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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


27/04/2015 - Lots of work on the River


Sunday 19th I arrived on the River Ribble about 0900hrs conditions were horrid with an icy cold wind from the north east often gusting to 15-20mph having walked the beats and feeling quite despondent with the cold weather I was back home by 1100hrs, after pottering around in my garage and shed, I went indoors for an early lunch, isn’t it amazing how the words have changed in our lifetime, dinner in now lunch while tea is dinner. If you want to be posh then you take tea at 1600hrs salmon and cucumber sandwich perhaps a small scone with cream, gentles have become maggots though I still use the old name, it sounds nicer. During the afternoon I reminisced over my angling life I’ve been taking part in this great sport pastime or is it a hobby I reckon it’s a bit of all three for 73 years. My first angling memory was being taken fishing by uncle Len, I caught 7 small rudd from a clay pit. A few weeks later Uncle Len a sniper in the Royal West Kent regiment died in the sands of North Africa fighting Rommel’s Afrika Korps, the spark he ignited in me at such a tender age still burns as bright today as it did all those years ago. By the age 6 I was an avid reader, by my 7th birthday I’d read the few books covering angling and natural history in junior library, thankfully my mum was a friend of the librarian so I was given the privilege of a library card for the senior section. A whole new world opened up for me, with the discovery of naturalists like Jefferies, Hudson, White, Buckland, Darwin and Denys Watkins-Pitchford known as BB. Anglers such as Arthur Sharp his books Angler’s Corner, The Lure Of The Float, Along Nature’s Byways, also Rod and Stream were read often and still are, these books eventually ended up as Christmas or birthday presents, The Art of Coarse Fishing JHR Bazley 1932, perhaps the Richard Walker of his day a Leeds Schoolmaster who won the All England Championship twice, it was through Bazley I learnt how deadly wasp grubs and caddis bait were, I still use these baits today especially caddis, an excellent bait for roach and grayling. Other books were Fishing Pike and Coarse also Fishing Salmon and Trout Cholmondeley-Pennell and Sea Fishing by J Bickerdyke all from The Badminton Library series, other books by J W Martin Trent Otter and HT Sheringham a onetime author of The Field magazine, today I have all the titles by Trent Otter & Sheringham, a book I really enjoy from Sheringham’s pen is An Angler’s Hours especially the first chapter At Dawn of Day , apart from reading all the books I could get my hands on, I had the Fishing Gazette and Angling News, we had the Daily Mirror for the Angling column by Bernard Venables. When I won the school book prize the school secretary called me in her office to ask what book I would like, I immediately said “Please can I have Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing Madame” a few days later I was told “The book is only 5 shilling, you can have a book to the value of 1 guinea”, I just said” Mr Crabtree please Madame” I suppose the 2 books that changed my whole approach to angling were Drop Me A Line Ingham & Walker also Still Water Angling Richard Walker, I still remember queuing up outside Smiths bookshop on the day of publication to collect Still Water Angling that I’d ordered a few weeks previously, outside the shop flicking through the pages I knew there was no way I was going to college so returned home, my mother said a few angry words then left me alone with my precious book. Today I have both copies signed and bound in green leather. My book collection goes back to the early 1800’s titles covering coarse, sea, game and big game fishing, even these days I still go back and read many of the old titles I also learn from them. I sat down this afternoon for a couple of hours to read Dry-Fly Fishing by RC Bridgett. M.A.B.Sc. as I read some of these old books I smile and realise how lucky we are today with modern fly lines, before the 1950 our lines were of tapered waterproofed silk which had to be taken off the reel directly we returned home, the line had to be dried in the open air, then treated with Cerolene or Mucilin. I vividly remember returning home from a fishing trip with my grandfather, father or an uncle, I didn’t need telling I had to strip the line off the reels onto a line winders, then wipe down the rods with linseed oil before hanging them in the cupboard. Returned home from a day’s shooting, the dog was given a rub down then its food, followed by cleaning the guns and locking them away in the gun safe. We never thought it a chore just something that needed to be done. I’m often asked how my gear looks so good, I reply “I look after it, my Mitchell 300s 1953 models are still in use looking nearly as good as new. Many of my reels have been used all over the world in fresh and saltwater they are still as good as new.

