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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


24/05/2015 - My Week on the River Ribble

You can see the raft created by the fallen tree and scum


Monday 18th May the morning was wet and windy, It was about around 1000hr when I got on the river, after walking the bank from bottom to top beat, I headed off to the cabin seeking shelter from the rain also a brew. The sky was leaden grey I doubt if I would be fly fishing today. After a brew I sat reading the paper, then read a few chapters from An Angler’s Entomology by J R Harris F.R.E.S. I feel you can never read and learn enough about the aquatic life especially invertebrates and nymphs, another book I’ve been reading is the Fly- Fishers Plants D. Macer Wright I feel the title could be The Anglers plants as aquatic plant life is so important to the lives of our coarse fish and not just the game fish species. In the mid 1930’s research by E Percival and H Whitehead on the River Aire, Nidd and Wharfe they found that in areas of no vegetation (Aquatic plants) the largest number of animals per square meter was on average 4,060, in the vegetated areas it was 431,941. Several species were of no interest to fly fisher’s but all were trout food. I disagree with the statement, No interest to fly fishers, if it’s food for the trout, then it has to be in our interests. No food = small skinny coarse fish and trout. Another book I recommend is Better Angling with Simple Science by Mary M Pratt, these books want tell you about the latest bit of gear, but they will help you to understand the aquatic environment and the fish. Remember reconnaissance, observation and knowledge of our fish and their environment will ensure better sport. When I first started looking after a stretch of the river Aire, the bed of the river was like a desert, after 5 years of hard work I had transformed that stretch of river, into a fish holding area of aquatic plants, cover from predators with lots more food. Angling improved, whenever I see the river these days I thinks “That’s my legacy for future anglers”


A Brace of Sea Trout


Around 1400hrs the weather improved, through the broken cloud the sun beamed down giving one a feeling of warmth, pulling on my chest highs I put together a couple of rods, one for dry fly the other for nymphs, then headed off towards the river, I’d got halfway when my friend David appeared in the car park, turning round I made my way back, no doubt David would want a coffee and a chat. The first thing he done was give me some free range eggs, as we chatted I gave him my copy of Game Fisher magazine suggesting he take it home, there is some good reading inside. Around 1530 hrs. David left for home I made my way to the river, it was up some six to nine inches with some colour, I thought “Chance of sea trout in these conditions” choosing a size 8 Dunkeld from my fly box I tied it on a 9 foot leader with a 6lb tippet, then made my way upstream to a small pool with beech trees along the far bank. Second cast I got a hit a sea trout went skywards before crashing back in the water then took line off the reel, some five minutes or more the fish was winning this contest but slowly the pressure told, a few minutes later I netted a nice sea trout estimated around 3lbs which was quickly released. The hook point was checked for sharpness by sticking it in my thumb nail, if the hook slides across the nail, it’s blunt so should be rejected. I made three more casts with no interest, as I made another cast I noticed the water getting more coloured, I could feel the water pressure increasing against my waders as the level increased. I made a cast towards the far bank wanting the fly to swing past a big rock in mid river, as the fly swung by the rock I got a hit, thirty seconds later another sea trout went skywards within a minute or so it gave a second jump clearing the water by two feet. Using the now more powerful pull of the water the fish went off downstream, I was forced to give line. No way would I get the fish back upstream in the rising water, so wading as fast as possible I stumbled downstream eventually getting level with the fish, for ten minutes it was give and take, slowly I gained line at the same time I eventually I was forced from the rising river, then a minute or two later I pulled the head of the fish round piled on the pressure eventually getting it into the net, another fish I estimated around 3lbs, slipping the fish back it ended my short window of opportunity for today, the river rising very fast turning a horrid dirty colour typical spate conditions. Back in the cabin the kettle was put on for a brew then I sat down thinking about the past half an hour realising how lucky I’d been to get that short break.


Tuesday 19th May what a horrid day heavy rain and hail showers with the occasional burst of sunshine, at 0700hrs the river was suitable for fishing one member hooked and lost a good salmon while another lost a good sea trout. At 1100hrs the river wasn’t fishable being high and coloured, ideal for chub sadly I’d have to wait a few more weeks, it would have been ideal for the new Lone Angler cheese paste, my new chub swim with a raft of rubbish looked perfect. See pic IMG 0935 You can see the raft created by the fallen tree and scum. Back in the cabin I then spent an hour or so cleaning then polishing my fly lines before attaching new tapered leaders. I then sorted out my fly boxes. Around 1230hrs I had a couple of cheese thins which I’m told are more healthy than bread also a mug of tea. After a walk around a small copse then along the boundary hedges where I shot a rat, 2 grey squirrels and a crow. I was back in the cabin an hour later, shaking the water off my coat, I then cleaned the rifle before putting it in its sleeve. A mug of tea later I changed my boots then sat down to read one of my magazines for half an hour. It was 1500 hrs. when we had another downpour with hail so decided to go home.


