Tuesday, 26 November 2013

High Steaks

It's always difficult when writing a blog, especially where a single species is concerned, to keep it fresh, flowing, and interesting for people to read without repeating articles, or going over old ground. One of the things that does go in your favor when fishing for chub though is that they are a very adaptable species, and as such the chub fisherman himself also has to be prepared to be adaptable, especially when it comes to baits and conditions.

Today dawned cold, with an angry grey sky that threatened to unleash its deluge of cold rain the moment I stepped outside the door, and with an accompanying cold northerly wind, the thought of going fishing to most people must have appeared insane. With temperatures just above freezing point, its sometimes hard to get motivated and it really was one of those days when you actually had to stop and say to yourself "What am I doing?". I say it to myself every time I go fishing in such foreboding conditions, but there I am next week, and the week after, doing exactly the same thing. Are all anglers stark raving mad? To a certain extent I'd say a resounding "Yes!", but as Del Boy famously says Rodney "He who dares wins Rodders". Its the magic that surrounds fishing that keeps you going year after year, never knowing what your going to haul up from the watery depths, a magic that only an angler can know.

Now don't get me wrong, I love fishing in winter and I don't mind getting wet (I'm not a fair weather angler by any means), but I detest getting wet just getting the gear out of the car before I've even started fishing. If I'm fishing and it starts raining then fair enough. All I will say is thank god for modern water proof, and wind proof clothing. They have saved my skin on more than one occasion that could have ended in a very wet, soggy, and miserable day. We've all been there, soaked through without inadequate clothing, and its not fun at all. These day I'm fully protected from the elements thanks to Korum's excellent two piece thermal suit which ticks all the boxes, plus it saves having to carry a brolly which is not suited to roving for chub on a river.

Despite the threat of rain, the weather didn't actually turn out too bad. Yes is was cold, damn cold, but in the end it didn't rain at all. I'm guessing the weatherman got it wrong this time around.

At quick look at the river levels the night before, and I could see it was fining down nicely after some recent rain further up the Waveney valley, and when arriving at the river, the clarity of the water was again looking spot on. In addition to my steak and mince that I've been wanting to experiment with for chub for a while, I'd also brought along that perennial winter chub fisherman's favorite bait, cheese paste, just in case they didn't fancy the meaty morsels I was offering. I've been doing so well on it in recent weeks it would have foolish not to include it as a back up bait.

Although chub may be synonymous with cheese paste or bread flake, they are actually one of our rivers most voracious freshwater predators and its this carnivorous instinct I have tried to exploit on my latest venture down the Waveney.
Chub are equally as predatory as perch or pike and many a stickleback, minnow, crayfish, roach, and even frogs, have all ended up disappearing down their cavernous mouths. You see chub have one of  the most powerful sets of sharp, crushing pharyngeal teeth of any of our freshwater species. Anything that enters a chub's is quickly swallowed, minced to a pulp, never to be seen again.

 I hope by using large chunks of meat dripping with blood, fat, and flavor, I'll be able to excite the chubs predatory instinct. It's certainly not a bait that is used extensively on my river and should hopefully provide me with a distinct 'edge' as its such a selective bait.
Steak and mince seemed to be a very popular bait for chub in the 1980's especially on our northern rivers such as the Trent, where it remains to this day a top class bait, but on other rivers it seems to be one of those baits that has fallen out of favor and very much remains a background or a forgotten bait.
When you think about all those accidental chub captures that pike anglers have over the years on dead baits may not be just 'flukes'. Again its the chub's predatory nature coming into play.

The best part of fishing with steak and mince is that it really lends itself to the roving approach, a style of fishing that nearly all winter chub fishing is based around. As we all know there is not much point staying put in one swim all day when chub are on the cards unless the chosen swim holds good numbers of  fish. There are many days when the fish won't come to you so you have to go and find them, and you can cover miles of river in a day.  

I prepared my mince the night before by giving it soak in a good glug of Richworth Liquid Liver to boost its natural attraction further. This seemed to enhance and compliment the wonderful natural meaty aroma already emanating from the mince. Liquid Liver has always been recommended as a great winter attractor as its so water soluble, and because its a natural, its quite hard to over do it.

With the steak for the hook bait I decided to give it a good glug in some Nutrabaits Trigga Bait Soak Complex before casting out. This bait soak contains  a blend of Liquid Trigga, Nutramino, Multimino PPC, Corn Steep Liquor and Betaine HC1. I'm not 100% sure what they put into the Liquid Trigga but it absolutely stinks. I did read somewhere that it contains liquid chicken liver which would go some way to explaining why Trigga has a very good track record for chub. Chicken flavored baits are notoriously good chub attractors. Another good attractor that is favored by many for added attraction is Dynamite Baits Predator Plus liquid. This blood red liquid is filled with attractive feeding stimulants and has been a very good chub attractor when used in conjunction with meat and fish based baits, especially in winter. You could even sprinkle an Oxo cube over the meat if you don't have anything else, but I'm sure even that would work well!

Being prepared to put that bit of extra effort into making your bait that little bit different to everybody else's can certainly make a difference in the long run. A good chub angler should be prepared to go that extra mile and put himself out.

