Gravel pit roach, the forgotten winter species

Thu 01 January 15


Featured Anglers Profile

Anglers Name – Stephen Slater
Location – Luton, Bedfordshire
Occupation – Construction Contract Manager
Sponsor – Bait-Tech

Stephen arrives at the partly frozen Fields End Fishery

For many decade, roach in winter were the target species for virtually every serious match angler looking at building a good match weight in the winter months. However, over the past twenty years, the rise in popularity of commercial venues full of carp has seen a dramatic decline in the number of anglers now fishing for these stunning fish. So when the UKMA team got a call from Bait-Tech backed Stephen Slater, saying he wanted to do a winter roach feature, we decided to make the going tough for him and inviting him to a local day ticket gravel pit near Doddington in Canbridgeshre, to try and sort out some of the quality roach that dwell in this 5 acre lake, here’s how he got on!

The Venue

The lakes island feature

We arrived at the lake at 09.00 on what can only be described as bitterly cold morning. With temperatures dropping off to -3 degrees over night, resulting in two f the corners of the lake being covered with ice and the ground surrounding the lake looking like it had snowed the night before, the frost was so heavy.

A frozen Field End Fishery in late December

With the fancied peg being covered with ice, Stephan had a look around the lake and a peg to the left of the lakes small island, silver fish were showing themselves, regularly breaking the surface, so Stephen chose to fish two pegs away from the island. With the sun on the water and a back wind, this would enable Stephen to fish a light waggler rig and present his light rig at the required distance of 30 yards in depths that averaged 12 feet.

The tackle for the job in hand

Stephan’s tackle selection was based on what he would use when fishing canals or drains for silvers, which are now, after many successful years on the commercial fishery scene, are now once again his favourite types of venues.

Drennan Matchpro Ultralight 11' float rod

Starting off, his chosen rod for this type of float work was the Drennan Matchpro Ultralight 11’ float rod simply because it has the perfect soft tip, that is backed up with a stunning progressive action making the taming of even the biggest roach he is likely to encounter a sure thing. To accompany the Matchpro Ultralight, Stephen chose the superb Shimano Technium Magnesium 2500MSG loaded with 2lbs Maxima camelion reel line.

the hooklink and reel line were connected with a micro swivel

At the business end things were very basic. Stephen utilised the back wind, which enabled him to use a Drake 3BB insert waggler, that was attached to the reel line via a Drennan Swivel Float Attachments. Stephen attached all the shot around the base of the float. His 18 inch long hooklength was made from 0.10 Colmic Stream with a Kamasan B911 size 16 hook. His hooklength was attached to the main line via a micro swivel, which served two purposes. Firstly to act a a sinking weight and secondly to prevent line twist on the retrieve, especially when using double hookbaits.


Simple natural baits like maggot and caster will always catch you roach of all sizes

Nothing special is required when targeting gravel pit roach, with natural baits being the order of the day. Stephan told us “either 2 Maggot or caster on the hook are arguably two of the best baits for targeting natural venue silver fish. Over the years I have had massive success when targeting roach in cold weather from rivers, canals, drains and natural lakes, so why change something that works”

The Three Hour Session

Mr Slater in action on a bitterly cold day

Stephen plumbed up at 30 yards and found depths of 12 to 14 feet but his plan was to fish on the drop at half depth and attempt to catch “on the drop”. to jet the fish up in the water, he fed 6 to 8 maggots with the odd caster every minute to get the fish were he wanted them, using a single maggot on the hook to see what was about. After half a dozen casts and regular feeding, his dotted right down float slid under and his strike met with solid resistance from a decent 4oz roach, which made the Ultralight rod curve over perfectly, registering every shake of the fish.

Feed little and often to bring the fish up in the water

With regular minor adjustments to his depth when bites slowed down and by keeping the maggots and a few caster going in regularly. Over the next three hours Stephen kept the fish coming at a very impressive rate, with the stamp of roach ranging from 3 to 4ozs up to nearly a pound. By switching to a caster every now and then on the hook, this produced the better fish of the session but also noticeably reduced his catch rate.

And another roach is in the bag

Final Thoughts

On a day when the wind chill kept the temperature at a constant zero many anglers would have stayed at home but fortunately for UKMA, Stephen made the effort and in just under three hours, he demonstrated that by keeping things simple, you can reap the rewards on even the hardest of days. So to all you commercial fishery heads, who have forgotten what a roach looks like, you are missing out on some exceptional light tackle sport.

15lbs plus of quality winter roach from a gravel pit

Foot Note – Don’t ever forget, unlike carp, roach will feed when nothing else will. So take advantage of this wonderful species, as the previous generations of match anglers did. If you don’t, you’re missing out on some fantastic cold weather sport.



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