Way back in the dusty and rusty old days of this blog the scaly subject of the likely maximum size of canal roach was broached.
At the time dear old Jeff Hatt & I figured that two pounders must currently exist locally, we live 13 miles apart by road, based on our collective experiences. Jeff's with hard won, deep winter, whole lobworm-suckered fish of up to a few drams under the magic weight and my own with sheer numbers of pound plus fish.
At the time we both felt the North Oxford Canal offered the greatest chance of that fish. Zander infested, otter plundered and historically supportive of fish over a pound, even thirty years ago, with a good depth and with the small fish constantly cropped leaving the survivors to grow, and grow fat. A stock of roach well over a pound and approaching two was introduced from a trout reservoir decades ago and their progeny must form these contemporary shoals.
Since that time things have moved on to the point, and I would never have believed I would say this, where it is now possible to catch a fish well over a pound to order if conditions are right. How much over is down to dedication, knowing the water and it's foibles, and luck.
Three September's back Jeff considered a fish I took of 2.3.10 was the biggest authenticated canal roach ever but immediately this was usurped by one over 2lbs 4ozs from the Gloucester Canal.
The research Jeff put into historic roach records, taking him into waters that even the likes of Mark Everard and Mark Wintle knew little of, was as extensive as one would expect of the blogfather of angling, but it threw-up very little in the way of authenticated catches. That's not to say there haven't been any in the past of course, there will have been, harvesting it and squeezing the pips from the fruit however is another matter.
Plenty of stories - zero science.
Even the now legendary Albert Oldfield stories are not beyond reproach it seems and, generally speaking, when it comes to questions like, "...but did he weight it?", mist descends over the tumbleweed
I came across a mounted fish on eBay a couple of years ago, labelled as from New Bradwell canal, Milton Keynes to you and I, which from memory was supposed to have been two pounds, eight ounces. My memory may mislead me there but it was certainly in excess of the 2.4 recent best. The fish however would come with no certificate and lacked authentification by anyone who knew the circumstances of capture.
It is surely inevitable that larger, heavier canal fish must exist but there are obstacles to their capture and surely the greatest of these is a dearth of potential captors. One usually feels an extensive rutiloid furrow is being ploughed armed only with a Billy Lane ducker.
It is against this backdrop that news of big roach is a welcome surprise but always received with an element of doubt. Most anglers catch roach but a good proportion would not weigh a fish. There could be a number of reasons as to why but these aren't particularly relevant here.
So when a reliably informed bankside contact advised that a big canal fish had been taken nearby it could not initially be ignored. He showed me a photograph on his phone that looked convincing enough as often one's immediate impression on seeing such images is one of rejection.
I had to know more. A little detective work via The Lady Burton's Facebook account brought me into contact with it's tamer, one Jack Williams, a tackle shop worker, who just fancied a late hour by the canal until dusk.
A blend of pole float tactics on rod and line was Jack's favoured method feeding maggots in the boat channel and fishing two on an eighteen hook. Apart from the pole float a fairly standard approach one might say.
On this length of canal though a session's success can hinge on that one sudden bite and sure enough the only indication of interest in this visit produced the goods in, first the strength, and then the shape of a rod-bending roach of mind-bending proportions (we came close to getting Uri Geller in there!).
Once in the net...wonderment.
But how big?...and was it big or HUGE?
The trusty lightweight dial scales came to the rescue and, incredibly, the needle twizzled round to a massive two pounds, six ounces.
To my mind, and let's face it there aren't many others out there with an interest in such matters, on the face of it comfortably the biggest authenticated roach ever from an English canal.
And this is what the trophy shot looked like...
Jack and I entered into some brief correspondence during which it was decided he would check the accuracy of his scales and we would endeavour to work out the length of the fish.
Many times the impact on fish size attributable to offline marinas has entered and crashed around in my psyche. There are many in this part of the world...more I suspect than anywhere else.
To produce, now proven, multiple roach over 2lbs, hybrids over four and bream, the peak size of which are not yet fathomed, but clearly also over four pounds, from what is a plain, narrow canal with little respite for its stocks from weekend and holiday boats...no, this cannot be chance. The coincidence of these safe and plentiful offline growing-lakes has an influence without a doubt.
Sadly Jack's scales showed a six ounce disparity and now languish awaiting refuse collection day but that should not cause us to underplay the fact that this was a two pound roach. To my mind a genuine fish of a lifetime and a truly marvellous fish from such an unlikely source, the humble cut, and, yes, a HUGE roach, without doubt.
So how big do they go then?
Wouldn't it be awful if someone told us?
The mystery is all.