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Joe Oakes demonstrates how to always ‘make it happen’, despite the fish sometimes having other ideas.

If you’re planning to go out on the river and setting your sights on delivering a nice net of prime, plump redfins to show for your efforts, then good luck! Be aware that their feeding habits may not necessarily be in sync with our enthusiasm, and as we deliver our plan of attack to the riverbank and polish the final tactics, has anyone actually informed the roach?

Well, today the plan does involve catching the roach and on the number-one bait – hempseed, of course! But as any seasoned seed veteran will tell you, this can be tricky. First and foremost hemp is arguably the number-one roach bait but it has its drawbacks as it can take a long time to build up a swim, and as previously mentioned the fish aren’t forced to oblige. This is where the safety margin comes into play, so we need to build this margin into the attack.

The swim is 12 feet deep once it has steeply shelved off over the lilies. The water is very clear with little flow, not the best conditions, but hold that belief or you may as well go home now.

To ensure we catch everything, bait choice is kept simple – maggots, casters, worms, hemp and tares. The flow is only really evident at 13 metres so this is the dedicated seed line, hempseed being most effective if there is movement in the water. And now for the simple bit, Joe’s only other line is five metres to hand just over the cover and in the deep water.

This approach is typical for this time of year when presented with these sorts of conditions and secures some fish while always nursing the seed and waiting to pounce.

The session is kicked off with a baitdropper of maggots lowered in on the short line, which is a safe and non-destructive start to catch anything swimming. The baitdropper delivers the bait straight to the bottom and avoids maggots littering the swim and fish ending up everywhere and at all depths, and even more difficult to catch.

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Baitdroppers are an efficient way of delivering bait to the swim accurately.


The rig is nice and positive, a 1.5g Maurizio Schiepatti tied on Middy Lo-Viz 0.10mm to Lo-Viz 0.08mm hooklength using a Middy 63-13 barbless hook made up with an olivette and two No11 droppers and single maggot hook bait. Elastic choice is Hi-Viz original solid 6-8, which is perfect to connect with fish in these depths and soft enough not to bump fish off and able to handle any larger fish, giving enough control to keep them from the snags.

Straight from the off Joe is catching roach, perch, hybrids and even silver bream; a good mixed bag, but they are only small. Simultaneously the 13m line is fed with hempseed consisting of about 10 grains every one or two minutes. A delicate approach, you may note, but it is essential not to destroy this line at an early stage. This couldn’t be further from the seed tactics employed in decades past, feeding one, two or even three pints – yes, pints – on the big rivers with roach the target.

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Joe uses the same hempseed on the hook as he does for his loose feed. 


Now for the hemp itself. Big grains today to get to the bottom quicker and there’s no extra prep for the hookers either, all out the same pot. Well, almost. An option if you’re missing bites is to try a smaller grain pierced through the eye and the hook inserted. Don’t drain off all that oil as it all adds to the pulling power of the hemp; you need every little advantage possible.

A couple more drops in with the baitdropper and the line begins to fade. You’ve got to keep busy so it’s time to build in the next layer: groundbait made up of Sensas Black Lake and Gros Gardons Fine Mouture, again introduced via the baitdropper with a few maggots and casters and then back into fish again. Joe alternates hook baits between maggots and casters but no real pattern emerges and still only very small fish, but still that’s something in the net.

This short line has faded and is no longer a real option and Joe is only about an hour into the session, so is forced into an early look on the hemp line. The air of expectation is somewhat dampened however as Joe, a regular visitor to the Soar and the Avon at Evesham, knows that the roach, the ‘proper’ roach, aren’t really feeding at the moment. You may offer your own reasons, high pressure being one, and this is consistent across these types of venues, but as before hold that belief that you will catch.

The same steady feeding is maintained and the rig is lowered in and initially run through at the pace of the river and set at dead depth, the basic starting point and the best depth to catch. The rig is one of three dedicated to the seed line and part of Joe’s array of top fives, which again demonstrates the effort that is going to be needed to bag the big specimens.

This first rig takes the form of a 0.8g Sensas Verdun set up with a 0.6g olivette and No11 droppers. The olivette can be moved up and down to alter presentation. The same 0.10mm and 0.08mm Lo-Viz are used and the same 63-13 hook pattern.

The first few minutes only reveal small roach and hybrids; this is going to be a challenge! The checklist then begins: half pace, shallow up, lay the rig upstream and then onto the hook baits with a switch to a tare producing a slightly better roach, but we’re not there yet so off the hemp line as it’s not ready. Now it’s back to the groundbait on the short line and this delivers very little, this is definitely going to be tough!

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Hybrids like this took a fancy to Joe’s hempseed hook bait.


As with all experienced anglers there’s still more to come. The river’s not yielding much now and midday signals rig No5 – the failsafe chopped worm and caster approach. This is fished on the 5m to hand line left and right of the original short line, where worm and caster is delivered to the riverbed with the baitdropper – irresistible! A definite trigger combined with pieces of worm on the hook, will this bring Joe’s swim back to life?

No messing rigwise – a 2g float, 0.18mm to 0.16mm and a strong, size 14 hook. Now hold on that’s heavy! But big carp have been caught here in matches and along with big perch and tench you will need to hold them from the snags. Back to reality, though, and a few perch find the net with no records broken.

Make sure you keep busy for success, so it’s back out on the hemp with renewed enthusiasm, only to find an occasional burst of four or five small roach then back round the lines again – it’s a busy day. You need to stay focused and Joe demonstrates this superbly, never giving up on the seed line. Hemp rig No2 makes an appearance when a step up in feeding hints at some roach. This rig is a KC Silver 4x16 with strung-out No11 Styls to give a nice slow fall of the bait, but after shallowing up, still only relatively small roach. Joe then pulls some No11s into a bulk, which again brings short-lived success.

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Joe takes no risks when he hooks a slightly bigger fish. 


As a learning point you really have to explore all the options with the hemp and these are plentiful, but… don’t let the clock tick away too much and get lost in the pursuit, it’s a fine line. There’s still a third rig to complete Joe’s seed arsenal, a light 0.2g MAS-JO, again with strung-out styles to take fish in the upper layers if needed.

As this session draws to an end there’s still one more look for the roach; it’s not unusual for a very late run of quality fish, they really can turn up in the last 20 minutes and add valuable weight.

Well, let’s now analyse: no big roach and no bonus chopped worm fish, what are we left with? A very respectable 12lb plus and a very mixed bag of roach, perch, hybrids, silver bream, dace and, wait for it… even a ruffe, something to deliver on a very difficult day and more importantly all options definitely covered, well done Joe!

A very busy day and an insight into the depths of a river angler’s repertoire, and of course a lot of hard work. A well-rehearsed routine and a good demonstration of a positive approach, something to utilise in all disciplines of fishing to achieve optimum results.

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A hard-earned net of River Soar fish.


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