Greedy and voracious, they ought to be the easiest fish to catch and yet often prove to be quite difficult, especially the larger ones. It isn't hard to find a bait that the chub will eat, indeed it's harder to find one which they won't eat and they are the most obliging fish, feeding in all weathers and conditions.
No, apart from the age-old problem of location, the hardest thing of all when chub fishing is hitting the bites! Barbel anglers will be well aware of the problem. The rod tip flicks over and springs back immediately - chub knocks! Once in a while, a chub might make a mistake and impale itself on the hook but for every one of these, there are usually a dozen missed chances. Not so important if barbel are your quarry, but very frustrating if the chub are what you are after!
It's those big, rubbery lips that are the problem. The chub's feeding tools are so highly flexible and manoeuvrable that the fish can sample a bait and choose to accept or reject it before the angler has the chance to strike. The chub's enormous mouth makes things worse for, while a big mouth makes it easier to get things in, it also makes it easier to spit things out. Thus the bigger chub are particularly hard to catch since, apart from having so much more experience than their smaller brethren, they have much bigger mouths!
It was with this in mind that I set about trying to find the answer and put more chub on the bank. The traditional method of downstream legering is obviously lacking since it produces a high proportion of lightening fast, unhittable bites. It doesn't seem to matter whether the bite indication is rod top, quivertip or touch legering, the result is usually the same and the fish gets away with a free meal. Touch legering does have the advantage that it forces the angler to hold the rod, thus enabling a quicker strike, but none of these "direct contact" methods works as well as I would like.
One or two of the places I fish enable me to use a bobbin as an indicator however. Here, the current is slow and the fish are close to the bank so there is little flow to pull on the line and a heavy bobbin works quite nicely. Now, if you've ever used a bobbin as a bite indicator for chub, you'll know just how successful a method it is. The bobbin sails up to the butt and the angler has all the time in the world to strike, connecting more often than not, with only a rare failure.
Of course there are very few swims where this can be done and while it is an invaluable method for fishing in bankside snags or slack water, often there are bigger fish in the more streamy water where a bobbin cannot be used. It was the success of the bobbin that pointed me in the right direction for catching chub there too. If we examine why the bobbin is so successful, the answer appears obvious; it presents far less resistance to a taking fish than do other forms of bite indication.
What's more, while the resistance from rod-top or quivertip indication increases as the bite proceeds, the resistance from a bobbin stays about the same until the bobbin gets very close to the rod butt.
The bobbin approach thus allows the chub to take line, sampling the bait and sucking it in deeper as it goes.
The puzzle then was to try and discover a method of fishing which, like the bobbin, presented as little resistance as possible to a taking chub but which could be used in a wider variety of swims. A number of anglers have chosen to get over the problem by upstream legering. This is quite a successful method which involves fishing a paternostered bait with a light lead, upstream from the angler and fairly close to the bank. It relies on the chub taking the bait and moving the lead downstream, towards the angler, registering a slackening of the line on a light quivertip.
I know some people who use this method to great effect. The lead is too light to give any great resistance and the chub usually hangs on to the bait long enough for the angler to set the hook. Like any other method however, it has its limitations.
Upstreaming demands that the bait is fished fairly close to the bank - otherwise a significant bow forms in the line and the lead is quickly pulled out of position and downstream by the current. Also, as the chub takes the bait and moves towards the rod, there is sometimes a large amount of slack line about, which impedes the strike and may result in a lost fish.
So upstreaming is very useful too but it doesn't provide the complete answer. What I was looking for was a method of fishing which could be used in mid-river where many of the bigger chub on my local river Ribble lie. The experiences outlined above gave me the information I needed and I have been able to develop a hybrid method which has proved highly successful. I refer to this method as fishing "on the bounce" - here's how it works.
The Right Tackle
Firstly, it's essential to fish using a quivertip. The rod needs to be fairly long and should be set high up, so that as little line as possible is in the water. A little extra height can be gained by sticking the butt of the rod in a butt rest some way off the ground or by mounting the whole rod in a "skyliner" which is a rather cleverly designed rest which can be screwed on to a standard bank stick.
