Chub during warm weather can be very frustrating. With the rivers low and warm the amount of dissolved oxygen will be relatively low, leading the fish into an almost comatose state at times. Often finding the fish is the easy bit, but catching them is far more difficult.
The beauty of the method that I will describe in this article is that if one group of fish are unwilling to take a bait, it is just a matter of walking a bit further, around the next bend until a more obliging shoal is found. This is travel light fishing in the extreme. All that is needed is a single rod, a reel, four and six pound line, some hooks (from size 4 to 10) and a bit of tungsten putty. Throw in a pair of forceps and a small trout landing net and you are on your way. Oh yes, don't forget a floppy hat and pair of polarised glasses - you will need to see the fish and these, along with a sharp pair of eyes are the tools of your trade.
My favourite rod for chub fishing summer or winter, is the Grey's 11 foot Classic Barbel. This might be a bit heavier than the purist would like, but it has enough back bone to bully large chub away from snags, while still being soft enough to allow even a two pounder to make a good account of itself. Up until a couple of years ago, I was quite happy to use a battered old Mitchell 300 for all of my chub fishing, and a mighty fine piece of kit they are, but today I have gone all hi-tech and invested in the latest Shimano Super GTM4000, which has superior line lay and a far better clutch than the old Mitchell. Line is the phenomenal Sufix Magic Touch and hooks are invariably Drennan boilie hooks, or Hutchinson Vice hooks. Freelining is the order of the day, so all that is required is that the appropriate sized hook is tied to the end of the line. Casting weight is generally provided by the bait. This is fine for larger baits, but for lobworms at range and small pieces of bread, a tub of floating and sinking putty are very handy, although normally as a last resort.
The diet of adult chub is perhaps the most catholic of all our fish species. There can be few food items that a big chub will turn it's nose up at when they are hungry. Small chub are more picky though. To begin with, when at a length of only 7 mm, young chub feed primarily on microscopic algae and diatoms. When they reach a length of 12mm, chub begin to feed more on small invertebrates, particularly chironomid larvae and tiny crustaceans, such as daphnia. At one year of age, and a length of 30mm, the miniature chub begin to develop a more diverse taste, with small mayfly nymphs, filamentous algae and caddis-fly larvae all beginning to feature in the fish's diet.
As the fish reach maturity at an age of four or five years, their diet tends to be linked to the time of year. During the early summer, when tiny coarse fish fry are common, they can often be seen preying upon the shoals of helpless fish in the shallow margins early in the morning.
The biggest chub in many waters may become piscavorious for much of the year, either hunting down easy to catch prey, such as minnows, or scavenging the remains of larger dead fish. Later in the year, when there are big hatches of adult mayflies and caddis flies, chub will position themselves on the edge of the current, ready to intercept the constant supply of food passing them. It's likely, that just as with trout, the dominant chub in a shoal will defend the best feeding position with the most passing food. This dominant fish, might not be the biggest, but will definitely be the most aggressive. Late in the year, aquatic plants are commonly found in the guts of large chub. Whether the chub are able to digest these plants is debatable, and it may be that chub are feeding mainly on the small animals, such as chironomids and snails, that live on the surface of the plants.
So, with such a varied diet, what do we need? A chunk of luncheon meat is a good starter, a few lobworms don't go amiss and a loaf of fresh bread is worth chucking in the bag. But the real key to summer chubbing in my experience is a bucket of slugs. Black ones are my favourites, the larger the better, as these will sort out the biggest chub. This isn't for the squeamish, but believe me, if you are going stalking for chub, you will not go far wrong with these babies.
WHERE TO START
On a small open river, if you can find overhead cover, then you will find fish. Studies on small trout streams have found that allowing the banks to become overgrown can increase the numbers of trout fourfold - great for the fish, but not so great for the angler who have to fight their way through the jungle. The answer is effective management, that leaves havens of overhanging cover for the fish, but which opens up small areas for the anglers. The same goes for coarse anglers. Although overhanging trees and bushes may be a pain, they are essential fish holding areas. There has been surprisingly little interest in the effect of removing vegetation on coarse fish populations, yet there is some evidence that many species of coarse fish use overhead cover. In the rivers of East Anglia, more chub were found in stretches of river with abundant overhead cover. In the River Rhine in Germany, radio tracked roach were found to congregate under trees during daylight, and in the River Meuse in Belgium, barbel can be found resting amongst the tangle of submerged branches of bankside trees.
