Friday, 21 February 2014

Return To The Stream

"On the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.…"

Does the above quote sound familiar? This quote from the Bible (Genesis 7:11) describes the floods that were sent down by God to destroy the earth in the story of Noah. Well I would say that in the last few weeks the weather has been nothing short of biblical!

 The state of my local river Waveney has been nothing short of appalling over the last few weeks. High over the banks one minute and then back down to normal level, it was like the river couldn't make its mind up. Even the roads were impassable in places earlier in the week which made my frustration even worse. We had planned a couple of mid week trips but all of these had to called off due to the flood water. The ground is so saturated with rain water and the river so swollen with flood water, its been very difficult to gain access to certain parts I've wanted to fish. The banks have also become treacherous and slippery and care has to be taken otherwise it could have been so easy to slip into the river at some inopportune moment. The windows of opportunity to fish have been very slim indeed and its been very frustrating sitting at home wondering if I'd ever get back out the bank again to catch a few chub. One good thing about all these floods it that the river is free of rubbish and the bottom has been scoured clean of weed making presentation easier. 

Fortunately the rain has stopped (at least for a while!) and in this time the river level decreased to a much more fishable condition. It was certainly good to get out on the banks again after mother nature put a halt to the proceedings for a while. We again headed for the little side stream that we fished in our last session as I'm sure its very possible that it holds much bigger fish than those we had caught so far. I think the potential for these small and rarely fished places is enormous especially as its one of those places most chub anglers wouldn't even give a look. Its also an ideal place for those bigger fish to live a more sheltered life away from the competition on the main river even when its in flood. The chub in these types of side streams are rarely fished for meaning you can get away with stronger and cruder tackle than you would normally use, so long as you don't spook them in the first place . Most swims are also those of the hit and hold type with little room for maneuvers once a fish is hooked so it pays to use sensible tackle.

Tackle was my favorite 11ft 6inch, 1lb 2oz, quiver tip rod coupled with my faithful Shimano 4010 GTM reel loaded with my now usual 8lb or 6lb Bass Pro Excel mainline. Terminal tackle is a small link swivel to which a couple of swan shot are attached via a loop of line. The link swivel is then trapped between three float stops (one behind the link and two below it), terminating in a size 10, 8, 6, or 4 hook. I use two float stops below the link so I can easily slide one down nearer the hook which means I can mold a small amount of heavy metal type putty around if needed to counterbalance buoyant baits like crust, or a pop-up Squab.

For my loose feed I finely liquidized a fresh loaf ot two of white bread and add a good amount of crushed hemp plus some crumbled up Lone Angler/Pallatrax Cheese Feast Sticks. This creates an enticing cloud in the water to attract the chub from a long way down stream but there is little in the way of food items to fill them up. The last thing I want to do, especially when the weather, is cold is to fill the fish up - I want to attract them not feed them! If I had some Cheese Feast Overspray available to me at this time I would certainly have liked to dampened this bread mixture with it and you can be sure its something I will be doing in the future. All this is best done at home before you go fishing.

With my little concoction all ready to go was then a simple matter of pre-baiting each likely looking swim as I made my way up the river. It was then a case of working my way back down the stretch fishing each swim in turn for no more than ten to twenty minutes but bites can (and usually do) occur within minutes of casting in. It was a very good feeling knowing that each swim I would be fishing had been pre-baited. I compressed the liquidized bread into golf ball sized amounts as hard as I could with my hands so that they didn't break up as soon as it hit the waters surface. Its also important to note here that you should throw the ball of liquidized bread further upstream than normal as it takes a lot longer for it to sink than it would if you were using mashed bread. If you don't put it in upstream then it has the potential to spread the fish out further as they chase the bread particles downstream. I could of course use a small feeder but I feel that the negatives outweigh the positives on such a small and intimate river from the commotion of the feeder continually hitting the water.

Today, because of the lower and much clearer water level I decided to go with a smaller hook bait than normal - a size 6 hook barely covered with a blob of cheese paste. I spent around ten minutes in each swim reasoning that if there were any fish present then they would be on the hook bait straight away and a fish in the net would undoubtedly come on the first cast provided it was in the right place. The first couple of swims didn't produce a single indication on the tip so me and Dad moved downstream to a couple more swims we had baited previously. I sat back and drank a nice hot cup of coffee while Dad made his first cast in this previously unfished swim. It can't have been more than a few minutes when his tip went round. He duly struck into the fish and was rewarded with a chunky little chub of 2lb 10oz.

Deciding to chance his arm he had a second cast into the swim hoping that he hadn't spooked the fish by missing the bite. Again a repeat of the first bite but this time his rod hooped over alarmingly and stayed there, bent round to the butt. Something BIG had taken a fancy to his cheese paste offering. What ever it was stayed deep and hugged the bottom, using its sheer weight and power moving very slowly. The rod creaked under the pressure until it could bend no more, then suddenly, everything went slack. It had snapped it 6lb line like cotton! With all the floods we have had and fish escaping from lakes along the Waveney valley, I rather suspect that a big carp may have been the culprit. Dad has had encounters with river carp before chubbing and whatever this was behaved in exactly the same way. If it wasn't a carp it might have been a large pike, or possibly even a rare barbel. We shall never know but it certainly got the heart pumping quickly!

We then decided to move further down stream still on the side stream. I still couldn't buy a bite for love nor money and i was hoping some of Dad's luck might rub off on me. I fished two more swims but wasn't really "feeling it" if you know what I mean. It just didn't feel right to me anymore and I was feeling less confident as the minutes ticked by. Dad on the other hand had another fish of 3lb 4oz, an immaculate little stunner as you can see from the picture above.We then decided to move onto the main river in hope of finding some bigger specimens. It felt much more exposed on the main river as the wind swept across the fields but certain areas were sheltered from the wind more than others and it was these we targeted. Again various swims were tried but it wasn't until midday that I got my first bite - a lovely slow draw on the tip and the characteristic "thump thump" as a big chub battled for freedom. It fought like its life depended on it and I was glad I had loaded my reel with 8lb Bass Pro Excel as this chub got me snagged twice in marginal rushes which involved a tug of war of epic proportions to free it. As soon as it was free from the snags it powered upstream and I saw a shimmer of silver as it shook its head from side to side trying to rid itself of my hook. With one final effort I managed to get into the net as a big pair of rubbery white lips broke the surface.
Quickly weighed the fish went just over the magical five pound mark at at very pleasing 5lb 1oz. A very pleasing fish from any river and one I'm sure many people would love to catch.

An old warrior of 5lb 1oz river Waveney chub
After that we decided to pack up and head home for tea and medals, our hunger for chub satisfied for the moment, until the river called out to us again, a call that is answered by all anglers.

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