Long Trotting for Roach in the 70s.

Life seemed so much less complicated in the 1970s. I had long hair, wore flared denim jeans and grey trench coat, brought from the Army surplus in town, fact was in those days, most towns had an Army &Navy type shop.. A pair of Doc Martins on the old plates and at 6’2” under 11 stone, I looked pretty good, even though I say so myself. All girlfriend’s knew they had to fit in with my fishing, however it was difficult sometimes deciding on a guaranteed promise, or the un-known of catching big roach. I did also fish for chub when the conditions were less that conducive for the roach, that was pretty often to be honest, but the gear didn’t change much, just a lighter set up. One rod I had was called a Peter Stone specialist, at 11′ it had a test curve of a pound and a half, and was perfect in every way for chub and big roach, even trotting big baits for chub in summer, or free-lining big slugs it ticked all the boxes.

Trotting on small waters like the Wensum, was much less difficult than I find on waters like my river Trent these days for example. I would buy a length of peacock quill from the tackle shop (yes, all good tackle shops sold quill) cut it to length, sand it down a bit and use it as it was, no varnish, just Humbrol glow bright paint over a white primer. Two rubbers at the thinner end so you could push one up and fish it stick style, depending on the swim. The only other float I’d carry was a large porcupine quill, used for laying on if the river was up any. We were also well served for tackle shops then too, one was John’s shop, but the other a run by a Match Angler called Tom Bolton.

When Roach fishing in the 70s, I’d use a bait dropper with maggots and worm, then fish either over the top static, or trot if the pace was even, both produced big roach and chub on the day. High water was also the only time I’d buy any maggots (cheapskate) as bread and worms was my main big fish bait. In those days I’d always buy a proper loaf from the bakery in town. More often than not, it would be hot, fresh out of the oven if my trip was an early morning one. Not eating the loaf before fishing was always a difficult task. You could smell it 100 yards down steam, my friends would tell me? Cheese-paste was a controversial bait, in the making and the smell. We always used liquidised bread with blue and cheddar cheese. It got better as the season progressed, and the paste really started to stink. To date 2020, I’ve taken more 6lb chub on cheese paste, than any other bait, bread crust coming in a close second.

How we did it in the old days, long trotting for big roach.

In high water with Roach the target, you would fish with a large peacock quill shotted so it was laying 6 inch of line, on the bottom, held in place by a BB shot, fished semi-lift style. Four pound Maxima with a size 12 hook completed the out-fit. One late evening while fishing near a railway bridge, sheltering from a winter rain storm under an old umbrella, I hooked several good fish in a three hour evening session. Two good roach over 2lb apiece and a near 5lb chub, all taken on lob-worm feed with maggots and lob tails in the bait-dropper. Twice, the brolly would be pulled form the ground, and twice I’d re-stake it holding on for grim death in case its disappeared down the valley. I’d only take a brolly if rain was guaranteed, otherwise good waterproofs did the job, remember Barbour waxed clothing?

One night, I bumped into Dave Plummer who had also moved down to Norfolk to open a fishing tackle shop. I liked Dave’s company, a really down to earth Yorkshire man with a passion for big chub. Dave had taken a huge number of big 5ives off the Wensum at that time, so naturally we became friends. Later on in the summer, Dave and I would make trips to Johnson Carp/Tench lake for big tench. I’d also found an under fished lake (at that time) with some very big Rudd in it. I took many big two’s from the lake until Dave took a genuine 3lb fish, but more of the later maybe?

The normal way to fish the Wensum in clear conditions, was to trot with a quill either as a stick float or waggler depending on the swim, depth, or just how it suited you. I must say the waggler was just as good as the stick on those shallow narrow pools. These days a lot of big roach get caught by accident, on both river and still-waters. You will see the headline “Big roach caught by barbel angler” Or carp angler takes big roach on 12mm boilies, it’s often the same MO, fishing for another species and bingo along comes the big roach. I don’t begrudge these anglers their fish at all, but it shows just how fickle big roach can be? And how cruel it can be for the dedicated Roach angler! Part 2 to follow.

