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Big Fish Column: 'It never gets too cold for chub to feed'

Chub, grayling and pike were the only species willing to feed with any sort of enthusiasm last week in what was a tough few days for local fishing. The bad news is that it is not going to get any easier in the week ahead.


Small river chub

It never gets too cold for chub to feed and even with frozen and snow covered river banks there were a few fish to be caught. Most anglers, and I must confess I was one of them, didn’t brave the conditions but the thrill of making the first footprints across a snowy field and holding up a big, bronze-flanked ‘Chevin’ was an incentive for a brave few to make the effort. Sadly, few were rewarded.

One of those who did net a snow prize was Windsor’s Frank Chapman, an angler who has been enjoying some great success on the River Thames this winter. A cheesepaste bait made from “stinky” Danish Blue mixed with some grated mature Cheddar and stiffened with some flour was the bait, which Frank presented on a size 6 hook direct to 6lb line.

Rather than the usual winter tactic of roving the river and trying different swims, Frank thought the prevailing conditions lent themselves to a ‘bait and wait’ approach so he sat it out in a swim that he had caught good fish from earlier this season and trickled in a little mashed bread loose feed.

The only bite of the day came late in the afternoon and his numb fingers were, thankfully, quick enough to connect with the fish and to net it after a short fight, weighing it in at 6lb 1oz before slipping it back into the ice-cold water.


Trotting the stream

It never gets too cold for grayling to feed either. In fact, they are probably even more willing to feed in Arctic conditions than chub. The only problem, of course, is that finding good grayling fishing locally does require heading to the upper Kennet or driving down to one of the southern chalkstreams, be that Itchen, Test or Dever.

Driving south was more than a little challenging last week but Steve Archer did successfully make the trip from Maidenhead to the Lower Itchen thanks to a 4WD vehicle and he, perhaps not unsurprisingly, found that he had the beat to himself.

Trotting maggots on a size 14 hook under a 3AAA loafer float Steve netted a few out of season trout, chub to 3lb and a hatful of nice grayling from 8oz to 2lb 4oz. Perfect fishing in grim conditions.


Prospects for the week ahead

Both chub and grayling will feed no matter how cold it gets but the one thing that prevents just about every river fish from feeding is high water caused by snow melt - and that is exactly what the week ahead is set to deliver. There should be the odd pike to be caught from the stillwaters and trout will be taking the occasional artificial but, for once, it may just be sensible to stay at home!

Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at

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