Fishing Methods Used for Catching Roach

The majority of roach caught during the season undoubtedly fall to the float-fisherman, who has innumerable modifications of the style at his disposal. The various forms of float-fishing are usually adopted not simply from preference, but according to the water conditions prevailing, or the depth at which the fish are feeding at a given time.

On arrival at the waterside the angler does his best to sum up conditions and adopts the method which appears to be most suitable, changing it as conditions and the behaviour of the fish indicate. It is not at all unusual for an angler to make use of almost every possible variation of float-fishing in his search for the taking method, or indeed simply to take better-quality fish than those caught hitherto.

The slowly sinking bait is a method without equal in still or very sluggish waters and when conditions are right it enables the angler to present his bait at any desired depth simply by adjusting the position of the float. It is also a method suited to very light tackles. The float may be 10-15 cm (4-6 ins) porcu pine quill or a light ‘bobber’, with only one or two dust shots to cock it. The shots are always used fairly near to the float to ensure that they have little or no effect on the sinking of the bait, which must settle slowly in the water under its own weight. If the tackle has to be cast any distance it is usual to attach the float by its base only, or to arrange the lower shot just over halfway down the cast to prevent the bait from fouling the float in its passage through the air. More often the style is used within fairly easy casting distance of the bank. When used with maggots, bread crust or cube, it can be most effective.

This method of course can be used in conjunction with swimming the stream tactics as discussed below. In many waters the angler learns to strike at the merest tremble of the float, which to him at least signifies a bite. Frequently, for example, the bait is taken before it has reached the bottom on the cast and before the float has properly cocked.

Swimming the stream requires a current which carries the bait downstream of the angler for several metres before it is withdrawn and cast again. The float can be set to any suitable depth, which is varied to discover the ‘taking’ depth. The terminal tackle is adapted to suit conditions, which might be light enough for the use of tackle like that described for the slowly sinking bait, but with the shots arranged to get the bait down quickly.

In slightly heavier waters a larger quill or cork-bodied quill is used, with the shotting arranged so that about 3 mm (if in) of the float is above the surface. Heavier tackles can be employed to give extra casting distance when it is necessary to fish farther out in the stream, or when the length of the swim requires that the float should be visible at a distance.

Normally the tackle is cast into position and allowed to drift 13.5 m (15 yds) or so downstream before recovery. It is important, however, that the float should not precede the bait, and this is achieved by exerting a light check on the float with the rod tip. As line is paid off the reel the check is maintained, or the rod is moved downstream to follow the float. This normally allows the bait to swing just in front of the float at the prescribed depth. In swimming the stream in this way it is sometimes advisable to stop the float momentarily so as to give an upward swing to the bait; this movement is often effective in attracting a curious fish. Many anglers always strike at the end of each swim as a matter of course. Bites are usually signified by a definite plunge of the float, but in over-fished waters where the fish are extremely suspicious the angler must be equally suspicious and strike at any undue movement of the float. The method requires some skill and familiarity with the water being fished. It is probably used by most anglers at some time in their everyday fishing.

Where the strength of the stream permits it, and the bank is suitable, the method can be used to search many metres of water by trotting downstream as much as 45 m (50 yds). In this event the style is usually called long-trotting and requires the use of somewhat heavier terminal tackle to give the angler good visibility and better control when it is a long way off. In this event, the float must usually be attached at both the base and the top, and the line is greased to ensure fast striking at a distance.

Tripping the bottom involves the same basic method, but the float is set higher on the cast, with the result that the bait is actually tripping along the uneven bottom throughout its journey. The operative word here is ‘tripping’, because unless great care and skill are exercised the bait will undoubtedly catch in some obstacle and give rise to a very promising false bite. The depth throughout the swim must first be carefully plumbed, therefore, and the float set slightly above this, just how far depending very much on the speed and depth of the water. The angler must make minute by minute adjustments to his tackle, as experience indicates, to get the float at the right depth.

Once cast, the float is checked throughout the swim. Again, the amount of checking must be just enough to trip the bait over obstacles and along the bottom, and yet not so much as to cause it to behave unnaturally in the water. The style calls for considerable skill and experience on the angler’s part, but is highly effective in catching good-quality fish.

