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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


17/05/2015 - A Week on the River

Relections on My River


Monday 11th May at 0800hrs this morning the weather was horrid heavy rain and strong wind, thankfully by 1000hrs the sun was shining and the wind had eased a bit, the river had about fifteen inches of extra water ideal for salmon fishing with a nice peaty colour. I spotted a salmon in the weir pool another fish in the big pool, further upstream I spotted four more fish, just upstream of my water 4 salmon were caught yesterday afternoon on the fly which was welcome news. After an hour walking the bank I made my way back to the car park, after putting on the kettle for a brew I made up two rods both Thomas and Thomas models a 4 weight and 6 weight both with floating line on the 4 weight I attached three feet of 3lb fluorocarbon tippet of 3lbs bs, on the 6 weight rod I attached a 9 foot leader with a 6lb tippet in case I spotted a sea trout. After a mug of tea I pulled on my chest high waders then picking up my two rods I walked across the field to the river, sitting on the bank opposite a large willow tree I looked for signs of fish either taking emerges where they fish just cause a slight bulge in the water surface as they take the emerges or perhaps a swirling fish, but what I wanted to see is a fish sip down a fly off the surface, when they take a dry fly you will usually see a bubble of air. After about thirty minutes without any signs of fish I moved downstream to a small copse, a side stream flowed into the river creating a nice pool which can often produce a good fish, about ten minutes later a fish took a Hawthorne fly off the surface, these flies are land based and not aquatic flies, the hatch of hawthorns last about two weeks but we have to be lucky with the wind direction so the flies get blown onto the water. Tying on a hawthorn pattern with its trailing legs I made a thirty foot cast in the direction of the rise the fly falling like thistledown a few feet about the rise, the fly drifted downstream where it was taken by a fish which created a dimple on the surface, my strike connected with a nice fish which in the strong flow gave a good display of its fighting quality, eventually I netted a nice fish estimated at about 2lbs which was quickly released. Twenty minutes later I had another similar size fish, after some thirty minutes sitting in the warm sunshine not seeing any signs of fish I moved upstream to a large pool with over hanging alder trees, sitting on the bank I though how good the VE weekend turned out to be which I really enjoyed especially the service from Westminster Abbey and the march past afterwards, I must admit the eyes become rather damp at times, listening and watching all the veterans who gave so much for us including the millions of woman who not only worked the land the factories but also served in all three services. As I sat day dreaming a good fish rolled under the far bank creating ever increasing circles across the water. Was it a big trout or sea trout I thought, probably the latter the amount of water which had been displaced. I tied on a size 6 Dunkeld to a 6lb tippet, moving upstream a few feet I made several casts without the fish showing interest, after resting the water for about ten minutes I made a few more casts, I suppose I had been fishing about twenty five minutes then felt a light pluck, the thought that was a fish. Suddenly the line moved I tightened into what felt like a heavy fish but nothing happened for a minute or so then line was ripped from the reel as a fish shot upstream, after a couple of minutes I realised it wasn’t a sea trout as it didn’t show itself I though a big brown trout but as the fight went on with me having to follow the fish up the pool then back down again I thought “This is a salmon” I reckon perhaps fifteen minutes had gone before I got my first glimpse of the fish which confirmed my thoughts. Eventually I had the fish nearly beaten then I had to find a place to beach the fish, thankfully several feet below me was an area of shallow water with a grass and sandy bottom with about six inches of water, slowly I eased the fish into the shallows where it lay exhausted, taking out the hook I then run the tape measure along its length 27” I estimated it at 7-8lbs. I ten eased the fish into slightly deeper water after a couple of minutes it moved its tail a couple of times then with a big flick of its tail it powered out and upstream a fine clean looking cock fish. I then went off for a sandwich and mug of tea, when I returned to the river the wind had increased to about 20mph, as the other anglers said “It’s getting difficult to cast in these conditions”, I had to agree with them, After a few casts I decided I’d had enough and made my way to the car park, putting me gear away then changing out of my waders I headed off home stopping in at the library on the way.

