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As an angler I take a keen interest in the weather. Whether it be temperature, wind direction, air pressure and more, I’m always switched on to what is happening in the here and now and also, what’s predicted in the near future. And in addition to that I’m a regular on the Environmental Agency website, and in particular the river level pages. If you want to have the edge, and particularly so in winter, then you need to stay one step ahead as much as possible. But having said all of that in terms of monitoring the conditions, I’m a firm believer in the ethos that you never catch anything sitting at home.
If we waited for perfect conditions then we wouldn’t be out that often. And even when all the boxes are ticked we can still struggle. For sure we need to take on board the weather when planning. We need to target species accordingly, think through our venues and even down to tactics and bait thought has to go into our approach. But ultimately we have to get out there. So with all that in the mix it was back on the chub trail for me as the country continued with its big freeze.
On the Severn, my chosen swim (photo 1) was just off the edge of a clump of willows. The river was up a little with obvious snow melt from the colour, and although I wouldn’t count those conditions as ideal, as you can see from the video the water temperature was up and I was confident. However, I never had so much as a twitch on the quiver tip. And for as cold as it was in the day, once the sun set it became seriously minus, so much so that the filming took a premature end. Other than in the car when the camcorder had warmed slightly. And did you spot the reference to The Prisoner at the end of the video? I guess most won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, but some of you will!
A couple of days later and I was back on the middle Severn. The air temperature wasn’t much better but the colour of the river indicated a lot of the snow melt had passed through. As shown by the EA site, it was down to normal winter level. And the temperate was up to 3.9C. Doesn’t seem much does it, but when it’s been 2.5C or thereabouts for a while, that is a massive percentage increase. I was even more confident than the first session! Let me say at this point, that although confidence in itself will never put fish on the bank, if we go out expecting to blank then we won’t be disappointed!
My bread bait was dipped in Richworth blue cheese and garlic (photo 2). I do believe that this is a discontinued product, which is a shame as my new-found love affair with chub prompted me to use the dip that I have had lying around for ages at home in my bait cupboard, only to check the Richworth catalogue to find it is no longer listed. Well, once I get through this one I shall just have to look elsewhere. In the meantime, there’s enough to keep me going for a while yet. Unless I kick the bottle over as I have done a few times over the years with various things!
Anyway, back to the actual fishing. Casting downstream of willows again my rod pulled round while it was still light and on 4lb line I had a proper fight on my hands, not like when you hook a chub on barbel gear. Incidentally it was the fact I had caught a few decent fish when after barbel that had prompted me to target the stretch specifically in the first place. But although the fish battled well, eventually I slipped the net under it and lifted it from the water. An earlier visit to the tackle shop where I asked for size 6 hooks had the owner, who is a very proficient match angler himself, asking me with surprise what I was going for.
When I said chub, he replied he fishes for them with a size 22! That’s how different match and specimen angling is. But when you see a big open cavernous mouth edging its way to the landing net, you realise (if you didn’t already) that a size 6 is quite small really. I was really over the moon (that’s a British expression for being really happy in case anyone is wondering) and took a couple of shots (photos 3,4) including one returning the fish. On the subject of non-British anglers (and I do get a readership from around the world), here we practice catch-and-release pretty much exclusively in our coarse fishing.
With that one banked I recast and settled back under my umbrella. The setting of the sun saw temperatures again drop sharply and with heavy snow forecast later, the sleet that started around sunset was the forerunner of a serious band of the white stuff making its way south. I love fishing in the snow but always keep an eye on the situation as it’s also about driving home and not being stranded. So on that front I told my wife to call me if it started at home. Fortunately I was able to fish on undisturbed and an hour and a half into dark I caught my second chub of the session (photo 5). It was another cracker and I couldn’t wait to get back!
My final session of the piece saw me back on the river a few days later – Valentine’s Day to be precise. I’d done some work in the morning, had lunch with my wife at my favourite restaurant in Wolverhampton and then off to the river for the evening! I arrived late afternoon as the early stages of dusk began to take over. And with the thaw also beginning to take command of the weather there was a big improvement in the conditions as well. With milder winds replacing the harsher arctic ones of the last couple of weeks, the most important difference was that the water the water temperature was on the up (photo 6).
Fishing a 20g cage feeder as previously, I filled it with my bread mash/white groundbait (photo 7) and to the water before putting the mix in I added a drop of concentrated blue cheese. Just three casts into the session I had a good fish on but unfortunately it resulted in a hook pull. If you are getting hook pulls all the while then obviously there’s some thinking to be done but as far as the odd one is concerned, these things happen. And as it’s the only fish I have lost so far in this short campaign I won’t be holding an inquiry.
I tweeted that although I had lost a good fish, the night was still young and I was going to get his bigger brother. Well, those words were very prophetical, as a short time later, while still light, I had another pull on the tip that once again saw me playing a decent chub. And not for the first time did I wonder on the initial run whether I had hooked a small barbel! But chub it was (photos 8,9) and as I drew it into the net I could see what a cracker it was too. In fact as I got it on the bank I thought to myself, this has a good chance of being a ‘6’.
But the readout settled at 5-15-8! Just the tiniest margin away from making the magical 6lb mark. How about that for honesty eh! And as you can see from the photos with the depth, length and solid build of the fish, if I’d have said ‘6’ no-one could have argued with that. But the fish was still special and I looked at what I had caught rather than what it could have been. And from the middle Severn as well, that’s a cracker. Although there are rivers that regularly throw up bigger chub, this section of river isn’t one that immediately comes to mind with the general angling public when big chub are mentioned. And that’s a shot of the river this week to close with (photo 10). (Article published February 18 2012)