Monday 20th April bright sunny day with a light 5mph easterly wind, conditions were looking quite good for fly fishing though the bright sunshine might help keep the fish down still we can’t have everything. Before going off to the river I visited the doctors to book an appointment for blood checks, then the barbers to book an appointment, finally the library and the bank, eventually getting on the river about 0950hrs. I didn’t fish today, but done lots of work to improve the aquatic and bankside environment. A couple of hours were spent improving the area where I had the sea trout last week, I stripped down to my chest highs if I had a ducking I would have dry cloths to put on, I had to leave my hearing aids in the cabin as they are not waterproof. For safety reasons a rope was fixed to a bankside tree, the other end to a strong belt around my waist, should I take a ducking I had a lifeline. I worked downstream, not upstream of the tree, if you slip when upstream of a tree you could be swept under the obstruction, then you’re in trouble. I once had to help an angler when he slipped into some deep water as he tried to retrieve his float. If he’d been on his own I dread to think what would have happened. At 1400hrs I stopped for a break, walking upstream to the cabin grannoms were hatching off in such density it looked like snow, sadly the fish didn’t seem interested, birds though were having a feast. After a break I was back in the river this time planting out water crowfoot, it’s a difficult job, once I’ve cleared an area of rocks and stones which isn’t easy in the fast swirling water, a plastic mesh basket with gravel and water crowfoot is positioned in the area, I make sure I have a decent size rock which I crowbar in place downstream tight to the basket to help keep it in place, I then put more gravel and stones in the basket. More rocks are then positioned around the basket, unlike rivers in the south and midlands rivers in the north rise and fall quickly causing strong flows, I probably lose 2 out of every ten baskets. Returning to my cabin I got dressed in warm clothes then turned my chest high waders inside out (not an easy job) to dry out in the warm sunshine. After a fresh brew I went off and checked all my willow plants, they didn’t look very good, probably been hit by the frost, I will keep my fingers crossed. At 1700hrs I decided not to fish but sit at the waterside for a couple of hours then returned home after quite a long back breaking day in the river, I often feel I shouldn’t be doing this work at my age.

Tuesday 21st April today The Queen’s Birthday what a wonderful lady, hopefully she will have many more, as usual I stood for the National Anthem this morning. After a quick visit to the barber I was on the river about 0930hrs, then made a brew for David and myself, after we then went our separate ways David to cast a fly, while I went downstream to do more habitat work. Spending a couple of hours in the tree swim getting rid of a lot of rubbish that has been caught up on the tree during the flood water conditions since the tree crashed down in the winter, I also opened two channels which has created a nice flow of water, allowing the fish to move through these gaps as they go upstream into the big bay, I also moved a lot of rubbish off the bed of the river beneath the tree, discovering an eight foot deep area just upstream of the tree stretching downstream about twenty feet I reckon this spot will be a good chub swim in the autumn and winter months. I’m hoping to plant some water crowfoot in the area, it want be easy but I shall try, I also called the builders merchants ordering some bags of gravel to dump in the swim which I will collect tomorrow, to make it easy the farmer has allowed me to drive my car to the swim where he will put the gravel in for me using the bucket on his digger. About 1500hrs I stopped for a break after a brew and sandwich, I put together a rod for a short relaxing fly fishing session, I had one take hooked the fish then lost it. An hour later I went off to the bottom beat where one of my members told me he’d seen a big sea trout estimated at around 8lbs. Another member had caught eight good trout all returned fishing a size 18 Greenwell’s. I was back home about 1830hrs after a shower and some tea I sat back listening to the cricket, eventually falling asleep in my chair I must be getting old.

