Book Review - 'Big Roach'
Neil Maidment reviews Mark Wintle's new book, 'Big Roach'.
I've known Mark for more years than I care to remember; we both worked for the same financial institution and soon discovered we shared the same angling passion. A very fine match angler his all-round angling skills and attention to detail were soon very apparent. He was fortunate to live in Wareham in close proximity to the River Frome which at various times during the latter part of the 20th Century produced some stunning roach and it was those roach that fired Mark's intense enthusiasm to find out all he could to improve his knowledge and catches. Countless large Roach including 10 of 2lb or more in one day suggest that he succeeded in that quest.
Big Roach is Mark's debut as a solo author and has been keenly anticipated particularly by those who tend to specialise in such things. However, I would suggest this book will be a welcome addition to any angler's library. Despite, or perhaps because of, the incredible changes in many areas of angling the sight of a 2lb+ roach in the landing net remains a rarity and still holds its rightful place as one of the classic angling achievements. Perhaps this book might just give the reader a better chance of experiencing that.
In my opinion the book successfully works as an informative and enjoyable read as well as an excellent point of reference for both historical and modern records. Mark covers everything you need to know about Roach, their habitats, the tackle and techniques and baits. The thorny question of identification and hybrids is discussed in detail and will surely help the cause of those who fight for accuracy. He also includes, in a very readable way, fascinating chapters detailing his personal experience over the years on the Dorset Frome and Dorset Stour.
The historical perspective chapters make interesting reading as they cover pre and post Second World War years and include not only venues such as the Wensum, Hornsea Mere, Hampshire Avon, Sway Lakes, Linch Hill and Tring but the anglers most involved in the pursuit of big roach during those periods.
The Wessex Rivers are covered in detail and, from my point of view, provide an intriguing perspective. I used to think I knew what was going on in "my part of the world" but there are parts of Marks research that add far more detail than I was ever aware of. My only personal disappointment is when Mark references the four hour match record of 64lb of Roach by Eddie "Dob" Chislett. Not a mention of the 16-year-old who came 2nd with 19lb 10oz and was convinced he was the first junior to win a senior match!
Mark does not shy away from a little controversy either. I hope he won't mind me quoting a short extract from his "Conclusion" chapter:
"........ it would be wonderful to have a magic computer that could somehow calculate all the big roach totals of all British anglers and waters, past and present. It would know all the absolute genuine weights not the claimed ones. It would miraculously ignore hybrids and other misidentifications. What interesting reading it would make!"
The many high quality colour and black & white images and record and identification tables compliment the book excellently. All in all this is a quality book; it is published by MPress and well worth every penny of the £30 price tag.