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Roach, Rudd and Dace


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The Roach is, in appearance, a handsome fish when in season, though, perhaps, one of the coarsest of the finny tribe as far as eating is concerned. It affords good sport, and requires some amount of skill to catch; although by some writers it is termed the "water sheep" and easily to be taken: but in reality it requires a quick eye, fine tackle, and a steady hand, and much practice, before anyone can pretend to be a good Roach Angler.

Roach spawn in April and May, during which time the scales are very rough, the fish being sickly and keeping among the weeds, on which they feed, as well as on the insects found thereon. They are in good season from July till March, but the winter months are generally the best for angling for them, especially after a flood when the water is recovering; the large ones have then left the weeds and remain in the deep water, and not having so much living food about them will more readily take the bait. Their scales are then very smooth and large, of a dark bluish green color on the back, lightening into a right silver nearer the belly; the under fins are a bright red; the hack fin and tail of a dusky red, tinged somewhat with purple. They are seldom taken heavier than two pounds though I have taken them in the Thames weighing two pounds and a half; and have known them to reach three pounds, but these leviathans are very scarce.

One great desideratum in Roach-fishing is that the angler should know something of the water that he intends to fish; and then to choose a swim where he can fish with comfort, according to the state in which the water may be at the time. Roach do not approve of very rough water, but are more generally found in steady swims of a moderate depth and with a sandy or gravelly bottom. When angling in rivers choose if possible, a swim that is rather shallower at the end, because when the ground-bait separates, the principal portion lodges there and consequently keeps the fish together in a tatter manner than it would do if the swim was not so conveniently adapted to retain it, but allowed it to be entirely washed away by the action of the Bream. It is also by the judicious use of ground-bait, and fishing at the proper depth, that one angler will be more successful than another, who may be using the same description of bait, the same quality of tackle, and fishing at a very short distance from tie first fine, though not with the like success. One of the most clean and simple ground-baits and at the same time one with which I have had the best sport, is made of bread and brae; the crust of a quartern loaf being cut off, soak the crumb in water till it is well saturated, squeeze it nearly dry, then placing it in a pan or similar receptacle, add the bran by handfuls, kneading it well together until the whole is almost, as stiff as clay. This requires some little time to make but will amply repay the angler for his trouble. In rivers like the Thames, when fishing from a punt, the ground-bait should lie worked into balls about the size of a moderately large turnip, and it there is much stream will probably require some clay mixed with it to increase the weight and bind it together; or the insertion of a stone is sometimes requisite, so as to ensure it sinking instantly at the head of the swim when dropped over the side of the punt. In ponds and small rivers the ground-bait balls should be used smaller. An excellent addition to this description of ground-bait (although many object on account of the scent) is a quantity of carrion gentles; after the bread and bran are well mixed with some clay and formed into balls, press a hole in each with the finger, and before throwing the ball into the swim fill the hole in the ground-bait with gentles and close it tightly. In eddies and still waters a handful of carrion gentles alone, thrown in are very useful; but if there is much stream, it is evident that the gentles being light must be carried away directly they reach the water; whereas if they are worked into the ball, this sinks directly and they then find their way out gradually and keep the fish about the swim. Potatoes are also used for ground-bait, they should be boiled till soft, and gently squeezed before being thrown into the swim.

The Rod used for Roach-fishing from the bank should be from sixteen to twenty feet in length, of light and stiff cane, sharp in the strike and not ringed; if it is to be used from a punt, should possess the same qualities but should be from ten to eleven feet only. For a rod of this latter description it is safer to have rings, tolerably close together (so as not to allow the line to hang too loosely from the rod) as it not unfrequently happens that a Barbel makes his appearance in the swim, when unless the angler is provided with running-tackle, he stands a very fair chance of losing his fish. The running-line should be the very finest plaited silk (prepared with india-rubber varnish) and should be from thirty to forty yards long, on a small multiplying winch; or if the angler chooses, a plain winch.

