How to rove for chub on your local river

Keeping mobile and scouring miles of river in a day is the best way to keep warm this winter and chub are the ultimate species to target when adopting this proactive approach.

Tiny rivers that weave through stunning countryside settings are often the perfect place to employ a roving attack, with many enthusiasts of this style often visiting over a dozen swims in a session. A short spurt in one spot will soon provide indications as to whether a greedy chub inhabits the peg and if it does, you can bet your bottom dollar that a carefully presented hookbait will soon be engulfed.



Chub can be found in almost every English, Welsh and lower-Scottish rivers and streams. They have bred well and many numbers of chub of decent sizes are targetable across the country with hundreds of waters giving up 5lb specimens, and many prime rivers providing the angler with chub to over 6lb.

Even tiny rivers and backwaters hold big chub.

Even tiny rivers and backwaters hold big chub.

They can be found in deep and powerful rivers such as the Trent, Severn, Thames and Wye, through to tiny little backwaters that you could wade or even jump across. So there’s a high chance that you can find chub a short drive away from your home. A good start is to ask at your local tackle shop or keep an eye out in our 'where to fish' section of the Angling Times each week to help you find venues.



It is no secret that chub love to lie close to cover and there is no shortage of it on the river, with stacks of swims home to sunken trees, overhanging branches and clumps of brambles. Add to that a mixture of fast glides and gentle slacks and you potentially have hundreds of little areas that look incredibly inviting. The diagram below shows you some classic chub holding features. Click on it to enlarge..

Locating chub on a river is so important in winter


Cheesepaste is a top chub bait in winter

Cheesepaste is a top chub bait in winter

The good news is chub are one of the least fussy species in our waterways. However, there are some days when one bait out of five is the only one they want so taking a few change baits with you on the bank is a good idea. The top baits for chub in winter are generally, cheesepaste, meat, bread flake, maggots, lobworms, boilies and paste but thats not to say other homemade and natural varieties such as a big black slug are not worth trying on the day. When the river is coloured cheesepaste is tough to beat and has accounted for some monster fish in the past.  Find out how to roll your own here.



Travelling light will make it easier to find the chub.

Travelling light will make it easier to find the chub.

Minimal tackle is required for the ambush to end in success, with a rod, landing net, unhooking mat and a small bag of terminal tackle all that you need to carry. Bogging yourself down with too much gear will only discourage you from moving swims which will in turn mean you get less bites. On some stretches where there is bankside vegetation to rest your rod on you may not even need to take a bank stick! Travelling light will also mean you are more stealthy and less likely to spook shy fish.



Keeping things simple is the key to success with chub. Having too complicated a rig can also make it difficult to re-tie another in cold weather should you experience a breakage or tangle.  A simple link leger rig is all you need to catch a few chub and some of the sport's top anglers still use this tradtional setup to catch fish in excess of 8lb. Tie a small loop in some strong mono and cut the other end to around two inches in length before pinching two or three SSG onto it. Thread the loop end up the line and prevent it from sliding down to the hook using a float stop or small swivel (see rig diagram below). A float stop will also allow you to alter the length of your hooklength at any time if you are fishing straight through with your reel line. This setup also makes it easy to change to another hook pattern if you decide to dramtically change hookbaits during a session. If you are planning to fish with baits like cheesepaste and bread a large hook say an 6 or 8 is perfect for burying the hook in the bait. Just make sure you fish a fairly powerful carp style variety with a thick wire gauge as chub are powerful creatures and can easily bend a hook shank. As for your line, this depends on how snaggy the river is and also the size of chub in it. Generally a line of around 6-8lb mono is more than beefy enough to cope with the biggest of chub you'll encounter on UK rivers.


A simple link leger rig is all you need for chub success.


A bread feeder and breadflake hookbait are a great combo for chub.

There are many different options on offer here. A small cage feeder with liquidised or mashed bread in it can prove deadly during the winter. On days where the fish are more easily spooked than sticking to the link leger and feeding by hand is sometimes better. In this scenario a handful of mashed bread, created by soaking some cut slices heavily in water, or some small nail size blobs of cheesepaste fed into the likely areas should bring you success. A great tactic especially when there are few anglers on the water is to walk away from your car, feeding all the likely looking spots as described above. When you've fed enough areas, say 10, you can then walk back on yourself fishing all the spots you have baited. If you dont get a bite within half an hour, move on. If you prefer to use maggots or worms than feeding regularly by hand or a baitdropper is better.

