Chub - A Childhood Ambition - Lure fishing for Chub
Fig1. The river at high tide. Did i mention it was tidal. The fish move as the tide comes in.
As i child i had always dreamt of catching a chub. Having consulted the pages of the Fishermans Handbook i was dismayed to see that you couldn't catch chub in the rivers of Devon as the water was too acidic and more suited to trout. I consoled myself with trotting bread flake for mullet, hoping that the skills l was learning would serve me well should i ever get to fish a river with chub in it. It became an ambition of mine to one day catch a chub. Life somehow got in the way, other things seemed more important. Now in my fifties i decide it was high time i caught one. The thing about angling ambitions is that they are personal to us all. For me it is as much about the journey as the capture. Once I have set myself upon that journey I am consumed by it, it then becomes a need I have to fulfil. Non anglers will see this as silly and obsessive, not appreciating the thrill of the eventual capture or patience of the journey. To me the journey is as important as the capture because it was on my terms, having made my mistakes and having slowly put the parts of the puzzle together.
I had planned to travel several hours away such was my determination. On the eve of my trip i was scanning through Instagram when to my utter disbelief my mate had caught a chub! What was going on here? I had never heard of one being caught locally. Surely it couldn't be true? Quizzing him he confirmed that he had indeed caught it locally and that he'd caught it on a lure. Being a good mate he kindly pointed me in the right direction and to my surprise said there were quite a few more! Right a new plan was needed. I would take the lure gear, travel light, hopefully locate the fish and return to catch them on a float. A quick call to a good mate and he would accompany me. With the two of us using different lures and covering more water it would help us to locate them easier. I hardly slept a wink that night.
The day arrived and conditions looked great. Google earth had been consulted and an area just below some shallows look the perfect place to start. As you can imagine on the drive up tactics were discussed. Arriving the river looked perfect. The clear water rippled over the shallows into a deeper glide and it was here I fancied a chub might hide. I imagined the fish would be over on the far bank where the tree branches kissed the water, halting its progress just enough to provide a refuged in which they might hold station, waiting for food to pass within reach. We were kitted out with light spinning gear, reels loaded with 10lb braid and an 8lb leader. If we fished anywhere that looked like it held a pike we would put on a wire trace of a similar weight. It was a decent cast so I chose a Bomber Shallow A .I had removed the treble hook from its belly and de-barbed the trailing hook. It was in a craw colour and probably not a fashionable lure to use these days, but I just fancied a chub might take a shining to it.
Fig 2. The Bomber Shallow A with my ghillie Mike in the background. Note the craw colour. Quite a big lure for chub. I will be replacing the treble hooks with singles this year.
Casting across and retrieving with the rod tip held high appeared to enable it to negotiate the shallows. I started to dial my casts in, inching ever closer to the far bank. If I picked up a fish before reaching the far bank, I hoped to land it without spooking any fish holding up just off it. Suddenly I felt a hit, but nothing was on the end. Was it a bite or just tripping bottom? It felt like a bite? Composing myself I cast just just above where i had before and briefly allowed the lure to drift down on the surface. Engaging the bail arm I tentatively started my retrieve. Bang! The rod hooped over and a fish was on! It felt a decent fish, could it be a chub? My heart was truly in my mouth. It couldn't be, could it? What else could it be? Was it a big trout? Maybe one of the mullet we had seen early fancied my lure. Now as it neared the shallows I caught a glimpse of a bronze flank. My knees almost buckled, the excitement was too much to contain. Mike had got the net and all I could say was it's a chub, it's a chub! Followed by hoots of joy as I drew it over the waiting net. Yesssss! I have been fortunate enough to catch many fish but never has a fish meant so much, I could have cried. Feelings of relief and elation came over me, it was a good job Mike took over as I was a babbling mess. It was probably only about two and a half pounds, not a big fish by anyones standards, but to me it was one of the most beautiful fish I had ever seen. Sure enough, there were the bronze flanks, scale perfect and shimmering in the sunlight. Its bulging stomach stood testament to the fact that its large mouth had engulfed many a meal, my lure being one of them. My hands shook as I held it over the net. Here in front of me was a fish i had dreamt of catching for so long and i don't mind admitting i was overwhelmed. Having briefly admired it I just wanted to get it back safely, unharmed to maybe grace the net of another dreamer like myself.
Fig 3. The fish i had dreamt of for so long. The start of a love affair with chub.
All this time believing it wasn't possible in my neck of the woods, yet here they were only 45 minutes drive away. We didn't catch another fish that day, but it didn't matter, it was a day to be cherished forever. I sat there for a while gazing at the river, absorbed in its every ripple. Sand martins skimmed the waters surface, a kingfisher buzzed hurriedly by, looking like an iridescent jewel in flight, reeds swayed in the warm breeze and something swirled further down the far bank. It was a wonderful place to catch my first chub, everything I could have asked for. I didn't stop smiling all day.
Now I had located them I wanted to catch a chub trotting bread flake, just like i had for so many mullet before, but this time I would be filled with confidence, believing it possible. Little did i know what was to come.
Fig 4. A fish from the following day on a Cicada lure twitched across the surface.
Thanks to Mike Weathersbee for keeping a cool head when mine was a mess and thanks to Darren Rod for putting me on the fish in the first place. I owe you both a pint. Hopefully I can be your ghillie when you catch the fish of your dreams.