In the Lea, however, the true Roach fisher scorns rings to his rod and trusts to his skill alone to enable him to land safely his finny prize. Most Lea-fishers keep an inch or two of fine silk line tied to the end of the top-joint, and fasten the gut or hail- line to the silk by means of a draw loop knot; this is a better plan than fastening the line directly to the rod, as the latter is apt to chafe the gut or hah. The Roach- line should be of the very finest blue gut, in length about three yards, although many prefer the same length of horse hair; this however is becoming rapidly superseded by the extra-fine gut, which, besides being less than half the substance, possesses five or six times the strength.

The size of the Hooks varies considerably, some experienced anglers using them as large as No. 6, whilst others never use- anything larger than No. 11; a medium size about No. 9 will generally be found the most useful. As regards shape, this is very much a matter of fancy, the very fine round bent hooks requiring great care in use as it is impossible for them to have very much barb and the skin of a Roach's mouth being very tender the tine wire is apt to work out or cut its way through if the fish is large or gives much play; they are however much used by those anglers who prefer fishing with hair, whilst those who use fine gut generally prefer the bright sneck, a short square shaped hook, extremely sharp, with a good barb.

The best and neatest Float is the taper quill; though for rough work, a very thin cork is very useful. Roach floats are of all sizes from those carrying half-a-dozen shots, to some for use in heavy water, and which require thirty shots or more. Observe, to shot the line so that a very small portion only, of the tip of the float is left above water, for Roach frequently bite so very fine, that without attending to this you will probably miss the chance of two bites out of three; neither should the float be larger than is actually necessary, although it must be obvious, that in fishing some of the deep swims in the Thames, where there is a strong steady current, unless the angler has a tolerably large string of shot his bait will not reach the bottom until it arrives at nearly the end of the swim; therefore always match the size of the float as near as possible to the degree of current in the river you intend to fish.

Plumbing the depth is performed in the following manner; if using a roll plummet, as it is termed, (which is simply a small roll of thin sheet lead about an inch wide) unroll about two inches from the end, lay the hook in, and roll up the plummet again; your hook is then secured. This is not so good as using the ring plummet, the hook in this instance being passed through the ring, and the point inserted in the cork at the bottom of the plummet, which may be either taper, like a sugar-loaf or square ended.

As success in Roach-fishing depends much upon angling at the proper depth, take pains to ascertain the depth accurately before you commence fishing; when the plummet touches the bottom, and the tip of the float is even with the surface of the water, you have obtained the true depth. It is better when angling for Roach or any other fish which require ground-bait, to allow the line to remain in the water with the plummet on the hook, while you are easting in the ground bait; so as to stretch and soften the line and render it, consequently, less liable to break, as gut and hair will frequently do when dry and stiff. It is also a good plan, to dip the "ne above the float, occasionally, in the water for the same reason. Having discovered the correct depth, commence fishing with the bait almost touching the bottom; if without success, alter the float so as to fish shallower, that is, with the bait two or three inches from the ground; if still unsuccessful, vary the position of the float still more. During very warm weather Roach occasionally swim nearer the surface, and then sometimes take the bait better at midwater than at bottom; but as that does not often occur later in the season, commence with the bait nearly touching the ground. They may also during the summer months be taken with a fly, using it below the surface and without a float; put on one small shot to sink the bait, drawing it gently up and down till you feel a bit e; the Roach generally taking it as it approaches the surface.

It often happens in Rivers, from opening the locks, altering the run of water in the mills, and from various other causes, that the depth of the water is changed, therefore if you have been enjoying good sport and it should suddenly cease which it will probably do, if you have lost the proper depth then try the depth again.