Wednesday 22nd April another bright sunny day I arrived on the river at 0800hrs, after walking both beats I got kitted out in chest high waders I had more work in the river to finish off including putting in some gravel, as I worked I spotted quite a few bullheads also a huge shoal of minnows, no way I could I put a number on the black mass of small fish except to say they covered an area of about four feet by ten feet, I’ve never ever seen such a huge shoal of minnows in more than 70 years at the waterside. Around 1300 hrs. I’d finished my chores so headed back to the cabin feeling rather tired wet and despite the warm weather quite cold having taken a ducking when I stepped into a hole. After a good rub down then putting on some warm cloths I felt a better person, time for a fresh brew and sandwich. Sitting in the sunshine and looking across the meadow to the river I felt quite privileged to be looking after such a beautiful place. A few cows waiting to give birth had been released in the meadow this morning, along with the sheep and lambs it was a peaceful sight, even more so when a roe deer put in an appearance also there are quite a few hares aeound. When I look back over my life as an angler wildfowler and naturalist, I often give thanks for choosing those interests. I didn’t bother to fish but sat in the warm sunshine reading until about 1530hrs when I decided to go home. After a shower and change of clothes it was time tea what others call dinner.

Thursday 23rd April St George’s Day another day of wall to wall blue sky with warm sunshine, not even a breeze to ruffle the water surface, I didn’t do any work today, apart from slowly walking the beats looking for signs of sea trout and chub, lots of bluebells and primroses, I then spent the of the day sitting in the sunshine outside the cabin, sorting out fly boxes cleaning fly lines attaching new leaders drinking tea reading also listening to the cricket from about 1430hrs until 1800hrs when I left for home.

More Rubbish

Friday 24th April today was an anglers day with thick cloud and a light breeze, in fact if it had been the open season I would have described it as a “Roach Fishers Day” but hopefully the trout would be in a feeding mood. My first job was to remove lots of rubbish dumped by slobs and thieves who have crept out from under a stone. In the mass of rubbish were dozens of CD’s, a brand new car radio in its case, that’s the reason for saying thieves. I had to be careful when clearing away the rubbish as there were several hypodermic syringes with needles. Before I could get at the rubbish I had to sort out the abseiling gear as the rubbish had been dumped on a steep bank above a deep swirling pool, should I fall in I could well be in trouble. Hence the ropes. It took me all of an hour to clear the rubbish, having filled my car with bags of rubbish also the front passenger seat and the foot well, in fact every spare bit of space was filled with rubbish. I was going to take a picture of all the rubbish but had left my camera in the cabin, thankfully one of the attendants had a camera phone who was more than willing to take a couple of pictures, which he said he would send by e-mail but nothing arrived. Having got rid of all the rubbish, I had to give my car a good clean out then hoover up all the dust and small particles, then it was off to the supermarket for some air freshener to get rid of the smell. About 1400hrs I made my way to the cabin after heating up some water I had a good wash to get rid of the grime, then it was time for lunch also a well earn brew, as I sat back thinking of the mornings event, I got more angry at these people who steal from other people, also those other slobs who dump their waste in the countryside instead of using their council tip. A 1545hrs. I made my way to the waterside deciding to fish a weir pool in the hope of catching a sea trout, thirty minutes later with no sign of action, I decided I’d had enough. It was nice to see lots of sand martins and swallows, walking back upstream from the weir pool I watched a good sea trout leap clear of the water a fish I estimated at about 8lbs. I then met a couple of members who told me someone has cleared the rubbish it looks much better now the rubbish has gone. They were surprised when I said “I’d done the job myself”.

Fund Raising for the ABF The Soldiers Charity

2015 charity fund raising events for the ABF The Soldiers Charity one of my fund raising events was to have been a Commando course it looks as if this event is off due to plantar fasciitis which causes very painful heels, it so bad I have problems driving any distance. I’m now getting together a 14 man team to take part in a Dragon Boat Event organised by Dave Bangs, who is the Training Director for the GB Dragon Boat Team who also runs a company called 4 Dragons who put on Dragon Boat events. They are very keen to support the ABF charity, with the event taking place at the Liverpool Water Sports Centre, in Liverpool Docks on 12 September 2015. The ABF are aiming for 10 Teams, each of 14 rowers and a Drummer, the target for each team is to raise at least £1500-00 The entry fee is £20 per person, plus sponsorship. At present The Lone Angler team in agreement with Mike O’Neill is myself on the drum, Dave Hurst, Mark Hyde, Tam Miller, Coop, Martin Salisbury, Gavin Hurst, Brendan Ince. Tam and Mark will no doubt get some fellow police officers and army personal to join the team. Hopefully those living in the Liverpool area will turn up on the day and offer support.


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Martin James Fishing
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