Roach and chub from the deep freeze

December 4, 2016 at 5:04 pm

With maggots from last weekend still in the fridge, any fishing expeditions were scuppered by days of sub zero temperatures, that had put a covering of ice over the local ponds.


Not wanting to waste my aging bait, the van was loaded up and the flask filled with piping hot tea for the ten mile drive south to the river Blackwater, hoping for a few winter chub. I’d been promising myself a visit to a swim, that I had passed in the summer,  where the flow runs beneath an archway of overhanging branches, which looked like it oozed chub. Trundling my trolley along the meandering bank, the sight of two anglers side by side in the very spot, stopped me in my tracks. Enthusiasm gone, I retraced my steps back to the car park, where a well worn swim beckoned. At least bait would have been going in here, holding a head of fish?


Setting up with a 4 No 4 ali stick, there was a steady 3 ft deep trot along my bank, where brambles overspilled into the water, with a protective branch trailing. Having fed a couple of handfuls of red maggots while setting up, I was encouraged to see indications of a bite first cast, holding back, then letting go, seeing the float dive deep.  A sweeping strike met instant resistance, that gave way to a small perch of a few ounces, which was soon in the keepnet. The maggot was untouched, but I added another in the hope of a better fish and followed more maggots down, this time missing the bite. Next trot another small perch was in the net, having paused a second on the strike, the size 16 hook just in the lip.

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Bait still untouched, the float was eased back toward the overhang, where it sank again, the line following down. Counting to three, I struck. Yes! The rod bent over to a fast running fish, that stayed deep and I backwound to ease the pressure on the small hook. There are barbel here, but when the fish turned out in an arc to the middle, I saw the deep green flank of a very good perch, before it rushed back to the bottom. Keeping on the pressure, the pound perch was soon on the surface, being drawn to the landing net, the red maggots visible in it’s lip. Gills flared, it gave the dreaded head shake inches from the net and the hook flew out. Drifting downstream it remained on the surface briefly, then rolled over and away.

After that there were no more decent bites, that perch had taken the shoal with it. I tried to get them back, sticking it out for another half hour, before deciding to change waters. Keeping the rod set up, breaking down the top joint to get it in the van, I loaded up and headed back to the weir pool near home. If the swim was empty, I would fish, if not a warm kitchen would be welcome on a freezing day. The pool was clear and it took only minutes to settle down to fish.


Frozen mist hung in the air and ice was visible in the margins, as I fed a couple of handfuls of reds into the eddy, watching them being swept round to the white water. Dropping the float in under my rod top, it travelled a few feet and buried, the rod bending over in response as a small chub retreated back to the weir. I swung the chub in, maggots spewing from it’s throat.


Feeding more maggots brought another fish, this time a hard fighting roach, right on the edge of the foam.


Having started fishing again at about 1:30, there were only a couple of hours of light left on such a dull day and I set about making up for lost time with another roach.


A hot spot developed just where the slow water entered the fast and casting in with the float well over depth brought a bite every time, the roach tally rising.


More like this followed, then, bang, something much bigger took, speeding across the fast water, backwinding saving a lost fish, putting on side strain to keep it clear of the bush to my right. Once back in the eddy, it was only a matter of time, until it was ready for the landing net, the two pound chub’s white mouth wide open.


Once in the net, the hook dropped out, although still full of fight, it nearly flipped out of my grip, when faced with the keep net.


By 3:15 the light was going fast and I was now having trouble hooking the maggots without bursting them, so this 8 oz roach was the last of the day. The camera was already slowing down and I needed a last shot of the final net.


Some of the eight roach were hidden in the folds of the net, but I was satisfied with this image, which sums up what winter fishing is all about, and justified the change of venue.