Friday, 31 January 2014

Small Stream Action

"I remember thinking at the time that I would never get warm again. Despite two t-shirts, hoody, fleece, two piece thermal suit, thermal wellies, and hat, the cold had some how managed to creep under my clothes and my fingers ached with it. It seemed to congeal my blood and the very marrow of my bones. At one point in the day the weak sun pierced the heavily overcast sky and to feel its warmth penetrating one's chilled bones is something beyond my power to describe.
To add to the cold the wind once again seemed to strip the life from the bleak and inhospitable landscape, as the harsh cold air did its best to suck the life out of me as I drew every breath."
The above piece can only partly describe what today's weather felt like. Today was one of those days when most people would have been tucked up at home in front of a nice warm fire with a whiskey for company, watching the telly, but we all know that you don't catch many chub sitting at home. Cold weather and chub go hand in hand and if you really want to catch chub then you have to prepared to put up with this kind of discomfort.

The weather was bleak today
Again a quick check of the river levels the days leading up to our trip has seen the same story that has been repeated all over the country recently -  one minute over the banks and in the fields, the next its dropped again. These 'yo-yo' water levels appear to be the kiss for most species but in particular chub that seem to take anything up to three or four days to re adjust depending on the how prolonged the flooding has been. There appears to be no happy medium at the moment as the windows of opportunity to get a session in have been so narrow its been vitally important to check both weather and water level on an almost daily basis.

In the car on the way to the river the thermometer in the car registered a rather displeasing minus one degrees but as soon as we arrived it felt much colder due to the wind chill factor. We quickly got the gear out of the car and as we walked to our usual stretch of river I pulled my new Lone Angler beanie hat down low over my head to shield as much of the wind from my head as possible. My fingers felt numb already - time to break the gloves out!

On arrival at the river it all looked good but this doesn't necessarily mean that a good days port is on the cards. The main river still looked like it could do with dropping a bit more despite the green colored tinge the water was carrying. For this reason we decided to fish a very small and unassuming back water that lead from the main river. Many anglers would dismiss such a piece of water immediately, based purely on the size alone, yet experience over the years has taught me that no river or side stream is never to small to hold a big chub. Funny today that we decided to fish this side stream which at normal level is no more than a couple of foot deep in places but with the extra water in the river the shallow places are no longer shallow. Its was one of those places that I've always been meaning to give some attention but never got round to. Today a gut feeling, instinct, call it what you will, told me to fish this normally sedate and quiet spot.

Virgin chub territory?
It quickly became obvious from observation of the bank that nobody had been fishing along here. I've certainly never seen anyone fishing it in all my time so it could well be that this little bit of side stream is practically virgin chub territory, a rare occurrence in this day most rivers. This was really pioneering at its best but we could only do so much - the rest would be up to the chub.  
Its a good reason to keep on the move when its cold and not only does it keep you warm it also keeps you searching for the fish. Good enough reason to spend no more than fifteen to twenty in a swim which is my usual time limit. In the end what it comes down to is that if the fish are there and hungry, the will be ready and waiting to take your bait within that time scale. Its all too easy to sit it out in your favorite spot hoping for a bite when you would be far better searching for the fish even if it means walking two or three miles in a day.

As we walked further and further it was obvious that there was no lack of feature swims to fish. Around each corner overhanging trees, deep bends, and long glides greeted us at, and this was only the tip of the iceberg. This is chub fishing a its purest and to be presented with such a stretch of river to go at I was in seventh heaven, The only problem was where to start. I quickly selected a lovely looking swim with an overhanging tree below me while dad positioned himself a little further upstream in an almost identical swim. We quickly set up and soon had our baits in position when I heard that all too familiar shout from down the bank signifying that dad was into his first fish of the day. I walked down to dad to do the netting duties for him but just before I got there there was another shout and the fish had thrown the hook. Cursing his luck dad describe the brief fight the fish had given him - it had stayed down deep, giving those unmistakable thumps on the rod, as it moved upstream. I've written about this before in other blog entry's but this fighting style seems very characteristic of the bigger fish so you get a feel for the bigger ones when you do eventually hook into one.

I was having less luck in my swim having not so much as a bite, so after fifteen minutes it was time to move. My second swim was again immediately upstream of a large overhanging tree but this time the flow was much stronger. I had previously put a few small bits of paste in so I was hoping there was a fish there waiting for my cheese paste over sprayed with Lone Angler sausage sizzle flavor  hook bait. I was right as after approximately five minutes my tip trembled and then slammed round as a very angry chub did its best to dive into the nearest snag. The fight though was never in doubt even with the strong flow as it quickly tired. With the fish in the net, and then unhooked, it was time for the all important weighing routine. At only two pounds and five ounces it wasn't the biggest chub I've ever caught but it was in absolute pristine condition.

Freshly minted
All this caused a bit of a commotion in this little swim so it was time for a move. We fished plenty of more swims throughout the rest of the day with nothing else to show for our efforts. We even tried a section of the main river for a change but this proved to worse than useless so we returned to the side stream. As when fishing the main river the scenario with the side stream was practically the same - taking one fish from each swim and then moving on. It was very rare to get a second bite of the cherry so to speak and a missed bite often resulted in the fish becoming spooked.

Later on in the afternoon the wind was getting stronger as it gusted and howled like a banshee through the trees that creaked and groaned under the strain. At times it was farcical watching the quiver tip dancing around in front of our eyes so we had no choice but to resort to touch ledgering for bite indication. It was getting much colder by now but we carried on regardless, and as the sky became ominously black we ensconced ourselves into our last swims of the day. Dad had found a lovely looking slack under the near bank and he soon trundled his cheese paste hook bait into position where it hardly had time to settle before being gulped down by a greedy chub. His poor little rod was nearly bent double as the fish made some spirited escape attempts for freedom in the powerful flow. Luckily there were no snags nearby and his six pound mainline held fast. I was on standby to do the netting duties once again and got the fish into the net. As you can see from the picture below the fish was in the absolutely prime winter condition and it was a little bigger than my best effort of the day at three pounds and four ounces.

Beautifully conditioned fish off 3lb 4oz
Now I know this fish may not be the biggest but it certainly goes to show what smaller side streams can throw up particularly when the main river is carrying plenty of extra water. Ignore them at your peril - you may missing out on potentially some very good sport.

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