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Chubby Fishing

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The chub is amongst the many fresh water species
that can be taken on a fly

By Kasper Mühlbach

  
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A chub - A typical chub (Leuciscus cephalus) from a Swedish river.
A chub
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Ready - The chub flies are drying in a cork.
Ready
 
It was midsummer 1984 and my grandparents had once again taken me to their holiday cottage, which my grandfather bought some 35 years ago with a friend.
The two guys told my grandmother and her friend that they were just looking not doing anything and especially not buying anything. When they returned, they had bought a cottage. The two girls got furious and moaned because they did not even have money enough to buy shoes for their children. Time goes on, and the children got shoes, not the newest model, though. One of them became my mother and we are still enjoying going to the cottage for a week once in a while.

Dough!
Since I was a small kid my grandfather Jens and I went fishing for perch and pike in the lakes and streams. We were spin-fishermen, but from time to time we enjoyed fishing for eel and perch using floats and worms.

One day we ran out of worms and I found it rather hard to find some new thick ones in the forest. I had recently read about using corn, bread, dough (mostly flour-and-water paste) as bait.
All efforts to convince my grandfather about the brilliance of the dough were in vain. "You fish the way you wish!" - He said with that sceptical look in his bluish eyes and rubbed two fingers against his uncontrollably heavy eyebrows.

We went to one of the rivers where it runs under a bridge. Both upstream and downstream the bridge, there are plenty of rocks, current seams and places with deep, slow water.

We fished by ourselves that day. Jens went upstream to catch some pike. I found a place where a big rock stretched itself from the bank into the dark water. From there I could cast my rig into the middle of the river just to watch the perfectly placed float being dragged by the currents pressure on the loose line into the main current, which gave me two seconds of efficient fishing. After ten seconds doing that exercise, I started doing other things like estimating the depth using my rod etc.
After half an hour Jens came back with a nice 2 kilo (4 lbs.) pike, which should make us a terrific dinner. New willpower suddenly flushed in my veins. I also wanted to catch at least something. It was hard to find a better spot, so I stayed where I was and fished in the backwater 2-3 metres behind the rock, on which I was sitting.

The first Experience
The whirls took the floater, gave it to the current which turned it back and so forth. Suddenly the motions of the floater became unexpected. It didn't follow the current's behaviours, but more or less floated around in a figure-of-eight.
I stroke and I felt a strong fish at the end of the line. It fought very well and it took me while to win the fight.
I did not know what kind of fish it was, but it was big and thick. I killed it, packed my gear and proudly started walking upstream to find Jens and show him my contribution to the dinner. He had never seen that species before and we had a lot of work that night finding out that I had caught our first chub. The meat was boring, tasteless, a bit salty and not with bite as we know it from trout.
But anyway, it was a great fish for the sport and born into the catch and release philosophy.
But as we were more in to spin fishing and bringing home a perch for lunch we did not go chub fishing at all the next 8-10 years.

Once were fly fishermen
It was in 1992. Jens and I had found a classic part of the river. Shallower water, streams and pools. We were fly fishermen now and enjoyed fishing trout in our local stream. And there had to be trout in this classic part of the river. It was as taken out from an old English book in which fly fishing the chalk streams of Britain was described.

It was hot, and the sun was shining. My grandmother Lis sat on the old stone bridge, reading a crime novel and watching her husband and grandson going through some of their first experiences with fly rods.
She found it so beautiful with lines in the air, she said.
I am not sure, that experienced fly fishers would have had that very same impression.
We caught lots of roaches, which were fun as they tested your skills of reaction. But suddenly Jens hooked a much stronger fish. A chub weighing about 1 lb. We caught some smaller chubs too and bigger ones as well. They were good fighters and we came back almost every year to fish for them. Sometimes with more success than others.

For some years, it had not been easy, so new techniques had to be developed. Until now we had caught chub on traditional wet and dry flies.
The last times I went to the place, the water was high, and the two methods gave nothing but casting practice. A couple of years ago I went to Colorado, where I rediscovered nymph fishing. A method I also enjoyed years earlier in N.Z.
I brought patterns, materials and indicators back home from CO and tied quite a few nymphs (a bit larger than the ones we used in CO) as I decided to fish more focused on that big scaled beauty.

