Did you ever succumb to the year-long pleadings of your lady, to get that hallway redecorated? Did you eye the doorframes and convince yourself that they were still white and that nobody ever sat on the stairs and smoked so the ceiling must still be as clean as it was when you last gave it a rolling in 1983? And who studies skirting boards?

That’s right, you went ahead and re-wallpapered, didn’t you, eager to get back down to the river, then stood back and realized that it looked bloody awful – like a good-looking woman with bad teeth. Too late now though, eh? Unless you’re prepared to painstakingly do a Michaelangelo with a fine artist’s brush and a very steady hand, you’re going to have to live with it for another fifteen years. Or do it all a-bloody-gain.

I had thought about likening chub-stalking to making love with a beautiful woman, but then I visualized Stef Horak and Phil Smith up to their elbows in the groundbait bucket and plumped for the decorating analogy….

Stalking and catching chub and roach in small rivers really is all about preparation: try to cut corners and you’re wasting your time. Think about it; your world is twelve feet wide, two feet deep, and transparent. You’re having to eye the sky for cormorants and gulls and eke a living from whatever the flow brings all at the same time, ALL the time.

It’s no wonder such fish are easily spooked and worthy of our respect.

I suspect I’m preaching to the converted here but, hopefully, going over some basic points won’t hurt.

Stalk upstream where possible. When a fish is spotted or – every bit as importantly – a likely refuge is identified, be in no hurry to cast a bait. Don’t get frustrated. Savour the game – this is the foreplay! Sit down with a coffee or a smoke and just watch. Notwithstanding the interruption of a Frisbee-chasing mongrel, that fish is going nowhere. It’s a chub. If within range, flick just one or two bait samples off your palm and into any overhanging vegetation. Hopefully, they’ll lightly bump their way down through the leaves – bagatelle fashion – and politely introduce themselves to the lair with little more than a subtle ‘plip’.

More often than not the initial freebies will seem to be ignored by your intended but, make no mistake, he’s seen ‘em……he’s content to see how the chublets fare. Give it longer. Remove the flying-ant from your lukewarm coffee and take another gulp. Look around for strollers and dog-walkers. If present, either keep well out of sight or make jolly sure they know you’re there and fishing, particularly if they’re female. Can you imagine?!! One minute you’re lying flat on your belly and slowly advancing caterpillar-style through the undergrowth, the next minute the entire meadow is being flattened by the deafening Thug-Thug-Thug of a Police helicopter!!

No, it’s never happened to me but moments of embarrassment or awkwardness have occurred over the years so the nightmare persists!

Back to the stalking. Flick or carefully catapult a further few offerings and repeat the waiting game as many times as you feel necessary under your particular circumstances. By keeping an eye on the fish’s behaviour you’ll know if it’s safe to load the next titbit with a small ball of lead or whatever it is the law-abiding classes use these days.

What I do when the moment draws near is to have my baited terminal tackle ready for delivery immediately after firing-in a larger-than-usual portion of tempters a few feet upstream of the ‘lair’, the theory being that this will distract the chub’s attention from the relatively heavy arrival of my hook-bait. Now I’ve absolutely no idea if this ploy or any other I’ve been using over the decades actually achieves it’s aim, but it seems to work! If, in fact, it doesn’t and that I would’ve caught the fish whilst wearing a candy-striped three-cornered hat, I simply don’t want to know! Half the fun of fishing is the theory and long may that be the case.

You’ll probably lure just the one fish from such a swim; in fact, you’ll definitely lure just one fish from such a swim so then it’s time to pat yourself on the back, have another coffee, read a few pages of Old Isaac and continue with the upstream search for likely holes and overhangs. I would hope you are carrying a three day old crusty loaf with you because there is, without fear of contradiction, little in freshwater fishing more exciting than drifting a floating bait into the dark confines of an undercut bank and seeing the black water ‘hump’ as a good chub succumbs to your ruse! It’s wonderful stuff! Throughout my life, I’ve puzzled and wondered how it is that almost everybody else on Planet Earth gets by – apparently enjoying life – without experiencing the thrill of bending into water-borne animals with a long, flexible stick. What’s wrong with these people?

…a small stream common of 8.6…rock solid
– and fought like an exocet!

There are few ‘givens’ in any sport or pastime, but when it comes to the art of luring chub from secretive hideaways in small rivers, one particular and easily made error will, without question, cancel out any chance you have of success – that of ‘checking’ your drifting line and crust as they near the spot. Any such aberation or interruption in the natural passage of a floating bait WILL be noted by Mr. Jagger and result in a spooked swim. You rarely get a second chance. Each and every assault (for want of a much nicer word) you make on these very private, shady refuges must be approached as though your life depends on it; you’ve got to get it right first time, allowing your line and bait to drift loosely and naturally into the ‘lair’.

I’ve had hundreds of wonderful times fishing like this, never tiring at the thought of the next trip out – every one’s a good ‘un. Occasionally, a surprise carp – sometimes into double figures – comes along and really tests the tackle, the fight taking anything up to thirty minutes! I took two from a small stream one winter afternoon a few years ago and was left both ecstatic and physically exhausted; I remember thinking how much more remarkable those captures had been than those made by the 60lb braid, 5oz lead-swinging brigade. Again, it’s great stuff and I recommend it to this house!

Cliff Hatton.

Read Cliff Hatton’s books from Medlar Press

Not only is Cliff Hatton a great writer for FishingMagic and other journals, he is also a highly tallented cartoonist and has a number of books published by Medlar Press. They include: All Beer and Boilies, All Wind and Water, and soon to be published – All Fluff and Waders.

Visit the Medlar Press site by clicking here and order your copies now!