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Chub on poppers? You must be joking!

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by John Bailey

I'll tell this story exactly as it happened, down to the very last detail.

It's a nice, sunny, Saturday morning and Tim and I hit a brand new two-mile stretch of river. It's a placid piece of water wending its way through delightful, unspoilt, lowland countryside. The river is perhaps fifteen yards wide, generally between two and six feet deep and well shrouded with reeds and overhanging trees. As far as we know, we're the first people to fish the place for donkeys' years and we smack our lips in anticipation.

A preliminary walk has shown that the river heaves with chub - fish between three and perhaps six pounds. They don't look in the least bit suspicious and cruise up and down, quite happy to take the lumps of floating crust that we throw to them. So Tim suggests tackling them on poppers. Great. An exciting technique, so visual and we can't wait to see those big-chopped fish just hammer across the surface.

We put up a one rod only - rod sharing is just so civilised, isn't it? It's a six / seven-weight outfit with a floating line, an eight-foot leader and, at first, a green and yellow frog popper pattern on the end.

We walk to the top bend on our beat and look carefully through the reeds. There are six, perhaps eight good chub milling about, totally unsuspicious, looking forward to the next meal. A popper of course! Tim casts faultlessly and the popper falls way beyond the fish and doesn't disturb them in the least. He pops back across the slight flow and one of the bigger chub immediately peels off, follows the popper, hesitates a second and then makes a splashy, unsuccessful attack. Tim and I grin like Cheshire cats. This is going to be easy. Strangely - and unexpectedly - this first shoal disappears entirely after that first abortive attempt. They just go. We scratch our head a bit over this one but hey, we've got at least six more groups of fish to target and it's no disaster.

 So we wander a hundred yards downriver to where it forms a tight bend with plenty of trees and bushes overhanging the far bank. We can see chub positioned in the current here and there but, just as before, after the first cast, they all simply fade away. And this time there's not even an attack from any of them. They just look at the popper and clear off. Now we're getting worried.

We move down to the raft - a huge obstruction across the river under which we'd seen at least a dozen fish previously. They're not having any either. Nor on the gravels. Nor under the alders. Not on the big bend. Not in front of the farmhouse. Everywhere we go, everywhere we cast, chub melt away like they are the spookiest fish on earth. Which they are not. The farmer joins us and we sit talking over three beers. No. there's not been a rod here since 1981 that he knows about. It's a mystery.

So this is the beauty of an online article. You can tell me exactly where Tim and I went wrong at once. But first just let me fill in some of the details -

•  We were immaculately careful with our approach. We're both experienced river fishermen and did everything in our repertoire not to disturb the fish before the cast was made. So we're not plonkers!

•  We changed the size, colour, action and design of the poppers on a frequent basis. In fact, I think we went through seven or eight different imitations through the course of the morning. So it wasn't a case of simply choosing the wrong one.

•  We changed the strength and length of our leader twice. In the end, we finished up with one twelve feet long and four pounds breaking strain at the point. A risk but this made no appreciable difference whatsoever.

•  We naturally varied the rate of retrieval. Sometimes we hardly 'popped' the popper at all and simply let it float like a small, stranded creature. At other times, we 'popped' furiously. Other casts we did a bit of both. Zilch. Zero. Chubless.

So, do chub not take poppers at all? But surely they do? Or was it the weather? It was bang in a period of nice, settled high pressure. So, again, surely not? So that's exactly how it was. Our shame is laid bare to you all. Just tell us now. Put us out of our misery. Where on earth, guys and gals, did we go wrong?

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