We tackled up in dad's usual first choice swim, so at least this way I would be on hand with the net quicker (well he does have a habit of catching in this swim very quickly!), and then drank my first cup of coffee of the day while I took in the scene. Looking over to the other side of the river I could see a pair of long tailed tits busily foraging around in the bushes, flitting from branch to branch, foraging for a tasty morsel to build up their winter fat supply's. A flash of blue signaled the fly past of  a kingfisher as it went looking for its fishy breakfast.  It never ceases to amaze me of the rich diversity of wildlife that is literally right on your doorstep if you look carefully and being out on the bank, the fisherman has a ring side seat of all.

There really is no need for finesse when fishing with steak and mince as I was using pieces of steak on the hook as big as two inches, so I tackle up with 6lb mainline and a size 4 or 6 Kamasan B983 Wide Gape Specialist hook. With a slight variation to my normal rig, above the hook I placed two medium Drennan float stops, and above that a Drennan Swivel Bead, with a small loop of line through eye of the swivel that holds the desired amount of shot to hold bottom. Should I have felt like using a small feeder to introduce the mince then all I would have to do is remove the shot, and clip on a small feeder using a Drennan Safe Link.

I don't tend to use a feeder that much when chub fishing these days, mainly because of the small and intimate nature of the stretches of river I fish, I don't feel its needed and that it causes too much disturbance, yet on other bits of river that are wider a feeder may come in useful. That's the beauty of this simple rig, knowing that you don't have to break down your end tackle to make adjustments.

 I pre-baited my chosen swim with a palm full of mince and a few small chucks of steak, then walked up to where dad had cast in and was still (unusually) waiting for a bait. His swim didn't seem to be producing this time around, but today the Waveney was being moody, and was not going to give up its prizes easily. After about ten minutes I returned to my swim impaled a lump of steak on the hook and then dunked in the Trigga dip. Five minutes went by, then before I knew it twenty minutes had elapsed and not bites had materialized. It was time for a move, and at least if I was walking around I might be able to get the blood circulating again.

We headed down to the bottom of the stretch, much further than we had ventured down there before, and baited swims on the way. This way on our return journey we could fish each swim knowing that the fish had sampled our bait. There was an absolute plethora of swims at our disposal as we were now well and truly into uncharted territory, and as we walked around each bend it was like Capability Brown had landscaped the river for our favorite species in mind. Right at the bottom of a field I found an absolute screamer of a swim, an overhanging alder tree on a bend that stretched nearly all the way across this narrow part of the river. If any swim was built for chub then this was it.

The flow of the water was quite brisk in comparison to some parts of the river and I was sure that there had to be some chub in amongst the tangle of underwater roots down there just waiting for my bait, which incidentally, was cheese paste again this time. After flicking out a few small pieces I followed them quickly with my hook bait, knowing that a chub in this swim couldn't be too far away and in this respect I was right.

The bait couldn't have been in the water for more than five minutes when I started to get indications on the tip that something was intent on eating, but something strange was afoot. I kept getting continuous fast rattles and pulls on the tip with out the bite really developing, and these carried on for some time. Quickly dad noticed that my line was actually cutting through the water upstream away from us so I decided to strike. I felt immediate resistance as the fish shot upstream against the flow, and in a bid to free itself from the hook it had got itself buried in some died back rushes. No amount of pulling and tugging was going to free this fish as it was well and truly wedged. In the end I had to get Dad, who was enjoying a spot of brunch, to have poke around with the landing net handle to see if the fish would free itself. Luckily this is exactly what happened as he managed to get the fish into the net without any further mishaps. Good old cheese paste and an even better gillie had saved a blank again!

Although the fish was not that big at only 3lb, it had taken the size 4 hook right down into its throat. Luckily a pair of artery forceps was just the job to extract the hook quickly and safely without any damage to the fish.

By this time the weather had now warmed up slightly and this certainly seemed to spur the fish on to feed a little more. I have noticed this while doing lots of winter fishing in the past that with a slight increase in air temperature, their appetite increases. Sometime you don't have to fish after dark to catch chub in the winter and, early morning and midday can also be very productive.

We were once again on the move, leapfrogging swims on our way back to our original starting position. Dad had another bite in a previously un-fished swim, while I remained bite less. Our next stop of was a swim that we generally hadn't given much attention to in the past, but Dad decided to give it a go non the less. As I had quietly ensconced myself into my latest swim I heard a shout from up the bank, and Dad was into a fish. I seem to spend more time these days running up the bank netting his fish than I do my own. Well it keeps me fit I suppose!

The fish looked to be a little bigger than mine in the water, and after a strong and spirited fight, it was soon laying in the folds of the awaiting net. At 4lb 2oz itt was a beautiful looking fish and was in mint condition apart from a piece of its upper tail fin was missing. No doubt the effect of an otter attack but this fish will certainly be recognizable in the future should we be lucky enough to catch it again.

The captures of these two fish had both happened in the warmest part of the day, and I'm sad to say that no more bites materialized despite both if us fish hard. As the lights from a nearby town twinkled in the distance, the smell of a coal fire wafted in the air, and the temperatures again began to drop sharply it was time to call it a day and begin the long trek back to the car and a warm home. Although the steak and mince combination didn't work for me this time around, I remained undeterred and shall certainly be giving it another go in the future.


  1. Top Blogging Peter. Always a Pleasure to Read and as Gripping as Ever ;))

  2. Thanks Stuart. I'm glad you and other people are enjoying the blog as much as I am writing it.

  3. Nicely laid out with good story and range of photos.

  4. Wow! That means so much to me Phil especially from someone who is an avid blogger and great angler such as yourself. Thank you.