A Varied Approach
The behaviour and appetite of chub is legendary in its variety, so many methods will work. A lot depends on the type of canal and water clarity you find. If the chub can be spotted at close quarters, there is a lot to recommend complete simplicity. Clearer, rural canals are perfect for the free-roving, light tackle approach. A free-lined piece of bread crust or lob worm is about as basic as it gets, but provided you haven’t spooked your chub, the reaction can be instant. If you can stalk individual fish, loose feeding or groundbaiting can be rendered unnecessary, or at least only worth trying if a preliminary cast or two doesn’t produce. The sudden introduction of handfuls of bait could easily put the fish off, and that big chub might just as likely scoff the first morsel it sees, provided you keep low and cast carefully.
The same is true of artificial flies and the summer months can provide some truly thrilling fishing with basking chub. I’ve taken them on both wet and dry flies on clear canals, including a fish of 3%lb that took a small streamer cast under a bridge.
Royal Military Canal Fishing Photo Gallery
Russ Hilton cradles a 4-pounder from a Midlands canal.
Lure fishing can also produce the goods with sufficient water clarity. I suspect that a lot of the time chub respond to a lure with curiosity or outright aggression, rather than a natural “feeding” response. They will occasionally hit big lures, but if I single-mindedly wanted chub, my lure choices would be small, 2-3in models. Floating or surface popping plugs can be great provokers, and the more vigorous the better. Small spinners and jigs can also work and although lures don’t catch huge numbers of chub on canals, they do tend to appeal to the bigger, meaner fish of over 3lb.
It is the more coloured water where bait fishing tactics tend to dominate. This is certainly true on the Midlands canals, where chub loiter amidst stirred-up water and boat traffic. It stands to reason that baits with strong scent come into their own. Nor is coloured water necessarily a drawback: chub find it harder to spot the angler and spook less easily in such environs. Where you might pick off only a single fish in clear water, muddier canals have hotspots where you could catch multiple fish in a day.
Bait fishing approaches for chub could be divided into match and specimen styles, depending on whether your aim is to catch as many fish as possible or single out a real beast. Ground bait is not strictly necessary for chub, but regular helpings of loose feed certainly make sense in coloured water – and it can pay to do this for a good hour or two before you introduce a hookbait.
On clearer canals, flyfishing offers terrific visual excitement
Pole fishing is the natural choice for many. The pole is ideal for dropping a bait tight to those snaggy lies loved by chub, where the rod and line angler takes their life in their hands. A typical set-up would consist of 4-5lb line straight through, along with a thick bristled float to accommodate baits such as a whole red worm Elastics must be strong and not set too loose if you are to win the initial tug-of-war with a hooked chub in the vicinity of obstacles. A prompt response is called for and this can be a thrilling, if hair-raising, experience.