The whole point in fishing the rod tip high up is that it allows the use of a fairly light lead. The lead can still be quite substantial, say an ounce or so, but it shouldn't be much more than this. Heavy leads need to be avoided at all costs if this approach is going to work. A fine reel line will also have a beneficial effect since it's low diameter will cause less pressure on the line from the current, thus enabling the use of a lighter lead.
The lead should be heavy enough so that it just holds bottom. So much so that the slightest tug on the line will set the lead off, trundling downstream.
The quivertip used should be a soft one, capable of giving plenty of line. Don't worry too much if the tip is pulled right over by the current, you're looking for big movements, not tiny flicks of the tip.
The end tackle should consist of a paternoster and it should NOT have a running lead since it is important that as the fish takes the bait, the lead is forced to move. I usually fish with a bomb tail of around 12 inches but with a hooklength which may be as long as five feet. This long hooklength appears to be critical in the success of the method, use a short one and it is nowhere near as effective.
I know many people prefer to attach their paternoster links using a four turn water knot but I don't. I've never had a lot of faith in that particular knot and prefer to use a tiny brass ring, tying my various pieces of line to it using grinners. This has the advantage that should I wish to change the hooklength or bomb tail, I can do so easily without having to retackle from scratch.
I like to fish my hookbaits on a short hair when fishing on the bounce but this is only a personal thing and need not be the case. I do tend to favour fairly large hookbaits however as the chub seem to hang on to them a little longer. This may be because the fish associates what little resistance it does experience with the fact that the bait is bigger and heavier and so takes more effort to pick up. Of course it could just be that the greedy old chub doesn't want to let go of a big meal.
How to do it
The method of fishing is as follows;
Cast the rig across and a little way upstream and allow it to settle. If you have chosen the right size lead, it should swing around in the current until the lead is straight out from you and then it should lodge in the gravel and hold. Tighten the line quickly and position the rod in the rest, keeping as much of the line off the water as possible. If all goes well, the tip should take on a gentle curve and stay there as the rig settles in the current. If the current is a little too strong and is moving the lead too far, try slackening off a little just after the cast is made. This will cause a bow in the line which will allow the lead to remain in place but won't detract too much from the bites you're likely to get.
When a chub takes the bait, it dislodges the lead which moves downstream, bouncing along the bottom. The bites that register on the tip are as close to unmissable as you are likely to get, nod-nod-nodding away for several seconds until the strike is made. Often, the tip will actually spring back at first, only to pull round again. There is usually no need to strike at the first indication, indeed it may be better to wait a little until the chub has really got hold of the bait before setting the hook. Fish will usually be hooked well inside the mouth so there is little chance of losing your chub once you've hooked it.
So Why Does it Work?
The theory is fairly simple. Apart from keeping resistance to a minimum by using a light lead, the rig is designed to avoid sudden shocks to the fish. The long hooklength and paternoster setup ensures that the chub is never directly in contact with the lead or the rod tip but always has the line at an angle to it, so instead of feeling a sudden bump, the chub only feels a gentle draw on the line. Moreover, as the fish takes it's prize off downstream, it has more time to engulf the bait properly, thus giving a better hook-hold.
With such a simple rig, there are few drawbacks. The most obvious one is that the rig is prone to snagging up if the riverbed is rocky. This isn't too much of a problem since the use of a "rotten bottom" on the lead link will prevent the loss of fish but it is likely to stop a bite from developing if the lead snags on the first bounce. There is still a problem with loose line, particularly if a bow has been allowed to develop in order to prevent the lead from moving in the current. This is not nearly so severe as when upstream legering however and doesn't impede the strike too much.
Another "problem" is that the use of a long hooklength tends to encourage the fish to take the bait on the drop. This is actually an advantage if you are expecting it, since it often results in a fish on the bank but it does make it worthwhile to hold on to the rod for half a minute or so after casting in, just in case.
There we have it then, a method for turning those lightning fast "chub knocks" into hittable bites. Give it a go on your local river and I promise you, you won't be disappointed.