Fishing the canal for specimen roach (Entry 30)

Im sure you, like me, have lots to look forward to in the coming year, new goals to achieve and hopefully new personal records to break. For me it would be to catch a 2lb roach. My current best stands at 1lb 15oz and if nothing else, proves I am an honest angler! I would dearly like to catch this 2lb roach from a canal, after all its on these venues that I first became interested in angling. So this week I decided to head to the canal in search of some specimen sized roach. Let me say at this point for me a specimen sized roach from a canal is anything over a pound in weight. I know that the canal is capable of producing big roach as I have caught them ‘accidentally’ whilst targeting carp on here last May before I started this blog. But the difference between late spring and winter is a big one, and having never fished this canal before in the depths of winter, especially fishing so soon after the snow we’ve just had, I had no idea if the fish were going to play ball.

IMG_0591The method I used today comes with an interesting story. Apparently used by an old man during the 1960 and 1970’s’s in the winter matches held on this canal, he was laughed at IMG_0594by fellow matchmen because of his use of heavy lines and large hooks. However he often caught huge roach, and by huge I mean fish of over 2lb. The fish of a lifetime for many anglers and truly colossal for a canal. His method involved using a small stick float attached top and bottom, often fished straight through on 4-5lb line to a size 12 hook. Bait was a big lump of breadflake or a lobworm and the rig was fished overdepth by at least six inches but as much as a foot. The rig was flicked out and allowed to pull round, the excess line ensuring the rig stopped and the bottom of the near shelf. Here he would wait for the float to sail away and massive roach to break the surface. My father used a similar method during the 1980’s on the Bridgewater canal to take some massive nets of bream and big roach. I remember him showing it to me some years later and I wondered how a seemingly crude tactic could out fish a finely presented waggler or pole float. Of course it makes sense to me now so I thought it was high time to give it a real go. Instead of using a rod, I used a pole to ensure my rig was fishing on the IMG_0597crease of the boat channel and the shelf. I made a small pole float modeled on a stick float, kind of like a thin, elongated dibber float and it was attached to a 3.6lb mainline. I too fished this straight through to a large, fine wire size 16 hook. The whole rig was plumbed up to be six inches overdepth, but I would add even more depth if I needed to. Hookbait today was going to be an 8mm punch bread. Simple as that. For feed it would be good old liquidised bread fed fairly regularly, every 15 minutes but only in a small amount. This canal suffers from heavy boat traffic and the pull on the water can be heavy at times so in order to keep a trail of bread particles in the general vicinity of my hookbait, I needed to feed this often.

As you can tell from the first picture it was very windy on the canal today. In fact gusts of wind near 40mph were predicted. The majority of the canal was still frozen over from the cold conditions we have had which made swim selection something of a lottery. I had to make do with a narrower sections near a small stone bridge. Not where I really wanted to be but I’m not making excuses, just supplying the facts. I decided to stick it out and fish an hour into darkness. I fed as I said I would, the rig fished really nicely, and held the hook bait relatively stationary in the fairly forceful flow. If I took an inch of depth off the bait would trundle through enticingly and allowed me to search the swim as if on a river. In five hours I didn’t have any signs. I didn’t see any fish move at dusk and apart from the array of small birds (I must get look into buying a bird species guide soon), the canal looked totally lifeless.

The fish are there though and hopefully if the weather conditions settle down and we have a milder spell for a week or so the roach may become more forthcoming. I’ll certainly be back to the canal soon when conditions dictate.

Don’t forget you can get twitter updates notifying you of new blog updates by adding @NorthwestFish or you can follow my blog by clicking the link at the top of the page.

Until next time,



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