Continue down for our top ten chub fishing tips...

Get it right and you can enjoy chub catches like this one.

Get it right and you can enjoy chub catches like this one.





How to win your first festival


It's my favourite time of year again when the festival season starts.

In fact, as one event finishes I’m already planning for the next and I’m determined to add to my tally of wins this season.

Now, a lot of people ask me what the key to success in these festivals is, as in ‘why do certain people consistently do well?’

The obvious answer to this is that they draw well, and while to an extent this is no doubt true (you can’t win off a bad peg) there is definitely a lot more to it than that.

Anyway, this got me thinking, and in this week’s column I’m going to look at some of the things that I believe make a difference when it comes to doing well in a festival.

Some of these points may seem slight, but at the end of a five-day festival they can help you put an extra point or two on to your score, which can make a big difference when it comes to making the magical top ten at the end of the week – the margins really are that fine.


‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ is a motto I have always believed in, and never has it been more apt than when it comes to fishing a festival. My preparation starts weeks in advance and takes the form of tying hooks and rigs, and changing reel lines and pole elastics.

This might seem excessive, but as far as I am concerned nothing can be left to chance – a lost five minutes in a match through having to tie a new hook on can make the difference between winning a festival or not.

For this reason, at the start of a match I will often set up duplicate rigs so that, should I trash one while I’m fishing, I can literally just pick up another top kit and drop back in again with no time being wasted. 

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, as in anglers who make their rigs on the bank yet still do well, but they are likely to be the ones who have an ‘if only’ tale to tell at the end of the week.



At White Acres there are bait limits, and although these are generous in the extreme (eight pints) they can still cause problems.Many anglersaren’t positive enough – they will take a pint of meat, plus a pint each of corn, 2mm pellets, 6mm pellets, maggots and casters.

They try to hedge their bets by covering all bases.

The problem is that by taking a single pint of lots of different baits you don’t have enough of any one bait to do anything with!

I decide what bait to take by drawing my swim and then formulating a plan of attack.

If I draw a peg with an island cast and open water in between I’ll look to take three pints of 2mm pellets for Method work to the island, two pints of meat (which should cover me for long and short on the pole), plus two pints of casters, which can be used to mix with the meat as feed or to target silvers. Finally, I’ll also have a pint of dead red maggots for down the edge.



One of the biggest mistakes anglers make on a festival is to try and fish methods outside their comfort zone. If they draw a peg that they are told is a pellet waggler peg, even if that isn’t a method they are strong at, they go there and fish it anyway.

They then struggle due to lack of confidence, whereas if they had taken on board what they had been told but adapted it to suit how they wanted to fish, they could still have caught a decent weight.

A brilliant example of this occurred a few years ago. When Gwinear was used in the festivals I drew peg 13 and won the match with 137lb caught at 5m and down the edge.

The next day Will Raison drew the same peg and after talking to me went and won the match again with 139lb! The difference was, Will caught long on the pole shallow, which just goes to show that when the fish are there you can catch them in whatever way you want to!



To win a festival at White Acres, four out of five results count and, more often than not, the scoring is so tight that the fifth result comes back into play when there is a tie.

Over the five days the chances are you won’t draw five fliers – normally you will have three great pegs that look after themselves, one average peg that you turn into a winner and one potential disaster.

Nine times out of ten it’s the disaster peg that makes the difference between winning a festival and finishing out of the frame.

The disaster peg can, though, on occasion be turned into a winner by daring to be different.

The problem is most anglers, myself included at times, will go all out for glory by trying to catch carp that just aren’t there in the numbers required to catch the weight needed to win a section.

The better percentage game is to target anything that swims. For instance 20lb of silvers and two carp can be a section winning catch in a hard area.



Although I always have a plan, that doesn’t mean I’m not prepared to change it if things aren’t working out. A change of plan can come about for a variety of reasons –

it might be something I sense during the course of the match, like the carp coming up in the water when I’m fishing on the deck.

More often than not, though, it will be something I notice someone else doing. I like to keep an eye on the anglers around me as you can learn a lot from what others are doing. For instance, if I’m catching long on the pole but thinking about coming short, I can look around to see if anyone is actually catching short – if not, I can safely assume I’m better off staying long.

