Fred’s chub and perch On A Mission
Fred was a champ with chub and perch, and Kate and Simon were desperate to do him homage. We didn’t quite make it to the Upper Ouse, his beloved stamping ground, but the Upper Wensum was a good substitute. Or not. Simon could not nail a perch over three ounces for the life of him, a mile off Fred’s best of 4.4, I believe. And whilst Kate fished day, dawn and dusk, one lost giant chub of perhaps 7 lb was her lot.
An event on day one told an interesting tale. In bright sun and crystal, low water, we’d located eleven chub and a very large barbel under an overhanging tree in a swim about 4 ft deep. The barbel, as I say, was something of a monster, and three of the chub looked pretty tidy, too.
The fish certainly hadn’t seen us, of that I was sure, and I decided to throw a freebie piece of slowly sinking flake just a little upstream of them to watch their reaction. The flake hit the water and began to move down the water column, and four fish came to investigate. However, they kept their distance and as they turned, the entire shoal dispersed off upstream. We followed them 50 yards and they were still going, plainly scared witless.
Remember, those fish hadn’t seen us and that flake wasn’t on a hook or attached to a line. The fish were just that neurotic. Kate and I looked at each other, and I remembered FJ’s favourite words: “I’ll be glad when I’ve had enough of this.”
Back in my very early days as a writer, when Fred was in his pomp, I once wrote that if I could see a chub, then I could catch it. What a load of bullocks! A lot has happened since Fred, the Taylor Brothers and Richard Walker were hammering chub on the Upper Ouse, and we think it’s this.
Since those glorious times, the rise in the cormorant and otter population has been catastrophic. Small chub up to a pound or two are now harried mercilessly by cormorants.
Once they get to 3 or 4 lb they might be safe from the birds, but then the otters come looking for them.
As a result, our chub today whether on the Upper Ouse or the Wensum or wherever, are on a constant state of red alert. There are times when they’re just impossible to catch, as Kate and I found out that glorious, early autumn morning. What we knew in the past doesn’t always serve us in the present.
What a load of bullocks!
Fred and fun
I’ve got a feeling it might have been Dick Walker that called the Taylor Brothers and the gang around them the ‘Joyous Crew’. The term certainly stuck, and it was certainly applicable.
When you read the literature around the fishing that went on, you realise it was all about guitars, singing, jokes, campfires and living rough, often sleeping in the famous hut on the banks of the Upper Ouse. Above all, Fred and his mates were men used to living off the land. Most of them had lived through a war and through far tougher times than our own.
Fred came from a family that boasted a fair number of poachers, and he was a real country lad. In honour of that, we had rabbit pie for supper and we ate steaks off a griddle for lunch.
Above all, what we can all learn from Fred today is that attitude of his that in fishing, it should all be about all for one and one for all. There might have been a bit of friendly rivalry
The lift float method from Fred’s book Tench – and one we caught using it.
■ Pingers with a beauty – and his lift float specials.