Sunday, 6 March 2011

In the place to be... Thames chubbing with fishing hero: 5th Feb 2011

A chance meeting with a top angler on a chub mission to the Thames in Oxford.  Educational.

Having bumped into and talked to one of the country's top specimen anglers Andy Nellist a couple of times on the bank recently I was inspired to try for some of the big chub to be found in the Thames through oxford.  I had taken a while to work out who he was but hearing from him of the multitude of 6lb + chub he's caught I figured I'd forsake my usual Cherwell chub venue and try a couple spots I'd seen him fishing and another one I'd deduced from a recent Anglers mail article Where Gary Newman goes out with Nellist and reveals his method for Thames chub.
The method? Nothing too advanced.  Breadflake hookbait and cage feeder of liquidised bread.  Same as I normally use but with a slight twist.   My tackle is the Drennan s7 1.25 TC avon/quiver rod and a small okuma reel.  AN uses 2x Prestons carbonactive super feeder rods.  I've got one of these lovely rods but it cost me £180 and its too nice to take out down town.
About mid-day Saturday I parked up in central Oxford (skillfully avoiding the £xorbitant charges) and walked about a mile to my first swim.  Its in town at a point where 2 smaller side streams (the Thames goes through oxford in a series of smaller divisions) join the main 'channel'.  Conditions looked favourable as I'd seen from the Environment Agency's invaluable river levels website that the level was falling away after some heavier flow last week.  There was a fair bit of colour (of the nicer greenish type) in the water and the flow was strong.  The river in Oxford is subject to the control of so many weirs/locks etc that the rate of flow is dictated by sluices somewhere or other and can fluctuate a lot, not necessarily what you'd expect from rainfall.   I mashed up a bit of stale bread and threw in a few small balls of that and cast towards the far bank tree feature with a 1/2 oz feeder.  This was immediately swept downstream so I added more weight to slow its progress and re-baited my size 10 hook with flake and re-cast.   The feeder still moved a bit but not for long and the 1.5oz quiver tip took up an alarming bend from the heavy flow (should have used a 2oz one) and stayed that way.  It didn't look good but a small rattling bite came and was struck swiftly by Heaps and a decent fish was hooked.   It didn't do a whole lot but was a solid weight in the current.  The chub plodded back and forth across the flow a couple of times and took a little line off the drag before the flow and my efforts brought it to the surface.  Bingo.  A chub I estimated at almost 4lb was released a short distance away.   I fished on and, a couple casts later, another modest indication and pedestrian fight brought another chub about 3lb.  I didn't photograph or weigh either as I thought more was to come after a good start like this.
Bites dried up at swim 1 so I tried another in the channel behind Botley road allotments but the narrowing there meant the flow was just too much to deal with even with heavily loaded feeder. (turns out I shouldn't be worrying about the feeder moving but more of that later).  I also fished the Osney bridge swim where I had seen mr Nellist catch a few good roach weeks earlier.  I emulated him in that I lost a couple of  feeders amongst the bikes/shopping trolleys/dead junkies etc under the bridge but had no bites.
As I made my way down to another spot where I'd seen Nellist fishing I saw someone on the straight netting a fish.  I approached and it Was Andy Nellist himself just about to weigh what looked like a 5.5lb chub.  It turned out to be a fish with the head of a 6lb chub and the body of a 4.  4lb 12 was all it weighed.  Andy showed me the mangled great mouth of the chub as evidence of it being a crayfish feeder.  We chatted and he very kindly invited me along to fish with him as he showed me a few good spots.  This was going better than I could have hoped as there is a lot of water here and guidance from a top man like this is invaluable.
Naturally I shall not reveal these locations here but some of them were places I would have just walked past on my own seeking some more obvious 'feature' swims.  Andy had fully investigated the whole stretch, even using a R/C boat with echo sounder to find the bottom features and topography.  Indeed he showed me a picture of a lovely 6.5lb+ fish he's taken from a spot where I had stood with my kit and hmm'd and ha'd about before moving on deciding against fishing it.
We couldn't get to the spot that Andy and I had both had in mind so we moved on past the guy fishing it to tackle another 4 or 5 swims in central Oxford.  Fishing with someone who knows the swims and is a very good angler was worth so much to me, being unfamiliar with the stretch.  We both had chub from one swim but the interesting thing was the size of feeder Andy uses (and I copied).  You need to use one nowhere near heavy enough to hold bottom but to bump along surprisingly quickly with the current downstream and in to the bank.  The theory being to induce bites from chub seeing the grub moving off and not wanting to miss out.  10g drennan micro cage feeders were the thing.  Andy even uses them with half the weight removed in slower flows.  10 or 14g ones were the thing on the day.   The cold water meant things were a bit slow with Andy getting another smallish chub and me getting a couple of roach and tiny gudgeon.
We fished on well into dark and I eventually left him to it at 8pm as I had to go for some food and it had started raining.
Not a spectacular fish-catching session but for the wealth of useful information and pleasant company I am greatly indebted to Andrew Nellist.   A brilliant angler and a nice man.
Read about some of his amazing catches here...
Nellists big eels.
A N takes apart notoriously hard big fish water
That second article was inspiring and depressing to me when I read it years ago.  It shows what a good angler can achieve with skill and graft and also that I will probably never be a very good angler!  I take my hat off to him.

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