What dreams are made of.

My move to Norwich Norfolk, coincided with a job move into the insurance industry. I started with a book of customers and my job was to gain others to add to my book. Each customer was a Insurance member with an insurance policy, so each would welcome me on collecting their premiums weekly, or monthly. It was a decent job that allowed me fishing time, even though I had to work several evenings each week.

John Wilson was not a celebrity angler at the time, but he was known for his writings in many of the angling magazines and weekly papers like the Anglers Mail. We hit it off right away for our love of Roach fishing, and long trotting. I’d drop in on John several times a week in Bridewell Alley ” Johns Tackle Den” became my second home in those early years. One thing we established from the off was, unless we fished together, we would keep our own secrets. John knew too many people, and had too many visitors to his shop, not to be ask where and when by most people. He was the only person I knew that would call me Dick?

The River Wensum at the time had started to produce some very good roach, and my move was partly encouraged by this, along a split up in my marriage. I started to fish the river several times a week, and soon found the going areas. I would go early morning then come home mid-day and get ready for work. Some days I’d start early 8am then fish in the evening, it was a very good time for me. I could fish almost as much time as I could work, so the fishcake my way. It must be remembered that I fished very hard in those days, 2lb roach don’t climb up the rod, even in perfect conditions.

Those conditions were exactly as I found when living in Melton and fishing those rivers, low light values, receding flood water, and night time. In those days I’d mostly lay-on with a float, or at night a ultralight 12′ rod with a bread or beta light bobbin. Peacock quill or cork bodied floats were the norm, 4lb maxima and a 3lb hook link. I’m sure one rod was called the Avon Perfection that I brought from “Bennetts” tackle shop on finance. The reel was a Michel 410 with the big torpedo handle, remember those?

I not only fished the Wensum, but also the Bure, Tudd and River Yare. The Yare was a very interesting river, tidal and while not producing roach the size of the others, big bags were possible in the right conditions. A pound fish was a good fish (as it is today) but the Yare produced lots of them. I remember sitting in a little moored dingy with John, trotting peacock quill floats down a fast pace river Yare taking some wonderful bags of fish together. I think my best fish was 1lb.12oz then, but the Yare is still a wonderful roach river today I’m told.

Where it all began.

With me not fishing right now, I thought I’d revive some old pictures and stories about my start as a Roach and Chub specimen hunter. Why those species, well they were available to me at the time and roach have always been “MY FISH”. The local river Eye in Leicestershire was a bike ride away, and roach and chub grew to a good size there, even by National standard.

The fish directly below weighed 2lb 6oz for the River Eye 1975.

The rivers Welland, Eye both produced big roach in those days.

I was taking an apprenticeship in a local Butchers shop in Melton Mowbray at the time 1967, and teamed up with a chap Brian a little older than me.( But with much more fishing experience.) Brian was working in Leicester and had brought a car, not a normal car, but a Derek Trotter 3 wheeled van. This gave us total freedom to roam the local rivers and lakes, until then I’d been content with the shop bike, or my Lambretta motor bike, WHEN IT WAS WORKING?. Imagine cycling 5 miles on a single gear bike, with all the days fishing gear in a front basket, fishing all day, then coming home in the dark? I had legs like a race horse, and the local coppers, loved to stop me when the batteries on the lights ran out of power, more often than not?

I was 16 years old when I caught my fish roach over 2.1/2 pounds. The Bridge pool in darkness.

We had several rivers at our disposal, so winter would be chub and roach fishing. Summer we would try for tench and still-water bream at the local gravel pits in Asfordby, near Melton. The pits still exist today, but are managed as a carp lake? The Eye was most local, but the Eye, Welland, and produced big Dace and Roach. The chub fishing was improving too at that time, and 5lb chub were possible, but very rare. I managed two in the 70s quite a feat then, I can assure you. Most of my fishing was after dark, or on a Sunday (I’d work on a Saturday in the shop) That would mean in winter I’d be leaving home in the dark 6pm cycling to the river and returning that evening late midnight, with work next day. Yes, it was gruelling but in your teens you’re bulletproof. It seemed even harder in summer when I had to be at work for 7am getting up at 2am going tench fishing, then working all day, I’d be really tired at work, but my boss was a match angler, so that helped a bit.

