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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


05/02/2015 - Gin Clear River Tumbling Air and Water Temperatures - All Is Not Lost

My simple rig when fishing a paste bait

Over the past few days I’ve had several e-mails and phone call from friends moaning about not being able to fish because of the cold weather, “That’s not an excuse, your just kidding yourself, there is no reason not to go fishing, if old guys like myself can enjoy a few hours at the waterside so can you”. Last week I was on the river with 2 friends Mark and Albert, the water temperature was 34 degrees F, during the afternoon we float fished for grayling, Mark had one fish, Albert and myself didn’t catch though I lost a chub which didn’t surprise me using a size 18 hook to a 1.5lb bottom, knowing if the hook link touched one of the many rocks the fish would be gone, that’s just what did happen. Did I fret? know I just attached another hook to nylon and carried on until nearly dark.

Tea Break

Back at the cabin I made Albert a fresh brew also a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup. Mark didn’t join us as he had a flask of tea, he preferred to fish on, in my opinion probably done right as he caught a chub of 3lb 12 ounces and a trout estimated at about 3lbs. During the close season for game fish, I don’t allow my guests to weigh any trout caught encouraging them to unhook the fish in the net, we should try not to handle and trout if possible, and never as I see some anglers do, squeeze the fish tightly around the stomach as they retrieve the hook, trout are very fragile creatures and it’s quite possible than any fish squeezed is likely to die as its internal organs get damaged.

Back on an Icy River Bank

Opening the cabin door I could see and feel the temperature had really dropped, the fields white with frost, under the clear sky the stars sparkled like diamonds. After another brew Albert and myself made our way downstream, Albert chose a swim, above the weir pool while I hobbled with difficulty another 200 yards downstream, before going off for our tea break I’d introduced 4 walnut size pieces of Lone Angler Cheese Mania under the far bank trees, then some half a dozen thumb nail size pieces of flake downstream about 5 yards into a small channel a foot deeper some 2 yards long a foot in width, with water crowfoot on the inside edge offering cover to any fish which sought its sanctuary

Plastacine for Rocky Swims

My tackle consisted of a pair of Avon action rods with very soft tops, matched with small Shimano reels filled with 6lb line, to which I had attached rubber float stops then size 4 Pallatrax barbless hooks, fishing over a rocky bottom, plastacine was my preferred weight which I mould around the rubber stop set about 18 inches from the hook. See pic of rig and bait IMG0594. Baiting with a large piece of cheese paste I made a long cast towards the far bank trees then allowed a small bow to form in the line. On the second rod I used plastacine some 4 inches from the hook, then baited crust, with an underhand cast I worked the bait downstream into the small channel then set the rod in the rest. I sat back in my chair watching the rod tips in the beam of my torch, I can’t cope with isotopes, I’ve never have been happy with their use, you can forget about light frightening fish, on many occasions over many years I’ve pointed a torch beam in the water but never ever seen a fish move away in fright. In the 1950’s the accepted method of float fishing in the dark was a cycle lamp beamed on the float we all caught our share of fish, even Dick Walker used the method, if it was good enough for him it was good enough for me and my mates. Sitting there I though how glad I was for my excellent army winter clothing feeling as warm as toast.

Lots of Missed Bites

Suddenly my cheese baited rod tip was pulled savagely downstream then sprang back, I sat holding the rod willing for it to move again but ten minutes later chose to retrieved the tackle, on inspection I could see the bottom half the cheese paste had the perfect imprint of the chubs lips, I cursed under my breath for missing the fish, baiting with another piece of very soft cheese paste I made another cast towards the previous spot, it’s very important to make the cheese paste very soft, so it doesn’t get too hard in the cold water. Ten minutes later I had two quick taps on the bread crust baited rod, as I picked up the rod I felt another small pull but not enough to strike at, then another two quick pulls followed by a steady pull “Yes” I said to myself expecting to feel the rod tip get pulled down but nothing. In the next thirty or more minutes I had 7 more missed bites, all the time I was decreasing the size of bait and hook without success. By this time everything was white with frost, including rods and landing net, to keep the cheese paste warm I stuffed it inside my fleece.

A Good Fish at Last

I then spotted the cheese baited rod tip move slightly, picking up the rod I waited for another bite hopefully I could hit, nothing happened for five minutes putting the rod back in the rest, I thought perhaps rubbish though I knew it was an interest from a fish, then I got a call from Albert to say he hadn’t had any action, I suggested he join me as we talked the cheese bait rod moved slightly picking up the rod I felt a slight pull saying to Albert “I’ve got a bite” then I felt a good pull shouting to Albert “Must go got a good fish come and join me in my swim” After a good scrap and I then had to pull the fish well upstream against the water flow eventually I had the fish in the net, thinking “That’s a five pounder” on the scales it weighed 4lb 14 ounces still I was more than happy. Checking the camera I could see the battery was low also the cold weather didn’t help matters, I still took a picture but of poor quality I then hobbled downstream with the fish in the net before releasing it.


Back in my swim I continued to get bites on crust but just couldn’t set the hook, I was now down to a size 10 hook with a tiny piece of crust with no success, I then lengthened the distance between weight and hook to 12 inches then baited with a small piece of cheese flavoured flake, ten minutes later I had a small tap then a better pull striking I said to Albert “At last I got one” sadly half a minute later the fish was off. Then Albert said “You’ve got ten minutes before it’s time to pack up”, I though why haven’t we got longer but with no more bites I packed up, then slowly and painfully made my way back to the car park with Albert being a good friend he is carrying some of my gear. Though very cold with the net frozen to the bank we both agreed it had been a good session despite only the odd fish.




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Martin James Fishing
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