Of all the freshwater fish found in the UK, the chub is amongst the shyest of them all. They provide excellent sport throughout the year and like the perch, provide the angler with a roving day.
When in search of chub, you cannot simply sit in the same spot all day long and expect to take fish after fish. A lucky streak would be merely taking two or three from a single shoal without the remainder becoming scared.
Chub (Leuciscus cephalus)
A decent sized chub is anything between 3 lb and 5 lb (1.4-2.3 kg) and will provide a swashbuckling fight. Chub caught during the winter make for an even better tussle.
LC – Least Concern
A Note On Spawning
Spawning takes place once water temperatures reach 14 °C, generally between May and September. Chub spawn in fast-flowing rivers which boast gravel bottoms but can also spawn amongst vegetation. The male fish gather at spawning sites and will chase the females, a process which involves a lot of splashing.
The chub is a member of the carp family, despite looking distinctly different. The adult chub is a particularly solid, muscular fish. Its head is large, round and comes with a big tough mouth and thick lips.
Its back is a greeny brown colour, whilst the flanks are silvery and its underbelly is a whitish yellow. The chub’s fins are well defined and range from colourless to red, depending on the age of the fish. Small chub can be confused with dace, an easy way to distinguish between the two is by looking at the fins. The chub has large fins which have rounded convex rear edges, this is not true for dace which have concave rear edges.
So how do we catch one?
The natural diet of small chub includes insects, fish eggs, molluscs and plant life. When water temperatures rise, small chub can be spotted just under the surface, facing the current, looking for passing food.
Larger specimens consume small fish, flies and virtually anything that lands on the surface. They are also known to eat fruit and berries from overhanging bushes, meaning that at certain times of the year, in the right spots, an elderberry or blackberry can make for a very effect hook bait.
Crayfish, swan mussels and even small frogs also make up larger chub’s natural diet.
Therefore, as you would probably imagine, many different baits will interest chub. Cheese, sweetcorn, brandling, worms, maggots and casters are all popular choices, but fruit, berries, slugs and natural or artificial flies can also be used to great effect. In addition, you can catch large specimens with spoons or other artificial lures when spinning.
Chub will go for virtually any bait, such as maggots and worms (providing there are not too many smaller fish to steal the bait first) but many anglers swear by bread in all its forms as well as cheese either on its own or mixed up with breadcrumbs to produce a strongly flavoured paste.
Balls of cheese paste – perfect for chub fishing
Chub can be found at reasonable sizes in still waters, but are much more predominant in rivers, especially those which boast gravel or stoney bottoms and fast flowing clean water. At small sizes, they are found in shoals which can also contain roach and rudd. The bigger, more desired specimens are generally more solitary, being found in small groups of three or four.
Favourite Feeding Places
Chub feed at all depths, from the bottom to the surface, and will take a bait easily from any position. They lurk in deep holes along river margins and experienced anglers can identify these holes. They are generally found in small shoals and tend to lurk below overhanging bushes where they wait patiently for grubs to fall from the leaves. If fishing in such an area, keep well back from the bank, any shadows you cast on the water will scare the fish away, as will tremors caused by footsteps.
An ideal spot for chub
A quiet roving approach is the best way to go when fishing for chub on small rivers.
If you’ve got the time, a great technique is to walk the river, feeding various different swims before fishing, then fishing each in turn once the chub have had time to enjoy the free offerings.
If, however, you are short on time, you can have a productive session without pre-baiting, just make sure you approach each swim quietly and don’t cause any disturbances prior to fishing. This doesn’t mean you have to tip-toe towards the swim, just approach the swim with a careful manner, consider it the same as sneaking up on a wild animal you are hunting.
Present a few samples of your hook bait to the swim and wait a couple of minutes before casting in your tackle, this will give the chub enough time to enjoy the free offerings and start to feed with confidence. Do this regardless of if you pre-baited the swim earlier or not.
Regarding tackle, a rod with a test curve around 1.25 lb is strong enough to tame even the biggest chub. Most bites will be positive and pull the tip, however, using the lightest quivertip that will hold against the flow can give an advantage as bites will sometimes only show as gentle plucks or a very slight tightening of the line.
On the whole, chub are not tackle-shy, so using a main line of 6 lb (2.75 kg) with a hook length of 4-5 lb 5 lb (1.8-2.2 kg) will generally work well, but you may need to reduce this slightly if the river is low and clear.
Don’t overthink the end tackle when fishing for chub. A basic link ledger rig (shown below) will work fantastically well in most swims and is particularly versatile as weight can be easily added or removed to suit the conditions you are fishing in. In especially heavy flows, a simple running ledger rig (shown below) might be more suitable if more weight is required to hold the bottom. Always use the least amount of weight possible, if it can hold against the flow, it’s good to go. Doing this offers the least resistance to the fish and yields the most sensitive bite detection. In addition, it means you can gently lift the weight from the bottom and using the current, drift the bait to search through the swim.
A simple link ledger rig (left) and a running ledger rig (right)
When casting, aim to gently drop the bait into the water, avoid causing a large splash. You can accomplish this with a careful under arm swing if close to the near bank. If casting further, do so as gently as possible to minimise the disturbance.
Due to the areas that chub like to hide in, quite often you will find yourself fishing in areas confined between trees and bushes, position your rod rests so that the rod points slightly downstream, this will give you enough room for the strike. If you don’t get a bite immediately, fish the swim for at least thirty minutes before moving on. Not remaining the same spot for too long and fishing different swims will maximise your chances of getting a bite.
Most of the time, the commotion which results from landing a chub will unsettle the swim too much and landing another one from the same swim will be unlikely for some time. However, if you do manage to get the first one out quickly it is possible to land a second in a short space of time.
Before you move on it’s always worth putting some more samples of your hook bait into the swim as it means you can always come back and try your luck again later in the session.
As mentioned earlier, chub have a nasty habit of diving to the closest snag, this is only made worse by the fact that when chub fishing, you will most likely be in an environment with plenty of nearby snags. You need to be prepared to bully the fish until you’ve prevented the first couple of lunges. It’s very easy to lose the fish in these circumstances. Fish with the clutch wound down tight and give line by backwinding the reel under gentle pressure. This forces the chub to work in order to gain any line and can swing the fight in your favour.
If you’re struggling for bites, increasing the length of line between the weight and hook and fishing with a slack line can give you that extra edge.
In summary, if you travel light, fish quietly, carefully and move swims multiple times during the session, you will have a great days fishing.