If someone starts emptying it down the edge then the same applies. So yes, looking around can be distracting, but at the same time it can help massively in terms of making the right decisions at the right time.



At White Acres festivals the results from the previous day are posted up on the wall, so once you draw your peg you can see what it produced the day before.

This is great in one way, but a lot of anglers end up beaten before they start when they look at the results and see that their peg has produced next to nothing the previous match.

Obviously, it isn’t nice to see your peg last in section, but you need to stay positive and think that today is a new day and fish have fins and can and will move. I know I am guilty of having a good moan should I draw badly, but I will still come up with a plan of attack to achieve the result I need.

The angler who fished the day before may have had a bad match, or just got it wrong. It happens all the time, so rather than taking the result from the day before as an excuse, treat it as a challenge and go to the swim with a positive attitude – you never know what might happen!

How to catch skimmers in winter


There used to be a time when winter fishing for the match angler revolved around roach on canals and rivers or carp on commercials – but how times have changed!

An explosion of skimmers everywhere has seen this fish, normally a reliable summer feeder, become the prime target for many and you’ll see from results that this species is becoming quite dominant in matches, especially on carp waters when the big fish aren’t playing ball.

My England team mate Steve Gardener has talked about the emergence of skimmer waters in his area of the South East, and it’s a phenomenon seen elsewhere too. Woodland Lakes in North Yorkshire is currently seeing bream outperform carp at the scales, and I could count a dozen other waters where the same is true.

Whatever the reasons, all I know is that as a match angler who fishes every weekend, skimmers provide me with almost guaranteed bites, and as those in commercial fisheries are of a good average size you can soon build a weight that you couldn’t with small roach.

So how do you go about catching them? Well, you hardly have to alter your tactics from the typical warm weather approach. By scaling down slightly and cutting back on feed you’ll get a pretty good response in all but the coldest of weather, and while the bloke after carp might sit watching a motionless tip for hours on end, you’ll always be putting something in the net.

To show just how dominant skimmers have become, I’ve come to a typical commercial water, Rycroft Fisheries – just down the road from my house in Derby – where silverfish matches are being won with 30lb of the species.

I have two ways of catching them in mind, one a very classic old-school method and the other giving a big nod to the world of carp fishing.


Because I could hook a carp on winter commercials, my rigs aren’t super-fine in terms of lines and hooks. Scaling right down will get you more bites but you’ll rarely get any bonuses in the net and you’ll run the risk of more tangles when fishing at speed. That’s no good when every minute counts.

A 0.12mm mainline to a 0.10mm hooklength of Sensas Feeling line and a size 18 Kamasan B911 F1 barbless hook will land anything you might hook but still be fine and light enough for finicky fish. Couple this with a light-grade hollow elastic through the top-2 of the pole and you’ll have plenty of stretch to prevent hook pulls and bumped fish.

Floats need a bit of weight to give good presentation and a still bait in windy weather, so I’d aim for a rugby ball-shaped model of around 0.4g to 0.6g (the Sensas Jean Phillipe or Jean Francois is my choice) with a fairly fine, slim plastic bristle dotted down to leave around a centimetre showing.

This is shotted with a simple bulk of shot 18ins from the hook and then three or four No11 dropper shots spaced down to the hook to give a slow fall of the bait in the final foot of the swim. Skimmers will watch a bait as it falls, especially in clear water. Rigs will be set around half a float-length overdepth to give stability.


Bream and skimmers have many things in common with carp, one being their liking for feeding very late in the day, often as the light fades and you’re struggling to see the float! That makes the final hour of any match the prime time to catch well, so even if you have a slow start to your match there’s no need to panic.

Just because you’re fishing a well-stocked lake doesn’t mean you’ll catch from the word go, and it’s often a case of slowly building the peg up over those opening few hours, laying the foundations for when the skimmers do get their heads down. That’s done with careful feeding and a lot of patience.

Never be tempted to put more bait in to try and make something happen because, in my experience, it rarely does. Bide your time and keep an eye on your watch for those golden final few hours.


The good thing about skimmers is that normally they give you a sign that they’re in the peg, be it a few small bubbles or a small lift or dink on the float before it goes under. Often you’ll get a line bite that slowly pulls the bristle down until it almost sinks before popping back up. This is because skimmers sit a few inches off bottom and up-end to take a bait, rubbing into the line and moving the float.

