John Bailey's Roach Obsession Diary

John Bailey

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John step, as everyone says, the Mail saw the light of day in 1964, and as Mark has said, there were changes to its format over the years. I half remember several papers/magazines coming and going between 1970 and 1990. Now they are just going it seems.

The massive roach is interesting, and that’s an understatement. I guess I might know the river in question, but it would seem to me that very often the very biggest fish come at the end of a river’s predominance, rather than during its peak. My own Wensum 3.10 fish (3.13 after the scales were checked) came in a last gasp run of big fish. I’m not saying there have not been equally big fish in the river in the 35 years since it was caught, but I doubt it. Nor are roach the only species to follow this pattern. The record grayling I was involved with two years ago was one of the only big fish taken that year, and the feeling was that numbers were collapsing around it.

And to LPP... the recent floods have piled firewood high! A thousand kettles could be brewed from that swim alone!
 

john step

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Ta for the reply. God only knows what the angling paper was then.
 

rob48

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Plenty of good roach along the Belmont stretch thoughout the winter. You'll catch with 6' on or more close to the bank. Hardest part is avoiding the dace.
 

John Bailey

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Roach Obsession Diary. 4.00pm 12/3/2021

So the final curtain of this extraordinary season is about to fall. Given everything weather and Covid has thrown at us, there will be many who say “Amen” to that, but I’ll be saddened. That vital flame will be turned down, burning on tick-over until the rivers are back in play. Tomorrow the finishing line is in view. I have a day booked in Hereford, on a cold, storm-tossed Wye that today was up perhaps four feet on what I had seen a few days back. My heart was not truly in the recce but, then, I saw a man net two decent roach, and my spirits lifted. I have no idea how many will be fishing tomorrow, perhaps it’s a case of foul weather versus the last weekend, and I don’t know which contender will win out in the end.

Spurred on, I have put a 14 trotter in the car along with maggots, worms, corn and a bucket of groundbait. I aim to fish float, perhaps moving, perhaps laid on. I guess I’ll mix the bait heavy and solid to get the maggots down... double on a size 18 I’m told, and then play a roach like it’s your last. Potential pike attacks worry me if the battle is overlong, and if I have drawn fish into the swim. But there’s a way to go before that becomes a worry. Or is there? One big fish lost to a pike is one too many by far.

Sunday itself? Well, I’m hedging my bets a little. I have a couple of barbel swims baited well upriver in case tomorrow is a disappointment, and if Enoka fancies a last whopper of the 20/21 season.

This is an odd position for me. Most of my life in Norfolk, I’d be viewing the close season with equanimity. I’d know how the months ahead would largely unroll, and where I’d be catching my fish one week to the next. Now all is cloaked in vagueness, in promises, in what-ifs. Excitement and trepidation have taken over from contentment and calm. Is that bad at my age? Or stupid? Perhaps tomorrow will help with an answer?
 

John Bailey

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Roach Obsession Diary. 6.00am 14/3/2021

This is it my friends. Out I go into a much better day – AT LAST. Another last day of the season. Yet again a year has flown. More later, but my very, very, very best wishes to all of you wielding a rod today. Tell us of your success please!
 

mark halsey

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RW knew too.

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John Bailey

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Roach Obsession Diary. 6.00pm 14/3/2021

Have I ever had a worse final weekend? Without checking my diaries, I’d find it hard to say categorically, but I can’t remember one. Worse than my personal suffering, I had with me great pals Peter Bennet and Ian Lewis, who had both come to experience the Wye magic. Well, we did have roach, Ian had a washed-out specimen of six ounces, but Pete and I were pretty much fishless, biteless even. And so here I sit, home before dark, in itself an almost unique Fourteenth occurrence.

Of course, the reasons are obvious. The storm. The bitter winds. The wicked rain on Friday night especially. The river that came up fast from 10.00am Saturday morning, dropped a little overnight, but then started to rise again after an hour or two on Sunday. Just dreadful. I sit here feeling a freezing failure, and wondering why I have been baiting for ten days prior to this. I might have thrown it all up the field for the rabbits.

Once, in an early book, I used the phrase 'Wye Bother' to head a chapter relating my early barbel failures on the river. History repeats itself. I can’t help wondering, would this last weekend have been easier on the homely little Wensum I know so well? Do small rivers neutralise the horrors of horrendous river just a little? Does ice water from Wales prove just too much, even for chub, when the chips are down? I truly do not think the three of us could have fished much better, and no-one else seemed to be catching much either. It just had to be the devilish, capricious, pig-headed, Wye herself that I have to kick for this.

Which leads me to stop moaning, and ask how you lot have done (or are still doing) on the Stour, the Trent, the Avon, or wherever you are plying your craft? Have you caught? How? What? Go on, make my pain even worse...

My pictures show the dogged Ian (top), and Peter (middle), and the river herself in Hereford, chugging through, brown as a Herefordshire ploughed field.
 

Mark Wintle

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The Stour; a dozen roach mainly tiddlers (4" fish) on Friday, best fish maybe 6oz plus bleak and a tiny dace - river clearish but rising. Walked the bank yesterday with the river colouring up and risng. Today - 2 hours on a dirty river that had just peaked - not a bite. Fortunately the start of the week was good with plenty of roach to a pound in short evening sessions. Time to sort out and clean up my gear, get a few jobs done and look forward to some different fishing once travel is more permissible.
 

simon burt

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Blank for me on the Frome (Somerset), hail and cold spate water did for my chances of a roach on the final weekend. Biteless but I enjoyed being by the water and have a few ideas for a new campaign in June. Here's to renewal after the Closed Season.
 
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