Rob Wootton heads to a water where it’s easy to get daunted – Naseby Reservoir – a big, open expanse where location is sure to be key to finding the roach.
I just love big expanses of water. Not only do they look the business but they also offer several unique challenges that you simply don't find on a lot of smaller waters. I suppose I’m a little spoilt because within half an hour of my Leicestershire home I have plenty of reservoirs and big lakes to choose from, each giving me the option to target different species with differing tactics.
You find me at Naseby Reservoir. This 90-acre piece of water has plenty of stories to tell, from the huge weights of carp that match anglers would catch 10 or so years ago to the giant catfish that patrol. These fish are so big that they apparently take ducks, double-figure carp and I'm told by the bailiff that he's even seen a baby swan disappear below the surface never to return! These big reservoirs certainly have a hint of the unknown about them and that’s one of the reasons I love them.
My brief is to catch a netful of roach. I’m told there’s no shortage of silver fish among the carp and there’s also some decent sized roach of around 2lb and I’d love to catch one of those.
On arriving on the bank I’ve got a bit of a dilemma… where to sit! The water level is at its summertime low and in my head I feel that four to five feet of depth is the minimum I want to find when plumbing up. A quick phone call to Harry the bailiff puts my mind at rest.
“You want to sit in front of the big tree,” he tells me. “There have been plenty of fish caught there recently.”
In front of the big tree it is then and after getting my platform, box and bait sorted I’m ready to plumb up.
Shipping out to 13 metres, I’m a little shocked to find just three feet of water. I guessed by looking at the bank behind me that the bottom would only slope very gently. I’d be very surprised if any numbers of fish wanted to feed in such shallow water. It just seems a little counterintuitive when they have the pick of 90 acres to swim around in. I contemplate moving swims but with Harry’s words ringing in my ears I decide to stay put and at least give this area an hour or so.
My float choice will come as no surprise to regular readers. A Malman Dusty covers me for a hell of a lot of my fishing with baits like maggots and casters. They're really robust floats that sit well due to the wire stem and are nice and visible in differing light conditions. For the three feet of water I’m faced with I set up two rigs – one with a 4x14 float and one with a smaller 4x12. Both are shotted with a strung-out bulk in the bottom third and feature the same main lines, hooklengths and hook – 0.14mm to 0.12mm and a size 18 Tubertini Series 18. This is robust tackle because in my experience the fish in these big natural waters aren't particularly line or hook shy. Elastic through both top kits is Preston original Slip No8. I set this soft through a full 7ft kit so that plenty comes out but I’m still able to swing sizeable fish if necessary.
Kicking off the swim is going to be a job for groundbait. I have a bag of brown crumb and a bag of Dynamite Frenzied Hempseed Match Black to mix together in a 50/50 ratio. I always find a rich, dark groundbait works well for roach and this is certainly dark once plenty of water has been added. The groundbait is mixed to quite a damp consistency so it will carry plenty of loose feed if needed and then pushed through a maggot riddle. Particle baits are standard roach feeds. I have three pints of casters, a couple of tins of Frenzied Hempseed, maggots and worms. The maggots and worms are mainly for use as hook bait, whereas the hemp and casters will hopefully be my feed of choice either in the groundbait or just loose fed via a catapult.
I don’t fancy balling groundbait in when faced with such shallow water so I take the time to cup six balls in that are crammed with hemp and casters. I then scatter a large cupful of hemp and casters over the top – plenty of bait to get the swim started! I’m not expecting a hectic start because I reckon it could take a bit of time for any number of fish to arrive, so I’m really surprised to get bite from a dumpy roach first drop-in on double maggot! The same thing happens on the second chuck and the third!
It’s obvious the place is solid with fish and I soon settle into a little rhythm catching a fish every drop-in. Initially I don’t bother with any additional feed and for the first half an hour or so I just want to fish out the initial feed. This way I can assess whether the stamp of fish gets bigger or smaller in relation to the amount of feed in the swim.
Half an hour passes and the stamp of fish has stayed pretty consistent at around 2oz to 3oz apiece. It’s time to have a play with feeding a bit of bait so in go two more balls of groundbait, again loaded with casters and hemp. Although this takes a little extra time to do, the response is well worth the effort because it’s fish after fish again. Several of the carp anglers come for a look and can’t believe how many roach are in the venue; I think it certainly opened their eyes to how many hungry mouths need feeding and how big their baits need to be if they want to make them roachproof.
About 90 minutes into the session, and after a couple of top-ups with groundbait, I want to see how close the fish will come to the bank so I start loose feeding casters with a catapult. Initially I start to feed a metre short at 11 metres while still presenting a rig at 13 metres. After just 10 or so minutes, though, I’ve taken a section of pole off and it’s made the whole job of shipping in and out just that little bit faster. I repeat the process with the feeding gradually bringing the fish closer and closer to me and by the end of the session it’s a fish a chuck in just two feet of water at six metres out. It’s really fast fishing and by targeting them at such close range it means that the catapult is redundant because I can feed by hand.
The best rig has been the 4x14 float, despite the water being so shallow, and I found that the best hook bait by far has been a little blob of worm. The roach seemed to really like this hook bait and more importantly I could thread the worm blob up the hook and catch up to 20 fish on a single bait, which speeds up the fishing no end.
Three-and-a-half hours in and we call it a day. I’ve had a really enjoyable session and learnt loads. We’ve not seen any of the really big roach that I’m told live at Naseby but I guess that with so many smaller fish around they probably wouldn't have a chance to get to the bait. Maybe next time I come I can bring bigger baits for them like tares or even sweetcorn. Hopefully then I can avoid enough of the smaller fish. Even without some really big specimens I’ve still amassed over 20lb, which is amazing really, especially when I’ve been in such a beautiful environment.
Angler profile – repeat from Nov issue
Carvells Lane, Naseby, Northamptonshire
nearest postcode is NN6 6JF
Tel: 07904 493417 for the bailiff (8am to 6pm)