20 January, 2021 |0 Comments
Tony Gibson’s Specimen Diary – Winter 2019/20
In his latest diary Tony recalls his campaigns from winter 2019/20 where he decides to target big chub and some monster pike..
As the proper colder weather set in later in the year, I decided that day sessions for pike on two local stillwaters and afternoon/evenings targeting chub on a couple of different local rivers would form the basics of my fishing plans over the winter months.
My chosen piking venues could both be classed as quite tough waters that tended to produce few runs. Access was limited relative to the amount of bank space and livebaiting was banned, so fishing static deadbaits was the main tactic. Pike fishing in this way on these types of venues meant that plenty of “blanks” could be expected, but the potential for a really big fish was there, so I always found the fishing exciting despite the lack of regular action.
In fact, a single beep from one of the alarms, or just the anticipation of a bite, often got the adrenaline pumping, so even after a day of miserable weather and without a single run of any sort, I was usually keen to get back again as soon as possible.
It was towards the end of December when my persistence paid off, when in the middle of a pleasant, sunny day and without prior warning, I was ‘away’ on the rod baited with a whole herring. The bright red drop-off pinging free of the mainline as the alarm gave out a steady rhythm of beeps.
I was by the rod within a second or two, taking part in what for me is one of the most exciting moments in pike fishing, as I watched my mainline slowly peeling off the spool, snaking through the rod-rings and disappearing out into the cold water. With the run confirmed I engaged the bale-arm and ‘wound down’ to the fish.
Within a few turns I felt tight to the fish and decisively swept the rod to the side to hopefully set the hooks somewhere within those tooth-filled jaws. A big pike has some bulk, and you can often tell when you’ve hooked one quite early on in the fight. The “jacks” and smaller ‘doubles’ can usually be persuaded towards the bank without too much drama, other than a bit of splashing about in the edge, but the big ‘uns are often a different matter.
In this case I could tell I’d hooked a “chunk” straight away. Thankfully, there were no fireworks during the fight, just a heavy resistance that begrudgingly allowed itself to be steered towards the bank and occasionally demanded that I give it some line when it decided that it much preferred to go the other way. Eventually though a bulky, dark green shape appeared beyond the dead reeds in the margins and finally after a couple of anxious moments as it swung its head from side to side near the net, it was eased over the cord and I could lift the mesh around it. It was very wide across the back but lacked the length of a true monster and the scales confirmed a very pleasing 27lb 4oz.
The “27” helped to spur me on and despite the necessary diversions over the Christmas period I was either pike fishing during the days or having an evening’s chub fishing on the river at every opportunity over the next couple of weeks.
The pike fishing continued to be slow, but early in the new year my efforts paid off once more. It was starting to get dark and I’d packed up most of my gear, leaving the rods and landing net until last. I’d already wound in two out of the three rods and had them stashed away in the rod bag, but as the “27” had fallen to a big bait, it was the rod baited with the biggest deadbait that was left until the very end.
On this occasion it was a good-sized mackerel with just the head cut off that I’d ledgered as far as I could chuck it with the aid of an old spod rod. With nothing left to pack away, I’d just turned around to take a step towards the rod to reel it in, when a little green LED lit up and the alarm let out a single beep.
In moments I was by the rod and had plucked the line from the drop-off and pulled out a foot or so of slack off the spool so there was minimum resistance to be felt if this was a pike picking up the bait. It felt like the line was very slowly being drawn tight, but in the gathering gloom I couldn’t see for sure if there was perhaps a bit of drifting weed that caught on the line and was taking up the slack.
As I was about to reel in anyway, there was nothing to lose by treating it as a pick-up, so I ‘wound down’ to a solid-feeling resistance and pulled into a heavy fish. The fight felt like a carbon-copy of the fight with the “27”, no real dramas, but nerve-racking all the same when you know it’s a good ‘un and especially with pike, I always feel like the hook-hold is at risk of coming free at any time.
I got myself a boot full of icy-cold water as I netted the fish, but it went in safely… looking every big as big as the “27” that was still fresh in the memory. I was about as far away from the swim where I’d caught the “27” as I could be, but on the bank the fish looked to be about the same size and when the scales read 26lb 14oz I did wonder whether I’d caught the same fish again. Fortunately, after downloading the photos and comparing the images of the two big pike I could clearly see that they were different fish.
The time spent chub fishing over the winter months tended to be governed by the state of the rivers, rather than anything much else. Over recent years we’ve tended to have mild, but wet, winters that have caused the rivers to be in a state of flood or carrying loads of dirty water for long periods of time. Ok conditions for barbel if you can find them but not my favourite when targeting chub.
