Monday, 28 October 2013

A Brace Of Fives

I've caught many good sized chub over the years, bigger fish than in the story I'm about to retell but sometimes its not the size that matters (well that's what my wife says!), but rather the memories that come flooding back and with that an accompanying sense of achievement. This is about the the first time I caught a brace of five pound chub, something up until that time I'd never achieved, despite twenty years of fishing for the species.
As with all my chubbing trips I'm accompanied by my father, which is something we have always done together. Like a modern day Mr Crabtree and Peter we are constantly learning from each other and swapping tips. Sometimes two heads are better than one especially where chub are concerned.

We arrived at the river at first light. The weak sun just creeping up over the horizon as we unpacked the gear from the car. With the air temperature just above freezing the cold air rasped our lungs, each breath a struggle.We must have looked a strange sight to passing dog walkers that morning. Dressed in our thermal suits, boots, and with woolen hats pulled down tightly around necks to fend of the bitingly cold wind, we looked like a pair of arctic explorers from yesteryear, sallying forth to do battle with the elements. But the weather, no matter how bad, could dampen our spirits which soared high with anticipation at each passing step took us closer to our quarry.

The river ran low and clear with winters grip firmly established and the grey landscape a ethereal winter wonderland incased in a heavy frost. The air crackled with excitement and promise, as the mist rose from the water and we seemed at one with world. I soon arrived at one of my favorite winter spots, a place I've fished many times in the past but is unusual for a winter swim as it is rarely over 3ft deep, yet seems to be very productive owing to overhanging nearside cover where the water is a little slower than normal. It was one of those swims that most people would have walked past but with years of experience under my belt I knew better than to ignore a swim like that.

I tackle up with my usual chubbing rod that I've used for the last couple of years and wouldn't want to be without an 11ft Free Spirit Specialist Advanced. It has got a soft through action and has a test curve of just over the pound mark making is a great rod for chub fishing using a variety of styles. The ideal rod will have a nice soft tip with enough power in the butt to keep fish out of marginal weed and snags. As an added bonus the ends of the quiver tips are painted white, but I go one step further and paint nearly the entire tip white. White is the most visible colour especially in low light conditions and its in these conditions that the bigger specimens usually get caught, yet it still amazes me that tackle company’s insist on producing tips painted all the colours of the rainbow! I also like to add an isotope attachment, which combined with the white quiver, adds increased bite indication.

Freezing fingers hampered my time in setting up but while doing so I deposited a few small lumps of highly aromatic cheese paste into the swim and left it to rest for an hour. I've found in the past that sometimes baiting up with large amounts of bread can have a negative effect on the fish's appetite and fill them up too quickly during winter.
My first tentative cast landed spot on the money as my 2 swan shot link ledger was washed downstream and under the overhanging nettles where it held bottom perfectly.
While waiting for a bite I attempted to get some feeling back into my fingers as I cradled a hot cup of coffee, but I didn't have to wait long for a bite, and what a bite it was! In typical chub fashion a small pluck following by a full blown pull round on the tip, had my cup of coffee flying one way and me the other, grabbing the rod with hand and battling with an unseen foe. I knew from the beginning that this chub was of a good size as it made hard for the the nearside cover and hugged the bottom, trying to transfer my hook to some sort of snag.
I used the power of the rod to its utmost and at last minute managed to steer the chub into open water where it seemed to tire quickly. Soon the chub was safely in the landing net and I breathed a sigh of relief. As I lifted the net clear of the water I knew this fish was larger than the average size of 4lb for the river. With scales and net already zeroed I called over my dad to assist in the ritual weighing procedure. The dial on the Avons zipped around to a very pleasing 5lb. I was very happy to catch that fish as I always say that when fishing catching a fish is a bonus, but a big one is always welcome. Little did I know what what the rest of the day was to bring.

After another cup of coffee to settle my nerves I set about hunting down some more chub. A number of other swims which looked certain for a bite and were usual 'banker' swims, failed to produce a single bite. With all the will in the world I could not get that tip tip to move, despite making alterations to my rig and using different baits.
As the day continued to draw on and with the chances of a bite increasing as the light levels decreasing, I decided to return to my original swim with the hope of catching another fish.

The set up was exactly the same as before with cheese paste once again the chosen bait. This time I had to wait longer for a bite, which came just as the sun had set. Again the bite was a classic, one of those slow draws that only chub can give, with the following tug of war a battle of wits and raw power. Despite my best efforts this fish certainly knew its business as the chub got me firmly lodged in the cover which I had tried so hard to keep it from reaching. This time I had my game head on, as I quickly got downstream and managed to extricate to chub from its watery lair. As soon as it was free it shot out into the middle of the river where is wallowed around quite happily on the surface until I got it into the landing net, now crisp like cardboard with frost. As soon as I attempted to lift the fish out I knew it was a good one but I hadn't dared dream that I might catch two fish over 5lb in a session. I mean thing like that only happen to other anglers don't they? I carefully zeroed the scales again and with shaking hands the dial banged around to 5lb dead.

To say I was happy was a big understatement - I was over the moon! I know to some chub anglers this may see this of little achievement but not everybody is fortunate enough to live near rivers holding very big chub like to Avon, Stour or Ouse. Nor do I wish to fish these rivers as I derive my greatest pleasure from tracking down the bigger fish in my local river. In these circumstances the chub angler should have realistic targets for the river they are fishing. For example over the last three season I have only taken three chub of 5lb+ from my local river, whereas my father's biggest fish, over the same time period stand at 5lb, 5lb 12oz, 5lb 14oz, and 6lb 3oz. Two of my 5lb fish+ came in the same day! This could well be down to inept angling at times on my part but is only goes to show the challenge involved in chasing down the bigger specimens. There are other anglers who have fished the same river for a lot longer than me who have never broken the 6lb mark. This challenge is what keeps me coming back, week after week, month after month, year after year, in all weather conditions, in search of that special fish over the magical 6lb mark. Luck certainly plays a big part, no doubt about it, as well as natural angling ability but, as in all walks of life, just as some people excel at sports or mathematics for example, others are natural born anglers.

Two bites and two 5lb chub on a bitterly cold winters day is good going by anybody's standards and it just goes to show with a little thought and perseverance what can be achieved.

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