Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Small River Chub and Roach

The big canal roach hunt is temporarily shelved with the North Oxford having relinquished it's usual strong colour to the invading cold nights and a distinct lack of roach in some usually key areas. There are still the deeper stretches to go at but, for now, the distraction of early evening River Leam chubbing has taken hold

Last season, and perhaps for part of the season before (I don't recall), the written advice of Tony Miles was implemented with as much commitment as one could muster for the cause and many things were learnt, not least likely swims and a knowledge of the venue which of course is fundamental to all angling quests

Having dallied with the syndicate water earlier in the season and then canals until an appropriate chill hit the air coupled with the most recent downpours, perhaps as long as a month ago, set the mind racing in another field, as it were

It was easy last season to say that the Leam is not the river it once was but who am I to make such a claim after just a few months trying to learn methods never before known? The river, in fact maybe rivers generally, are rarely in good shape for the optimum angling opportunity to present itself. Catching the colour and flow of falling river in perfect circumstances is very much down to luck and the likelihood of these factors merging together on a weekend are nothing less than pure fluke, but recently they did and things were good all along the river when, where anglers bothered, apparently there were good catches of roach to be had as their inhibitions were cast aside

I'm not certain how many sessions I've enjoyed on the Leam over the past year or more but I estimate it, against the loss of records for 2012/13, at around 20 or maybe it was only 15 but somewhere in that bracket for sure, and those usually short, sharp sorties were an average of no more than 2 hours long. Many of those estimated 30 to 40 hours bankside were spent fishing bread flake combined with mashed bread feed for chub and big roach. The target being to crack the 4lb Leam chub barrier so regularly breached by Mr Miles and his conspirees back in the heyday of this short yet intriguing water course

Mist descends on the valley
35 hours produced 6 chub and 1 notable roach to the novice small stream angler. Then, as I often committed to writing at that time, the venue was regularly well under par with low flows and clear conditions, and consequently I only recall taking two chub earlier than 30 minutes before actual sunset - both just over 2lbs as it happens. The other four came around or after dusk when I would occasionally fish for an hour into dark by which time I'd either caught one and killed the tiny restricted swim with the commotion or no bites had ensued and the roast dinner took over the immediate thoughts

So apart from the optimal conditions three to four weeks back, when as it happens I was trying to avoid roach and later regretted it!, the river has fairly quickly reverted to that same situation and catching decent fish in daylight has become a challenge

Saturday I ended up in the fortunate situation of having from dawn until just after lunch free to really have a go at the river and I had convinced myself in a previous evening session (which produced chub of 2.1.0 and 3.4.0 to link legered large flakes while watching what appeared to be good roach rising in the moonlight at an inaccessible area of the swim) that to return with a small cage feeder on a carefully spool-clipped cast and filled with liquidised bread was the way forward.

Two pounds of lipless chub

Difficult to see in this dreadful photo but two parallel lines 4-5" apart on both flanks set this fish apart
 And work it did but nothing over 5-6ozs was taken in a major experimentation session messing around with hook sizes, tail lengths, shot on the tail, etc., until I had convinced myself that a 20mm bread punch (I didn't want to go any smaller anyway), a nine inch tail and a simple link-legered approach was probably about the best I could do. Of course I knew that the chances of bigger fish were going to be scuppered by the timing of the visit, and so it proved, but nevertheless the option of trying this at dusk instead of the usual chub tactics will now add to the variety of options on offer. I also intend not to use the 11' Avon as the tips seem just a touch too stiff for roach and so the Wand will no doubt get an outing soon and we just pray that the 4lb chub does not appear on the evening (it will of course!), having said that the wand has coped admirably with hard-fighting fish over 2lbs thus far and so maybe I shouldn't unduly worry. I'm also pondering the option of a baitdropper using a short pole for certain baits to be fed, particularly chopped worms for perch if I can decide on a swim for the approach. This may be a better bet in daylight as perch seem to me to be the least bothered fish when it comes to feeding outside the hours of darkness, apart perhaps from pike

So the day produced around 3lbs of small roach, with one dace and one minnow, and the only decent bite I had was on the very last cast as I was putting a knot in the liquidised bread bag. Apart from picking up the flask I can think of no more sure-fire manner in which to conjure that elusive bite!

Pristine little fella
The greed!
Sunday evening I was back for a last minutes of daylight chub session in a swim I had seen last year but not seriously fished under then heavy flows. It offered a good flow under the rod-tip in a reasonable depth, an eddy to my right on the inside and another opposite behind a rush bed. I could just about make-out the C's painted on the water by the ghost of Mr Crabtree in various locations. I have figured with this early evening tactic that the best thing to do is to fish very close to the peg initially and gradually work ones way further away from oneself as time progresses on the basis that if you fish the very end of the swim first and are lucky enough to take a fish then it will decimate the rest of the peg in the time taken to force it upstream

So, first drop in, having introduced mash in various strategic locations, was in the eddy to my right and as I tightened to the swan shot the tip just continued to bend round after I had stopped winding the reel, I struck and felt nothing. Dropping in again produced an exact replica bite and soon a chub of a pound four was being reintroduced to the water with thanks for his boisterousness

Already an isotope was in order as it had taken a few minutes to walk to the peg but half an hour later as my casts had become increasingly long and searching, albeit by small degrees, another relatively gentle bend of the tip resulted in a good fight from a fish which took me under a submerged branch and after some cajoling eventually came out on a slack line only to then take me into the rush bed just 3m in front of me! This time a good ol' heave brought it out on top and across the surface into the waiting net. A perfectly formed chub of 2.13.0 and causing enough chaos to send me scuttling back through the descending mist after snagging on an invisible bush in the dark and losing everything that mattered soon after

The most recent victim
Already the short chub list, or chub short-list, equals that of last winter with six taken but as it gets colder, and the winter properly sets in, I really fancy this just might be a more interesting campaign than last year with another stretch to assess on the horizon with deep holes linked by fast-flowing gulleys. Meanwhile the cage feeder for roach tactic will be deployed after dark to see what redfins we can tempt, if any. I took one over a pound last winter and as The Old Duffer says. "Where there's one...there's one".

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