Roach are found throughout northern and central Europe, whilst distinct sub-species occurring in areas of Spain and Portugal, they are not found in the Mediterranean areas.
Roach have a slim silver body with a greenish-blue back, a white belly and orange fins with a redder anal fin. A true Roach has a scale count along the lateral line of 39-49 scales. Young fish maintain a slender shape, but mature specimens develop a broader body depth. Roach are easily distinguished from Rudd (that have golden/green bodies with blood red fins), by the fact that their top lip extends beyond that of the lower lip, whilst Rudd have a bottom lips that protrudes beyond the top lip, perfect for intercepting falling food and surface feeding.
Roach are often referred to as ‘Red fins’, although in truth their fins are more orange in colour when smaller, more mature specimens do develop a deep red colouration to their fins making for impressive fish with their pure silver flanks.
Roach are the most widespread of fish, being found in stillwaters, rivers and canals throughout the UK, but preferring some aquatic vegetation for spawning and protection for fry. Small fish can be caught on most fisheries, and larger specimens are likely to be present, but often prove elusive, with large specimens occasionally being caught. Roach will feed on invertebrates, small snails and aquatic plants and will feed at all levels.
Roach usually spawn between April to early June, between 18-20°C on sunny days. They often spawn in the same areas year after year, especially on rivers where large male fish form schools follow the females, with the resulting spawning becoming physically rough, leading to fish jumping clear of the water. Depending on their conditioning (health), females can produce between 25,000 and 100,000 eggs/kg of their bodyweight: the sticky yellow eggs are laid on weeds that are not too deep in the water. A low pH of 5.5 or less will not enable successful reproduction. Fry will eat plankton and aquatic detritus.
Roach fry and immature fish are heavily predated by all predators and the number of fish that fully mature can be low on some waters, however fisheries with few predators may also lead to large populations of smaller fish. On lakes where environmental restrictions are in place, such as low food levels, growth will be slowed and early maturation takes place, leading to stunted populations of small fish.
In fisheries with large numbers of predators, such a clear water gravel pits, the numbers of fish in a Roach shoal that make adulthood may be very low, but this can lead to much larger fish that are so highly sought by anglers.
As Roach are closely related to both Rudd & Bream, spawning takes place at the same time and often cross-fertilisation will take place, leading to Roach-Rudd and Roach Rudd hybrids. These fish often grow larger than the true Roach, and the true identification of Roach on fisheries where co-habiting species exist can be a problem.
In winter, Roach shoals migrate to deeper water where they form large, dense shoals, creating ‘hotspots’ in fisheries once they are located.
Rods and reels should be either 12 – 15’ flat rod in conjunction with preferably a centre pin or close faced reel that allow better presentation whilst trotting.
Mainline 3lb with 2lb hook link. Use fine gauge, spade end hooks with a wide gape.
Look for an open swim with a steady flow on the water, 3’ to 4’ deep ideally.
Look for a swim with steadier flowing water, where possible with depths of 2 to 6’ (0.6-2.0m).
Before starting, ensure that you plumb the depth. Trotting with a stick float with ‘shirt button’ style shotting pattern (ie. with the larger shot nearest the float and the smallest shot evenly spaced with smallest shot at the bottom and biggest nearest the float), and a tell tale No 10 shot 6” from the hook fished so that the bait runs through the swim at just off bottom. Holding the stick float back against the current occasionally, just momentary or up to a few seconds, will allow the bait to gently rise in the current and encourage bites.
Consider a leger when you are getting bites on the float but cannot hit them. Shorten the hooklink to 6” so that the fish cannot spit out the hook before feeling the lead, hence the shorter link. This method will usually result in the fish hooking themselves. Use 2- 4+ swanshots directly on the line, which are an advantage over leger weights, in that they can be moved easily to change the distance to the hook.
Roach have relatively small mouth and their pharyngeal teeth are not strong, and whilst they will take many types of bait, they prefer small soft baits such as maggot, caster, hemp, bread, worms, sweet corn and even very small pieces of luncheon meat.
