I struck with a short, firm lift of the rod, connecting with a strong fish pulling the rod tip down towards the surface of the fast flowing stream. Through the rod I could feel every movement of the fish in its bid for freedom. I let the fish fight the current and my well balanced tackle. Occasionally a couple of feet of line was taken which I quickly retrieved. I had no fear of losing this fish through a weak spot in my tackle set up. If the fish pulled free it was through a mistake on my part. Two or three minutes later I heaved a good chub over the landing net, saying to myself "That's another five". How wrong can you be? It weighed 4-12-0. Still, a good fish and one I was happy with.
It was the first day of a 3 day fishing trip to the Teme and Severn, sadly I had chosen the wrong week. A high pressure zone was sitting over the country and with a cloudless sky at night, the air temperature plummeted below zero. At dawn I was greeted by thick fog and frost but around midmorning the fog had gone. I was left with bright sunshine and a blue sky, frost covered ground. How I hate these so called Christmas card conditions. Give me a low pressure zone with a warm south westerly wind with lots of rain and a rising water temperature every time. High coloured water is far better than low, gin-clear water, unless you're a grayling fisher.
Float or leger?
Though I had chosen 4 swims, I didn't introduce any free offerings until I had fished a baited hook in each swim. With a water temperature of 40 degrees F the fish might not want to eat, no way did I want a fish to pick up a free offering then refuse my baited hook. Remember, you might only get one or two fish from a swim before you have to move on. Chub can often be very spooky in low gin-clear water with bright sunshine and a plummeting water temperature. Often I will move on after catching just one fish, returning later in the day.
Tackle choice that day was quite simple. I decided on two outfits, a centre pin reel with some fifty yards of 6lb Masterline fluorocarbon Illusion line was matched to a 13 foot rod, hook was a size 6 Partridge barbless. I chose a traditional Avon type float, 12 inches from the hook I bunched 4 AA shot. When fishing crust I would move the shot within six inches of the hook, in these cold water conditions I wanted the bait near or dragging the bottom. My other baits would be flake and worms. My second rod was an 11.5 foot Avon action, matched with a Mitchell 300 with the same 6lb fluorocarbon line as used on my centre pin, hook was a size 6 Partridge barbless hook.
My first choice swim was a small pool below a road bridge where the stream split into two. On the far bank there was a big willow tree with some of its branches trailing in the water; no doubt its roots were thrusting downwards where they would make a sanctuary for the resident chub and barbel. Five yards downstream to my left, an alder tree, at a drunken angle, clung precariously to the clay river bank. At the top end of the pool the water was pushing through very fast but after some yards it changed direction, going across the pool at about 45 degrees towards the far bank. Immediately below the change in the current flow was an area of slower water, just the place for a chub I thought.
I decided to leger a big bit of crust in this area, pinching on 2 LG shot some five or six inches from the hook, I baited with a bit of crust some inch and a half by half an inch. With an underhand cast I dropped the bait into the small crease or seam created by the change in water direction, then sat back; watching the rod tip, feeling the cold south easterly wind on the back of my neck.
Twenty or more minutes later the rod tip was savagely pulled round. The answering strike was missed. I re-baited then cast back to the same spot. Ten minutes later the tip was positively pulled round, the strike connecting with a nice fish, though I don't think I really needed to strike as I think the fish had hooked itself. The first fish of the session was quickly netted, it probably weighed around 3lbs. Re-baiting with another bit of crust the tackle was quickly back in the swim. A minute or two later the rod tip moved perhaps half an inch then pulled around slowly. The perfect bite, one I couldn't miss. Quickly chub number 2 was netted, probably the twin of the first. In the next half an hour I had five bites and four fish one of which weighed 4lb 5 ounces. I was more than happy the way the fishing had gone. I fished on for another thirty minutes without a bite so decided to move off downstream.
The Big Oak Swim
My next swim was in the shadow of a big oak; its roots looking like half a dozen giant eels as they twisted downwards in the clear slow moving water. Ten yards upstream was a willow tree which had crashed into the river last winter, it's roots having a rather fragile looking hold on the heavy bankside clay soil. The water below the fallen willow and the big oak deepened from some two feet to perhaps ten. At the bottom of the 12 foot high bank on the other side of the river were some fallen alder trees. Using a rope tied firmly to a bank side silver birch, I made my way safely to my chosen swim. Baiting with a piece of crust, I cast across to the far bank trees, allowing the bait to rest tight to the trailing branches and sat holding the rod. Within a minute or so, the line tightened on my finger as the tip pulled around. The strike connected with a good fish which didn't want to give up the struggle. After a lot of head shaking and a couple of short runs I had the fish coming to the net. Lifting it's head clear of the water, I heaved the fish over the waiting net. It was mine.
Swinging it ashore I parted the wet mesh where I could see a beautiful gold coloured chub with orange fins in perfect condition. What a prize on a cold winters day! It weighed 4-14-0, I punched the air with delight. Despite the poor conditions I was having a good day. It was the only bite and fish in an hour's fishing from this swim, time for a brew then move onto another swim.
