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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


24/05/2013 - June 16th That Magic Day

††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††June 16th That Magic Day

My first ever days fishing was June 16th 1941, this yearís June 16th will still has the magic and mystery as it did all those years ago. My tackle on that first day, was a ball of red wool, a few nuts scrounged from my granddadís shed and some penny eel hooks from the local pram shop. The shop also sold a few items of tackle; you could buy for about sixpence, a length of line with a quill float and hook on a cardboard winder. (Pic 1) Yes, they were dangerous times, Kent being a front line county in the battle with the Germans; Our nights were usually spent in an Anderson air raid shelter, where I could watch the search lights trying to seek out the hated German bombers, hopefully the ack-ack guns based close to where I lived would then destroy them. It wasnít just bombs, the land mines on a parachute were more deadly creating far more damage as they exploded above the ground. During the day the Royal Air force fighter pilots in their Hurricanes and Spitfires who would set about the Luftwaffe bombers and escorting fighters. We boys would clap and shout with joy when the RAF appeared. A big bonus during the war for me and my friends, we only went to school in the mornings. Out of school we often fished the stream at Bakers Meadow for sticklebacks or minnows. We would also go out armed with catapults and target the German and Italian POWs working in the fields with well-aimed pebbles. None of us were frightened, even when the V-1 and V-2 rockets were about, known as doodle-bugs or flying bombs. Fishing becomes an obsession for us boys; it was an escape from all the problems faced by our parents.††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††My First Catch

My first June 16th will live on in my memory for ever, as if it was yesterday. I went fishing with my Uncle Len a sergeant sniper in the Royal West Kent regiment, who often shot at Bisley before the war. I caught 7 tiny Rudd, a silver bodied fish with blood red fins. Bait was a small bit of worm. Having caught those Rudd our peace was shattered by a large number of German bombers Dornierís Heinkelís Junkers along with their Messerschmittís fighters roaring over head on their way to blitz London. Very quickly the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Royal Air Force from the local airfields were up and taking the fight to the bombers and their fighter escorts. Without warning my Uncle Len said ďLook a German bomber has been hitĒ, I sat there watching it crash into the Thames Estuary.From that memorable day I was an angler. Sadly a few weeks later Uncle Len perished in the sands of North Africa fighting Rommelís Afrika Korps

††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 71 Years of Angling

June 16th 2013 will see me starting my 71 year of angling, this time not at an old clay pit as I did on that first day, but on the banks of a delightful gravel pit in the Cotswolds controlled by Ashton Keynes AC where they still have a traditional close season. Phil Chun Gary Newman of Anglerís Mail Dave White of Southport and I started off our season last year 2012 on this delightful water. The weather was terrible gale force wind and heavy rain, in fact it was more like a monsoon, but we caught some nice tench in the 6lb bracket, I even had a good six pounder as I was doing a live interview on BBC Radio Lancashire. Without my small Spomb (pic 2) which I had purchased the day before I doubt if I could have got the bait out to my swim so strong was the wind.

††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††This man can really catch fish

Phil Chun is without doubt a very good angler as is his wife Nina, Philís knowledge of baits is amazing, and his fish catching ability is legendary.I have learnt a lot from Phil, I remember him joining me on one of the toughest still waters in the country for big bream. On his first visit he broke the lake record with a fish of 14lb 6 ounces. On his second visit he upped the record to 15lb 8 ounces. (Pic 3) On another occasion he was fishing a big windswept weedy gravel pit. He had to cast his baited hook some 90 yards onto a small gravel patch about the size of a large farm house kitchen table. It was some of the most incredible fishing that I and my wife had witnessed. Phil had either 8 or 9 takes, hooking and landing everyone, apart from a couple of fish around the 18lb mark the others were twenty pounders. (Pic 4) On another occasion he wanted to catch some barbel, I suggested how and where he should fish. That evening he went and caught his first barbel including a couple of doubles. He also won the British Army Carp Angling Championships 3 years running including the team title. The best advice I can give is read Philís chapter in my book At the Waterís Edge. Donít read it once but several times and take notice of what he writes. You will certainly improve your fishing if you take notice of what Phil writes.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Midnight Start

Back to this coming season starting June 16th, I will travel to South Cerney on the Saturday 15th with Gavin Hurst a friend of mine of from Wigan from the Longleat angling show meeting up with Phil Chun and for a midnight start. I must admit I only fish for about an hour before getting my head down. No doubt Phil will have baited a few swims for several evenings to encourage the tench to move in.

