Having walked about a mile from the car, I lowered my gear and collapsed in a sweaty heap next to a good looking swim.
Composing myself, I catapulted a small handful of mixed pellets across to a shallow gravel bed about ¾ across and lobbed a few just a yard or two out onto a clear patch of river bed above a dense weedbed. I sat back and started to assemble my 11′ fishing rod and centre pin reel, the ideal tools for small water fishing.
By the time I was sorted the fish were already mopping up my freebies. There were plenty of chub cruising back and forth but there, beneath them and moving in a slower, more positive way were the barbel. I counted four of them and, much to my delight, one of them was over the nearside bait.
There was no hurry to get my baited hook in the water; first I had to narrow the chances so that it would be a barbel rather than a chub that took the bait, despite the fact that some of those chub were 5 if not 6lbs in weight.
I used all of my tricks; it had been a while since I sight fished like this but my plans seemed to work quite well. I kept the bait going in on the far side and made sure that it was spread well to keep the chub occupied. Although the barbel joined the feeding frenzy over there, they would occasionally come inside and appear out of the weed and feed on my tightly baited spot. Unfortunately, some of the chub had found it too but the odds were far better there than across the river.
Chub can be a problem when fishing in tight spots. One fish caught will usually send everything back to their cover for a long time, so it’s important to get it right first time. To this end I tied a ‘bad rig’. This may sound confusing but I’ll explain. A standard hair rig is fine for barbel, they suck it in and won’t let go so they get hooked pretty much every time. Chub however, are a tad smarter and can eject a hook without getting pricked. I have been tinkering with rigs and have come up with one that nails chub just about every time which is great when chub fishing but not for today. I’ll cover this topic in more detail at some time in the future.
My rig comprised of a size 10 straight shank hook tied to a short length of braid. This is connected to about 15” – 20” of 10lb fluorocarbon which helps to keep it nailed to the bottom and out of sight to the fish. Using just enough lead to keep it in place, I then add a good lump of plasticine 3 or 4′ up the line to act as a back weight again, to keep the line out of the view of the fish.
To prove my rig decision was correct, three times my bait was taken by chub and three times, despite every nerve in my body screaming Strike! I held back and the fish dropped the bait.
Using this technique I was able to stay in with a good chance of getting my barbel but these fish had seen it all before. I watched as one of them saw where my line left the riverbed and spooked. Their visits to the nearside spot decreased and my chances dropped considerably.
Rain was approaching and I didn’t want a long, wet walk back to the car. I opted for the ‘all or nothing’ approach and cast to the nearside edge of the gravel bed where the barbel were still feeding albeit with less gusto than before. I didn’t have to wait long. The line tightened and the rod stabbed forward – but it was a chub. It fought well and was in pristine condition but it left behind an empty swim as every other fish bolted for cover.
Ah well, another lesson learned and another victory for this little river.
Third time lucky?