Late summer chub fishing
Chub fishing is an exciting way to spend a few hours in pleasant conditions with the simplest of tackle, wandering the banks and testing your skills against one of the wariest fish swimming in British waterways. As Izaak Walton famously wrote ‘for the chub is the fearfullest of fishes…’
Ubiquitous in nature, catching chub can be easy, but catching BIG chub can be a labour of love and the challenge of an angling lifetime. A 4lb fish is a great achievement and a ‘6’ (and bigger!) the dream for many a specimen angler. For me there is no more exciting way of targeting these mythical monsters than fishing for them by sight and testing your watercraft in clear and weedy summer conditions along the meandering banks of the river.
Where to find chub
One of the things that makes the chub a fantastic year round target is that they can be found nearly everywhere; lakes, rivers and canals. From small village ponds to huge flowing rivers such as the tidal Trent and Thames, the chub is a fish you’re never far away from. Chub are famously known for being a great winter target, willing to bite even on the coldest of days when most other species have shut up shop and bites are few and far between.
Fishing in the heights of summer can also prove challenging, though, while both you and the fish aren’t feeling particularly energetic in the heat and many specimen species become ultra shy in the low, clear water. This is where the chub is again your friend, happy to feed in the sunshine and the midsummer heat as long as you’re able to trick your prey into taking the bait. In this article we’re going to look at a particular favourite of mine; stalking a small, narrow backwater of the river, spotting fish basking in the flow or hiding in the shade of overhanging trees and snags.
What tackle do I need?
As far as tackle for chub fishing, the options are nearly limitless; float fishing, feeder, fly, spinning and more. For summer chub on a quick roving session, though, you cannot beat link ledgering with a quivertip. Grab a rod with a test curve of 1lb-1.75lb with the quivertip attachment and a small 3-4000 sized reel loaded with 8lb monofilament. This may sound heavy but experience has taught me that chub are certainly not tackle shy, and the river can present a challenging environment, full of testing snags and features that can push the limits of your gear.
After losing more than one monster chub to these the old adage ‘its better to be safe than sorry’ definitely comes to mind and I’ve learned to tackle up for the conditions rather than the fish. For the link ledger, take the end of your mainline and a short 3 inch section of stiff 10-12lb fluorocarbon and slide a float stop over both. This link is where you will squeeze your weight, in the form of split shot (for these tactics stock up on SSG shot or, if you can find them, the larger locking shot up to 2 or 3 SSG size).
This gives you the ability to adjust the length of your rig by simply sliding the stop up and down the mainline. Terminate your mainline with a small loop and then attach a short hooklength of 6lb fluorocarbon attached to a size 8 barbless hook loop-to-loop style. Simple, effective and versatile.
Today’s tackle box couldn’t be simpler:
- Quivertip rod
- Reel loaded with 8lb line
- Float stops
- Split shot
- Size 8 barbless hooks
- 12lb fluorocarbon link
- 6lb hooklink material
- Just add your landing net, scissors, disgorger and forceps and you’re ready to go
The best baits for chub
Chub are renowned for their omnivorous diet, having been caught on anything from livebaits to jellybabies and nearly everything between. For clear water short sessions, though, there is no bait that beats the pulling power of good old fashioned bread.
Cheap, versatile and attractive to nearly all species the good news is you can go fishing for a whole day on a bait bill of under a pound Grab a loaf, liquidise three quarters of it, crusts and all, in a food processor and save a few slices for hookbaits.
Tactics for your session
A stretch of river can be a daunting thing, the options endless and often the first challenge can be knowing where to start. This is all part of the fun though so park up, tackle up, grab your walking boots and head to the upper extreme of the water you’re targeting. Search your stretch looking for likely looking areas (trees overhanging the water, bends in the river, undercuts and weed beds make great holding areas for chub) introducing a few golf ball sized lumps of liquidised bread into each swim.
Wearing dull clothing, stay low and always wear polarised lenses, taking care to look for the best sign of all: fish. Focus on spotting chub drifting from cover in the sunshine to intercept food, often moving out from shade under beds of streamer weed or submerged roots, then falling back to their watery home.
Once you’ve finished your exploration, head to the end of the stretch where you first introduced your bait. Set your tackle up carefully, paying heed not to make noise or create unnecessary disturbance. Tear off a large piece of inviting breadflake, about the size of a 50p, and squeeze it around the shank of your hook, the tail left fluffy, exposing the point and swelling up attractively once wet.
Once you’ve crept into your swim and gently pushed in a bankstick, flick your rig out into the flow upstream of your chosen feature, aiming if possible for the crease where fast water meets slow, as this is where chub often sit intercepting food items deposited on the crease line.
The beauty of the link ledger is introducing a naturally moving, tempting hookbait with little disturbance near your target and with little resistance when taken by the fish. Chub are renowned for ‘mouthing’ a bait and will drop your rig at the first sign of resistance. The right weight for your link may be a case of trial and error at first, finding the right balance between light enough allowing the bait to move naturally and heavy enough to not simply be washed away.