Almost all the big roach we caught back then were taken as the light values were falling, receding flood water, or in the dark. It showed me that the best times to fish for big roach, and that was how I proceeded when I moved to Norfolk and took advantage of its roach fishing.

We had the odd trip North ( River Wharfe ) for barbel when we have more than a few days free, like holidays. But mostly we stayed local, so good was the fishing in that area. But times move on, and when I was in my early twenties I got a job working in insurance, and later banking forcing me to Norfolk and later Suffolk. There as mentioned earlier, I took all I’d learned to fish the amazing river Wensum in its heyday. Little did I know that river and a few others in the area would make my dreams of big roach come true. Read about it in Part 2.

A simple days fishing.

It was so nice to get out again, that feeling of heading the car to a direction I knew would be open, and safe to fish. Hallcroft to their credit had done its due-diligence for Covid, and I could sit out of the way on a missive lake feeling very safe.

Dark overcast, wet, low light values. Ideal big roach and perch fishing day. Moat looks very spooky.

Moat had a really eerie feel as the mist and sun joined together to give a very autumnal feel to the morning, a rather early morning for me I may add. I could see the bright yellow pole float tip, but not the other end of the lake, but I know I had one side all to myself. I stated feeding hemp and caster, little knowing just how much the better perch would love a caster. Double caster or a slice of worm would bring the elastic out on the Drennan Aqua, with fish up to just under a pound and a half coming to the net. This was all about those important low light values I’m always talking about, and for once now wind hardly a ripple moved the surface. When the wind did come, clearing the skies a little, the light values raised and only the small perch took the baits.

Around a pound I’d guess. Plenty of fish like this today, nice fun on a Drennan Aqua 6 elastic.

I was hoping for some better roach in truth, but sadly 6oz was about the biggest, taking a worm tail on a size 14s. Today I’d gotten the shopping just right, and every movement on the bait registered on the float tip. Either sinking or riding up a little, those bottom shot were two size 8s three inches apart above a 6” hook link of .11. I’d also been losing a few fish from the off lately on hooking, but today I solved that, by making sure no slack line was in the system after hooking even the smallest fish.

Going fishing during the pandemic.

It seems now we can go fishing as normal, providing we stick to several protocols. I’m pleased and so will be the family, as I’m a bear with a sore head if I don’t go fishing. Its a drug, like a smoker with a nicotine habit to satisfy, but less expensive and better for me mostly?

Looks a nice summer place, wonder how it is in winter though?

Most day-ticket places should be open for fishing, but I expect they will operate in a slightly different way under the new rules. Anyway I’m going to get going again, after a small blip recently due to a health problem.

Thought I pass this on two. ‘Parcel 2 Go’ the intermediary for many courier firms has lost two of my fishing rods, sent to a buyer in Essex. I genuinely think these have been stolen by an employee of Parcel Force the company used. My parcel simply vanished and P2GO did very little to find the items lost. So stay alert and don’t use this company or Parcel Force. It amazed me how little effort or feedback they gave me about the loss, clearly I’m going to the small claims court in the coming weeks. Remember you still have rights even if the items are not insurable, like fishing rods. The company still has to show it took reasonable care with your parcel. I’ve a stack of evidence to show this company failed in their duty to me.

So next week I’ll get fishing once again as a friend has given me the heads up on some Trent roach hotspots? We’ll see and I’ll feedback good and bad as normal guys.

The forgotten art of stick float fishing.

There is something intoxicating about fishing a float on a moving river, and the stick float rules as king of float methods in my book. It looks easy when its done well, but so do most things done by experts. I’m no expert, let’s get that understood, but I do love doing it, and loving something can overcome many of the flaws in ones technique. Fact is, I’ve never seen a really good stick man in action so have nothing to compare. John Dean and John Allerton were experts I’m reliably told, that my River Trent is where they performed their artistry. If only I could have seen them in action, just once.