Collected Experience
I looked through all Jens' and my own old catch reports, written over the last 12 years and found out, that even though we caught chub during hot, shiny summer days, we always found them in the deeper, more calm water - nearly always where branches were drawing shadows over the surface, or in deep pools.
On days with more clouds we could find them in shallower water but we mainly found them at the very same spots. The only difference seemed to be that they were not as shy as on sunny days and therefore easier to get to a wet or dry fly. During the spring we have watched the chub going upstream in small shoals to secure the next generation, but the best fishing was from late summer until middle of October where the cold was not yet irritating the lines and leaders and the water was still low.
We have only found the chub in some few waters. Why it has not been spread to other rivers, streams and lakes is still a mystery to me.

  
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Kasper - Kasper with his first bream.
Kasper
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Hiding - A bug hiding from its fate: being eaten by a chub.
Hiding
 
Gear
In the beginning we used our class 6-7 rods but as we got more experienced we customized our gear. I am now using a class 3 rod for most of my fishing, sufficient for the chubs typically weighing between 1 and 6 lbs.

The leader is made to match the situation. I prefer a furled leader and a 0.15 mm (5-6X) tippet. At the connection point I place a big red or bright green yarn indicator rubbed with floatant if nymph fishing.
I normally use bead headed nymphs tied on curved hooks with a body of floss or larva lace, crystal flash as tail and a wing sack made of hare's ear and a few straws of crystal flash. The wet flies are Gels Stream Special, Parmacene Belle, March Brown etc. Well known patterns. So are the dry flies, which can be such as foam ants, Klinkhamer and Red Tags. Notice that the bigger the chub gets the more fish it will eat . My grandfather therefore prefers hair winged streamers.
These patterns have also proved to be effective on other species which might grab your fly when fishing for chub. The most common one in my home waters is the roach but also bream and trout may occur.

What they do not have in size
I went to the river all by myself. Everyone else had stopped listening to my tales of the secret chub. Especially because the last three trips resulted in pike fishing, bird and girl watching.
I went straight to the pool where I once caught a very big one estimated to about 10 lbs or 5 kilos. The surface was calm, no fish were rising. A golden leaf hit the water now and then, signalling that the autumn would soon show its face.
  
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Slender bullet - A chub is a way better fighter than many of its kin.
Slender bullet
 
It should be easier to catch them now, so I tied a small ant-like thing on my leader, and started pulling line of my reel.

Splash!

A pike jumped out of the water 30 meters downstream in the hunt for the silver roach. An eagle hovered above the trees. It was hard to concentrate with all these disturbing elements.

A broad back of a greyish fish broke the surface 7-8 meters from me. Another one, a few seconds after 2 meters to the right.

Chub it was!

 

The Chub Nymph


You can vary the colors and materials selection according to taste, but dark colors - namely black - always work, and chartreuse sure does look good.

Materials
HookCurved nymph hook, size 8-12
ThreadBlack 8/0
BeadBrass or copper
TailCrystal Flash
BodyLarva Lace
Wing sackCrystal Flash
ThoraxHare's ear or other dubbing

Tying instructions
  1. Slide the bead over the hook and up to the eye
  2. Secure with super glue
  3. Attach the thread behind the bead and cover the hook with thread
  4. Tie in the tail - one or two straws and short
  5. Tie in the Larva Lace under the hook in the full length of the flies body so that i protudes to the rear
  6. Wind the thread back to behind the bead
  7. Wind the Larva Lace forwards in close, tight turns. Leave a bit of space for the thorax
  8. Tie down the Larva Lace and trim
  9. Tie in the wing - a few straws and again, short
  10. Dub the thorax
  11. Whip finish behind the bead
  12. Varnish

The Chub Nymph II


Materials
HookCurved nymph hook, size 8-12
BeadCopper bead
ThreadBlack 8/0
RibCopper wire
BodyBlack floss
Wing budsCrystal Flash
ThoraxPeacock herl

Tying instructions
  1. Slide the bead over the hook and super glue in place
  2. Cover the hook with thread
  3. Tie in a rib in the rear of the hook
  4. Tie in floss in the rear of the hook
  5. Wind rib and floss forwards. Leave space for the thorax
  6. Tie down and trim
  7. Tie in a couple of bits of Crystal Flash. Keep them short
  8. Tie in a couple of strands of peacock herl
  9. Wind them forwards 2-3 turns
  10. Tie down and trim
  11. Whip finish and varnish
 
They were slurping insects from the surface. Probably midges - or I wished they took midges. I changed my fly immediately to a midge imitation. The cast was almost perfect. The fly was on the surface for on quarter of a second.
A bleak.
Next cast.
A bleak.
They totally messed up the dry fly fishing so I tied on the ant thing again - bigger though. Same story. The bleaks grabbed the fly as if was their last opportunity to get a meal. I considered making it their last meal and bring a bunch home for deep frying.

