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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


07/08/2015 - Trout Salmon but No chub

A Brace of Trout


Monday 3rd August an over cast day with light wind, the river level looked good for both trout and coarse fishing, I chose the former in the hope of catching a brace of brown trout for a picture feature I’d been commissioned for by an American magazine. Later in the week I’m hoping to fish for roach using float fishing tactics. After some 70 years of angling I still find this type of angling most enjoyable. When I look back I realise how great the fishing was back in the 50’s and 60’s, we might catch bigger fish today, though I doubt if we have the quality of past years, there were many occasions we could expect good catches of pound plus roach, every now and again a 2lb fish. Often two or three such fish especially on the Kennet, Dorset Stour, Hampshire Avon Wye and other venues, other big roach venues were the large reservoirs around London also the many gravel pits. Thankfully I can look back on the wonderful days from the past with immense pleasure though I doubt if they will ever return.

Trout and Salmon

It was around 1000hrs when I arrived on the bottom beat, as I walked slowly upstream I could see a group of 7 chub averaging 4lbs plus, I was very tempted to try for these fish, across the river a salmon rolled, a few yards upstream, I could see a trout feeding avidly on emerges then realised I had to get a brace for my feature, back in the car park I put together two outfits a 4 weight 9 foot rod matched with a floating line attaching a 12 foot leader with a 3lbs tippet then a size 18 Klinkhammer. My other outfit in case I had to go downstairs if I couldn’t catch on the surface, was a 6 weight 9 foot rod matched with a floating line with a nine foot leader with a size 8 Dunkeld. I moved back downstream where I had seen the trout avidly feeding, I was in luck the fish was still in the area, I could see 3 other fish spread across and downstream, I chose to cast for the downstream fish, the fly landing some three feet upstream of the feeding fish then slowly drifted downstream, a slight dimple appeared in the area of my fly quickly realising it had been take, setting the hook the rod hooped over as line was quickly taken off the reel, for several minutes I got some line back then was forced to give line but slowly the pressure of well-balanced tackle had the fish coming towards the net, then it was mine, a nice brown trout in excellent condition, as I needed a picture I would harvest a brace of fish today for my dentist, using the priest I tapped the fish once then unhooked the trout, leaving it laying in the grass. Drying off the fly, I degreased the leader then looked for another fish, in midstream close to some swaying water crowfoot I could see a nice trout a few inches down in the clear water, a fish that was for catching, Making a gentle cast upstream the fly landed like thistledown an inch or so on the outside of the water crowfoot, as the fly drifted downstream I could see the trout moving into position to intercept the fly which it did with a gentle sip then turned downwards. I set the hook into my second fish of the day, like the first fish I was forced to give some line, again it was a few minutes before I could net this second fish giving myself the brace of fish I desired. Mission accomplished, this second fish was also harvested. After taking a picture of my brace IMG1050 I headed off upstream, as I did so a grilse usually a 1 year old fish weighing about 5lbs rolled on the surface, I couldn’t resist the challenge, in about 45 minutes I caught two fish one about 5lbs the other about 6lbs, these fish put up a great performance on my 6 weight outfit, as I returned the fish I thought back to other years when I caught grilse and bigger salmon then returning the fish often to be told, you should have killed those fish for the table. Of all the salmon I’ve caught only one was taken the my very first, all other fish has been returned. Thankfully the days of mass killing of salmon have passed, on my water members are allowed to harvest just one fish a male under 8lbs.

Himalayan Balsam

Another dreaded invasive weed that is growing along river banks countrywide, causing major damage to the river bank, also it attracts bees in large number, these bees we need to pollinate our food and flowers not a weed, sadly to few people are prepared to try and eradicate the problem, I have waged war on the weed for several years, though I am some success the problem is the landowners upstream of me can’t be bothered to help eradicate the problem, it’s the same with mink and grey squirrels only a few people are taking action. After a brew and sandwich I spent a couple of hours pulling balsam, until I started to feel light headed and faint so I had to call it a day. Back in the cabin I stretched out on the bed immediately falling asleep waking up an hour or so later. After a brew I decided to go off home arriving around 1800h after a successful day on the river.

