Kennet Roach on Pellet

Polaroid glasses on and quietly peering over a reed bed to witness specimen roach sitting behind a debris strewn branch with their red fins twitching and silver backs shining is one of the fondest memories I have of the river Kennet. These were my halcyon days for silver fishing on this venue and I was lucky to have had that because even by then, a decade ago, most of the river had faced a catastrophic decline. A last glimpse of how it was and then this too went the same way and now, if I stand in the very same spot, nothing moves and my heart no longer skips a beat. Disappointing but barbel and to a lesser extent chub and perch replaced the roach where my ambitions were concerned for this lowland tributary of the Thames that springs to life through the chalk of the Wiltshire countryside before heading east on its journey to Reading. The heart however continues to grow fonder for what I lost and now that the barbel too has dwindled I ask myself if any good roach still live in the Kennet.


I have never caught a fish while watching TV and effort in angling is always rewarded so I recently decided to stop having trips down Memory Lane looking at old pictures on the computer screen and hit the bank in a bid to make some new ones. It wasn’t a complete leap of faith either as a few years ago I had spent an enjoyable day in the a weir pool catching some moderate size fish and it seemed logical to return there first to see if they had grown. The Burghfield stretch of the Kennet has a notoriety for its barbel and chub but the steep banks with plenty of cover has always looked like the perfect haunt for a big red fin to hide itself away from the cormorants. So this is why I found myself standing on the bridge that spans the weir looking downstream at the frothy white water that cut 2 creases either side of the gates. Surely roach would enjoy this oxygenated area in a period that had seen very little rain? I picked the left side as there was a distinct line to the crease with the calm water holding very little debris. A classic swim and I was reminded of one of John Wilson’s all time great programmes, Weir Pool Magic, if only the roach here grew half as big!

Quiver tipping seemed the logical approach fitting in with the tackle I had brought along but what bait should I offer? On a river dominated by barbel anglers it seemed logical to me that the roach would switch on to the anglers’ food being offered on a daily basis and this was pellets in copious amounts. So with this consideration I chose to fish an open end feeder along with 2 6mm pellets on a hair formed via knotless knot to a size 14 hook but instead of threading them on and using a stop I used super glue and squeezed them together against the 4lb fluorocarbon.


The mix for the feeder also relied heavily on the fish meal approach with Marine halibut forming the basis although I have to admit to adding a handful of crushed hemp so as not to put all my eggs in one basket.


Likewise the liquid to dampen the groundbait was river water boosted by the introduction of Sticky’s hemp oil and the Drennan Yum Yum Crab and Krill attractor.


To ensure an even blend the mixing took place before adding to the powder and then only enough so it would just hold together. I wanted to keep it quite dry so once on the bottom an explosion of particles would take place. The final inclusion was a handful of 6mm pellets and then I was ready to go!


Many anglers struggle with tangles when feeder fishing but as mine hit the crease line I could se a clear separation between bait and feeder. Firstly I feathered the 6lb method feeder line prior to impact and by creating a 6 inch boom section by twisting 2 lengths of the mono together along with a 10lb fluorocarbon link for the feeder my paternoster rig wouldn’t tangle if I cast it all day. You need confidence like this when stepping into the unknown with my only worry being whether or not there were any roach here?


The 2oz glass tip crashed over twice in the afternoon and both times tiny barbel were the culprits. Welcome as they were it wasn’t what I was after but with the bewitching hour still to come I stayed optimistic that my intended quarry would show. Slowly the light levels began to reduce and in unison with this the movement of the rod tip increased - to begin with fast unhittable bites switching on dusk to sweet steady pulls. Every strike to these positive bites resulted in a fish that gave a series of ‘jags’ on the way to the net. I knew what they were before they hit the net but the smile was just as broad when pristine roach on the pound mark lay before me. A lovely evening and I wanted more.


The next trip was to an upstream-canalised section and following the same procedure I had to wait again until dusk before the first roach took the pellet under an overhanging raft. Perfect, like the day it was born, I cradled it gently and knew that this roach and the others that followed it had not only given me joy but hope that maybe the Kennet as a fishery for silver fish isn’t dead after all.

Top 5 Tips

1. On venues where barbel anglers fish try pellets as the roach won’t be slow in switching onto these as well.
2. Fish at dusk – it’s the classic time for roach for a reason.
3. Look for steep bank or lots of cover on your local river where big roach can hide from cormorants.
4. To stop tangles with the feeder form a twisted boom section in the mainline by ‘twiddling’ 2 lengths together.
5. A dry groundbait mix in the feeder will explode once on the bottom and be far more attractive.

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