Saturday, 11 January 2014

Cold Water Crust

I've often neglected bread as a hook bait for chub in the past simply because I find cheese so supremely effective as bait on the Waveney. Quite why this was I don't know because in my early years serving my chubbing apprentice when I fished the Nene, I used it almost exclusively and caught a lot of fish on it. In these days of modern paste concoctions and boilies, I'm now finding myself returning to it as I feel that on some days, especially when the river is low, cold, and clear, that I'm potentially missing out on fish that I should be catching.
I suppose my lack of confidence in fishing with bread, and especially crust is that I never knew whether I was fishing with a bare hook ten minutes after casting out because the bread had come off, so I was constantly reeling in to check. I needed to gain more confidence with bread again and by using this bait more its slowly all coming back to me. Sometimes in fishing you have to go backwards to move forwards. It would have been foolish of me to ignore one of the most successful chub baits of all time, and certainly one of the most versatile. Looking back through the records I have available to me of five pound plus chub that have been caught from the Waveney since 1987, it appears that crust or crust critically balanced with cheese paste, have accounted for a large proportion of the fish caught especially in the winter months.

Tesco crusty white sandwich loaf makes great crust
Bread flake wasn't so much of a problem for me to start using again and I soon reaffirmed my faith in this using Warburtons Medium Sliced White, but the biggest problem for me was the crust (when I'm talking crust here I'm talking about ledgered crust). Now it may sound strange to some people but I've been fishing for chub for nearly twenty years now and I'd never caught a single chub on crust simply because all the types of bread crust I tried didn't stay on the hook long enough for me so therefore I had no confidence in using it. Silly really I know, but recently this problem has been overcome, not by myself but my dad. He discovered a superb crusty loaf made by Tesco called the Crusty White Sandwich Loaf that didn't even need to be left in the bag a couple of days to go rubbery like many people recommended to me, but rather it could be used straight from the wrapper. It stayed on the hook remarkably well, and was super tough and rubbery, not like a lot of the other loaves I've used in the past. In fact we tested it out not long ago and found that it stayed on the hook for anything up to one hour which is very useful where long waits are expected between bites.

Although plain old crust is perfectly good enough to use on its own I have to say I really am one for using flavors and always have been since I started chubbing. I like to think that it makes my crust different and stands out from the rest of the crowd, and this gives me much needed confidence. There are of course many different flavors out there on the market to choose from but my advice would be to pick one that the chub are fond of. I've used many different flavors in the past but I'm currently using Lone Anglers Sausage Sizzle flavor on a variety of different baits including bread and its certainly one that the chub seem to approve of.

Crust is easy to flavor with a spray like this.
Luckily Sausage Sizzle is provided in a handy spray form which makes it very convenient and quick to use. For example it can be used to quickly give your bread flake hook baits a boost of extra attraction before casting out, or simply sprayed on crust which can then be frozen, so it becomes firmly impregnated with flavor. I also had a little ball of cheese paste on standby just in case the chub weren't interested in my crust offering. Well we all know how picky chub can be at times! Another ruse of mine is to tear my crust in pieces roughly the same size of a fifty pence piece. I feel that these irregular shapes are much more natural than cubes in exactly the same way that torn pieces of meat appear to be much more natural than buts with straight sides. It may only be a little thing but sometimes little things can make a big difference.

I'm determined to catch at least one chub on crust before this season ends so its no surprise to regular readers that I've been back at it again down the river, inspired by Martin James's blog that makes for some great reading on chub fishing. The river certainly looked in much better condition than it did a couple of days ago - still fining down, but this time with a greenish tinge instead of the brown color of strong tea that its been like for so long. Well that's a start I suppose. At least its not on the rise again as we have had little rain over here in East Anglia  recently unlike most parts of the country. I'm very lucky that I've been able to get out on the bank so my thoughts go out to other fisherman who can't even get near their local rivers because of the floods.

There was a decidedly wintery and chilly feel to today's proceedings with little but a cup of steaming coffee to warm me up as I tackled up in my first choice swim. I decided to use a big size 4 hook with a chunk of crust stopped a couple of inches from my two swan shot to begin with. Usually the distance of the shot from the bait is dictated by the weather - the colder it is the nearer the shot is to the hook. By subtracting shot, and even going down to a single AA or less, I could alter the amount of buoyancy the rig had, so that on each cast the crust was washed further downstream, and in effect using the current to my advantage, progressively searching the swim.
My first tentative cast landed inches from the trailing far bank branches, as the crust slowly settled into place on the bottom, letting out a bow of line so that if the bait did move, it would travel downstream in a straight line, acting naturally. It was at this point I was in no doubt that a bite could not be far away. It was one of those rare moments in fishing when everything just seem to be right with the world, and in particular, the atmosphere. That mixture of in trepidation, excitement, and a tinge of nervousness was intoxicating.  Its that feeling that will always keep me fishing for chub and keeps me coming back.

