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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


04/04/2015 - A Week of Rain and Gales

The first of 30 willows is planted

Monday 30th March was a bright sunny morning with a strong NW wind making it feel quite chilly, the river was up about 2.5 feet with some colour, when I arrived at the bottom cabin 2 anglers were preparing to go back home. I suggest they fish an upstream weighted nymph but they chose to leave. Walking the beat I collected rubbish left on the bank following the high water yesterday when we had 4 feet on the gauge, I then went and checked my mink traps finding nothing I changed the bait then moved back to the cabin for a brew. I then collected a pair of secateurs also a large bag then made my way downstream to get some willow cuttings. I soon filled the bag with enough cutting to start planting them out further upstream. I then drove about 3 miles to another farm where I parked up, after a few words with John I walked across the meadow towards the river as I did so I could see lots of primroses in the hedgerow, which looked lovely in the sunshine. As I got near the river I spotted a cormorant heading for one of the pools, three shots from my starting pistol sent it off.

After about an hour I’d planted what hopefully will be a lot of willow bushes in a few years’ time, though I doubt if I will be around to see the result, Pic IMG 0828 showing the first willow shoot in the ground with the bag of other willow cuttings ready for planting out. After finishing the job, I then drove back to my cabin for lunch, as I sat looking across the field I noticed the sky clouding over, no doubt the promised rain was on its way. When I was planting out the willow shoots I’d noticed a couple of fish swirl on the surface, thinking there was the chance of catching a trout, I made up a five weight rod with floating line with a 12 foot tapered leader, then collecting my fly fishing vest and landing net I put the gear in the car, after another I brew I locked the cabin then drove round to the other side of the river, the water was too high for wading, also my bank wasn’t suitable under the very windy conditions for casting a fly, whereas the other bank was sheltered from a wood also a very high bank, the flowing water on the inside of the bend was much slower and ideal for trout.

A Trout First Cast

Tying on a Richard Walker Mayfly nymph on a size 8 hook, I pulled about thirty feet of line off the reel then with a roll cast followed by a false cast I dropped the fly well upstream, then holding rod tip shoulder high I retrieved line as the nymph moved downstream towards me, then I lifted the rod higher to get the nymph coming off the bottom in a natural way I got a hit, soon I was unhooking a 12inch fish nice hooked in the scissors. On the third cast I had another fish of similar size, as I was returning this fish I felt rain drops on my face, I went downstream to cover my camera, as I did so I noticed a good fish swirl close to a bush I’d fixed in the water several months ago to offer cover for small fish also as an attraction for nymphs, caddis, shrimps and snails. Making a cast well upstream past the sunken bush I eased the fly downstream, halfway along the bush felt a gentle take and set the hook, hoping the fish would go out midstream then downstream away from the danger, my luck was in the fish headed for the rocky shallows but I had plenty of time to tire out the fish before it reached the danger spot. After an interesting fight I had the fish coming towards the net then it was mine, It measured out at 17 inches neatly hooked in the scissors, I took a quick picture before taking out the hook and lowering the net in the water to watch it swim off strongly. Pic IMG 0829 If you look closely you can see the bead at the head of the Walker Mayfly nymph Pic IMG 0831 my Walker Mayfly nymph which is also a good pattern for barbel. I fished on for about twenty minutes and with the rain sheeting down I chose to go off home. After that short session I’m more convinced if the two members had fished this morning they would have caught.

Tuesday 31st March The river Ribble ha peaked at 6 feet over night, I worried that my recently planted willow shoots might have been swept away, I gave a sigh of relief seeing they were all in place. I had no chance of fishing in the blustery weather with heavy rain showers also a strong gusting wind, which at time nearly pushed me over, the river was the colour of very strong tea without the milk. I doubt if I could see two inches into the water. I walked both beats clearing away rubbish, at one spot I found about five yards of barbed wire fencing with three posts attached, back at the cabin I grabbed a grappling iron and rope from the storeroom then went off downstream to clear away this obstacle. The longer it remained the harder it would be to move, it didn’t matter how hard I tried I could only move the obstacle a few feet. Back at the cabin I got a hook and pulley back downstream I hooked the pulley over a nearby tree. Even then it took a lot of effort to get this rubbish out of the water and onto the bank, my wire cutters quickly cut the fencing into manageable bits, keeping the posts for future use. It was time for lunch today I had some bread and butter with a tin of pilchards followed by a mug of tea. I then went off to the local tip to get rid of the wire and other rubbish I’d collected. I then parked up at John’s farm, as the day before I’d spotted some bits of barbed wire sticking out the ground, I needed to deal with this problem before I forgot about it, with pickaxe and wire cutters I made my way across the field to the river bank. Half an hour later I’d got rid of the nasty bits of wire which could so easily tear an anglers waders, looking downstream I could see something white near the fence line, walking down stream I found a dead lamb, it possible died during the night through exposure to the horrendous weather, I carried it back to the farm and was surprised at the weight of the animal the long trudge back uphill also showed me I wasn’t as fit these days, about 1400 hrs. with no prospect of fishing I checked the mink traps then headed off home.

