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Chalk Stream Roach; The Ultimate Challenge

Writen and Edited by John Searl

Published by “The Art of Angling”  2009

Star rating ****


After the plethora of books about carp and barbel, it is refreshing to read something on the greatly underrated roach, a favourite of many anglers who grew up catching silver fish.

With a foreword by Peter Wheat and a John Bailey introduction, the book offers an array of photographs of exquisite fish, further enhanced by John Searl’s artwork.

The book covers fishing for roach in southern chalk streams, with contributions by some of the great redfin anglers, including Dave Howes, Ron Smith and John Searl who all fish the Hampshire Avon; Vic Beyer on the Kennet; Pat McManus on the Itchen; Mark Wintle on the Frome and Dave Steuart on the Test. Yes, there are roach there too.

These authors have all caught more 2b and 3lb fish than anglers such as myself have caught pounders. All have developed a similar approach that will find surprising. Not that they fish with a float using breadflake, or that they use bread mash with crumb as loose-feed to get the right constituency – but that they fish with floats taking several swan shot.

Having been brought up on the canals of Birmingham using 1lb line and micro floats, I wouldn’t have dreamt of using such heavy tackle, but the approach and explanations make it seem entirely logical. As the late Billy Lane used to say, it isn’t the floats weight that matters but the balance and presentation.

However, one also appreciates that catching big roach isn’t easy, and that the contributors have learnt their watercraft over several years on some of the UK’s best roach waters. Sadly, one consistent gripe running throughout the book is that the quality of fishing, even on these rivers has declined dramatically over the past 20 years, with reasons ranging from boat traffic to crayfish, from cormorants to otters and carp.

It is distressing to read of such an iconic fish, the favourite of many anglers (myself included) struggling to survive. With abstraction issues also looming, the future looks gloomy.

So now is the time to purchase this book, absorb all the sound advice within and head to one of the southern chalkstreams. This book will inspire you to do so, and maybe I’ll see you there- right after I’ve stocked up with heavier floats and swan shot!