Ribble brace for Gary Knowles (click for bigger picture)

The river had been high for over a week, and although it can be conducive to barbel, where the Ribble is concerned it really is no good at all for chub.

However, on Friday the river had fallen to just three feet above normal levels and I expected it to be almost perfect for my day off, Saturday. Friday night was a cold one, but only a minor frost greeted me on Saturday morning. However, I cared not, I had been on a bit of a booze-up with my neighbours on Friday so I had no intention of chubbing early today, especially with the forecast for clear skies and another freezing night ahead, so back to bed I went.

To cut a long story short it was 3pm before Steve and I arrived at the river. Only one other angler was fishing on the stretch and he had positioned himself in a known barbel area. A polite enquiry confirmed that as expected he hadn’t caught: quite why barbel anglers don’t switch to chub in such weather escapes me but each to their own I suppose.

It was a bit disappointing to find the river still around 18″ up. This doesn’t sound like a lot I know, and on waters like the Dove or Severn it isn’t, however it really does make traditional chub fishing on a fast river like the Ribble quite difficult.

We did have an ace up our sleeve however, and walked a good distance to a spot at the start of a big outside bend where high water creates a slight crease going across the river. It isn’t much of a difference and quite difficult to spot but previous experience has showed that a 40 yard cast down and across can put you in a nice steady area where, after prolonged periods of high water chub often shoal up.

Due to the long walk involved in getting to this spot it was just starting to go dark when we dropped into our swim. We decided to ‘share’ the swim, sitting side by side and having a bit of a social on what was forecast to be a bitterly cold night.

My set up was a Shimano ‘Antares’ rod with a soft 1.5oz glass quiver tip, 6lb Krystonite mainline and running paternoster held a 30gm cage feeder loaded with mashed bread. Both the breadflake hookbait and mash were flavoured with Nash ‘Cheesey chops’ flavouring and a size 4 hook completed the set up. A large chunk of flake was squeezed onto the hook before being cast into position. Like most chub anglers I know I always hold the rod when chubbing and had I not been in this instance, then the first bite may have taken my rod in.

As I was fishing a long way downstream the fish put up a good, dogged fight on the balanced gear but soon lay within the folds of my net. 5lb 4oz was a nice way to start the evening and although it was still early the freezing mist rolling in from St Annes had already had the effect of making the weighsling ‘crunch’ during the weighing. So as not to disturb the swim I popped him in a sack in the margins and re-cast.

To cut a long story short I had a further three bites on my next three casts taking a further two fish of 4lb-plus before hooking into an obviously much bigger fish. Upon lifting the net I was convinced this one would go ‘six’ yet the scales only crept around to 5.9. I was so convinced of the fish’s size I took it out of the sling, re-zeroed and weighed it again. Unfortunately the result was just the same. Upon closer inspection it was apparent that this fish, although being substantially longer than the earlier ‘5’ did not posses a similar girth. Still it was a lovely brace to brighten up a cold winter’s evening.

What was interesting about the bites was that as the fish obviously became a little spooked, each bite became progressively more delicate, the first a real rod-wrencher and the last and biggest chub pulling the tip no more than quarter of an inch. A bite which I might well not have seen had I not felt the curl of line under my finger tighten slightly, as the chub gingerly picked up the breadflake.

We moved twice more, both Steve and I taking a couple of further fish of just under 5lb and I did lose what felt like a very big fish right at the death when my hook lost its hold in some fast water (Strange how I never seem to lose a small one!).

By the time we left at around 9.30pm I had to prise my frozen net off the ground and the bread mash had frozen solid in the bucket – a sure sign that it was time I was sat at home watching another 1-0 victory for Everton whilst cradling a large and most welcome tumbler of Whisky.

Don’t you just love winter chubbing….