The crossover between autumn and winter is a great period to target quality chub and for Pete Reading the top tactic at this time is the maggot feeder. But it’s not just a case of chuck it and see.

There is an awkward time between autumn and winter when my favourite quarry, the barbel of the Hampshire Avon, can become very moody and unresponsive, especially when the river is low, clear and cold.
A dry period at the tail end of the year also means that rivers like the Avon are still full of weed, sometimes quite thick beds of tough ranunculus, along with some substantial rush beds and clumps of submerged water lilies or cabbages.
It’s the time of year when my mind turns towards chubbing and there is no more productive method for these conditions than the maggot feeder. However, the thick weed growth in many areas means that certain swims prohibit the use of light line and the tiny hook tactics the river’s crafty and increasingly well-educated chub often demand.
Although I’m quite confident in landing chub of 6lb or more on 2lb line and size 18 or 20 hooks in open water, the chances of doing so in weedy or snaggy swims are much reduced, and a more substantial set of tackle is necessary to ensure that fish can be landed.

1 You’ll need a gallon of maggots for chasing Avon chub.
2 A few full baitdroppers will help switch the fish onto the feed…
3 … along with the same again of good-quality hemp.
4 Before adding a hook link get the fish used to a free feast.

This session is my first crack at the chub this season, and I’ve selected a swim that holds a shoal of good-sized chub which are easily observed from the bankside cover. Their response to my baiting and fishing can be judged by noting their behaviour each time I cast in or feed with the irresistible white maggot.
The fish in this swim have been well fished for so I’m expecting to have to work hard for them. There are at least six fish in this little group, mostly over 5lb with one big black specimen that I judge to be a good ‘six’.
I like to set myself targets and I see a bag of three fish on the bank as a successful outcome from this session. I’m also interested to see if the fish respond as predictably as I hope to the tactics I often now use when going after chub on both the Avon and Dorset Stour.
Armed with a gallon of whites and all my feeder fishing gear I creep up to the swim and check out the residents. A few pouchfuls of maggots into the weed above their favourite lie soon sees four or five dark shapes swooping and sharking about, the occasional glimpse of that wide open, greedy white mouth confirming that the chub are eager to feed. There should be no hurry in this sort of fishing so I feed and watch for over an hour, sizing up the shoal and aiming to get them into a feeding frenzy!
I decide to fish a narrow run in the weed a little upstream of the fish, and after reassuring myself that there are enough chub here to have a go at I introduce three baitdroppers full of hemp, followed by six of maggots.

The dace and tiny chublets in the swim go crazy but I know that when the big fellows move in the little fish will be bulldozed out of the way. A shoal of decent chub will see off the small silver fish as quickly as will a shoal of barbel.
I leave the swim for a while as I set up my gear, wander downstream to weigh up a few other swims, and then return to peek over the bankside vegetation where, to my delight, I can see the chub are there.
They’ve moved in over my baited patch in a most determined and reassuring way, occasionally flashing on their sides and shouldering each other out of the way as they grub about for the hemp and maggots that have filtered into the gravel. Even though the current in this swim is quite fast I know the bait will lodge in the gravel and keep the fish working on the bottom for some time.

Pete’s 13ft feeder rod is a big help when fish make a dive under the nearest bank.

It does not pay to rush the fish too early in the session when employing this approach, any more so than when baiting and waiting for barbel. Better to patiently feed them up, get them confident and relaxed, and catch most of them – rather just the first greedy one – which then spooks the rest of the shoal for you.
The next step after ‘droppering’ is to cast in a feeder crammed with maggots, tied simply on to the end of the line without a hook. The idea is to get the chub focused and homing in on it as a source of food. But I’m not even thinking about hooking one yet.
After two casts the signs from the quivertip tell me all I need to know. The little trembles, twitches and knocks soon become violent wrap-rounds as the chub become increasingly eager to get at the maggots. I peer once again into the swim and can just make out two dark shapes nuzzling away at the feeder.
Chub are strange fish in these circumstances. They will move straight to the feeder and suck maggots out of it, pick off the loose ones that trickle out, and actually pick up the feeder and drop it to shake out the feed. They can do this and still refuse a hook bait on the tiniest of hooks and finest of line, especially when they possess the experience of having been continually fished for.
It’s all the more reason to take your time to work out what the chub are doing, either by direct observation or by reading the movements of the tip, and try to outwit them. But it’s not always as easy as it should be, bearing in mind the difference in brain size between a chub and a chub angler!
I struggle to resist the temptation to put on a hook for a further hour, concentrating instead on the tell-tale signs of chub attacking the feeder with ever increasing confidence as I gradually introduce more and more bait via the Drennan Feederbomb.
A big, heavy feeder is needed for this sort of fishing, both to ensure that enough bait is put in to feed off the tiddlers and get the chub going, and to hold the bottom properly. I have seen light feeders bounced around out of the swim and under the nearest bank by greedy chub.

1 If the current is strong add extra lead to hold the bottom.
2 Large block-end feeders are the order of the day.
3 Corastrong braid makes a fine and supple, but strong, hook link.
4 Preston Powerline, 0.21mm, is Pete’s main line choice.
5 Small Drennan Super Specialist hooks will handle big chub.
6 Elastic bands and cocktail sticks are key to Pete’s chub success.

