When Simon Ashton phoned to say he had got a 3lb roach from a Scottish Loch I thought straight away ‘I’ll have some of that.’ Having obtained the contact details off Simon I e-mailed the fishery and got details of the fishing and availability of weeks. Once I had this I arranged the trip to suit the time frame available which turned out to be the first week of the river season, the 16th June onward. In the meantime Simon had returned to the venue another couple of times and had built up a very nice list of big roach topped by five fish over 3lb to a very creditable 3lb-7oz. We knew the roach would have spawned out by the time our trip occurred, but we hoped that each angler would get the prized 3lb target fish.
The group would comprise of John Found, Keith Joblin, and Warren Gaunt along with myself, there is a four angler limit on the fishery so we have the 48 acre lake to ourselves. That sounds great, but this is very early days in the development of the fishery and in actual fact there are very few places to fish at present. This will change over the coming months and seasons as Kevin McArdle, the fishery manager, gets to grips with opening up the wooded banks and tracks to create even more angler friendly spots.After the long journey where being a Saturday the traffic was manageable, we arrived around the 3:00pm time when the lodge becomes available to the incoming anglers and soon had all the tackle and goods sorted into the respective piles. Some would go into the rooms and the rest was put back into in the car ready to move after the swims were chosen. Shortly after arrival we were shown around the fishery and it is indeed a beautiful place to spend a week. It was now that we began to realise the limited nature of the swims available and whilst John and I dropped into the swim that Simon previously fished, Keith and Warren took a tour further around the lake and found a shortcut from the road through the wooded banks to a swim that was to prove a critical choice.
The lake level had been dropping over the previous weeks and now we would effectively be fishing off the lake bed and the shore line is made up of rock pieces of various sizes from small pebble bits to quite large rocks. This leads to the first bit of advice – take a rod pod, absolutely essential. The second essential is a weed drag and probably waders in order to extend the range of your throw when sending it out.
Having driven an extra hundred odd miles to reach Coventry, John was quite weary and had decided to get a good night’s sleep so he left the swim for the lodgings about 8:00pm leaving me to catch on my own. Having by now found that the swim was only about 2ft deep it seemed most likely that any fish holding up in the weeds would only come out at night and I was prepared to fish the full night in order to catch them. I did catch lots of fish, but they were all small perch having taken a liking to my lobworm bait. There is no mobile phone signal at the lake and hence I could not contact the other lads, but I could see the head torches moving about suggesting lots of activity and as it turned out they had seen mine and come to the same conclusion. Late the following morning when we finally met to compare notes it seemed they imagined I was catching lots of roach. This was because they were doing just that, their swim had quite a large shoal of feeding roach present and happy to take their offering. For that night and the second night I could only watch as their total of 2lb plus roach grew to enviable heights whilst the total for John and me stayed at zero.
During the week prior to this trip I had an amazing run of luck in my tench fishing as indicated in the blog reports before this one. As each successful day had passed I had related my success to John and he kept on repeating that I would use up my total allowance of luck and I should save some for this current weeks roach fishing, I obviously did not listen well enough to the advice!
With the bright sunny days we were having and that shallow water in the swim I did take the chance to wander about the venue with my camera handy. This came to a successful conclusion as I had the chance to photograph my first ever sighting of a red squirrel, this followed by my close encounter with a hare who was resting up in the sunshine. I’m not sure why, but as I approached him in full view he did not move and I took photographs from about a 20ft range. I then attempted to move slightly to the side and he did not like that as he bounded off at a great rate of knots.
John had agreed at the start of this session that two days in a swim with no fish would be a sign to move, they might come in later but it was too big a chance to take. With the move in mind we got the boat out of the boathouse and set off round the lake. This proved to be a bit down heartening as everywhere we looked we found weed going out from the margins for some considerable distance. The lads had dropped onto the only clear area on the complete lake and were taking full benefit of the chance. In the end we found an area off the so called island that because of the low water level was open to access from the bank. This had weed in the margins for around twenty yards but then it was comparatively free of weed. That did not mean clear of weed, but at least the odds were in favour of the cast landing in a clear area. A few hours of dragging at least gave an area where the fish could be landed if we could hook one and get it into the bankside area, time would tell. A mix of bait was then sent out in the Spomb, dendrobaenas, lobworms, sweetcorn and 10mm boilies, all proven roach catchers. Lots of work to move and drag the swim but that first night was yet another blank.