Chub are probably the best adapted of our coarse fish for using cover, as any angler will tell you. A lot of small insects fall off overhanging trees into the water below. By being stationed here, chub have first pickings of this nutritious food resource, and at certain times of the year, it can make up a large percentage of their diet. Although other species of riverine coarse fish also feed on the insects that blow in to the water, the chub is the most adept and most frequently observed species behaving in this manner.
As any seasoned chub angler will tell you, come hell or high water, you will always find chub in cover. But this isn't the only place they lurk. Although cover is important, finding the right kind of flow can be just as important, especially for big fish. A big chub, doesn't get that way by chance, it had adopted the best strategy to get the most food for the least energy.
In the laboratory, young chub are more adept at finding slow currents than either roach, or dace. The young chub seek out the corners of the tank, where small eddies mean the water is moving slower than in the main current. This is very similar to the behaviour of chub in rivers. Although the chub tend to feed on drifting food, and so need a water current to bring the food to them, they are not built for swimming hard the whole time. To overcome this, they tend to lie on the edge of the current, particularly where there is a significant change in the speed of the water - what river anglers call a 'crease'. The small bump in the surface of the water is the point at which the two different speed currents meet. Normally, the chub will be situated just on the slow side of this crease, only moving into the main current to intercept a passing morsel of food. Whether you present a bait in the fast water, or the slow, depends on the mood of the chub. Go for the fast side when the chub are feeding well, as they will only have a split second to take the bait, but go for the slow side when water temperatures are low and the chub are less inclined to move in search of food.
TIME OF DAY
Most river fish feed most intensely at dawn and dusk during the summer months. This is at least partially because it is more difficult for predators creep up on their prey after dark, but has probably also resulted from the fact that the food of many species of fish becomes more abundant at night.
As river fish and their invertebrate prey, such as chironomids and caddis larvae, have evolved together, each has influenced the behaviour of the other. Because most species of river fish feed mainly by sight, it is advantageous for invertebrates to drift at night when they are less visible to the fish. Densities of invertebrates drifting can increase more than one hundred fold at night. Because there is so much food available at night it is still worth while for the fish to feed at night, because their low efficiency at catching the drifting invertebrates is offset by the huge amount of food available.
Why invertebrates should risk their lives drifting downstream into an uncertain future has been the centre of much speculation. Some researchers have suggested that after dark the invertebrates lose orientation and are inadvertently washed away. This explanation does not take into account those animals which drift further than would be expected purely if they were washed downstream. Some animals appear to swim actively up into the current to increase the distance they are washed downstream. One explanation for this active downstream drifting behaviour is that it is a response to over-crowding. When the density of animals on each stone becomes too high, some of them choose to move downstream, where hopefully conditions will be more suitable. With so much downstream drift, it is important for the adult invertebrates to crawl, or fly, back upstream, to replenish the number of animals in the headwaters of streams.
GO GET 'EM
So there you have it. Chub fishing isn't difficult when the conditions are right. The secret is to look hard for the fish and to present baits in any areas that warrant a cast. Remember to leave all that heavy tackle at home and to travel as light as possible. Summer chub will not be as fat as their winter counterparts, but they fight harder in the warm water and can make for excellent sport during even the hottest of summer days. Any chub is worth catching, but with a bit of perseverance four pounders should be possible for all of the rivers listed at the end of this article and even the odd five pounder. And just imagine all the information you are collecting ahead of the long winter nights when the rivers are in flood and the chub are at their heaviest. Those hot days will be long gone, but the information gained can be put to good use as the chub will not be far away from their summer haunts. Good hunting!
WHERE TO GO
Almost any river from the Scottish borders to Dorset will hold chub in varying sizes and numbers, but some rivers are obviously better than others, here is my current top ten for a decent fish:
1. River Ribble, Lancashire
2. River Swale, Yorkshire
3. Upper Severn,
4. River Dove, Derbyshire
5. Upper Great Ouse, Buckinghamshire
6. River Wensum, Norfolk
7. River Kennet, Oxfordshire
8. River Mole, Surrey
9. River Wye, Wales
10. River Stour, Dorset