As the cold weather approaches and a lot of us turn our attentions from carp filled commercials to the more consistent natural waters catching better quality fish becomes more important than ever. We asked top natural water angler Lee Wright for his secrets to catching better quality roach.


Hemp’s king:
If I had to pick just one bait for quality roach it would have to be hemp. These small particles, once thought to actually drug roach, are unrivalled in their ability to pick out the bigger fish in your swim. There is however more to it than just turning up with a tin of hemp and filling you net with huge red fins. One of the most fundamental aspects of hemp fishing is getting the feeding right. Getting the feeding right can be the difference between having a dream session and leaving the bank frustrated after missing literally hundreds of bites.

Getting the feeding right: 

The best piece of advice I can give with regards to feeding and hemp fishing is don’t be shy. I always kick off my sessions with half a big pot of hemp that I spread around on the line I’m fishing. I’ve found this gives the roach an area to feed over and helps to draw the fish in. Then for the rest of the session I will feed only with my trusty catapult. For the first hour or two as I’m building up my swim and usually fishing caster or punch on another line, I’ll be feeding two pouches of 20-25 grains every couple of minutes. Just before I start fishing the swim I will cut this down to one pouch of 15-20 grains. This creates more competition in the swim and results in a positive bite that should be easier to hit. 

Rigs for hemp fishing: 

Big roach are notoriously finicky feeders. To maximise your chances of catching a lot of these shy fish you have to add a little finesse to your rigs. I like to fish a 4x12 or 4x14 float with strung out shotting to give my hook bait a slow natural fall. My main line is 0.10 to a fine 0.08 hooklength. A fine wire size 18 hook completes the set up.  My elastic is a solid number 5 elastic and I’ve found that if I unship one section past my top kit, so I’ll unship my top 5 if I’m fishing a top 4 rig, I can swing the majority of the fish I catch. Doing this not only speeds up your catch rate but it also gets the fish out of the water before the hungry winter pike have a chomp on them.  

Hooking hemp: 

I know some anglers are put off fishing hemp as they perceive it to be too difficult to hook. If done correctly it should be easy to hook and stay on should you happen to miss a bite. I use tinned hemp to feed but cook some slightly bigger for the hook, I undercook this slightly so it’s just split and then plunge it into ice-cold water that toughens up the inside slightly. I then place the hook into the slit and roll the hemp around the bend until the hook comes back out the slit. 

Hemp tricks:
During my time fishing hemp I’ve picked up a few tricks that have really helped to put more fish, and bigger fish, in my net. One thing that will often work is to fish with a slightly longer line above your float so occasionally you can flick your rig beyond your feed.  You will often find that the biggest roach will hang back from the main feed area and by doing this you will pick up an odd big net roach.

The other major lesson I’ve learnt is to be prepared to fish well off the bottom. As the roach compete for feed they will come up in the water and snatch at any bait falling in front of them, causing the fast, unhittable bites that are associated with hemp fishing. By shallowing up a few inches at a time until your hook bait is above the frenzy below, the fast bites should stop and you should start to get positive hittable bites. I’ve had occasions when I’ve had to fish up to 2 feet off the bottom in an 8ft deep swim to get positive bites 

Hemp can be a fantastic bait and by following some of the tips and tactics outlined above you should, be able to enjoy a brilliant winter.