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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


26/01/2021 - Back At The Waterside

One of my 4 chub that had a fight with an otter


 Over the past week, I haven’t been able to cast a line, I can’t remember the last time this happened, though I didn’t fish I still had plenty of work to do, I have started sorting everything out so I can replace the gate and post, I’d asked someone if he could do the job but after 3 weeks I’d had enough of excuses. I then decided my bailiff and myself together can sort the job saving around a £150-00. I also had to sort out the fencing I had recently replaced that has got ripped out in places by the floods despite the post being concreted in, I found the post with concrete block attached washed up the bank. With a crowbar and a lot of bending and pushing using a heavy crowbar I managed to get them in roughly the right place, my next job will be to dig big enough holes to take the concrete block and posts, but it will get done. This week starting Monday 25th January come hell or high water I was determined to go grayling fishing, looking out the window early this morning I could see the snow falling, but I was going off fishing. I’d loaded the car yesterday, all I had to do this morning was get some breakfast, take gentles from the fridge in the shed, pick up a loaf of bread, a bag of cheese paste from the fridge, I always keep tins of corn in the car, around 0830hrs with the countryside coated in snow I was off. It was certainly tricky in places, often caused by stupid people tail gating me, I must have signalled and pulled over half a dozen times or more so the idiots could go off driving like maniacs.


At 0900 hrs I pulled off the road for a long drive down the bumpy farm track eventually arriving in the car park next to the big house. As I got out of the car, the bitterly cold wind along with hail hit me full in the face making me shiver, “Not to worry” I thought, I’ve fished in far worse conditions, pulling on my wellingtons along with another pair of waterproof trousers, I put the jetboiler on for a fresh brew, as I waited for the water to boil, I put some water in my mixing bowl then added crumb, mixing it all up with a wooden spoon, by the time I’ve had my tea, the ground bait should be ready if I’d got the mix right. Lots Of Nuisance Trout My first swim was at the top of the beat where the fast broken water, slowed the swept in close to the bank under a very big oak with many of its roots plunging deep in the water, when I say deep, its around four feet over silty sandy gravel bottom. Upstream of the oak were some sedges, sitting down behind these it was possible to trot the float downstream where it would follow the flow under the oak. Checking the water temperature I got a reading of 35-36 degrees F with some cat ice among the sedges, my mind went a few years when I had similar condition, apart from the bright sunshine and hoar frost in the trees back then. The temperature both land based and in the water were identical, that day I had a 10 lb 10 ounce barbel. Missed the next bite then had two chub oner a low five pounder, the other was my personal best of 7 lb 10 ounces, As Mick Holgate remarked as we walked across the field back to the car “Martin you could catch fish from a puddle” when I get these icy cold condition I look back at past days which gives me confidence.


Today I used a Milwards Swim Master, matched with my copy of the 1939 Aerieal Match 2 that Leszek built for me without the line guard, which had some forty yards of 4lb bs line, I used a cane stemmed float with a cork body taking 5AAA shot with a tell-tale shot on the hook length, one of a few built for me by Graham Pinkerton at the request of Colin Culley for my Christmas present, yes I have literally hundreds of float going back to my childhood, but you can’t have too many floats, that hold many memories, they also make good decorations around my study. I then attached a size 12 barbless hook tied up for me by my great friend Mark Sarul, each in its own small envelope with the type of hook pattern, size and bs of line. Mark wraps them in a way you don’t end up in a tangle, also I have the advantage of hooks being tied by an angler. First Cast A Trout Having got everything sorted, I made a few casts until I got the float to run though around 4-6 inches off the bottom, catapulting a dozen gentles upstream I baited the hook with three then made my first cast, where I had to hold the float back hard to allow to the baited hook to run through the shallow broken water, then eased off as the float moved through the slower water, as it drifted under the oak it dipped, the answering strike connected with a good fish where I was forced to give line. After some ten minutes I had to move downstream, I doubt if I could have got the fish through the fast water, before I started fishing I’d placed the net downstream ready for any action. Soon I had a brown trout pushing 3 lbs, these triploids really do fight during the winter months also they don’t spawn being sexless, they don’t lose condition, because basically they are an eating machine, I dread to think how many small grayling chub dace etc they will eat. On my third trot through I had another trout around 2 lbs, I then changed to sweetcorn, I do find grayling like this bait, but sadly throughout my five hour session in really miserable conditions of sleet, hail a bitterly cold wind fishing all my chosen swims I didn’t get a grayling.


Around lunchtime the air temperature really dropped, it was so cold the top guide often froze up. I also used bread flake and cheese paste all with the same result trout, nothing under 2lbs ending with nine fish, but they pull the string and bend the stick. Back at the car the windscreen was covered in icy blobs where the rain had frozen. On the drive back up the long farm track I nearly come off the track into the field.


