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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


24/10/2013 - 300 plus miles for a Day’s Fishing

Last Sunday my mate Dave and myself travelled down to the River Wye for a few days fishing, with a rising coloured river a water temperature of 54 degrees F we expected some good sport. I was prepared with a big supply of Pallatrax cheese feast made into a softer paste so it could be fished on the hook and not a hair. I use cheese for chub, hair rigs are not the best way for catching this species. Yes, you can catch chub on hair rigged baits, but you will also miss a lot of takes as the fish picks the bait up in their lips. I also had some sausage sizzle pellets and paste, I’ve used sausage sizzle flavour for years. Originally it was in powder form, it now comes in a handy spray bottle. To make sure I covered all bases I also had ten loaves of bread, it’s a bait that I rate highly even in coloured water, you can also flavour it with sausage sizzle or some other flavour of your choice. Lots of anglers are put off using bread in coloured water, I don’t know why as I’ve caught many chub barbel, roach and bream on bread in coloured water conditions.

                                                Tackle for all Conditions

 I had 13 foot float rod matched with a centre pin reel and 4lb line for roach should I be in an area of the river were these fish are present. It will also be used when trotting for chub in the quieter water on the inside of croys or groins, if you’re fishing a high fast river do not walk past these spots as they will usually hold fish in numbers. Even with a river over the bank you can still catch fish but you need to search for them and fish areas where it’s safe. This is the time when I want my stocking foot chest high waders and studded wading boots, buoyance aid and wading staff, I can then cross flooded fields in safety. Knowing the river could well rise eight feet of more I also had two Trefor West barbel rods 1.75lb and 2.25lb matched with Shimano reels and 20lb braid plus my soft Avon action 12 foot chub rod matched with Mitchell 300 reel and 6lb line. My small tackle bag contained a box holding various size shot, swivels, hair stops, baiting needle and float rubbers. Another box contained barbless hooks sizes 2’s down to 16’s. I also had scales, weight bag, thermometer, hand towel and baits. When I’m roving I use my Lone Angler unhooking mat to sit on.

After the long drive we arrived at Copperfield House for breakfast, then it was off to the river we had a choice of 6 venues during our stay. Today we chose to fish the Ross Angling club water which is well managed and bailiffed, arriving in the car park I set to work replacing the rotten stile with a new one which I had constructed at home. Removing the old one, I soon had a new one covered with chicken wire in place, job done. As I was working on the stile David sorted out his gear a float rod with centre pin reel and 4lb line with a float taking 7 AA shot and a size 10 hook. His other rod was a 12 foot rod matched with Shimano reel with 25lb braid. With everything sorted David went off upstream, I went downstream with Mike Evans the bailiff, while he checked permits, I had a look at the croy or groin swims in case I wanted to fish them when the river started to push through fast. Having checked the water temperature, I checked the bed of the river in a few swims looking for gravel and a silty sandy bottom. The latter is often the place for roach. When checking out the bed of the river you need a heavy plummet with lots of grease on its base this will show you if its sandy silt or small gravel as small pieces will stick to the base for your plummet. Having climbed to the top of the bank an angler asked “what I was doing” I said “Checking out the bed of the river” explaining how I did the job, he said “ I couldn’t be bothered” I didn’t say anything but went on my way. A couple of hours later I headed off upstream looking for David I found him fishing near the top of the beat, he told me he hadn’t caught anything, but did have a savage wrap round fishing a donkey choker pellet well out in the river. I went off downstream to fish the first swim upstream from the big bay which in the past has proved good for both chub and barbel.

                                                  Chub on First Cast

For thirty minutes I sat on the bank feeding in bait size pieces of cheese paste, then left the swim for about an hour to give the fish a chance to find the high smelling bait and feed in confidence. It was around 0ne o’clock when I made my first cast , the bait a pigeon size chunk of cheese paste on a size 4 hook, with 3 LG shot lightly pinched on the line fifteen inches from the hook. Casting out I let the bait roll underneath some trailing will branches a foot from the bank in about 6 feet of water. Sitting holding the rod I was soon surprised to see the occasional barbel roll on the surface a third of the way across the river. Ten minutes later I felt a light pluck, pushing the rod forward to give some line I waited for another pull. In less than a minute the tip pulled round. The perfect bite. Striking I felt the weight of a fish which immediately moved out into the faster water. Five minutes later I had a good fish in the net, 5lbs I thought. I was wrong it went 4lb 14 ounces. Very quickly I had another bait in place, for an hour nothing happened. The occasional barbel rolled on the surface, several Kingfishers were flying up and down the river though it could have been just one or a pair of birds.

