A Very Significant Fish
Gary Knowles catches a big chub from the Dove that has 'those who know' drooling with envy.
A 6lb 5oz Chub from the Dove - a very significant fishAs many on this website will know I tend to vary my fishing a great deal. Through the summer months I fish for bream and tench on stillwaters, for barbel and chub through autumn and winter and in-between this I fit in a few trips for pike, perch, grayling, roach, rudd or anything else that takes my fancy. In addition to this I travel near and far enjoying my local fishing for what it is and also trying my hand at catching outsize fish from a few southern venues that I like to visit each year.
I've been lucky over the years, my PB list isn't bad at all for a Northern oik and I have been privileged to have witnessed, and caught, some pretty impressive fish in my time; so it takes something very special these days to blow me away. But that's exactly what happened to me a week or two ago.
Quite simply I love chub fishing, to the point that if (god forbid) I was restricted to fish for only one species then chub it would be, they are simply a joy to fish for. Whether its summer slugging or on the 'tip' in winter they can be an obliging fish. That said, they can be as fickle as any woman and can sometimes be the most difficult fish to tempt, but all this adds to the appeal.
The Ribble also has been kind to me, having produced my previous two 6lb+ fish but I have drifted away from it a little this year, a combination of seeking new challenges and my disgust at the way a pair of seals were left to decimate the river for months on end last winter, which led me to decide to try new rivers.
The Dove was never a river that I anticipated catching a big chub from though; in fact I used it as nothing more than a confidence booster for a couple of years, when the air pressure was high and cold clear nights were the norm. I would travel light, fishing sometimes two or three different stretches in a day in the upper reaches where the chub, although not massive, were plentiful, anything between a dozen and twenty 3-4lb chub would be the norm with the occasional 5-pounder being a real treat to brighten up the day.
On this particular day I chose to fish a couple of stretches travelling light and covering at least a couple of miles of river. I arrived at the first location to find no other cars present on the farmyard and made my way to the river. From there I slowly worked my way to the upstream limit, throwing a handful of bread or a couple of nobs of cheese (don't go there Wol!) into each likely looking swim before starting at the top of the stretch and working back down.
I don't know how many chub I caught but it was probably about ten or twelve, there were a couple of small ones amongst these but all the rest were in the 3 1/2 - 4 1/2lb class and in mint condition. Most swims I chose yielded a fish or two and most came within minutes of the bait settling.
Method and bait
As usual my tactics and bait were pretty simple; I was using Preston Innovations 11'-6" quivertip rod, 6lb Krystonite line with a 5.9lb Grand Match fluorocarbon hooklink. My hook was a Kamasan B983 wide gape in size 4 and a 20grm cage feeder filled with flavoured liquidised bread completed the set up. Hookbait was a large chunk of bread flake with cheese paste as a reserve. I know I have said this many times before on FM but I really can't see a place for bolt rigs and hairs when chubbing, they are simply nowhere near as effective as a standard rig and perhaps more importantly are nowhere near as enjoyable as actually striking your bites and playing your fish on balanced tackle. I really can't see me fishing for chub in any other way.
By lunchtime I'd fished my way through the stretch and made my way to my second venue, slightly upstream of the first spot and one where I had had a couple of scraper fives last season. Once again the stretch was deserted (oh how I love the frosts and the way it keep anglers at home, it's beyond my comprehension but it suits me just fine). Although not too much of a problem here on the Dove, the Ribble is so over-fished these days that I now only fish it in the depths of winter when most of the barbel anglers are sat at home watching the football results coming in.
I baited a dozen swims
I repeated my approach of the morning, baiting around a dozen swims as I made my way upstream, then starting at the upstream limit and working my way down. The first swim looked good but didn't feel right when I cast out, it seemed a little too deep, a little to swirly, like a washing machine, if you know what I mean. The next swim up really looked the part though, it had when I baited it and just a few minutes later this is where I was positioned. I threw in another handful of mashed bread watching the current pull the particles downstream, there was a tinge of colour in the water (which was good) but there was also a little more water in than I'd have preferred, but this swim still looked just right; it was a long glide, maybe 40 yards long and approximately 4ft deep and moving at walking pace, there was no real cover but the banks on both sides were overgrown as this spot was little fished.
