the float.
Roach rarely stray far from the bottom so this is where the bait needs to be placed.
The best way to find the depth is to run the float through the swim several times, without any bait. Deepen it all the time until the hook gets caught on the bottom.
It’s then simply a case of decreasing the depth by an inch or two.
Balanced tackle for river roach fishing
Roach have very delicate mouths and the wrong set up will only result in the hook being pulled and a lost fish.
I have often used a Preston Innovations Carbonactive 13ft Match rod for all my river roach float fishing.
There are similar designs from other manufacturers that are extremely responsive.
I also like some backbone in a river roach fishing rod to help subdue my quarry.
Unfortunately a high class piece of kit does, as usual, come at a cost but it’s worth the investment as it will last you a lifetime.
I’ve already mentioned the reel which is loaded with 4 lb line, one that has very little stretch so connecting with bites at long range is greatly increased.
Hooklink will always be lighter than the main and I love 3.6lb Reflo with a wide gape size 14 barbless hook at the business end.
Timing your arrival
River conditions play a massive part in river roach fishing.
However sometimes it’s difficult to work around these conditions. We often have to go out fishing when we have the spare time, not when fish will definitely be ‘having it.’
Another way to massively increase your chances of catching is to base your river roach fishing times around low light, dusk and dawn.
Even when the rivers carrying colour, roach still know when these periods have arrived.
However once the suns up or darkness has fallen the roach just seem to disappear.
It’s also worth remembering that roach, those in big powerful river, tend to head into smaller tributaries.
They’ll hang out there especially in flood conditions or to get away from cormorant and pike predation.
Never ignore these small sidestreams as sometimes they can be absolutely full of fish!
Enjoy the challenge but be prepared to be frustrated, it’s all part of the fun!
Duncan Charman is sponsored by Nash and has his own website www.duncancharman.co.uk He regularly contributes a Where to Fish guide for his region to top weekly magazine, Angler’s Mail.
He is also an angling guide and can be booked on a daily basis for most species including carp, pike, perch, catfish, barbel, bream, crucians, roach, rudd, grayling and tench. For info/prices email firstname.lastname@example.org
He’s also written a book called Evolution of an Angler which is available from www.calmproductions.com
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