I managed to get Friday off and finally got together with Jeff to target a narrow fast flowing bit of the upper Avon we both hold in high regard for Chub fishing. About four years ago I fished this area every other week and plundered it senseless of its healthy stock of good chub landing more fours than I can remember, a good helping of fives and my PB 6.4lb. A few years later when I had finished with this stretch, myself and a couple of friends went back to do some perch fishing and whilst doing so my old house mate Matt landed a monster chub bigger than anything I had ever seen before. God only knows why we didn't weigh it but it was a truly epic fish.
I wasn't an early start but we soon found ourselves looking at the slightly coloured upper Avon. Jeff slipped off upstream to target a tree lined bend I know only too well but I decided to head straight for the deep bomb hole responsible for so many big chub. It is a bit of a transitional swim where a patch of bullrushes push the flow onto the near bank and scour out a deep trench in the muddy bottom. At the end of the swim the river grows shallow as the water hits a gravel bar and this is where most of the chub seem to hang out.
As I approached the swim I attracted the unwanted attention of a pony in the field which, once I had crawled into position trying to keep off the sky line, appeared on the high bank behind me and spent the next hour and half staring intently at me from three feet away. I made five or so prospective casts with bread and cheese paste but only got a few trembles on the tip. I decided to try and see if a bit of mashed bread would liven things up, which it did when two swans appeared from nowhere and went mental, ducking under water grabbing my bread as it flowed downstream. In no time at all they where right over my baits and upending desperately trying to reach any morsels they could find. If that wasn't enough once finished they did a spectacular mating dance right in front of me before spending the next thirty minutes preening and splashing in my now buggered swim.
Jeff had by now moved onto pastures new and I soon followed to the next field. My next swim was one I used to always overlook but today it looked different for some reason. Over time rivers change and up until today this swim had always looked young, shallow and streamy, but looking at it again now years on it seemed to have developed a deeper eddy of the edge of the fast flow and now seemed all that bit more chubish.
As always when I fish for chub I snuck into place and made a delicate first cast with a irresistible hunk of bread. My feeling about this swim was spot on and a double tap was followed by that fantastic hooping of carbon. Though I rarely go chub fishing nowadays I still admire their dirty powerful fighting ability and this one pulled out all the stops to prevent me pulling it out from under the snags. Once out of the danger zone it just plodded around in circles in front of me till I caught sight of a broad back and white lips under the water.
As it neared the net I thought it had five pounds written all over it and in the net I felt certain it was a five but on the scales it lost weight only pulling the dial round to 4.8lb. Even though it fell short of my target weight it was still a very nice fish on a January dinner time.
As I packed up to move to my next swim I spotted the figure of Jeff approaching over the field. A quick chat revealed he too had a chub which had also seemed bigger than it weighed at 2-3lb. We both agreed there was only a couple of swims left on the stretch and met up moments later to fish ether side of a snaggy bend. I fished my swim for half an hour or so before I got that feeling that nothing was going to happen and went over and sat behind Jeff, flask of tea in hand, till it was time to off.
Zander or anything in mind
Sunday soon came around and all week I had been planning to drop onto the river around Lucy's mill to try my luck for a zed or two. I had told Jeff I was heading that way whilst with him on Friday and his eyes lit up with an invite.
On the river in the dark I let Jeff have first dibs on the swims as he was fishing for prey and I was chasing predators. My casting of 2-3oz of dead bait with 2oz of lead to pin it down may have proved a little disturbing for the local roach population so I gave him a wide berth. Normally this whole area is good for a few bites from a zed or two but today they were strangely absent. You only get a small window of an hour before and an hour after to nab a few bites so I was always planning on moving up stream once the light had settled in. But the arrival of two chaps from the local club pegging out a match just confirmed it was time to move.
My next plan was to fish a feeder rod on the plateau adjacent to the weir to try and bag one of the ever present bream that loom off the edge of the weir pool, whilst chancing a single chunk of spicy luncheon meat on the edge of the main flow after an unseasonal Barbel.
Opening my bucket of ground bait my senses were met by and rather disturbing fruity stink. The day before I had liquidised a loaf of bread to use as ground bait. I had also found a bag of cooked hemp in the freezer which too had also been run through the food processor to form a milky slurry which was added to the mix. Though once it had been added a distinctly spicy smell emanated from the mix. The hemp turned out to be a chilli flavored batch I had been using for barbel fishing last year. At the time didn't feel it would be that harmful but it turned out that a night in our warm kitchen sealed in the bucket had sparked some kind of fermentation and the smell was far from pleasant. Confidence in your bait is a key factor as far as I am concerned. If i use a ground bait I think smells good to me I think fish will like it too and I will keep banging it out till I get a bite in total confidence that sooner or later a fish will move onto it. But this stuff was well off the mark. After a hour of fishing I had only managed a few knocks and Jeff had already moved off to another spot.
Later I could see Jeff landing a fish upstream even before the phone rang and the excited conversation regarding a big roach had me quickly heading his way. Generously he offered to let me squeeze in next to him and cast into a very tight area where all his bites were coming from. Before I had even set a new light ledger set up (the feeder was done away with as not one drop of my foul ground bait was going to ruin this swim after Jeff had invited me in) Jeff had landed another good roach. Casting above him I could not get a bite as Jeff constantly struck at frenzied bites. A second quick move to Jeff's opposite side enabled me to cast downstream of him began to generate bites but by now it seemed the fishes confidence had gone.
As time wore on I did manage to start getting some better bites but nothing like the pulls that Jeff had first encountered. Making a switch to maggots finally yielded a good roach which sadly found freedom moments later, resulting in a barrage of good olde English curses which startled a pair of passing tourists. All had gone quite on the roach front until Jeff hooked a fish which turned out to be very plump perch that looked every bit 2lb but still I struggled on. A couple of good bites did help me avoid the blank with two tiny perch.
My luck didn't get much better when a real savage bite heralded a much heavier fish. At the time there was a decent group of tourists standing by us and the bending rod to a non angler is a real source of amusement and they crowded closer. I really hoped it was a big perch but Jeff standing leaning over the river net in hand confirmed a 3-4lb Jack pike just before my light hook link was severed sending my lead zipping past his head.
With the roach gone and me already very late home for dinner it was time to away but not before getting some shots of Jeff's red letter day. A few brace shots and a net shot later it was my turn for a brace shot and although I felt a right berk holding two little perch for the camera. However Jeff's confirmation that largest of thetwo perch - five whole ounces - was enough to push me into second place in the challenge helped me force out a smile.
It had turned out to be one of those days for me when I could not do right for wrong. Not being able to connect with a bite for love nor money when your companion is bagging up can only be described a character building, but it was still nice to see some superb fish come out of the river.
One last thing; of late I have begun to see a few shoots here and there and the snow drops are showing as too are the daffodils. By my reckoning that gives us about three weeks till the winter will just about be over.