Having momentarily retreated into my own secluded daydream, I suddenly caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. A shiver on the line, and then the tip pulled round very slightly followed by everything going slack. A drop back bite! A chub had taken interest in my popped up crust. I struck quickly but it was to no avail. Well at least I'd had a bite on the crust, so I was getting somewhere which was a start. I recast again but this time not so far out and once again waited for another bite. Twenty minutes past by, yet nothing else happened. Time for a change so off came the crust which was replaced by a big blob of cheese paste. This time I had to wait literally minutes for my next bite, which was savage and unrelenting. My strike was met by sudden and urgent resistance as a good sized chub fled for the branches and the water exploded as a very angry fished tried to rid itself of the hook, but I was having none of it, my rod now bent into a very pleasing curve as I applied side strain to put the breaks on.

A lovely 4lb 5oz fish. A good start to the day...
 The fish began to tire quickly but not before it made one last mad dash into the reeds at my feet. Luckily I was in control and the fish was in the net before it knew what I was up to. It was a nice chub to be sure, not as big as I would have liked but then fishing the Waveney for chub is not about size, its more about enjoying fishing for chub for what it is. The chub weighed in at four pounds and five ounces and was a absolute minter. There were no hook marks in its mouth and there is every probability that this fish may have never been caught before. They are all jewels in the crown of the river.

After baiting the swim with a few more bits of paste for a return visit later in the day, it was time to get on the move and search out some more likely looking areas that would hold a few fish. By this time the sun had started to poke itself out from behind the clouds that had so far this day been ever present yet the wind remained a very cold easterly which seemed to get colder by the minute. The rest of the morning me and dad drifted from swim to swim again but although the river looked great the chub didn't seem that obliging. Dad had a massive wrap around bite in another swim but this was again missed. At lunch we both settled down in a favorite swim of Dad's which has always produced a bite for him even in the worst of conditions. I was tucking into my sausage roll while dad fished and it wasn't long before his cheese paste was gobbled up. Another classic bite and and this time Dad hooked it. It was a sprightly fish to say the least which put up a nice fight on his Shimano Twin Power Light/Medium feeder rod, but it soon got him snagged in some near bank reeds. It wasn't coming out in a hurry. In the end I had to poke around with landing net handle to free the fish and soon a big white mouth could be seen as the fish wallowed on the surface. I got the fish in net for Dad and I lifted it out on the bank. It was another mint condition fish. Fin perfect in every way and I don't think my accompanying picture below does it justice. At three pounds and three ounces it was perfection in minature.

After that fish we walked further down the river, much further than we had walked before. We had to particularly careful as we crossed some ditches and dykes that still contained a good deal of water in them from the recent flooding. There was still a lot of water in the ground and at times this made the going hard. We came to a very nice series of deeps bends which looked sure to hold a few chub or two so while dad baited with some cheese my first cast was made with a small bit of crust. It just held bottom in the more powerful flow as the small curve in the tip indicated. I waited and waited again but received no indications. After half an hour passed and so I then decided that a bit of cheese paste might provoke a response again. I was right in minutes I had a small shiver on the tip again followed by the tip sailing round, and my second fish of the day was on. Again it was only a small fish but on a cold day like today any fish was welcome. Into the net, up onto the bank and quickly weighed, it was another fish of similar sized to dad's at three pounds and three ounces.

After that fish we decided to return to our original swims which were right back at the top of the beat and that is some walk I can tell you. By the time we had walked back we were both soaked in sweat and the the sun had decided to hide itself behind the nearest clouds for the rest of the afternoon, as the wind ripped across the bleak landscape. We both fished on until the light was going but by this time we had both had enough and we still had to walk back to the car and negotiate all manner of obstacles in our path before reaching the safety of the car. We were both exhausted when we reached the car but as I remember Matt Hayes once said - a good chub fisherman will not only put himself out, but will also tire himself out.

I shall of course be continuing to use the Sausaage Sizzle crust even though it didn't produce any fish for me this time around. I can imagine that when the weather turns cold and the river low and clear, that flake and crust will come into their own. I can also see myself flavoring more crust and perhaps even dog biscuits in the summer for surface feeding chub. It certainly had a myriad of uses which is only limited by your imagination.

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