Chub and roach against the odds.

March 3, 2014 at 7:36 pm

For three months my small local river has been up and down like a yo-yo and the last outing at the beginning of the year, when the levels dropped for a few days, had yielded mostly gudgeon, taking only a couple of my target roach on the day. With just a couple of weeks left to the season, my chances of getting a decent catch of roach have been reliant on some deluge free days. The river has two sources of water, the natural one, which drains the local pine forest and the main cause of the sudden rises in levels, when it acts as a drain to the town and it’s surrounding housing estates.

Where the river is joined on a bend by an outfall from the town water treatment works, I set out my tackle in the hopes of repeating past success among the roach that gather in the aerated water. Despite dry days, the river was still rushing through though, causing surface ripples as it passed over the slower water beneath, while coupled with the colour of strong coffee, the odds of even getting a bite seemed stacked against me. With more heavy rain forecast for later in the day and the rest of the week, it was a case of now, or never.

 A fallen tree to my left had created an eddy at my feet and I set up with a Preston 4 No. 4 alloy stem stick to trot this shallow edge, down to an over hanging bush. With bread punch bait and liquised bread as feed, I dropped a couple of balls in upstream and watched them disappear into the murk, as they washed by. Set six inches over depth, the float was eased towards the bush at half speed, until it reached the foam and held for a minute. No bites. Each time the 7mm pellet of bread was missing on retrieve, probably dragged off by the strong current. I shallowed up a foot, dopped in another ball of bread and followed it down with the float. At the bush the float dived away, I struck and the rod curved over with a fish. A couple of vicious bounces of the tip and it was off. Curses. Not a good omen to lose the first fish, especially a decent one on a hard day.

With no more offers on the inside line, I gave the fast water a go, throwing the feed upstream into the fallen tree, while adjusting the float to fish deeper, just checking and running the float through each yard down into the foam. The float dipped and I missed it. Next trot, bang, the float slid sideways and I was in again. Off again. I checked the hook. I’d finally run out of my old Mustad fine wire size 14 crystal hooks, having bought the box of 100 in Days of Olde and was trying out a heavier gauge 14 whisker barb. Maybe I wasn’t striking hard enough. I came back inside and at the bush watched the float stab down and across, paused, then a firm lift had the rod tip pulling down into the river with the force of the running fish. I backwound hard on the reel to ease the pressure and the unseen battler was checked midstream round the corner, it swimming back towards the bush in a power run. Pushing my 14 foot rod out over the stream, the fish turned and rolled; it was a decent chub, not a monster, but needed care to get in the net.

A fish at last, still no roach, but there was time to draw them up into my swim. A couple more trots down and I was in again, a juddering fight, which I thought was a roach at first, until the white mouth of a smaller chub broke surface. This was better, another miss, then a big gudgeon. Hope THEY aren’t moving in. Half way down the swim, under my rod top, the float sank away and the rod bent double, as a big fish zoomed across and upstream into the sunken branches of the fallen tree. It bucked and dived hugging the bottom, running past my feet towards the bush roots. Sidestrain, then ping, the hook link broke at the knot, sending the rig into a messy bird’s nest tangle round the rod top. What to do now?

Cutting away the tangle, it was quicker to rethread, tie on a new loop and fit another float rig, this time a heavier Middy 6 No.4 alloy stem to cope with the faster water. 5 minutes and I was back fishing.

Bulking the shot a foot from the hook, I ran through under depth to the foam and saw the orange tip glide upstream towards the outflow, striking harder now into a hard fighting 8 oz chub, that stayed on to the landing net. The barbless hooks set themselves in a fishes lip with the minimum of effort, while these new hooks needed pushing home. The so called microbarb, also held on once set, making removal harder, while hooking my wool jumper and the landing net needed scissors to get free. I’ll try pinching the barb down next time.

Another chub followed soon after, putting in a small ball each trot, bringing bites a yard up from the foam. Then at last, bob, bob, under and I was playing a very good roach, that darted about the swim, at my feet one second, on the far side the next, eventually getting it’s head out to slide over into the net. A deep 10 oz fish.

I’d tried going over depth again, holding back hard, keeping a tight line to the float and got this roach, so I followed through again with a repeat performance, this time an 8 oz fatty, the roach seemed to want it slowed right down in the fast water, where the bread was now coating the bottom.

This was the method for the roach then. Holding back following another ball, the float sank and the rod pulled round before I had a chance to strike. This was a very big fish, a chub, or even one of the carp that live here, a dead weight that just sat in the flow, nodding the rod top. For a moment I had that sinking feeling, thinking I had hooked the bottom, but raising the rod to test my theory, the rod pulled down violently and stayed there as the brooding monster decided my fate. I knew I was just a passenger on this trip and with only a 2lb 8 oz hook link, was in no position to dictate terms. After what seemed an age, the float tip began to move upstream and accelerated beyond the fallen tree as I gave line, my rod beneath the surface in an arc. Upstream the river shallows and I could hear the slow wallowing splash of the unseen beast of a fish and just as I thought that I stood a chance with it, the line went slack and I reeled back my float rig, minus the hook.

I sat in reflection for a moment, before tying on another hook, did I even want to continue? A rumble of thunder from an angry sky made my mind up for me. It was going to chuck down and I didn’t fancy carrying my gear back up the lane in another downpour.

A quick photo and my seven fish returned, I packed away with speed, lumbering back to the van with my gear, just as spots of rain were splatting on the already waterlogged surface of the lane. Having parked next to the Road Closed due to Flooding sign, which was ready for the next onslaught, I loaded up, switched the wipers to full and splashed home.