The Severn plays Scrooge on the run-in to Christmas (chub article)

This is the time of the year when it gets hard to catch anything, never mind a specimen fish! Still, that’s the challenge of angling, and with a sudden drop in temperature I had to think long and hard where I was going to spend the day that I had kept free to go fishing.

With the water temperature just five degrees, barbel were out. However, the River Severn was running at normal winter level so I decided to take advantage of that and have a crack at the chub in the lower reaches.

During my barbel sessions so far this season I’ve managed to catch a fair few four-pound chub, with three fish in the five-pound category. I had promised myself that come the winter I would have a crack at the chub as a targeted species rather than hauling them in on 10lb line!

Due to the deep water of the lower Severn, the cage feeder comes into its own when pursuing chub. It’s an accurate way of placing bait where you want it to be. Therefore I made up a mushy mix of brown crumb, white bread and dead maggots, whilst fishing a bunch of eight red maggots on the hook.

I didn’t have to wait too long for a fish; in fact it was a roach that took the bait. It was only a small fish though. However, having said that, it did manage to get hooked fairly on such a big bait. At least I wasn’t a blanker, I thought to myself, although to be honest I would gladly swap a hundred small fish for just one big one.

But on this session, it just wasn’t to be. I did manage to catch a couple of chub – both just about landing net size – before darkness fell, but that was all the river yielded to me. I was hopeful as night descended, particularly as I had had a few taps during daylight as well as catching the three aforementioned fish.

But my rod tip remained motionless, apart from the odd occasion when some debris found itself wrapped around the line – just for a moment giving me the false hope that I had a bite. Still, I always enjoy my angling sessions. I suppose it’s that sense of not knowing when the next bite will come that spurs me on. I didn’t complain though when I made it back to the car, as by then it was very cold indeed. Whoever invented the car heater – I salute you sir!

I couldn’t stop thinking about the big chub that I’d caught before from the lower Severn, and so my next trip was back down the M5 to try my luck again. It was a foggy day and therefore quite cold, even in the afternoon, which usually sees the highest temperature of the day. Water temperature was still five degrees, so there was at least some consistency on that front.

Fishing identical to my previous visit, I was hopeful that I would get amongst the big chub as I was now fishing a peg that had previously yielded me the three fish over the five-pound mark. However, I was once again left wanting.

I didn’t blank though, as I did manage three small chub. As the day gave way to darkness it became very cold indeed and I found myself constantly on my feet shuffling my toes to try to generate some heat! Still, the lure of a big fish kept me at the water’s edge. However, by 10.00 p.m. it was time to pack away.

So, half way through the week, and I had fished two sessions on the lower Severn and not one decent chub to report. Perhaps I should get out the barbel gear, when I’ll be guaranteed to haul in a good chub or two! Anyway, would it be a case of ‘third time lucky’ as I prepared to finish the week off with a final chub session?

For that third trip, I headed back to the Severn, but this time to the upper reaches and across the Shropshire border into the Principality of Wales. It really was a case of ‘all or nothing’, as that phrase describes my upper Severn chub fishing perfectly. I don’t catch great numbers of the species, and indeed more often than not experience what can be described as more than my fair share of blanks along the way!

However, my average fish from the upper Severn is over 4lb, which is quite good. Therefore I knew that there was a chance that a struggling week could be turned around to become a successful one. On the other hand…

Well, it was to be the latter in fact, rather than the former! It was a very cold and foggy day as I made my way across the meadow to set up in a spot that I intended to occupy for the whole of the session. The water temperature showed a reading of between four and five degrees – and this proved to be the case for the rest of the day, with it fluctuating between the two.

The chub just didn’t show up; not even an enquiry was registered, let alone a bite. When darkness came, the fog lifted to reveal a very clear sky. This was the signal for the air temperature to drop sharply and frost quickly took hold of everything, including the rod.

It proved very difficult as the rod rings were blocked with small particles of solid ice, trapping the line and making fishing difficult. No, I’ll rephrase that – making fishing impossible! With the water temperature now firmly stuck on four degrees it wasn’t that much of a hardship to pack away the right side of midnight. Plus my toes had been trying to communicate thoughts to my brain about quitting ever since they arrived.

So, as the title indicates, the Severn most definitely played Scrooge on the run-in to Christmas. Still, with a few days to go before the actual day when everything stops, I was working out on the drive back home where to snatch a session or two. With the weather forecast predicting continued cold weather, I found myself leaning towards a grayling trip on the river Teme. Anyway, wherever I do decide to go, all will be revealed in next week’s Angling Journal.

(Article 23, originally published December 2003)