My serious fishing will start just after dawn, hopefully the swim will be a mass of bubbles both pin head and larger ones, not all bubbles created by feeding tench are text book pin head size. If the weather is kind I will start fishing a waggler float set up, a rod length out from the bank using either corn, gentles, worms; Pallatrax rehydrated mussels, (pic 5) bread, or casters, if I can afford the latter. I will also be feeding with hemp; itís such a great attractor as usual Phil will have something special for me to try.

My float set up will be a 15 foot rod; matched with a centre pin holding some 50 yards of 6lb Gamma line, I have used this brand of line for ten or more years. I was the first UK angler to fish Gamma, which I found perfect for much of my coarse fishing, having said that I often use braid when rolling baits for chub and barbel. I find it good for those finicky bites. Not all barbel give a 3 foot twitch as many anglers believe. Most of my barbels come from a slight pluck on sausage meat, Pallatrax paste, sometimes a boily or bread crust, or a combination of bread crust and sausage meat or cheese paste moulded around the crust, so Iím fishing balanced bait. I buy my braid from Total Outdoors where the quality and price are right.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Iím Fussy about My Hooks

Hooks are a debatable subject; I like a strong eyed hook. For many years I used Allcock model perfect. I would search out the London tackle shops during my lunch break, should I be lucky to find a supply of hooks I would often by up all the stock for me and my friends, sadly these hooks disappeared.I started using Richard Walker hooks from B James and Son; followed by Partridge hooks from Redditch, I rated these very highly. When I visited the Redditch works it was like going back to Dickensian times. Sadly the factory closed and the hook making went too Malaysia. Another hook sadly no longer available is the Au Lion DíOr.Today Iím using Pallatrax barbless hooks, I canít fault them. An important item I wouldnít want to be without is a good plummet, make it a heavy one. The best I have found is in Wye Angling Crofts Court Ross on Wye. I often smear a layer of Vaseline on the base of the plummet. Then you will get a good idea if youíre fishing over small gravel or a mixture of sandy silt and grave as it will stick to the Vaseline.

You Often Need to Counter Balance - The Weight of the Hook

There are many times when tench can be very finicky especially when feeding over a bed of small baits hemp, corn, caster and gentles. I find it most important to counter balance the weight of the hook. If Iím using casters I make sure that the casters on the hook are floaters, when fishing corn I dump some grains onto a newspaper, then with a fine needle I take out the inside of the corn, replacing it with a tiny polystyrene ball, keeping these as hook baits. Fishing gentles I often superglue a tiny sliver of rig foam on the shank of the hook. Some anglers tell me itís too much bother being this fiddly. I donít think so, if it improves my catch rate. Itís an education watching Phil Chun balance his baits before casting out, his catches tell me itís well worth the effort in getting it right.††††††††††††††††

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Get a Good Weed Rake

One item of equipment I wouldnít want to be without is my double sided rake, (pic 5) there have been so many times far too numerous to remember when Iíve caught tench after raking a swim.As other anglers are failing. Lots of times Iíve had tench move in the swim during the raking progress. You donít even need to bait up, just put a couple of red worms on the hook cast out and your likely to get a bite. Raking a swim certainly attracts the fish in to your area.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Tench Like Boilies

One bait that really deserves attention is the boily, Iím told a small sweet flavoured boily is the one to use, Iím not sure. If the baits fresh and you donít over load the swim with too many freebies I reckon most flavours will work. I use sausage meat a lot; in fact I used this bait in the early 1950ís on the advice of my granddad it certainly worked, it still does today. Through Pallatrax we can now buy sausage sizzle flavoured bolies, itís a bait I will be using for my early season tench fishing with a PVA bag of broken sausage sizzle boiles with a light spray of sausage sizzle. I have used sausage sizzle for some years, itís not new. It was in powder form when I first started using it, Lone Angler now stock it in a spray bottle. Early season tench fishing can be very productive but also very exasperating. You can see the fish in the swim but they want pick up your hook bait, when this happens you must fine tune your set up. Hopefully wherever you start the season it will be a good one.

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Martin James Fishing
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