Click images above to enter
It’s been years since I fished for chub, but all in the nicest possible way, as I’ve just simply been side-tracked by other species. But after catching some decent chub while barbel fishing on the middle Severn I decided it was time to actually target them once more. With the river in the fields I had to wait until the level was back down to something more like normal winter level (photo 1). But after a short period of really itching to get on their case I was out on the bank with a single quiver tip rod as opposed to my usual brace of barbel rods.
I fished with a Fox Duolite specialist with a 0.75 glass insert. My line was 4lb Maxima and hook a size 10 Drennan Super Specialist. As you can see from the accompanying video, which was filmed in session one, my bait was bread and the cage feeder was bread mash (photo 2). It is actually a product that was given to me by someone when I was with him on some other angling business. ‘Have a look at this he said’ as he mixed up some white granules (photo 3) and then took me to a nearby small river throwing it in. It reacted just like bread mash. I was genuinely impressed and was actually given a sack to fish with.
Unfortunately due to other factors it isn’t available commercially, but at least I’ve got enough to keep me going for this season and hopefully beyond! It was a really cold day and hardly surprisingly I had the whole stretch to myself. As I relate in the video, the water had dropped from 8.1C a few days before to 4C and this fell even further during the session to where the reading showed 3.5C. That’s a massive drop and made the one missed bite I had seem like an achievement! As you can see from the accompanying video the air temperature got so cold the camcorder refused to work (photo 4).
So no fish, but I did see my second barn owl of the year on the drive home. Perched by the side of the road, we made eye contact for a few seconds, before it finally flew off into the darkness. On my second visit a couple of days later, although the air temperature was up, the water was still at the rock bottom reading of 3.5C. I knew it was going to be hard and it was hardly surprising that I had the car park, and therefore the stretch, to myself. My approach was different in that I decided to sit it out in one place as opposed to the roving of the first outing. Apart from that though, everything was as before.
Fishing from about lunchtime the only time the tip moved was when a bit of weed wrapped around it, which as the river was not up by much, wasn’t very often. When in flood there’s lots of stuff pushed along by the current but I was just getting the very occasional straggler which connected with the line. But I persevered and my dedication was rewarded at just gone 4.00pm when the tip rattled and I struck into the first of the session’s chub. On barbel gear it’s hardly a fair fight but on the set-up I was fishing with it was a pretty good battle. One which I won though.
And in a short flurry of activity you can see the fish that I caught (photos 5,6,7) including the one that got the kiss. It’s been a while since I touched lips with a fish and as I saw the big rubbery chops of the chub as it broke surface I thought to myself, ‘Ah, kiss time’. I was over the moon with the fish caught and even though chub will feed when the temperature is low, it’s still great when you do catch fish after such a sharp drop in a few days. I think the stability of being constant for a period, albeit one of low temperature, helped though as in a way the fish get used to it.
My final session was back to the middle Severn (photo 8) and the weather reflected the fact that in the UK we were being dominated by winds that came in from the east. With daytime temperatures just below zero, once dark it dropped sharply to minus 10. You can still fish when it gets to that stage (I caught roach last year in the severe winter when the air temperature was minus 20) but there are a few pointers you need to take on board. Firstly you need the right gear. When I fish in minus whatever it’s not about bravado. I fish because I want to, not to impress people. I’m well wrapped up with proper clothing designed for the conditions.
Secondly make sure you have a flask and get plenty of regular hot drinks inside you. I tend to pour half cups, so numerically I get a lot more drinks from the flask. It’s a 1.8litre one as well, so plenty of warm fluids going into my body. And finally on the safety front choose your swim carefully. No deep water under your feet, especially if you’re out into dark. And don’t forget your mobile phone – and of course make sure the battery is fully charged before you set out.
And then, from the fishing perspective, choose your species with thought. To maximise your chances of catching, go for those fish that will feed during cold weather. Think through your baiting plan carefully, don’t throw loads of bait out as if it’s the middle of summer. Be realistic, so when it’s minus whatever, then one fish is a result. And of course think where the fish will be, which usually means deeper water. These pointers are not exhaustive by any means but they give you an idea of some practical things to take on board for winter fishing in general and certainly when it gets severe.
So, back to the Severn. It was a bitterly cold day, with temperature at a rock-bottom 2.8C. This fell to 2.6C in the short time I was there. I was fishing a cage feeder with bread on the hook, the only difference that this time the hook bait was dunked in a blue cheese and garlic dip. With overnight air temperatures set to fall sharply, once the sun set over the horizon it felt like they were rapidly heading the way that the forecasters had predicted. Everything was stuck to the floor and my landing net looked like it had been starched. But in conditions that were hardly favourable, the tip moved and started to pull round.
I struck and found myself connected to a fish that needed line feeding to it. I even thought I may have hooked a small barbel and it was only when I brought it to the net that I was sure it was a chub. And what a cracker it was, I even got the scales out. It went ‘five’ and just to be certain, I weighed it twice in case it was a ‘6’. I managed a few shots but returned it quickly because it was so cold the fish was in danger of freezing up, and just putting it in the net on the bank it was starting to ‘stick’.
You can see the chub (photos 9,10) and don’t those shots look different? You would say they were different fish! And also, they don’t do justice to how big it was. That’s the thing with photos, although the camera never lies, it can trick sometimes! As for the one with the head cut off, I was aware of that, but was so concerned about keeping the fish out of the water I just wanted to get it back as quickly as possible. Although the water was icy cold, it was still warmer by several degrees compared to where I was.
I fished on for a little long but the rod rings were locked up with solid ice and my groundbait was like set concrete so I called it a day. I might not have had the photographic evidence that I would liked to have looked back on but I had the experience and that’s what really counts. To be quite honest, any fish on a day like that would have had me on a high, but to net such a quality chub by design saw me walking back to the car up their with the proverbial kite! (article published February 11 2012)