"THE CHAVENDER OR CHUB"
"Now when you've caught your chavender,
(Your chavender or chub)
You hie you to your pavender,
(Your pavender or pub),
And there you lie in lavender,
(Sweet lavender or lub)."
I went into the Plough Inn at Long Wittenham in mid-November to arrange about sending some game to London. The landlord, after inquiring about our shooting luck, went out and came back into the parlour, saying, "Now, sir, will you look at my sport?" He carried on a tray two large chub weighing about 2-1/2 lbs. each, which he had caught in the river just behind the house. Their colour, olive and silver, scarlet, and grey, was simply splendid. Laid on the table with one or two hares and cock pheasants and a few brace of partridges they made a fine sporting group in still life - a regular Thames Valley yield of fish and fowl. The landlord is a quiet enthusiast in this Thames fishing. It is a pleasure to watch him at work, whether being rowed down on a hot summer day by one of his men, and casting a long line under the willows for chub, or hauling out big perch or barbel. All his tackle is exquisitely kept, as well kept as the yeoman's arrows and bow in the Canterbury Tales. His baits are arranged on the hook as neatly as a good cook sends up a boned quail. He gets all his worms from Nottingham. I notice that among anglers the man who gets his worms from Nottingham is as much a connoisseur as the man who imported his own wine used to be among dinner-givers.
Drifting against a willow bush one day, the branches of which came right down over the water like a crinoline, I saw inside, and under the branches, a number of fair-sized chub of about 1 lb. or 1-1/2 lbs. It struck me that they felt themselves absolutely safe there, and that if in any way I could get a bait over them they might take it. The entry under which I find this chronicled is August 24th. Next morning when the sun was hot I got a stiff rod and caught a few grasshoppers. Overnight I had cut out a bough or two at the back of the willow bush, and there was just a chance that I might be able to poke my rod in and drop the grasshopper on the water. After that I must trust to the strength of the gut, for the fish would be unplayable. It was almost like fishing in a faggot-stack. Peering through the willow leaves I could just see down into the water where a patch of sunlight about a yard square struck the surface. Under this skylight I saw the backs of several chub pass as they cruised slowly up and down. I twisted the last two feet of my line round the rod-top, poked this into the bush with infinite bother and pluckings at my line between the rings, and managed to drop the hopper on to the little bit of sunny water. What a commotion there was. The chub thought they were all in a sanctuary and that no one was looking. I could see six or seven of them, evidently all cronies and old acquaintances, the sort of fish that have known one another for years and would call each other by their Christian names. They were as cocky and consequential as possible, cruising up and down with an air, and staring at each other and out through the screen of leaves between them and the river, and every now and then taking something off a leaf and spitting it out again in a very independent connoisseur-like way. The moment the grasshopper fell there was a regular rush to the place, very different from what their behaviour would have been outside the bush. There was a hustle and jostle to look at it, and then to get it. They almost fought one another to get a place. Flop! Splash! Wallop! "My grasshopper, I think." "I saw it first." "Where are you shoving to?" "O - oh - what is the matter with William?" I called him William because he had a mark like a W on his back. But he was hooked fast and flopping, and held quite tight by a very strong hook and gut, like a bull with a ring and a pole fastened to his nose. I got him out too - not a big fish, but about 1-1/2 lbs.
This showed pretty clearly that where chub can be fished for "silently, invisibly," they can still be caught, even though steam launches or row-boats are passing every ten minutes. This was mid-August; my next venture nearly realised the highest ambitions of a chub-fisher. It also showed the sad limitations of mere instinctive fishing aptitudes in the human being as contrasted with the mental and bodily resources of a fish with a deplorably low facial angle and a very poor morale. There was just one place on the river where it seemed possible to remain unseen yet to be able to drop a bait over a chub. A willow tree had fallen, and smashed through a willow bush. Its head stuck out like a feather brush in front and made a good screen. On either side were the boughs of the bush, high, but not too high to get a rod over them, if I walked along the horizontal stem of the tree. It was only a small tree, and a most unpleasant platform. But I had caught a most appetising young frog, rather larger than a domino, which I fastened to the hook, and after much manoeuvring I dropped this where I knew some large chub lay. As the tree had only been blown down a day before, I was certain that they had never been fished for at that spot.