A good heavy feeder also ensures that the self-hooking properties of the rig are enhanced, more of which in a minute.
While I watch the tip bouncing around in response to the increasingly confident chub I tie up a couple of rigs that will hopefully outfox them when I actually put a baited hook out.
Short hooklengths are the order of the day here and I generally start off with a four- to six-inch tail to see what happens.
With snaggy or weedy swims I like to fish with the strongest and smallest hooks I can, and size 14 to 18 Drennan Super Specialists are my choice for today. To start I tie some 8lb Corastrong braid onto a 14 with a knotless knot. I’m fishing a simple running leger with a small swivel and rubber bead as a stop. 
If a super-short hooklength, from an inch to literally zero, is needed I use a little adjustable stop between hook and swivel that can be slipped under a rubber band on the feeder. However, I’ll save that trick for later as a more straightforward approach might be all I need today.
After attaching the hook link I bait it with two maggots, one threaded up the shank and the other nicked through the head, and the feeder is plopped in with a simple underhand cast. I settle back and fold my arms as bites on the feeder can be quite positive, so it takes some self-control to ignore the more savage feeder knocks that can occur.
I remain biteless for some time – it looks as though these chub are cuter than I thought. The tip remains stock still for two casts – it’s as if the fish know that the feeder now carries a threatening baited hook.
I had half expected the rod to wallop round seconds after it had gone into the rest, but it’s 10 minutes after my third cast when the tip gives a welcome tweak – a positive, recognisable pull round – that signals that the chub are back. They can only resist for so long…
The fish have now worked their way nervously back up to the feeder again and are greedily bulldozing it about. Then one makes a mistake, and the tip slams round as a surprised chub hooks itself and shoots off under the weed.
I’m thankful for the braid and 8lb line as it burrows into the thick weed, indulging in some quite powerful runs and a lot of head shaking.
The tackle I’m using will handle barbel, too, and there have been times when they have been switched on by the maggots and put in an appearance.
On occasions I have had more barbel than chub on sessions like this, but the strong little hooks and 8lb-plus breaking strain of hooklength and main line will handle most barbel in all but the snaggiest of swims.
The fish is a bright four-pounder, probably the smallest in the shoal, but very welcome as it’s my first chub on the feeder this year. Avon chub are generally very fat and very fit these days, and it’s not uncommon to get four or five over 5lb in a day. A six is almost becoming unworthy of mention, which is a shame as such a specimen is a big fish by any standards. I will be well pleased with one today!
These Avon chub really are quite clever as an hour later I’ve had no further success, despite the fact that I can still make out fish feeding right on top of the feeder. I’m still getting tell-tale knocks, pulls and twitches as the fish have a go at the maggots as they emerge, and they occasionally bash the feeder about.

1 Either bait the hook with a single maggot, nicked sideways, or mount two maggots in the traditional way.
2 Thread a small piece of silicone tubing onto the hook link and add the end of a cocktail stick to lock it in place.
3 Now take one or two elastic bands and wrap them tightly around the bottom end of the block-end feeder.
4 Set the length of hooklength required, and to avoid any possible tangles wrap the excess braid around the stick.
5 Finally, to set the trap, slot the sharp end of the cocktail stick firmly under the elastic bands.
6 The extra-short hook link fools the chub into believing the hook maggots have come from the feeder.

It’s time for Plan B. I replace my hooklength featuring the super-short rig with a single maggot side hooked on a size 16 and set it less than an inch from the feeder.
Any excess braid is wound round the cocktail stick peg to avoid tangling, and the peg is slipped under a rubber band; this is tight enough to hook the fish but still allow it to immediately pull free and enable the feeder to slide during the fight.
The ploy works. As the feeder hits the bottom my rod tip bounces around and a much better fish heads off into the weed beds. I finally guide a really deep-looking and fat 5 1/2lb chub into the net, but not before it makes some last-minute attempts to burrow into the weed and roots under my bank, a common chub ploy. However, the 13ft Drennan Feeder rod I’m using is ideal for keeping chub out from under your feet.
The fish often try to escape at that stage and the long rod can not only be used to foil this chubby dodge but enable me to dictate the fight at more of a distance, ensuring the chub is well tired out before it reaches that particular danger zone.
Time is now running out and I want one more chub out of the shoal before I have to leave.
As is often the case the increasingly wary chub do not fall for the same trick twice. I have to go even finer, changing to a size 18 hook on a 2lb hooklength and a two-foot tail, to get the last bite of the day – but luck is not on my side. I hook the biggest fish of session on this more delicate presentation but it snags me and comes off under the weed. I’ll be back and get him another day!
There is more to feeder fishing for chub than some ignorant critics realise. For consistent success there is a clear need to keep thinking, observing and analysing the movements of the tip, experimenting, and chopping and changing the rig, the rate of feed and where to cast to in the swim. 
Simply and mindlessly chucking out a feeder will catch a few fish, but catching big chub with consistency involves a level of sophistication that I will never tire of learning about – and I can assure you that my methods will catch you a lot of chub if you think about what you are doing!