The 'island swim'
John is not keen on night fishing and had planned to fish until 1:00am and then he would return to the lodge for the night. The following morning he came back and within 15 minutes of casting out he caught the first weighing fish on the boilie, 2lb-8oz to at least give us hope. Throughout the week catching fish was not a problem, but they were mostly the smaller samples of under 1lb, there seemed no way to select a bigger fish since the small ones took any bait we offered and we could only attempt to work our way through them until the larger fish came. Then going into the Tuesday evening John took another two roach of 2lb-9oz followed by yet another 2lb-8oz beauty. That loss of my lucky streak was really biting hard now.
I struggled on and began to wonder when John took another fish of 2lb-10oz the following morning for although the results of the two other lads had slowed down, they were still to be seen getting the odd good fish, my luck just had to change. Perhaps it had as at last I caught my first Lochnaw Castle roach of 2lb-8oz on the worm, hopefully the first of a number to come.
Over the Wednesday night I took another two fish of 2lb-8 and 2lb-3oz both fish coming in a twenty minute spell as dawn broke but that seemed to be the end of the feeding spell as the day progressed without further action from the big fish.
We had been having very sunny weather since the arrival day when it had rained in the afternoon and evening, now the rain had come in as forecast during the night and then continued throughout Thursday with just a few short breaks in the downfall. The rain had been annoying, but at least we had the breaks that gave the chance to bait up in comfort as the new forecast looked very bad and it lived up to the expectation. During one of the breaks during the day I took my biggest roach so far with the scales showing 2lb-11oz. This was a brilliant fish, but John quickly topped that with a giant of 2lb-14oz that set a new personal best for him, though he still sets his 2lb-10oz river fish as a better target. With both of our fish coming during daylight I looked forward to the night with high hopes, the rain by now was continuous but that did not matter as long as the fish did feed, they didn’t and John came back next morning to find me with a dry net, well not dry but no fish in it!
Friday was not a good fishing day as the strong wind turned into our bank, with the rain being very heavy and being blown along almost horizontally. With no bites coming our way we both decided to retire back to the lodge for a few hours to freshen up and relax out of the rain. When we got back to the lodge the lads were already there and making early plans to retire from the lake as the water level was rising at an alarming rate. I had planned to again fish overnight and finish early Saturday morning since although the swim was returning to one on an island with no bank access, I would be returning with the boat so no problem. John had also already decided to leave the lake early and he took the precaution of putting on his chest waders, in the event lucky since the water had risen well above that of his wellingtons by the time he did return.Convinced that we must be barmy to fish in such conditions we returned to the swim about 3:00pm and started fishing again. At first it seemed a thankless task as the rain and wind hammered the shelter, then John decided the fish needed a helping hand so he poured out a cup of tea, no sooner done than he got a bite. Not pleasant landing it but that was why we were out in the conditions and it felt so much better to have the reward for the effort, at 2lb-9oz it was the second of that weight he had caught and his sixth roach over 2lb. With just four of these roach to my name I was very pleased when I took a fish of 2lb-13oz with the time at about 4:30pm, certainly making the extra effort worthwhile. Then at about 5:15pm I took another roach of exactly the same weight even though it had looked so much bigger. With six of the weighed roach each it came as no real disappointment when an hour later it was obvious that the lake was rising too fast for me to stay, the fishing was at an end. Was our swim finally about to turn on with those three fish in short order, we will never know but it is a real shame we did not have the chance to find out.
With the roach having spawned just a few weeks before our arrival it is quite possible that many of the larger 2llb fish would go over that 3lb mark. With this in mind we decided to rebook the lodge for October, as well as a return next spring when the fish would be at their maximum weight. In closing I am sure that the usual controversy as to the possibility of these fish being hybrids will raise its head in the near future. In my experience where there are hybrids you catch fish, especially the smaller ones, that vary tremendously in eye colour, mouth position, body and fin colour, and fin placement. Those caught on this venue are consistent on all these points and meet all the normal checks for true roach, I will be happy to continue to fish for them in the future on that basis.One last note is that although we did not suffer every day, there are the biting midges here and hence don’t forget your repellent.