This year the autumn gathering of the Chub Study Group was on the river Trent. Some said that heavy leads and powerful rods had no place in chub fishing but as Lee had not one but two 7lb chub from the Trent this year I didn't need asking twice!!
An early start on the Friday morning for the 130 mile journey meant we were at Kelham Hall for 6:30am and as we peered over the bridge the river looked in good form considering the relatively dry weather we'd had.
We'd booked the four popular pegs nearest the road bridge which meant we'd be fairly static so I spent twenty minutes dropping hemp and pellets into a couple of spots before setting up two rods, the first was my usual chub set-up of Trudex centre pin and Hardy Avon which I placed just off the reeds to my left and the second was my Rodrill cane rod and Mitchell 300 cast about a third of the way across.
10am and time for tea and one of Bills famous bacon and sausage butties, quick team photo and back on the rods which so far had remained quite still.
Bill was fishing hemp and caster and had the first of four fish just before lunch a barbel of around 5lb which he played admirably into the net. Bruce was finding the bites hard to come by as was Phil so we went into the afternoon hoping that things would pick-up.
Tiffin was served a little later than usual at 5pm and with Bill still the only one to catch it was all resting on the last hour as we went into darkness.
I sat with Bill for a while and watched his rod tips flicker as the weed ran down the line, of course it wasn't long before he was into another barbel, hemp and caster proving irresistible, so I ghillied for him and guided another fine Trent bertie into the net.
I pulled the second rod in and focussed on the marginal rushes which I'd trickled bait in all day, mashed bread laced with Laguna Blue Cheese SE SAC juice, balled in and flake on the hook popped up about six inches so it wafted in the gentle flow.
As dusk arrived I felt a few plucks but fifteen minutes before our due off time a quick downpour signalled the end and we packed up at a rapid rate looking forward to a few pints and a catchup with fellow chevin chasers.
Back at the digs we were pleased to see our room backed onto the pub and we dumped the bags and went for a much-needed pint or three, dinner was the only fish of the day for me accompanied by chips and mushy peas.
The Chub Study Group members sat and talked about fishing the Trent and we picked our local members brains for stretches likely to hold chub. With the venue agreed we retired to bed for a good nights sleep.
Breakfast was served at 8am and as we headed off to the new venue hopes were high of a better days fishing, on the same stretch the day before a fine 4lber had been caught by Kevin's wife so I knew they were in there.
We arrived to find a lot of cars parked near the upstream section and discovered it was a regular match but we could drop in anywhere beyond mid-point. After walking the stretch we still couldn't decide on what to do, the fact was we wanted to fish into dark in order to give ourselves the best chance of catching but 'Day Ticket' meant exactly that and I don't like looking over my shoulder for a bailiff nor do I like packing up at a set time just because we have to get off the venue.
Kevin and his wife arrived along with Steve, the local member, who'd give us the heads up on chub fishing on the Trent, keep it simple and fish under your feet were his wise words. We chatted about the night-time fishing and concluded it wouldn't be possible without chancing a ticking off from the owner so a few phone calls later and we'd booked onto Smeatons Caravan Park stretch located a few miles away. With seven pegs and the option to fish a day and night ticket it was agreed we'd fish well into dark and if it was good right through till the early hours so half an hour later we arrived and met Rob Hilton who'd kindly popped along from his club stretch to give us some local advice.
We had the first three pegs from the road bridge and as we set up for the long haul ahead I just knew this place would produce the goods, maybe not an abundance of chub but certainly big barbel featured highly on the agenda and as Bill needed to get his first double there was a relaxed feeling of expectation as we, once again, dropped our hemp and caster into the respective swims.
The steep banks were accessed via some cast concrete steps and with the lower river levels they made a great shelf to place a bag or bucket of bait with my chair placed on the ledge of bank at the bottom.
I had a very chubby looking swim with a nice overhanging bush just downstream and plumbing around with a lead I had at least seven-foot under the rod tip, perfect!!
Let battle commence......
As expected Bill was into the fish straight away, a difficult cast under the arch of the bridge was rewarded with a series of barbel, each one beating his PB and creeping ever closer to that elusive first double.
The scales said 4oz much to Bills amusement but it looked much bigger so we reset them and found it to be a good solid 7lber.
Shortly after he was in again, this time a fin perfect 8lber and smiles all round as we realised we'd made the right decision. I took a few photos and returned to my swim and for the first time in a long while thought about my own PB barbel of 10lb 9oz, could this be the day that I break it?
Out came the pellets, a guaranteed barbel magnet but on the off chance a chub came along I used a bait band pulled through the pellet to keep it close to the hook, soaked in Laguna SAC Banana juice it was cast out a couple of rod lengths along a likely looking crease.
The Rodrill cane rod has a similar action to a Richard Walker MKIV carp rod and both my Dane doubles had been landed by it so I knew it was up to the job, the Hardy 10' glass rod and pin were much better suited to marginal work and along with a chunk of meat were duly dispatched close to the downstream bush. I had at least seven feet of water in the margins so using a bait dropper was the only way to keep the free offerings in a tight area, hemp and caster along with some pellets were dropped in at regular intervals.
As evening arrived we knew we were in for a busy night.....
The evening sun flickered under the arches of the bridge as we pondered over our evening meal, the caravan park had given us three menus for local delivery and by unanimous decision chinese was duly voted in and ordered.
The three stooges!!
Shortly after dark Bruce was doing battle with another Trent monster, the scales showed it to be a new PB and went round to 11lb 12oz, a magnificent start to proceedings.
Less than an hour later I was watching the isotopes when the cane rod nodded twice then lunged forward, I lifted in and felt the reassuring thud of a fish, it felt like a small barbel at first and I shouted Bruce to assist but when it topped I could see it was the target species, a chub of 3lb 12oz.
