Sunday, 29 December 2013

Short Session Success

First of all apologies of the lack of a proper blog update in the last month. This was down to severe flu (or should that be "man flu" as the wife calls it?), which completely knocked me off my feet. This came at a very unexpected time and just when the river was fining down after a flood for the first time this year. Typical eh? I'm still feeling the effects of the flu but when the river beckons there is little to do but go with the flow. It's one of those feelings that is instilled into all fisherman what ever species they fish for and it gnaws away at you until you just have to go. A breath of fresh air, a release from everyday life if you like, there is no other feeling like it.

Another short session was on the cards today and in circumstances like this mobility is the key to catching. Staying in one place is unlikely to reap the rewards that you are seeking and a more pro-active and mobile approach will significantly increase the odds in your favor. Being loaded down with unnecessary and large, bulky items of tackle such as umbrellas and chairs are a complete no no under any circumstances. Not only does it add considerably to the weigh you have to carry around with you it certainly makes you more reluctant to move even if the situation calls for it. The roving approach and winter chub go hand in hand with each other and have done so for many years, and will continue to do so. One rod and reel, landing net, small rucksack, small assortment of terminal tackle, a ball of cheese paste, and maybe a few slices of bread is all that is needed.

Terminal Tackle is carried in a box like this

With this session being a few days after Christmas, I was hoping that Santa had left me one late present that I'd hopefully be unwrapping in the folds of my landing net, namely a fat winter chub. Short session success is ultimately down to knowing your river like the back of your hand, and in this respect I'm lucky that I know every likely looking spot, that will in most circumstances, produce at least one bite even on a hard day. This degree of local knowledge certainly pays dividends when chub are your quarry and I prefer to avoid the 'chuck it and chance it' approach' where ever possible.

The thing with me is that I can't pick and choose my days because of work, so I have to make the best of it on the day in question and choose my approach carefully to suit the conditions. I don't have the luxury of being able to go when the conditions are perfect but it does make you fish harder and think a lot more when conditions are far from ideal. How many times have we not gone fishing because the conditions don't look favorable, then you hear of a friend that went that day and caught loads? There is usually one fish still willing to bite and it might just be that big one I've been after for so long! 

By keeping and eye on the river level data provided by the Environment Agency website it was plain to see that the river has seen some serious water in the last few days, with a flood peaking on Christmas Day itself, but was now beginning to slowly drop to an acceptable level. I know from previous experience that if the river is above a certain level then its not worth venturing out no matter how much I want to go. We had planned to go a day or so earlier but it was not to be. Dad kept on phoning me asking if we were going. I felt like General Eisenhower making the decision to go before D-Day. It was my responsibility to weigh all the factors and decide - twenty-four hours before we were due to go - whether I would give the order to go. In the end the it there could only be one outcome - ‘Well, we’ll go!”

The plan of attack was simple - catch a chub each and then bounce back home before the wife and kids missed me too much. Bait were also easy to decide on and they were classic flood water baits - cheese paste, lob worms and Spam flavored with Lone Angler's Garlic Spice (Optispice) due for release soon. I'm really getting back into the Lone Angler ( range of baits and flavors that I used all those years ago (to reiterate again I'm not sponsored by any bait or tackle company), and had some great catches on, so will continue to use these products for the foreseeable future. I remember talking to Trefor West a year or so ago now and we had quite an in depth discussion about flavors. People were always telling him to try this or that flavor, but Trefor summed it up perfectly -
"I don't need to try those. I've been using Sausage Sizzle, Ocean Pride, and Optispice for well over twenty years. I've caught hundreds of chub and barbel on those so I don't need to try different flavors". 
Confidence indeed! I wonder how many of us would have that kind of confidence if we were limited to only three flavors for the majority of the rest of our fishing career? I was confident that all we had to do was put our baits in the right place and no self respecting chub could resist the bait. Quiver tip rods, simple link ledgers, and size 4 or 6 hooks B983 completed the set up.

The day was going to be a cold one once again but were soon dressed in our thermals to keep the biting wind at bay. The river had certainly changed since we last visited. Flood water debris clogged branches that had been in the water creating new and interesting swims that all looked like they could, and should, contain chub. As mentioned in my blog entry discussing flood water tactics, it can all look very daunting, but the more you fish in conditions like this the more you get used to them, the more you learn, and as a result, the more confident and experienced you will grow. You will also notice a increase in your catch rate when conditions are far from ideal. A side effect of this is that not many other anglers venture out, so you pretty much have the banks to yourself even on a weekend (unless your fishing a barbel river!).

River Waveney fining down....
Our baiting ritual was a little different from normal owing to the extra water. I didn't see much point in throwing in even small bits of cheese paste or meat as there was no way of telling where it would have ended up, thus it could have even made the fishing harder as they chased after the bits that were washed past them in the flow. In the end I chose single hook baits surmising that the fish had to either take it or leave it before it was gone. The conditions also meant that because the fish should be shoaled in the slackest parts of the river conserving energy, it was highly likely that if we caught one then other captures could be on the cards.

The river was in perfect condition for a spot of chub fishing, and was, in fact the best I've seen it this year. It was going to be hard going despite my eternal optimism every time I go out on the bank, yet still clinging to hope I knew that all it came down to was location and watercraft to winkle out a few chevin's.

I walked along the bank searching for a very specific type of swim that would fulfill my requirements. A swim with a smooth flow at a walking place or any type of slack such as a cattle drink where the fish could also have some protection out of the force of the flow are my preferred choice but under cut banks should also never be ignored. I'd soon found a suitable swim of my liking. The flow was speeding down the center of the river but on the inside was a small slack created by some bank side debris and behind this a more gentle flow was observed. It was again one of those swims that many anglers would walk past or not give a second look, but the name of the game was to try these smallest of nooks and crannies as each and every one could contain fish.

