Norfolk River Chub
After a break from angling during the seventies and early eighties, I decided to get some gear together, and start again! Realising that I had missed the best of the superb roach fishing Norfolk had to offer on the Wensum’ I planned to target chub which had gained a foothold, probably at the expense of the diminishing roach population.
Not having access to any club waters, the free welltrodden swims at Drayton Green Lanes and Costessey Mill seemed a good place to start. Luckily the chub were obliging and not too difficult to catch, with many fish of perhaps 3-4lb falling to my quivertipped breadflake; all very nice, but I found myself looking longingly over the fence at a stretch of the Wensum known as Ketteringham’s. After plucking up courage and asking the land-owner, John Ketteringham, I was given permission to join the syndicate.
Bursting with enthusiasm, I found myself treading in the welly-prints of the anglers whose articles inspired me in the then excellent Coarse Fisherman Magazine - Dave Plummer, Arthur Clarke, Alan Rawden.
Arthur in particular was a great inspiration with his photographs of chub to over 5lb, and from the very stretch I had gained access to.Alan Rawden, with his admirable energy, always seemed to get to the most distant of swims before me, even though he was commuting from the Nottingham area and I had the Wensum practically on my doorstep.
The Wensum then, pre-abstraction, was indeed a much healthier river apart from the huge masses of blanket-weed rolling down the river, wiping out the swims (now cured by the installation of phosphate-stripping plants further upstream). These plants would probably not have been put in place without the awareness and pressure from NACA. Very keen in those days, fishing in every type of weather, nothing would stop me, only sheltering during the odd blizzard or thunderstorm. Another problem I encountered was having to run the gauntlet of Wally Morton, the resident of the cottage at Broken-Bridges.
Wally used to believe the lane leading down to the river belonged to him! To meet Wally in the lane wielding a chainsaw was a very unnerving experience. In fact the only time we had a civil conversation was while I was fishing a swim by Broken-Bridges; I was distracted by an object bobbing against a raft of debris caught up against a trailing willow. On further investigation,much to my horror, I realised that it was a body, and had to ask Wally to call the police. I later found out that it was a person who had been missing for about six weeks!
Back to the actual chub fishing: after several years, catching hundreds of fish, my PB of 5.2 lb still stood.With some regret I decided to move on, leaving the floodplains of the Wensum Valley that I had grown to love and feel at home in
According to the grape-vine, useful when work and family commitments take up so much time, the Upper Yare had produced chub to over 6lbs. Exploring the river and fishing from Marlingford Mill down to Lakenham turned up many chub; eventually I concentrated on the stretch between Bawburgh and Colney, which seemed to have produced a higher-than-average size
The Yare Valley at that time was a very different place than it is today; although the infrastructure was in place, the huge development did not encroach on the beauty of the river valley, and I often didn’t see a single person all day.The only downside was avoiding the semi-wild ponies, tethered by a stake
One particular day, having fished most of my usual swims down to Colney, I settled down against a long run of rushes and fed a handful of bread-mash followed by my usual quivertipped breadflake; almost immediately the tip pulled round.On striking I found myself attached to a very good fish, and after a short dogged fight, on netting the chub, I realised I had easily beaten my PB.The Avons went round to 5.12: to beat my best by 10ozs was unbelievable, so I decided to sack the fish and drive to the nearest phone-box - no mobiles in those days! I rang Steve Loades who happened to be with Steve Croll, two fellow anglers that were also showing an interest in the same stretch of river
After photographing and weighing we all agreed it was the biggest and best-looking chub we had ever seen. Perhaps I had found the area that would produce a six! This did not prove to be the case. Further trips produced several scraper fives‚ and a repeat capture of the 5.12
The Upper Yare was and still is very unspoilt by over enthusiastic management. There are so many features and fish-holding areas, some of which happened to be just below Bawburgh village. It was in this location that I decided to put in some time, once again it was free and accessible fishing to all, a very popular area.Not wanting to share the banks with dog-walkers, disturbing the fish, I planned to try some after-dark trips. It was during one of these sessions that I found a new feature: a log had wedged across the river creating a new raft of debris. Casting my new bait of cheese-paste heavily laced with garlic against the raft, the tip settled, and after a while it pulled round in a blur of neon.A few powerful runs and lunges later, I netted the fish without seeing it clearly in the gloom. On lifting the net, I realised I’d caught something special by the sheer weight of the net. Hastily weighing the fish, it went well over six pounds. Elated to have finally achieved my target weight, I once again ’phoned the two Steves: Loadsey was in the middle of preening himself to go clubbing. Unselfishly they agreed to come out and witness the fish of my dreams! Accurate weighing took place; we settled for a weight of 6.9. On returning the chub I wondered if this was to be the biggest chub I would ever see
This was not to be! Still tuned into the grape-vine, I was lucky enough to witness the first genuine, to my knowledge, 7-pounder; a truly huge fish captured by Steve Hunt from the Wensum.The chub went exactly 7 pounds with a huge girth. I could not ignore the potential of the Wensum;again it was not long before I began fishing this new area, further upstream than before
I gained access to the Wensum from Ringland Common down to Costessey by joining clubs and syndicates; these stretches turned up several more 6s. My PB was creeping up an ounce at a time to 6.11! It was while fishing at the top of Ringland Common that my ’phone rang, and a fishing companion asked me to witness a 7!
After the long trek downstream, I reached him, and on seeing the chub he had landed, I recognised it as my previous best of 6.11! Even though gaining only a few ounces at 7.1, the fish looked huge. Congratulations and photos over, we both headed home
Once again I felt privileged to have witnessed a fantastic chub; the river at that time was receiving a lot of attention from other anglers, with many reporting 6s and upping their PBs over the seasons
It was nearing the end of another campaign in search of big chub.The last week of the season, having made a pre-dawn start, I was in the first swim of many I hoped to cover during the day, still using the same bait and method that had proved successful in the past: if it ain’t broke why fix it? A big bend at the top of the stretch: once again casting down and across letting the lead settle and putting a bend in the tip. So many distractions: a kingfisher, a flash of blue calling as it darted downstream. Movement on the far bank: muntjac deer. The things you see when you haven’t got a gun‚ who was it first said that?
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the movement of the quivertip; striking instantly, I knew almost immediately I was attached to a good fish. No dramatic runs, just swimming upstream the occasional headshake deep and slow. Turning now under pressure, the chub surfaced, into the net first time. Gotyayoubugger! I knew straight away it was the fish I wanted. Hands shaking I weighed the chub:well over 7 pounds; sacking the fish, while gathering my thoughts, I waited for someone to arrive. Sure enough my mate appeared.The usual ritual of weighing and taking photos over, the 7.9 chub was the same fish we both had caught before, having gained a tremendous girth. After over twenty years of Chubbing I finally think it would be hard to better this fish!
Having lost access to much of the Wensum which would produce a bigger fish, perhaps the Bure or Waveney will satisfy my ambitions, although as I grow older it becomes harder to turn out in all conditions. Never-the-less I don’t regret a moment of the last twenty years or more, pursuing chub and sharing the moments with like-minded friends.