Bruce was next with an 11lb 4oz clonker, two 11lb fish within an hour not a bad result considering it was our first visit.
Not to be out done Bill had another PB of 9lb 2oz creeping ever closer to that elusive first double, by this time he'd switched to boilies and they certainly worked.
The next excitement came when my cane rod pulled around and I shouted to Bruce "I'm in" to which he replied "So am I" so I thought fair enough we'll have to sort these out ourselves. The barbel charged off downstream until I eventually turned it and started cranking it back upstream, it drew level with me and the accelerated off like a rocket only something wasn't right, my isotope was pointing towards the bridge and was almost horizontal to the river then it all went slack and it was off.
"Bugger" I shouted, "I don't believe it" said Bruce as he too had lost his fish at exactly the same time, I reeled in and oddly enough the bait was still attached to the hair? Then is dawned on me, Bruce had a take and when the fish bolted it ran through my line making me think I was playing it when in fact we both were playing the same fish, that explained why my rod tip was pointing at the bridge as Bruce had his rod tip up in the air at the same time!! What are the chances of that, very odd indeed.
With one chub to my name I felt a little left out of the barbel party but after all the excitement I settled down and poured a cup of tea from the flask at which point the ratchet on the Rapidex centre pin screeched as it gave line at a rapid rate, I lifted into it expecting a chub as this was the margin swim to my right but as soon as I saw the rod hoop over I knew it was a barbel and a big one at that. It dived straight under the bush and I could feel the line grating against the snags but the barbel gods smiled down and it came out into open water relatively quickly, I shouted to Bruce "I'm in again" and he replied "so am I" here we go again, but this time we had a fish each and mine hugged bottom whilst the Hardy bent all the way over absorbing the thuds. Eventually I had its head up and as it dropped over the net I could see it was a lump. I rested the hard fighting barbel before gathering my camera and climbing the steep steps.
Up at the top of the swim Bruce arrived with his barbel too, side by side they both looked likely doubles so a quick but blury mat shot was taken before they were weighed.
Double trouble on the Trent...
Mine went 10lb 13oz beating my PB by 4oz, a boilie wrapped in Laguna Halibut paste doing the business, I was delighted to say the least. Bruce's fish wasn't far behind at just over 10lb so with Bill taking the photo's it was smiles all round followed by a further rest for each fish before carrying on.
It was 11:20pm as I sat back and just soaked up the events of the evening, surely it couldn't give any more? We didn't have anything further for an hour when suddenly Bruce shouted he was in again and just as Bill arrived to assist with the netting Bruce's second rod sprung into action so they played the two barbel in together landing the second just as I arrived in time with my net.
At 1am we called it a day and headed back to the digs where surprisingly we sat and recalled the highlights of the session until eventually it was time for some much-needed sleep.
The final day
Breakfast was a welcome sight the next morning and after telling all present of our eventful night we said our goodbyes and discussed were to fish on the way home. We didn't fancy doing battle with the Trent barbel again mainly due to fact that we needed to head home around 2pm and like most rivers the chances increase as darkness falls so instead we dropped in on the river Witham which was literally two minutes down the road from the pub.
As we walked over the footbridge we peered into the gin clear water like three boys on their way home from school but with no sign of life it didn't look good, "there's no fish in here" Bill said but ever the optimist I insisted we walked the banks in search of monsters and would give up if we hadn't seen anything after half an hour besides it was a lovely misty morning and the scenery was breath-taking.
On the way back we still hadn't spotted a fish when suddenly Bill stopped dead in his tracks "look there" he said and sure enough with the aid of my Polaroids I spotted a fish, long and lean we agreed it was none other than a jack pike who was around 12" long and holding station in the far bank margins. Where there's jack pike there should be mum and dad plus a plentiful food source so with renewed enthusiasm we returned to the bridge and looked long and hard into the water below.
First we saw some roach then a few perch then as our eyes became accustomed to the light the river seemed to be full of fish. I ran back to the car and returned with my rod and pin and a bucket of bait, as we dropped caster into the river below the fish started picking them off as they fluttered downstream. Bill started trotting down to the waiting shoals and we seemed almost certain of a bite but they didn't take the hook bait which must have been acting suspiciously.
Without any warning the three of us watched in amazement as a huge pike of at least 9lb cruised out from the right hand side and rushed the shoal scattering them in every direction before it slopped away under the opposite bankside rushes, an unbelievable sight for such a small river.
Still full of our schoolboy exuberance we decided to 'rest the swim' and headed off downstream considering how much fun it be to have this little river on your doorstep. We reached another bridge and I switched into John Wilson mode creeping through the undergrowth like a chicken on a hot plate picking my feet up so as not to spook the resident fish, a chub would be impressive given the original purpose of the weekend so a size 10 hook and a lump of cheese paste was free lined alongside the lilies, nothing came out and took it but somehow that really didn't matter.
Bill was determined to have one of the roach we'd seen earlier so we returned to the bridge and scaled down the end tackle, a size 18 was buried into a single caster and one of my home-made quill floats added for authenticity.
Eventually on what seemed like the 100th cast Bill struck sharply and a flash of silver splashed on the surface, after a short but exciting battle he lifted up a roach to a dangling net, mission accomplished Bill held his prize for a trophy shot, a stunning fin perfect roach of around 6oz.
With the perfect end to a fantastic weekend we walked back to the car and still smiling started off on the 130 mile journey back to Liverpool, what a weekend and as for the Trent? What a river even if it doesn't suit every chub angler, who cares? It was a fitting way to celebrate my 50th and we'll be returning in the very near future for more of the same, nice one Mr Swords you're lucky to have such a river on your doorstep.