Well, that was a strange old winter wasn’t it? I had started off, before Christmas, baiting an area on the Thames for the chub and barbel, visiting the area to feed three it times a week with about three kg of Blakes Baits Red Fish Pro boilies. These were introduced into a far bank slack, that’s about 50yds across the other side of the river. I know this stretch has done some very big chub and barbel the previous year, so I knew I was in the right area. Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I knew I wouldn’t actually be able to fish it for at least two months, but being a huge advocate of long-term baiting, I knew this would play into my favour eventually.
Alas, by the time it came to me being able to fish it, we were well into the worst rainy period in about 27 squillion years, and the river was unfishable. I did try fishing across to the big slack, but I couldn’t hold bottom, even using 10 ounces of lead! Thankfully, expecting the worst with the conditions, I had also been chucking in the odd handful for a few weeks, into the inside edge, so I opted to fish that. I had originally planned to fish the entire night, but in the end I decided to just fish up to about midnight. Amazingly, I actually managed to winkle out a couple of fish! Not the behemoths I was hoping for, but barbel of about 8lb and a chub of just over 5lb kept the wolf from the door.
I did think with the way the rain was never ending, that would probably be it for the rivers, so reluctantly I opted to stop the baiting and leave the river alone. Moving back to the lakes and doing a bit of perching and piking proved completely fruitless, so, with the end of the river season upon us, I decided to have one last try. With the river still up, I knew it would be pointless baiting up, and that the far bank slack would still be entirely unfishable. Instead, I opted for another swim, a few hundred yards upstream, where I knew there was decent depth and clean gravel under the rod tips.
In reality I was more expectant of barbel in the conditions. This time I could just hold bottom with an 8oz Grappler lead under the rod tip, so set up with pretty hefty rigs. A combi link of 18″ of 16lb Mirage fluorocarbon and 6″ of 15lb Trickster heavy, the perfect uncoated braided hooklink as it gives loads of movement and is very soft, a size 4 Wide Gape Talon Tip, and two 20mm Red Fish Pro, wrapped in matching paste, a big golf ball sized lump of bait. I always like to use a long hooklink when barbel fishing, as it keeps the rig away from the lead, and the heavy fluorocarbon keeps everything pinned to the riverbed.
Lowering it all under the rod tip, I wasn’t really expecting much action until it got dark, so I was almost caught out when the rod hooped over about 10 minutes after casting, the rod butt nearly hitting me on the chin. At first, I thought it was indeed a barbel, but after a heavy thumping battle in the flow, I saw the brassy flanks of a big chub surface. A couple more nervous minutes followed, before I managed to slide it over the drawstring into the net. Straight away I could see it was probably a ‘6’; a target I had been chasing for years. I’ve had about a dozen over 5lb 12oz, but somehow never quite cracking the magical 6lb barrier. I rested her in the net while I got the scales and camera ready and was over the moon when the needle swung round and stopped at 6lb 4oz. I had finally broken the barrier and got that monkey off my back. A few photos later, and I slipped my prize back into the water.
I recast and sat back with a big grin on my face. I wasn’t really expecting anything else, but thought I’d give it another hour or two anyway. Imagine my surprise, when just after dark, I had a very timid bite, and upon striking I found myself attached to another fish. Clearly, despite not having baited for over a month, the fish still recognised the flavour of the bait and had homed in on it. This fish fought a lot harder, and initially I thought it was a carp as it gave big head shaking thumps out in the main flow.
Eventually it tired and after nearly losing my net in the flow, I netted another big chub. This one looked a fair bit longer than the first one, but nowhere near as chunky. Despite being quite skinny, I was astounded to see I had already broken my PB of a couple of hours previous, with a fish of 6lb 5oz. Alas the pictures of this bigger one came out shockingly bad, but I was still more than happy with two new pb’s to end the river season on a high. I can’t wait to go back again next winter now, as I now have an urge for an even bigger chub.