I know this is a theory that Alan Scotthorne subscribes to, and when it happens, don’t let your focus wander or be tempted to strike too early. Be patient – wait for a proper bite.


We’re always taught that skimmers and bream like a still bait. This is why the feeder is such a good way to catch them but when fishing the tip, a good trick is to twitch the feeder a few inches with half a turn on the reel handle to induce a bite.

The same principle applies to polefishing in my book, and that means a simple lift of the rig out of the water by three or four inches before very slowly lowering it back in. If the fish are having it, the float should bury just as the rig settles.

Likewise, you can try dragging the rig a few inches to the left or right before allowing it to settle back down. This can work especially well on days when the water is cold and the fish are lethargic and not swimming around searching for your hookbait.


‘Go easy' would be my main bit of advice on this front. To start with a single ball of groundbait the size of a small orange, holding a little chopped worm and a few dead maggots, goes in on one line and a third of a large pole cup of soaked micro pellets is fed on the other.

This is it until I need to feed more, generally indicated by the presence of small fish or no bites at all. If I catch a carp, this tells me that a lot of the feed may have been eaten by that big fish so I’ll put in a similar amount again.

The only other feed that goes in will be a few casters loosefed over the groundbait line every 10mins-15mins. However, if you’re catching well then there’s no harm in potting in small but regular amounts of feed to keep the fish happy.


Sensas Magic is a well-tested brand that takes some beating, and to this I’ll add a pinch of chopped worm and some dead maggots to give the fish larger food items to pick out. These will also attract any bonus perch in the area into your swim.

I’m still a firm believer that commercial bream like sweet feeds with just a hint of fish. That’s why the recently-launched Sensas Sweet Fishmeal range of mixes are just the job.

A kilo bag will be ample for a winter match, mixed on the fluffy side so it breaks down quickly in the swim.


Skimmers love groundbait, but if there’s been one big trend in the past decade it’s been their love of fishmeal. That’s not just confined to commercials either, as pellets and fishmeal groundbaits are starting to work on canals and drains too! For that reason you’d be daft not to have pellets play some part in your winter skimmer approach. Typically I’ll put in two long pole lines to feed old and new if you like – pellets on one and groundbait on the other. Pellets are simply soaked Sensas 2mm micros potted in.


A vital decision involves picking the right hookbait, and you won’t go far wrong with maggots, casters and pellets. On the pellet front you can forget all about big 6mm offerings as these are just too big for a 6oz skimmer and you’ll miss loads of bites – 4mm expanders are miles better, prepared with a pump so they’re super soft, and these should be hooked across the grain of the pellet as you can see in the picture above. This ensures they’ll stay on even when you miss a bite.

For the groundbait line caster is a selective bait that picks out the bigger fish. Use a single or a double and always go with a darker bait, but for regular bites to keep the catch rate ticking over red maggots take some whacking. More and more I find myself using dead maggots over lives.

Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t move once in the water and don’t attract small fish, or perhaps it’s because a dead maggot is incredibly soft compared to a live one.

I don’t know what the reasons are, but a double bait fished overdepth will more often than not mean that when the float goes under there’s something worth having on the other end!


Unfortunately, commercial fisheries mean carp and it’s rare that you’ll fish any bait for skimmers in winter and not encounter at least one or two big fish. They’re a great bonus if you can get them out but their aggressive nature can ruin a peg and scatter the skimmers – and there’s little you can do to stop these carp turning up.

You’ll know it’s happened when the peg goes very quiet and the smaller fish vanish. The only bit of advice I can give if you want a carp-free day is to go very easy on the feed and not leave any substantial amount in the peg for them to gorge on.

How to catch big roach in matches


This time of year carp have a tendency to shoal up tightly, which in turn leads to some massive winning weights in matches.

But while headlines are grabbed by 70lb, 80lb and even 100lb catches, it’s the low back-up weights that tend to tell the real story as anglers sit it out for carp in areas where there simply aren’t any!

I have to admit I have never been a fan of sitting for just one or two bites in five hours. I always prefer to keep busy, working at the swim and trying to make something happen.

So when the going is tough I will play the percentage game, and if I’m not the angler lucky enough to be on the ball of carp then I will target silverfish rather than sit all day and hope a carp picks up my bait.

