Well, this may not always be the case but one condition they do like is flood conditions. The only problem with winter chub fishing as opposed to barbel fishing is that some knowledge of the river we intend fishing in winter is very useful if not essential.

The obvious spots will be overhanging trees and bushes and rubbish rafts. Knowledge of how the bushes are located in summer here is useful. How high the water is compared to normal level will tell us how much of the bush is under water, or more importantly, how much room underneath there is for the chub to lay up in. Rafts will build up bigger and bigger in floods and more and more food will get washed into and under them. If the floods get really bad then huge populations of fish of all species will shelter under a raft. This will be even more the case if a few branches gather with rubbish and pushes the flow out into the river thus creating an area of lesser flow. A bait dropped in at the front of the raft and allowed to drift under it will often get an immediate response. If several fish are present a good ploy is to drop several free offerings in first and then cast your bait in shortly after. Chub being greedy fish, the smaller specimens will grab the free offerings first leaving the bigger fish to take your hookbait. Another ploy to get to the bigger fish is to try and get around the back of the raft and introduce free offerings in the front of the raft - then cast a bait in from the back. The bigger fish will hold back and finding your hookbait will think it is one his smaller brethren have missed.

A line of hawthorns on a flooded river are a good swim as often the bank is undercut where the hawthorn roots break up the bank. Winter chub will often lie up under the undercut bank in the lesser flow. A bait cast so it swings under the hawthorn roots will often be taken savagely.

A lot of chub can be caught from these types of swims but it would be criminal to ignore the rest of the river. With a fast flow pushing through it may be hard to believe that any chub will be out in open water, in fact there will be many, holding up under cover. One bit of river may look the same as any other but if we learn to look at the surface of the water we will learn a lot about what is underneath.

What looks like a uniform stretch of water is not. Is it smooth or constantly rippled? Is it boiling or appears fragmented with odd smooth bits and odd rippled bits? Are there sudden changes of direction of the flow? Changes in direction of the flow of the river cause flows to move at different speeds. These create a division between fast and slower, sometimes shallower, water which is the classic crease. The things that create a crease are perhaps a bend in the river, underwater gravel banks or a bankside protrusion such as a tree stump.
Creases are classic chub holding swims and all the rubbish and food will congregate in the slower bank-side area of the crease. A bait cast in to the faster flow so it rolls as far into the slacker water as deemed necessary can be deadly.

Now let's go further. The smooth areas of water we saw out in the main flow are reliable chub holding areas as these reveal a clean gravel bottom with no obstructions. If we do have some knowledge of the river in summer then look for those shallow stretches which are rippled. If we look carefully we will see in amongst the ripple small smoother areas. These are holes in the riverbed and in a winter flood these holes will hold several chub, so log the position of them in your mind for the winter.

Weedbeds too can be found by looking at the surface of the water. Smooth areas interspersed with constant or intermittent broken areas reveal weedbeds. If the rippled broken areas move then this can be confusing but these are areas of streamer (runculus) weed that moves in the flow. Remember though, the smooth areas are clean gravel runs and a bait positioned here can be made to roll under the weed to the waiting chub. In severe floods, slacks are created behind weedbeds and boulders and the chub will hold up in these.

As with barbel, a rig is needed that enables quick and easy weight changes, again a simple snap-link swivel is ideal so changes in weights to suit swims can be made. Baits for chub are not that different to the rest of the year, breadflake, bread crust, luncheon meat, cheese paste and lobworms will all be successful. Just use the right one depending on the amount of weight, or the buoyancy needed.

Also as with barbel, roving tactics will produce far more chub than sitting in one swim all day will. The best ploy when turning up at the stretch of river to find it flooded is to visit all the likely looking margin swims and prebait them with mashed bread, some chopped worms and some pieces of luncheon meat. Then return to the top of the stretch fishing each swim in turn. I don't give a swim more than an hour if no action is received but, unlike when barbel fishing, if I am lucky enough to catch a chub then I will continue to fish the swim for another hour in case other chub are present. Often a return to a swim a coupe of hours later will produce a bonus fish.

When all the classic margin chub swims have been fished, then I will start exploring the open water spots that I have located. These swims require a different approach. Enough weight is needed to hold in the current and this is when a flat lead comes in essential as they will hold in the fastest flow. I used to worry about casting a fairly heavy lead, 2oz, straight into a gravel run or a hole or behind an obstruction but I have often received bites straight away so now I do not worry. A plus of using such a heavy lead is the voracity of the bites. The lead acts like a carp anglers bolt rig and the chub tears off, the bites are unmissable, just make sure you are holding the rod or all will be lost.

I rarely fish for chub after the first hour of darkness in winter and have in fact rarely caught them when fishing at night for barbel. Chub are very much a daylight species in winter flood conditions but if you bait swims carefully and cast carefully then large catches of chub can be made from several, or just one swim. Like barbel, in winter they are in superb condition and it is often the very biggest chub of a stretch that get caught in winter floods.
Have fun!

John Young