Simple stick float fishing off the rod top.

I’m convinced people like myself don’t really know the ideal conditions REQUIRED for stick float fishing and simply try it when fishing. The water may be too deep, or too fast, but they try it none-the-less. When it fails they revert back to the lead or feeder and never learn the technique well enough to catch fish constantly. Dean and Allerton were both fine tackle anglers, lines of 1lb as hook-links and hooks below size 20s were the normal for them. Both were convinced the fine tackle picked up more bites. Allerton even designed a rod with a spliced tip for those fast biting dace and roach on such light tackle. Dean was the same with his specialist stick floats. Dean was also a good all-round float angler and excelled with the waggler too. I’m told some of his home made wagglers were 18” in length. Ideal for the middle Trent fishing Dean was famous for.

John Deans own sticks. I love the black tips, so needed on the Trent at times.

I find the shotting is by far the most difficult thing to get 100% right in any given situation. The two main styles are shirt button and bulk shotting, all dependant on how the fish want the bait. In summer the roach often rise in the water to feed on bait introduced by hand by the angler. In winter the fish are much less inclined to come up in the water, and then a bulked shotting pattern to get the bait down quickly is most often employed. However it’s not always that simple. Some days the fish will rise off the bottom, but only by a foot or two. Other days they want a bait right on the bottom, but moved slower than the normal current speed. The good stick float angler has to discern exactly what the fish want by experimenting with slowing the bait down, often called holding back, or moving shot around on the line to affect a different type of presentation and bait fall rate.

I call this article the forgotten art of stick float fishing because I rarely see anyone fishing a stick float on the Trent anymore. The Trent is dominated by the feeder, both groundbait and maggot with hemp/caster. The feeder for many is a cast and wait method that produces good results, both summer and winter. It’s often called the lazy mans method? Thats a bit harsh, because I know many anglers that work very hard at their feeder fishing. But sadly most don’t and hence the name. Conversely fishing the stick is a very busy method, in fact I’ve had many days I don’t stop for tea, coffee, or even a sandwich. And calls to nature are only completed when I’m absolutely desperate. Time flies by if you’re catching. You become absorbed in the repetition of casting, baiting mending, baiting, striking and reeling in again. All become as one fluid motion if and your in-tune with the technique the ‘Art of Stick Float fishing.’

James Robbins on the river Wye stick float fishing.

One rod to rule them all?

Part 1.

Rods are a subjective thing, we all have our views. I heard of one guy that simply would not buy a certain rod because it would not match another, honest? Surly you should buy a rod be for a specific job, like a feeder rod to cope with big leads and flows on strong rivers, where a normal feeder rod would not have the muscle. If you want two and they don’t match, do the fish know? So it comes down to what the angler wants to look like to others, not particularly how the rods work or fish! I’ve brought matching rods in the past, bream fishing, tench fishing where you sit and wait. But its been a long time since my fishing has been on those lines.

Its not that I’m bias, I haver tried it. But now I know better about two rod vs one that you sit beside.

For a number of years I’ve fished with just the one rod and never found it a disadvantage to the fishing I’m doing. I’ve gotten into pole fishing recently and that too only needs a one rod set up. In fact I honestly believe using just one rods is more beneficial to catching because it makes you look at what going on all the time. My stalking at A1 pits showed me how watching whats going on is more important than anything when angling. Two rods for me is a distraction but others just don’t see it as I do? Neither is wrong, it just an opinion and you don’t have to agree with me, I’ll not be offended at all.

I watched anglers last week barbel fishing out to the back of the car, carbarbeling I call it now. Two rods and no anglers near, tell me how do you know if you have any fish in the swim if you don’t watch the rods tips. Watch the clip below to see how a good angler fishes the Trent with a tip.