Basically I will have a quick look for carp at the start of the match and if that doesn’t pay off, or I don’t get the impression there are many carp there, I will fish for roach, skimmers and even perch, with maybe just a quick look again for a carp at the end of the match as the light fades.

The silvers, though, are the key. One carp on its own is likely to win me nothing, but a weight of silvers plus that carp can mean a possible framing weight on a gruelling day.

And rather than fishing negatively, as you’d expect in winter, I opt for a positive approach to targeting the silvers on commercials.

Being positive is crucial if you want to catch the sort of weight that’s needed to beat the carp men!



The key to putting together a big weight of silvers is normally to catch them short, but at this time of year, with the water being clear, quite often the skimmers and roach will push out into deeper areas where they feel safer.

Take today at Meadowlands as a prime example. At 9m I have just four foot of water, which for me just isn’t deep enough when there is even deeper water further out.

For this reason I have eventually settled on fishing at 13m where there is just over six feet of water. Of course, the right depth is totally venue-specific as some waters are deeper than others, but if yours offers increased depth further out then this is usually the area to target.


Rig choice depends totally on depth, but for 6ft-8ft of water I will look to fish a 4x18 float, in this case a Colmic Jolly which is a tried and trusted pattern for silverfish.

I use 0.15mm Guru N-Gauge mainline. This might seem on the heavy side, but heavier line is stiff and results in fewer tangles, something which can otherwise be a problem when shipping out at speed.

My hooklength is 6ins of 0.10mm line to a size 18 Gamakatsu Maggot hook, which is perfect for single caster and single or double maggot hookbaits.

Shotting pattern is a standard bulk and three droppers, with the bulk set at 24ins from the hook and the droppers made up of No 10 shots being placed at 6ins intervals below this.

Depending on how the fish are feeding I might look to vary my shotting pattern.

For instance, if bites are coming once the float has settled then I will look to move the bulk down closer to the hook in order to get the hookbait to the catching zone that bit quicker.


Choice of elastic when targeting silvers on a venue where a carp could turn up is always a tricky one, but for me there is nothing better than a doubled-up No4.

This is soft enough to deal with quality silvers but at the same time it gives me a better-than-average chance should a bonus carp come along.

It also allows me to swing in decent silvers when they are the right size, and this can make a big difference to my catch rate.


When I’m fishing for both roach and skimmers I find that a lot of bites tend to come as the rig settles.

For this reason I like to lay the rig in and then hold the float on a tight line so that the hook bait falls in an arc.

Bites then usually come as the float settles, and if for any reason I don’t get a bite then I will simply lift the rig out and lay it back in again – this is a speed tactic that saves time shipping in and out.

Of course, this doesn’t always work and there are days, particularly with skimmers when they want the bait nailed – but it’s definitely something to try, particularly when there are a lot of fish in the swim competing for the bait.

It’s all about playing the percentage game, and it keeps me active all match.



My positive winter bait tray usually consists of casters and maggots, but on waters with a decent head of skimmers I’ll add pinkies and groundbait too.

Casters hold the key to a big weight of silvers as they attract a larger stamp of fish than maggots.

Pinkies, normally dead, are added to the groundbait and although they are small, roach and skimmers love them. They also give me another hookbait option.

For silvers I like a 50:50 fishmeal mix of 50-50 Ringers Natural and Swim Stim Natural. Both are pellet-based and I find they attract a better than usual stamp of fish.



To kick the swim off I introduce two balls of groundbait laced with casters and dead pinkies.

After 45 minutes looking for a carp elsewhere in my peg while the silverfish line settles, and providing I’m not on a pile of carp, then it’s time to work out the best way to feed the swim for silvers.

This decision is governed by the species present. If I drop in and skimmers seem to be the main species I will look to fish the initial feed out before topping up once the swim starts to fade.


Timing is critical – too many anglers don’t re-feed until the swim is totally dead.

Topping up for skimmers is best done by potting in another ball of groundbait, this time with casters into a Satsuma-sized ball.

This process is repeated throughout to keep fish coming.

If roach are the dominant species I will loosefeed over the top with a catapult as roach prefer bait falling through the water.

I find 15-20 casters on a regular basis is about right to start although if it becomes clear there are a lot of roach present then I might look to up this to try and increase my catch rate and draw a bonus fish or two into the swim.