The Baits are somewhat numerous; paste, liver-gentles, worms, creed malt, rice, &c., of these the two first are the best. In making the paste it is absolutely necessary that the hands should be very clean, otherwise the paste will be discolored; take a piece of the crumb of a loaf the day after it is baked, dip lightly in water, immediately squeeze it as dry as possible, and placing it in the left hand, knead it with the thumb and fingers of the right, till it becomes exceedingly smooth and stiff. This is, when well made, the best paste for Roach, and they seldom refuse it at any time of the year. Many add a small quantity of honey, in this case the bread will not require dipping in water. Some also prefer a pink paste, this is made by mixing a small quantity of vermilion or red ochre with the one first mentioned. The Cadis is also a good bait, and should the angler be fishing any water where this bait is plentiful, at the time when it is leaving its shell, he will probably find that the Roach will take nothing else, this being then their natural food. At other times a small redworm or a portion of the tail of a small lobworm will be found successful; note, when using these, to ground-bait with a quantity of a similar description of worm chopped up into small pieces; instead of the bread and bran, which should be used when paste is the bait. In the same manner as the carrion gentles are added when liver-gentles are used on the hook, the fish, as is often the case, appearing to judge from outward appearance only, and therefore preferring the well fed aldermanic individual moving along in grand state on the hook, to the dirty canaille who are swept along with the stream. Yet with Roach as with all other fish, the water may appear in good order, the wind in the right quarter, and everything else equally favorable, but the fish will not take the bait, let it be ever so tempting. The disappointed angler declares that " they are not on the feed " the simple fact being that by a natural instinct, they appear to expect, at certain seasons of the year, and in certain conditions of the water, some particular natural food which is in the water; whether in the shape of decomposed weeds, grubs, cadis or other insects not easily to be discovered. To fish with one gentle, enter the point of the hook (which should be No. 10 or 11) near either end, bring it out at the other, and drawing the point back again sufficiently to conceal it; pursue a similar method if using more than one. A larger hook No. 8 or 9 is required for a worm, to bait with which enter the point of the hook near the head of the worm, which must be worked gently on to the hook with the thumb and finger, while the right is gradually working the hook down wards; a small lively piece of the tail may be left moving about, but if too much hangs loose, the fish may nibble but will seldom take the whole in their mouths, and the angler will be annoyed by finding part of the worm gone but that he has missed his fish.

Always keep the top of the rod over the float, and sufficiently high to prevent any slack line touching the water, so as to strike lightly but quickly (the motion coming not from the arm but from the wrist) the moment you observe the least movement of the float, either by it being drawn under, or thrown up a little. Do not strike too hard; for the Roach, being a tender-mouthed fish is hooked by a very slight jerk.

When you have hooked a fish, raise the top of the rod and place a slight strain on him by lowering the butt, by playing him thus he will soon be ready for the landing net, an article which will be found particularly useful if fishing from a high bank or where the fish run large When fishing from the bank with a twenty-feet rod and a tight line, it will be necessary, of course, to remove the butt and large joint to bring the fish within reach of the net.

The Rudd is similar to the Roach in shape and color; only that it is rather broader and the body and gills are tinged with a golden bronze. The under-fins and tail are a bright red. They seldom exceed a pound in weight, and thrive best in ponds and still waters with gravelly bottoms; spawning about April. Angle for them at bottom the same as Roach; with a tine gut. or hair line, No. 9 or 10 hook and alight quill float. Bait with redworms, gentles or paste; ground-baiting as usual.

The Dace is a handsome shaped fish, the body long and of a bright silvery color; the scales and fins small, the latter being of a yellowish tinge. The largest I remember to have seen was taken in the Thames near Hampton, with a worm, and weighed exactly one pound. The river Colne is also noted for Dace of a large size, a great many being taken near West Drayton.

They are a sharp-biting fish and therefore require striking quickly; frequenting, during the summer months, shallows, rapids, and eddies, when they afford good sport to the incipient fly-fisher; indeed, they are about the best fish to initiate him into the art and mystery of that science. The young angler will find capital sport during the fine summer's evenings on the banks of the Thames, using the black gnat or golden palmer on the shallows about Isleworth, Twickenham or Hampton, fishing from the towing path, The house-fly, red, black, and brown palmers, blue-duns and gnats, are all killing flies for Dace, and may be rendered still more so, by the addition of a gentle on the point of the hook; or instead of a gentle, a thin strip of light yellow kid leather wound round the hook, from the tail of the fly nearly to the barb.

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