When these swimming-the-stream or long-trotting styles are in use, it is obvious that the amount of line between the angler’s float and rod tip will vary considerably from time to time. This line must be kept as straight as possible to give effective striking at a distance. When the wind or current causes bights or curves in the line lying on the surface, these must be straightened out by lifting the rod tip, switching the line straight, and placing it back on the water again. All this must be done without unduly disturbing the float and bait. ‘Mending the line’, as this is called, requires some experience.

Laying-on is suited to still and sluggish waters, but cannot he satisfactory in very fast waters. The depth is first plumbed, and the float set so that the cast is a foot or so longer than the depth. When the tackle is cast into position, the float fails to cock because the weights are all in a heap on the bottom with slack line between them and the float. The float is withdrawn a few centimetres by taking in some reel line, and this straightens out the cast and cocks the float slantwise. The chief advantage now immediately apparent is that the shots lie hidden on the bottom with the bait up to 60 cm (2 ft) away, and the float and line are well away from the bait, presenting no silhouette on the sky-line to frighten suspicious fish. Properly presented, the bait is usually taken fairly confidently and bites are signified by a leisurely and dignified plunge of the float which should be met with an immediate strike. Many anglers find that this method brings fewer but better fish to net. It is particularly suitable when the fish appear to have gone off feed somewhat during the middle of the day.

In brisker waters the method can be even more versatile, although setting it up properly requires continual attention and adjustment, and more concentration is necessary on the angler’s part. When the tackle is cast into position, it rests only for a short time, as the current, acting on the float and line, tends to swing the bait downstream and towards the bank at intervals. Between each swing there is a brief period of equilibrium during which the bait can be taken. When the bait is under the near bank it is recovered and cast again.

Laying-on tackle is sometimes used with a drilled bullet in place of several shots. The bullet is stopped in position with a single shot about 45 cm (18 ins) from the hook. This leaves the line free to run when a fish takes. However, if the fish begins to submerge the float, the full buoyancy of the float will offer considerably more resistance than the few shots which have been removed, so this must first be countered by adding shots immediately under the float, or by bending a piece of lead wire about its base.

Stret-pegging is similar to the method described above and is used to fish out holes and uneven bottoms in fairly brisk water. The float is set as for laying-on with a small drilled bullet, but an extra shot is attached a foot or so above the bullet to restrict its movements somewhat. The tackle is cast down and across and held in position with the rod tip from which it is fished. The bait is fished through the ‘hole’ by moving the rod tip downstream a little, or by paying out a few centimetres of line at intervals. Bites are felt on the rod tip or detected by the float.

With a few exceptions legering requires the use of a drilled or perforated weight through which the line is free to run in the direction of a taking fish. The weight is usually stopped in position with a single shot anywhere between 45-90 cm (1-1/2-3 ft) from the hook, the length of trail depending on conditions. Since floats are not used, bite detection is usually more difficult and some means of bite registration must be devised.

The shot leger is perhaps the simplest form, requiring only a single small shot as weight, and is suitable for sluggish or still waters. The bait is allowed to lie on the bottom and in shallow waters the angler can watch the fish take, and strike accordingly. When fishing in clear, but deeper waters or at longer range, he must depend on movements of the slightly slack line between the rod tip and the surface to detect bites. The method is useful for fishing a worm or maggot bait but is difficult to fish in waters where the flow is at all marked, or where the bottom is particularly snaggy.

In slack-line legering for roach, the leger is made up with a pear lead and swivel, the swivel being attached to the pear, and the line running freely through the eye of the swivel. Alternatively, an Arlesey Bomb or coin-type leger weight can be used. The bait can be fished at almost any distance provided the water is sluggish or still, or moving at a slow uniform rate. It is cast down and across the stream, and as soon as all slack line has been retrieved, a foot or so of line is eased forward through the rings to allow the line to hang in a curve. Bites are indicated by a movement of the line, which straightens out quickly; an answering strike usually secures the fish. The method is especially useful when the angler is fishing from a very high bank which doesn’t allow him to get down to the water’s edge, as the rather large curve of line so caused is frequently very sensitive as an indicator. As soon as the current begins to run fast, however, the method is not definite enough and a dough bobbin must be employed to give bite detection.

