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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


30/05/2013 - Trundling Baits for Chub and Barbel

Trundling Baits for Barbel and Chub

Some anglers will be starting their new season targeting tench; others will head for a river venue for chub or barbel perhaps both. A style of fishing that works all season is trundling or rolling a bait downstream. In fact what I’m doing is bouncing a bait downstream, occasionally letting the bait settle for a minute or two, then lifting the rod tip to get the bait moving further downstream a few feet perhaps a few yards before letting the bait settle again. If you watch a free offering of bait, it will settle for a while before being swept further downstream. I try to copy this action with my hook bait.

                             My Bait Choice

I reckon if you want a good chance of catching you need to use baits that are tried and tested My first choice baits are bread, sausage paste, cheese paste and sausage sizzle paste, the last two by Pallatrax, Not being a fan of the hair rig for chub I add some cooking oil to these Pallatrax paste baits so they are soft enough to use as a hook bait, all these baits are ideal for trundling.  

                            Bread for Barbel

 We all know how effective bread crust is for chub which no one disputes, when I say I’m catching barbel on bread, some anglers think it’s a windup. Fair enough if you want to be blinkered then don’t use crust for barbel. Many anglers have listened to my advice and not only caught their first barbel on crust but often their personal best. Remember bread has been used for a hundred years or more and it’s still good today.

An example of bread not being taken seriously was on the River Teme, my friend Alan Roe and I had travelled down for a day’s barbel fishing, having put Alan in what I rated as a top swim with a few instructions on where and how to fish I left him two loaves of bread and moved off upstream. About 1’oclock Alan arrived to ask if we were going to the local pub for lunch. At the time I’d just tied on a hook having been snagged up. As I impaled a bit of crust on the size 4 hook. Alan said “You don’t have to bait with crust because I’ve arrived” I said “It’s the bait I’m using” as I dropped the bait close to the bank, I asked Alan what he had caught his reply was “Nothing not a bite” I was puzzled by his answer I said “Were you using bread” No was the answer. Within half a minute I felt a pluck striking I had another barbel. Turning to Alan I said “Can you net this one for me” After unhooking and returning the fish. Alan said “You do use bread then” Of course I answered. Back on the river after lunch Alan fished bread as instructed and caught a few barbel. Bread will often produce a fish when other good baits like boilies, various flavoured pastes, casters, gentles worms etc. are being ignored by the fish. But remember you can’t catch a fish if you have spooked them or chosen a swim where there are no barbel, or if they are present they might not want to eat.

                                     Rods Reels Lines and Hooks

Early season chub are not in the best of condition, I reckon you need to wait until September to realise the fighting prowess of this fish, having said that chub can often be a challenge early season. Tackle for chub is lighter than one would choose for barbel, I use 6lb Gamma line, but in the winter months when the rivers high its often braid. Some anglers don’t like braid but it works for me. My chub rod is an old model which I wouldn’t want to lose; it’s an 11 foot 6 inch with a soft Avon action designed for lines between 4 and 7lbs. In getting the correct rod for my chub fishing I worked with the top rod designer at Greys who previously, had been at Hardy’s for 40 odd years. I reckon we ended up with one of the best rods available in those days for chub fishing.  

Trundling baits I use a centre pin reel, again many anglers use a fixed spool, I say “use whatever you’re most comfortable with”. For barbel I use line strength between 10lb and 12lb BS again Gamma, but as with chub I sometimes use braid. I have 2 rods for barbel The Lone Angler Trefor West rod of 1.75lbs. It can be described as the perfect tool, light with a nice action, not a stiff rod, like many of today’s barbel rods.

It’s a rod designed for the job by an angler who does know what he is talking about, and British made by Harrisons. My other barbel rod again British made was built around my ideas of what I considered was a suitable rod for barbel. Built by Greys many years ago, sadly the rod is no longer available, it’s a 12 feet 3 piece Avon action designed for lines between 8lb and 12lbs, though an old rod it’s never let me down. Again my first choice reel is a centre pin; I don’t have any problems with casting having used these reels since the late 1940’s. Again I don’t see a problem with anglers using a fixed spool reel if that is their choice.

                                         I’m Fussy about My Hooks

Hooks are a debatable subject; I like a strong eyed hook. For many years I used Allcock model perfect. I would search out the London tackle shops during my lunch break, should I be lucky to find a supply of hooks I would often by up all the stock for me and my friends, sadly these hooks  disappeared.  I started using Richard Walker hooks from B James and Son; followed by Partridge hooks from Redditch, I rated these very highly. When I visited the Redditch works it was like going back to Dickensian times. Sadly the factory closed and the hook making went too Malaysia. Another hook sadly no longer available is the Au Lion D’Or.  Today I’m using Pallatrax barbless hooks, I can’t fault them.

