fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


07/05/2014 - It Will Soon be That Magic Day Again


Come June 14th or 15th I usually travel south to the River Kennet, Avon or Loddon in the hope of catching chub and barbel, I say hopefully as I’m not happy catching fish with spawn coming from the vent. If I do so I will pack up then go off fishing another water for perhaps a pike or perch, I’ve even been known to go and float fish for the mullet. I well remember fishing the River Teme some years ago with Tony Farquhason of Southport, The first fish hooked trotting the stream was a barbel about six pounds, with milt coming from the vent. Next cast I had another barbel this time a female fish that was dropping eggs. I packed up and returned to the car park. Tony said “What's the problem Mart” I told him what had happened and said “I'm not fishing today”. Within five minutes we agreed to return home. Neither of us wanted to fish for barbel under these conditions. I find it strange that anglers who profess to be naturalists and care about the aquatic and wildlife will say I hope it’s a cold spring so the bream and tench will be holding their spawn. Seeing some of the heavyweight tench full of spawn in the angling press, isn’t a very nice sight. Yes, we don’t live in a perfect world and no doubt I have hooked fish with milt or eggs, but if that spawn is coming from the vent I pack up. Hunters, wildfowlers, game shooters all recognise a close season for their quarry.

This year on June 16th I want be fishing as I will be abseiling off the Big One at Blackpool to raise funds for the ABF The Soldiers Charity, but I can assure you I will be fishing on the 17th hopefully on the Hampshire Avon, but where ever I fish I will spend some time carrying out a reconnaissance of the water. It’s surprising how much the river will have changed since you last fished even more so with the big floods of last autumn and winter. I will be looking for some above average fish or signs that point me in the direction of areas where to fish. Remember fish are not spread around the rivers like currents in a pudding also they don’t feed twenty four hours a day, often it will be a short thirty minute feeding spell and unless you know there are fish in the swim why sit for hours without a bite. How many times have you found fish in a swim but they want take your bait? No doubt like me many times. When this happens the message is usually those fish are not interested in feeding, probably because they have been feeding during the night or early morning. Of course it could be due to lots of caddis or some other nymphs in the area, you find fish feeding avidly feeding on mayfly nymphs that nymph to those feeding fish is like a prime steak to we humans. The fish are so programmed in to these creatures they will refuse our baits. But not is all lost, just spend some time finding some nymphs and fish two or three on a size 16 hook, or as I have often done fish a Richard Walker mayfly nymph using a 7 weight outfit and floating line.


                                  Reconnaissance Helped Me Catch a Barbel


I suggest you spend time watching your quarry you will be surprised how much you will learn, I’ve spent hundreds no thousands of hours during my lifetime just gazing in the water watching my target fish that are either feeding or motionless behind some water crowfoot except for the occasional movement of its fins. Sometimes I’ve watched a fish for an hour or more then seen it move out from its cover to intercept an item of food. I just know that fish is for catching providing I don’t spook it and present a bait as natural as possible. You will learn more by observing than just chucking a bait in the water and waiting. One occasion on the River Teme found a good barbel possibly a double just below a railway bridge around 8 o’clock in the morning. Back in the car park my mate Tony was cooking breakfast as we sat enjoying bacon, eggs and tomatoes Tony said “Have you seen anything” I said in reply “Yes, a good barbel just below the railway bridge that’s my target fish today. This fish was tight to some water crowfoot a few feet upstream some three feet across from the fish was a chunk of timber half buried in the gravel. Breakfast over I went downstream the barbel was still in position, I sat watching the fish for about two hours, not once did it move out of position. Suddenly it moved upstream then across the current where it stuck its head in the soft silt gravel at the back of the half submerged bit of timber. I had no idea what it was feeding on assuming it was caddis, dragon or may fly nymphs. I sat and pondered how I could get the fish to take a bait.


