Fenland Chub and Pike - Not Just Teeth: January
Mark Barrett rediscovers the fun in his fishing thanks, in part, to looking at the sport through the eyes of others.
It’s been a funny old winter for me in many ways; I have been on the bank a lot more and yet I have fished far less and despite this I have enjoyed the whole experience more than I think I would have done had I been left to my own devices. The reason for this is that I have been spending the time introducing my nephew Adam to the joys of fishing for the first time, and helping out some friends who have decided to reacquaint themselves with our wonderful sport.
The great thing is that by going right back to the start you get to see the sport through new eyes once again and your targets are not as taxing as they once were, or indeed would be if I was fishing for my own benefit and I have to say I have loved the whole process - a lot!
That’s not to say that there haven’t been some highs and lows. Adam continues to enjoy the worst of luck with his piking, his weekend availability clashing with either some pretty ropey weather or some incredibly bad luck and his last session was a case in point.
After waiting very patiently all day, in very cold weather, for a bite our only run came as we were packing up but Adam was on the rod in a flash, despite only seconds earlier having been at the top of the flood bank. However, as he wound down to the fish I could instantly see that there was something wrong as the line was tightening not to the fish but to a spot in the margins. What had actually happened was that he had managed to foul someone’s discarded line which mucked the whole strike up meaning, yet again, we went home fishless!
Despite this he remains as keen as mustard and is already talking about coming camping for river carp in the summer and I have to admit that I am so looking forward to this too as not only will he get a crack at carp, but at rudd and all the other species that inhabit the rivers. Best of all is that to his eyes they are all new and wondrous and fun. It’s easy for someone in my position, who is involved in the sport in a semi-professional basis, to lose sight of the fact that we all started out fishing for fun; thankfully I have had the three apprentices to drag me back and I am grateful for it.
So what have we caught this month?
Well, things have most definitely looked up! There have been a couple of blanks, mainly around the period when the temperature plummeted from 13 degrees one day to just one degree the next., that’s never going to make for good fishing, and so it proved, but by having a bit of a change and visiting a few new places we have kept fish coming to the bank.
To go through every trip this month would take forever, and would probably be really boring as it would just be a list of ‘I caught this and he caught that’. However two trips stood out as they marked new experiences for one or other of us.
First off was a swerve away from predators. If there is one fish that you can be pretty confident about catching regardless of the weather it’s chub. Unfortunately we don’t have masses of chub swimming around the Fens, but there are isolated pockets, either in the upper reaches of the rivers or, in the case of the River Cam, right in the middle of the town to which the river gave its name: Cambridge.
Fishing any town centre can be an experience in itself as you seem to act as a magnet to all the local nutters, experts and drifters as well as the ever present passers-by that all seem to take an interest in what you are doing. With Cambridge being an historical and pretty city you can also add into the mix Japanese students who seem to want to photograph anything that moves and the student boat crews, the silent assassins that look to grab your tackle at every opportunity.
There are some flip sides though in that town centres often see congregations of over-wintering silver fish and the predators that feed on them, or big fish as they do in the Cam. Oh, and with regards to Cambridge the river also sees a large number of female joggers; if there is one thing in life that I would love to do it’s to shake the hand of the man that invented Spandex or that of the person that convinced so many female joggers to wear it as a matter of course!
Distractions aside we were there to catch chub and we had a ‘secret’ method that is very rarely used for the species, but one that I have found devastating at times: the steak and mince attack.
For those of you who may never have used it this method revolves around using a small cage feeder lightly packed with finely chopped mince so as to make sure it empties easily upon impact. On the hook strips of braising steak are usually the best complementary hookbait but on this occasion Mike had got cubes of stewing steak, it didn’t make much difference and both are nice and cheap. A medium pack of mince and a pack of steak lasted both of us easily, with enough left for another session and at a cost of about £3.50 it was bargain basement fishing at its best.
Fortunately the chub agreed and though I have had days where I have caught more and bigger, we both ended up with a couple of fish each around the 3lb mark and I managed to take top honours, after dark, with one fish of 4lb 10oz. Not huge chub but they beat catching nothing as had often been the case before and from a personal point of view it was nice to have a rod in my hand and something pulling back, rather than giving instruction.
The very next day we headed out again with chub in mind but we also had a couple of pike rods in the car too as we were set to visit a stretch of the Great Ouse I had never fished before but which, I had heard, had recently produced a very big pike.
The stretch is a very large pool on the river with a number of back streams and eddies and although on this occasion the chub fishing was pants, the piking wasn’t. It didn’t take long before my floatfished herring was off across the pool in a blur and the resulting strike met with something reasonable without being huge, only for it to fall off pretty quickly. A quick curse and the rod was back out there again only to trundle off a half hour later and for me to strike into thin air...some so called pike expert. When the third run an hour later resulted in a repeat performance of the first I was really starting to lose my rag and my rods were in danger of being ‘Steve Backley-ed’ into the park nearby!
The chub fishing was exceptionally poor but I finally managed a bite - only to snag up straightaway. Laying the rod down it came free pretty easily and there was a considerable weight on the end that was just ploughing up and down the pool without me making much of an impression on it. I was beginning to wonder just what might be on the end as it didn’t seem to have the speed of a big chub but with big bream and carp also present I was wondering whether perhaps one of those was the culprit.
Unfortunately at this point the unseen adversary ploughed into Mike’s pike line and all went slack. I swore to Mike that it had come off at which point he proclaimed that it hadn’t, there was a fish on the end of my line, which there was indeed - a very dead dace of about 4oz that had obviously been grabbed very quickly in the fight by a pike.
Not being one to miss an opportunity the dace quickly replaced the smelt I had on one rod and hardly had it settled than it was away. This time I gave the fish the beans, attempting to make sure it didn’t throw the hooks - and it didn’t. A fish probably just short of ten pounds hit the net wielded by Mike and the first fish from a new venue to boot. The light was fading fast by now but with renewed confidence I rebaited and went on to add another two fish to the tally by the end of the day, both being pristine looking, tubby doubles of around 12lb apiece.
Not the biggest pike that I have ever caught but new fish from a new venue and good scrappers in the flow; it was fun fishing, now isn’t that what I was talking about before?
By the Same Author
- The Angling Trust, an ‘Unbelievably Weak Governing Body’ - Not Just Teeth: December
- Fishing in Sickness and in Health - Not Just Teeth: November
- Jigging for Zander and Deadbaiting for Pike - Not Just Teeth: October
- Autumn perch and catfish - Not Just Teeth: September
- Catfish, Carp and Kids – Not Just Teeth: August
- Paying your Dues?
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight: Part 3
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight: Part 2
- Sounding Off
- Zander Fishing - Shadows in the Moonlight