Artful Angler

Rob Kavanagh's fishing blog

ROB KAVANAGH

The inside line on fishing

Cam Chubbing

Wednesday 8th September 2010


A heavy shower in the night encouraged me to take another look at the Cam today, keen to explore the wooded area once more. I'd had a brief session down there at the end of the previous week before having to tear myself away from the fishing to meet the folks for a meal. Fishing or steak is often a tough call and the steak won on this occasion. I'd been having a lot of fun freelining bread down towards the sanctuary of an overhanging willow along the near bank. Chub seemed queued up to take the bait but try as I might I couldn't connect with any of them, over-eagerly striking and snatching the bait from the mouths of baffled fish. Time was running on, with me missing over half a dozen takes in a row, and each time I cursed myself and then promptly repeated the sorry process. I was very conscious of the fact I was bound to be late to the pub, but surely there's time for just one last cast.......?

No time. Heading to the pub at a brisk trot I pondered my lack of success when it should have been easy. If I'd had the time to stop I'd have kicked myself. There are no medals for guessing I should have just taken my time, stopped rushing and made the first chance count - rather than missing six or more equally good chances - before retiring to the pub triumphant for a slap up feed and a pint in good company. Instead all I'd managed was a virtuoso performance of how not to do it, a masterclass in the art of the schoolboy-error.

I determined that today would be different and arrived mid-afternoon for a session. Travelling light I made my way into the woods, spotting plenty of cruising chub as I went. The rain had injected a touch of colour into the river and it had a steady, albeit slow flow, and with a depth of only around two and a half feet in the centre it was easy to spot fish. Lots of small roach flitted about in my first swim accompanied by the odd perch before they drew the attention of a tubby, barrel-sided pike of six or seven pounds which circled the area where they (until recently) had been minding their own business, before sulkily gliding off into the cover provided by a clump of far bank rushes.

I stood quietly for a while watching the river trying to discern its mood, surrounded by tall stands of sickly-sweet smelling balsam triggering seed pods to explode at the slightest movement, an unpredictable attack from all quarters as the seeds peppered me like tiny shrapnel, rattling off the lenses of my polaroids or rolling down my earhole and the collar of my shirt. Such trivial discomforts were forgotten as the first few bits of bread flicked in were soon gorged by hungry chub as they sharked about, eager for a feed and actively working around the swim to locate any tasty morsels available. Bait-wise I had a couple of options in the bucket, but the way the chub were behaving it looked as though they were in the mood to take anything, so actively were they searching the river.

In spite of their obvious appetite, I missed the first fish after having watched it slowly circle the gently sinking breadflake before delicately sipping it in. A bungled strike and the hookbait didn't even touch the sides as I whipped it directly out of the mouth of the chub from just a few yards away. How did I miss that.........? The fish (and not a bad one either) bolted back to the cover of the willow, bemused somewhat I suspect by the Mystery of the Disappearing Dinner, but seemed not to have upset the other diners as they continued to take the appetizers I provided.

A fresh piece of flake was being hooked as I noticed a chub heading down from upstream, drifting in a wide u-turn in front of me before heading a few yards back upstream with a casual kick of its tail. The hookbait landed in the river two yards beyond and below the fish with an audible plop, the line catching briefly on a balsam tendril as it ran through the rod rings, causing the cast to land off target. No matter. The chub bristled visibly and with a quick flick turned, propelling itself towards the disturbance. Sizing the bait up from a foot away in a slow circle the chub positioned itself downstream, hanging in the flow before opening those white lips wide and letting the flake drift straight in..... One... its gills flare rapidly as it begins to chew.... Two.....small bread particles expelled in the process....... Three....... STRIKE!

The shallow river heaves into a large boil as the chub is hooked...Get the rod over.... sidestrain, sidestrain...Quick! The fish surges off downstream, the rod hoops round. With no depth to use to its advantage it makes for the far bank rushes only a few rod lengths away, plunging in despite my refusal to give any line. Too slow man. Curses!....Steady pressure.... keep it on.... get that rod tip low and under the water... Not much room to do much else..... Ah I felt the line ping on the reed stalks... I've gained a bit have I?... No it's got it back... gone solid.... Try another angle.... keep the pressure on.... That's it it's moving.... steady, steady... Yep it's coming out.... Keep control..... yep here it comes..... Back in open water the chub tries a different tack, heading straight for me at a rate of knots and the tangle of reed and roots at my feet but I'm prepared for such a dastardly ploy and manage to steer it away and into the waiting net.

Nice try sunshine...

