Martin Bowler’s big chub ad­ven­ture

Both species are in my swim – but which will slip up?

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

OUR rivers are poised for a change in com­plex­ion, turn­ing brown as fallen au­tumn leaves with the ar­rival of the first floods.

For now, though, ev­ery river I visit is still clear, and the weed that chokes the life out of its flow re­fuses to budge.

This is a dif­fi­cult time of brit­tle skies, high air pres­sure and re­duced fish ap­petites.

An­other rea­son for the lack of bites may be that the fish have seen the bank at least once al­ready this sea­son, and that serves to make them that bit more cau­tious.

The change will come, as it al­ways does, and per­haps the best spell of the year for river fish­ing isn’t very far away. Un­til then you have a choice. You can ei­ther wait or, if you are ad­dicted to angling like me, you can make the best of it.

Who knows? Per­haps a re­ward will come your way.

It was still early and I was blind to what was go­ing on be­neath the sur­face, so rather than fish in a ran­dom spot I needed to ex­er­cise pa­tience, a qual­ity I sadly lack!

A boil­ing ket­tle and a toasted sand­wich at the back of my truck eased my itchy bail-arm fin­ger, as did the view of the mead­ows, which slowly steamed as the sun rose to burn off the dew.

From the east it came, and the shad­ows were cast away. Now, pro­vided I stayed on the right bank, I could see ev­ery stone and weed bed, making my swim se­lec­tion a whole lot eas­ier.

I chose three spots, all with a clear gravel bed di­rectly above a dense stretch of weed. Here chub, not be­ing fans of light open spa­ces, would be ly­ing up, or so I hoped.

I needed to draw the fish out, and for this I used a bait drop­per filled with crushed Sticky Krill boilies and trout pel­lets. Free of­fer­ings were in­tro­duced with pin­point ac­cu­racy at the head of the weed, but still on a clear bot­tom.

Half-a-dozen times I watched as the door on the drop­per opened, re­leas­ing its pay­load. Then I needed to be pa­tient once more and wait for a sign.

An hour went by be­fore a cou­ple of pairs of white lips emerged from the weed di­rectly above a sweep­ing bend, in­tent on hoover­ing up the bait spilt on the gravel. These were chub all right, and even look­ing through 5ft feet of wa­ter it was clear they were good ones.

Cast­ing out a hook­bait at this stage would only ruin the swim, so I al­lowed the fish to gain a lit­tle more con­fi­dence be­fore re­plac­ing the bait they had eaten with four more drop­per loads of feed. Then, for the next hour, I pre­pared an­other swim.

De­spite the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions it was a joy just to watch the river flow by, and while the blue sky was do­ing me no favours I felt it would be churl­ish to moan.

Re­turn­ing to my first swim, I crept close to the bank and wit­nessed a sub-sur­face scene that only an an­gler is ever lucky enough to en­joy. Two bar­bel had now joined in the feed­ing melée along­side six chub, and judg­ing by the rapidly-mov­ing tail fins and puffs of silt kicked up, the bait had in­deed flicked their switch.

Sin­gling out an in­di­vid­ual spec­i­men would be im­pos­si­ble. This wasn’t a prob­lem be­cause ei­ther a chub or a bar­bel would be a wor­thy prize – how­ever, rig se­lec­tion was an is­sue be­cause I favour dif­fer­ent strate­gies for the two species. The for­mer can pick up a boilie on a hair and get away with it, un­like bar­bel, but I really did want to have my cake and eat it, and I pre­pared ac­cord­ingly.

A 1¾lb test curve Dren­nan rod

“Chub can pick up a boilie on a hair and get away with it, un­like bar­bel, but I really did want to have my cake and eat it”

was teamed with 15lb fluoro­car­bon. I slipped a back lead on to the line, trap­ping it with a link bead and a float stop ei­ther side.

The 2½oz main lead was con­nected the same way, ex­cept that I added an ex­tra stop to pre­vent it slip­ping on the cast.

The fluoro­car­bon would also form three-quar­ters of the short hook­length, con­tin­u­ing for an­other 4ins be­fore ter­mi­nat­ing in a size 11 Uni Link swivel with E-S-P tung­sten putty moulded around the bar­rel to help with the bolt ef­fect.

Two inches of 10lb Dren­nan mi­cro braid made up the final sec­tion, and a size 12 Su­per Spe­cial­ist bar­bel hook was at­tached via a knot­less knot, con­tin­u­ing as a hair long enough to hold half-a-boilie tight to the shank.

This would stop the chub tak­ing lib­er­ties, and the hook would be hid­den from sus­pi­cious eyes. By hav­ing the flat side of half-a-boilie close to the bend, the bait acts like a cup fall­ing over the hook, pushed in place by the flow.

Con­fi­dent in my set-up, I added a PVA mesh bag of free of­fer­ings as the fin­ish­ing touch.

I waited un­til most of the fish were sit­ting to the rear of the swim be­fore low­er­ing the rig into place and po­si­tion­ing the back lead up­stream. Sat­is­fied, I sat well back, only the top eye of the rod pro­trud­ing over the bank.

If fish were feed­ing and the rig worked, a bite would not be long in com­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter all that prepa­ra­tion. I was ready for it.

This was just as well be­cause within a minute the rod-tip was pulled over – but by what? Its first run said ‘bar­bel’ but when it couldn’t main­tain the pace I knew it was a chub.

A fin and scale-per­fect fish of over 6lb was my re­ward for prepa­ra­tion, pa­tience and sim­ply be­liev­ing a spec­i­men was pos­si­ble, even in con­di­tions that were a long way from be­ing per­fect.

You can’t catch them if you’re sat at home!

A 6lb-plus chub on a dif­fi­cult day – re­sult! On a clear river you have to be ex­tra-stealthy.

A PVA bag of boilies is the final touch.

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