Tackle, Tactics and Experience

Teme Chub

Spicing up the Meadow Mouse

What follows is an expanded diary entry from 1992, it is late September and I am on the banks of the river Teme a few miles below Ludlow. The weather is dull but warm, and sunshine is forecast for later. I start fishing at 11.30am. I have some newly made spinnerbaits that I want to test, I have promised some to a friend in return for a favour, and I want to check that they are properly balanced.

The river looks right, with water visibility about 15", the spinnerbaits all work beautifully and I'm disappointed that I haven't had a take by 2.00pm. Some of the swims have looked just right, with overhanging branches and nice current variations. I have fished this venue only once before and blanked, so I don't have much information to help me. Since the sun came out I have seen a few chub near the surface, and like so many other days on the Teme I am confident that I can tempt one of them to save a blank.

I carefully creep along the top of the high bank, keeping low and moving slowly until I can see where I want to fish. There are about fifteen chub spread along about 30yds of river, most of them are grouped at the downstream end under a wych elm branch overhanging from the far bank.

I could get one from there, but the shoal would scatter if I did and I would not have another chance. I keep watching and notice that every two minutes or so one of them detaches itself from the rest and moves forward to the upstream end of the feeding area, then slowly drifts back to the main group. I will intercept this patrol route from a position where the main group cannot see me and hope to get a few fish before they spook.

I climb softly down the bank while no fish are present in front of me, and check the swim out. There are no apparent snags, and a gentle underarm swing will put the lure against the far bank without catching on any foliage. There is a big ledge of sandstone sticking into the river from the far side, and the chub pause two or three times as they work their way upstream over it. The water is less than a foot deep and the obvious lure choice is a surface plug. The Heddon "Meadow Mouse" is my first choice on the Teme for surface chub, so I clip it on and wait.

Not for long though, a grey shape comes onto the ledge, pauses, then comes into the target area, it sucks at something on the surface and I can clearly see the white lips. The Meadow Mouse lands with a perfect soft splash about four feet beyond the chub and perhaps a yard in front of it. A nice slow retrieve sets the lure's fat backside wagging gently, leaving a spreading V-shaped wake behind it and the chub is swimming slowly upstream towards it. The plug passes perfectly about a foot in front of it, I can't see any reaction and I think I am going to be disappointed. But slowly the chub turns and follows the plug, getting nearer, yes, go on, yes, yes! I've got him, a gentle splash as it feels the hook and turns, but otherwise not fighting with much determination once it feels the strength of the rod.

I can unhook it without touching it, one point of the rear treble has gone through the top lip, and it is simple to grip the shank of the hook in the forceps, give a quick push and it's off.

Chub sometimes get hooked on both trebles of a plug, with one hook in the mouth and the other outside. They do not seem to suffer any real harm from this, but I try to be as gentle as I can if they are hooked untidily. Chub are tough fish and will stand firm handling, but it is nice to catch fish that are unmarked, so I like to get them back in the water undamaged, to give others the same pleasure.

The hooks on the Meadow Mouse are large, but of fairly fine wire and with a sensible barb. If chub start coming regularly to a lure you must check that the hooks are suitable.

That was pleasing, the chub fell for the ambush.

Less than a minute later another chub noses onto the ledge, everything goes according to plan, until the chub feels the hook-metal without getting hooked and departs very rapidly to reconsider its feeding habits. That is all part of the game, but when exactly the same thing happens with the next fish I decide to try an idea I have been toying with for a while.

Chub can be choosy about lures. If you are casting at visible fish you can see their reaction. If they do not respond in a couple of casts they do not want it. Persevering with the same presentation is pointless, if they do not respond immediately, repeated casting will only serve to frighten them. They will either see you or get nervous of the line cutting through the water, there is no great panic usually, you just realise they are not there anymore. If you are casting at chub that you cannot see in deeper water, it is not so easy because you can never be sure if there are actually any fish there in the first place. Using bar spinners on the Severn or Teme I have had many experiences of a change in lure colour having a dramatic effect, some days one blade colour is all they will respond to, and their preferences seem unconnected to weather or water conditions.

The Meadow Mouse has been very successful for chub on the Teme, but most anglers express disbelief that anything but a monster chub could engulf it. If you consider the length of the plug there are very few chub that could get it sideways into their mouths, but the chub do not try to do that. The chub sees the temptingly big meal swimming across the surface, decides to have a closer look, then sees that it can take it if it swallows it end-on. So it follows it until it is in the correct position to take it. As the chub follows it the soft leather tail is the first thing it comes into contact with, that usually clinches the chub's decision to eat it. At this moment the chub either gets hooked, or feels something hard and bolts.

The soft leather tail of the Meadow Mouse reminded me of the rubber trailers I use on bar spinners, and the flavourings that I use for perch. So I dip the tail of the plug into a bottle of seafood flavouring, I personally would not eat seafood if it smelt like this, but I know chub like it in maggots. The next chub on the rock ledge likes it too, it does not hesitate once it has homed in behind the plug. Neither does the next one, but as I strike two other fish close behind it bolt downstream. And after ten minutes I still have not seen another, so I nip up the bank and take a look in the downstream holding area. Not a chub to be seen.

I stalk carefully for the rest of the meadow, see two chub, and catch them both. Unfortunately I promised to be home by 4.30pm. (so I'll be expected before six) and I have no more time to experiment.

Although using pike tackle to fish for chub might not appeal to everybody, if you want to use heavier lures then the rod has got to match. You must remember that you can cast a lure into a shoal of chub and come out with a pike, I've often done it. When a chub feels the power of the rod it is up against it rolls over onto its back after a couple of kicks. If epic fights are what you like then it won't appeal, but, there are times when it is to your advantage. I remember a swim on the Lugg in Herefordshire. There were two great big carp-like chub in this swim surrounded by a shoal of thirty or so smaller chub, say up to 3lb or so. The swim was a nightmare, between me and the fish was a wide raft of algal weed, draped over a tangle of sunken branches.

The two big fish were absolute pigs, far bigger than any I'd ever seen before (or since), they would feed happily on floating crust and that was how I tried to catch them. I never hooked one of the monsters, but even using 8lb b.s. line and a medium carp rod I could not even land a 2lb fish, they just dived towards me when I struck and got stuck in the snags. The point of this digression is to say that a very powerful rod and line might be useful for chub in a particularly nasty swim.