I awoke early and walked downstairs into the living room, added another couple of logs to the wood burner. I peered outside the window to see a heavy frost on the ground. My Land Rover had turned from green to white during the night. I looked towards the fire that had now slowly started to burn the two large pieces of ash I had fed it. Meanwhile, my dogs had tiptoed into the living room and were curled up in front of it to get cosy. I was having second thoughts whether to brave the cold, or sit and read a book beside the lovely warm fire. But I love my fishing and there is something about the frost and snow that prompts me to get out there even more. I think most anglers would agree that such weather urges you to wet a line.
My tackle was neatly packed into a rucksack and included spare terminal tackle, two loaves of white bread, cheese paste, a handful of worms that I’d bred over the summer, a small bucket filled with bread mash, some sandwiches and lastly, the good old Ghillie Kettle to make hot beverages.
With the floods starting to settle and the water ebbing, the flow is still slightly more pacy than normal. The location I had in mind was screaming for a stick float to be trotted.
Packed and ready to goI loaded the Land Rover and set off. On route, the sun had broken fully through the clouds and had already started to melt the frost, but evidently it would remain a bitterly cold day. Arriving at the location, I secured my vehicle with its steering and pedal locks just in case an unsavoury character appeared that was up to no good. Isn’t it a shame that in this day and age we have to do such things, no matter where we are or how busy the place is, whether there is CCTV or not, there will always be an opportunist. Since Land Rover stopped making Defenders here in the UK, many are now being stolen for parts and shipped abroad or worse, stolen to commit crimes, normally cashpoint machine jobs, then burnt to smithereens.
My vehicle now fully secured, I began walking to the chosen location. As I neared a small wooded area, just yards away from the edge I sighted a deer, a doe to be precise slipping through the small wooded area, shortly followed by a buck. I think the sound of my boots crunching on the frozen grass spooked them. I remained as still as possible hoping that they would re-appear, so I could capture a photo of them. It’s the first time I’ve seen Roe deer in this particular area and although it was a quick glimpse, they never did return. It was nice to see them before they disappeared into the woods like ghosts.
Finally, I arrived at my destination. A narrow stretch of the river (a bottle neck) laced with an abundance of fallen trees and lots of debris collected over the years, that had built into rafts. It’s fairly pacy through here as the river sweeps over to a sharp right bend, to a narrower area of approximately 4ft wide, before opening up again and joining the main river.
Jungle warfare is the best place to find chub. Quite a beautiful eerie scenery.
For this method I used my 14ft Drennan Acolyte Plus float rod, a 6.4g Drennan loafer float, 4.4lb Drennan float, Drennan 4lb fluorocarbon hook lengths to a size 10 Drennan specialist hook. The loafer was bulked shotted with one small dropper shot approximately 5″ away from the hook. I found that this very simple rig that gives a good natural presentation. Don’t be fooled that chub are not fussy, they will become highly suspicious of any bait that doesn’t look natural in the water, lessening your chances of hooking them.
I set up my acolyte and adjusted the depth. Not using a plummet, due to the pacy water, which wouldn’t allow me to get an accurate reading of the depth. I simply placed the float into the water allowing the flow to take it and adjusted the depth until it touched the bottom or when the float started to drag, then I knew I wasn’t too far out to where I wanted to be. This is why I use loafer as they are unobtrusive and extremely buoyant in running waters. I’m not a believer of dotting the float right down, chub bites are quick and will most certainly take the float down with them with some aggression.
One golf ball sized amount of bread mash upstream to allow the particles to form a nice cloud. My hooked piece of bread flake joined the cloud of mash. I watched my float glide downstream, cutting through the current. It continued to trickle past the first lay of overhanging trees, then the second and at the third I reeled my line back in. That third line of trees was my marker point (35yrds) for this. No takes this time. I repeated this several times with mash thrown in at every other cast trying to gain the Chubs trust. The float kept running straight through. After 30 minutes I wasn’t happy with the depth. Several adjustments later I set the float’s depth much deeper. Fish feed hard in these conditions as food is naturally being brought into the river. In winter, Chub do not like wasting energy and will weigh up their options. Do I chase small bait for little reward? Do I wait for the big bait with a greater reward? The latter being the case more than often. Chub are also a lot heavier this time of year too as they feed up for the mean months of Winter. Once you find them they will feed ravenously. And that is what I needed to do here. Find them at the right depth.
