The roach has a widespread distribution and there are very few types of water where roach will not thrive. Roach are so adaptable that they are equally at home in a small farm pond or a fast-flowing chalk stream. There can be no other species of fish which is so adaptable to different habitats. The roach is one of the most popular fish with anglers, and part of its popularity must stem from the fact that very few waters are without roach. The roach is not a big fish and most anglers are pleased at catching one weighing a pound (045 kg). The largest record roach in Britain weighed 4 lb 1 0/ (I-8 kg) but this fish was full of spawn. Very few roach over 3 lb (1.35 kg) are recorded each year and the lifetime’s ambition of most anglers is a 2 lb (0.9 kg) fish.
The beginner may confuse roach and rudd, and to complicate matters these species interbreed readily in waters containing them both. The rudd is a much deeper-bodied fish, having more vivid colouration than the roach. The two most reliable differences are that the dorsal fin of the rudd is set further along the back than that of the roach, and also the lower lip of the rudd projects strongly, indicating a surface feeding fish. The dorsal fin on the roach begins just behind the front of the pelvic fin. The position of the dorsal fin on a rudd is much further back relative to the pelvic fin. Roach will also interbreed with bream in some waters but these are much easier to distinguish than roach/rudd hybrids. The roach/bream hybrids are much deeper fish than a true roach and the anal fin is very much longer than that of a true roach.
Roach will feed freely throughout the year and can be caught in the severest of winter weather. Early ‘ summer roach are often in poor condition after spawning. The male fish feel rough to touch and are covered in tiny spawning tubercles. Roach are shoal fish and small roach will move about in really vast shoals. As the fish grow larger, the size of these shoals diminishes as predators such as pike and eels take their toll.
During the summer months river roach are likely to be found in the faster, well oxygenated water. Weir pools and gravelly shallows are likely holding areas. In lakes, roach will move into the shallows where there is most weed. Roach will feed at any depth, and in water with abundant fly life they will feed on surface flies that are hatching. I have seen roach taking mayflies as eagerly as any trout.
The amount of light plays a very important part in the feeding behaviour of roach, especially the larger fish. On bright sunny days it is noticeable that the larger roach begin feeding in the evening when the light starts to fail. Even on cloudy days the roach will become more active towards late afternoon when the light is ‘softer’. Small roach can be caught at almost any time of day, as can the small fish of most species. The clarity of the water affects the amount of light penetrating through the water and this should also be taken into account. Some lakes are stream fed and in times of heavy rain the stream will wash suspended silt into the lake, causing the water to become coloured.
This will reduce the visibility in the water and will often encourage the roach to feed madly even on very bright days. The most difficult of all waters in which to catch good roach consistendy are those gravel pits which are heavily weeded and remain clear. Late evenings are easily the most productive times on these waters. It is often worth staying at the waterside for a couple of hours after dark. On rivers, the roach still feed best in poor light, so again evening is often the most productive time. On some of the larger rivers the wash from boats discolours the water, encouraging roach to feed when the boating activity has subsided. In winter, roach are much more likely to be found in the deeper parts of rivers and still waters.
Baits and tackle for catching roach
To enjoy the most sport from roach the tackle should be fine and deli- cate. For float fishing, use a 12 foot (3-64 metre) rod and a fixed-spool reel loaded with a 2 lb (0.9 kg) breaking strain line. When legering increase the reel line to 3 lb (1 35 kg) breaking strain. When lake fishing at reasonably close range use a slim line antenna float or a bodied waggler. Place the bulk of the shot under the float so that the bait will fall slowly through the water. This will some-times catch fish ‘on the drop’ but, if no bites occur as the bait is sinking, will present a bait on the lake bed.
Maggots and casters on a size 16 or 18 hook will catch lots of roach but are not the ideal bait for attracting the larger fish. A single grain of sweetcorn is a good roach bait, and using these you are unlikely to be pestered by the small roach. Bread used as flake or paste is also an excellent roach bait. The only problem when using bread flake in a flowing river is that when you retrieve the tackle after trotting the swim the flake is liable to fall off the hook. This means you are constantly re-baiting, but bread is such a good roach bait that it is worth the effort. During the summer months, seed baits are deadly for roach. When using tares, feed the swim very sparingly with grains of hemp. Seed baits are all very filling so don’t overfeed or the fish will stop biting. On many waters small knobs of cheese moulded round a size 12 hook are an excellent roach bait.
Big roach are less inclined to chase a bait than are the smaller fish so you need to present a static bait to catch these. In a lake use an antenna float but present a larger bait so that it is resting on the lake bed. For long range lake fishing, leger a larger bait and detect bites by using a swing tip. In a river, legering will usually catch the larger roach. During the winter months, laying on with float tackle next to the near bank is also a productive method. Small roach may be quick biting, but the larger fish will normally give slow deliberate bites when you are presenting them with a fair sized offering. A number of the really large roach which have been caught have fallen to king-sized baits intended for larger species. The record roach fell to a lobworm intended to catch tench.
Roach are very easily damaged by kcepnets. If large numbers of roach are crammed together in too small a net, their bellies rub on the mesh anc become red and sore. The scales are easily dislodged and their fins will tear and split. Use a large knotlcss kecpnet and at the end of the day release the fish by lowering the mouth of the net and letting the fish swim out.