Well, here I am, temporary resident at a farm on the middle Wensum with the river running fifty yards from our window. This stretch of river was the epicentre of my roach career between 1970 and 1989 and it was from here that I caught hundreds of “twos” and nearly a dozen “threes” when the Wensum was in its prime. For thirty years it has been on my mind that perhaps the roach are not all truly dead and gone. Even back in the day, it was rock hard fishing and blanks were the norm. Could red finned monsters still lurk, forgotten, secret, roach under the radar? As I have written for FM, I will never have a better chance of laying this ghost to rest. I have somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks here before beginning a new life in Herefordshire and I aim to make this period count with a final Wensum campaign.
Fishing Magic has already been a great help to me. My first two Roach Obsession pieces delivered great feedback – especially on the question of prebaiting. The upshot of that is my decision to stick with bread and bread alone, figuring the pellet route is strewn with hazards and bread worked brilliantly in the past. I am also indebted to the great idea of using a quivertip and a butt indicator IN TANDEM! This seems to me to offer real possibilities but, of course, I’ll need a bite or two before I know for sure.
I’ve been at the farm for three nights now and they have coincided with the first proper frosts of the winter. Night temperatures have slipped well below freezing and barely lifted above that in the day. The flood plain has been continually frosted in silver and the river has smoked as the warmth of autumn has been lost. The cattle are in the yard. The rooks are quiet till mid morning. Winter is here.
Sunday (6th) Enoka and I walked the river at dusk to get the feel of it again, to slip into its world. And how beautiful that world was. The sunset seemed eternal, dancing off low, snow-laden clouds, illuminating the mists on the water and in the lows of the meadows. To have seen a roach roll would have been overwhelming but only odd water hens showed. Last night (7th) I walked the river at 3 pm, this time with a bucket of mash made from two whole loaves. I baited four swims, half a loaf in each. One is by the farmhouse, a slow, deep eddy at the bottom of the garden. It is wise to have a pitch close by, and of course, the presence of the farmyard and its dogs is a cormorant deterrent which big roach will know all about.
The second swim is at the head of the first meadow, a deep, slow run towards a large fallen willow. The stretch was badly dredged throughout the 60s and 70s and this is still one of the few serious features left standing, even after half a century. Never think nature heals herself overnight!
Moving on, I come to swim 3, a deep slack beneath the one gravel run along the stretch. I never did much there in the heyday but I did see two big roach there two summers past. Swim 4 is perhaps my favourite. It is over a mile from the house, buried in countryside so remote you could fancy yourself back 100 years. Two fallen bushes create another slack, 6 feet deep, with a surprisingly clean bottom. Perhaps best of all, the place is almost exactly where I caught my first super roach of 2.13 on Christmas Eve fifty years ago. The memory of that fish burns so bright that the action could have taken place yesterday. Then I was a kid. Now I am all but old but the passion still roars.
Tonight and tomorrow , I will bait again and perhaps I will cast out on Thursday? The weather is milder, or so say the forecasters. I might have pals Ping Pong and Ratters up with me to share the load. ( None of us are expecting triumphs!) It would seem that is the time. I’ll write this diary every day that I have something to say. Perhaps I’ll continue it this evening if I were to see a fish or an otter or anything that is relevant to the Quest. If there is absolutely not a jot of news, than I’ll lie low.
I haven’t been taking my camera but I will. I regret hugely not having shots of Sunday night’s beauty to share and I’ll rectify that if the weather gods are kind. So, this is it. My Wensum swan song and I am happy to have you to share it with.