The dough is attached to the line itself, either at the rod tip, or between the butt ring and the reel, and left to hang down a foot or so. This gives a definite indication of bites. Some anglers prefer instead to use an additional rod tip called a ‘swing-tip’ which is attached to the end of the rod with the line passing through its rings. This attachment has a flexible portion at its base so that it hangs limply below the rod top. Weighted with dough to suit prevailing conditions it will swing quite definitely when a bite comes.

Tight-line legering: in faster waters where slack-line methods are not suitable, the angler legering for roach has no alternative but to fish a tight line, relying upon movements at his rod tip or the pluck of the line in his hand to register bites. Normally the rod is fished with part of its weight on a rest and the butt across the angler’s knees, his fingers being closed over the line to feel for the sensitive touch of a fish.

Weights used for tight-line work vary according to conditions, the pear and swivel or Arlesey Bomb being suitable for still waters or medium-fast waters. In very fast waters, however, a flat-based lead, coin lead, or coffin lead must be used to prevent the tackle being moved by the force of the current.

Sometimes, however, it is preferable to have the bait moving, in which case the weight is selected so that it is moved downstream at intervals. To prevent line-twist as the weight rolls, an

Arlesey Bomb or pear-and-swivel lead should be employed. The bait is fished until it is under the bank, when it must be cast again. If the current fails to move the weight of its own force, a light lift of the rod tip should dislodge it.

The methods described here are all suitable for taking roach under varying conditions, and are all normally used downstream. Recently some anglers have had good results by legering upstream, but considerable care is required to distinguish bites from movements of the tackle in the stream. Upstream legering requires considerable practice and is not recommended for beginners.

Many anglers prefer to fish from rests when using legering tactics, while others insist on holding the rod throughout, without any support. If a rest is used in conjunction with a comfortable seat it does enable the angler to exert more easily that high degree of sustained concentration which most leger methods demand.

Fly-fishing: this is not much used for roach, but can be most effective at times when the sun is high and the weather very hot, and the fish are only casually taking odd tit-bits from the surface and ignoring bottom or mid-water baits. A light TROUT outfit is very suitable and almost any fly will do provided it isn’t too big. For fast waters buzzy, hackled flies are preferable, but in slow or still waters the winged patterns are better. Suggested patterns are as follows.

Dry flies : Alder, Black Gnat, Coachman, Coch-y-bondhu, Blue Dun, Greenwell’s Glory, Wickham’s Fancy, Red Tag, Willow-fly, Zulu, Medium Sedge, Medium Olive, Stone-flies, and Mayflies during their season. Wet flies : Peter Ross, Blue Dun, Hare’s Ear, Zulu, Butcher, Alexandra, Black Gnat, Red Spinners, Greenwell’s Glory, Black Spider, Palmer, Red Quill, etc.

A fairly fine tapered cast is to be preferred and the flies should be small (on 12-14 hooks). Often roach will rise to the dry fly without actually taking it, and sometimes they will roll upon it before taking it. The wet fly is then to be preferred. If it is presented just below the surface it is often effective, a slowly sinking wet fly being the best of all.


Fish of over 3 lb have been recorded from the Thames, Dorset Stour, Hampshire Avon, Kent Stour, Norfolk Bure, Test, Colne, Bain, Loddon, Medway, and Brue as well as several others. Similar fish occur in reservoirs and gravel pits, including Kiplin Pond, Howden; Bickling Lake, Norfolk; Stains South Reservoir; Hornsey Mere, Yorkshire; Ellen Hall Park, Staffordshire; and others.

Experience gathered by Water Authority officials during clearing and netting expeditions suggest that bigger fish are available in many more waters than anglers ever suspect.

Roach are found in still and running waters of every kind all over the British Isles as far north as Loch Lomond, but are less common in the extreme west of England and Wales. Until recently, roach were unknown in Ireland and the name roach is used to describe the true RUDD, which is common there. Recent introductions have undoubtedly occurred and roach are now found in the Foyle river system, Fairey Water, and the Mourne. No doubt the species will in time spread farther.

16. July 2011 by admin
Categories: Coarse Fishing, Fish, Roach | Tags: , | Comments Off on Fishing Methods Used for Catching Roach


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