The tip twitched once before pulling confidently round and I struck into what I knew at once to be a big fish, however the truth is I thought I had hooked a winter barbel as at first it did nothing, it just sulked around in the swim for a minute or two and no amount of pressure from me seemed to want to get it moving. It was only when it kited into the near bank in an attempt to get to the undergrowth that I realised it was a chub.
Although my gear wasn't the strongest it was balanced so I soon had the fish wallowing in front of me, there was only one snag that I could see and that was above me so I soon had it in the net without any real problems. As it passed over the rim I thought I'd got a decent 'five'. I got out the scales, wetted the sling and zeroed everything before lifting the fish out (until now I'd just left it folded in the landing net in the margins) and it was at this point I thought "oh shit!" It was an incredibly deep and broad fish and I knew at once it was a personal best and I actually expected it to be over six and a half. The scales said I was a little out and after re-zeroing and re-weighing I was happy with a weight of 6lb 5oz.
As some of you will be aware I have recounted this story in my Specialist column in this week's Angling Times and I can only repeat what I wrote there, that this may not be cause for celebration on a national level but let me tell you this was, in my opinion, an enormous fish for the venue.
A very significant fish
Let me just say now that no way am I claiming to have caught the biggest chub from the venue, without doubt someone will have caught bigger, maybe a barbel angler that gave it no significance or an angler with no desire for publicity but what I can say is it was the largest that I or any of my friends had caught, or even heard of, and as such was to me at least a very significant fish. One which I rated alongside anything I have caught previously.
I slid the fish into a wet sack and placed it securely in the margins whilst I contemplated what to do next. There was no-one else fishing on that part of the river that day and in all my time fishing there I had never come across a farmer, or dog walker as I was so far off the beaten track. I would have to use the self-timer to get a decent shot. Before this though I had a couple of calls to make, first to Graham, as out of all the people I have fished with over the years no-one came close to matching my desire for chub fishing, and I knew that he too would understand the significance of the capture and relate to the way in which it was taken. I then phoned my brother and Steve, a bloke I'd spend many enjoyable years chub fishing with on the upper severn. Each in turn expressed shock, then congratulations, then thought better of it and called me a jammy ****. But out of the three it was probably Graham's comments later that epitomes how I felt when he compared the chub to a dozen 'sevens' off the Stour. As I said in my specialist column, I'm not sure that this is true but it certainly felt at the time like I had something special in front of me.
I set up the self-timer, took a couple of practice shots to get the framing and focus right then lifted the fish out of the sack and took four or five quick shots before putting the fish back in the sack and back in the margins. Before I released it I wanted to be sure that I hadn't made any silly mistakes as I was still a little shell-shocked and it's at times like this we are most likely to cock something up. I zoomed in on the fish's scales and they looked sharp and clear so returned the fish straight after, a little confused maybe, but certainly none the worse for its experience.
I recast in the same swim but had nothing, then moved further upstream taking another fish around 4lb but the truth is my heart wasn't really in it, I felt whatever I caught now would be an anticlimax. I packed in soon after and headed for home, the thought of a large Jameson's now firmly in my thoughts.
I know some anglers who don't fish for chub will be wondering what all the fuss is about, I'm also sure one or two of the southern lads on FM will be thinking the same thing, but its only when you have spent the amount of years I have chasing large chub on small local rivers that you can appreciate what a fish like this means to us.
As I said earlier I have been privileged over the years to have witnessed some huge fish, but I think it says everything that's good about angling that a 44 year old thick skinned, northern bloke like me can still get so excited about a fish as 'small' as this. Long may it continue.