A big fish tale from Old Man River’s yearly sabbatical to the Wye valley

A fine bend & a fine chub awaits

Carefully I played the fish – it took line – I reclaimed line, it shot off downstream, it did not feel like a barbel, but it was certainly a strong fish.

For the last 5 years myself and Thora my long suffering wife have enjoyed holidays in the Wye Valley, this year we had booked two weeks instead of our customary 7 days. 

I have been lucky enough to have access to a syndicate stretch of the river, a stretch that is little used , so I usually fish a couple of hours in the evening , different swims every day . As many will know, the Wye is renown for having steep banks and bad access at many points, from the start I always took my Dog spike and rope, this year was no exception, however I also added a home made machete this time as I know the banks are really thick with Himalayan balsam.

We arrived on the Saturday afternoon, and I was off down to the river within a couple of hours for a short evening session into darkness. No plans, just taking along a rod, reel, bank stick, landing net and bag of bits, plus bait, and of course my dog spike.

I had a recce along the river bank, it had changed since our last visit, but soon I was down the bank on my rope, to a space that looked as if it had been used recently, no need for bushcraft this time. 

After catapulting in a few spam cubes and a couple of pouches of hempseed, I set up the rod, a trusty Carp Avon,with my Free Spirit searcher ‘Pin , attached a simple end rig of a size 8 hook, with a hook length of  10lbs fluorocarbon, with a running ledger and a 1-1/2 oz home made sinker. Bait was a large cube of Spam, nothing subtle about it at all.

Casting upstream and allowing the current to slowly nudge the business end downstream, I had barely settled when the rod tip started to bounce and shake, chublets came to mind and I was not wrong, the rod tip continued to rattle and roll, so I wound in to find a pristine small chub of about 8 oz he had whittled down the span cube until he could get it in his mouth, and still had spam in his throat. I carefully unhooked him and he was away like a scalded cat as soon as he was in the water.

I had mixed feelings about this, it was good to have a fish on the first cast, but it did make me think that maybe I was going to be pestered with similar little chub. Still, it was a start. I rebaited with an identical spam cube, re cast and sat back, it was now twilight , and I fished my headtorch from my bag, and only just in time because as I did so the ratchet screamed on the Pin and the rod tip was wrenched around, this was no chublet.

Carefully I played the fish – it took line – I reclaimed line, it shot off downstream, it did not feel like a barbel, but it was certainly a strong fish. Eventually I managed to get some sort of control and carefully brought it back across the current toward me, I prepped the landing net, and this is where I made my mistake, I could just about make out the form of the fish, in the slightly coloured water but not enough to see what it was . 

Suddenly the fish seemed to get a fresh lease of life, the pin screamed, the rod hooped around to the left and everything went solid. I had been roundly punished for thinking I had the better of the fish, it was now firmly ensconced in the roots and branches of an overhanging  willow.

I could feel it bumping on the end of the line, but there was no way I could get it out, I tried all the usual tricks, giving it some slack, altering the angle as best as I could, all to no avail. The bumping stopped and things were just solid, having given it my best shot I had little option but to pull and hope that things would break free, I did this and slowly managed to gain some line, soon a large branch appeared which I managed to recover it had my hook firmly embedded in it. How does a fish do that? I asked myself. I was certain that I had hooked a good chub, and lost it due to my own impatience. Oh well, I had two weeks to make amends.

It was now dark and I decided that as we had had a long day, one more cast and I would call it quits for the night. I checked the line and hook length and all was fine, no abrasions and the hook was still sharp. I attached another large piece of Spam and cast it out again letting it slowly roll downstream with the current. I settled back, the bait had come to rest and the rod tip had a slight bend to it.

Sitting there in the darkness listening to the sounds of the evening I pondered over my impatience in bringing in the fish I had lost. I am not one for wearing fish out, I far prefer to get them in and landed, unhooked, rested and released without spending hours playing them out, on the other hand I do not ‘Horse’ them in either.

My musings were harshly brought to an end by the reel sounding its song. I grabbed the rod which was arcing around to the left again, I held on and at the same time switched on my head torch. I wanted to be ready and be able to see what was happening, this fish was fighting just like the last one. Again, it did not feel like a barbel which was what I was after, in fact it felt stronger than the last one, and  was using similar tactics. I managed to get the fish back upstream, feeling it was heading toward the same branches I applied some heavy side strain to turn the fish, the cane creaked under the cork and I was thinking this may be the last fish this rod ever handles if I am too heavy handed. The fish decided the roots and branches were not a good idea and shot off upstream, and out into mid river. I felt a bit happier at this then the fish held station, not making any attempt to swim away, but not getting any nearer, it headed off upstream again, I managed to turn it, and  started to slowly gain line, the fish though had different ideas and took off again and again making the ‘pin whizz and the ratchet sing. 

Eventually I started to get the upper hand having kept the fish out of snags I had no wish to lose it in the same manner as before, it was upstream, I managed to get the net downstream of it, it glided toward me, and in seconds I had the net under it and the prize was mine. A golden flanked chub, not my biggest ever but a fine specimen nonetheless. I do not normally weigh fish unless they are of a good size, this one tipped the scales at 5lb 10 oz on my Avon Scales a really fat chub. I rested it and took a quick snap of it in my large” carp size “landing net, resting on the soft grassy bank.

A fine chub indeed

All images & Writing OMR September 2021