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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


27/02/2015 - A Dream Session

My First Chub

When my friend Dave Hurst offered to take me down to the Kennet for a couple of days I jumped at the chance, despite having a problem with walking I wasn’t going to miss out on a visit to one of my favourite rivers, it’s been nearly three long years since I was on the banks of this delightful water through health and driving problems the latter of course caused my age and health. I then called another friend Colin Culley for the latest advice on fishing conditions, he was most helpful and offered to show me some of the water as I hadn’t been on for a long time. We all met up at the Carvery for lunch, where Colin immediately wanted my hat, I offered it to him but thankfully it was too small, so I said “Don’t worry when I get back home I will buy you one an out it in the post, it’s now been sent. After lunch we then off to the local tackle shop for worms and gentles along with other bits a pieces. I suppose it was about 1500 hours when Colin left us to go and collect his daughter from school. David and myself then had a good look around despite me slowing down the pace with my hobbling but if I had to crawl on hands and knees I would have done so.

A Good Chub

Chub have always been my first choice quarry and today it wasn’t going to be any difference, I chose to fish an area downstream of a small bridge which had a delightful looking pool which I reckon could be a good spot for drop shotting for pike perch or chub, if time allowed I would spend a couple of hours fishing this area, as usual I travelled light in my Lone Angler bait bucket I had a selection of hooks, LG shot, plasticine pots of Sausage Sizzle and Cheese Mania I wouldn’t want to be without, I also had bottles of spray in the same flavours for when I am using crust or flake, it certainly gives me an extra edge. My bag also contained some bread, scales, thermometer and camera, in my de lux bait pouch I had a few lobworms, I had a chub rod matched with a small fixed spool reel loaded with 6lb line to which I’d tied on a size 4 barbless hook with a Palomar knot, a piece of sponge to sit on, my landing net completed my set up.

I slowly made my way downstream to where a small carrier flowed into a bigger carrier where an ivy covered alder tree was laying over the river at an acute angle ending some ten feet above the surface, a few feet downstream was an area where scum and other rubbish had accumulated creating a nice raft, my immediate thoughts were chub, I introduced four pieces of cheese flavoured flake, sitting back I admired the scenery then felt a light warm breeze which gently kissed a large display of snow drops making it feel very spring like, to complete the scene a robin appeared, then a kingfisher swooped downstream, meanwhile David had spotted a woodcock, I doubt if conditions could be more enjoyable. Sitting down on the bank I checked the water temperature getting a reading of 44 degrees F. Leaving my gear on the bank I hobbled back upstream to the bridge where I brewed a fresh mug of tea allowing any chub that might have been disturbed to get over the fright also hopefully sample the pieces of flake, I never like to fish straight away if I have introduced some free samples.

Thirty minute or so I’m back in the chub swim which I reckon are the best words to describe my chosen spot. Sitting on the bank I attached an LG shot six inches from the hook then baited with a piece of cheese flavoured crust, with a light underhand cast I made my first cast on my return to the Kennet, the bait landed with a light plop, I sat holding the rod full of expectations, fifteen minutes later with no interest I struck off the bait then wound in the tackle. I sat for a few minutes trying to decide if I should try a piece of sausage sizzle or cheese paste, but eventually I chose cheese flavoured crust, in the fading light I made an underhand cast the bait dropping lightly on the upstream side of the raft I allowed some extra line so the crust went further under the raft then settled. As I sat holding the rod full of expectations I noticed several blackbirds and pigeons going to roost, behind me in the branches of an oak tree I heard a cock pheasant call. Suddenly I felt a light pluck then a gentle pull, “That’s a bite” I thought as I made an upstream strike the rod top pulled downwards as the clutch yielded some line, for several minutes it was give and take but eventually I had it on the surface as I pulled the fish towards the waiting net I could see it might be a 5lb chub, then it was mine. Swinging it ashore I said to myself “That’s definatly a five pounder” my mistress had welcomed me back with open arms, out with scales and weigh bag I then got a reading of 5lb 7 ounces what a welcome one bite one chub for 5lb 7 ounces can things get better than this I thought. I then called David to ask him to come a take a pic for me. Though I fished on for another hour it was the only bite but what a great start. Back in our digs we celebrated with tea and biscuits.

Red Letter Day- More 5lb Chub And Other Fish

My breakfast at the digs was poor to say the least, I’d asked for porridge which was just warm and lumpy, I had two pieces of toast, when I asked what the price for the breakfast was, I got told £7-00, I questioned the high price then was told £3-50 which I thought was still over the top, still I want stop there again, plus there was no hot water I got just one mug of tea no such thing as a tea pot. After visiting the bank, an army surplus store then Waitrose to pick up ten jars of low sugar content marmalade and some food for lunch, we made our way to the Kennet for our second session, I’d hoped to spend a few hours trotting today but sadly I’d left my Lone Angler float rod at home, my memory gets worse. David went off to fish a nice looking trotting swim while I chose to fish further downstream with the minimum of tackle roving from spot to spot, it was some of the most interesting and exciting fishing I’ve enjoyed for a long time, my first fish was a pike about 8lbs caught from the bridge pool as previously mentioned, caught while jigging two lobworms also hooked in the scissors so it couldn’t get its teeth on the line. I then fished several nice looking spots catching four chub one of which weighed 5lb 4 ounces, I also had a trout estimated at 4lbs.

