Kingfishers flying low over the water; a sparrow hawk lunging at a colony of goldfinches perched on blackthorn bushes; two wily otters slowly swimming by the far bank methodically looking for food; an observant hare skipping across a wheat field, and a pair of pheasants pecking at their feeder bin below a willow tree…these sightings are just some of many reasons why I love fishing!
I think we spend more time looking what’s around us rather than our float or quiver tip. And this is why I choose to take up the roving approach in winter. There is so much wildlife to see when you’re sat beside the water’s edge.
My roving kit consists of a feeder and a float rod, spare terminal tackle, three loaves of bread, some worms, cheese paste and spam, a light fold away chair, landing net and scales, a rucksack full of goodies to eat, the thermals I’m wearing and of course, my Ghillie Kettle for a nice hot beverage.
On this particular day I’m to fish the Great Ouse in search of a few loggerhead chub. Recently, whilst walking my lurcher and whippet, I found what I would call virgin water. After a quick phone call to the council, I was informed the stretch of water was free and not belonging to any fishing clubs. The bailiff also mentioned that due to how overgrown it was, and that it’s a couple of miles from any road, anglers generally chose not to fish there. He hadn’t seen an angler in this location for years and that sounds absolutely perfect to me!
This part of the river weaves through spectacular countryside like a snaking road, with pools, inlets, endless overhanging trees, lots of rafts that have built up over the years, gentle slacks and clumps of brambles with fast glides. Perfect for a spot of chub fishing.
Is there anybody home?
Having made the long journey on foot, scouting for a swim, I eventually find one that looks promising. A crease running along a row of overhanging trees. Carefully trying not to step on the driest twigs and avoid tangling my line as I walk through the dense scrub, I get into position. I pinch a large piece of bread flake onto a size 6 hook and gently lob it into a small inlet. Leaving a large bow in my line, the swan shot bounces its way to the bottom of the riverbed. The quiver tip sets into a slight curve and I wait patiently and quietly for a possible take.
My preferred way of hooking bread flake. Mushroomed with hook point exposed underneath.
In the meantime, I watched more goldfinches flying tree to tree, with their constant watchfulness for predators and what’s around them. The cock bird’s fluid twittering song soon attracts a sparrow hawk. He comes into view on my right, almost touching the water with his wings and then with incredible speed shoots straight up, zig zagging up and over the trees where the finches are perched. The colony starburst in all directions flying to their nearest cover. Was this the sparrow hawks attempt to take one of those finches, or was he just playing with them?
Two savage thumps on the quiver tip and I strike. I’ve connected with a good fish and it instantly heads for cover. You have to bully chub away from any obstructions quickly, giving them no chances, otherwise they’ll most certainly take you to the nearest snag. I managed to turn him away from one of the overhanging tree roots and into the open flow. He continues to thrash away and heads for the next snag, an overhanging tree to my right, he knows his escape routes by heart, that’s for sure!
My rod continues to thump away, absorbing every head bang from the chub. I change the rods positioning, keeping the pressure on and turn him away for a second time. My line is so tight that as the wind hits it, it produces an eerie high pitched whining sound, like the un-tuned note of a fiddle. He’s trying to head back to the inlet where he fell for my trap, accelerating away and taking more line with him, but I keep the pressure on and turn him away for a final time. My rod is rocking and bucking in my right hand. The swan shot soon appears from under the surface, closely followed by a pair of large white rubbery lips. I instantly know by looking at him, he would be my biggest chub to date and I slowly guide this beautiful specimen into my landing net.
The joy I feel as I slide him into my landing net and peer in for a better look; he gave me such a fight and I sincerely thank him for that. The adrenaline continues to rush through my veins and even more so when I see what the weighing scales are telling me. I’ve just beaten my previous personal best of 5lb 8oz!
He is a beauty at 5lb14oz…a fighting fit winter chub.
Read about my next session…I fancy my chances in higher water floods, trotting with one of my homemade stick floats. And what a surprise there was in store for me there!