Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Cold, Clear and Chubby

It was never going to be warm...


Canals would be frozen, as would small lakes and with high water having run-off the local upper Avon and Leam these offered the only options. As I've been in eight minds for every trip lately, two choices would prove a bonus.

Saturday the Avon was shrouded in freezing fog and thick frost. The little pond by the gate somewhat remarkably not completely crusty.

Tee shirt, thermal layer, grandad tee, thick shirt, microfleece, fleece gilet, thick fleece, thermal padded coat with zipped-in lining. 9 layers and nothing was getting through this.

Minus two on arrival, but it's been worse. Since my water thermometer became zander bait no temperatures have been taken but I suspected the river would have been around 4degC.
  The colour had dropped out more than expected but that seems to be common with this river these days, quite why is beyond me. The Leam would hold it longer.

As I approached a water rail was silently flushed across into the far side undergrowth and a pair of swans with a still clingy brown-mottled youngster dunked for breakfast.

Somehow I expected roach and it was a little liquidised bread cage feeder that sought to do the business.

 Third cast into the deep hole and a tentative bite was missed but immediately after that unmistakable drag round of the winter chub but it didn't fight like chub staying deep and not diving for the gathered uprooted weed under my feet until well into the battle. From thence he was scooped to the bank however and at 3.7 a nice start.

 In celebration a tiny chestnut bank vole tazzed among the stalks at my feet and was out of sight no sooner than he had been in it.

This was a late start. Firstly I had arrived after the usual faff with gates and as I unloaded realised I hadn't stopped for bread on the way. So the nearest option left me with a Marks & Spencer soft white thick sliced loaf.

"How would this compare with the Blue", I asked myself.

In practice it was a good substitute so if you're ever stuck it's another possibility, albeit medium would have been closer to the mark.

Consequently I contact fishing traffic control to advise of the landing error and was advised I had until lunch time to get over it so things weren't so bad...or so it seemed.

Thankfully the resident ravens kept me amused, as the fishing did not continue as it had started, and as I packed away lifting my seat to expose the last area of frost that hadn't yet thawed it felt a little anticlimactic. Just that one nice chub, always a pleasure in cold weather, but I should be thankful for a bite under such conditions.


The following day the second option was taken-up.

The Leam did indeed hold a touch more colour but, as before, it was obvious that the best had passed during the working week.

If Saturday had been the script for Sunday it wouldn't have been a surprise. A decent Leam chub of 2.10 early doors and then flushed green sandpiper and squealing water rail in the phragmites later when roving. Bites in every peg but all tiny tippy-taps and only two sub-sized fish, a roach and a dace to show for it.

A very confident Robin shared each of the first four swims in its search for egg sandwich crumbs and, even though each time I moved scraps would have been left behind, it somehow preferred the challenge of testing its bravery with me sat there.

I'd gone a good year or so away from this stretch until recently and it was incredible how it had changed. The floods can be quite impacting here and it showed in the changes where rafts had been lost and others formed; standing reed and rush beds flattened, dragged-out and reshaped; and whole trees removed. It was as if approaching a new venue in many areas and a few mental notes were made. Dace still lived in the same glide though, as did roach.

Through the meadow back to the car the standing water remained frozen as I cracked-on and with the ram looking a little more lively than some weeks ago I gave him and his flock a wide berth; not that he's ever defensive in his duties, but you never can be certain.


Back to the Avon.

The afternoon fog that appeared to be thickening suddenly slipped away on arrival but the water was clearer still. The flow however remained urgent as I again settled into the mysterious deep hole.

 Again a water rail squealed it's piglet-like call from the far bank and a steady approach, given the continuing cold weather, of liquidised bread in a 15g cage feeder and a smaller than usual flake hookbait combined with the more delicate than usual 9' wand.

A series of unhittable fiddly bites ensued and filled the first hour or more - then an unrelenting pull on the 3/4oz tip resulted in solid resistance.

The Boy Wonder trotted along and removed rod no2 which was dangling a lob down the edge and meanwhile the excellent little lead rod I was relying on that, it turned out, was attached at long last to that elusive for four years 4lb plus chub, coped as well as one with a blue chip reputation would be expected to.

The fish wasn't particularly long and initially it was puzzling as to why it was a struggle to lift it up the bank...until it came fully into view.

"How big do you think it is?", asked TBW.

" I think it's bigger than the one on Saturday but I'm not sure how much more".
Secretly however I felt it might just be tantamount to THAT fish. The fish I set out four years ago to extract from the Leam. A four pounder.
It was in 2016 that I started a new relationship with the Warwickshire Avon though, having been a regular BAA member decades ago. Many say the biggest fish have been removed by the dear old otter and that may well be true so a four pounder could prove to be of greater value than it might immediately seem as time passes.

When TBW asked how many ounces I needed I couldn't bring myself to say and simply asked what it read, praying to myself he would say more than 64.

"66.6", he exclaimed. It must be an omen for a similar Leam fish next surely.
Damien, the chub.
 4 pounds 2 ounces 10 drams. I became a bit Flintoffian.
We anglers often talk of scale or fin perfect fish and on that score this one took some beating
Strangely not the biggest F,F&F chub. That was a 4.6 specimen from a canal back in the 1990's. Okay it wasn't a River Leam fish but, so long in trying, it was very welcome nevertheless.
That ended the afternoon's action but that really was plenty, thank you very much.


  1. Warburtons and lobs for me this weekend I hope. Absolutley perishing in north and west Norfolk over the last few days. Any thing approaching Damien figures would be welcome but they do go up to (at least) an even more anti-christian 112 with out any decimals. Though they are probably mostly nocturnal. Which I am not in our lazy winds..

  2. Chub are one of my favourite species for their appetite in the winter, glad your getting amongst them to George!

    1. Thanks James.

      Funny really, I hadn't intended to target them - it just sort of happened.

      V welcome tho'.

  3. Wonderful post George. Please add me to your list.

    1. Thanks Richard, glad you enjoyed it.
      I've been reading your new blog, surprised to hear you've quit fly fishing though.