After Gary and myself finished our carping at the end of last year we decided that it was time to do some chubbing this winter.
Choosing a stretch of the River Lea we both fancied, we started making exploratory visits to check out the swims and the water itself. This was a well known venue, but we were going to fish away from the main area and see what might come out, and even though it throws up a big fish now and again, it wasn't going to be easy.
As it happens Gary wasn't going to be out for the first few weeks, owing to family commitments, so it was down to yours truly to start the initial sessions. Which get off to a good start when on my first visit I get a reasonable 4lb 4oz chub in the net.
My subsequent visits aren't so fruitful, even though I'm moving around and trying different swims. This doesn't change even when Gary finally joins me and we both blank, but at least it's nice to have some company and the kettle gets a good workout!
The background to all this is that a mutual friend of ours, Bob Hornegold, who missed most of his fishing last year due to ongoing back problems, is now starting to feel a lot better and is chomping at the bit to get out and join us.
He's been keeping tabs on how we're doing and lets on that he fished the area we're trying about 3 or 4 seasons ago and didn't have much luck, then again, Bob did winkle out one 7lb+ chub from here.
So with Gary working during the week Bob suggests that the two of us get out mid-week and have a go ourselves, but not where Gary and myself have been trying, but back on old territory at Fishers Green. His thinking is that, knowing my PB stands at 6lb 3ozs and that most of our local stretches of Lea are tough going, why not put the time in on a section that could not only give me a '7', but could quite possibly throw up an '8' or even a '9'!
I can't deny that logic and so the following Thursday we're setting up our rods on the Relief Channel at Fishers. As we settle down Bob starts to tell me of his captures along these parts of the Lea and I'm thinking this would make an interesting piece for the blog, which is good as Bob has the same idea and sends me an article the very next morning on his amazing chub captures, and also what was about to unfold that very evening! So sit back and enjoy....
It’s the best part of sixty years since I caught my first chub from the Lea Valley and although I don’t have a favourite coarse species, chub have always been kind to me.
I joined the Waverley club back in the 1950's as a junior member when they had the fishing rights to the old Lea at Fishers Green, and also the LAA who controlled the fishing up to the Kings Weir weirpool.
There I met and fished with some of the legends of the fishing world today and I learned a lot from experts in the art of touch legering. Fishing with breadflake with just enough lead to hold bottom, keeping an arc in the line from the tip ring of the rod, as soon as I felt a pluck through my fingers, I was taught to let go of the line until it tightened up?
Not an easy thing to learn as a 10 year old, but over the years the method was absorbed and I became quite proficient at touch legering, both up and downstream.
Back in the 1950s, everybody learnt to float fish, I think it might have been a perch bobber in the early days, but I soon progressed to Porcupine quills, bird quills, and Peacock feathers made into floats of all sorts of lengths and different bodies.
In those days much of the fishing tackle we had was homemade, for two reasons, one, you could not buy what was required and two, I did not have the money to buy the stuff!
I was fortunate to meet up with a group of older lads at the Warren Pond in Chingford, led by Roy Child, Lenny Savage and Ray Taylor, who took me under their wing and taught me all things coarse fishing. Including rod making, float making, even some basic electronics so I could make an electric buzzer, using GPO points... oh happy days.
Whole cane, tonkin cane and split cane were the only real alternatives to the old tank aerials most of us used back in the 1950's and I soon learned how to make up a decent split cane rod under the tutorship off Roy Child.
There was none of this modern day class snobbishness regarding split cane and centrepin reels, that is all we had and if you wanted to catch fish, that is what you used!
I still have a number of rods and reels that I used back then and enjoy fishing with them in the right conditions, but this modern traditionalist rubbish, is more about belittling anglers who have moved with the times and embraced modern equipment and angling skills.
But back to chub fishing, and from those early beginnings I moved through many types of chub fishing methods, from feeder fishing, using an open feeder with liquidised bread and breadflake on the hook to a strange Withy type rig, which accounted for a hundred 6lb chub from the Old Lea in a season.
That of course was before the big fish kill of 2006, a great pity, but one that might be the reason that chub have grown on so much in the old river and the Relief Channel.
Then of course there is trotting for chub, a brilliant method for putting together a big bag of fish on the right day. Back in the 1970's the match fishermen of the Lea, perfected the old 'Mag and Wag' up in the water method of fishing the Navigation, and never one to miss a trick, I soon cottoned onto that and had some wonderful days fishing that way on the Lea.
I even used a large waggler type float, which supported the weight of a Starlight attached to the top of the float, which was then trotted down the Relief Channel at night, using breadflake as bait, and accounted for a number of good chub, including a fish of 7lbs 1ozs.
The Lea Valley now has far fewer chub than it used to some ten to fifteen years ago, but what it lacks in numbers is made up in quality, as some of the chub are simply huge.
And I have been lucky enough to fish with some brilliant 'big fish' anglers over the years, in the last ten, two stand out above all others, one is Gary Newland and the other was Simon King.
Gary is an outstanding angler and regardless of the species he is targeting he always catches fish which others can only dream about. It was with Gary that we started using a homemade bolt feeder rig which accounted for some wonderful chub, and other species including dace and barbel.
We would start off with a gallon of maggots (often flavoured with exotic spices), bait dropper the swim for half an hour, then use a closed feeder without a hooklink attached to continue baiting up the swim.
A long hooklink and small hook were used to start with, the dace would normally be the first species to home in on the maggots, then the chub would make an appearance and we would shorten the hooklink as they grew in confidence. The hooklink might come down to an inch long and the chub would bang the feeder to get the maggots out.
Eventually it would be the barbel that barged the chub out of the swim and finished off our maggots, but not before we had some lovely bags of fish, Gary I believe accounted for three 7lb chub using this method, and numerous 5lb and 6lb chub.