Lost Landing Net

I then got a call from David saying his landing net had gone in the river then drifted downstream to an island in midstream, could I help him? I told him to go back to the car and get his barbel outfit and a couple of heavy weights. I then had a long trudge which become a painful hobble eventually I arrived at his swim my feet feeling very painful after struggling to walk nearly a mile. We then went off downstream, I could just make out the top six inches of his Lone Angler landing net handle swaying in the current, no way could it remain lost I thought. It took probably a couple of hours trying to retrieve the handle, I had to keep making accurate cast with a 3 ounce weight and a hook, between the rubbish of the island and the handle was a gap of about 4 inches that really did required accurate casting, I must have made dozens of casts, I had the weight over the handle time after time, eventually I got it moving enough for me to get glimpse of the net. If I could drop the weight in the net then the hook might catch the mesh, cast after cast went into the right spot but no way would the hook take hold. Eventually I got it moving then told David to get my landing net and try to reach the handle as it started to drift downstream, then the net got hooked up on a snag but close enough now for David to lift the handle clear of the water but not close enough to grab. As it was a warm day I decide to wade out if need be up to my waist and grab the handle. Thankfully I only had to take a couple of steps when I able to grab the handle, with some tugging we got the net and handle back.

A Few More Chub

Leaving David to continue trotting and catching more chub and dace I made my way to another stretch of the river with a big sweeping bend with my bank completely shrouded by trees. Sitting on the bank I introduced a few hook bait samples then cast out a chunk of flavoured crust, talking to Mike O’Neill I got a good pull hooking a good fish I said to Mike “ Got to go I’ve got a good fish”, eventually netted and weighed in at 5lb 1 ounce, then called Mike back with the weight, I had seven more chub from this area between two and three pounds, also two chub estimated at 4lbs, with no more interest after thirty or more minutes I went off downstream to a weir pool downstream about ten yards was a nice looking slack, I thinking it might be a good spot for perch I baited with two lobworms stopped on the hook by a small piece of rubber band, I didn’t get no interest from perch but after about twenty minutes I hooked a good chub weighing 5lb 3 ounces. I then moved About a hundred and fifty yards I reached an area of slow moving water with a large tree in the water, it looked a likely spot for perch or chub I baiting with two lobworms, in the next hour I had a brace of perch estimated around 1.5lbs and 8 chub between 2 and 3lbs with one fish estimated about 4lbs. With no more bites after some thirty minutes I moved on to another swim where a tree had fallen across the river so the water was funnelled through a six foot gap between tree and river bank. Sitting upstream I introduced some pieces of cheese paste, after resting the swim for fifteen minutes I rolled a large piece of cheese downstream as it went through the gap I got a savage take hooking a good fish which quickly went downstream into an open pool, picking up my net I walked downstream and played the fish out in the safety of the deep pool, eventually netting a fine chub which on the scales went 5lbs 3 ounces.

With dusk closing in I thought I would try and catch a grayling using a couple of bb shot stopped from a size 16 hook to nylon, between the hook link and the main line I attached about fifteen feet of Gamma Frog Hair fluorocarbon, baiting with two gentles I cast out into the tail of the weir then worked the bait downstream, after sometime with no grayling but some small chub and three trout I gave up and switched to fishing other baits on a size 4 hook in the hope of catching some more good chub, I never had a bite the fish seemed to have switched, it didn’t surprise me as they don’t feed twenty four hours a day. To celebrate a great day on one of England historic coarse and trout fishing rivers we went off to a carvery for dinner, normally I don’t have a desert but today I chose apple and rhubarb crumble with custard, David chose apple and blackberry crumble with custard, it was a great way to end the day.