Wednesday 20th May I was on the river today at 0630hrs so any members wanting to know about the river conditions could call for an up to date report. The river was 2 feet above normal with a dark peaty colour, not good for trout fishing but reasonable for salmon, I counted 4 fish on the bottom beat, one I estimated at near 20lbs. My friend Tam Miller arrived later on to enjoy a few hours fishing before going off to a meeting, within an hour he’d hooked 2 salmon, the first just took off upriver then busted him off, the second fish got off just as Tam was beaching the fish if you can touch the leader it’s considered a catch, with catch and release we don’t want anglers to net the fish where it can be damaged, whenever possible I release my trout without using a net, it’s quite simple to run your fingers down the leader to the hook as most time trout are hooked in the scissors, I use the same system whenever possible for my coarse fish, Tam also caught 2 trout. I had 4 good size trout swirl at my fly just as I started to lift off for another cast but no hook up. Lunchtime I cooked eggs and bacon for Tam, then sent him on his way after an interesting morning together. No doubt our next session will be on the River Wye for the start of a new coarse fishing season where I will mix coarse and game fishing, I will also be targeting pike and chub with a fly rod when conditions look suitable usually dawn and dusk being good times. I will also be targeting chub and barbel with the new Lone Angler baits, who knows I might just get a very big chub 7lbs plus, though I reckon I will have a far better chance in the autumn. My friend David arrived just after Tam had left, I made him a bacon sandwich with a mug of coffee, he then spent some time fishing for salmon having hooked a salmon it eventually got off, he said “I got hooked up on a snag earlier, but didn’t check the hook, having lost the fish I found the hook point turned over” I said “David we have all done it at some time”. On the way home I spotted a banner which I couldn’t resist take a photograph of. Pic IMG 0936 This sizzle gets everywhere.


Thursday 21st May I arrived on the river today about 1000hrs after getting my hair cut I done some shopping, I also had a very interesting talk with Mike about baits and other things piscatorial. First thing when I got to the cabin was to put the kettle on, after a brew I put together two outfits one for fishing the nymph, the other for dry fly work. Starting off at the bottom of the beat I slowly working upstream looking for fish feeding on nymphs, the cold wind with lots of grey cloud didn’t offer much encouragement for flies to hatch off most of the insects on the surface were blown off the riverside trees and bushes sadly ignored by the fish, as I had some very good beetle patterns I was disappointed. During the morning session I free drifted a nymph which in my book is the most demanding fishing possible, your concentration has to be 100%, you need good polarised glasses to help see the nymph, but you must also be able to understand the small signs fish give when taking a nymph, of course you only be learn this after years of experience. It demands spot on casting so the nymph can be pitched or lightly dropped ahead of where you can either see or expect a fish to be, having made a cast either upstream, perhaps up and across towards the far bank or under your own bank you then allow the nymph to free drift downstream, if it’s not possible to see the nymph, you watch the end of the fly line for the slightest indication, if it moves a fraction of an inch you tighten immediately, perhaps a slight bulge appears on the water surface near your nymph again tighten. Often that’s all the indication you get a fish has taken the nymph. During the morning session I had to change the weight and size of Walker Mayfly nymph on numerous occasions depending on the water flow also the depth in the water the fish were on the fin. I stopped at 1300 hrs. for lunch feeling quite tired, this fishing really does demand utter concentration, having caught 7 good brown trout between 15” and 17” I was a happy angler as I made my way back to the cabin. During lunch I put the radio on for the cricket, to hear we’d lost 4 wickets for 30 but thankfully, Root and Stokes saved the day, during lunch I gave some thought on fishing other nymph patterns, in the current conditions I couldn’t think of a better pattern than Walkers Mayfly nymph.


A Hatch of Alder Flies


Lunch over I made my way to fish Roberts Reach, within ten minutes of arriving several alder flies were crawling around on the grass at the water’s edge, these sedges are a land based species, not aquatic, if the wind is in the right direction they get blown onto the water where the trout will take them readily as they offer a good mouthful, though there not classed as an aquatic fly, the females lay their eggs on a plant stem or leaf, the young larva then find their way to the water’s edge where they live in the slow flowing water, the larva when fully developed will crawl ashore and pupate in the ground some distance from the water’s edge, I’ve always found insects, beetles, spiders, butterflies etc. very fascinating and interesting. As I sat watching the water an occasional fish took a fly off the surface, usually just a slight dimple showed, but occasionally a fish would create a big swirl, having watched a few more fish rise I tied on a Royal Wulff pattern which from past experience has proved attractive to fish when only the occasional flies are seen on the water, probably fifteen minutes later a big swirl appeared under a far bank willow bush, wading into position I made a long cast up and across the river a distance around fifty feet, the fly dropped perfectly it slowly drifted downstream arriving in the area where I’d seen a fish swirl, my fly was taken with gusto, the fish just come a up then sucked it in, as I tightened I felt the fish take off being forced to give line, eventually I got the fish close in then decided I would net this fish and take a quick pic. After a minute I watched the fish swim off no doubt thinking “What happened there” See pic IMG 0937 I had another fish of similar size on my next cast, then nothing for about half an hours. It was time to move upstream and fish the head of the run, with no sign of activity on the surface I switched to fishing a free drifting a Walker Mayfly nymph, I couldn’t see the nymph in the slightly broken water so had to rely on experience also the signs of feeding fish caused by tailing trout or a fish that creates a slight bulge in the water, at the same time watching the end of the fly line like a hawk. After an hour or so with nothing, I tried a green nymph which got me two nice trout ending up the afternoon with nine good fish, I should have had more but I missed several more. It had been a very interesting day one I enjoyed immensely. Pic IMG 0938 Selection of flies I used L-R the first 3 are Walkers mayfly nymphs followed by Royal Wulff and Green nymph. Back in the cabin I had a brew then cleaned my fly lines, I then put on new tippet lengths, sitting back I listened to the cricket for an hour before going off home.


