Bread punch chub provide end of season finale

March 18, 2017 at 11:39 am

The last day of the coarse river fishing season often sees balmy spring like weather, but grey skies and a strengthening wind put paid to that theory. In recent years I have spent my last day catching big roach on the small river close to home, but with a couple of major pollution events since the new year, this river is now off my radar. With a club  membership that includes the upper river Wey, I took a chance that the  water’s chub would respond to my bread punch and heavy crumb feed to round off the season.

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Leaving home long after the morning rush hour, it still took nearly an hour to travel the 25 miles deep into the wilds of Surrey to locate the river, then find a place to squeeze the van into on the narrow lane by the bridge. The club handbook says of the stretch, that it is seldom fished. I’m not surprised, four or five cars are the limit on this lane. The handbook also states that fishing here suits the roving approach, with the minimum of tackle. Again, one look along the undulating bank at the boggy path, stiles and gates ahead of me, meant that the trolley would have to remain in the van. One final whinge, the river was pushing through and coloured.

Setting up for trotting a 6 No 4 Ali stem stick float, with an ABU 501 loaded with 5 lb line on my 12.5 foot Normark, I crammed a few necessities into my bait bag and headed off upstream to learn what I could about this virgin water. With plenty of twists and turns, this is what I call a real river, with the flow switching from bank to bank, creating slacks and eddies. Passing several likely fish holding areas, my progress was halted by a feeder stream, which had a bridge made up of two oddly angled planks, with no handrail, which would have challenged the SAS to cross safely. I turned round and walked back to a sweeping bend.

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This looked promising, but as on any new water, it is a blank canvas that needs a few trots through to begin to join up the dots. The bread feed had only been processed down to a coarse crumb that morning and held together with a light squeeze, dropping in a couple of egg sized balls upstream a rod length out, watching them break into attractive particles in the swirling current. The float carried away at speed from the rod top, the line spooling off the closed face reel, enough to hold the float back. After a few trots the float was set at 4 ft, with the shot bulked at the hook link, the size 14 barbless buried in an 8 mm pellet of bread. After several 25 yard trots my confidence was waning, when the float stabbed under half way down. It was a fish, not a big one, which danced in the flow, before coming to the surface, it’s silver flanks flashing briefly before it came off. It did not feel solid enough for a roach, or dace and for a 4 oz fish did not pull hard enough for a chub. With skimmers and grayling in this river it could have been either.

Putting in another ball, the float bobbed and lifted, then dived, the strike contacting a decent fish that ran off at full speed downstream, while I backwound furiously. In the coloured water it was difficult to see what I’d hooked, but the way it fought made me think that it was a trout. Rushing upstream under my feet, the fish was making for the roots of a bush, but side pressure brought it to the surface, a chub that now tried to tangle itself among weeds in the shallows, a swift sweep of the landing net making it mine.

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Phew, that was hectic, this 2 lb chub making the most of the swollen river. The hook was in the scissors of the jaw, needing the disgorger to push it free. Once released and after a calming cup of tea, I dropped in another ball of crumb, following it down with the float expecting another bite, but nothing and with the downstream wind blowing a gale, I considered moving, when the float kited over to the right.  Bang! The strike caused an underwater explosion, pulling the rod down to the water and I lifted my finger off the line, allowing it to run free to avoid a break. Bringing the rod back up to the vertical, I put my finger over the spooling line and felt the full weight of the running fish, which jumped clear. A brown trout of over a pound was now rolling on the surface 20 yards away and I dropped the rod top in response, only for the line to go slack. It had come off.

With the wind now at it’s worst, I gathered up my tackle and walked down to the next bend, where a sandy beach backed by a high bank offered shelter. The flow was directed along the far bank under several trees, although the wind was blasting this bank too and I gave up fishing an eddy under a stump, unable to keep a bow in the line from dragging the float. With this wind a heavier rig would have coped, but I was stuck with my original choice, however another greedy chub chasing the crumb feed made up for the lack of presentation, by sinking the float out of sight. Yes! I was in again and back winding to slow that initial rush, before the chub turned to swim along the opposite bank, fighting me and the current, that white mouth visible beneath the surface as I brought it across to the net. A pound plus fish.

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I was now realising that I had owned a permit for this water for a year and waited until the last day available to fish it. What a waste. These were fat fish, full of fight, caught in not ideal conditions. I was confident now that there were more fish to be had and cast again, hooking and losing a much smaller fish a few casts later. More crumb and a bumped fish made me think about a smaller punch, but the flow was washing bread from the hook and stayed with the 8 mm pellet.

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Walking to the end of the beach, I trotted the middle, the flow carrying the float over to my side towards a fishy looking groyne covered in bramble, holding back each time short of the jungle. Ten minutes of this and more feed being washed down kept my eyes glued to the orange float tip, as it passed close to the obstruction, pulling back and letting go. The line and float zipped downstream and I lifted to meet the full weight of another chub as it tried to get beneath the obstruction. The old Normark has a lot of backbone and I leaned back to heave the fish clear of the wooden posts, the line scribing a zigzag pattern on the surface, before making for deeper water. Maybe I’ve been catching too many lake fish lately, but these chub were in top condition, fighting all the way to the net.

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This one lived up to the chub name, being round like a barrel, giving me arm ache, staying deep and resisting all attempts to bring up until it was ready. The sun had come out and the wind eased, but decided to continue my exploration, walking down to a long nearside eddy that I’d passed on my way up.

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There was a definite crease between the fast and slow water and I hoped to find a few roach in the slack, dropping a couple of small balls in along the crease and switching to a 6 mm pellet of bread. The float wandered around in the eddy without a touch, so introduced another ball just in the flow followed by the float. The float bobbed and dipped with a bite then nothing. The bread was gone.  Encouraged, this was repeated. Again no bait. The slice had dried out losing doughiness, going flaky. Getting out a fresh slice, I punched another pellet that looked a lot better and cast in. The bobbing began again, then the float sank away and I lifted into not a roach, but another chub that steamed off at full speed to the middle. Battle commenced again, the pounding fight giving way to the odd head shake by the time it was ready for the net.

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With another nice chub on the bank it was time to go. The bread had proved itself once again, this time on an unknown water. The locals would probably say that legered, hair rigged meat would catch more and bigger fish, but I was very satisfied with my session. The 35 year old Normark is a heavy rod by today’s standards, especially in a strong wind, while in my opinion the ABU 500 series of  closed face reel is still the best stick float trotting reel going.