A Short Session On Another Stretch Of The Kennet

After another horrid breakfast we went off to Waitrose for some fresh crusty wholemeal rolls, we were out of luck non had arrived in store, we then made the long drive in the rush hour traffic to another stretch of the Kennet, where we met up with Will Carter, though we speak often on the phone we hadn’t seen one another for a couple of years. My plan of action was to roam from swim to swim trying to catch some good chub, David chose to fish a favourite barbel spot, on the opposite bank was an area of water sheltered by willows and alders, squeezing in between two large blackberry bushes David could easily fish both the inside and a far bank swims, checking the water temperature I got a reading of 46 degrees F conditions were perfect despite the heavy rain and strong gusting wind, leaving David to target the barbell, Will and myself made our way upstream, pushing our way through chest high brambles we arrived in a swim with a large willow tree overhanging the water lots of braches trailing in the water, it wasn’t a swim for the feint hearted who worries about losing a hook, baiting with a chunk of cheese flavoured crust on a size 4 hook with an LG shot six inches on the line from the hook I dropped the bait some six inches from the bank, Will then said ”A slight drop back” I had already seen it and gently lighted the rod taking up the slack, then I got a gentle half inch pull and set the hook, a good chub powered away into the fast water flow doing its best to reach some mid-stream obstruction, but the well balanced tackle soon mastered the situation and Will netted the firs fish of the session, Will said “ It looks like a four pounder” on the scales it went between and 4lbs and 4lbs 1 ounce we settled on 4lbs, that fish was hooked within a minute of dropping the bait in the water, after a quick picture, we moved off to another swim. After introducing some cheese flavoured mash we sat talking for a while before dropping in a bit of crust, again within a minute I got a light tap then a determined pull, striking I hooked a fish that tore up and down the river for a minute or two before sulking close in eventually Will netted the second fish of the session, a surprise species a sea trout, it would have been nice to have hooked this fish during the season for sea trout on a fly especially at night. Will then had to go off to work, I then walked about eight hundred yards baiting all the likely spots with a small golf ball size lump of cheese flavoured mashed bread. Leaving my gear on the bank I went off to see how David was doing to learn he had some chub fishing the inside line. Collecting my gear I headed off to the top swim then work my way downstream fishing all my baited spots. In the first five swims I had a chub from each averaging about three pounds, all on either crust or flake

A Surprise Barbel

In the next swim I dropped a bit of crust so it rolled downstream to settle under some overhanging blackberry bushes where the water  slowed down considerably, it looked a good spot for a decent chub, sitting holding the rod with the rain sheeting down stayed quite dry, I then felt a light pluck then a small but determined pull, striking I set the hook into what felt like a very good chub. I quickly realised it was a barbel, which in seconds shot from my bank towards the far banks with a lot of snags, no way could I let the fish continue in that direction, pushing the rod over to my left I cramped on the pressure it worked as the fish went off downstream. After what seemed a long time, but was probably minutes I started to bring the fish towards my bank where it was eventually netted a fish about 6lbs. In the next two spots I had a brace of 4lb plus chub, I then reached a large bay where the water flowed slow and deep with lots of sedges and a small patch of water lilies, I decided to bait with a piece of sausage sizzle paste, then made a cast dropping the bait on the edge of the fast water so the bait would roll downstream coming to rest in the quiet water on the edge of the bay. As I sat there hoping for a bite, I watched a sparrow hawk hunting along the far bank hedgerow, then felt a light pull then another light pull of about an inch, pushing the rod forward I put a bow in the line as this tightened I set the hook into a heavy fish, this can’t possibly be a chub I though, it’s got to be another barbel as I was forced to give line a heavy fish was slowly moving towards the far bank and a tree that had crashed some years ago in the water. I now realised I had hooked a good barbel, fish up to 8lbs usually dash around like a demented demon, this fish slowly and determinedly moved upstream the reel clutch purring like my old aunts favourite cat, I slowly built up the amount of pressure on the fish which started to work in my favour as the fish stopped its headlong move to the big snag, suddenly changing direction it moved to the centre of the river, before changing direction again and moving downstream giving me chance to get some line on the reel. With the fish out in front of me I put on more pressure trying to draw the fish into the slow deep water, eventually I achieved my aim where the fish sulked on the bottom for a minute or two. I started the process of getting it in the net, a couple of minutes later I had the fish near the surface also my first glimpse of my quarry a good barbel eventually it was mine. On the scales I got a reading of 12lb 6 ounces, putting the fish back in the net I called David telling him what I’d caught and asking him to come a take a pic for me.

I then had a long painful walk back to the car, then the long walk back, after a picture we watched the fish swim off strongly. David went back to his swim while I sat on the bank resting my painful feet, eventually I decided to make my way back to the car and change in to my Stretcher boots, they don’t cure my planter fasciitis but do give me some pain relief. I stopped on the way to learn David had chub of 4lbs 15 ounces he also lost a big barbel. Looking back over the past three days it had been a great experience to be back on such a lovely river with some great company, though I used a chub rod with 6lb line never at any moment did I feel I didn’t have the power to beat the fish, its more about having correctly balanced tackle and know what to do with the tackle, when and when not to exert a lot of pressure, big barbel don’t often go off fast and crazy like the smaller fish but are more dogged fighters. Walker summed it all up nicely with reference to big and small carp. The smaller carp are like racehorses they go off fast but for a shorter period, while the big carp are like the shire horse they go off more slowly building up there plodding but lasting the pace for a lot longer, that just about how I associate the barbel, double figure fish are like our shire horse. I really feel the assistance of having quality flavours and baits from Lone Angler is very important, I cannot emphasise this enough. Until Lone Angler gave us flavoured spray baits I used to smear some soft creamy cheese on my bread baits, today I flavour my crust baits then store them in the freezer until needed, why not give it a try you might be surprised at the results.

A Chub Hooked Within a Minute Of Casting With Will Carter

Barbel On Lone Angler Sausage Sizzle

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Martin James Fishing
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