Tuesday 12th May I was greeted by a 20mph cold wind lots of dark grey clouds with showers, it was difficult casting a fly on many stretches of the river, I decided to drive around to the farm on the opposite bank where we control the fishing which is protected from the strong wind by a wood. It was about 1000hrs when I arrived, after parking up I got my gear from the back of the car then walked nearly a mile to reach the area I wanted to fish, finding a grassy bank I sat down to watch the water, what has always amazed me is the eyesight of swifts, swallows and sand martins as they work to collect mouthfuls of flies to feed their young. On many occasions having watched long tailed tits moving through willow bushes and trees, I’ve often gone to look in the hope of seeing what insects they were eating, I’ve yet to find any. Around 1300hrs the wind eased allowing me to present an upstream nymph, fishing a Gold ribbed hares ear I had five takes hooking just two fish both trout measured out at 14”. On my way back to the car park, I found someone purse, no doubt stolen by some low life that couldn’t be bothered to work, so would rather steal from someone else. I do get angry with these people also in most cases they don’t get caught, what they need is a good thrashing when caught.

Nymphing Trout

An hour or so later I spotted a slight bulge and disturbance of the smooth water surface, through my binoculars I had clear view of the area as more bulges appeared, occasionally the tail of the fish gently broke the surface of the water, both signs of a nymphing trout, with no sign of a bubble it confirmed to me this fish were not taking flies off the surface, probably when trapped in the surface film or as they made their way to the surface. Having created a slight bulge they often dive back down saying to myself “That trout’s taking nymphs” after some thought I chose to fish a small Richard Walker beaded mayfly nymph, which had tied for me by Dave Riding who also used the original tying silk that Richard used many years ago when he first tied this pattern, it’s an imitation I’ve found excellent for trout, chub, rudd, tench and barbel, in fact I chose this pattern many years ago to catch my first barbel on the fly by design from the river Teme. Having tied on the fly I continued to watch the fish, eventually I worked out where I would have to cast the fly then work it slowly towards the surface so it arrive as natural as possible so the fish thinks it’s another easy meal. Remember nymphs and other invertebrates move very slowly in the water, they are not speed merchants as many anglers seem to think when I watch them retrieving a nymph. Kneeling down I made a gentle cast upstream the fly dropped with a gentle plop, holding the rod high I allowed the nymph to drift downstream gently lowering the rod as it did so, the drift was perfect, I could just make out the nymph in the slightly peaty water, suddenly the fish was in my view but not the fly, lifting the rod I felt the hook go home then a powerful surge as line shot through my fingers as the rod hooped over. I said to myself “Yes” as the fish tried to reach a tree in the water on the opposite bank, 48 hours earlier this fish had been fighting to survive in seven feet of flood water, this wasn’t like some stocky rainbow in a quiet pool. For several minutes the fish fought for its freedom, giving me a few anxious moments, I suppose it was ten minutes of enjoyment and concern before I got the head of the fish out of the water where I could draw it to the waiting net, It measured out at 17” after sliding out the barbless hook I lowered the net in the water then waited for the fish to swim off strongly, it probably thought how did that happen. In the next three hours I covered about four hundred yards of river catching two more fish in similar circumstances fish of 14” and 15”. At about 1500hrs with the wind increasing in strength making fish spotting difficult even in the partially sheltered water I chose to go off home after what had been an interesting day.

Wednesday 13th May bright sunshine blue sky with a light wind greeted me this morning, after a shower and breakfast, I filled all the bird feeders then checked on the hedgehog houses before making a sandwich before heading off to the river, on the way I called into the seed merchants to collect a sack of peanuts and sunflower hearts another £55-00 spent on feeding the birds but it well worth it, especially when you see around 16-20 goldfinches feeding. The water level was good for both trout and salmon fishing, my friend David chose to fish an hour in search of silver, while I chose to fish for trout, hopefully on the dry fly. After sitting on the bank for about an hour, the odd fish could be seen nymphing tight to the far bank, I started off fishing a Richard Walker beaded mayfly nymph, though I was dropping the nymph in the right area I didn’t get take. I switched to an olive nymph on the first cast I got a take as I set the hook a fish went skywards, a nice sea trout that gave good performance before I netted a lovely clean silver fish, unhooking my prize I watched it swim off strongly. That was all the action I had in the morning session, I was disappointed not seeing more fish, after a break for lunch with David who had also had a nice sea trout. I was back on the river, after about fifteen minutes a small hatch of large dark olives started coming off, it looked like a mini regatta as they drifted downstream being engulfed by hungry trout and birds, I immediately changed to a similar imitation, making a long cast up and across the river I dropped the fly about six inches from the far bank where fish were feeding, on my second cast I had a take hooking a good fish which when eventually netted measured out at 14”. In seven casts I hooked and landed three more fish the best at 16”, suddenly the sky clouded over, the wind started gusting about 15mph rippling the water surface, one minute a dipper, chaffinches, wagtails, swallows, sand martins along with trout were feeding on the large dark olives, but with the disappearance of the olives, the birds and trout also disappeared all was quiet. Thirty minutes later I left the river for the cabin and a fresh brew, in conditions like this nothing beats a mug of Yorkshire Gold. After reading the paper I made my way back to the river as David was coming off, he’d had three nice trout best at 17” but for the last half an hour nothing showed. I spent another half an hour on the bank without seeing any sign of fish so I chose to call it a day. Walking back to the cabin along the hedgerow I spooked two roe deer that immediately cleared the five foot fence topped by barbed wire with at least a foot to spare, they are amazing animals, I also put up three hares, it seems to be a good year for these animals, also dogs found chasing these creatures are likely to be shot. Gangs with long dogs were a problem, but with the help of the police, river and gamekeepers along with some armed forces personnel we have got the situation under control. I arrived home about 1600hrs then later I got a call from my wife to say that she was at the local A&E, it seems she had a fractured wrist from a fall in town yesterday.

