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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


08/12/2021 - At Last A Good Session


For some time the river levels and water temperatures have been up and down like a YO YO, the river often full of leaves, with other rubbish, including full bin liner, no doubt dumped from a bridge upstream. I had no chance of getting this bag out, as it drift downstream, hoping it wouldn’t break open. At one time we had over ten - eleven feet of water, all caused by the heavy rain, a thaw from three inches of snow, suddenly disappearing off the nearby hills, surrounding countryside and roads, all the salt, sand oil etc ending up in the river, no wander the water temperature and oxygen content was down to 36 degrees F at one time. The wind has also been blowing from all points of the compass, air temperatures so low there have been heavy overnight frost and ice which in some areas lasted through the day. I was so desperate to fish, I tried fishing quiet areas of water, tight to the bank, under tree and bushes, the only fish wanting to take a bait were trout. I have no interest in catching these fish out of season, they would take any bait meat, bread, lobs sweetcorn, whatever I put on the hook. To say it was exasperating is an understatement. With the snow broth gone, the water started to slowly clear, there was now just a few leaves which were not a problem, I started to see the bottom in a few inches of water, eventually I could see the bottom in eighteen inches of water, the stones and rocks shining bright, in the next three days, the water temperature started to rise from 38 degrees F to 40 degrees F.

A Good Weather Forecast

First thing I do each morning is check river height, then weather forecast, today the first gave me an indication of two feet on the river, the weather forecast was for a light south westerly wind between 0800 hrs and 1300 hrs with rising air temperature. At 1300 hrs the wind would increase to fifteen plus miles an hour from the north west, with air temperature dropping. I decided it was likely to be good fishing for grayling if only for a short session. An hour later I’m on the river, checking water temperature I got a reading of 40 degrees F, it’s has remained steady now for three days.

The tackle was a 12 foot Milwards Swimmaster, matched with a Eureka 4 inch reel holding some 3lb bs line, I added an orange tipped balsa float taking 4 AAA placed on the line two feet from the size 12 hook, with2 BB eight inches from hook, after running the tackle through the swim a few times no more than ten feet out from the bank, I found an averaging depth of four feet, over small stones with an occasional big rock, when the tackle was in this area, I would hold the tackle back hard, hoping to lift the baited hook out of harm’s way. I always start fishing close in, then move out if there are no signs of fish within an hour, at the same time I always try to keep well back from the bank so as not to cast a shadow on the water, today I had no problem with a twelve feet high bank covered in trees and bushes on the opposite side of the river, the sun wouldn’t be a problem today.

During the next twenty minutes I catapulted lots of dead and live gentles well upstream, in the hope they would settle in front of a big willow bush downstream of me. No doubt creating a safe haven for fish, many of its branches were trailing in the water, where rubbish had collected creating a small raft. My idea was bait drifting downstream would also encourage fish further to move up seeking the source of the food. I then rested the swim for a while, during which I had a walk well upstream looking for other suitable swims, that might have been created by the big flood. I also spotted several big flocks of fieldfare, in fact many were feeding on the hawthorn bushes on the other side of the river, opposite my swim.

Into Action

Half an hour later having got everything sorted, I baited the hook with four yellow gentles, setting the float so the bait fished mid water, I reckon the fish would possibly be very active in the current weather conditions, I was proved correct, the float dipped only ten feet down the swim, setting the hook I knew immediately it was a trout. At least they did bend the stick and pull the string, it was nice hearing the reel check sound as line was taken. Soon fish number one was netted around two pounds, rebaiting I cast again on the same line adding half a dozen gentles each cast, as the float reached the area where the first fish was hooked, it dipped, another trout of similar size was landed. In the next ten trots through the swim I had ten more trout, some times the float would travel twenty thirty feet then dip. It was certainly fast and furious angling. As the bailiff said “You got those fish feeding Martin”.

After a break of ten minutes, I made a cast, adding half a dozen gentles, then trotting the same line, soon another trout, I was surprised I hadn’t a dace, chub, roach, perch or grayling to break up the monotony. Then my luck change, the float travelled some twenty five feet, as it got level with an alder tree it dipped, I set the hook into another fish this time, I said with glee “This is a grayling” I could tell by the twisting turning fight of the fish as it stayed deep, the trout usually went off on a fast run, just under the surface. I carefully played my prize, also extending the net further out in the water, soon I got my first glimpse of a grayling with its big waving dorsal fin, a minute or so later I was able to draw it in over the waiting net. I estimated the fish around a pound and a half, on the scales it weighed 1 lb 7 oz’s. I went for my cameras, it wasn’t in my bag, I dashed off to the car park, it was there, I then realised it was on my desk at home, a couple of day ago I had taken some pic of tackle for Piscatorial Raconteurs website.

In the next ten casts I had ten bites all close to the alder tree where some of its roots trailed in the river. All ten bites ended with grayling the best at 1 lb 13 ozs. Suddenly there was a flash of blue as a kingfisher dived from the alder tree, a distance of around twelve feet, into the water, returning with what looked like a minnow. A couple of minutes later the kingfisher repeated the even, this time land on a willow branch some four feet from me with its prize another minnow. These wonderful birds amaze me with their eyesight and fishing skills. half an hour later with no more bites, I fished another line some three rod lengths out, catching nothing. Without warning the wind increased strongly from the north west, the air temperature plummeted causing me to shiver. Glancing at my watch it was 1240 hrs, it seemed for a change the weather forecast was correct. Half an hour later with heavy rain and sleet falling, I called it a day then headed off home. Without a shadow of a doubt it was one of the best session in many years, not a single bite was missed, the high light of my day was catching of grayling. Looking back at the session, I can’t understand why I didn’t catch any dace, chub, roach or perch, more so as I was feeding lots of gentles. I have now had three days with no fishing and we are now expecting another big storm, so that’s my fishing for a few days, the river will be up and fast flowing with lots of rubbish. All I can do is walk the banks topping up bird feeders and enjoying the experience of being out.


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Martin James Fishing
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