Roach (Rutilus rutilus)
Roach do not reach the large sizes attained by other coarse fish, a fish of 2 lbs (0.9 kg) would be considered a fantastic specimen.
Also known as
Common Roach and Red Fin
LC – Least Concern
A Note On Spawning
Roach are closely related to both Rudd and Bream, as such they spawn around the same time, usually between April and early June, when water temperatures are around 18°C, usually on sunny days. Females often return to the same areas every year to spawn. When they do actually spawn, they often do so with a lot of energy, as the larger male fish follow females. The result is a lot of splashing, with some fish being seen jumping well out of the water.
Healthy females can produce up to 100,000 sticky yellow eggs per kg of body weight. These eggs are generally laid on weeds, usually in the upper levels of the water. The fry which emerge, just like immature roach, are easily targetted by predators. Waters with many predators and limited food sources produce few fish which are large. An anglers dream!
The roach is a slim-bodied fish, its back is a grey-blue colour, its flanks are bright silver and its underbelly is pale cream. Despite also being known as ‘red fins’, with the exception of its anal fin, roach have fins which are orange, although they do develop into a shade of red in older specimens. Its mouth is small, with the top lip extending over the lower lip, indicating its preference for bottom feeding. They are found in large shoals, the largest of which can contain many hundreds of individual fish.
The roach is commonly mistaken for rudd, but you can tell the difference between the two in a number of ways. Firstly, the rudd’s fins are bright red, compared to the dull red/orange fins of the roach. The rudd also has a protruding lower jaw, unlike the roach which has a protruding upper jaw. The rudd’s dorsal fin is also located much closer to the tail compared to the roach’s. Finally, if you want to be extra sure that you’ve caught a roach, along the lateral line it will have a scale count of 39-49 scales.
So how do we catch one?
Their natural diet is made up of insects, aquatic vegetation, small water snails, bloodworms and fish fry.
Roach will continue to feed throughout the year and are known to take almost anything, but maggots, casters, bread baits, hemp, sweetcorn and worms are amongst the most effective baits. For large roach, bread flake is very effective.
Favourite Feeding Places
You can take roach from various different depths, but the biggest specimens are caught at the bottom. Take a look at their mouths and you’ll see that the upper lip protrudes over the bottom, this is the tell-tale sign that a fish is a bottom feeder. For this reason, the most effective method is to position the bait on the bottom.
Roach can be caught throughout the year. In summer they tend to move closer to the surface to feed on insects which are found there. In winter, roach shoals journey to deep water, where they form large, crowded shoals. In fisheries, these shoals are known as ‘hotspots’ and can provide much action once the season has ended.
The roach is an extremely versatile fish, it is one of the most widely distributed fish in the UK and when found in a body of water, often exists as the most abundant species. As such it can be caught in pretty much any waterway, from small ponds and tiny streams, to the largest lakes and rivers that the UK has to offer. With that said, large roach are particularly elusive and prefer habitats with aquatic vegetation, for spawning and to protect the young fry.
Catching small roach can be done with almost any rig, rod, bait and technique. Therefore, we will be focusing on how you catch large roach, by which we mean anything which is 1 lb or more.
Swims which have cover, such as overhanging trees or bushes, and where the river deepens and the flow slows are fantastic spots for large roach. Slacker waters just off the main current, along reed beds are also good roach spots.
You can catch roach at any time of day, but early mornings and late afternoons are the most optimal times in spring and summer. During autumn and winter, you are best off trying from late afternoon to dusk, especially at the end of a mild day.
Roach are often caught by mistake when trotting for dace, meaning the same tactic works well for roach, you can find out more about that approach here. However, if you want to selectively target large roach, a different, more specialised approach is needed.
In regards to effective baits, bread flake is known to be a favourite of large roach. Whilst float fishing can be used to catch large roach, a more successful approach is to ledger a large piece of bread flake on a size 8-12 hook which is directly tied to the main line, between 3-3.5 lb (1.3-1.5 kg). A simple link ledger rig will work well in this situation.
A simple link ledger rig
If you’re fishing a river which contains large chub as well as large roach (which is common), you may need to use a stronger main line, as big chub will readily bread flake, so you may find yourself with one on the line.
Introduce some mashed bread to the swim prior to fishing it, but be careful that you don’t use too much. Bread is a filling bait, and having large numbers of big fish in the swim is unlikely. Two or three walnut sized balls will do the job to start with, go from there, topping it up from time to time if required.
If you are lucky enough to have access to the water on days that you’re not out fishing, pre-baiting the swim on a regular basis using bread is a great tip, as it will get the fish used to feeding on it.
A sensitive quivertip is definitely an advantage, but not required as bites will generally be a firm, confident pull, however you do need to be ready to strike quickly, so hold the rod when waiting for a bite. A comfortable way to do so is to place the rod on a rest, with the butt section supported on your leg and your hand resting on the rod at the reel.
If float fishing for roach, groundbait is essential, especially on well-fished waters. If maggots are being fished, throw a few in from time to time to get the fish used to them, the groundbait is there to attract the fish into the swim. Roach are found in shoals so if you catch one it is likely that there will be more about in the area.