Now I know what the barbel anglers will say after watching this, but he didn’t catch any barbel only silver fish. We’ll it’s the guys application, and if barbel were prolific in the area, he would catch them, and in numbers too. I’m sure some anglers are not really bothered, they cannot be, because they simply don’t want to do any work to catch the fish. Just cast out any old spot and wait, cast again different spot and wait. I think the carp fishing scene has ruined the barbel fishing for many, they simply don’t know how to fish rivers.

Example of the above; How many know the depth or where the ledges, rocks, snags are. Most match-anglers will plumb the peg when deciding to fish, as not all fish the tip like the old days. Knowing exactly what the peg is like underwater gives you a mental picture of the best places to cast to. I’m as guilty as anyone doing exactly the same in the past, but you have to learn if you want to become a better angler. It just depends what you want, to catch fish consistently or every now and again when you get lucky?

Anyway I really wanted an out and out stick float rod for the Trent. The two Acolytes I own are the Ultra and Plus, someone wrote recently they thought the Plus was more like a normal match rod, ideal for lines 2lb to 4lb. And the Ultra more like a very light match rod, better for silvers and still water, canals. I agree with this 100% and found the Drennan Acolyte Ultra too soft for my stick float fishing on the Trent, the action was all wrong for me. So I wanted an out and out stick float rod and after a full years research only one was on my mind. The John Allerton Premier range, by Tri-cast with sliced tips, built specifically for the mighty River Trent.

Part 2 to follow.

Red Black and silver!

Getting older has some good and some bad bits, one bad bit is not getting enough sleep then, trying to get up in the morning early, by early I mean before 7am. Today was one of those days, I saw the clock at 6.55am but turned over knowing full well the consequence would be a later start. Today I wanted to try for some of the silver fish at Hallcroft, on a lake I have seen some better roach come out in the summer to pleasure anglers. So after a big breakfast, tea and flask made, a nice stone bread sandwich with cheese and pickle done, I set off.

Croft is a small lake on the complex maybe an acre but full of fish, all sorts as I was to discover. I managed to get a swim out of the cold wind, but with sun and calm water in front of me. I set up a 2 gram Sensas float for fishing on the bottom with bulk shot and two number 8s droppers, positive. I got the set up and floats from this winter roach video below.

Rory doing what he does best.

I started with a small amount of groundbait, laced with hemp and corn, not wanting to attract carp with too much food. There were only two other anglers on the lake, one in a spot I fancied myself today against some rushes. I started to catch perch, nice net fillers of around 6 oz and a little bigger. After maybe 20 such fish I changed rig to a .5 gram float fished through the water, shotted with no8s right through the rig, I still caught perch, some bigger almost a pound in weight, but no roach sadly. While this was fun on the 6 Aqua elastic and .09 bottom where the roach?

Odd better roach, but not in any numbers.

The day wore on, and despite what-ever I tried the perch dominated with the very odd skimmer and roach. I had maybe forty perch from 3oz to a pound all on maggots. When I changed baits, the bites dried up for long periods? Around time it was getting dusk, I hooked what I thought might be a big perch. It was the first big fish I’d hooked on the light elastic and fine hook-link. I simply let the fish go back and forth, little runs, then sulking under the rod tip. Finally I netted a nice common carp of about 7/8 pound, I was really chuffed to be honest. Disappointed to only catch perch (as much as i love perch) and no roach I was expecting, and the landing of a good fish on fine tackle. All told I was content, but will try another lake just to see.

Oddly the guy by the rushes fished in the margins all day, clearly after the carp. I did not see hime take one fish, each to their own, but surly fishing for all sorts at this time of the year does not preclude catching carp does it? I did see the other young lad hook a nice fish but lost it, its does happen unfortunately? I always feel for people that sit it out then lose a nice fish, but I’m sure his time will come.

The Trent a clean river!

The Guardian did an article on the polluted rivers around the UK. The Trent was not on the list, in fact in the last decade or so it’s been getting cleaner. This is both good and bad for the angler like myself. I want my local river to be clean, its best for me and the fish, but it has it’s unforeseen consequences, like impossible clarity.