Hot tea and a bacon sandwich
Back at the car I soon had my Coleman petrol stove going. Nothing beats a fresh brew with a bacon sandwich on a cold winter's day. In next to no time the kettle was singing it's song, this was quickly replaced by the frying pan. The smell of sizzling bacon in the outdoors certainly gets the taste buds working overtime. Even the local robin decided there might be something exciting to eat. I didn't disappoint him as I threw him some broken fruit cake. He was quickly joined by a blackbird. All three of us sat there enjoying our food in the winter sunshine. Without all the wild and bird life of the English countryside I feel fishing wouldn't offer me the same fulfilment.
During my stay I was lucky to see a group of Fieldfare, a green woodpecker with its dipping flight and maniacal laugh; five times I spotted a kingfisher or kingfishers fly up and down the river. At dusk on my first day I thought I heard a skein of White-fronted geese calling to each other as they flew fly overhead, perhaps heading for the Severn Estuary. Nothing beats the call of the wild goose.
Railway Bridge Pool
After lunch I made my way back to the first swim in the fast flowing pool. It was a good choice. The first three casts accounted for three good fish, one of 4lb 5ounces. During the last hour of daylight I had several more chub including fish of 4-12-0 and 4-13-0. I fished on in the dark for half an hour without a bite. It was time for a move. I decided on the Railway Bridge pool at the bottom end of the beat.
The pool is a big one by river Teme standards, the water is deep and swirling with probably half a dozen different swims to choose from. Though the river flows from left to right there are a couple of swims where the water flows in the reverse. It's an interesting bit of water where anglers have taken double figure barbel and five pound chub. I settled in and started off legering bread crust; within a minute or so I had a chub around 3lbs in the net. During the next half an hour I had three good pulls and missed them all. I decided to try a different bait, my choice was double lobworm hooked through the head. After hooking the bait I then added a tiny square of rubber band to stop the worms wriggling off the hook. Within a few minutes I had my first worm caught chub, a nice fish of 4-10-0, this was followed in the next half an hour by three fish around the 3lbs mark. I fished on until about 7-30pm with no more fish and decided to call an end to my session. It was time for dinner then snuggle down inside my sleeping bag.
A Cold And Frosty Dawn
The next day I was awake at 4-30 am. Having made a brew I sat listening to the second test match against India. It was cold, foggy and frosty. I snuggled deeper inside my cosy body bag. As the announcer said "It's time for the shipping forecast" I decided it was time for breakfast, then get out fishing. Porridge with lashings of brown sugar never tasted better. "Where to fish?" was the question I asked myself. I quickly decided on the fifth swim downstream of the Railway Bridge pool. It was a long swim with lots of bankside trees and bushes with a steady flow over gravel. I have fished the swim on several occasions for barbel when I took several good chub by accident, so today it was an all out assault on the chub.
I cast a big hunk of crust across and downstream, in minutes I was quickly into a chub about 3lbs. On my next cast I had a good chub on the drop; it weighed 4lb 5 ounces. It was time to feed with some egg size lumps of mashed bread. I also switched to float fishing. It worked; four chucks, four chub around 3lbs mark. I continued to feed mashed bread baiting with big bits of flake. The chub just loved all this mashed bread going down through the swim. I had lots of bites some missed, others hooked and landed including a good barbel of around 7lbs. Although I was putting the fish back in my swim it didn't stop others from grabbing my baited hook. It was certainly a good three to four hour session before the fish stopped taking. I decided to visit Worcester for lunch and more bread.
After lunch I returned to the first swim of the previous day; it was hard going. In two hours I had three bites, all missed. Time to change swims. I moved downstream to a deep, slow moving pool at the base of an island. Legering a piece of flake on an 18 inch hook link I was quickly into a fish. A chub of some 3lbs.
In the next hour or so I had several fish, nothing over 4lbs but great fishing. The last half hour of daylight was quite hectic; five good takes and four fish, the best at 4-12-0. I returned to the car for a mug of hot chocolate and some biscuits. I also decided to fish until about 8 O'clock, then go off for some dinner. Back at the island I made up some mashed bread and fed some three handfuls into my swim, then baited with a big bit of flake. Ten minutes later I had a cracking chub which I thought was a good five. It weighed 4-15-0, certainly a super fish. Later into this final session of the day I had three other good chub of 4-14-0 4-12-0 and another 4-12-0 before the swim died. I called it a day. Time for a wash, shave and some dinner. Riverside taverns are often ideal for this purpose.
My third day started off in cloudy conditions but I still had a cold south easterly wind. I tried several swims during the course of the day, taking a few more fish with several four pounders. All fish were caught on legered crust; in all, I probably fished seven or eight different swims. Come 4-30 pm it was time to head off for home.
It was a dreadful journey with some fifteen miles of backed up traffic on the M6 due to a nasty accident. There isn't much one can do but be patient. 'Why didn't I stay at the waterside until later in the evening?' I wondered. Perhaps I would have had a five pounder?
Looking for a Christmas present for a friend? Why not treat him or her to my latest video Martin Stateside. All my royalties are going to Crossroad Carers charity; just look at www.martinjamesfishing.co.uk. If you would like to join me on a winter chub fishing trip, just E-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org you're more than welcome.
Next week I am on the river Bain for a couple of days. I will let you know how I get on. Don't forget to cast a line too 'At The Waters Edge' BBC Radio Lancashire Thursday 7-30pm Sundays 5-30pm for the best in angling on the wireless.