The chub belongs to the carp family, though it does not resemble the carp in appearance. The mature fish is solidly built, with a blunt head, large mouth and thick, pale lips. The back is greenish brown, the flanks silvery, and the belly a yellowy white. The fins, which are well defined and powerful, can range from colourless to a rich red. It is easy to identify by its large scales.
Predominantly a river fish, the chub is found where currents flow fast over gravel or stony beds. It is a fish of clean, unpolluted waters where both oxygen and food exist in plenty. The species provides fishing of quality for the angler prepared to stalk this cautious and stealthy prey with great care and skill. A specimen chub, 4 or 5 lb, is shy in habit—a solitary, thickbodied ghost that fades into the depths at sight or sound of man or beast. Yet the chub is renowned for the dogged resistance it displays to the efforts of angler and rod.
While the chub is found throughout most of England, it is absent from west Wales and from Scotland above the Forth-Clyde valley. It is one of Britain’s bigger coarse fish, rarely exceeding 6 lb, though weight tends to vary in different parts of the country. A large Hampshire Avon chub, for example, may weigh some 7 lb, while one of 3 lb would be considered good in Norfolk. The present British rodcaught record fish weighed 7 lb 6oz and fell to Bill Warren fishing the Avon in 1957.
All rivers have known chub holes, which the seasoned angler can point out to the newcomer, but it is unlikely that more than one or two chub can be caught from the swim. Younger chub do shoal and form mixed shoals with dace and roach in areas that can provide the necessary abundance of food.
Unlike the tench and carp, which can be regarded as fish of the warmer months, the chub remains a yearround angling species.
Chub are famed for their wideranging appetites and can be taken on a variety of baits. Floatfishing with cheese, ripe fruits, especially berries, worms, silkweed, dried blood, slugs or maggots, are welltried methods. Natural and artificial flies can also be used, as can other insects and grubs. The smaller members of a shoal will feed on aquatic insects and bottomdwelling invertebrates, while the older fish will add a substantial amount of vegetable matter to their diet and will chase and eat the fry of many species, including their own.
There is no mistaking a chub bite. The fish will take the bait with a great splash, then rush back to its home among the tangle of tree roots, submerged branches, or weeds. If this happens you will lose it, so as soon as you strike keep firm control, trying to pull the chub away from trouble. Light tackle will be broken almost immediately, so use line of about 6 lb b.s. And a powerful rod.
Though thought of as a pure river fish, the chub has been successfully introduced to stillwaters where it thrives and can grow larger than its river counterpart.
One very useful method of chub fishing is freelining. This is a technique to employ when having only limited success with the usual baits.
Quite simply, a piece of fresh bread flake is pinched on to the hook followed by a fairsized piece of crust. The crust is only lightly pinched, however, so that a flick of the rod tip makes it break free. The baited hook is then allowed to travel with the current until it reaches the best point, when the crust is twitched free allowing the flake to sink gently into the waiting mouth of a fat chub.
Freelining slugs for chub is one of the most enjoyable ways of fishing. The angler travels light with just a shoulder bag and a landing net, seeking out the chub in small streams and those rivers where they can be spotted.
The basic equipment is a 1011 ft hollowglass rod, a fixedspool reel loaded with 4 lb b.s. Line and an assortment of hooks from No 2 to No 4. Spare spools should carry 5 and 6 lb b.s. Lines. The landing net should be as light as possible—while a trout net is ideal it will be found that an extending net is needed in most areas.
Polarized sunglasses are essential for spotting chub. Take a quiet walk along the river, preferably working upstream, and pay attention to all likely looking swims. In areas which look ‘chubby’ it is worth your while standing by a tree or some other cover for ten minutes or so.
You will often see chub drifting out from cover, or lying on a gravel run at the end of a lily bed or a funnel of water running through reed mace, but beware, they are practically invisible.
Watch out and wait
Time spent without any kind of tackle is of the utmost value in tracking down specimens. Even if chub are scared, they will often come back, the same fish almost always showing in the exact spot the next day. When fishing you will spend much time in undignified positions and will be stung from head to foot by nettles (because big chub often choose the protection of water by nettle banks). You will kneel in cow pats and you will attract flies, but you must not wave your arms to brush them away or your prize catch will be gone.