All about chub – Tony MilesPallatrax Angling
These days, to be truly exceptional, a chub has to exceed 7lbs and at the time of writing I have been lucky enough to have taken four fish over that weight. These are the captures I shall describe shortly but first I really must put fish of that size into context. You see, today’s chub are astonishing compared to what was available in my formative years.
In my long career chasing specimen fish I have seen fascinating fluctuations in the weights of individual chub. In the sixties, 6lb chub were not that uncommon in the better rivers and my old favourite Great Ouse produced several each season. Fish to over 7lbs, however, were rarely heard of although I recall the famous Royalty producing one or two fish of that calibre. I was lucky enough to take three six pounders from the upper Ouse in the sixties, the biggest of which I had spotted in clear water in the summer before the big freeze of the winter of 62/63. At the time, I believe that fish could have exceeded 7lbs. The prolonged arctic conditions of January to March 1963, however, had a devastating effect on fish populations generally. Those fish that survived must have had very limited feeding opportunities during that time. Nevertheless, when I caught that leviathan chub in August 63, it still weighed 6lb 12ozs, although it was obviously a very old fish and was in poor condition. Little did I realise that I would not beat that fish for over forty years.
Whether it was the effects of that vicious winter is difficult to say, but it is a fact that by the end of the sixties, reports of 6lb chub captures country wide were becoming much rarer. Even the front runners of the time, the Hants Avon and Dorset Stour, saw a steep decline in the weights of individual specimens. In my fishing, I first met Richard Walker in 1972 when I enjoyed a long weekend in his palatial fishing hut on the upper Ouse and he told me that fish even close to 6lbs were becoming rare indeed. Trefor West and I devoted much of the winters of the seventies and eighties to chubbing, on rivers as diverse as the Hampshire Avon, Dorset Stour, Oxfordshire Cherwell and Thames, Warwickshire Leam and Norfolk Wensum and everywhere it was the same story. We could catch fish up to around 5lb 8ozs, but rarely above. In fact, when I netted a 5lb 14oz Cherwell fish in 1984, it was the biggest either of us had taken for almost twenty years.
By the end of the nineties, though, things were changing dramatically. Average chub sizes were escalating quickly and six pounders became more and more common. In 2000 I witnessed a fish of exactly 7lbs from Dick Walker’s stretch to the late Paul Fickling and only then did I feel that I may be in with a reasonable chance of beating my long standing personal best. I had taken my first 6lb plus fish since the sixties in 1999 and in the six years that followed, the Ouse fish escalated in size at astonishing speed. I took over thirty six pounders during those years, culminating in a cracking fish that just missed my personal best, a lovely fish of 6lb 10ozs in the company of my old mate Bob Roberts.
So this brings me to a memorable night in November 2005, on a tough stretch of the Great Ouse where bites have always been rare but the average size of the fish tremendous. In March of that year, I’d come within one ounce of a PB by netting a fish of 6lb 11ozs, which was another milestone session as I’d taken a fish of 6lb 2ozs earlier the same evening, the first time I’d ever had a brace of sixes. The night before the November trip, we had the first severe frost of the winter, particularly bad news as the river was still at summer level and crystal clear. Prospects were poor indeed, but I intended to give it my best shot for the two days at my disposal, and spent the morning wandering the stretch, putting a few freebies here and there. Eventually I made my first cast at 1.00pm but when I eventually packed up well after dark I still had a dry landing net. Another hard frost promised equally tough conditions the next day.On the second evening, after taking a 4lb chub in the morning, I moved into my final swim, where a long downstream cast placed the bait under a fallen tree into one of the deeper holes on the stretch. Only minutes later, in the half light of dusk on another bitterly cold night, the tip started to bend slowly round, similar to the indication you get from drifting weed. As soon as I struck I realised this wasn’t weed, it was something a bit special. An almighty wrench on the rod preceded the fish making a mad dash downstream for a few yards. There were no anxious moments in the fight, however, and I was able to net it after about five minutes. As I peeled back the net mesh I knew my search for a seven pounder was over and when the scales confirmed 7lb 3oz my joy knew no bounds. As I took self portraits of that special chub, alone on the banks of a deserted river bank, as darkness rapidly approached, with the ground hard with frost and the dying embers of the winter sun glowing deep red low in the west, I was trembling with excitement. I’m 71 now and long may I still get that buzz from a big fish that I got that night.
