Despite the unseasonally warm autumn, winter is fast approaching and the bankside vegetation is thinning fast. This allows access to many places that are impossible to reach during high summer, swims that have had no angling pressure. With so much river to explore a roving approach is called for and for that I needed to be able to change the amount of weight on my rig and the bait used with minimum fuss. The easier you make this the more likely you are to fish effectively all day rather than getting lazy and ‘making do’.
As chub are the prime target I opted for a free running rig so a link leger is the first item on my 8lb main line. Below this go a couple of rubber beads as they help to separate the link from the trace and minimise tangles. These stop at a small swivel to which I attach the 6lb fluorocarbon hooklink and a hair rig tied to a size 10 or 8 hook. At the sharp end is the clever bit; I thread onto the hair a rubber bead and hold that in place with one of those ‘V’ shaped extender hair stops. This gives you something to wrap your paste around and it will give it purchase keeping it on longer. I do not favour burying the hook in paste as it is less effective when hitting bites and, during the cold winter months, any bite is a bonus and too valuable to miss. The rig I use comes into its own if I decide to try another bait such as a boilie or lump of meat, it is simplicity itself to remove the bead and then simply hair rig another bait either with the same hair stop or, if its a piece of meat, with a bit of grass stalk.
Instead of lead weights I tend to use Plasticine or modelling clay wrapped around the link leger leaving the run ring free to slide up the line. Plasticine goes hard when cold and will hang on to a link with no problem but, if you find it slips, a bead threaded onto the link will give it more purchase. If the swim requires you fish static in a heavy flow it takes just a second to remove the Plasticine and replace it with a lead.
My first few swims are smooth glides so I decide to explore them with a rolling bait. The amount of Plasticine is judged and cast to the upstream end with a lump of cheese past on the hook. I’ve put a few free offerings in and now I bounce the bait though the swim, paying out sufficient line ahead of the rig to give a controlled run across the gravel. If you have it all set up just right you will feel the weight bouncing over the stones where it will catch and hold every now and then before the pressure on the line makes it trundle on for a bit farther. If it catches on a stone and hangs up for a while then it is your choice, you can leave it there and fish it static for a while or you can lift the rod and pull a little line with your left hand to shift the weight and continue with your run through the swim. Keep hold of the line with your left hand and bites are ‘felt’ for rather than seen, don’t worry, you will know the difference between a false bite and the real thing when it happens but, if in doubt – strike!
On my trip, probably due to the bright conditions, the fish were not actively feeding on the gravel so I changed tactics and dropped into a swim where a crease ended at an overhanging bush which had collected a raft of debris – a classic chub swim. Here I put a lead on the link with just enough weight to hold bottom. In the next 45 minutes I had a few chub but they were all small, not the size I hoped for but fun to catch in any case.
The temperature dropped, I zipped up my TFGear Thermo-Tex Extreme jacket and immediately felt the warmth. If you are looking for a winter outfit I suggest you look no further than this range as it is excellent. The sun was dropping so I went for my ‘banker’ swim. I’d previously dropped a few marble sized freebies into a swim where two creases met and gave a steady glide again, just above an overhanging bush, it just had to hold a few fish. I was proved correct as the sun dropped and it became difficult to see the rod tip. This wasn’t a problem as I was touch legering and the strong pull followed by a slack line told me that a chub had picked up my bait, hooked itself and was travelling across the river toward a nearside snag – it didn’t get there, I leaned into it and steered it upstream to the net, a plump three pounder.
Very often you will find that chub swims are only good for one fish but quite often a second can be tempted and I decided to hang on for a second bite. When it came it was a hefty pull and the chub fought strong in the current. This one was over four pounds and in mint condition, it may have never been caught before.
Despite the wealth of swims available and the fish feeding, I decided to pack up. There’s no need to catch them all on the first trip, I’ll be exploring this bit of river many times over the coming months and I just know that there are bigger fish to catch.