The heady summer days chasing tench and crucians at Napton reservoir seem a distant memory now and along with them the worry of obtaining a decent position has faded. With autumn just about gone the banks now become deserted and the waterfowl grow in numbers. Not many anglers other than those seeking pike bother now the colder temperatures are here but for me the idea of big roach draws me back.
The entire drive there I thought of big silver flanks and blood red fins. This summers fishing and the occasional capture of a big roach has burnt the idea into my mind. I can't exactly remember who it was that said a big perch is the biggest of fish, but in my mind a big roach is the biggest of fish. Maybe that's because we see so many small roach that when you actually see a big roach first hand something in your mind kind of questions if it's the same species, because roach don't grow that big do they! I know the specimen weight of a roach is supposedly 2lb and therefore that becomes a marker of a big roach, but I believe that at 1lb that's when a roach is a big roach; I don't think many anglers will disagree that when you see a roach of that size attached to your line you suddenly become a lot more careful about landing it.
As I rounded the corner and the car park came into view I was stunned out of silver dreaming by the sight of a car park full of cars. Either a long-billed Dowitcher had turned up and the lake was lined with rampant twitchers or something fishy was going down. It turned out to be the latter and the club were stocking a batch of fresh carp into the lake to renew the dwindling population. I can't deny winding up the committee members up a bit as I pulled up by asking if it was a fresh batch of crucians? To which their answer was it was the afore mentioned carp. My final comment though seemed possibly a step too far when I proclaimed "ah, otter feeding day is it?" to which the only reply was angry glares...
Looking out over the water, the lush green rushes had faded to brown and although the water temperature had to have dropped the lush summer weed still seemed ever present in the larger lake. Curiosity drove me to have a quick chuck around with a lead in the bigger lake to confirm that yes, even out over forty yards it was still too weedy to fish how I wanted to. So I set up on the popular corner peg at the end of the bridge to fish out in the small square lake. After picking a nice spot an easy cast out, I loaded a large feeder loosely with ground bait and maggots to cast out by way of attraction. Even the mini spomb I like to use would deposit too much bait to locally for my liking. On my last attempt at this I felt I totally over cooked the swim with bait before I started fishing. Ten feeder loads of freebies deposited later I was cast out on the spot and watching the water.
Bar the few hundred water birds on the big lake and the newly released carp bashing around, all was pretty quiet. I stood on the bridge watching the grebe hunt hoping to see it catch something right until it passed under me and the bridge and popped up back in the big lake. That's when I spotted another angler over the water. Interestingly, he was seemingly casting a fly as I could see the line lifting off the water. From afar I saw him land a small pike and release it before moving on.
Trying to keep active and the bait fresh, I concluded to recast every twenty minutes to make sure there was always bait around my hook bait. Quickly I got into a rhythm and every recast was hitting clip and dropping in a very tight area. There was one fly in my ointment though; every time I reeled in I saw a pike come up and chase my feeders in. The pike angler in me even slowed the feeder up once just to incite the take which it did and my feeder was duly ripped off my line to be spat out in disgust later.
That pike quickly went from amusing to worrying as I was fishing for a single bite so far and if I got any sort of fish on, never mind a big roach, they were done for with this pike around. Though I had a rod that would have done the job I was lacking traces and lures to try and get it out and moved on. When I saw the pike angler approaching me I quickly reeled in both rods and recruited the chap, who seemed to be Scandinavian of origin, to try and hook the offending pike.
I reckon he thought I was pulling his chain when I explained and offered up my swim for plundering, but he eventually began working a giant gaudy tinsel filled fly back and forth through the air, pulling off line as he did, until the line flew out and landed gently on the water with the fly some thirty feet out. The first retrieve raised nothing, but on the second cast we both saw the mottled back of a pike follow the fly before slashing and missing it. After shooting me a smile he was casting again this time towards the direction the pike had turned off. Once again the pike grabbed the fly and spat it out before the hooks bit home. Both our hearts were going after that, but I think we both knew it would have another go... and it did! This time though the rod bent over hard as the pike struck and there was no missing that hit! I originally only thought it was a oversized jack pike until it twisted flashing its flanks in the deep water and I knew it was a double. Then the net went under it and it looked much bigger. On the mat unhooked it was three times the fish I originally thought it was and my new Scandi friend was thrilled when the scales went over fifteen pounds.
It was released well away from my swim and I have to say I got just as much enjoyment putting this chap onto the fish and watching him catching it as I would of myself.
The excitement over, I got the rods back out and got back into my rhythm. As the light drew in my silent alarms sprang into life. As I suspected might be the case, the fish came on the feed at the end of the day as is often the case in the colder months. Mere minutes after every cast the bobbins would begin to dance and the purple led lights of my buzzers would flicker on. I have to say these bites were near impossible to hit and an hour of hard work into dark yielded little more than a string on small perch. I had hoped that even if I did not actually catch one of the large roach that reside in Napton, that they might help me out by rolling as dark fell. Even such a tiny morsel as a few decent fish rolling might have at least contributed a tiny piece to this puzzle. I watched both lakes right up until I could barely see the water through the dark and not one sign of fish was forth coming.
I now find myself in that difficult situation where the challenge of a campaign to catch a big Napton roach is as attractive as ever, but common sense tells me such an endeavor would mean spending lot of time and blank sessions chasing after a hard to win prize when there are so many other species I want to get after over the winter months.