We are always buzzing at this time of year with a sense of achievement, satisfaction and relief at moving the tiddlers from tanks to stews and making our three annual deposits of three year olds into the river; an annual high dissolved only by the gathering sense of foreboding at the thought of placing the spawning boards out in the river with fingers crossed that Mother Nature doesn’t bowl us another one of her surprise googley swerve-balls.
That said, as the years pass and we continue to hone our skills at this ‘ere Roach Project malarkey we do manage to dovetail more effectively into the annual sequence of duties and events… Well, we like to think so.
We also try to find interesting slants on telling the same annual story, as it is, after all, always a variation on the same theme; and it has to be said, sometimes with very little variation, leaving us with the usual imponderables of how much we might get away with bitching about the mud and the mozzies (some the size of pigs – Honest!), the numb fingers and toes, and just how much less chocolaty Bourbons are nowadays….
Well, this year we have been gifted with elements that are, collectively, off the scale… I know you might think you’ve heard it all before… well, you have, but not all happening in the same year.
It all started with the moving of the tiddlers from the tanks to the stews in February and it being the best year in the projects’ history. Immediately after this there was a flurry of activity and probably the dullest element of the whole project which is getting the tanks scrubbed clean and filled ready for the next lot of spawn which is usually delivered in late April. Then a short break before the annual releases of the three year olds into the river, which we always schedule for the third week in March (first week of the fishing closed season), and which was predicted to be a below average number… Or so we thought… (… Oh, blimey; I hope that hasn’t given the game away, and revealed the surprise I have in store for the end of this report regarding the fantastic number of roach we stocked this year…)
Everything was going along just nicely until March arrived bringing with it the Beastie from the Eastie which dumped a ton of snow all over us – only the second proper covering we’d known in the project’s history. Then to fuel the gathering frequency of our tutting and woeful sighs the temperature dropped to minus goodness knows what and added four inches of ice to the four inches of snow on the tanks – fortunately we only had fish in two of them; not that that diminishes the level of worry here at Project HQ… We can have sleepless nights over the rate the grass is growing…
Within a week we were revering our little roach for all surviving as a thaw set in and promised to return the rate of the approaching spring to normal. Then the Beastie sent her spiteful daughter to dump another ton of snow all over us just as the time was approaching to release the three year olds, and just when the last thing we needed was yet another spanner being hurled into the works.
We like to do the three releases over three days, thus allowing a more casual execution of duties, and time to natter and mingle with the folks who come along to see the fish going into the river. However, the forecast of wind-chill factors of -8C for the first day sent even us ruffty-tuffty roachers running for the nearest wood-burner…
Day two, and the rocketing temperatures (way up into low single figures) saw the snow melting and us back out there as the river was cold but in good form to receive the roach.
The EA guys, Jim Allan, Phil Rudd and Stuart Kingston-Turner were once again on hand to help, bringing an element of expertise which relieves some of the inevitable pressure, and we forewarned them not to expect too much in terms of fish numbers.
Then, we ate our words (garnished, basted, marinated and perfectly seasoned) as over the two days of 20th and 21st March we stocked the second largest number or roach into the Hampshire Avon in the project’s history… Reason? – Well, we can get a little self-critical or over-expectant (if any of that makes sense), but what had also happened is as the stews we were netting were on their second three yearly cycle (with one fallow year in between), the few dozen roach that had evaded capture the first time around had spawned each year in the stews, and being the protected environment it is, with the biggest threat they face being each other, a good number of offspring had survived, adding to the haul.
So, not only does this show what a load of old tosh our claims of developing this sixth sense of ‘fish-farmer’s eye’ is (just kidding), it also shows just how adaptable our roach are if given half a chance which, of course, is what we are trying to do.
Now, do you see what we have to endure?... Didn’t think so!
I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.
As usual, thanks to everyone who helped, thanks to all you guys for your continued support and thanks to everyone who came along at the release sites to share the moment with us and take the wonderful pictures.