Although I have a genuine passion for all species of fish, if I am pushed to name my favourite, then it would have to be the chub. I suppose the fact that I am an all year round angler means that inevitably the species will have to be high on my target list. And now that the autumn is here, that is exactly where the chub is – top of my priorities, although it also shares the number one spot with the barbel.
I kicked off my chub campaign on a river that will feature very much in my writings over the next six or seven months – the River Sow. Beginning and ending solely in the county of Staffordshire, the Sow is famous as one of the rivers that the Father of angling, Isaak Walton fished.
My first trip of the season to the Sow in pursuit of chub (I had made a visit in June after barbel) was made just in time to set up before darkness descended. Although her birthday wasn’t until the following day, that evening, as a family we went ten pin bowling as a birthday treat for my daughter Miriam’s tenth. We had a couple of games, and my wife Debby won both of them easily, leaving myself and my two daughters, Miriam and Rebekah, to fight it out for second place.
Watching my wife knocking those skittles left, right and centre, made me realise all those years of making boilies and pastes had certainly built up her strength! But joking aside, I am very fortunate to have a wife that joins me in the kitchen, rolls up her sleeves and helps me with bait preparation. What a woman! And so it was that I travelled to the Sow with some freshly made cheese paste!
The river was higher than I expected. I had been on a scouting visit earlier in the season to the same stretch when it was very low. So low in fact that you could see the ripples on the riverbed! But actually it was a very informative trip because I was able to build a profile of the river, and what lay beneath its surface.
Although I fished with the paste later on, I started off with bread dipped in blue cheese and garlic. Lovely! I had just the one fish though, a bream that in true bream fashion capitulated as soon as it was hooked and simply keeled over to allow the net to scoop it up. Still, it was a fish and there are many times when even a gudgeon would be welcome!
When I arrived back home in the early hours, my wife hadn’t gone to bed. The moment I entered the house, she asked ‘Have you caught a bream?’ Well, there’s no fooling that one is there! A good shower got rid of the bream smell fortunately. However, even the next day and two showers later, my fingers still smelt of blue cheese and garlic! My chub campaign was well and truly under way!
Whilst thankful for the bream, I was determined to put a chub on the bank, and so, a few days later I again headed north to fish the Sow. I live about twenty miles or so from the river, but depending on the time of day (or night) it can take me anywhere from thirty minutes to one hour or more to get there. Of course the difference depends on the levels of traffic that I encounter, particularly as most of the journey involves the M6. At certain times of the day I go for the more reliable route, the A449 through Wolverhampton. The advantage of that is that I get to drive past my beloved Molineux, the home of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
I got to the Sow as the daylight began to fade. Due to low river conditions it was really into dark that I expected to catch something. I had a walk along the meadow that I was fishing and dropped a few handfuls of mashed bread/brown crumb into four swims that I intended to rotate in through the session. This is the time of the year when my wife knows that she has to put all unused bread to one side for my chub fishing.
I have a bait freezer and centre place inside it for the next few months will be a big bucket that contains crumbled bread. I usually leave the individual pieces of bread for a few days until they almost crumble in the hand. Then they’re ready to rub into minute crumbs and put in the bucket ready for the next session. The good thing about a bait freezer is that last minute trips can be undertaken and changes of venues or species are a simple matter of just choosing different bait.
As I set up on the Sow it began to rain. Actually the ground was still wet from rainfall earlier in the day, but now it started again in earnest. Actually I don’t mind wet weather when I’m fishing. I think there’s nothing better than being tucked up under an umbrella as all around water descends from the heavens.
However, it’s not ideal when you’re planning a chub roving session. So, although I did brave it to the other pre-baited spots, I must confess that for most of the session I stuck it out in the one with the shelter! ‘Stuck it out’ seems a very apt phrase for us as anglers really doesn’t it?
I remember once heading across a North Wales beach in the middle of winter to do some flat fish fishing. A woman out walking her dog gave me one look and said ‘You must be mad’ – and maybe I am. Who knows! Certainly in this session on the Sow, by the time I made the car, in the early hours of the morning, I was soaking wet. As we know, an umbrella only offers protection while you’re under it. You do have to venture out sometimes!
Although I dearly wanted a nice chub, it was in fact another bream that took the bait. Still, I’m not complaining at all, as it proved to be the only fish of the session. And so it ended that the party to launch my chub campaign was in fact well and truly gatecrashed by bream. And as the previous visit, my wife knew straight away what I had caught!
I decided to take the Wolverhampton route back home, which took me past Molineux. Although the stadium and surrounding streets are always empty at that time, nevertheless it is a welcome sight and one guaranteed the get the heart racing. I’d sooner be outside an empty Molineux than inside a full Hawthorns any day of the week. Oh, and by the way, that’s the home of our bitter rivals from down the road, We*t Brom*ich Alb*on…
As much as possible I fish on any free evening I can, but there is only one thing that comes in the way of that, and that’s a football match involving Wolves. And so it was that I didn’t get to have a third crack at the Sow, but instead ended up watching Wolves reserves take on Birmingham City reserves.
And what made it special was that my daughter Miriam, who is also a season ticket holder, got to be mascot that night, through contacts at the club. I don’t know who was the most excited, Miriam or I! Either way, the Sow can wait another week or so. And so can my first ‘proper’ chub of the season. I’ve had them while barbel fishing on the Severn, but in two attempts, not even a bite whilst pursuing them!
(Article 9, originally published September 2003. If you like, why not share? Thanks)