A little more mash and I recast, my float heading towards the first overhangs, then it quickly disappeared under the surface and I struck into a fish. Now there’s not too much room to play a hard fighter due to the number of snags that were lurking around. I had to act quickly, but I wasn’t quick enough, I had no chance. The fish took me straight under a deep rooted tree, losing my float as well…Don’t ask. Not having another loafer with me, I decided to go for a float, that is just as good in my books. A thick heavy porcupine float that I made in the Summer. I make a lot of my own floats. Shotted pretty much the same as the loafer. I set up another hook length and recasted.
The exact porcupine float I made and used.
After a couple more run throughs, I’m into another good quality feeling fish. A messy scrap lasting for some minutes, then the hook pinged out of his lip as I pulled the fish away from cover for the fourth time. Feeling a little frustrated, a couple of deep breaths and some unsavoury words muttered under my breath, I continued. More mash thrown into the pit and soon after I lost my third chub to Mr Snag. Now at this point losing three good size chub on the trot really tests your resilience. So now I set my drag a little tighter. On light line, yes I’ll hook’em and bully’em hard away from cover! And it worked, the next chub tried its best to use all its escape routes to get away, but I managed to bank him.
A nice bronze winter chub.
Followed shortly by a second. What beautiful fish.
All the thrashing and upset that their shoal members had made in the past 40 minutes, clearly proved they weren’t spooked by it.
At this point I stopped fishing, while I prepared my Ghillie Kettle for a hot drink. I always keep a bag of dried twigs which I collected from underneath conifer trees. Water very rarely penetrates the bottom of a conifer, so they remain pretty much dry. Also pinecones, that I collected in Summer which are excellent to start fires in any weather conditions.
The sun had pretty much melted the frost, leaving just odd frosted parts in the shadowy areas. I ate my sandwiches and sipped my hot coffee whilst throwing small amounts of mash into the flow in the hope of keeping any remaining chub in the area interested. I would normally see one or two kingfishers by now, darting across the water, but not today. Maybe the cold weather snap had moved them out of their territory and into another habitat.
I was content that I had banked two Chub, and if it was the only two of the day, then I go home a happy man. So I planed to stay in this location for another 20 minutes before moving to a final swim for the last half hour before going home.
I re-cast and eagerly watched the float bobbing away downstream. This time when I got to my marker point, I allowed the float to run a little further, just to the narrowest point of the stretch, before it swept to that right hand bend beside a large raft of undergrowth. The float dipped under the surface, I lifted the rod hard, as the float was now a good 45yrds away. I watched the line rise from the surface to meet the sunken float below the water, then my heart fell into my mouth. As hard as I lifted the rod, it got shunted back down in front of me with the force of the fish below the water. Several ferocious lunges that put the acolyte in a permanent arc. “Don’t snag me, Don’t snag me!” I shouted out aloud as the line was whizzing off the spool. By its constant hard bumping that I felt on the tip of my rod, I knew It was a good fish. It headed off to the right towards the narrowest part of the river, so I immediately repositioned my rod hard left, edging him away from his planned destination. This went on for some time, turning him away from cover on both sides of the bank, all the way until he was approximately two rod lengths out. Was he ever going to tire? I’m pretty certain that each time he allowed me to reel him in a little closer, he would recharge his batteries to power up and shoot down deeper into the water, like a torpedo. This time as I managed a few more turns on the reel, he turned towards me, the unmistakable shadow of a chub appeared beneath the surface. With my landing net held out as far as I could stretch with it, I was ready to scoop him up. A little nearer to the top, his large wide mouth now visible. I could see the size 6 hook just nipped in the corner of his mouth. “Come….onnn…iiiin you….COME! ! One last thrash as his big belly flopped into the net.
Now luck must be on my side. This beautiful bronze chub was a beast. Shoulders on him like a Belgian Blue Bull and a head the size of a cow. After unhooking this beauty and zeroing the scales, I placed him into the weighing bag. 6lb 1oz! I had only gone and beaten my very recent personal best of 5lb14oz. To be honest I was lost for words, what an achievement to have accomplished. Two personal best records broken within a week of each other.
As I gently cradled him in my hands, I admired his beauty and strength, not a bronze scale out of place. A quick photo was taken before releasing him back to the dark murky waters of the river, Great Ouse.
Now an extremely happy man, it was time to walk back to the Land Rover and head on home to that warm fire, and who knows, maybe a celebration drink 🍻