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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


06/08/2023 - Three Good Days On The Soar

After 3 weeks in lovely Sussex, I was on my latest trip, this time to down to Leicestershire to fish the River Soar with my friend Anthony Morris and Mark Sarul, the normal hotel I stopped in, was closed for a major refurbishment, thankfully Mark found us an ideal place to stay about a mile from the river, not sure what we would get, it was a surprise to find the Peacock Inn, was perfect, nice and clean, though they didn’t serve any food, it wasn’t a problem as Anthony is a top chef in civilian life with his own business, who also serves in the RAF reserve as a chef.


Perch and Chub


We arrive in Loughborough around 0900 hrs, first stop was the Buttermilk café where you not only get a warm welcome but they have an excellent menu I can certainly recommend the toast and marmalade. Then it was into Bennetts tackle shop across the road, for bait and tackle items, from there we called into Waitrose to get some fresh milk, also frozen prawns. Twenty minutes later we are at our chosen venue, to find we had the river to ourselves, sadly Mark couldn’t fish with us today. Anthony was going to fish well upstream for the bream, while I was fishing another beat in search of chub and perch. It was going to be a roving day, moving from swim to swim, in the hope I would hit a winning spot, if I’m lucky I might catch from all the spots, though it doesn’t often happen.


Travelling Light


At the bottom end of the beat, I left my tackle, then with a bag of baits worms, bread, Garlic sausage from Liddle’s supermarket , it’s so much cheaper than luncheon meat, also chub seem to like it. I also had some frozen King prawns, I walked rather slowly these days, dropping items of baits in every likely spot that I thought could produce a fish. Having walked around a mile I made my way back downstream to my base, as I did so I made a note of the runs between the bulrushes.


Putting together my Chevin rod with a small fixed spool reel with 12lb bs braid, I tied on a size 4 barbless hook with a Palomar knot, which I find the best knot for braid, in fact for all lines, it’s never let me down, even when I’ve been flyfishing the ocean for many species that really do pull the string, jack crevalle, barracuda, yellow fin tuna, blue and mako sharks, tarpon and many other species. Some spots I would free line a bait, others I might need some weight to get the bait down, then it would be LG shot or plasticine. Though I had a light weight seat, most times I would just sit on the bank. All I would carry was my tackle, landing net, rod rest for occasional use, I would have a bucket bag holding small items of tackle scales weigh bag camera and baits.


Fish From The Off


Walking to the top of the beat where the first of the free offerings had been put in, it was now 1200 hrs, sitting on the grassy bank, I baited with a prawn, with one LG on the line, I cast out, allowing the bait to drift downstream to end up under a willow bush several yards, downstream, within three minutes, I‘d got my first fish a perch around a pound, rebaiting with another prawn I cast to the same area, immediately getting a take, this time a chub around 2 lbs. Half an hour without any more action I was on the move, I didn’t get any action in the next two spots, so once more I’m on the move.


Perch On The Feed


In the next spot a long streamy run of some thirty yards long, three to four feet wide with an average depth of two feet between the bank and bulrushes, an area I’ve never see anyone fish, though its produced good results for me in the past including perch to 3lb 2 ounces chub of 5lb plus. This is where you have to use stealth in getting close to the water, I walk well out into the field, then work my way upstream to the spot I want when fishing these areas, it’s a case of getting well back from the water’s edge then with a baited hook you get down on your hands and knees edging slowly forward, many time I will be down on my stomach then slither slowly towards the water’s edge where I can drop in a bait, often freelined. Yes, you will get stung by nettles, thistles and brambles which can be a problem, as are the red ants, I don’t worry about the black ants.


During a 4 hour session I had a total of 16 perch averaging a pound plus, best probably and a pound and a half. I had 6 chub best at 4lb 7 ounces. During the days angling, I fished several areas of the bulrush swims. It had been a very enjoyable day, though I hadn’t any good fish except the chub, I enjoyed every minute, especially the pair of Kingfisher’s that flew back and forth as they hunted the small fish to feed both themselves and a brood of youngsters. Back at the B&B I must admit I was exhausted also in a lot of pain. After a shower a mug of tea with some biscuits, I put my head on the pillow and was soon fast asleep.


Day Two


As it was Wednesday the Buttermilk café was closed, so we headed off to Morrisons, for breakfast, sausage bacon eggs and buttered brown toast was ideal, though I’m not a coffee drinker I chose a latte, it was horrid also just warm. I waited until I was on the river bank then I made a good fresh brew. Mark was waiting for us, it was very warm hand shakes all round, I’d been waiting nearly a year for this joyful day. After chatting for several minutes we started putting our gear together, Anthony was going back well upstream to the place he fished yesterday. Mark and myself would often fish a few swims apart.




Bulrushes and Perch Go Together


Fishing tight to bulrushes isn’t for the faint hearted, you have to be prepared to lose fish and tackle, this is fishing at its best, but it doesn’t suffer fool. This is fishing on your hands and knees, forget about using quiver tip rods as you will lose most of your fish, unless your extremely lucky. You need an a Avon action rod, centre pin or fixed spool with 12lb line, the late Dick Walker had an article in the Angling Times titled “Lugging For Chub” where immediately it was hooked you had to lug it away from the bulrushes. It sounds brutal, but it worked it still works today.


