The array of bait available to the angler has never been greater, from old favourites like a lobworm to the latest boilie with a concoction of additives and attractors guaranteed, if you listen to the manufacturer, to produce a bite. All have a time and a place dependent on species chosen and conditions faced but nothing, in my experience, can top the frenzy that maggots can cause. Of course this may be blighted by hoards of small fish or the water carrying a lot of colour but neither of these were a consideration for the week ahead so I filled my fridge with thousands of grubs. With 3 days available 3 rivers had been chosen to target chub and I had no doubt that if I could locate some shoals the bait at my disposal would produce plenty of bites.
First stop was the Hampshire Avon but before I could wet a line I needed to visit Richie in Ringwood Tackle to pick his brain on where exactly I should be and for anyone else deciding to fish the Avon I recommend you do the same. A ticket for Ringwood and District Anglers Association was soon purchased plus a map supplied with a series of X marks indicating where I should try.
The river’s clarity should have afforded me a grandstand view of the fish via my Polaroid glasses but unfortunately the wind had other plans ruffling the surface. Fortunately I had Richie’s map and diligently worked through the spots feeding maggots for 10 minutes before running a float through for a further 15 minutes and then heading to the next swim. I have to admit that sport was slower than I expected, in fact it was tricky until the final part of the day but not once did I question the bait at my disposal. Finally my faith was rewarded and the loafer running alongside a bed of streamer weed suddenly was no more. It wasn’t a big fish for the Hampshire Avon nor were the rest of its friends that followed suit, but there is little better on a late summer’s day than standing waist deep in water playing fish and I returned home weary but happy.
The fishing bug always bites so a couple of days later I didn’t need an excuse to delve into my maggot fridge again but this time I would be staying in North Wiltshire on the Bristol Avon for an early morning trip. The swim I selected was pacey and similar in nature to the Hampshire Avon so I saw little reason to change the equipment I was using. The rod being the amazing 14ft Drennan Acolyte plus teamed with 4.4lb Floatfish line that had received a liberal coating of floatant to ensure I could fish properly.
The float was a favourite of mine for this style of fishing, the loafer and on this occasion carrying 2½ swan shot with the bulk sitting at the midway point and the rest strung out shirt button style. The hooklength was again 4lb with the best big fish, small hook available – the Super Spade in a size 18. Fairly robust tackle to cope with a hard fighting fish in weedy water but after a constant trickle of maggots I hardly ever find a need to risk finer and certainly preferable to getting a quick bite but losing it and in turn spooking the shoal. Gaining the chub’s confidence is the key hence the large quantity of maggots. A gallon may sound extreme but this can easily be swept off downstream if you want to keep a constant trickle all day. Expense can also be a reason not to fish in such a manner but it’s only the equivalent of a couple of bags of boilies and I know which will buy you more bites when targeting chub.
Knee deep in the Avon I fed the swim for 15 minutes imagining how the shoal that I knew lived under the canopy provided by the chestnut tree were being drawn towards me, tempted to break cover with their white lips gulping every maggot. Keen to cast I chastised myself for impatience and indeed added on an extra 5 minutes, knowing full well that this would only mean extra bites in the end not less.
The path my float needed to run was only a rod length out but I still ensure both the hook and loafer were completely separated by feathering the reel spool before impact with the water. I then held it back while I fed another handful of maggots meaning the hookbait would travel inside this group and avoid detection. Now very confident I watched the red tip until it was dragged under only a quarter of the way down the run. Not only was this a good sign because it was a bite but it also told me that the chub were indeed in a frenzy moving so far away from their normal haunt. The strike saw the positive news continue as I hit the proverbial brick wall as the fish was momentarily pulled broadside into the flow before correcting itself and charging back to whence it came, only this time the clutch made the journey impossible to complete. Playing the chub light was not an option given the vegetation and as soon as I gained the upper hand I took the liberty of feeding the swim again to prepare for my second chub! It may well have looked like brash behaviour but I was very confident in the pulling power of the maggot, something that was duly proved correct with a bag of fish sitting in the keep net by the time I made the final trot and I still wasn’t finished with chub this week!
Arriving early for a night after barbel on the Warwickshire Avon I decided to fill the daylight hours with an attempt at the Avon grand slam and saw no reason not to continue with maggots although the tackle needed altering to cope with the need to fish the far bank. Here a top and bottom style float wouldn’t work and it was a waggler that needed to be deployed. The result however was exactly the same, a shoal of greedy chub dragging the tip under. More proof, if any was needed, that the humble maggot cannot be beaten so this weekend buy a few pints and get catching old rubber lips!
Top 5 Tips
1. Little and often is the key to feeding maggots and don’t cast out until you have the chub in a frenzy. This will normally take 15 minutes work with a catapult.
2. Don’t fish too light – it’s better to overcome the chub’s caution with feed not tackle as losing one will ruin your chances.
3. When trying to extract a shoal of chub I don’t like to return any fish I catch immediately into the swim so I either use a keep net or put them back well upstream.
4. If you don’t have a fridge to keep maggots in place them in a plastic bag, suck out the air and place in a cool bag. If you open them up to the air every 48 hours and repeat the process you will easily keep them for a week.
5. When picking a loafer float use a long length of silicon on the bottom as this prevents tangles.
For information on the Hampshire Avon visit Ringwood Tackle at 5 The Bridges, Ringwood BH24 1EA or give Richie Middleton a call on 01425 475155.
Ringwood and District Anglers Association is also a ticket worth considering with numerous stretches of the Avon and Stour. Their website is www.ringwoodfishing.co.uk