This part of the series leads me down the path of possibly the most infuriating species in our rivers, sometimes they can be so obliging, other times I am left scratching my head, even when I know fish are present.
Rewind back September last year. I had only just started to get some mobility back, walking just a mile was taking huge tolls on my energy levels and the pain felt just attempting such short distances were often unjustifiable, but wholly necessary in my rehabilitation. Fishing, short distances was just the escape I needed.
Targets were not in my thinking, simply walking, or should I say hobbling the banks was enough for me. Of course, I had a rod with me and a little bait with my camera and some scales in case I caught something worthwhile. My choice of swims were very limited and my first fishable swim provided me with a couple of challenges, these being presentation and approach. Stalking on this river is a joy, when the fish can be found, luckily for me, this particular area does hold the odd Barbel, but also Chub and of late some good ones have been slipping up.
A decent bank of low cloud was passing through as the sun struggled to burn it off, within an hour this was long gone and a lovely sunny day followed. In such low light conditions stalking, even in a couple of feet of water is a tough ask. Not in a rush I was only too happy to sit and wait.
Chub are very well known for being shy creatures at times, this perception can be sometimes very distorted when they become confident feeders and within five minutes of setting up I put the gear down and proceeded to flick free offerings out on the treeline and not before long the odd fish would waddle from out of the cover and take slow sinking pieces of flake, five minutes later this fish became so greedy I could not resist not fishing for it any longer.
With the cloud now all but gone visibility was much better and this chub was proving to be very greedy and inevitably she would slip up. Gingerly I tossed a small piece of flake out along the treeline with a small BB shot and allowed it to drift downstream invitingly towards the overhanging tree...the anticipation was so great my glasses steamed up so much I couldn't see. Thump! a tremendous whack through the rod had me focused, not that I could see what I was attached to, my initial thoughts were that obviously hungry chub that barely turned away from twenty or so free offerings, but the fight was pretty strong for a chub, sharp lunging runs into the far bank cover had me thinking a barbel such was the speed at which it stripped line.
Now it wasn't out of the realms of possibility, just unusual given the technique/swim. For well over a minute I just held on for dear life with the rod tip dipped under the surface, hoping that with the consistent pressure whatever it was would come free of the trees. A couple of faint taps through the rod suggested the fish was still on but I was no closer to finding out what it was, then a giant vortex broke the surface downstream as a large chub rolled, worryingly, it was not in line with where I thought it was and had clearly gone through a part of the tree and now I was in it.
Typical chub style, play dirty whenever they can.
Thankfully when the line pinged free of the branch I was back in direct contact with the chub which was now well downstream of the treeline. As the next couple of minutes sailed by I could now see the fish that had caused me all sorts problems and it wasn't done yet. A few old branches off of an upstream tree gave her the all clear to try and smash me up again, what is it with chub and playing dirty!.
It got to point now where it could go either way, I had to make a swipe for it and with the tension still on the net was shipped out under the branches and after a brief kick and splash it was evident the chub was in the net! That was hard work!
|A very good fish for the river without doubt.|
Lifting it out the river I was certain she would go five pounds, but in truth I was just delighted to have won the battle, this one did not want to co-operate at all!
The Rueben's settled on 5lb 6oz, for this watercourse that's big, fours are a welcome specimen here.
Through the pain a smile was creeping through and wondered whether that would be it, given the nature of the fight I started to feel quite uncomfortable and thought about knocking it on the head, but one swim close by is often a decent shout for a fish, typically barbel would be likely.
Not easy to get in, once in there though a quick change of bait was made as the flow often increases here and keeping the bait on or very near the bottom is paramount. No fish could be seen as I hobbled into the peg, but, with an abundance of Ranunculus they could be hiding right under my feet, I'd never know it. First roll down didn't reveal anything, second roll down again nothing, on the third time I felt a light pluck on my finger and thought it was the bottom, just below the meat I could see a fish back off and assumed it had just had a go, so I left it to continue rolling down and within seconds the rod hooped round, there was no mistake in the fish' intentions this time, the taster obviously got the better of it.
A powerful battle ensued mid-flow as the Chub made off downstream, stripping five-ten yards of line off at the first attempt, unusual for chub but that day they seemed to have a bee in their bonnet, running, long and hard! Not that I was complaining at all. With a healthy bend in the rod I just allowed the fish to tire itself out as there wasn't much other than the weed to negotiate, even the far bank trees weren't a problem, with such low water the branches didn't touch the water, so when it rolled under the tree I didn't sweat it and within a minute or two she was in the net and the thought of finally landing a six-pound Chub from this little urban river was too big of an ask. The scales didn't seem to think so...I had done it, that target just a few years ago would have been unimaginable, infact possibly would have been admitted to an institution. The sudden upsurge in this shoals growth/weight gain is something of a mystery to me, but not all completely out the question.
Looking back on some records and fish pictures I have located to distinctive specimens that have pushed on, fish number one in Oct 2016 weighed 3lb 9oz - Dec 2018 weighed 5lb 4oz and another weighed 4lb 10oz in Dec 2018 and now goes 5lb 6oz in Sept 2019, so they are growing and pretty quickly as those figures suggest. It will hopefully be an exciting 2-4 years ahead for this little river, could.....could a seven pound specimen be possible? The above fish would suggest it should'nt be ruled out, no matter how insane that claim me seem.