Roach and Dace

The roach is so called { according to historical references} from Rutilus signifying red fins. In his book ' THE COMPLETE ANGLER' {1800s}  the author states  " He is a fine fish of no great reputation for his dainty taste. His spawn is accounted much better than any part of him, and you may take notice that as a carp is accounted the water fox for his cunning, so the roach is accounted the water sheep for his simplicity and foolishness"

Although ponds tend to produce the bigger roach generally this member of the carp family is more abundant in rivers. 

The Roach rutilus rutilus

The roach--Courtesy of Karelj


Description of the roach

The roach is a leather mouthed fish, and has somewhat saw-like teeth in its throat.It is a typical small fish with a maximum length {UK} of two feet, very rarely more. The body has a silvery colour, fading to white on the belly. The fins are red the dorsal and anal fins have 12-14 rays. The iris of the eye is also red. The roach can be confused with the dace and also the rudd.

Although it prefers the deeper waters it may be encountered in almost any water over a foot deep {30 cm} It is one of the most numerous fish throughout its distribution, and although it will tolerate brackish water it does not tolerate water more than 30 degrees C.

It is a shoaling fish and as a general rule it is not migratory. If temperatures drop during the winter in the colder parts of its distribution  they migrate to deeper waters. they also prefer waters with some vegetation on which the mature fish feed and affords some security for the young fish, They also feed on the bottom dwelling invertebrates and plankton.

SPAWNING--- The spawning season is in April and May, most often this occurs on sunny days. They spawn in general in the same locality each season. Large males form schools which the female is enticed to enter. The males trail the females and fertilise the eggs. The behaviour during this period is erratic and they often jump out of the water. 

Studies have revealed that the female can lay up to 100,000 eggs. However, they also revealed if the pH level is below 5.5 the roach does not reproduce successfully. The current record for the roach in British waters four pounds. But a more typical weight is less than a pound. 

Female just before spawning

Photograph courtesy of viridiflavus creative commons attribution share alike 3.0 Generic license


Today as the angler  prepares his bait, he goes to the supermarket for sweetcorn or the tackle shop for maggots or other products readily available to him. Today's angler will land roach with maggot, sweetcorn and worms. On this site I like to look back into the past to see the perception of naturalists, and in this case anglers, of the relevant stage of our history. The perception reviewed here is from the book " The Complete Angler" { 1897} where, within its pages, the author conveys his method of catching roach, dace etc,  I am always amazed at the length the author{s} went to, in pursuit of their quarry. There follows an extract from the book concerning the bait, and the time of year in which they should be used.

" In April, with worms and caddis, in the very hot summer months, with little white snails, or with flies under water for he seldom takes them from the top, although dace will. Roach may be caught thus- Take a fly may or ant, sink him with a bit of lead to the bottom near the piles or posts of a bridge or near to any posts of a wier, I mean any deep place where roaches lie quietly, and then pull up your fly very leisurely, and usually a roach will follow your bait to the very top of the water, and gaze on it there, and run it and take it lest the fly should fly away."

"In August you may fish for him with a paste made only from the crumbs of bread which should be a pure fine manchet. But when you fish for him you should have small fine hook, a quick eye and a nimble hand or the bait is lost and the fish also, if one can ever loose what they have never had! "

The author goes on to explain how to procure the 'ant flies'----" Take the blackish ant fly out of a mole hill or ant hill in which place you shall find him in the month of June, or if this is to early in the year, then doubtless you will find them in July , August and most of September.  Gather them alive with both their wings, then put them in a glass that will hold a quart or a pottle { a liquid measure equal to half a gallon} but first put into the glass a handful, or more of the moist earth out of which you gather them, and as much as the roots of the grass of the said hillock, and then put in the flies gently, that they lose not their wings. Lay a clod of earth over it, and then so many as are put in the glass without bruising will live there for a month or more, and in readiness when you fish. But if you would like to keep them longer, then get any great earthen pot, or barrel of 3-4 gallons, which is better, then wash your barrel with water and honey, and having put into it a quantity of earth and grass roots, then put in your flies and cover it  and they will live for a quarter of a year. These in any stream or clear water are a deadly bait for roach and dace, or a chub, and your rule is to fish not less than a handful from the bottom"

The author then relates in great detail the winter baits for roach, dace and chub. ----" About All-Hallontide, and, and so until the frost comes, when you see men ploughing up heathland or sandy ground or greenswards, then follow the plough and you shall find a white worm as big as two maggots, and it hath a red head, you may observe in what ground most are, for there the crows will be very watchful and follow the plough very close."

" It is soft, and full of whitish guts, a worm that is in Norfolk, and some other counties, called a grub, and is bred from the spawn or eggs of the beetle, which she leaves in holes that she digs in the ground, under cow dung, or horse dung, and there rests all winter, and in March or April comes to be, first a red and then a black beetle, gather a thousand or two of these and put them in a peck or two of their own earth, into some tub or firkin, and cover them so that the frosts and cold winds can not kill them. these you may keep all winter, and catch fish with them anytime. And if you put some of them into a little earth and honey a day before you fish you will find them an excellent bait for carp, bream or indeed almost any fish."

                      I envy not him that eats better meat than I do,

                     Nor him that is richer, or wears better clothes than I do,

                     I envy nobody but him, and only him, that catches more fish than I do

                     And such a man is likely to prove an Angler. 

Common Dace 

Image courtesy of Alexander Suvorov  

Drawing of the common dace

Leuciscus leuciscus.jpg

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