I discussed this with top fish breeder and Anglers Paradise boss, Zyg Gregorek, who told me that he believes the record will eventually reach double figures. This no doubt will further increase the popularity of this species.
Zyg went on to explain that he believed that all the bigger orfe in the country were the selectively bred golden orfe. He gave two reasons for this. Firstly, the golden variety had, through the pet trade, been here longer and had had more time to grow than the more recently imported native form, often referred to as ide. Secondly, these golden orfe are mainly stocked in lakes where they are not battling against the stream and are often well looked after by owners, with enhanced feeding to give higher growth rates.
Zyg also pointed out that golden orfe, blue orfe, koi orfe, ordinary orfe and ide were all the same species. As such there are no separate records for the various varieties of orfe. He also pointed out that there was no evidence to suggest that the genes that determine colour affect the growth rate of the fish. Basically, the various colours in orfe are the result of selective breeding, in much the same way as Mendel produced various colours in his sweet peas. To do this with fish you need a series of breeding pens. You start with a few fish that have some of the characteristics that you want. This could be a few red or blue scales. The fish are allowed to breed and the fish with say the most red scales, are removed to another small pond and again allowed to breed. The process is then repeated with the next generation and continued until you have perfect red fish. This can be carried out for any colour of fish or mixture of colours. If you look round the fish farm at Anglers Paradise you will in fact see many small ponds that can be used for selective breeding.
At Anglers Paradise, Zyg has at least six golden orfe on site that now must be well over eight pounds. He also has blue orfe and koi orfe to over six pounds. These are smaller as they are younger fish but they are all showing the same high growth rate as the larger fish. However all the varieties of orfe on site are still growing and have not yet reached their maximum weight.
There is great similarity between roach and orfe that has lead to errors being made by importers. There have been cases of orfe being imported with roach, leading to stocks of naturally coloured orfe (or ide) being found in some Yorkshire rivers and canals. Some reported big roach are in fact ide. This was seen in the Angling Times of 1/3/2000 where there was a classic story of a very experienced angler believing that he had broken the roach record by 4oz with a 41b 7oz fish. This was in fact an ide and not a roach which the Angling Times staff quickly spotted. They must be congratulated on their vigilance in spotting the difference. They also gave a very good account of how to distinguish between the two species. A roach has generally a deeper body with a shorter head, with 9 to 10 branched rays in the dorsal fin whilst the ide has a slimmer body with a narrower dorsal fin containing only 8 branched rays. The scales of the ide are smaller with between 56 and 61 scales in the lateral line whilst the roach has between 42 to 45 scales in its lateral line. Both species have sharp fins.
Unfortunately, some large golden orfe (like the current record at 71b 14oz 8dr from Lymm Vale by Mick Pardoe in 1998) are not good biological specimens. They have damaged rounded fins possibly due to being placed in keep nets at some stage, this makes them look more chub like. I stress, a biologically good specimen has sharp fins.
Orfe are much faster growing than roach and spawn much earlier in the season, sometimes as early as mid February. This is not surprising when you consider that the ide or natural orfe comes originally from a cooler climate, being found naturally in the River Rhine eastwards into parts of Asia.
However, having discussed the species our main interest is how to catch them. Orfe, like rudd, are good surface feeders and can offer terrific sport off of the top in summer. These are smaller, more delicate feeders than carp and require a much lighter approach than that used for carp. I use a fairly powerful 13ft float rod with a fixed spool reel loaded with 41b b.s. line to a small home-made flat line controller. A 6ft length of 31b b.s. line is used as a trace from the controller to the hook. I prefer to use Maxima green for the trace as I believe the light colour does not show up as much as some lines on the surface, and feel it definitely gives me an edge. I also use Maxima green for fishing a dry fly for the same reason. Although orfe will take a whole range of surface baits including bread, dog biscuits and most carp floaters, my favourite is floating crysalids.
My tactics are to take about two pints of fresh floating crysalids with me and to continually fire them out on to the water with a catapult. I then wait until the fish are confidently rising to take the bait. It is only then that I cast out my end rig baited with two floating crysalids. Bites are generally instantaneous and it is very common to catch a fish on the first cast. However, provided that there is plenty of bait on the surface the fish will continue to feed.
I once used these tactics at the Anglers Paradise tench lake to produce a 1001b plus bag of various types of orfe mixed in with some nice golden tench. There were individual orfe specimens to well over four pounds in the bag. It was certainly terrific sport made even more exciting as the swim turned red with orfe. All the fish were in terrific condition with perfect tails and mouths as Zyg does not allow keep nets or barbed hooks.
Several years ago, Virginia had to go on a school trip to York in November and wanted to prepare for it by going there in the October half term. I did not fancy bed and breakfast in York and fortunately saw an advert for Willow Waters at Pocklington near York. It was about 10 miles away down a fast straight road. This was ideal as we had our own detached bungalow on a lake with parking by the side. There were two other lakes on site including a well established carp lake. We did most of our trips to York in the morning which gave me the afternoon free while Virginia worked in the bungalow on planning the school trip. This was not the ideal time to fish the lakes as it had turned very cold and we were greeted with a white frosty lawn every morning.
