With the rivers back to a reasonable level and clearing nicely my initial plans for the early part of February were to trot for dace and chub, but on different rivers in order to target proper specimens for each species.
My initial dace trip was quite encouraging, with a reasonable number up to 12oz amongst a mixed bag that included some nice roach, with a couple going over the 1lb mark and some modest chub and barbel. The day was a really cold one, with the line freezing in the rod rings on occasions, but I managed to drop on the fish straight away and they kept biting, which kept me busy and barely noticing the bitter temperatures.
Unfortunately the next dace trip was something of a disappointment, as I struggled to find any decent fish despite moving swims several times. The river itself was also more sluggish than I had expected and wasn’t particularly inspiring. As a result, rather than being encouraged to plan a further trip to target the dace, I considered switching my attention to the Gt. Ouse, a little closer to home, and having a go for the chub.
The next trip out with the trotting gear then was to the Ouse with a big chub the object of the exercise. Although the gear was just a slightly beefed up version of the dace trotting set up, I could expect the catch rate to be very different as the stretch of river was unlikely to hold many fish of any sort and bites would always be hard to come by.
However if a bite was forthcoming, then there was a chance of a very big fish, so you have to keep your wits about you and try and make the most of any opportunity.
On the day itself the river looked in perfect nick for a float and maggot attack and after a quick check along the stretch I selected a swim that had the faster water towards the far side with slower paced water in the middle and some almost still water close in, with a slight back eddy tight to the near bank. The faster flowing water looked to be the better bet and allowed the trot to continue for a good distance downstream so I could cover plenty of water.
You have to get yourself into the right frame of mind for this kind of fishing as you need to keep the bait going in on a regular basis and be alert for a bite despite running the float through time and time again without any signs of fish. I’d been at it for only about an hour or so and wasn’t particularly expecting any action quite so early into the session when the float suddenly disappeared right down towards the far end of the trot. Despite the distance the strike met with solid resistance and I wasn’t too sure at first whether a fish was responsible, or whether the hook had found a snag on the bottom. Fortunately, after a moment or two, there was that lovely satisfying solid ‘thump’ that told me I’d hooked a big fish that was simply holding station and trying to work out what to do next.
After a couple more ‘thumps’ and a period of virtual stalemate the fish gave a little bit of ground and I was able to gain a bit of line back onto the spool. There followed a long period where a short period of stalemate, with the odd thump or headshake, was followed by a little bit of give and a short retrieval of line as I gradually inched the fish back up the swim towards me.
It was clearly a big fish and I was praying it would be a chub and not turn out to be one of the very rare barbel left along the stretch, or maybe even a good pike that had taken my double maggot hookbait. Whatever it was, the fish stayed in the faster paced water as it very gradually made its way upstream until eventually it seemed as though it was only a yard or two from being directly opposite where I was standing.
I was hoping that the steady pressure I was exerting through the rod tip would help to steer the fish across the current and towards my bank, but rather than start to ease its way out of the faster water the fish just rose up and rolled on the surface before sinking down again to hold its position once more. The quick view of the fish as it rolled was enough to show me I was attached to a massive chub and I tried to keep calm and convince myself that the hook had held all this time and so the fish should be as good as mine so long as nothing unexpected happened and I didn’t do anything foolish.
Unfortunately just a few moments later the unexpected did happen and suddenly the fish was gone…
My immediate thought was that the hook hold had suddenly given, but once I’d reeled in it was obvious that the hook length had parted and the hook was missing! I’ll never know for sure, but I can only assume that it had cut against the spade of the hook, as it looked as though it had parted with a clean cut right down by the hook; something I’ve heard of happening, but hadn’t previously experienced. I don’t think it cut through on a sharp snag or something and, unless there was some sort of weak point that I was unaware of, I’m sure that there wasn’t enough pressure to simply snap it on a straight pull.
It was a bitterly disappointing loss of a fish that could well have been a personal best.
Losing the odd big fish is bound to happen every now and then when you’re spending most of your fishing time chasing specimens, but I can’t say that it makes them any easier to cope with. It also seems that I’ve got some sort of curse going on in terms of losing the really big chub that I hook on float gear.
A few years back, after feeding a shoal of chub with maggots for a couple of hours and getting the very biggest one, which was at least an upper ‘7’, lined up at the head of the shoal and really keen on mopping up the grubs, I hooked it on the first trot down. On that occasion almost as soon as it was hooked it came up in the water, did the ‘roll of death’ on the surface and the hook pinged out!
Over the next couple of weeks when the conditions were right I tried the float and maggot tactics on a couple of further occasions, but no big chub were hooked, although I did have a couple of very respectable dace over the 10oz mark and a bonus perch of over 2lb.
The dace were especially pleasing, as the Ouse has produced some very big ones in the past and it bodes well for some specimens in the future if they can continue to avoid the cormorants and otters. Ledger tactics, mainly after dark, resulted in a few chub coming to the net, but with the best weighing a few ounces over 5lb I was struggling to find one of the really big ones. I was getting really enthusiastic about catching a big chub from the river before the end of the season, but with only a couple of weeks to go before the close time was running out.
I’ll let you know how things worked out in my next piece.
Until then…happy fishing!