On and a half hours later I gave up and started pike fishing. The flies for pike were naturally bigger than the bleaks, so they left me alone and I got some pike.

Two in a row…
My friend Lars Persson, who is very much into pike fishing and I went to the river so famous for its pike and not so famous (any more) for its chub. On the way to the water we agreed, that we were going chub fishing, but when we unpacked our gear I discovered that Persson obviously was going to fish pike.
"Go ahead!" - he said. "If there are any chubs around, I will change the setup".
"Hm!"

I started fishing under the branches near the old bridge before he completed unpacking in the hope that I would catch the first one before he was ready. But the water was too low, the temperature too high and so forth and so on.

A beautiful small roach took my fly just to say "Hey, it is all right. Your fly is good enough."

I worked my way a hundred meters upstream before I decided to find Persson and see if he had any success. He was at the end of the big, slow, pike pool. I entered the water at the beginning of the pool, when I saw a big splash and Persson hooked to a 3 kilo pike. A few seconds after the line hang limp from the rod. It was not hooked very well, even though it had grabbed the fly with a resolution not seen "since Store Larsen played for the Danish Soccer Team" as Persson said.

There was absolutely no activity on the surface so I tied on one of my new nymphs. It was hard to tell if there were any fish at the nymph. The indicator was taken by the current and carried the indicator from right to left and up and down. In the second cast it changed its movement very little. It was hard to notice, and I was not sure. I stroke and felt a strong, heavy fish. No doubt it was a chub.

"Peerson!" I yelled to grab him out of his pike fishing and in to this exciting and easy chub fishing. He ran upstream and got the camera.

"Wau! They are beautiful. Look at the colors. Look at the scales". We were both fascinated by the colors ranging from a silver shine to a deep brass shine.

We released it and Persson walked downstream or tried to. In my next cast the indicator was pulled down in a rush. Strike. A heavy, lazy fish started fighting.

"PEERSON!" I yelled again and I could hear my own voice in the until now silent forest. He came back. It was a bream. My first one ever.

"Very well. That is definitely a good fly you tied yesterday. But I still have to get that pike" - he said and started walking downstream.

  A bit more on gear
Rod: #3-4
Reel: small
Leader: Furled
Indicator: Green or orange yarn indicator as described in Steve Schweitzer's article
Tippet: Measured so the nymph fishes just above the buttom.

Use nymphs as described above, but also try ordinary dry- or wetflies or maybe streamers.
Find the chub where it can hide from the sun - under branches in the deeper pools. You may also bring one out from under overhanging rocks.
They will be less shy and easier to get on a dry fly in September and October. Besides that, they will be in excellent shape. In May and early June they will be thinner and hungry after spawning.
Stealth is a key. I find chub a lot easier to spook than trout.
Relase any chub you catch. It's not worth eating.

 
Article   Pictures



User comments
GFF staff comment
From: Kasper Mühlbach  Link
Submitted March 4th 2007

David,

Let us know what fish you take out of the rivers.

Tight lines,
Kasper


From: David · david·at·sunland92.fsnet.co.uk  Link
Submitted March 3rd 2007

I'm from the UK.
I've got to tie some of these flies up and try them in the rivers around me.

David


From: Tanner Smith  Link
Submitted June 18th 2006

This was an awesome page!


GFF staff comment
From: Kasper Mühlbach · kasper·at·muehlbach.dk  Link
Submitted June 17th 2006

Corbs,

I have tried it twice. The meat is soft and not tasty. I have seen recipes showing how to salt and steam the meat to make it more fish meat-like.
I will not recommend it, but invite a perch, pike or trout for dinner, instead.

Kasper


GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted June 17th 2006

Corbs,

Most fish are edible... in principle.
I personally wouldn't consume it and FishBase also writes that "The flesh is of mediocre quality".

Martin


From: Corbs · Corban_·at·msn.com  Link
Submitted June 17th 2006

I would like to know if Chubbs are a good fish to eat?



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