Tuesday 4th August it was an over cast sky with a strong gusty wind this morning, I started the day walking the river bank collecting rubbish, which included 17 beer cans. As I did so I watched a salmon swirl in a well-known pool, thinking to myself, once I’ve finished collecting rubbish I will fish through the pool. An hour or so later I’m casting a Dunkeld fly and working it through the pool, I must have made some twenty or ,more casts, before I got a firm hit, the line was pulled quickly from the reel, for some ten minutes or more I didn’t have a clue what size fish I’d hooked as it went up and down the pool, suddenly the fish swirled giving me my a glimpse of my quarry, a salmon I reckon could be a double. Ten minutes more of moving up and down the pool as I struggled to subdue the fish in a fight of give and take. Twenty minutes after hooking the fish I started to slowly win the contest, as I looked around for a place to beach my prize, I could see a shelving gravel area with a foot of water ideal for beaching a salmon, a few minutes later I pulled the fish into the quiet shallow pool. Shouting to no one “Yes it’s mine” Taking out the barbless hook from the scissors of the fish, I taped it out at 33inches estimated at 14-15lbs then punched the air with relief, finally I watched the fish swim off to the deeper turbulent water of the pool. Though it was slightly coloured I was more than happy so went off for lunch including a fresh brew to celebrate.

More Balsam Pulling

Back in the cabin I put the kettle on, then pulled off my chest high waders, there would be no more fishing today I was going to try and clear as much balsam as possible, I do find it hard work at my age but if I don’t do the job it want get done, after an hours break I pulled on my wellington boots and gloves, then walked across the meadow to the river bank, I’d cleared about six yards pic IMG 105I before I needed a rest, as I was feeling light headed. An hour later I’d had enough feeling faint light headed and out of breath, it took me some fifteen twenty minutes before I seemed to have the strength to walk back to the cabin. I’d had enough for today also a light rain was falling which soon had me soaked. It was time to go home for a hot shower and dry cloths, as I was getting into my car I got a call asking if I could give a lady a fly casting lesson on Thursday, saying “Yes” agreeing to meet at 1000hrs. Back home I spent some time cleaning and polishing my fly lines then sat down until tea time reading a novel.

Wednesday 5th August I was sent an e-mail early this morning giving details and times of the angling at the angling talks and demo’s at the Peover Park, Game and Angling FairSunday August 16th 2015 Knutsford Cheshire WA16 9HW The entrance fee £20 per car or £10-00 if 1 person in car, The gates open at 9am. Gates open at 09 00 10.30 Alan Roe: Fishing The Centre Pin 11.00 Martin James Modern Baits11.30 Charles Jardine Casting Techniques with a Single Handed Trout Rod 12.00 Andy Murray Spey Casting 1.00 Alan Roe: Course Fishing 1.30 Martin James: Fly Fishing for Pike2.30 Charles Jardine 3.00 Andy Murray 3.30 Finish. If you attend you will have the chance of getting a free bag of crust hook baits flavoured with Lone Angler cheese flavour, I will also have all the Lone Angler baits with me. If you have any questions feel free to introduce yourself and I will do my best to answer your questions. I was on the river today around 1000hrs, I spent the first half an hour pulling balsam then it as time for a brew, after a rest I put together two rods a 4 and 7 weight both with floating lines, the 7 weight would be used should I see a big chub that had been seen below the rapids. If I did spot the fish I would strip a big muddler minnow across the surface, or fish a lefty Kreh deceiver pattern. I couldn’t use bait as its fly fishing only water, as I made the rules I cannot be seen to be breaking them.

No Chub But Some Good Trout

Arriving at the rapids, I looked for the big chub but no sign, with the low flow rate it’s probably dropped downstream into some deeper water with plenty of cover from water crowfoot, moving back upstream I spotted a salmon about 10lbs, so walked back downstream to let one of my syndicate members who was salmon fishing know where the fish was situated. Back in the car park I put the 7 weight outfit away then drove off to the top beat. After a brew I walked across to the river finding an odd good trout taking emerges, I then spent perhaps an hour pulling balsa with several breaks as its tough work. After a long rest where I sat on the river bank watching a pair of kingfishers, a grey and pied wagtail, just upstream on a big rock was a dipper. Under a far bank beech tree a salmon swirled , I put this fish around the twenty pound mark. At around 1300hrs I felt I was ready to cast a fly, rather than moving from where I sat I just fished a size 18 emerger pattern on a 12 foot leader, by selective casting at rising fish I caught 4 good trout 17-19 inches in eight casts that were all returned. I then got a call from my mate Albert asking where I was, ”On the river bank” I replied I will be with you in twenty minutes for a brew, what a good idea I thought. Spotting a good fish in midstream I made a cast the fly dropped a few upstream of the feeding fish, then drifted about two feet before it was taken, I tightened into what felt like a good fish, a few minutes later I netted a nice brown which I harvested for Albert and Jackie’s tea, after cleaning the fish I made my way back to the cabin. Albert and myself then spent an hour or more having a good chat around all aspects of angling. I arrived back home around 1600hrshaving had another nice day at the waterside.

