Trotting for roach on small streams - Justin Watkins

Every winter the tiny river Bourne, a tributary of the mighty river Thames see’s a massive migration of silver fish into it. This is probably to get away from predation, but for whatever reason it’s great news for anglers as it offers some fantastic fishing, predominantly for roach. 

For me it gives me some diversity and gets me away from the stillwater match scene and allows me to step back in time and remember the days when fishing such venues was commonplace. There’s a few miles of free fishing here at Chertsey Meads and today I’ve headed for the middle section which gets me away from the more pressured swims, however the swims are far tighter often with low overhanging trees to contest with. 

Bait couldn’t be easier, maggots and it allows me to use up any leftovers from the weekends matches. Bread punch is an option, especially when the rivers running really clear but today it has some colour which is good.

roach catch 1
stick float

Use a decent sized float so that you can hold the rig back without it being pulled off its line.

hooks to nylon

Sphere Match Hooks to Nylon are my choice for river fishing with maggots.

"On these tiny streams it’s a good idea to be stealthy..."

Tackle wise is also relatively simple and I’ve coupled my13ft Black Magic CFX match rod up with a Sphere MgTi 920 reel loaded with a 3lb floating mainline. At the business end is a 4×14 alloy stem stick, attached with three rubbers and this is shotted shirt button style with the size of shot decreasing as it nears the hook and the space between increasing which allows the bait falls through the water naturally and when edged through the swim the bait is slightly ahead of the float which makes hitting fast roach bites easier. Hook length is a pre-tied and shortened Sphere Match size 16 barbed hook containing two red maggots.  


On these tiny streams it’s a good idea to be stealthy and although I have bought a seat box this was set up well away from the bank and quietly poisoned along with everything else so the fish weren’t spooked straight away. In all honesty if I was going to fish all day then I would bring just the minimal amount of kit and rove around yet with just three hours at my disposal, and with a reliable swim available I’ve opted to stay put and try and build it slowly.

First few trots through with a lighter rig simply see’s tiny bleak and roach so a quick change to a heavier float and upping the feed slightly slowly see’s a few better roach netted. Ninety minutes later and the roach are coming thick and fast, mostly net fish to around 12oz along with the odd skimmer and perch. If I had more time I would be doing this so much more as it’s so enjoyable and rewarding and come the end of the session I’m amazed at what I’ve caught from such a small stream, there must be getting on for 20lb in the net including my first ever silver bream!

If you have a river close by then it’s really worth checking out, especially where it flows though rural areas as these can be full of fish at this time of year.

Justin Watkins

sphere reel

Treat your line so that it floats as this allows for a clean strike when you get a bite.

maggots for fishing

A couple of pints of maggots are all you need for this simple fishing.

big roach fishing

Small streams can hold some surprisingly big roach.

Keep up to date with all our latest match news here.

Find out more about our team of anglers here.


Visit the Browning interactive product catalogue here.