Meatball Wizard

You were introduced to young Jan Detko, who had caught a couple of big carp, in my last article. He’s now becoming a young specimen hunter after successfully turning his hand to chub fishing.

Jan recently visited the upper reaches of the River Aire with BBC Radio Lancashire fishing presenter Martin James and I. The river in this area is shallow and crystal clear and you have to tread carefully and make sure you keep your shadow off the water to have any chance of success.

This was a real challenge for the hyperactive youngster who is used to catching 50 plus fish from commercial venues. Whilst pole fishing Jan is used to catching a fish a minute so the need to sit it out was a real test. The rewards are there though as five pound chub abound.

First off, the three of us walked the banks of the river staying way back from the waters edge as the sun was on our backs and casting big shadows of us. We checked all the usual spots and I dropped some Cotswold Baits Tock boilies, a couple of meatballs and some mashed bread in my favourite bush swim. We then moved off down river.

The swim that we started in was on a bend and there is a long glide that is tree lined before opening out into a bigger bay. The cast can be tricky and I had not had any success in this swim despite it looking a perfect spot.

Jan is left handed so I swopped the reel handle around before starting. We decided to start off with bread crust. The set up is very simple. We had eight pound line straight through to a size 4 Drennan specimen hook. The barb of the hook was crushed down. A 3SSG weight and a LG weight was attached about 8 inches from the hook to anchor the crust down in the flow.

The bait was cast as far downstream as possible and then we introduced a couple of catapults of mixed pellet over the top. Slices of bread were mashed up and a small ball was to be introduced every ten minutes or so.

My rod top is a little too stiff for the intimate river as it is more suited to the more powerful River Ribble. This means that on the Aire I have been missing fish as they have picked up the bait and dropped it as soon as they have felt the resistance. Martin James came up with the perfect solution on a previous outing. The rod is placed in the rest as normal and you tighten up to the bait. You then take a small amount of bread and wrap this round the line between two rod rings to create a dough bobbin. You then pay off a small amount of line and this provides much less resistance than a line tight to the rod top. Bites since have been much more positive and I have even been able to watch the bite develop much better than had I been watching the rod top.

Jan was shown how to set up the dough bobbin and we were fishing. Directly beneath our feet the river is about 3ft deep and you can see the bottom through the crystal clear water. We spent our time waiting for a bite watching the millions of minnows in the river. We couldn’t resist throwing some bait in and watching them swarm to it.

The first bite wasn’t long in coming. The dough bobbin rose an inch. Stopped. And then rose positively till the line was tight in the rod rings. Jan’s strike was well timed but he failed to connect.

Jan 0 Chub 1

The bait was recast periodically as the minnows would no doubt be obliterating Jan’s crust hookbait.

We watched a kingfisher at the end of the swim busily diving into the water catching more than we were!

As time slowly drifted by we both became restless as no further bites were forthcoming. The minnows at our feet became a source of much amusement as we fed and teased them and I hatched a plot to catch a few later.

With our minds distracted the dough bobbin must have smacked against the rod as a chub picked up the bait and set off like a rocket. The clutched screamed out as it gave line and then there was a large splash on the surface and silence.

Jan 0 Chub 2

A big chub must have picked up the crust and pricked itself and before Jan had chance to react it was off. With all the commotion any other fish in the area would have been spooked. We rebaited the swim with some more mixed pellet and mashed bread and crept off to my favourite bush swim.

We sat well back in the field to formulate our plan to fish the prebaited bush swim effectively. We left our bags and buckets back in the field and filled our pockets with the tackle and bait we needed.

Jan selected a meatball as bait and this was freelined on the size 4 hook. We crawled into position and the meatball was placed in a deep hole directly in front of us. Jan placed a dough bobbin on the line and we were fishing again.

We sat low on the grass and whispered to keep disturbance to a minimum.

Normally bites, if they are going to be forthcoming in this swim, will come almost immediately but after 20 minutes we still hadn’t had a bite. The bobbin and rod top had periodically bounced around as the pesky minnows had attacked the bait.

Then as a fish picked up and sucked in the meatball the bobbin rose an inch, then another inch and then rose steadily to the rod. Jan struck and connected with a fish.

It shot off and made several attempts to get under the bush and he had to apply side strain to prevent it escaping into the branches. The fish then moved out into open water and as it rose to the surface we could see it was a big chub and almost certainly a personal best. Jan was getting excited but the battle wasn’t over as the fish dived into the weed close in. After a few minutes of panic Jan managed to draw the fish from the weed and into my waiting net.

We scrambled up the bank and away from the disturbing the swim to unhook, weigh and picture the fish.

The chub weighed exactly three pounds and easily beat his previous big chub.

Jan 1 Chub 2

We placed some more free baits in the bush swim. A selection of meatballs and Tock baits were scattered in the swim. We then returned to our original swim to see if any fish had returned.

Despite trying a variety of baits and spots in the swim we didn’t get anymore bites.

The minnows were becoming a source of great interest to Jan and so I cut up my plastic coke bottle to make an improvised minnow trap. I cut off the top and turned it upside down and placed it in inside the main body of the remaining bottle. A stone was placed in the bottle to weigh it down. A couple of holes were punched in the top and bottle to hold them together and I tied some line so I could lower it to and from the river bed.

The first test drop produced 4 minnows! We placed some bread into the bottle and lowered it back down to the riverbed. We pulled it in a few minutes later and it was jammed full of minnows. We didn’t know how they had all fit in there as it was solid. With much amusement we freed them and dropped the bottle in to repeat the feat. It was like the minnows were competing in their own version of ‘how many people can you fit in a mini!’

Jan 1 (and 100 minnows!) Chub 2

With darkness drawing in we returned to the bush swim.

We placed another meatball in the swim and then soon decided to recast with a side hooked Tock.

As darkness drew in Jan experienced fishing into the night. Fortunately, the moon was full and in front of us and it illuminated our swim well. Behind us in the field it was dark and I tried to prevent Jan from dwelling on the darkness behind. We sat and watched fireworks fly high into the sky as the rod top knocked steadily as the minnows pushed the Tock boilie around the swim.

With time running out the rod shot round and I struck before Jan had time to react. I had difficulty playing the fish as the reel was set left handed for Jan. The fish was weeded up and I thought we had lost it but after a few pulls I drew another chub to the net. Jan’s small arms couldn’t quite reach down the bank with the net and it took three attempts to net it.

The fish went 3lb 6oz on the scales. Not one of the Aire monsters that seem to be keeping a low profile at the moment but it was a nice fish.

Jan (and Martin) 2 Chub 2

On his way home, Jan was happy with the draw (and his leaking bread bag full of minnows) but said he was going to win on his next outing!

Martin Salisbury
November, 2005