Upper Thames Chub

A couple of times a year, and far too infrequently, I get to fish with great mate John Kemp.  It’s something I always look forward to.  I think we both have the same outlook on fishing, which is basically enjoy the surroundings, the friendship as well as the fishing.

Anyway, we had another trip planned to the upper Thames in pursuit of large chub.  It’s a spot I particularly like and still holds some stonking chub.  A couple of years ago John caught his Thames monster here, a magnificent chub of 7lb 2oz.  So we know it still holds the potential to throw up a real whacker.

Upper Thames

The forecast was pretty grim and yet we seemed to miss the worst of the weather, which is exactly what happened last time.  The only thing this time was the wind.  It must have been gale force at times.  Nevertheless we fished on in brave fashion.  As always we started in the big weir.  John tends to fish a small cage feeder with liquidized bread and flake on the hook and I use a large piece of crust anchored a few inches off bottom.  If the swim allows, I will throw in a few balls of liquidized bread as an attractant.

My fishing tackle collection is very simple.  I fish 6lb line straight through to a size 6 hook. I slide on 2 Drennan Grippa Stops and then loop over a piece of line and attach the appropriate amount of shot that’s required to just hold bottom.  I use the size 2 or 3 ssgs.  I vary the distance from the hook but generally its 4 or 5 inches.  If its really cold then it will be just a couple of inches from the hook.  I then use a big piece of crust.  The crust helps to balance the setup, so that it’s easy to move the bait with a twitch, in fact often the bait will move of its own accord.  Once you have cast out, keep a nice bow in the line so that if the bait does move, it will travel downstream in a straight line and act far more naturally.

After a couple of casts to get the weight right, I flicked the crust out into the weir pool and put the rod on a rest.  It was a tight swim but a good angle to attack the pool.  The bait bumped a couple of times and then that tell tale knock on the tip indicated a chub.  One more knock…..yes then the tip pulled right round.  This is a typical chub bite on crust.  The strike was good and the fish on the other end felt heavy as it plodded upstream.  For a minute I thought maybe this was not a chub but then it headed for the snags on the inside and I thought, yes it’s a chub.  It finally broke surface and I could see it was a decent fish.  Once in the net I realised it was even bigger than I thought.  I called JK and he came down to assist.

I though it looked a good five but inside I was thinking it was bigger.  Well it turned out to be a good fish and weighed in at 6lb 1oz and is my first 6lb Thames chub.  I jumped up and down a few times and shook John firmly by the hand.  This was one of the highlights of my season.  I haven’t caught a 6lb chub for some years.  I used to fish for them almost exclusively and now rarely, so I was absolutely chuffed to bits and so was John.

6lb 1oz Thames Chub

John wandered upstream and I followed a couple of bite-less hours later.  We opted to move upstream where there were lots of enticing marginal swims with deep water and loads of cover.  We slowly worked our way back down towards the weir.  During this process I managed 2 more chub, which both weighed 4lb 13oz, despite being caught a few hundred yards apart.  John also tempted a couple of fish, including a good 4lb+ fish before we ended up back in the weir.

We finished here about 7pm.  John took another nice chub that was in the region of 4.8lb and I sadly couldn’t tempt another fish.  Still what a great day.  Beautiful scenery, I saw a wild deer, plenty of bird-life and great company and all the chub were fat and healthy and in mint condition.  Oh, and we never saw another angler as usual. Lovely chubbly

The Final Three Months

It’s fair to say that my winter fishing never really had chance to kick off until after Christmas, following a series of domestic disasters that stopped me getting out. Finally, in late December, with the new van fitted out, the garage roof repair organised, and my daughter’s back operation behind us, I was able to go fishing with a clear head. With only a few weeks left to fish, my original winter plans were shelved in favour of pursuing just two targets, a chub to beat my current best of 7lb 5ozs and my best pike for twenty years, which would require a fish of 25lbs plus.

My very first day of winter chubbing was destined to provide me with the first target. There is one stretch I fish which is a blank waiting to happen, by which I mean that bites are always very scarce. The plus, though, is that the fish when they come along are usually exceptional. The conditions when I arrived were far from ideal, with the water as low and clear as in summer. Because of that, I chose the deepest swim on the fishery, where a midriver right hand bend forms a classic crease. I’ve had good fish from there in floods but never fished it under such low winter conditions. I made my first cast at around midday, and was still biteless as the light started to fade. Then, out of the blue, the tip of my fishing rod shot round and I found myself in contact with a strong fish which I first thought must be a barbel. I soon realised, however, that the culprit was an extra big chub, but I hadn’t realised just how big until I saw it slide over the rim of my TFG landing net. Here was one truly massive chub; I had a possible 8lb in mind. I wasn’t too far out. After carefully twice zeroing the scales, I confirmed a new best of 7lb 13ozs; what a fantastic fish.

After that leviathan on my first serious chubbing trip of the winter, I made another three two-day trips to the stretch, fishing past midnight on each day, but that seven pounder remained the only bite I had. That was to change on the last day of the river season, when I fished from midday until the official season close at midnight. I managed two solid bites in the evening, landing good fish of 5lb 14ozs and 6lb 9ozs. So, I’d landed just three chub from the stretch since December, but what a great average size.

In between the slow chubbing sessions, I enjoyed some much more active deadbaiting at local waters in the search for that elusive 25lb plus pike. In total contrast to the river experiences, I never had a single blank. In all, I landed 16 pike under 10lbs, plus another 18 fish in double figures. Seven of those fish were over 17lbs, the exact weights being 17lb 10ozs (2), 17lb 12ozs, 18lb 6ozs, 19lb 4ozs, 19lb 6ozs and 19lb 8ozs. You can see from those statistics that not only did I fail to get anywhere near 25lb but I didn’t even beat 20lbs. On my very last piking trip I thought I’d done it at last when I had a fantastic scrap after hooking something heavy on a whole mackerel. Bizarrely, it turned out to be a mid double mirror carp fairly hooked on the bottom treble. The fishing was tremendous nevertheless and I felt in with a real chance of an exceptional fish at all times; one of the waters had produced a 33lb fish.

At the time of writing, I’m just off for a week’s holiday with the wife and then I’m beginning a spring tench campaign. I’ll let you know how it goes.