On the far bank I could see a hawthorn bush heavily laden with berries while most of the trees were still in leaf, which is unusual in late November; what a riot of colour many of them made. Reds, goldís and browns. There was one bush where the leaves were a pinkish colour. What I found most amazing were the large number of nettles with creamy white flowers which you donít expect to find in late November.
On some areas of the river bank there were some beautiful purple flowers, though I canít tell you the name of this species. The low angle of the sun was pleasant and warming on the back of my neck as the river flowed from left to right. It felt great to be back in the English countryside - most relaxing with no faxes or phones, I could sit and dream of big chub.
I was in that most pleasant of moods which only a passionate angler could understand.
I sat watching my rod tip for an indication that a fish was interested in my large piece of bread crust on a size 6 hook. I felt wonderful on this beautiful soft autumn day with all it's song birds and waterfowl going about their business. To my left I could see a dab chick hunting for a morsel of food. Further upstream a group of mallard ducks and drakes were preening themselves. A pair of swans slowly drifted downstream, the cob some ten feet in front of it's mate.
Hearing the sound of a powerful aircraft going over head I looked skyward, I could see that magnificent flying machine Concord, outward bound from Heathrow Airport. Talking to myself I said to no one in particular "It's certainly beautiful Britain". Then I heard the shrill whistle of a kingfisher as it sped downstream to its favourite minnow hole.
I had come to the River Kennet in Berkshire for two days fishing having returned from the United Arab Emirates 4 days previously where the temperatures often reached 90 degrees F. Today it was much different with an air temperature of around 56 degrees and a water temperature of 40 degrees F. My fishing companions were David Hallett of Slough, Alan Roe of Lytham St Anns, Peter Maslin, his mate Les Andrews and Geoff Maynard were all from the London area. Geoff is also the Editor in chief of www.fishing.co.uk . He has recently returned from catching 100lb plus sturgeon from British Columbia. No chance of hooking one of those today!
While most of the other anglers chose a static approach and fished for barbel, I decided on a roving style where I could leger or float fish bread baits in all the likely looking spots where a chub might be in residence. It's an approach which has proved so successful in the past on many rivers in England which hold chub.
Chub Fishing Gear - Keep It Simple
My tackle set up is quite simple. An Avon action rod and centre pin reel which had some fifty yards or so of 6lb Masterline Illusion fluorocarbon line. I attached a size 6 Partridge barbless hook direct to the line. I cannot see any reason for using a lighter hook link. With the river low and gin clear, all I needed to sink my crust bait was a single LG shot which would easily take the crust down through the water. One or two of my chosen swims might need two LG though I doubted it. My only problem would be lots of floating leaves and other rubbish which might give some false bites and I would easily recognise these.
The water temperature was a nice 48 degrees F with an air temperature of 56 degrees F. The first spot I chose was an undercut bank side swim where the swirling current swept food into the waiting fish. I cast the bread crust baited hook upstream allowing it to trundle down towards the undercut bank. Occasionally the bait would get hung up - I would gently lift the rod tip allowing the bait to continue its drift.
As it swept under the bank I felt the pluck on my index finger of my right hand. The answering strike connected with the first fish of the day. After a brief struggle I netted good looking chub with lovely coloured orange fins.
The scales were zeroed, the fish weighed 4-12-0. What a great start I thought and punched the air. I feel autumn and winter chub fishing to be the cream of river fishing. They are a fish that will feed in most conditions. The worse conditions for catching in my book is snow broth. Though having made that statement I must say, I have still caught the occasional fish under these conditions. After introducing a cricket size ball of broken up bread into the swim, I moved on, looking for another likely looking spot.
During the morning session I had 14 chub, 2 roach and a surprise bream of 5-4-0. All on bread crust bait.
Three Big Ones In Consecutive Casts
Around 1-30pm I made my way back to the car park for lunch. Just before reaching the lunch spot I decided to fish a bait under an alder bush that David had pointed out to me when we arrived. A gentle underhand swing quickly had the bait trundling under the branches where the water swirled dark deep and mysterious. Within thirty second the rod tip moved slightly. I tightened and found myself connected to a good fish. After a few minutes tussle and hearing the reel grudgingly giving some line the fish swirled on the surface. I gasped when I realised the size of the fish, Immediately I took things a bit easier. Could it go six pounds I wondered? Pushing the landing net out into the river as far as possible I slowly pulled the fish towards and over the submerged net then seeing that satisfying sight of a big chub engulfed in my landing net.
Out with the weigh net and scales. It weighed 5-10-0. Time for a picture, I sacked the fish up in the margins and made my way downstream to David. Back in the swim we again weighed the fish 5-10-0; a couple of pictures then we watched it swim off strongly. I punched the air. It was my best Kennet chub. Time for freshly cooked bacon rolls and hot chocolate.
After lunch I made my way back to the spot where I had taken the 5-10-0 fish. Baiting with a bit of crust I made a gentle underhand cast and allowed the bait to trundle downstream once more. Suddenly the tip pulled around about an inch, I connected with a powerful fish as it dived towards the faster water and some dying rushes. Swinging the rod hard over to my left I bent hard into the fish, trying to pull it off its course. The action worked. It kited in towards my bank. Now it's destination were the tree roots but the well balanced tackle and the right amount of power pulled the fish away from this new danger. After some minutes a big fish swirled on the surface. This was without doubt a big five. Sinking the net under the water and pushing it out from the bank I soon had the fish wallowing and swirling toward the net where it was quickly engulfed in the mesh. As I lifted the landing net I thought this could be another six pounder to my list of good chub.
The scales told me it was a six pounder, in fact 6-1-0. Luckily for me Alan was fishing the next swim downstream. After calling him, he was quickly on the scene where he witnessed the weight of the chub then shot some pictures. What a day this was turning out to be - two big chub in consecutive casts! I cast another bit of crust under the branches, once again not really expecting another fish but within minutes I had another chub of 5-4-0. It was certainly one of those red letter days.
I fished on in other swims catching more chub, all on legered crust.
It had been one of those great days on one of Englandís nicest rivers. The next day conditions changed quite dramatically with a very cold north westerly wind and a water temperature that had dropped a couple of degrees overnight. The fish didnít really want to know, though I did end the session with a few fish including a 5-4-0 chub and a 5-1-0 bream - the bream coming from the big chub hole of the previous day. At around 2pm I decided to call it a day. It was time for a hot drink, bacon rolls then into the car to try and get warm.
Where To Stay
If you fancy a day on the river Kennet there are several club and day ticket waters. With Reading and District probably controlling most of the water. At Aldermaston there is an excellent day ticket stretch but it can be a bit crowded at times. There is plenty of B&B accommodation in the Berkshire area. Alan, David and myself stayed with John and Henrietta Avery at 1 Church Lane, Thatcham, Berks. Tel 01635 869098 . The breakfast has to be the best I have ever had either in a hotel or guest house. In your room you will find, alongside the facilities for tea and coffee making, a decanter of sherry. Even the water for your tea or coffee is filtered. All this for twenty five pounds a head in a twin single bedroom. You can get a good dinner and pint at the White Hart just two hundred yards from your B&B accommodation at a very reasonable cost. Alan and David can certainly recommend the shoulder of lamb and the beer is good also you donít have to worry about driving.