Sussex Micky angles for chub on a fine but bitterly cold winters day & meets a new friend along the way

A winter’s wonderland

After an energetic tussle a beautifully conditioned and pristine chub was netted. Weighing just over 4lbs the chub lay before me on the frosted grass and looked spectacular. As I was about to slip the fish back to its home, a voice startled me from my whits.

Having fished the River Brede in East Sussex most of my life, I have always known it to flow through a secluded and isolated marsh where one can normally spend a peaceful day alone in a valley that is all of seven miles in length.

One day while fishing in the depths of winter little did I know it would be the start of a new friendship which has been ongoing ever since. I remember the day well; I had searched online for the forecast relating to the area’s weather and it was going to be freezing conditions the next morning. A voice in my head that I had heard hundreds of times before in the depths of winter was saying “bite the bullet and go chub fishing” as I gathered two cubes of some Danish blue cheese from the freezer I heard that voice again “Going to be really cold Micky boy, but you can do it, you can do it!”

Fishing tackle ready, ball of cheese paste made, thermals, snood, fingerless gloves etc. I was ready to go the next morning. I awoke after a fairly sleepless night and once dressed I peered out from my window onto the garden to see a heavy frost, upon opening the back door I was instantly met with a feeling similar to being punched in the face with an ice block – it was cold very cold!

The voice in my head persisted “You can do it!” I was ready, walking out onto the drive I could see my car, the windscreen had thick ice across it and the door locks appeared frozen – you can’t beat a bowl of tepid warm water to sort this out.

The track that leads to the river

I stepped out onto the marsh and began walking along the river bank toward my favourite chub haunts, I felt frozen to the bone. It was hard to believe I was wearing thermals as they seemed not to be having any great effect.

After a walk and moving my fingers as much as I could blood slowly started to flow – thankfully. Setting up with just a two-swan link and a cheese baited wide gape hook I plopped it down stream two feet out from the inside bank. there was a very sight flow on the heavily coloured water and I had high expectations.

One of the ‘favourite’ pitches

Sitting back in my chair staring at my chapman 500 rod tip the words of my good wife echoed “you must be totally insane going fishing in this,” okay I could be insane but that addictive site of the rod tip slamming around with a prime river Brede chub on the end was all the medication I needed right now.

Time passed, I sat looking out at this winter wonderland; I watched fieldfares and redwings flying in to the blackthorn bushes that bordered the far bank, and even caught a glimpse of a lone stonechat and two distant egrets. The passage of time passes so quickly when you are on your own and totally absorbed by the natural world around you, even in the depths of winter.

The fishing soon become secondary in such peaceful surroundings; the natural world has the ability to warm the soul and on a day such as today I was most grateful. My gaze returned to the rod tip, it had been some time without a touch. I decided a move to improve things was needed – as I was about to make that move the tip of my rod bangs once then sets to a savage bend – strike! this is a good fish I thought to myself.

The most beautiful of chub

After an energetic tussle a beautifully conditioned and pristine chub was netted. Weighing just over 4lbs the chub lay before me on the frosted grass and looked spectacular. As I was about to slip the fish back to its home, a voice startled me from my whits.

“That was a wonderful chub you caught there Sir,”

Turning round I can see a chap holding a large camera and tripod at the top of the bank.

“Good morning to you, how long have you been there?” I asked,“

Long enough to see you land that lovely chub, my names Tim”

“You startled me mate my names Micky I don’t ever really see anyone in this area much” I replied.

And that’s how we first met. Since that day I have often been surprised by Tim who to this day just magically appears behind me when I am out chub fishing. When doing so he seems to have the quietness of a stalking panther! After many of our conversations it is obvious that Tim is a true naturalist and passionate about the conservation of wildlife. He visits the marsh several times a week armed with his camera equipment come snow, rain or shine normally in the upper reaches of the valley and often with a bag of mealworms to feed the birds.

Tim has a particular love of the Water Rail and this summer managed to capture some beautiful footage of these extremely elusive birds with their young on the marsh. A short sequence of this film has already been published by the TPR&F this October, with hope more will follow.

Living close to the valley he will often set trail cameras, and in the past has recorded very fine footage of buzzards, foxes and badgers to chub spawning and brook lamprey! again excerpts of which can be viewed here – the TPR&F.

I am always happy to have a conversation with Tim by the river. Sometimes I actually spot him coming towards me in the far distance! How comforting to know that there are people like him who cherish and have respect for the natural world we live in.

Writing & Pictures Sussex Micky – East Sussex December 2021