Thursday 6th August I was on the river today just after 0600hrs to fish for some chub as I drove towards the fishery I noticed a car parked suspiciously so stopped and checked it out where I noticed what looked like bits of tackle. I carried on along the road parking near the local church, grabbing my wading staff I walked around the boundary of the riverside field, not down the track where I would be seen if there were poachers. Once at the riverside I slid down the bank so I could walk upstream to an area I expected any poacher to be without being seen. As expected I come across two people putting together spinning rods, as I asked for their permits the virtually jumped out of their skins not expecting to see anyone, as expected they said they wanted to buy a permit. When told no permits were available for the water they told me they had been told they could get a permit fish the water from the local pub when it opened. I told then in no uncertain terms I thought they were lying as no permits had been available for some years. With a very strong verbal warning ringing in their ears I made them walk the long way back to their car two miles out of their way, also I let them know I had the vehicle details and was now going to call the police. They were also told if caught again they would end in court with a criminal conviction as these days attempting to catch fish without authority is a criminal offence under Schedule 1 of the Theft Act 1968. If you need to report an offence to the police mention Theft of Fishing Rights 116/11 which I’m told police are duty bound to attend, I try not to involve the police if possible dealing with it myself when possible unless it’s a group at night or those I apprehend are not willing to move. Later in the morning I had a pupil for a fly fishing lesson so I gave the chub a miss, while was in the area of a club I’m a member of, I stopped and patrolled their water in case my suspects attempted to fish the water. Having walked the beat I drove back to the top beat of my fishery the time now 0945 hrs to find Tracy waiting. After a brew we walked across the meadow where I spent some time teaching Tracy to double haul. As Tracy was doing quite well with her casting despite the quite horrid conditions as cold front moved through heavy rain, strong gusting wind, a salmon leapt half clear of the water as if to say, “I’m for catching” a fish about 6lbs. I suggested Tracy tell her husband to try and catch the fish after work. About 1300hrs back in the cabin I switched on the radio for the cricket to hear Australia were all out for 60 runs, I found it hard to believe what I was hearing, certainly another quick defeat for Australia and the return of the Ashes I thought. After lunch I pulled more balsam before leaving around 1600hrs.

Suspected poachers or burglars?

Around 2100hrs as I was having a snooze when I got a call, from one of my bailiffs, about a suspected poaching gang, in minutes I was on my way arriving on site twenty minutes later. The bailiff told me he’d seen, 5 males had disappeared in a copse bordering a well-known salmon pool, the female dressed in a black outfit carrying a powerful torch was walking slowly down the boundary between wood and meadow to the river while talking on a mobile. I immediately realised the woman was a watcher for the gang, when questioned she said she was lost, a blatant lie, I immediately called in some bailiffs, also notified our bailiff coordinator for other angling clubs in the area, the police were also involved. I fired some shots in the air hoping the gang would disperse as at the time I thought it better than to go in the copse on my own in the near darkness. Eventually a male who I reckon was one of the gang arrived escorting the woman away, sadly I could apprehend her or the male as both were on the public footpath. Half an hour later with back up we made a search of the area but the group had gone. I the checked out the big house and its grounds, as the owners were not at home in case they were perhaps targeting the property. I then visited one of their children’s home to inform them of what had happened. Eventually I met up with everyone involved at the top end of the copse to compare notes. Having made sure we hadn’t missed anything we all went our separate ways, I arrived home just after midnight.

Friday 7th August I was on the river just after dawn to make a proper search of the copse, for evidence of a net or set lines, after a couple of hours searching and not finding nothing I headed off for some breakfast. The local police also called to ask if there was any more evidence, saying they would make sure a few more checks were made in the area which was nice of them. I then had a chat with the owner of the big house and we agreed to put in a few more deterrent. Around 1100hrs I spoke to all my bailiffs agreeing we would do a surveillance on all the pools with the use of night sites until water conditions made it impossible to net any of the pools. After lunch I went off balsam pulling for an hour, eventually clearing the riverbank alongside the meadow of balsam. Its time consuming back breaking but it has to be done if we are to have any chance of getting rid of this invasive weed. Conditions were quite poor for fishing with bright sunshine with low gin clear water I didn’t feel I needed to fish. Back home I sorted out tackle and baits for a talk I was giving, including making up some bags of Lone Angler flavoured bread baits which I give away at the shows. The end of another good week where I was lucky to catch a good salmon


This is what Balsam should look like

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Martin James Fishing
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