I fed the carp lake up with a few high leakage bird seed boilies before fishing it. I struggled to catch a few doubles, it was hard going and very cold. One afternoon, I was struggling to get a run when Leeds match angler Ron Fearnley turned up. Ron is well known on the match circuit and a greatly respected angler. Although we were both writing for David Hall publications at the time we had never actually met. Ron came over and sat behind me to tell me in typically blunt Yorkshire terms that although the carp lake fished brilliantly in warmer weather it was poor in frosty conditions. He went on to say that a good angler in Summer could get thirty good carp in a week. (In fact I had 64 the following Summer between 8lb and 201b 4oz and had struggled in the cold weather to catch two.) Ron suggested that I pack up and fish in front of the bungalow on Duckwood lake.
I packed up and went back to the bungalow to have a cup of tea and a bite to eat. I introduced Ron to Virginia and we had a good chat before starting to fish. Ron explained that we would target the orfe. Near the island, despite the cold, they could be caught using sub surface tactics. I was surprised but knew of Ron's reputation so followed his advice. I set up with 13ft Shakespeare match rod and a fixed spool reel loaded with 21b line. The terminal tackle was a spliced Pat Tarrant peacock waggler locked in position by all the shot. There was no shot down the line or on the 1.5 1b trace to a size 20 hook.
Whilst I was setting up Ron fed the swim. His targeting was perfect, he kept firing out half a dozen maggots at such regular intervals that you could set your watch by them. The feeding could not have been better as I cast out, feathering the float down so that it landed about 18 inches away from the island. Within seconds of it hitting the water I had a bite that I missed, but caught a nice golden orfe on the next cast. However, I could not fail to notice that Ron just kept feeding whether I was playing a fish or not. I went on to catch a nice bag of golden orfe with individual fish to well over 21b. There were also a few small carp and a couple of koi carp in the bag. I thought that this was amazing. Bagging up on sub surface tactics on a very cold day! This just illustrates that orfe are a cold water species.
Since then we have regularly visited Pocklington and kept in contact with Ron. We constantly communicate over the phone and exchange ideas.
One great improvement in my sub surface rig is that I have replaced my waggler with a new float called "the skittle". This is a Pat Tarrant special designed for fishing up in the water or trotting shallow water. Pat and I believe that it is the float impacting too deeply that scares fish rather than the splash factor. The skittle is therefore designed not to impact too deeply in the surface layer. It is skittle shaped, hence its name, with a flat bottom to stop it going deep. It is also a very short float with a thinner top for bite registration. However, the top is not too thin as we need the visibility. The fattish base gives it some stability, whilst being short it can be fished shallower than the conventional waggler.
The skittle is not yet commercially produced in large quantities but Pat still makes them up specially for me and his friends. If readers are interested in obtaining a supply of skittles I suggest that they try twisting Pats arm by phoning him on 01322 337628.
I have used the skittle on Anglers Paradise Specimen Golden Orfe and Tench lake with great success. I have had golden orfe using this float to 61b 2oz from this lake. It has certainly proved a winner as I have lost count of the 51b plus fish I have taken since changing tactics to fish the skittle. I once used it on a warm Summer day on the tench lake to catch well over 1001b of orfe using three pints of maggots. I fished at a depth of about 18 inches and the water literally turned red as the orfe fought over the constant trickle of maggots being introduced into the swim. That was terrific sport and illustrates
the potential of orfe in a fishery.
When it has been cold for a long time and the water temperature has been low for months, I have found it difficult to catch orfe on sub surface tactics. Under these circumstances, I am forced into using a bottom bait. However the orfe can still be very responsive on the bottom under these conditions.
I have fished Anglers Paradise in late winter-come early spring on many occasions and still had plenty of orfe. At these times there has often been snow around so I suppose that I was asking a lot to expect anything to feed but the orfe have always provided sport. I doubt if any native English still water species would have fed so well under these circumstances.
Under these conditions I prefer to use a Pat Tarrant insert waggler fished over-depth with a red worm hook bait. Over the years I have found that in really cold water that I have had better results by using small red worms rather than maggots. However maggots do come a close second. The only odd thing about fishing for orfe in very cold conditions with bottom baits is the bites. The float often just dips about a quarter of an inch and remains there. A firm strike hooks the fish most times. I believe that the orfe are moving up and eating the bait on the spot without moving off. These fish are not small as I have had them from Anglers Paradise to 51b 9oz. Again, this fish just dipped the float and did not move off. I have also seen crucian carp in clear water feeding in this manner without moving off.
In conclusion, I must state that I believe that orfe are a very attractive interesting species that have a lot to offer fisheries. They grow big and can often be caught in all weathers, even in hard winter conditions.