About ten years ago, I, along with a number of other specimen anglers started The Osprey Specimen Group, of which I’m proud to be the Chairman, and it was a chance meeting with a guy at Fishers Green when doing a bailiffs round that led to Simon King becoming an Osprey member.
Although totally different in character, we shared a love of specimen fishing and often fished together for many different species of coarse fish. Chub of course became an obsession in the Winter months and we worked together on everything from bait, methods, and tackle, to try and catch some of the largest chub in the country.
I’m a bit of a wanderer and I like to try different parts of the Lea Valley, having had 7lb chub from the tail of Dobbs Weir, the Fields Weir stretch of the Navigation, the Relief Channel above the North Lagoon, Carthagena Fishery, Kings Weir, Fishers Green Old River and Relief Channel.
We are indeed fortunate to have so much wonderful chub fishing on our doorstep, which of course Simon and I took full advantage of.
Fishing together on and off for a number of years, I guess it must have been around 2007 that we really started to fish for the chub at Fishers Green, on the Relief Channel through the autumn and winter months. Pooling knowledge of swims, baiting up, bait, river conditions, methods, tactics, weather conditions, rigs and a plethora of other things that were all needed to be successful as a specimen hunter.
As mentioned before, the fish kill of 2006 at Fisher Green had decimated the barbel and chub stocks, along with the silver fish, but the few fish that remained had grown fat on the rich diet of American Signal Crayfish.
In some part of the Lea Valley the crayfish are at plague proportions and can be a complete and utter nightmare if you're using a soft bait, even using hard baits like pellets or boilies can mean rebaiting every 10 minutes. On cold winter nights, the crayfish can have you pulling your hair out (what little hair I still have) with utter frustration, but the advantage of crayfish is the readily available source of protein to feed the fish left in the river.
This has resulted in some huge chub living in the old river and Relief Channel, not that they're easy to find, and it can be months before you locate a shoal of chub.
These can be small in number, no more than a couple of fish, or more, or as in 2013, when it seemed like every large chub in the 5 miles of water had ended up in one spot and we caught a large number of specimen chub from a very small area.
I wrote at some length in the Osprey Specimen Group and Friend’s book about Simon's and my efforts in the pursuit of an '8lb' chub along with our results. If you haven't got a copy have a look at www.calmproductions.com/acatalog/ospreysg.html
Too briefly summarise, the Winter of 2012/13 was dreadful, and we had started our efforts to catch a monster chub in September and failed miserably with only a couple of small chub to show for our endeavours.
In the end we changed areas, in fact I changed venue and after a much needed confidence boost, was back on the Relief Channel fishing with Simon at an area known as the 'concrete'. In freezing cold conditions, with temperatures down to -10 we pursued our target fish, starting off slowly we caught chub of 3, 4, 5, and 6lbs, then 7, 8, and 9lbs.
This was not pretty fishing, it was the nuts and bolts of chub fishing, alarms, bolt rigs, back leads and boilies, the weather was atrocious, the Relief Channel was in flood much of the time and it was hard fishing, and hard going.
My preferred way of chub fishing in Winter is to use an open feeder, liquidised bread in the feeder and breadflake on the hook, a starlight on the tip of a quiver tip rod, and wander the Lea Navigation, but this method was not possible on the Relief Channel at that time for a number of reasons. Firstly the river was in full flood and you could not hold a bait in position, and secondly, the crayfish would consume the bread in no time and you would be constantly rebaiting.
Unbeknown to us at the time Simon was ill throughout the Winter's chubbing campaign, he thought he had reactive arthritis but it was later diagnosed as cancer and he died after a tremendous fight the following August.
He caught his much sought after 8lb chub, with an 8lb 14ozs specimen on the 2nd January 2013, and followed it up with an 8lb 6ozs chub on the 2nd February 2013, his last ever trip fishing.
He is greatly missed by all who knew him, and by me, a loyal and good friend.
I caught my 9lb chub in February 2013, it was a lifetime’s ambition.
Fishing took a back seat until October 2013, when I had a wander up the old river, fishing up-stream for barbel I landed a chub of 8lbs 9ozs, to be honest a lucky fish, but one I accepted gladly.
Now I’m back at the Relief Channel, fishing Simon's swim, a swim he liked, and I’m there because another good mate, Clive, has never caught a '7' and I’m going to try and help him achieve his ambition. It’s our first session of the year, the 8th January 2015, and I go through the motions of casting a hardened boilie to the far side of the Channel and another to the middle of the river.
Clive is fishing one swim down from me, and I point out where I think he stands the best chance of a chub, and also pass on that Simon and I use to reckon on one run between us every 4-5 trips!
A sure sign of chub in an area is the lack of crayfish activity, and so it proves that night, my far side boilie rod is not touched and the middle rod boilie has a few nibbles, but nothing to worry about. I usually check my baits every hour or so, but with the lack of crayfish I decided to leave the baits in place and hope for a bite.
The same thing applies to Clive’s baits. I have a few peeps from the alarms, which I put down to the crayfish but nothing else? We had decided to pack up at 10pm as the wind and rain was building up, when out of the blue I get a peep from the alarm on my far side of the channel rod, by the time I go down the steps the rod is into a full arc, and the fish is on.
It’s a chub I called out to Clive, I can tell from the feel, and after a spirited fight, Clive slides the landing net under a large chub.
He lifts it out of the water and onto the unhooking mat, we then weigh it carefully on two sets of Salter Digital Samson scales, the weight is 7lbs 13ozs... my 3rd biggest chub ever.
Brilliant, I can’t believe it. That makes it my eleventh 7lb chub, plus an 8lb and a 9lb since 2002.
Now for Clive’s '7' and the challenge goes on!