I decide to weigh my first Cam chub and the scales read 3lb exactly. Not a massive chub by any standard but a heck of a scrap in the narrow shallow river, and exciting stuff watching the fish take before all hell broke loose. In lovely condition too, exuding a brassy beligerence while I take a quick photo before lowering it back into the river. An angry splash of its tail and it jets off downstream, leaving me wiping the river water from my face. Fair enough old chum, I'll give you that one......


Gathering my gear I head downstream, forging a path through the overgrowth in a couple of places to access the waterside. No fish are forthcoming, probably spooked by the disturbance I cause as I try to pick my way through the balsam, definitely spooked when I slip on the greasy mud landing heavily on my backside in the next spot downstream, eyes on the river and not where I'm walking, a puff of silt hanging in the water from the other side of a sunken obstruction undeniable evidence.... No matter, I'll try these swims next time. There's always a next time. I reach a spot at the end of the little wood where a grassy slope leads to a fairly open swim with some rushes just downstream on both near and far banks. Without the shadow of the trees to cover me I keep low as I carefully ease into position mindful of casting my long shadow over the water and watching my footing on the slick grass. I arrive successfully to see an unconcerned chub drift past just a yard away from me as I crouch behind sparse cover. Well that's half the battle, let's see if I can tempt a fish or two from here......

Second cast I see a chub turn and make after the breadflake as it drifts slowly on the surface before beginning to sink as it absorbs water. The fish heads straight at it then veers away, disappearing from view. The bait sails on a yard or two, floating gently along six inches under the surface. Suddenly three dark shapes appear from nowhere in the blink of an eye, surrounding the bait like the still blades of a propeller. I hope that big one goes for it...... A smaller one gets there first, the line twitches then slowly tightens and a sharp strike results in a hooked fish that heads off on a surging run upstream. With more playing space in this swim I'm able to stop it before it gets me into trouble with reeds but this swim has more weed growth as it's not in the shade of the trees to the same extent as upstream. Chub number two tries to use this to its advantage but it's too shallow for it to work up a head of steam. Tries something else, belting downstream towards the rushes but the rod arches over, comfortably absorbing the frenzied lunges and the fish quickly brought to the net before it can try and play any more tricks.

A bit bigger this one at 3lb 6oz, setting me thinking how big the bigger one was, well over four I reckon.....




Thursday 9th September 2010


Promptly returning the next day eager to get amongst those chub once more I found things very different to before. Some of the colour had dropped out of the water leaving just a tinge, and the flow had slackened to the point of near non-existence. The odd chub was spotted cruising along but displayed none of their previous "sharking." Free offerings were largely ignored with just occasional fish nosing the bait before rejecting it to continue upstream, propelled by lazy, infrequent tail beats.

Changing tactics I screwed in the lightest quivertip I had with me (1.5oz) and carefully pinched on a couple of swan shot six inches below the hook adding a small cube of crust before casting the bait tight to nearside cover a few rod-lengths downstream, tightening up gently. Plenty of roach were about along with their small perch escort and fast taps and rattles on the tip forged the impression that the tiddlers were knocking the popped-up bait about a bit. I persevered but apart from missing one good rap no "proper" bites were forthcoming. After trying severel swims on my way through the woods without success (bypassing entirely one in which I heard a goat or possibly the farmer falling in with an almighty splash shortly before) I decided to take a look at the weedy open section downstream. No sooner had I left the trees I saw a small shoal of five chub heading downstream between a gap where rushes on both sides narrowed the river. Caught by surprise on the high bank I was clearly skylined and the chub responded by turning tail and heading under the mat of rushes. Every one of them looked over four pounds and the biggest over five so I sat down quietly and after a few minutes flicked in a few small bits of bread to see if I could encourage them out.

I snapped to attention on hearing a sudden commotion downstream, several roach taking to the air to avoid the toothy maw of an attacking pike. I couldn't coax the chub out - indeed they may have just carried on upstream - so I decided to try and get into a position above the gap in the rushes. A natural bottleneck, I felt it an ideal spot to intercept a patrolling fish. Very overgrown but thankfully short of brambles I managed to make a new swim as quietly as I could. Casting crust as tight to the raft as I dared I settled in ever hopeful. Every so often a few nice chub sailed by while lots of small roach and perch darted amongst the weed in the shallow water. No bites materialized despite the occasional movement back and forth by various small groups of chub and as it was starting to get late I upped sticks and headed home.

At least the day was not wasted, I'll not cause nearly as much disturbance getting into the new swims next time, and a few more swims carefully created and spotting plenty of good chub in residence along the short stretch of tiny river made it worthwhile on a day when the fish appeared to be just not up for it. It was interesting to see the complete contrast in behaviour compared to the previous day, maybe the rain of the last few days will help switch them back on again soon.......


Rob, 14/09/2010

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