Friday 22nd May was a dull cold day with a light wind, arriving at about 1000hrs I made a brew then read the paper while waiting for my friend David to arrive then made him a mug of coffee, we sat discussing the prospects I said “They were quite good”, I was to be proved wrong. An hour later David went to fish the top of the beat, I chose to fish the centre of the beat. An hour without seeing any signs of fish, I moved downstream, an hour later not having seen anything I made my way back to the cabin for lunch. David had caught a good sea trout around 6lbs his only fish for the rest of the session. Lunch finished David went off home, I made my way down to the bottom of the top beat, sitting on the bank listening to the cricket I watched for signs of fish movement, at the same time I thought back to yesterday’s events. About two hours later I noticed a fish take an olive under an overhanging alder tree on the opposite bank. Tying on an Olive imitation I moved downstream so I could cast the fly above the fish, standing in mid river for about ten minutes I then watched the fish take another olive. Time to make a cast, even if I say so myself it couldn’t have been better cast, dropping the fly lightly on the water six feet above the fish, the drift was spot on as the olive come into the trout vision I could see the fish angle up to suck in my imitation, as it turned down no doubt returning to its original spot, I set the hook. An angry fish reacted as expected making a rush for the tree roots in the water, I was already pulling the rod over to my right in the opposite direction he wanted to go, it worked he changed direction going off downstream. It was good fun for about ten minutes before I was able to net a fine hen fish that measured 18” sliding out the hook I lowered the net in the water watching the fish swim off upstream. Later in the afternoon I noticed a fish swirl close to a fallen alder tree, I’d now tied on an olive nymph getting a hook up on my second cast, a brown trout of 14”. Though I stopped for another hour I didn’t see any more signs of fish. It was about 1800hrs when I got home, before dinner I mowed both my lawn and my neighbours who was away. After a shower I had dinner then sat down to listen to 20-20 cricket Hampshire V Kent so ended another day, tomorrow I have three pupils so a good donation to one of my charities. Finally for those who cannot attend the Barbel Society Conference to hear about the new Lone Angler bait range, then the following event may be of interest. I will be able to share with the new baits, I will also have some samples of flavoured bread crust to give away. The programme for the day is as follows also it’s all free including parking.

                                                Prince Albert Angling Society Open Day

Prince Albert Angling Society Open Day Sunday 7th June 2015 0930hrs to 1600hrs The Post Office stretch on the River Ribble at Ribchester Lancashire There will as usual all-important “Bring & Buy”, Demonstration Spintec, showing how they produce their extremely popular & effective spinning baits. New this year is demonstration in the art of rod building. Members of the Association of Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructor’s (AAPGAI) will be present offering casting instructions. The Lancashire police rural crime team, also the Angling Trust plus the ever popular antique tackle display, The program for the demonstration’s to be held on the river will be 10.00 Neil Truelove demonstrating the art of casting with the double handed Salmon rod, with commentary by Brian Warrington. 10.45 Alan Roe will be showing the subtle differences of trotting with a centre pin or closed face spinning reel with free instructions to those interested in how to use a centre pin reel correctly. 11.30 Karl Humphries giving a demonstration of fly casting with Trout rods, once again with commentary by Brian Warrington. 12.30 Steve Beech talking about Barbel fishing 13.45 Neil, Karl and Brian with all three anglers giving a unique duel casting display.

The program for the talks in the marquee is as follows: 10.00 Alan Roe ”For I must go down to the sea again,

11.00 Terry Grahame will be talking about rod building, 12.15 Mark Hamnett from Partridge of Redditch will be discussing hooks Past, Present and Future. 13.30 Martin James Fly Fishing for Pike and Lone Angler baits for better results. 14.30 Richard Bamforth Angling Trust –on the day he will be providing an update on the Defra/Natural England Area Based licenced approach for Cormorant (and Goosander) control, and non-lethal deterrents. There will be refreshments all day, you can get free tuition on fly casting, from the casting instructors on hand to give tuition all day. It’s all free including parking, everyone welcome feel free to ask me any question you may have on Lone Angler tackle, baits and how I use them.




This sizzle gets everywhere

My fly was taken with gusto, the end result

Selection of flies I used L-R the first 3 are Walkers mayfly nymphs followed by Royal Wulff and Green nymph.

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Martin James Fishing
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