In early March 2009, I enjoyed a truly memorable two day session on the upper Ouse and as you will have read in my recent Biggest Barbel feature, the second of those two days saw the capture of an amazing barbel of 17lb 2ozs. The first day, however, turned out to be an unforgettable chubbing experience. I fished from mid morning until well after dark, in torrential rain and constant gale force wind. The daylight hours brought three cracking chub of 5lb 9ozs, 5lb 10ozs and 5lb 14ozs, while two fish of 5lb 4ozs and 5lb 7ozs came well after dark. Sandwiched between that terrific quintet, at dusk, came the highlight of the day.
As the light was fading there was a slow, steady deflection of around three inches. I struck and there followed the most awesome battle I’ve ever had with a chub; it just did not want to yield. After I’d turned its first run, it came back upstream at speed opposite me, obligingly rolling just under the surface, and at that moment I knew I was attached to one leviathan chub. Ten minutes later, with the rain stinging my face, I confirmed a massive 7lb 5ozs, my second chub over 7lbs and a new personal best.
In December 2010, I arrived for my first Great Ouse chubbing session of the winter to find conditions identical to those in which I’d taken my first ever 7lb plus chub five years previously. The river was low, clear and freezing cold. As I settled in to fish a lovely steady glide just off the main flow, the sky turned black and icy sleet began to fall steadily. With the water being so cold, I decided against any free offerings, opting for a hook bait of a Multiworm Cocktail boilie, paste wrapped, with modest additional attraction provided by three additional baits broken up in a small PVA bag. Once cast into position, the plan was to leave the bait well alone until a fish moved it. As dusk became dark, the sleet had turned to heavy snow and I was questioning my sanity! Then, at a little before 6.00pm, the rod was wrenched down towards the water surface in most determined fashion. As I struck, the clutch screamed as something big and angry shot downstream. My first thought was barbel but it soon became obvious that I was attached to an extra big chub.
When I eventually saw the fish on the surface in the torch beam, as it approached the net cord, I almost stopped breathing. Here was one mammoth chub that could conceivably go over 8lbs. As it sagged in the mesh my hands were shaking as I knew that I had eclipsed my personal best by a comfortable margin. It didn’t make the eight pounds that I thought it might, but at 7lb 13ozs I certainly wasn’t complaining. Not only was it big, it was absolutely pristine. Nor was it a ‘gutty’ creature either. It was a perfectly proportioned Great Ouse chub in its prime, with a huge frame giving it plenty of potential to grow to well over 8lbs.
In the 2012/13 season, I did not begin my chub campaign until January and the weeks that followed until the end of the season saw bites at a premium. It was one of the most difficult winters I can remember for bites at one of my favourite venues. In hindsight, I should have moved to pastures new after the first session, as it provided the only really big chub of the winter! I had arrived at the river in mid morning to find it really low and cold and decided to make my way to a deep bend carrying a substantial crease, which had been reliable in the past in difficult conditions. Previous experience had proved that low, cold and clear conditions seemed no detriment to the very biggest chub feeding.
My first cast was made at around 2.00pm, to the inside of a steady crease adjacent to a fallen tree, adopting the same tactics as described previously, with just a paste wrapped hookbait with a few broken bits in a PVA bag. The only difference is that I was now using a Crustacean Cocktail offering. I didn’t have to wait long. About an hour elapsed and then the quivertip plucked before slamming round. As I struck, there was an angry boil by the branches and a powerful fish bolted into the faster flow. For a few minutes it led me a merry dance, taking a few feet of line in short rushes, before I had control of the situation. Soon, the fish was folding over the net rim and I lifted out a real corker of a chub. It really was a magnificent specimen, perfect in every fin and scale and totally in proportion. As the scales settled on 7lb 2ozs it was a moment of elation and I was looking forward to the night to come and the following day. In the event, I never had another bite and for the rest of that winter I struggled for bites. I should have quit while I was ahead!!