Tuesday Another Day Of Rough Conditions During the night I looked out of the window to see a covering of snow, a minute later I’m tucked up under the duvet again thinking “Do I want to go out again in the freezing weather” I answered myself by saying “Yes” Finally drifting off to sleep, at 0600 hrs the alarm sounded its strident note, soon I'd had my shower, then a bowl of porridge, before going outside to sort the bird feeders and fill the drinking bowls with water, it’s a good job that each evening I pour away the water then turn the bowls upside down, otherwise they would be a block of ice covered in snow. The tackle from yesterday was already in the car, I collected some lobs from the fridge, along with gentles, I was going to see if I could find some grayling choosing to fish another water close to home. My plan of action was to start with corn for the first two hours, if nothing happened I would try a change bait. Leaving home in the dark I stopped off at the supermarket to pick up some shopping, then into the butchers for a couple of rump steak’s, some chicken breast and a dozen rashers of bacon, if nothing was happening on the river today I would make a couple of bacon and brown sauce sandwiches with a mug of tea while reading the paper in front of my big gas fire, I didn’t plan to suffer today as yesterday. It was just getting light when I got to the river, I went off downstream to my chosen swim then sprinkle corn over several yards of water, and not just a few grains in a narrow swim as is normal, this would give me a big area to search. Grayling can be very tightly shoaled often in just a three foot square area of water. I find if you catch one you can often get a dozen, also I often let the bait drag behind the float, it’s surprising how often you catch from an area that you thought didn’t think hold any fish.


Back in the car I put the Jetboiler on, while I sorted out the tackle my rod being still made up from yesterday, all I had to do was put the joints together. Within minutes its started raining which soon turned to a mixture of rain and sleet, but I wasn’t going to be deterred. I need to fish, I’m not a person who can sit around at home doing nothing. Having got everything sorted out I headed off downstream in the facing strong cold wind and rain, thinking if I do get a good grayling I don’t think I want to take out a camera, I don’t use one of the phone cameras, in fact all my phone is used for, is taking and making calls with the odd text and even then I don’t even know how to use capital letters. I’m certainly not into modern technology, as Mark and others will testify as they do it for me when needed. Some Surprise Chub Having got settled in, I adjusted the float so the bait was just tripping the bottom, threw in some corn, then baited with one grain, I never use two grains of corn, if you do, you will probably get a spinning twisting bait as you retrieve at the end of the cast, this can cause a tangle or weaken the hook link. The float had gone about ten yards then slowly submerged, I gently lifted the rod immediately feeling the pull of a fish, “This is no grayling or trout” I thought as I was forced to give line, after a run of a few yards downstream, the fish kited in towards my bank and the over hanging brambles, “Chub” I thought which put a smile on my face though it was the last fish on my mind today, the rain was now more like stair rods, the rain drops seemed to bounce off the surface of the river, soon I had rivulets of water running down my bank, eventually I’d got my first look at the fish a chub around 4lbs as I pushed the landing net out into the river at the same time my hands were wet and cold. Soon I had the fish in the net, I had a big smile on my face saying that a great fish unlike to trout of yesterday which are a nuisance, I quickly walked well upstream before releasing the fish, without thinking I pulled the hood over my hat feeling cold water run down the back of my neck and shuddered.


Back in the swim I made a dozen casts then hooked a small grayling around 8 ounces quickly followed by four more fish of similar size, slow the heavy rain changed to a more steady rain but it was just as cold on the hands. What did it matter I was catching. Over the next two hours I had a dozen or more grayling the best might have gone around a pound mark, then the rain eased to a drizzle as the wind dropped quite considerably, condition were now quite pleasant, I had a blank session for around twenty minutes, I realised the float had gone, lifting the rod I felt the plunge of a heavy fish as it made of quite fast downstream then moved towards the far bank before slowing up, “Typical chub” I thought, but with light float tackle I had to take thing a bit easy, nothing like bullying the fish as I do when legering. Eventually I was slowly gaining line, my only problem were the trailing brambles in the water just below me, if the line got caught up all would be lost. Soon it was withing range of the net then it was mine, dragging the net up the bank I looked for the hook in the mouth of the fish, I thought it had dropped out as the fish hit the net which often happens with a barbless hook, picking up the bunched shot so I could take the hook out of the net I found the hook was missing, I reckon I’d had a bite off as the fish went into the net, I was a lucky angler. The chub had certainly been in a life and death struggle with an otter but amazingly it survived. I took a quick picture then walked upstream and released my second chub. In the next hour I had just four bites all grayling around the 8 ounce mark all from the same small area. Then the rain sheeted down as the wind increased, the air temperature had dropped a few degrees, I then took the water temperature again getting a reading of 34 degrees F. In the next hour I had two more chub around the 3lb mark both giving a good account of themselves along with a few more small grayling. I then had an hour or more with just three bites all missed, feeling that the fish had stopped feeding or had moved away. I chose to go off and have a bacon sandwich with a mug of tea and try to get warm before driving off home, despite the horrid weather over the two days I would happily repeat the days despite those conditions, tomorrow the temps are on the rise so hopefully I will find a fish or two.


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Martin James Fishing
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