                       Do You Need Additional Weight?

The only item left is what weight if any that you need. This will depend on the water being fished, using cheese, sausage sizzle or just plain sausage meat you probably don’t need any additional weight. If weight is needed, it can be lead wire wrapped around the shank of the hook, or LG shot lightly pinched on the line or perhaps a small inline Stonze locked in place. When fishing crust I use LG shot stopped about 3” or 4” from the bait.

                              A Trundling Session

The following is taken from my diary of a trundling session that proved how good a moving bait can be. I’d chosen a stretch of the River Ribble which often produces good sport with chub and barbel. Upstream I had some fast swirling shallow and boulder strewn water certainly not suitable for fishing a moving bait. My chosen swim is a long steady glide averaging around six feet deep with lots of water crowfoot, the bottom was a mix of pea size gravel, stones and the odd football size boulder. Twenty yards down the length a large alder tree had fallen in the river during an October gale two years ago where I’ve caught good chub and barbel, it’s also a resting area for salmon and sea trout. A kingfisher with its shrill whistle flew low over the river towards a large willow tree just upstream of where I was sitting then perched on one of the lower branches. A minutes or two later it dived returning with a silver fish crossways in its beak, whacking it on the branch the fish was turned head first, then swallowing its prey it fluffed up its feather as if to say “That was good”
The river was flowing from right to left it had a good flow with a ting of colour. I started off fishing a balanced bait of sausage meat moulded around a chunk of crust on a size 2 barbless hook. Known as a balanced paste an idea I got from Dick Walker many years ago. With a Wallis cast I dropped the bait upstream about ten yards then allowed it to trundle freely downstream, several yards down the run it becomes lodged behind a rock. Gently lifting the rod,  the bait bounced over the obstruction. I fish my bait down the stream as I would fish a heavy nymph for trout. Having cast upstream I slowly lift the rod taking in the slack line as the bait comes towards me, as the bait comes level I then start to lower the rod tip allowing the bait to trundle freely downstream as I continue I feed line off the reel as needed. If no bite are forthcoming when I reached the end of the swim, I strike off bait then start all over again.

Half an hour later knowing I have fish in the swim, I catapult upstream three lumps of sausage meat paste the size of a bantam egg followed by an orange size ball of mashed bread. I sat back and rested the swim for a while; I didn’t want to move downstream to fish another swim, I felt this one would produce. A group of noisy long tailed tits settled in the willow tree chattering away as they hunted for tiny flies and other insects.
Thirty minutes or so later I made another cast, as the bait trundled through my swim the rod tip pulled over, I connected with a chub about two and a half pounds. In the next two casts I had two more chub about 3lbs apiece. A dozen casts later I hooked a better fish which weighed 4-12-0. Shortly after catching this fish the rain arrived which continued for well over an hour, during which I didn't get a single take.

After topping up the swim with more bait size lumps of sausage meat paste and mashed bread, I walked back to my cabin for a late lunch of soup with fresh crusty bread which certainly made an enjoyable meal followed by some fresh fruit. Looking across the meadow towards the river, I though how good it was being 75 and retired.

                                 A Trio of Big Chub

Back at my swim a barbel rolled, conditions looked a lot better despite the light rain. On my second chuck I had a chub about 3lbs, then another of similar size, later a nice chub of 4-6-0. Then for the next hour I couldn’t get a touch fishing crust, flake or cheese paste, except one eel for my effort.  After resting the swim for about half an hour, I had some exciting angling with many pulls and plucks hooking some great chub all on sausage sizzle flavoured crust which I had taken from the freezer that morning. I prepare flavoured crust or flake as follows cut a loaf into hook size chunks then put into a plastic bag which has had a sprinkling of sausage sizzle powder, today you can buy a bottle of spray. I had several chub of 4lb plus, and three big chub of 5-4-0, 5-10-0 and 5-14-0. I fully expected this latter fish to be well over six pounds. An hour later with no more bites I called it a day. Back in the cabin I put the kettle on for a fresh brew, while I made beans on toast. Having finished my meal I washed up the dishes, then sat outside the cabin in the fading light a contented and happy angler. Saying to myself “Hopefully my two British Army guests fishing the next day would enjoy some good sport”

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Martin James Fishing
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