With temperatures plummeting – and I mean plummeting – it was time to switch species. After a good few weeks pursuing barbel I decided to fish for chub, at least for this week anyway, and possibly longer depending on weather conditions. More so than in the summer, the weather at this time of the year is so important to the angler in terms of what he decides to target. I know there are dedicated single species fishermen, and they have my absolute respect, but personally as well as thinking that variety is the spice of life, I also like to maximise my catching potential.
So with that in mind I headed into the Staffordshire/Leicestershire border countryside to fish the tiny River Mease. Actually the word ‘river’ is a bit of an exaggeration really as perhaps stream would be more appropriate. And where I ended up, ‘brook’ certainly would not be out of its depth, so to speak. As I walked the stretch prior to fishing, I discovered more than 90% of the water was no more than one foot deep. Even the bends, which are numerous as the river meanders its way along to the Trent, weren’t much better either.
However, as I had travelled some distance, I decided to give it a go anyway. I have fished the Mease quite extensively in the past, but this stretch was a brand new one for me. And although I know that we are not exactly talking tidal Severn at the best of times, nevertheless I was still genuinely surprised to see such little water running through. It was obviously affected by the lack of recent rain, but either that stretch is particularly shallow or else the river is in serious decline. I hope it’s the former.
Anyway I baited up a few swims after first making access to the water’s edge. The words ‘wild’, ‘overgrown’ and ‘unfished’ came to mind as I threw out a few maggots into a number of spots. Fishing a small bomb, I opted for three red maggots on a size 14 hook. I was certainly surprised to get a few taps right from the word go, and more than delighted to catch a ‘4’ chub within minutes of my bait being in the water. However, when I say ‘4’ I don’t mean pounds, or even ounces, but inches!
And that fish proved to be the climax, it was all downhill from there, as the only other fish to make the bank were a couple of minnows! But I still enjoyed the session immensely, not least of all because of a barn owl that put in an appearance just as darkness was settling in. I watched the bird for half an hour as it worked its way over the rough grass meadow behind me, hunting low over the field.
On two occasions it came within yards of where I was sitting, rooted to the spot and frightened to even move my eyes in case I alerted the bird to my presence. So, the fishing was a bit slow but the barn owl more than made up for it. I still drove home a happy man and was working on my next trip. This was in jeopardy though when I had an injury playing football before the next session took place.
At first I thought I had broken my thumb, and even though the area of my hand was swollen to twice its normal size and had turned a lovely shade of blue and purple, fortunately it wasn’t anything that serious. And although I really struggled to do important things in life such as tie knots, throw out bait accurately and use a landing net, nevertheless in typical man fashion I struggled on and made it back to the water’s edge!
This time it was to the River Sow, where I had last been a couple of weeks before. And to reinforce the point I often make about being the only angler on the stretch, as I walked the bank I saw one of my rod rests lying on the ground that had ‘escaped’ due to a hole in my quiver. Hardly a water under pressure! The river itself looked quite good, although the temperature was well down on recent weeks, which of course was why I was chub fishing.
After casting out I had a bite within minutes, from a fish I was sure was a chub. However a bream of about 4lb was what I saw as it broke the surface and edged towards the landing net. Although bream are not noted for their fighting qualities, on light line and the current to work to its advantage, it certainly put up a good fight, which is why I thought it was a chub. The rest of the session saw a steady stream of fish, but just the one chub. Bigger than the one on the Mease, it was still only ounces though.
That’s fishing for you! Whilst after barbel I have had a steady trickle of good quality chub up to 5lb this season so far. Yet when I target them I catch two fish in as many sessions that even when added together wouldn’t make six ounces! I did catch quite a few roach though, which I enjoyed. Whilst they may not be that fashionable these days, certainly when I was a boy the roach was a very popular species and when reminiscing, anglers would invariably tell tales that involved the giant roach that got away!
(Originally published November 2006)