On rivers use hemp and casters is probably the bets bait combination, tares and elderberries (in the right location where bushes overhang), fished with hemp also works, though bites can be very fast with hemp. Maggot can of course be used with hemp, but casters generally produce better quality fish. Roach appear to be addicted to hemp, so bare this in mind when loose feeding. Sliced bread used in conjunction with a bread punch can also prove very effective.
Keep in water in a bait box, but take a handful out and let them dry out, these can be used as hook bait to enable the spade of the hook to be pushed into the harder shell: the spade cannot be buried with a soft caster. Casters are a great bait, but the hook needs to be buried, but beware, bites are normally very fast.
Trotting or legering bread flake or paste fished with a stream of mashed bread or liquidised fresh bread can be very productive. Touch legering with bread close to the nearside bank as light falls can be an excellent approach, bites often become more confident as you fish into the dark. The use of small feeders, open or closed depending on hook bait, with a few free samples and a small amount of groundbait will keep the fish feeding. Casting must be accurate to maintain the feed on the same line of the river or same area of the lake.
Bites will normally first come with the bait on the bottom, and can be shy at first, with small dips of a float, resulting in missed bites and a ‘maggot skin’ being your reward rather than a fish. Side hooking maggots can turn fast bites into fish as their ability to blow out the maggot is reduced.
Fast, but positive bites come as confidence increases and as the Roach start to feed more eagerly they will come on the drop as the shoal moves up in the water. If this happens, reduce your depth (marking the original depth as it may have to be resumed if fish are spooked), and keep feeding little and often to maintain the competition for feed in the shoal.
Use a 12-13’ rod with a fixed spool reel and reel with a waggler float or fish on the pole if conditions allow.
Look for any water, preferably with a hard bottom. Be aware that obvious features that may be good to target Tench would also attract predators, so open water is better.
Why – Because you can cover more water, but at the sacrifice of some presentation. Always, always remember to plumb your swim and aim to fish just on the bottom.
Remember to always sink your line once you have cast, from rod top to float. Cast, let the float cock, dip the rod tip 6” under the water, whip the rod as if striking then place the tip of the rod back in the water again and the few feet of line that are left floating will now be sunk by the rest of your line that has already sunk.
In strong winds or when a considerable tow is on the water you may need to change your basic approach. Using a larger float that requires a heavier shot pattern will give the float more stability in the water or consider increasing the depth of the rig, therefore putting more line and the shot to drag along the bottom to hopefully correct the effects of strong wind and toe.
Tips: Do not fish further than you can loose feed your chosen hook bait using a catapult, and as with all float fishing, feed little and often to begin with. Remember that if windy, your accuracy range will be reduced, perhaps a ledger beckons !
The benefit of fishing on a pole is all about the bait presentation, which simply cannot be beaten.
A good start to the session would be to give a good helping of hemp, perhaps ½ to a pint, and allow 10-minutes before starting to allow the fish to locate the bait . Use hemp, caster and maggot as bait and remember to loose feed consistently.
As light falls, Roach often feed with more confidence, and it is well worth fishing as light fades and into darkness on both lakes and rivers.
Fly fishing can be productive where Roach are present in good numbers, with sinking artificial flies with a gold bead fished on long leaders producing good catches and sometimes specimen fish.
Roach are present in all FAS fisheries, although larger fish of 1lb with the chance of a 2lb specimen, could be pursued at Badshot Lea Big Pond and Tarn Pond with the River Blackwater (at Yateley East & Mill Lane), worth a try as well. Frensham Great Pond has historically produced good fish, but these are currently overshadowed by the large Rudd that are present. Interestingly, the current FAS record was caught from Lodge Pond, which just shows that a big Roach can turn up from any fishery.
Good sized Roach-Bream hybrids to 2lb plus can be caught at Badshot Lea Big Pond.
|A Stillwater in Northern Ireland