It was cold. Seriously cold. The wind hurtled in from the north, cutting through anything unfortunate enough to break its path. Unfortunately for me that ‘anything’ was me, walking as fast as I could toward a swim. I hoped to find a sheltered one but I knew by the wind direction there would be very few swims fitting that description today. Still, the pace I was walking at did help generate a little heat. As did the prospect of a winter chub. Although the conditions were not great. Snow melt in the river, her waters a disconcerting brown colour, and with a bright, sunny day forecast, I knew I was up against it. But as had been said many times before, you won’t catch sat indoors. With this in mind onward I trotted. I looked for swims with slack water, preferably with a little depth, but anywhere outside of the main flow. The swim above is a typical example. The main flow of the river to the left and the slack, hopefully inviting-to-chub water, to the right. I fed a few tiny helpings of cheese paste on the crease and slowly set up a very simple link ledger. I debated using a smaller hook than usual, but I went with the idea that if the fish were going to move to the bait, I should offer them something worth moving for. In terms of size and nutritional value. So a size 8 hook opted for, tied on and the rig was finished. Hookbait; a thumb sized chunk of cheese paste with added garlic. I got comfortable on the floor, using my unhooking mat as a seat, and delicately flicked the rig into position. Holding the rod, I wrapped the line around my finger to feel for any inquisitive chubs investigative plucks that may otherwise go unnoticed on the tip. I had forgot how a steady flow resonated through the line. The pulse of the river; like static on a TV screen. Ten uneventful minutes went by; time for a re-cast. This time a little further down the swim. But before I had chance to reel in, the rod tip knocked slightly. I felt a steady, but delicate, pressure build. A chub had taken the bait. I edged the rod forward a little, giving the fish a little more ‘slack’ before striking. And when I did the rod bent pleasingly. Ear to ear grin. Then back to concentration. I needed to land this fish as in these difficult conditions, it might be the only bite of the day. The fight was a fairly short one but I was certainly not complaining. Fish number one was in the net. I gave it a quick weigh. A few ounces over four pound and in tremendously good condition it has to be said. A little washed out from the coloured water. I returned my prize well away from the swim and fed a few more lumps of paste. No point fishing it now though so for an hour I explored another two likely looking swims. Without success. By now the sun was at it highest and the wind still mercilessly swept in. Probably the worst time of day for the chance of a bite. That is, of course, from any fish. For me however it was a different matter. A cup of tea and a cheese and pickle sandwich. It was noticeable how little wildlife there was today. Apart from a robin, who had followed me to each of the three swims so far, it was eerily quiet. No finches, wrens or kingfishers. No woodpeckers pecking in the woodland. I hadn’t noticed any buzzards either. After eating I fished a few swims. They had a little more pace than the first three so bait for these would be some left over sausage I had re-fried in turmeric. I fished slithers of them rather than sections, flicking the rig on the crease of the flow, and preferred to touch ledger rather than use the rod tip. It was fascinating bouncing the baits around the swims. Feeling the swan shots clatter over clean gravel and ‘fizz’ through sandier areas. It was now mid afternoon and I was still stuck on one chub. Time to find a swim to fish until dusk. Thankfully the swim I found was a little more sheltered than the rest of the river. As I settled in, enjoying a cup of tea, I introduced free offerings of cheese paste. I was in no rush to make a cast. I noticed how the thwarted wind had affected the temperature. It felt balmy in comparison to earlier. With my tea finished it was time for a cast. A big lump of cheese paste soon wafting in the flow. I had an almost instant response. The rod tip lunged round, dropped back, then lunge forward once more. Finger tips made redundant in this case. I swept the rod over my shoulder and connected with a solid weight. A very erratic fight commenced. The fish first dived for cover, then ran across the flow to the far bank before giving up. I was somewhat suspicious at this. At the net it woke up, making a play for the myriad of twigs and stems under my own bank. Typical chub. Dirty fighters. The hook held though and fish number two was on the bank. Chunky chub number two. This time two ounces under four pound but sharing the same superb condition as the first fish. I was one happy angler. For the last hour I sat and held the rod. I tried various areas of the swim as the watery sun set in front of me. The pale blue sky darkened and became a deep purple. A fitting backdrop for my final cast. For some time after I felt for a bite. I admired the trees and fence posts as they lost their colour and became silhouettes. The perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable, but freezing cold, winters day.
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