Big Chub on the Float

Chub are indeed the most catholic of fish, falling not only to a range of tactics but baits as well, so it’s very difficult to be definite and name the best approach for a big winter chevin. If my hand was forced however maggots and a float would be hard to argue against provided there was a degree of clarity to the river. Even the wiliest of chub can lose their minds to a steady drip feed of grubs, so lets explore this method that I used to great effect on a recent winter’s day.

The Avon was still dozing when I arrived on her banks although the tranquillity of dawn was soon shattered by the honks of Canadian geese on manoeuvres. Being the only one there I had the choice of any swim which was of limited help today without a great deal of prior knowledge about the best place to fish. A combination of guesswork, watercraft and the amount of wear to the grass indicating a productive peg, led me to a sweeping bend with a big snag sitting on the far bank just upstream. Normally I would have wanted to position myself above this but with a copse to my left there was no way of doing this so I hoped, if a shoal was sitting in the woodwork that I could draw them out the back. Difficult with any bait bar one but fortunately I had a gallon of them with me – the humble maggot! My intention was to feed slightly upstream at the tail of the debris meaning this area was covered as well as below where I stood as the maggots were swept downstream. I had a plan and now patience was needed pulting in a small pouchful of grubs every 30 seconds for an hour! To help ensure I stuck to the timetable I had purposely not set up prior to leaving home, meaning I had plenty to keep me occupied.

The rod of choice was, in my eyes, the best on the market being a 14ft Drennan Acolyte Plus model. The way it sits in the hand is a joy and the day of using a sloppy length of carbon is long gone. When you strike it’s both positive and crisp. A trotter has an option of 3 types of reels with the first being a closed face but this is far better with a stick float and a degree of finesse which wouldn’t be afforded on the Avon. The centre pin is not just a joy to use but great in cold conditions when you want to slow the hookbait down and tease a bite. It is however somewhat limited to close range and with a necessity to fish the far bank today it wasn’t, in my opinion, an option. This left the standard fixed spool and all things considered it had to be the tool of choice. Loaded onto the spool was 4lb Specimen Plus with this or 4.4lb Drennan Floatfish always being my monofilament of choice when targeting fast flows and big fish. Both are incredibly robust but need to be treated with floatant to ensure good control over the terminal tackle.

Next came my selection of float and if the swim had been shallow I would have considered a loaded pellet waggler. Likewise a deep section of river would have seen me reaching for an Avon style float but given the 3-4 feet in front of me a large 4 swan shot Drennan Crystal loafer was the go to float. Two silicon rubbers held it in place and I used a long section at the stem end as I find this helps to reduce wrap rounds. Tangles were also a consideration with the weight used to cock the loafer. A string of AAAs sitting at three quarters depth I feel gives the best presentation as these can arc allowing the line to behave more naturally but this movement can also lead to tangles, especially with tricky casts as I faced. With trees immediately to my left a sideways flick with the hook held in my fingertips just wasn’t possible, plus to make mattes worse I also needed to cast slightly upstream. This required an overhead sweep of the rod or a side cast from the right with the hookbait under no tension as it was made. Here a big olivette comes into its own with no chance of the line getting caught around a solid weight. With this knowledge I threaded one on locking it in place with a number 4 either side of it. This sat at three quarters depth with 2 no 4s and a no 6 dropper also pinched in place.

The hooklength was connected via a micro swivel and again I had 2 choices. A size 18 Super Spade to 4lb line is the go to big chub angler’s choice and indeed is mine in hit and hold situations. In open water however and I was convinced once hooked that fish in the current swim would head downstream out of harm’s way I prefer a little bit more finesse. The Drennan barbless carp feeder is a cracking pattern being very strong without an overly thick wire gauge and a 20 to 2-12 bottom seemed perfect to me.

During my tackle selection and preparation I didn’t relent on the baiting schedule and nor did I for the 30 minutes remaining and by then I was pretty confident that if there was a shoal of chub present their mouths would be working in overdrive, greedily taking free food. With such confidence also came a degree of concern because if I didn’t get a bite in the first 6 casts I was pretty certain no chub were present and I wouldn’t be getting a bite thus wasting both time and bait. So as the fishing commenced I focussed hard on the cast, feathering it just prior to impact to ensure the hooklength straightened out and the orange tip as it engaged with the Avon before sailing downstream. ‘Come on, sink!’ I muttered. Alas its journey was unimpeded until I engaged the bail arm and retrieved it. Another cast followed a pouchful of maggots but this time the river had barely taken a grip of the float before a chub snatched control. This then caused a chain reaction involving a strike, a sweet curve of carbon and a back winding reel handle. Success and I allowed, albeit a premature one, smile to cross my face.

The tiny hook was buried into a tough lip and with balanced tackle alongside a chub showing no willingness to charge upstream into the snag I could enjoy the fight. What better way to spend a morning I mused and it got even better when a big wide back broke the surface and I caught a glimpse of its belly. For another minute it served only to tantalise me but then the net confirmed I would get a chance to admire the specimen at close quarters. Clad in perfect chainmail the scales contained 6lb 13ozs of prime chub proving again that maggot fishing in winter takes some beating!

Top 5 Tips

  • Control rather than finesse is more important to gain good presentation of the hookbait.
  • The key is not the tackle you use but feeding on a little and often basis before you cast out – a confident chub is an easy fish to catch.
  • If the swim you are fishing doesn’t allow for a gentle sideways cast then I would choose an olivette over shot to prevent tangles.
  • If you don’t get a bite within an hour’s feeding move because in all likelihood the chub are not present or unwilling to eat.
  • With big floats and heavy shotting patterns don’t use a mainline less than 4lb or you can get unforeseen breakages.