                                     Time for Lunch and a Lost Barbel and Chub

With no more action we went off for a brew and a sandwich, where I met one of the salmon fishing members making up a load of cement, which was then shovelled into wooden triangle shaped moulds. The finished blocks would eventually be put in the river for salmon to rest behind, also they could be used for building croys. After chatting for a while he mentioned that he could do with some help in lifting the boat out of the water, as I had finished my lunch I set about bailing out the boat making it easier to drag it up the steep bank. Half an hour later we had the boat upside down and off the ground well back from the water’s edge another job done. Back in my swim I chose to fish again with cheese paste dropping the bait tight to the bank under the branches of a willow bush. Without warning the rain sheeted down of monsoon proportions, so heavy was the rain as it hit the water surface it created a fine mist over the river. It’s probably the heaviest rain I have fished through in the UK. Half an hour without a bit, I switched over to fishing a sausage sizzle pellet wrapped in paste of the same flavour on a hair, casting in the area where I had seen fish rolling. Fifteen minutes later the tip pulled round striking I found myself hooked up to what I reckon was a barbel, five minutes later it was off. I had another twenty minutes with the sausage sizzle, then with the water flow increasing I decided to switch back to chub fishing with cheese.

 Around six o’clock with the light fading the rod tip pulled round , it was one of those bites I couldn’t or shouldn’t miss. I didn’t. As I set the hook the rod hooped over the reel clutch giving a few feet of line as a heavy fish went downstream. I quickly realised this was one of those special fish. Five or six minutes later I had the fish coming towards the net. Then a freakish incident happened, between me and the fish which was just a few feet out from the bank a large branch come floating by then caught the line, trying as hard as possible no way could I free the line from the branch. I could see a chub which I reckoned could be a big six twisting and turning in its bid for freedom. Then another member appeared, I though at last I had some help. But then the fish was gone. All the member could do was watch as I dragged the tackle and branch out of the water. I was gutted to say the least. With darkness ten minutes away I went upstream to David and told him I was packing up, he done the same then we made our way back to the car. After loading everything away we went off for some food then back to our B&B. By nine o’clock I was in bed and quickly asleep.

 It was about eight o’clock next morning when I woke up to find Dave looking like death warmed up, he was shivering with a bad headache. He didn’t look as if he should be on a river bank. At the breakfast table he was shaking like a leaf in a gale. When he asked if I wanted his bacon and sausage I realised the we would have to return home. After fighting against the idea of going home, he eventually listened to Fran and myself and agreed we were right. Around one o’clock in the afternoon we were back home. Our four days ended as one day, but it was in my opinion the right choice. The fish would be there for another day.

                                              An Hour of Catching Barbel

 Three days later I was fishing a fast flowing bank high River Ribble swim the colour of mud without another angler in sight, water temperature was 53 degrees F. Tackle set up was a Trefor West flood water rod from Lone Angler, Shimano reel 25lb braid, with an Albright knot I attached six feet of 12lb fluorocarbon line to which I put on a sliding leger rig stopped two feet from a size a size 8 hook with an inch long hair. Bait was three 8mm Caviar pellets super glued on the hair, I would also add a PVA bag of pellets. With the fast flowing water I chose the largest Stonze that Pallatrax make, I didn’t think the splash it made when hitting the water would bother the fish today if they were in the mood for feeding. Using an old spod rod and a big heavy metal bait dropper I put in six droppers of pellets. All was now ready. As always I chose not to fish right away but gave the fish chance to feed on the free bait with confidence, it was time for a brew.

 Half an hour later I attached a PVA bag of pellets then cast out and upstream which would allow the baited hook to drop down into the baited area. Sitting holding the rod feeling for a bite, I watched the river rising in places it was coming over the bank. Ten minutes later I’m into my first fish a barbel of about 6lbs, which was quickly unhooked and released. Attaching another PVA bag of pellets I made a cast to the same spot, in less than a minute after the weight had settled I had a pull another fish was hooked. Soon it too was in the net weighing about 5lbs. With another bag of pellets on the hook I dropped the tackle upstream of my baited area. For fifteen minutes nothing happened then I had a slow pull which turned into another fish probably about 6lbs. Casting again I quickly had another fish about 6lbs, they were like peas in a pod. In the next thirty or so minutes I had 5 bites hooking three fish all around the 5 to 6lbs mark. Ten minutes later the river had broken its bank and starting to flow behind me. Not having my chest high waders it was time to leave, not to soon with several inches of a water in places. If I’d stopped another half an hour I could have been in trouble. But certainly a good session.

                                       Conditions were perfect on the River Ribble

 Fishing is a strange game, following on from yesterdays flooded and highly coloured River Ribble when the barbel were feeding. I arrived on the banks of Lancashire’s top river to find it in perfect condition, though the water temperature was down to 49 degrees, flow rate and clarity were good chub were my target today which I reckon would be in a feeding mood. I fished with crust, flake, cheese and meat in ten different swims. Both with float and leger, even free lining some baits. Not a single bite, in fact I didn’t see a fish move. After 4 hours I returned home puzzled at not getting any action. It’s a long time since that has happened,


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Martin James Fishing
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