My first proper big chub of the winter came one December evening once the middle reaches of the Gt. Ouse were eventually looking to be a reasonable state after a sustained period when the river had been both high and very coloured. In fact, the river was still running harder and not running with the clarity that I’d have preferred, but it had been a while since I’d managed any chub fishing at all, and I was keen to get back to the riverbank.
After trying two swims without success, I wandered downstream to a swim where the pace of the water on the nearside was minimised due to the effect of an overhanging bush just upstream, with branches that draped into the water, helping to divert the current. The nearside would probably be a bit too shallow during normal, or low water conditions, but with the extra water there was hopefully enough depth for the fish and with some shelter from the main flow adding to the appeal.
The bank was quite steep and made extra slick in places due to a thin layer of slippery silt deposited as the river dropped from the earlier floods. If I hadn’t already been familiar with the swim from previous sessions, I’d have given the swim a miss as it looked too precarious. However, I knew from previous observations when the river was lower, that the tiny tufts of grass sticking up through the waters surface right in the margins indicated where there was a handy shelf of firm footing only an inch or two deep before the edge of the river proper, so I could fish in safety and wouldn’t go sliding off into the river if I lost my footing.
I was fishing my standard chub tactics, with a quivertip, a light ledger and a braided hooklink terminating in a size 8 hook tied knotless-knot style that left a short hair for the CompleX-T boilie to be fixed tight to the hook with a plastic corn ‘tipper’ that would help prevent crayfish and little fish pulling the boilie off the hair. On each cast a wrap of CompleX-T paste around the hookbait and another around the lead added extra smell and attraction.
When chub fishing on the smaller rivers, I always feel that the first cast into each new swim is likely to be the one that most likely provides the bite, especially when fishing close in. Thankfully, that first cast, or in this case the gentle underarm lob, looked to land in about the right place and 10 minutes later the tip suddenly jabbed round.
Due to the confines of the swim, I had to try and bully a hooked fish straight in, so the fight was short-lived, and I probably held my breath the whole time, as I bundled a strong fish into the net. The resulting chub was a pristine, plump, young-looking fish that weighed 6lb 8oz.
My most memorable chub session over the winter had to be the trip to the Gt. Ouse coinciding with New Year. My busy girlfriend had taken the holiday opportunity to visit some relatives and friends, so I took the opportunity to fish at a time when I’d rarely be on the bank. Again, the river wasn’t in perfect trim for chub fishing, and the fishing was predicably slow.
In fact, I’d already tried two different stretches of river without success and had tried two swims on the latest stretch without a bite as I settled into yet another swim as the New Year proper approached. Since it had got dark, now and then a few fireworks had been going off in the distance wherever I’d been fishing, but suddenly, as it got close to midnight, the booms and bright, colourful flashes from the fireworks reflecting off the low cloud reached a crescendo and I could even hear a few cheers drifting in the breeze from some distant celebrations as 2019 transitioned into 2020.
It was all quite pleasantly distracting, but fortunately I glanced back at the tip just in time to see it jab round in a positive bite, just seconds into the New Year. During the fight it felt a decent fish and I was pleased to see an impressive looking length of silvery scales slide into the net. It was a rather slim, older-looking fish that had probably weighed a little more in its prime, but still managed to spin the needle on the scales round to a very pleasing 6lb 12oz and I couldn’t really have expected a better start to the year.
Less than a week after the 6.12 I was back on the riverbank on the search for more big chub. With the long-range weather forecast predicting plenty of wet weather to come I had to try and make the most of the opportunities before the rivers were back on the rise.
I do plenty of walking to quite remote stretches of river during my chubbing sessions, and on this occasion, I’d included a visit to a stretch that only really had one decent looking swim along the whole length. It’s a pain to walk to, but it means that this type of area is often neglected by the majority of anglers, which I feel adds to the attraction of the swim to a wary chub or two.
Again, it was CompleX-T that provided the bite, this time fishing a 15mm dumbbell-shaped ‘wafter’ version on the hair. The fight was a bit scary, as it felt like a good fish and took a while to bring upstream towards me from where I’d got the bite from a ‘crease’ in the current downstream of where I could sit.
Even after I’d eventually got the fish in front of me it still made a couple of determined lunges towards the tangle of bramble covered overhanging branches just off to my left, but with the rod well bent and the tip plunged beneath the surface I was just able to keep the fish from reaching the disaster zone… and with a sigh of relief it finally gave up and I could steer it into the landing net. It was quite windy and with the initial reading of the scales indicating a possible 7lb plus, I paused for a short lull in the breeze before lifting the scales up for a second time to show the needle hovering between 7lb and an ounce more. I was happy to call it 7lb exactly and a fabulous reward for my efforts.
With the return of the wet weather the better opportunities on the river didn’t really come about until towards the end of the season, so I’ll detail some of that and what evolved over the following months in my next piece.