Squeeze just enough shot onto your link to allow the rig to bounce gently along with the flow, coming to a rest under your target feature, moving only when your rod is lifted slightly, allowing the bait to bounce further into the watery lair where your quarry hopefully sits in anticipation. If your rig moves too quickly or not at all, simply add or remove a shot and start again. This rig creates such little disturbance when hitting the water that you’ll have a few bites at the cherry before disturbing the fish so it pays to experiment and get it right.
Catching your summer chub
Once the bait has settled, sit back and wait. Any swim is always worth a couple of casts, giving each one up to 10 minutes to give the chub time to find the bait, although bites on bread are usually fairly instant. If you haven’t had any signs after a few casts and about 20 minutes move on to the next swim and repeat.
This is where it pays to travel light. For these sessions I’ll carry only my rod, reel and net, a bankstick, a small roving bag with my tackle in and maybe a little food and drink. Add in an unhooking mat and (sometimes) a chair and that’s it. The more you carry the less likely you are to move so remember when you’re getting ready not to overburden yourself.
Hopefully within a couple of swims and a few casts you’ll start seeing some signs of activity. Indications often start with minor plucks on the tip as chub mouth at the bait, assessing the risk of engulfing it.
Tempting as it may be, remain patient and don’t strike at these. Given time, bites will develop and the tip will lean round in a slow, steady arc, indicating that the chub has made its decision and the fight has begun. When this happens, lift confidently, without striking. With the point left exposed from your flake hookbait there’s no need to be overly aggressive, just positive.
Chub are not the hardest fighting fish but are certainly one of the smartest. They will rarely put up much resistance in open water but take care, nerves can get the better of you in clear summer conditions with your prize in sight throughout the battle. Maintain slow and steady pressure and the fish should gently move towards you, rarely taking line from the clutch. This, though, is when the real battle begins.
Once under the rod tip chub will, more often than not, make for the snags and marginal weed and, believe me, the chub always know exactly where to go. Tighten the clutch and trust your tackle, giving line only if necessary, as chub can be lost at the last second after you think the hard work is over, seemingly diving in slow motion for that last submerged snag beneath your feet.
After a short battle, with slow and steady pressure, the prize should be yours, big, white lips rising to the surface and heading towards you. Ease the rod tip up, put your landing net in the water and gently ease the fish over the net cord without stabbing the net towards the fish. Simply slip the net under it and relax.
Taking care of your catch
Rest your prize in the net for a couple of minutes before taking it out of the water for weighing and photography. Feel your heart racing after the adrenaline filled battle and take a moment to imagine how Mr Chevin feels.
You could both use a break so take a few breaths and compose yourself. making sure your net is secure. Use an unhooking mat (if you have one) and make sure any slings and mats are dampened. Get your photography kit ready. Once you’re prepared, lift the net out and sit the fish on your dampened mat.
Ease out the barbless hook, carefully weigh the fish, take a photo for your memories and slip it back gently, making sure it kicks back strongly before lowering the net and letting it drift back to its watery home.
And that’s summer chub fishing. Its about as simple as fishing gets, yet the rewards and challenges are endless. A great way to get a few bites but also the opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime. With chub, you really never do know. With the British chub record standing at a seemingly impossible 9lb 5oz as someone once said ‘there’s always a bigger fish’.
All you have to do now is move along to the next tempting spot and repeat, always hoping that the next cast will find the magical 6lber, a dream that will keep this chevin chaser hooked for a lifetime…
What other baits can I use for chub?
As mentioned, chub can be caught on nearly everything. I like to keep it simple as you can see in this article but it can pay to have a ‘change bait’ handy. For stalking methods on small rivers such as this its all about big, tempting single hookbaits so try lobworms, a big piece of cheese or a lump of luncheon meat.
When can I catch chub?
Chub can be caught year round in all conditions, from the hottest day to the very coldest when the water is freezing in the rod rings and you cant imagine that anything will be feeding. In fact from memory nearly all of my biggest chub have come on some of the coldest days of the year.
What are the best chub locations?
Now from experience, this question has several answers and they may seem contradictory so bare with me. If in doubt its always best to look for the traditional fish holding features; overhanging trees, snags, weed beds. You will never go far wrong with these and there’s a great chance you’ll find chub here.
That being said, again my experience has to come into play and that has demonstrated that some of the biggest chub are very solitary and can often be found away from these multi fish holding areas. Long straights with few features have often thrown up some big fish. It can be boring to look at and it’s hard to have confidence when your’re not fishing to anything but stick with it, the rewards can be surprising.
Your article says you can find them everywhere and they eat everything, what’s the challenge then?
Good point. The challenge with chub is exactly because of this. Catching chub isn’t too difficult in theory but catching big chub is like catching an entirely different species, transforming from the greediest little fish in the river into a near legendary myth once reaching specimen proportions.
The key is maintaining your enthusiasm for the big ones once you’ve waded through hundreds of ‘squeakers’ as we call the junior chub. Spend a few hours targeting this marvellous fish and you’ll know exactly what I mean.