Two or more years ago I witnessed the capture of a huge roach from one of my local club waters, and when I say huge roach, I mean a huuuge roach. The irony of that capture was that I, the witness, was more excited about it that the captor.
The chap who caught it, without being derogatory, was quite obviously a novice judging by the way he handled his gear, and indeed what he was using to fish. But neither tackle or experience counted diddly squat in this instance as he had landed by chance the largest roach I have ever seen in the flesh. To compound the insanity of the situation even more he beached the poor thing onto a concrete bank before unhooking, flipping it back. Afterwards he turned and proclaimed to me, who I should say was standing agog wide eyed and slack jawed, that what he really wanted was one of the ten pound carp he'd seen drifting around under the surface.
The image of that gargantuan roach has been burned in my mind ever since and although I have not obsessed over it, it has remained high on my investigating list, which by the way is a considerable length. With the season gone and year round lakes now high on my agenda, I decided it was about time I went back and did some roach fishing at the site where I last saw that amazing fish.
Snitterfield reservoir can only be described as a bleak looking place on its best day. Keith summed it up very well while talking him the other day, when he said it was like fishing on the moon and he is right, it is like sitting on the edge of one of those giant lunar craters, as though filled with water. Other than its barren look this lakes distinctive feature is it's generous fish population; honestly on the right day this is the barrel referred to in the saying, 'shooting fish in a barrel'. I once arrived there at half nine with two pints of fresh maggots on a sunny day. By eleven thirty I was floater fishing for carp! not because I had seen any carp about, but rather to keep the boiling and voracious silvers of all sizes on the feed, I had used every grub in my bait tub in little over and hour and a half.
Even in the dead of winter the roach feed hard, and plying a pint or so of fluro pinkies into the water can reward with very respectable nets of roach. So that was my plan for this trip. I knew the water would still be a long way off warming up, but hopefully the roach would still be in winter mode whilst the sun might be twanging at their appetites.
I can't deny thinking quite arrogantly to myself before I cast out 'are you ready for this' as I sat there looking out over the sheet of water. Turns out I was not ready for this, as what I was thinking what might happen did not; there was no cue for my free offerings and after an hour I had scratched little more than two small roach. Fine lines, small hooks and clock work catapulting of small quantities of grubs was not doing the business at all. I searched all depths of the water in front of me from hard on the bottom all the way up to merely inches from the surface and found zip.
After a further hour of sticking it out, it had become plainly obvious it was either a case of no fish or no feed. So as I quite often do in situations like this, I made a move to the very opposite sort of swim to the one I had begun in, and in Snitterfield's case that means a swim that looks exactly the same at the opposite end of the lake. The move was fruitful to a certain extent but was my no means bountiful. In the new shallower area the water was obviously warmer but still not quie enough to spark the whole ecosystem off, and the result was just more small roach.
As I had right until dusk available I made the decision to stick it out and gamble that as sun dipped off the water and the skies darkened, maybe just maybe, a spell of heavy feeding might ensue. But it was way before this that the high light of the day occurred...
After loads of really poor bites where the black antenna of my crystal waggler never went fully below the surface, I watched another timid wobble suddenly just slide away confidently to my left. The strike was met with a fabulous hooping of carbon and vibrations being sent along the now tensioned line, that was the most glorious repetitive banging a roach angler could wish for.
This was a decent fish and it was keeping very deep with some serious determination. Not daring to put too much pressure on the hair-like hook link I let the clutch loose and let the rod absorb the fishes power. Then when it first rolled I swear I nearly pooped myself instantly! It was huge, and more importantly it was silver. The net was in my hand from relatively early in the fight and I always knew I would take the slightest chance to net the fish. The head of the net was submerged ready so when I saw it roll again right over it, I automatically lifted.
After letting the bale arm off the now rested rod, I pulled the net towards me through the water before lifting it out. Even under the surface I could see the perfectly silver scales and just as I lifted it into the light the sun peeped out and caught that pearl stomach.
Can you imagine my disappointment when took my first glance at the huge roach of my dreams and saw this bastard half breed.
Yes my over romantic mind had convinced me in those moments of panic that what I was fighting was of course a thoroughbred roach, not a two pound, four ounce halfling. I was gutted to have made such a snap assumption, as I know only too well this lake has a very strong contingent of these hard fighting fish.
Although it was not the wonder roach I saw that day it was still a nice fish to catch on a awkwardly fishing day. The capture of this and many others over the years has raised a small amount of doubt in my mind about whether the fish I saw caught on that day might have been a hybrid, BUT I can see it perfectly in my mind right now as type this and I am convinced it was one hundred percent a roach. All I have to do is buy all the maggots in Warwickshire, catch a few hundred thousand fish from Snitters and I should be able to find it.