Those who have cast a line for a big Roach will already know of the fickle nature by which they can possibly feed, and do not need me to remind them of the maddening ability to pluck a Roach develops around the age of 10oz. With a barbel, carp or pike and their developed methods of capture, angling them has become simple in a way. Simple in that once the finned culprit has the intent of your bait upon it's mind it comes down to a simple choice of yes I am going to eat it or no I am not. Whereas in the case of the not so humble big Roach it becomes a case of sucking, plucking, blowing, spitting and possibly maybe even eating. Add into this infuriating equation a flowing river and a recipe for madness is complete. Oppositely there are those days when like all fishes the big Roach can be as stupid and gullible as an angler in a tackle shop; to be on that bank on that sacred day is the provision of a lucky man, one whom in the past may have stumbled over a pile of rocking horse droppings and landed face first in a patch of four leafed clovers. But for most of us even if we know the location of a sacred shoal and we enjoy angling for a pound of silver in our net, we will have to endure a little madness as payment for the honour.
Having decided that Roach were to be my quarry of the day, I wondered as I drove south in the dark whether if by magic today was to be my day again, as I have had only one other real roach red letter day in the past.
Though before feeders filled with bread crumbs arc across the Warwickshire sky, another darker date stood before me. I do find it hard these days to visit the Avon without a a Zander rod in my quiver. Even if like on this trip I only have a short while to await for that single nod of my rod that might indicate the subtle intentions of a Zander. I still do it.
Early on as dark became light I had two enquiries in quick succession. I wouldn't say I missed them, just that the Zander responsible for both bites had a change of heart at the last moment, and put down my dead Rudd bait for reason only known to them. Although I suspect my pack of frozen glassy eyed fish may have been in and out of the freezer one to many times to be considered fresh.
Done with distractions of the predatory kind I shoved off upstream to the spot I knew I would fish. Ever since my arrival I had been watching it out of the corner my eye hoping no wasteful lure angler would pass through and ruin the whole area searching for a pickerel of a pike, which would probably not look twice at there gaudy rattling lure.
Winters and floods change the dynamics of swims easily, and this one was changed since I last cast here. The flow is now channelled awkwardly across the centre of the swim and worse the soft biting fish lie just beyond the entire pressure of the Warwickshire Avon on a small gravel run. The swim will again change when the next flood rips away the barriers accumulated on the far back which on this occasion hinder me. But for today it is just a case of making do.
It takes me a while to figure where my bait ends up on my first cast. Unlike a feeder full of wetted ground bait which sinks fast, a feeder stuffed with fluffy liquidised bread sinks slowly allowing the river to catch it and deposit it much further downstream than a wet crumb feeder.
It's making bottom at least two metres further down stream than I want it to, so I compensate by flicking it further into the flow and my calculations are rewarded with a bite. Albeit a very subtle one.
A few more loads of bread clouding through the water gets them in the mood and the tip now dances feverishly as fish pluck at the bread. Then finally a tiny sliver blade wriggles in after the feeder. The hooked fish drives off the shoal and I have to wait a while for the next bite. But once that comes they once again begin to compete.
A proper bite results in resistance on my light rod and a beautiful 13oz roach is landed and my hopes that the red letter day could begin get higher.
After this the madness begins! The shoal is disrupted and for all I can figure are moving round the swim. As the bites seem totally random, I focus as we are told, on one area, and try to hit the same spot again and again which does seem to get them in line a little. They have no confidence but infuriatingly are still interested in eating.
How many bites I strike at and miss grows quickly and my-patience to deal with this dwindles. In the end I find myself hitting good fast roach bites as the tip comes back, and no fish can be hooked when your bait has been spat out.
Luckily for my sanity they push off and the bites stop and now my tip sits still. The thought that a big straggler may still move over the baited area makes me stick around for sometime just in case. Soon enough I move off again down stream to a another choice spot. Here again the bites come quickly and a small chub which is novel in this section for the river gets away in a snag under my feet.
All too soon it is time to go as other engagements press my time. Even though those infuriating fish have pushed me close to the edge, I still wonder when I will be back as I walk to the car.