Shotting all number 8s. Clear water as you can see.

Yesterday the river was so clear I could see the bottom in eight feet of water. Not good for trotting tares to shy roach. It’s also had a big effect of the ease of predators to rape the river of its natural silver fish and barbel. But that’s not my remit to discuss river policy, and I should be pleased the Trent is as it is.

When you fish in such clear conditions, you must change your habits and how you fish. I still see people casting massive leads in places a one ounce lead will hold now the river is so low and clear. Naturally you have to fish a good size bow in the line, but so what if you do? Those that like to tighten up to the lead will always need three or fours times the weight if thats how you fish.

I managed to get 50 grams to hold the opposite bank last week, yes, a large bow was needed and the boats were a bloody pain, but I proved it worked. An ounce lead will hold directly downstream, you just have to try it. I’d also advise these everyday barbel anglers to drop down to an 8lb main line and 6lb hook-link now. Provided there are no snags and the rod is through action, double figure barbel should easily be landed on such gear. Anglers such as myself have landed many doubles trotting on much lighter gear, it works.

You never get a good wind on the Trent, maybe once in 50 trips?

Sitting in the car does not catch barbel either, and yet those that sit away from their rods, still moan the sport is slow. Speak to people that fish the Trent often like Match-Ace Rob Wootton, they will tell you how important it is to watch the tip of the rod for indications so you know what’s going on in the swim?You may have attracted bream or roach if using big baits, has your rig been moved, has the bait gone? You need to work at the fishing now its so clear! Barbel will often take two maggots on a size 16s when a big bait is often ignored.

Ultra fine fishing today.

I had a cracking days roach fishing this week, landing around 50/60 small roach to six ounces. All during the day-time when nothing was doing, often when fishing like this with small baits the barbel turn up. I always have another Acolyte set up, but this time the Plus version with stepped up tackle just in case?I caught on ultra-light tackle trotted on a 4×4 stick float shirt button style shotting. 2lb hook-link on 2.5 main line old school stuff, great fun. I wanted to stay late just to see if the better roach would turn up, but I was on a promise of home made curry and jam home made jam tarts, so not contest really.

Weather change almost caught me out! And do I need two hats?

About now I wash all my summer rain gear and put it away until next season. The wash includes a Nixwax tech wash to keep the top and bottoms water proof. I then get all the clean winter gear out, ready for the colder weather. Today I left home in shirt sleeve, but on arrival at the river found a downstream wind that really was very cold indeed. I’d left the over-trouser at home thinking it would be too warm for them. Instead I brought a large winter jacket, and was grateful I did in the end.

Simple to keep your gear in good condition and water-proof.

I set up in a new to me swim, that when plumbed up was very deep in the margin, 7’/8’under the rod tip, really nice for winter time. But for now I fished about 5 meters out, with hemp and pellet, as the water was impossibly clear. That wind was bitter and strong, waves lapping the shore line, and the forecast was for 20+ deg and calm? I took a few fish on the stick float a 8×4 Allerton with a bright red top, easy seen on the dark surface, shotting shirt-button style. Nothing big but I’m sure the roach haven’t shoaled up yet, and are still all over the river in small numbers. But come winter I expect them to migrate to a swim like this, deep with plenty of food coming their way.

I packed up early and met two other angler doing the very same, they too had nor warm clothing and were perished after an early morning start. I’ll leave some winer gear in the car from now on, just in case.

Average roach on the day caught.

I’ve never found a good winter hat I really like that keeps me warm. I have invested in a few over the years, but rather they are too hot, or don’t come over the ears without creeping up on the day and making them cold. They all look good when you first buy them, only to find a flaw in the design some time later. The new Guru ones with a peak look ok, providing they cover the ears all day, and you don’t sweat. I’ve one hat that does just that, your heat gets so hot you sweat and become cold all over again. Maybe I simply need two hats in the bag in winter? Back on the river tomorrow, maybe I’ll try punched bread for a change?