Caught by the River

Roach of Wessex

23rd April 2011

by Adam Chetwood
Illustrations by Tom Hubmann

A Roach is a very special creature indeed, a fish with the most sophisticated style of living and a species that is high on the list of reasons for my obsession with angling. The achievement of catching even the smallest of Roach, for many, is an incredible feeling of satisfaction, there is nothing like the prize of a new coin with red fins in the folds of your net.Of course every Chub, Perch, Grayling or Trout is welcome in that net but for me landing a Roach from my usual late season haunts, the chalk streams of Wessex, fills me with joy. Roach, along with their cyprinid cousins the Carp, are the cleverest of fish, and to outwit these gentle giants is no mean feat. With short periods of twilight feeding and a unique ability to release a danger hormone detectable by fellow schoolmates , any angler can be forgiven for cracking under the pressure of a carrier full of hungry Dace.

What is so special about fishing for a chalk stream dwelling Roach?…. I feel contentment pushing my crow quill avon downstream past the grazing swans , kingfishers and not so popular cormorants. I am fanatical about being surrounded by the habitat of these blue tinged rivers. I do admit to being ‘choosy’ as i seldom show interest in targeting them in any other type of water, i wont sell out and i certainly will not follow the crowd.I feel like the Roy Harper of Roach fishing. The chalk stream Roach is as sly as they come, he is perfectly happy to turn down a free meal if something isn’t quite right and he migrates and takes his family with him at the slightest sign of danger. He is a pedigree of a fish with ancestors fished for by the likes of Walker, Venables and Walton.

I enjoy staring into the unique clarity of a chalk stream river to, hopefully, spot a formation of my intended quarry in between the minnows. I enjoy the scent given off by the blend of starworts,speedwells and crowfoots that depend on the calcium rich water, and the detail in which this natural solution gives to the fishes complexion. I enjoy dodging the drowned meadow channels like a maze to get to the possible shoal location, even if it means a boot full, and most of all I enjoy the anticipation of finding such a shoal, for this is the biggest challenge. Being on good terms with the river keeper to point you in the right direction from the stile can make a difference in finding a shoal and a stroll at dusk to look for priming fish can give any angler quite an advantage, but most of all nurturing the primitive skills to hunt you were born with will lead you to finding and hopefully landing a ‘two’ , or if a chance of a lifetime arises a ‘three’, or if records are in jeopardy of being smashed a ‘four’ .