Dibbing for Chubb by H. R. Robertson. Source: Life on the Upper Thames. Text and formatting by George P. Landow, [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of Toronto and the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]

Perhaps the most deserving of the terms, mild and methodical, is the mode usually practised of angling for chub from the bank, commonly spoken of as "dibbing." The process is graphically described by Isaac Walton, who sometimes calls the fish a cheven or chavender, and uses the word "daping " (now obsolete) for "dibbing" Piscator says to his pupil, "Go to the same hole in which I caught my chub, where, in most hot days, you will find a dozen or twenty cheveyis floating near the top of the water. Get two or three grasshoppers as you go over the meadow, and get secretly behind the tree, and stand as free from motion as is possible. Then put a grasshopper on your hook, and let your hook hang a quarter of a yard short of the water, to which end you must rest your rod on some bough of the tree. But it is likely the chubs will sink down towards the bottom of the water at the first shadow of your rod (for chub is the fearfulest of fishes), and will do so if but a bird flies over him and makes the least shadow on the water. But they will presently rise up to the top again, and lie there soaring till some shadow affrights them again. I say, when they lie upon the top of the water, look out the best chub (which you, settling yourself in a fit place, may very easily see), and move your rod as softly as a snail moves to that chub you intend to catch; let your bait fall gently upon the water three or four inches before him, and he will infallibly take the bait. And you will be as sure to catch him; for he is one of the leather-mouthed fishes, of which a hook does scarce ever lose its hold; and therefore give him play enough before you offer to take him out of the water. Go your way presently; take my rod, and do as I bid you; and I will sit down and mend my tackling till you return back."

Should not a grasshopper, which is the most deadly of all baits for the chub, be procurable, a cockchafer or humble-bee will do very well; it is said that a cherry or a piece of cheese has been successfully employed in this manner, but we have never tried them. The expression "leather-mouthed" fish is applied to such as have their teeth in the throat, as the barbel, the gudgeon, and the carp; the skin of the mouth of these fish is much more tough than of others, as the trout or perch, from which the hook will frequently break away before the fish can be brought to land.

The chub are hardly to be taken in the manner described till after Midsummer, as they prefer staying in the deep water till the weather becomes very warm. A hot sun tempts them out on to the shallows, where they like to swim about slowly near the surface. They often make a regular round, visiting the same spots one after another, but never going far away from their hole, to which they retire on the slightest alarm, and immediately sink out of sight." As a rule they avoid the strength of the current, but like to lie near enough to it to be able to seize upon what insects may be carried down by the stream. A slight backwater, such as may be caused by the stump of a decayed willow, is a favourite resort with them. The very largest chub, however, are sometimes taken when the angler is spinning for trout in a mill-race or weir-stream.

When these fish happen to swim near a bank unsheltered by trees or bushes, it is a capital plan for the angler to lie at full length on the grass and project as little of the rod as possible. Dibbing for chub is very successful between five and eight o'clock in the morning in fine autumn weather; there being then little to disturb " the fearfulest of fishes." [Robertson, 149-50]


Robertson, H. R. Life on the Upper Thames. London: Virtue, Spalding, & Co., 1875.Internet Archive digitized from a copy in the University of Toronto Library.

Last modified 7 May 2012