Wednesday April 1st another wet windy day with sleet and hail showers, fishing was going to be hard I reckon the only chance of getting a fish was between 1400 and 1500 hrs., then it would be fishing an upstream nymph. After walking both beats also checking my mink traps, finding nothing I collected the traps to store for a few weeks. As I was making my way back to the top beat I noticed a grey squirrel in a large oak tree, I had all the time to take my shot which was successful, so that a few birds eggs or young that have been saved from these horrid killers, they are not nice soft cuddly furry things as some people imagine. The wind was gusting to gale force which would make fly fishing extremely hard, though during my walk I did find an area sheltered from the wind where I thought I might be able to make a few casts to make a good presentation, in this case a Richard Walker Mayfly nymph to a fish. An hour later I started to fish from the downstream end of the sheltered run slowing working upstream, second cast I had a 12” fish, which was quickly followed by two other trout of similar size. I then had about twenty casts with no interest, as I was nearing the top of the run where a tree had crashed in the water last winter I made a long cast dropping the nymph just upstream of the tree which allowed me to get the nymph coming downstream about two feet out from the tree, just before the nymph got to the end of this obstruction I felt a savage take, I firmly but smoothly lifted the rod setting the hook into a good fish which took several yards of line, the fish had all the advantages with an extra four feet of fast flowing water. The fish went downstream then across to where a large boulder the size of a big fridge, if this fish got close to the boulder it would quickly bust the line, I put as much pressure on the fish as possible which did get the fish turning then moving upstream before suddenly changing direction an moving towards me as I retrieved the slack line like a demented demon, I gave a sigh of relief knowing I was back in control of sorts. For several more minutes the fish would get some line then I would win it back but slowly I was drawing the fish closer then I got my first glimpse of the fish, it was certainly a good one. Eventually it was mine I could see the nymph lightly hooked in the scissors which was quickly removed, running the tape along the fish I got a measurement of 18 inches, this was a very fat and heavy fish I estimated at about three and a half pounds perhaps a bit more. I punched the air saying to myself “Yes” I had a couple more casts then decided it had been a very good session and called it a day then returned home after another happy day in paradise.

Thursday 2nd April the day was sunny and bright with a light wind, after visiting the barbers arriving on the river about 1030hrs, the river was flowing fast with very limited visibility probably no more than three or four inches, one of my members arrived with a guest we chatted for a while then I left them to their fishing, while I went off to build some more sanctuaries to help the small fish survive from cormorant and goosander predation, also all the structure would encourage more fly life. My idea was to rope together a few large branches that had come down in the recent gales, but first I had to climb a suitable riverside tree, then edge out on a good solid branch to fix a long rope in place, having done this I made my way back to Terre firma where I collected several big branches also some rotten logs. Having roped them altogether I had to move them to the edge of the bank which was about seven feet above the water. The idea was to roll the roped branches over the edge as they crashed into the fast flowing water they would be floated out into the stream and eventually other debris would help build up the raft also as the water level dropped I would get into my chest waders then fix some pallet boards in place with some electrician ties. After about three hours I had got two of the rafts built and in place, feeling shattered to say the least I headed off for a sandwich with a mug of tea, After I had a good rest I decided to visit the anglers to see how they were doing, though they hadn’t caught they were enjoying the experience on a warm bright sunny day, though a few olives had been hatching off no fish were seen. I then called it a day and returned home.

Friday 3rd April when I arrived on the river this morning at 0800hrs it was one of those grey days when the clouds were virtually touching the roof tops, with light rain and just a breath of wind, by noon a heavy mist covered the surrounding countryside, the river height and colour were quite good for fly fishing but I only spotted the odd olive coming off between 1400hrs and 1500 hrs. With the current weather conditions I did expect to see a few more flies and some movement from the trout, but it was a bit on the chilly side, the only success I had today were five 12” brown trout taken on a size 18 black buzzer fished in the slack areas of water. At 1700 hrs. I set off for home. The end of another week where I was able to get some habitat work done and catch a few trout. For the next few days I have several pupils for casting lessons so a few good donations to Crossroad Care of the ABF The Soldiers Charity.


A 17" Brown Trout

Richard Walker Mayfly nymph

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Martin James Fishing
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