Might I have cracked the notoriously difficult free fishing stretch of the Stour at Longham?
A Year of Trying
After moving to sunny Boscombe, Dorset in 2016, I took it upon myself to locate the large chub and barbel that allegedly reside in this free stretch of the River Stour.
Many a local angler has told me of double figure barbel and potentially record breaking chub on this stretch. Obviously, none of them had actually witnessed this first-hand. Naturally, I simply saw this as a challenge and set about taking to the water.
I tried everything. Over the course of the year, I must have tried every float and ledger rig possible. Sure, I caught some decent fish. The roach, if you can delicately present the bait mid-water, without a minnow feast, are pretty sizeable. The same can be said for the perch. However, the barbel and big chub remain elusive.
Are There Big Fish in the Stour?
Actually, yes, there are. Obviously there are plenty in the beautifully kept beats of Ringwood & District Anglers Association but there are also some to be found in the ridiculously fast, mostly inaccessible, weedy, overrun-with-dogs, free stretches too.
I don't have much to go on but I have seen one large barbel (it surfaced near my float) at Muscliffe and most importantly, VERY large chub at Longham.
There is, however, a problem. The only place I've seen the chub is tight against the inaccessible north bank. There's usually two or three, sometimes more, just chilling in the flow. You can see them clearly from the bridge. They are huge!
How To Catch Big Chub on the Stour at Longham
So, how do we get them out? Casting across 50 yards of fast-flowing, weedy water is simply a no-go. And even if you do get lucky, anything with that much casting weight will definitely spook the fish. We need another tactic.
I don't think the chub chilling on the other bank are the only big fish in there. There simply has to be more. If they're anywhere, they'll be near features like overhanging trees and weed. The Stour has plenty of that just downstream from the bridge. There is also what looks like a channel, a couple of feet deep, as the bank sweeps down and gives way to the weed. Overhead, there are plenty of trees. It's a chub's paradise. My plan is to trot that channel… with a waggler!
The Rig For Big Chub on the Stour
Let's start at the sharp end. I'm going to go with a fairly large hook/bait combination. Mostly to keep the nuisance bites away. I'm thinking a size 10 or maybe even an 8 with a Korum Quick-Stop. I'll probably be alternating between big chunky baits like cubed meat and lobworm.
I'll be using a large waggler (we're talking 7 x AAA, so as to stay nice and steady with the flow and give clear indication. A large stick might also work well but I'm going to want to fish it a bit light, leaving plenty of float above the water. It's a long old trot! This will also help the rig drift over weeds and snags. There are many.
Ideally, the bait needs to be just off the bottom and it'll need to fall fairly naturally to maximise the chances of a take. Nice even shotting with larger weights nearer the top will help the bait fall nicely and will minimise the snag risk too.
I could be striking into a fish at 100 yards away so I'm thinking a nice strong (less stretchy) 11 Lb monofilament should do the job. In theory it should follow the float nice and straight and give me plenty of pulling power without being too aggressive (braid would be way too harsh for chub and barbel).
I'm going quite heavy on the rod too. I'll be using a 2.75 Lb test curve carp rod. It's not because the fish are big (I've caught 22 Lb carp on a match rod), it's because of the distance and the need to strike hard at the rod end. There could be a bit of slack on the water and I don't want the rod and line taking all of the energy out of the strike. The carp rod should be perfect. A 2.75 Lb curve also leaves a bit of flex in the rod for close-up work. Everyone's happy.
Lastly, I'll be using a pretty standard match-style reel, controlling the line coming off the spool with my finger. I'll need to be quick to flick the bail arm over when striking into a fish!
I'll probably just keep throwing in handfuls of maggots, following the same current as my hook bait. Maybe even a few chopped up lob worms, if I'm feeling generous (or the maggots aren't working).
Time to Get Fishing
That's about the size of it. I reckon that will bag me a biggun or two but it's not going to be easy. Controlling a relatively heavy carp rod all day will be murder on my arms and I'm probably going to have to throw in lots of bait just to get through the minnows.
I'm almost certain I can pull out the biggest weight the free stretch at Longham has to give, and who knows, maybe even the Stour. I will report the results back here.
Note: This is the first article on a new coarse fishing blog by Lee Stacey, If you enjoyed it, please share it on your social channels. Thanks!