Thursday 14th May horrid weather very cold easterly wind around 20mph, it wasn’t possible to get a good presentation of the fly on beat 2 so I moved down to beat 1 where there were several areas of sheltered water, a few large dark olives were coming off but not enough to get the fish to take them off the top, some swallows and sand martins had a short fifteen minute meal time, before the hatch was over, I started off at the end of the bottom beat then slowly moving upstream presenting a selection of nymphs Walker Mayfly, Greenwell’s, Pheasant tail, Large dark olive and Gold ribbed hares ear. The large Dark Olive and Pheasant tail were the successful patterns, by fishing the nymph upstream on a 12 foot leader I enjoyed some excellent sport, after making a cast I would hold the rod high then with a figure of eight I retrieved the line slowly keeping in touch with the nymph so I presented the fly in as natural a way as possible also ensuring the fly moved slowly to the surface like a natural nymph, all my takes happened within a few inches of the surface. Looking back over the morning session I can vividly see in my mind hours after it happened, when a good trout moved several feet to intercept a Large dark olive in the surface film as I was going to lift off for another cast, so savage was take the fish hooked itself which doesn’t happen often when fly fishing.

The rod hooped over alarmingly line was ripped from my hand then the reel, this was one angry fish that powered off downstream towards some rapids, if the fish got into that fast tumbling water all would be lost, I stumbled downstream as fast as possible trying to get below the fish at the same time exerting as much pressure on the fish as possible to turn its head, thankfully I was the winner the pressure eventually told as the fish direction then headed for the far bank, just ten yards above the rapids. Knowing the water was quite deep and free of snags to the best of my knowledge I let the fish have its head, it settled down to a bit of give and take for several minutes, the power of this fish was also difficult to control at times making me think perhaps I’d foul hooked this trout. Eventually with a lot of pressure from various angles I started to gain control slowly getting line back on the reel, as I did so I moved slowly upstream. I reckon it was another seven or eight minutes before I’d got the fish coming closer realising it was getting tired I put on more pressure at the same time trying to get its head above the water as this was eventually achieved I was able to draw the fish towards then into the net. Making my way back to the bank I dropped the rod on the grass, then pulled the measure from my pocket getting a reading of 20” estimating the fish about 5lbs, so savagely did the fish engulf the fly I had to use forceps to retrieve the hook which was well back in the throat. I then placed the fish in the shallows after probably half a minute it gave a big thrust with it tail then disappeared into the depths. I sat on the bank for about fifteen minutes reliving that fish. Seeing it move several feet to get the nymph was so vivid I shan’t forget it for some time, it’s things like this that keep me going and give me so many good memories and pleasure, long may it continue. Though I got several more trout between 14” and 17” inches, that big brown was so memorable. About 1300hrs I made my way to beat 2 for lunch which lasted over an hour, I then washed and polished my fly lines which are done once a week, my lines are used several hours every day of the week so they need looking after, I then serviced my reels which had also done a lot of work over the past month, I then sat back with another mug of tea with a smile of satisfaction on my face, then left for home at around 1500hrs after a satisfying session.

