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Roly Moses - the tidal Trent king

Continuing his series of the top 12 waggler heroes, Jim Baxter looks at retired police officer and gentle giant Roly Moses.

The River Trent surrounded by trees on one side and buildings on the other

For any angler to make his name for consistency on a tidal stretch of river, he has, I think it fair to say, climbed a form of angling pinnacle. He would certainly have to be versatile and develop a good watercraft for a stretch of water that is constantly changing with the tide.

Tide turns

An incoming tide will often change where the fish are positioned and how they respond to feed, just as an ebbing tide can change their behaviour. The angler might start a match facing and trotting downstream, then the tide comes in and he is suddenly presented with adjusting to a deeper river flowing upstream!

Mastering the terrain

The tidal regular has to be prepared to stand on rocks or adapt his box to uncomfortable terrain, and to move up and down the bank when the water level changes. A high tide can improve shallow areas, whereas a low tide can help those deep, boily swims. These tidal men have to know their tide tables and what the river will do, depth and flow-wise and adapt methods accordingly for all species.

Range of skills

Waggler hero: Roly Moses

Scunthorpe's Roly Moses, a retired police officer, has specialised in the tidal Trent, he knows it like the back of his hand, and his reward has been years of outstanding consistency. Whether he's fishing a feeder for bream, a big pellet for barbel, or a waggler or Bolognese float for roach, he's always one of the favourites to win from a decent draw.

Even when the river's seriously off form, and the best chance of a catch is with an odd flounder on a worm, he's still capable. So Roly has a range of skills, but he excels on the waggler. What follows below is the introduction to his chapter in my book published in 2016.

Gentle giant

Roly Moses is a gentle giant with a mighty reputation. Despite standing 6 foot 4 inches and with the shoulders of a rugby prop forward, he talks in a quiet, measured way.

He also has the measure of the tidal Trent, with scores of victories over the last 20 years, mainly with roach. His success at South Clifton is second to none, winning the regular Thursday Open series (formerly run by Sheffield Amalgamated, now by Scunthorpe DAA) on no less than 13 occasions in the last 15 years at the time of writing in 2014. Incredible form.

Love of the roach

But despite his dominance, Roly modestly claimed Clifton for him was as much about his love of roach as a species and the camaraderie of fishing with like-minded anglers, quote: "the success in competitions when targeting roach is secondary for me to the catching of them. I have splashed down into most of our country's rivers at one time or other, and many lakes too, mostly wild venues, all in pursuit of roach, and it has been a wonderful experience! I have also forged many friendships along the way, with like-minded anglers."

Roly's father, George, introduced him to the joy of river fishing at an early age. Once he learnt how to catch a few roach this soon developed into what he describes as "roach fever". Throughout his angling life he has pursued this species which he calls "the most beautiful" of all fish.


Still competing

Now as a seasoned campaigner (having passed his 65th birthday), and despite enjoying other angling disciplines like fly fishing for trout, he is still driven to float-fish in at least one match a week for what he calls those "pristine" river roach. And he's probably caught more 20lb roach match bags from the tidal river than anyone else, dead or alive, and most of these nets have fallen to a waggler float.

Waggler detail

Looking at his waggler method in detail, Roly insists on a peacock insert float with four no. 8 shot or four no. 10s down the line to suit the swim, and for years he has enjoyed making his own. He kindly sent me a typical Trent sample to illustrate his text, 9 1/2 inch long and arrow straight, finished in green and black. The all-important fine insert spans almost a third of the total length at 3 inch long and is an average 3mm diameter.

Without splash or fuss

Roly likes a loaded float because as he says, "I want them working the moment they enter the water. The perfect loading is in the eye of the beholder, but this is a must-have attribute to my floats." He achieves this with a 1-inch piece of 1/8 inch diameter brass rod inserted into the base of the quill.

A loaded float should hit the water "without splash or fuss when feathered in*"* as he puts it (‘feathering' of course means checking the line at the reel just before the float hits the surface to make it land almost horizontal).

Black tip

To finish the float he adds a tiny swivel at the base to help the float collapse and assist a clean strike, before adding a full coat of superglue to strengthen the quill. Finally, seeing no need to add paint to the float other than 2inch of black at the tip, he prefers to colour the rest of the quill with green or black permanent marker pen.

Small hooks

At the business end of the rig Roly mostly uses a size 22 hook to .08mm trace combined with a 1.5lb main line. The float is locked in position with an AB shot either side (a size halfway between a BB and an AAA shot (.6g), and made by Anchor Tackle). But remember the float is also loaded with over an AAA amount of brass.

Practice makes perfect

Roly stresses the importance of practice to get to know the float's every movement, and why some models cast better than others.

"Practice will tell you what to look for in a bite, and as often as not it is what the float does not do that gives the indication to strike. For you are not always waiting for a ‘pull' to register, but more of a deviation from the float's normal behaviour. Sometimes as you get hold of the catapult to feed, having cast, the bite will come rapidly from a fish very close to the surface, and you must be ready to respond.

"Beware, there is an imbalance with a lot of floats that just makes them unsuitable for the job. You possibly know what I mean, the splash factor, or the wobble as they set up. It is because of the loading that you can get rid of the bulky shot from around the base, and smaller locking shot mean a more aerodynamic flight, smoother and quicker through the air."

Best baits

In the bait department he is a great fan of hempseed in combination with bronze maggots, and will always take a bagful of hemp to feed together with at least five pints of maggots for a six-hour match. At the start of any tidal match he feeds a good carpet of hemp over an area of several yards downstream, but it is the regular maggot feeding that brings the roach to it. Roly has for long had an ace up his sleeve regarding hemp which he revealed in the book as his "hemp waggler" rig.

Special hemp tip

He always has a spare waggler rod set up behind him with a grain of hemp already hooked in place to try at a second's notice. "This was just another rod with an identical float, but armed with that magic seed," was how he described it. And it could transform his match. "The times are legion," he added, "when maggot bites were ‘iffy' and I would pick up that second rod and find the swim solid with hemp roach!"

On this rod the float is usually set only four foot deep and he will change over to it at any time in a match once the better roach start feeding on the drop.

If only I had known

Oh, the benefit of hindsight? I realised immediately on first reading his story, years too late of course, that I'd missed this trick on many a Witham match. I always fed hemp throughout the season and had great confidence in it as a holding bait. But, for all the success I had with roach on the river, I never tried it on the hook and cannot explain why. Roly convinced me in a few words that on the better winter days it would have caught me more roach, and undoubtedly good quality ones to boot.

So there you have it, if you are lost, looking for direction on your favourite river, always ask a policeman! Sorry, only joking, but trying the waggler Roly's way might well improve your results.


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Last Edited: 08 January 2021

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