Having left Mark near the top of the beat, where he was fishing a feeder with liquidised bread baiting with flake, casting right across the river to fish under a large willow tree, Mark of course is a far more experience River Soar angler than I am as he lives close to the river. I then went downstream to fish the bulrushes, occasionally I could see a movement in the rushes as a fish would make the rushes shake. Perch will often position themselves in the rushes then quickly shoot out to grab a small fish or other food item, then as quick return. Hence when you hook one, it’s immediately lugged out into midstream. Often the bite will take place in a few seconds as they hit the bait on the drop, this happened to me for my first 3 perch all 2lbs plus, my first fish weighed 2lb 7 ounces followed by 2 fish of 2lb 2 ounces. With no more interest, it was time to move on.


Ten yards further downstream was a small pool, a likely chub and perch spot, I started off with a piece of crust, fifteen minutes later I changed the bait to a King size prawn, I used only the weight of the prawn to drop the bait closer to the lilies, no more than five seconds of the bait hitting the water it was taken, in the semi clear water, I could see it was a good perch, despite pulling as hard as I could, it wouldn’t budge from the rushes and lilies. Ten or more minutes later the fish had gone so I pointed the rod down the line then walked backwards, eventually the reed the hook was in broke loose, so I got my tackle back with a length of a bulrush. Time to move on.


More Perch


I went down stream about fifty yards, where there was a small gap between two very larger bulrush beds that extended fifteen plus feet out from the bank, I had to wriggle under some barbed wire so I could get on the waterside of the field. Sadly the bank was steep and some nine or ten feet above the water, saying to myself “Why didn’t I bring my dog spike and secateurs with me” knowing the water would be no more than about 2 feet deep, if I slipped in it wouldn’t matter after all it is summer. I slowly slid down on my bottom until I felt a bit of marshy ground where I could stand. After clearing some vegetation, I then had to climb back up for rod landing net and bait. Once in position I threw in some half dead lobworms that Mark gave me as the tackle shop didn’t have any lobs. Thankfully I did bring a tub of lobs back from Sussex which were very lively so I used those for bait. As the water was very slow-moving from left to right in ther opposite direction of the normal flow, I chose to fish a free lined lob, a gentle underhand cast I dropped the bait where I recon it would move slowly along close to the rushes, ten minutes later I felt the line tighten on my index finger as the rod tip move round, striking I felt the typical head shaking of a perch,. A few minutes later I got a decent fish in the net. Taking out the hook, I lowered the net in the water then climbed back up the bank for scales and weigh net, being in a precarious position I wouldn’t take a chance of bringing my camera down. The weight of the perch was 2lb 4 ounces, then made a note in my small note book. It’s the only way I can remember the weights of fish these days, also I have a record of how many fish I’ve caught at the end of the day, many of my friends laugh at me for being so careful about weights and numbers. In the next hour I had three more perch another at 2lb 4 ounces one at 2lb 1 ounce and 2lb 5 ounces. I then made my way back to the van for a toasted sandwich and mug of tea, after a break I made Mark a fresh brew, then carefully carried it over the field to his swim, not even spilling a drop. I was back in the swim, where I had several small chub around the pound mark, after a blank half hour session, I chose to move swims.


I moved back upstream about fifteen yards where I found a decent gap in the bulrushes, I added 2 LG shot 8 inches from the hook as the water was quite fast, if you extend the distance from hook and weight you stand a good chance of deep hooking perch, I then lengthened my landing net handle to its full length of 10ft. Baiting with a large lobworm I cast it gently upstream a few feet as I wanted it to end up close to the rushes slightly downstream of me so I could quickly get a direct control if I got a bite. A few minutes later I got a strong pull, striking I pulled as hard as possible moving the fish two or three feet upstream, then everything went solid, the fish had done me in the rushes. I tried hand lining, this worked after several minutes the fish come free, but in a blink of an eye, it weeded me again, this time I could see the fish, it looked like a decent perch, bigger than I’d caught today. Winding down so I’d got a very tightline I started thrashing the reeds above the fish in the hope it would wriggle free, eventually it was free then got rid of the hook, I was gutted. For the rest of the day I caught and lost a few perch the best being the first one, though I was happy at getting a total of 12 perch over 2lbs also some chub best chub at 3lb 7ounces. It had been a very good day, I was ready for a break and some food.


Thursday Day Three


Mark, Anthony and myself headed for the Butter milk café for breakfast Mark and Anthony had a cooked breakfast I had butter brown toast and marmalade with a mug of lemon lemsip as I was feeling rather sluggish this morning, after a rough night, in fact Anthony asked several times if I wanted to go home the answer was “No” in positive terms. I was hoping for more fish again, also I didn’t want to stop Anthony from fishing, we had come for 3 days and that’s what it would be.


After breakfast it was back on the river, Mark had chosen to float fish today, Anthony was going off upstream and I would concentrate on the bulrush swims fishing bread worms and prawns, Having got sorted out we made our separate ways. I chose to fish the swim where I had to slide down a steep bank where I had a small clearing between the rushes, where the water was very slow flowing in the opposite direction. I fished this swim and two other spots all through the day, I had bites in all three but only connected with 4 fish, landing one a chub of 3lbs 11 ounces it was only weighed as I thought it might be a 4lb fish, the other three fish snagged me in the reeds. So ended my enjoyable three days fishing. Mark had a succession of small roach but disturbed what her thought was a big barbel or pike,. Anthony was hoping the bream would feed, but he did get some pike and perch. I look forward to my next trip to this delightful water course. Thank you Mark and Anthony for your companionship.



Pic IMG 3827 this looks similar to the “Rook Run” on the Upper Ouse where I fished in the 1960’s



Pic IMG My best chub of the session 4lb 7 ounces



Pic IMG my best perch at 2lb 7 ounces





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Martin James Fishing
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