I cast out into the raging torrent and let out a belly of line, the quiver tip springing back and forward as the rig and bait were washed into the near bank slack where it settled quickly. I tighten up a little to the tip and sat back to await a bite. I love fishing for chub in this style. What could be more natural than a bait washed downstream with the current into the lair of  a chub? Whilst waiting for a bite I realized once again what an honor and privilege it is to be out on the bank in all our glorious British winter weather. The smells, the, sounds, the sights, made it a magical place to behold.

Unfortunately I didn't get a bite in this swim as I  so after fifteen minutes or so I decided to move downstream to a large cattle drink that is always worth a cast or two. Again a large bit of paste was molded around the hook, cast out, and left to settle. Ten minutes went by, then twenty. Still nothing. Where were those chub hiding? Walking back up the bank to where Dad was fishing it certainly was a very pleasant day to be out on the bank. The air was so fresh, pure and clean. Arriving at Dad's swim I could see he was fishing very close into the bank. He had missed a bite earlier and cursed his luck. We were having a chat about the conditions and other fishing related subjects when all of a sudden his tip pulled round and kept on going. A classic chub bite! The fish was darting all over the river trying to rid itself of the hook in the strong but Dad was in control and the end was inevitable. The fish was quickly in the net and although not big a 3lb 12oz it was a pleasing start to the proceedings and certainly helped to reinforce my theory's. There were fish feeding!

Dad's Waveney 3lb 12oz floodwater chub
By this time in the morning (approx 10am), the part of the river we were fishing was getting busy, with more and more anglers lining the bank. It looked like the extra water hadn't put people off like I thought it would so we decided to up sticks and move downstream to a quieter section to get away from the crowds. It was a move that was certainly well worth it.

It took us twenty minutes to get where we intended but something wasn't right. What was it? I'd only gone and left my Double T bait pouch in the last swim I'd been fishing at the top section! Damn it. It had all my cheese paste in it. Dad kindly offered to walk back to see if he could find it but I was very concerned that someone else had picked it up with so many people out on the bank today. Luckily because the pouch is dark green in color its not very visible and I was delighted when Dad arrived back with the pouch in hand. Disaster averted, but it would not be the only time today that fate would deal me a cruel hand.

We both settled into our new swims quickly. The water level was still dropping which can only be a good thing, with a more greenish tinge becoming noticeable than the murky brown. Only a few days before the river would have been un fishable so it looked our visit had coincided well for once. With the bait out in the water it couldn't have been more than five minutes before I got my first bite, and what a clonker it was! Savage is the word for it as the rod was nearly dragged in. I knew from the first few seconds that this was no small fish as it quickly powered up stream again the flood water and kept very deep. It tried to get me into some near by debris and I had to use the full power of my rod to turn it away. Soon the fish was ready for netting but as I shouted up the bank to Dad he had a fish on as well. I quickly got the fish into my awaiting landing net and as I lifted it out onto the bank I could see that it was a deep stocky fish, but although the head was small. It looked like this chub had been having a few Christmas dinners! Unhooking completed, I quickly weighed the fish, which was a very pleasing 4lb 12oz. A great come back after having a forced absence from the bank.

4lb 12oz. A super start to reopen my account.
I left the swim the settle after the capture of the fish and went to see how big Dad's fish was. It was a lot smaller than mine at 2lb 10oz but still another fish on the score board. I know this blog entry is titled Short Session Success but frankly when the chub are feeding this well its hard to tear yourself away, so our proposed short session had now turned into an all day session!

Back on the trail of more fish we took a long walk downstream to some more like likely looking spots. Dad in particular had a very frustrating time of it in one swim where he had five classic full wrap around bites but failed to connect with any of them. Its maddeningly frustrating when this happens, but it happens to all chub anglers. I've been there a lot of time myself and know how it feels.

Back upstream to our original starting swims on this bit of river, I again impaled a large blob of cheese paste around a size 4 hook and placed it out into the flow. Almost immediately it was engulfed by a large chub which had other ideas about smiling for my camera. This chub knew exactly what it was doing as it wrapped my rig around some branches in the water. I decided to stick with this swim for the rest of the days as the chub seemed to favor it more than any others. The disturbance from the last fish that escaped had certainly made the other fish in the swim nervous and it was a long time between my next bite but again when the bite came it was a screamer. The tip was bent double as the chub moved downstream and I pulled upstream. It fought like another big fish, and it was again a good sized chub. Again the fight was short but powerful, and the chub was in the net before it knew it. Lifting the net it certainly looked the part and as I folded back the netting my prize lay before me. A quick trip to the scales and it took the dial on the Avons round to 4lb 10oz.

4lb 10oz
4lb 10oz in the net
Sheer bad luck was to rob me of my another fish. I had to wait until the sun started to dip behind the horizon before the tip moved again. When it did move it was another classic bite and the fish was hooked. At first I thought it was a small fish as it darted about all over the river but then it turned the tables on me shaking its head and keep deep and low. It then surfaced and rolled in the middle of the river like Moby Dick, swimming upstream against the current and charging into near bank reeds, from which I was lucky to extract it. But the fight was not over yet as it burrowed itself it some unseen snag at my feet. The fish wasn't giving up and neither was I, then it happened. Ping! The link ledger plunged over my shoulder as I let loose a torrent of profanities that turned the air blue.

I reckon that was certainly another five pounder. The big fish all fight differently to the smaller ones. Those two chub are the last ones that will grace my net for 2013 but they certainly won't be the last by the end of this season.

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