Chub fanatic Dave Slater has had an almost lifelong love affair with fishing, an affair that began some 50 years ago, when he first picked up a rod. Much of that time has been spent chasing chub, a species he considers to be special. In this series of five articles Dave (“I’m not an expert, just experienced”) is sharing some of those experiences with us.
A LEARNING CURVE
The next two seasons were very interesting, a time of consolidation and learning. I concentrated my efforts on very quiet stretches of the Avon and Stour, which meant that I could do my own thing.
I had been experimenting with braid hooklinks for several years. The original braids were too thick for my liking and I had settled on Corastrong. I was not 100% happy with this as it was sometimes unreliable but, in general, my results using it were good.
I did quite a lot of feeder fishing on the Avon and found bronze maggots were the most successful. Experiments with flavouring meat were also given an extended trial. The chub seemed to prefer garlic to all other flavours and Spam coated with garlic chip was very successful.
Fishing with Bill Neal in the winter I found that liquidised bread was generally better than mash, either in a cage feeder or loose fed behind a float. Bill Neal’s tactic of having a cast with the cage feeder then following it with a cast using a straight lead also worked well.
In the summer months I experimented with various particle baits. The main thing I learned over the two seasons was what a superb bait cheese was, outfishing all other baits. I probably already knew this but my results confirmed I was right. My best results were obtained by mixing two cheeses together, occasionally colouring the mix as well. I had already used Cheddar with some Stilton mixed in. This mix was successful again but I discovered an even better one, Red Leicester with some Dolcellate mixed in. This is still my number one mix today.
It is essential to knock the consistency out of the cheese when mixing it. A good dodge I picked up from Bill was to put a small piece of crust on the bend of the hook above the cheese when things were difficult. I really enjoyed these two seasons and, having tried many different methods and baits, felt I was ready for bigger and better things. The best fish I caught during this period was a fish of 6lb 2oz from the Avon and one of 6lb 1oz from the Stour, both on the Red Leicester and Dolcellate mix.
I decided to have a season trying to catch as many chub as I could, followed by a season trying to catch some big chub to see how much I had learned.
THE NUMBERS GAME
I caught a brace of fives on opening morning, a mirror of the brace I caught from the same stretch at the end of the previous season. I finished up with six fives in the first fortnight before moving on to other waters. I caught several good fish from the Avon and the Stour using all of the techniques I had been perfecting the previous two seasons. The fish just kept coming whatever I did.
Cheese was again far and away the best bait on the Stour, with cheese and maggots faring equally well on the Avon. I couldn’t go wrong and even caught some decent stillwater fish. On an evening session on the Stour I achieved a first for me, three fives in a session. They were part of a large bag of fish. In the New Year I decided to try and catch some bigger fish and returned to the stretch I had started the season on. I caught good chub every time I went and some big bags of fish were taken, all on cheese.
During February I discovered a new swim at the bottom of the stretch. It was a wide gravel swim, which dropped off at the tail end. Late in February I caught a new personal best chub of 6lb 6oz from this swim. The same fish was caught again, from the same swim, a few days later at 6lb 4oz. I ended the season with a catch of four chub, which included three fives. The season had been incredible and I had amassed a total of 126 chub over 4lb, with 40 over 5lb. The new personal best was the icing on the cake.
Carbon tips rated at 3oz were provided with the rods. I do not like carbon tips as they are too stiff but use these very occasionally in flood conditions. Also provided were nice glass tips of 1.5, 2 and 2.5 oz. Although these cover most conditions I also bought some 1oz tips for fishing in small rivers. The lighter the tip used the more time there is to strike bites as the chub hold on longer. The straight tips provided with theses rods are ideal for touch ledgering and for stillwater fishing.
I also obtained a Chapman’s Supreme 15’6″ float rod for trotting. For reels I got a pair of Shimano Stradic 4000 GTM’s for general chub fishing plus a Diawa 125M closed face reel for trotting. I am not a fan of centrepin reels as the retrieve is not as fast and it takes longer to get the float back in the water.
My main line for chub fishing was to be Fox Soft Steel in 6lb bs. I also had spare spools of 8lb bs. Soft Steel and 4lb bs. Berkeley XL. The spools for my closed face reel were loaded with Drennan float line in various breaking strains. I like braids for hooklinks and a variety were obtained. My standard hooklink material would be Kryston Silkworm in 6lb bs with 4lb and 8lb bs also used at times. I had not been happy with Corastrong and was now using Spiderwire as my hooklink material for feeder fishing, 5lb bs being used for most situations and 10lb bs for snag fishing. I was very happy with the Spiderwire and found it reliable as well as very thin. I decided on three hook patterns, Kamasan B983s in the large sizes for big baits, Ashima C310s for smaller baits and particles and Drennan Super Specialists in small sizes for feeder fishing. When float fishing I would use Drennan Super Spades. All of these tackle items were sound choices and are what I still use today.
THE RAIN GOD
A good friend of mine, Terry Brindle from the Chub Study Group, and I often have exchange visits. I go and stay at Terry’s house in Sutton Coldfield for a few days and we catch lots of fairly small chub from rivers like the Anker and the Mease. Terry stays with us for a few days and we try to catch a few bigger chub from the Avon and Stour. Terry is known as the rain god as it seems to rain wherever he goes, so it came as no surprise when we had a lot of rain before his visit in October. Terry had not been catching many fish and wanted a bend in his rod. With this in mind I decided to take him on a local stillwater for the first day, hoping that the rivers may fine down for the rest of his stay.
Terry caught lots of small carp on the stillwater and was pleased to be catching some fish. Late in the afternoon I had a very slow take, the bobbin crawling up to the rod. As soon as I struck I knew it was no carp and a very long 6lb 2oz chub was soon in the net.
The rivers had fined down by the next day so we had sessions on the Avon and the Stour. We caught chub on both rivers. Later in October we had torrential rain and both rivers, Avon and Stour, flooded badly, making them virtually unfishable. I received my quarterly copy of the Chub Study Group magazine, Chevin, and Peter Stone had written an article on stillwater chub, a favourite subject of his. The article inspired me to have another go at the stillwater I had fished with Terry.
I waited for the weather to turn colder at the beginning of November, hoping that this would discourage the carp from feeding. I used meat baits on both rods. Previous sessions on this stillwater had shown small cubes of bacon grill to be the best bait. I started with small pieces of bacon grill and Spam spiced with garlic chip. All of my bites came to the bacon grill so I used it on both rods. The results were brilliant. The colder weather had slowed the carp right down and I caught a succession of good chub to 6lb 4oz, mainly caught late in the day. The bigger chub were all very long.
On 25th November the weather changed. It rained heavily and was a lot warmer. I was surprised to catch two chub in the morning, as those caught previously had all been fairly late in the day. At around midday the bobbin on one of my rods crawled up. The strike met with solid resistance and the fish fought very well. It came over the net and I lifted. I knew immediately, even though the chub was not quite as long as some of the others, that it was big. It was a very fat chub and the scales confirmed a weight of 7lb 2oz, a ‘seven’ at last. I had intended to catch a very big chub that season but hadn’t considered the possibility of catching it from a stillwater. It pays to be versatile sometimes.
The day after I caught the ‘seven’ I caught a brace of good chub. The first one weighed 5lb 14 oz. It didn’t look as impressive as it should have done after the ‘seven’ and I didn’t even bother taking any photos. I caught another of 6lb 3oz later in the day. This one was photographed, as it would have been blas