My idea was to try small pea size pieces of sausage paste, the problem was getting the bait behind the rotting timber. Over the next couple of hours I dropped numerous bits of paste into the water, other pieces rolling downstream even as close as a few inches from the barbel were ignored. When I got it right the paste would be slowly moved along the bottom then as it got close to the bit of timber protruding about three inches above the gravel if got whisked upwards and over the timber by the water flow, dropping behind the timber where the water flow was virtually still. Within fifteen minutes the barbel would move across and picked up the meat, a few minutes later it was back close the water crowfoot. Looking back on that day I reckon the fish intercepted about six pieces of sausage paste. About five o’clock I made my way back to the car park for something to eat. Tony said “ What have you caught” I said “ Nothing I’ve not made a cast but I’ve have solved the problem of catching the fish if I get it right” Half an hour later I’m back in my swim it was time to try and get a bait in position it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Using a piece of plastacine fixed three feet from a size 14 hook to 10lb line I baited with a pea size bit of paste. It took about ten casts to get it right, watching both fish and bait I sat with bated breath holding the rod hoping for a bite. Fifteen minutes later I hooked and landed the fish, making sure it was safe in the landing net I went off to find Tony so he could take a photograph. The fish weighed 9lb 12 ounces a very satisfying result.


All readers of Lone Angler Facebook can do the same your equipped with quality tackle with excellent bait from a company that wants you to enjoy your experience. Hopefully many of you will have been able to talk to a member of the Lone Angler team who will have been able to impart some good advice on swim selection tackle and bait set up which will ensure you have the best chance of catching a few fish, perhaps even your dream fish. I will spend time looking for fish as once I find a fish or group of fish and providing I don’t do anything wrong I should have a reasonable chance of success and the same goes for you, have confidence in your fishing the baits tackle and you should get some rewards. Feel free to e-mail [email protected] if you have any questions, or if you would like to join me for a day on the river this coming season.


                                                               Rods and Reels


I will have two fishing rods with me a 12 foot Trefor West barbel rod 1.75 TC, personally I can’t think of a better rod on the market today, until late last year I was more than happy with the barbel rod which I helped design some years ago. Its proved perfect then at Trefor’s suggestion I used his 1.75 lb barbel rod catching a couple of barbel in a short session from the Kennet. It’s amazing how the design of rods can change in a ten year period, though it shouldn’t be surprising as Doctor Steve Harrison of Liverpool really does know all aspects of building a quality product and that’s what you get. I chose to purchase one immediately, since then I’ve purchased the flood water model for river pike fishing. Trefor and myself go back many years to the 1970’s when we fished the Wensum along with Tony Miles and other specialist anglers in those days when fishing was first class.


My chub rod will be the Trefor West model which I have written about on Lone Angler Facebook some weeks ago, this rod along with my other rod will be matched with centre pin reels, for chub 6lb line barbel it’s 10lb line, I know the Avon is very weedy but I find 10lb line is quite suitable. Should you hook a good fish don’t attempt to bring it upstream where it can get it's head into the base of the water crowfoot move downstream then pull the fish downstream. I’ve never had a problem with any fish in crowfoot basically it’s a soft weed, only a problem when the fish gets its head in the base of the plant. As previously mentioned pull the fish downstream.


                                     Hooks and other Bits and Pieces


I’m Fussy about my hooks a debatable subject; I favour a strong eyed hook. For many years I used Allcock model perfect. I would search out the London tackle shops in the 1950’s during my lunch break, should I be lucky to find a supply of hooks, often I would buy up all the stock for my friends and myself 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 D’Or. Today I’m using Pallatrax barbless hooks, I can’t fault them.Hook sizes will depend on the bait in use, I carry a small box containing a selection of Pallatrax barbless hooks size 4’s to 14’s

Many anglers use a length of braid between hook and main line, there are occasions when I will also use braid attaching it to the reel line with a Albright knot other times I tie the hook direct to the main line. My weights are either a small Stonze or LG shot. I try to keep everything as simple possible making sure my tackle is the best I can purchase, my knots have been well tested over many years. During the summer months I don’t bother with a rod rest, should I find a difficult chub where I need to use a very light dough bobbin I will use a forked stick to rest the front of the rod on. For carrying my bits and pieces I use the Lone Angler hemp and bait bucket which will hold my bait selection of sprays, glugs, pellets, pastes and squabs which are all sausage sizzle for the first few weeks of the season. I will always have a loaf of bread which I flavour with sausage sizzle, The outside pocket holds scales thermometer forceps shots stonze's and hooks. I carry a few a stones which I dunk in a sausage sizzle glug before dropping them in my swim. It’s a better way to get some flavour working than using a bag of crumbled boilies in a PVA bag next to the hook which will quickly disperse, whereas the stones only move slowly keeping the flavour leaching off. I also dunk my weight in the glug. I can assure you it works otherwise I wouldn’t go to the trouble of doing so. Finally you need something to sit on, that’s simple use the Lone Angler unhooking mat

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Martin James Fishing
Email: [email protected]