Friday 15th May weather conditions were better today light south westerly wind with sunny spells, since the season opened I have been closely watching an area on the river where over the years I’ve encouraged the growth of water crowfoot, moved rocks put down gravel and faggots, in fact done my level best to create a trout fishing stretch of water resembling a chalk stream where I learnt my river fly fishing many years ago. One bank was heavily wooded with a high bank where I have to use a rope to reach the water’s edge, on the other bank maple, horse chestnut, alder and willow trees offered cover and shelter from a westerly wind. Today was perfect for upstream nymphing or the dry fly with water about three feet deep flowing over pebbles, small rocks and gravel with lots of swaying water crowfoot I could count the pebbles on the bottom in the gin clear water, sitting on the bank for about half an hour I noted the areas where trout were alongside or partially under the water crowfoot, others on station taking flies off the surface. As I sat there my mind wandered back to the day I purchased Howard Marshall’s wonderful book in the 1960’s Reflections on a River, in front of me I had my own Reflections on a River. Howard was not just a very good angler but a great broadcaster including Coronation Services from Westminster Abbey, World War campaigns including D-Day North Africa and Europe, no doubt most anglers will remember Howard Marshal was one of the founders of Angling Times. We must not forget his great test match commentaries, when he was describing the game you really did feel you were in the ground.

Trout off the top on Large dark Olive

Around 1130hrs having observed a good trout sipping down Large dark olives under an overhanging alder tree who’s branches reached down to within two feet of the water surface. I made my way downstream about ten yards below the feeding fish then moved quietly across the stream so I could get in a good position to cast the fly upstream of the feeding fish, I was using my Thomas and Thomas glass fibre 8 foot rated for a 5 weight line, in my book it’s the perfect dry fly rod if you cannot afford the £1000-00 plus for a custom built bamboo rod, though my rod does come close. I’d attached a 12foot tapered leader with a 3lb fluorocarbon tippet which I had degreased with washing up liquid, nothing put a fish down more than a floating tippet, my fly pattern was an imitation dark olive. Standing quietly I watched the fish for about 15 minutes having noted the exact spot the trout was feeding in, I made a cast dropping the fly six feet upstream of the fish, quietly saying to myself “spot on” as the fly drifted downstream I retrieved the slack line ensuring I didn’t move the fly, one second it was there the next it was gone, with just an air bubble. It’s virtually impossible to describe the strike it’s done without thinking, I was playing a good fish thinking “Yes that was a good take” For several minutes I enjoyed playing this fish as it tried to get rid of the hook, twisting head shaking rubbing its head in the gravel going head long into the water crowfoot it’s a soft weed, not usually a problem, eventually I was able to net a lovely brown trout that measured at 17 Sitting on the bank I thought over the events at the same time looking for another fish, twenty yards upstream a fish was sipping down olives, picking up my rod I walked quietly upstream until I was within casting range, This fish was at the head of a the pool, no overhanging trees or bushes to catch on it was an easy cast, up and across the stream, the fly landed perfectly, within a minute I was hooked up to my second fish of the day. After about five minutes I netted another good trout measuring 12” releasing the fish I made my way back downstream.

Upstream Nymphing

Sitting on the grassy bank three feet above the water I had a good view of life under the water, I could see several trout spread about up and downstream in and alongside the water crowfoot, the occasional good trout was on the fin over a gravel run. It was time to fish the upstream nymph, switching rods I picked up a nine foot 5 weight with a 12 foot leader tapered to a 3lb bs tippet, then tied on a Walker beaded May fly nymph, I walked well downstream for about forty yards then walked out towards midstream, I was going to move slowly upstream targeting trout I could see, then pitch the nymph upstream it then needed to drift down at eye level towards the fish. If you get it right you have a good chance of hooking your trout, though it’s not as easy as it sounds, it takes a lot of practise over years to get it correct, if you don’t try your never going to perfect this type of angling. After a couple of casts I changed the fly to a smaller beaded nymph, the first choice was sinking to quickly, the second choice wasn’t suitable, I then tied on an un-weighted size 12 Walker May fly nymph, watching it closely it worked perfectly giving me complete control in fishing the nymph at the right depth by careful use of rod and line. After a few practise casts I went looking for a fish to target, I found one in open water over a gravel run, with a simple roll cast I pitched the nymph ahead of the fish and slightly to its right, the first two cast were ignored, on the third cast I watched the fish veer to its right and engulf m fly, setting the hook my fish shot off downstream taking line off the reel in one long run of about ten yards, in fast shallow water I do find fish fight a lot harder than in deep slow water. For several minutes is was heart stopping action as the fish tried its best to get rid of the hook, even on one occasion rolling on the line, slowly I started to gain line at the same time I moved towards the bank into the slower water so as to give myself more of a chance in netting my fish. After about ten minutes I was able to draw the fish over the net. A nice looking trout that looked as if Walt Disney could have painted it, it measured 17” and still had a couple of olive nymphs in its throat. Pics some Reflections from my river


Relections on My River

Relections on My River

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Martin James Fishing
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