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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


06/09/2015 - salmon trout and chub


Monday 24th August was my wedding anniversary, but I’d taken my wife out for lunch yesterday, so I could be on the river bank around 0930 hrs, to find the river over the bank in many places with at least four feet of water on the gauge, it’s the third day the river has been bank high and coloured. Not suitable for fly fishing, but I reckon I might catch a few chub in some of the big slacks on smelly Lone Angler cheese paste or sausage sizzle. The weather was warm with a light wind, it would be nice sitting on the bank with rod in hand waiting for a pluck then a good pull. Anglers fishing further down the river would no doubt be catching a few barbel in the high coloured water conditions. I chose a soft action chub rod, small fixed spool with 10lb braid to which I attached a size 4 barbless hook with a Palomar knot, two feet up the line I lightly pinched on 2 LG shot, if you haven’t used these type of weights I can highly recommend them. I started off fishing a piece of pigeon egg size lump of cheese paste adding half a dozen pieces as free offerings. Forty five minutes later I’d moved downstream this time fishing with sausage sizzle paste, after an hour during which I rolled the bait downstream, also fished the bait static alongside a submerged tree, then finally fishing a bait under a big raft of scum and debris, I still couldn’t get a bite. Feeling rather exasperated I went off for a brew also to think about my lack of success under what I reckon were good conditions, even the trout didn’t want my bait. The highlight of the morning session was seeing two big salmon roll in one of the big slacks, probably 20lb plus making their way upriver to the spawning redds. Certainly magnificent creatures as silver as a new pin, this week several of my friends are in Scotland fishing the River Connon for salmon which will cost an arm and leg, they could have stopped at home, but then of course the river probably wouldn’t have had all the extra water. The afternoon session wasn’t any better than the morning one, I tried several swims which in the past have given me some reward but not today. At 1600hrs I decided I wasn’t going to catch even having the best tackle and baits with a vast amount of experience on the river it wasn’t my day.

Tuesday 25th August after a dental appointment at 0900hrs, I arrived on the river at 0945hrs to find conditions perfect for salmon, sea trout, brown trout and chub, the river had fallen overnight, the gauge reading was just below 2 feet, it would have been nice with more clarity but we can’t have everything. After checking both beats, sorting my mink and grey squirrel traps, I chose to spend a couple of hours cutting back the balsam on the far bank, A couple of years ago we purchased a Multi Star Verio with an extending pole of about ten feet plus a saw blade, see pic IMG 1067 it was purchased for trimming overhanging branches which impeded anglers casting a fly close to the far bank. Though rarely used as I feel we anglers should learn to cast into difficult spots, the overhanging branches serve two main purposes, offering shade to the fish, also land based insects falling in the water from the branches which are a major source of food for trout and other fish. Having waded across the river I spent two hours nonstop cutting back the balsam clearing an area about ten yards wide by thirty yards long, yes, it was hard work but it really does get the job done, it’s also kinder on my back, no way could I have removed the same amount of balsam by hand. As I worked away I heard a salmon roll in a pool on the opposite side of the river on at least three occasions thinking to myself I should run a fly through that pool. Making my way back to the cabin, I decided I would have another couple of hours balsam cutting again tomorrow, by the end of the week I should hopefully have cleared a great chunk of the river bank.                          

Salmon and Big Trout

Back in the cabin I put together a 7 weight outfit then attached a size 6 Dunkeld pattern on the leader, after a brew I made my way downstream passing two members sea trout fishing, who had both caught a nice brace of fish, a few yards upstream of the pool I waded out to mid river then slowly made my way downstream to a spot where I could cast the fly, half way down the pool was a very big rock which is often a good holding area for a salmon, I needed to cast the fly so it would swing past that rock. I will say this “To get a hit from a salmon you need a lot of luck”, I caught my first salmon on a Devon minnow in the late 1950’s so I’ve had years of salmon angling, but it doesn’t matter how experienced you are, you really do need a big chunk of luck getting that hit, remember salmon don’t feed when they enter fresh water, so why do they take a fly? That’s a question that’s never been answered and long may it continue, though we all have our theories. I remember a friend of mine Mark Hyde saying to me one morning as he put his rod together “I really would like to catch a salmon” Ten minutes later I said “Come with me I will be your guide and hopefully you will get a hit” At the head of the pool, I told him where to cast, on every cast I had him move a foot downstream, or go out a bit, sometimes I had him out of the water, so he could make a cast in the right area, slowly he covered the pool. Ten yards down the pool I’d spotted a fresh fish alongside a big rock but didn’t say anything, as we moved slowly down I had Mark making many casts, working the fly slowly downstream covering every inch of fishable water. Eventually he was in the area where I thought he had his best chance, I pulled him back a couple of paces, then had him extend a few more feet of line, Pointing to spot on the opposite bank I told him to drop the fly on the edge of the crease this would then allow the fly to swing past the salmon I’d seen, it worked a dream as I watched the fish swim forward to intercept the fly, then his rod arched over. Eventually he beached a nice clean fish of about 8lbs, having quickly admired his first salmon we watched it swim of strongly. Back to my fishing, thirty or forty minutes later as I was thinking of moving on I got a good pull as the rod tip slightly pulled round, I lifted the rod then prepared myself for an exciting tussle, ten minutes or more, the fish would take line I would get it back then the fish would go off on another run, but slowly I was winning the contest eventually the fish was ready for beaching, I slowly walked towards the bank pulling the fish like a dog on the lead, I don’t tend to take line back on the reel in this critical time, eventually I’m ready to beach the fish, lowering the rod I took in some line, then smoothly and slowly I repeated the process eventually I pulled the fish into the very shallow water. A nice clean silver fish about 6lbs the fly neatly in the scissors. An hour later I had a second fish similar to the first from a pool fifty yards upstream, I also caught five big trout including one of 21 inches, yes most brown trout a good looking fish, but this one would have put Walt Disney to shame the colours were stunning, a fish that would have been in the river for several years. I doubt if a picture could have done this fish justice. I then headed off for a late lunch.

Some Good Chub

Lunch finished I grabbed a handful of 14mm cheese dumbells, also a bag of broken dumbells, then made my way downstream to a chub pool where I’d enjoyed some great sport last week. Tackle was 13 foot Lone Angler rod, centre pin reel 6lb bs line, with the extra water I chose a cork on quill float that had been made by the late Richard Walker taking 7 AA egg shaped shot, then attached a size 8 barbless hook. It was a long tiring walk downstream to the chub pool, I spent about fifteen minutes feeding in broken dumbells with an occasional full size dumbbell. A tip if you’re hooking a dumbbell on the hook on a cold day, keep a few in your pockets so they keep warm and soft, during autumn and winter I put a few in the microwave for about 15 seconds, keeping these hook baits in my coat pocket. Feeling ready to fish I walked towards midstream so I could fish my bait alongside a dead tree. I must have been on my tenth trot through the swim when the float veered off to the right against the flow, striking I hooked what felt was a good fish. After a few minutes I had a good chub to hand probably pushing 4lbs and a very welcome sight, leaning down I lifted out the hook with ease using a small pair of forceps. On my next cast the float had travelled about ten yards then slowly dipped striking I felt resistance that tells me another fish, a chub about 3.5lbs most welcome, in the next three casts I caught three chub around the 3lb mark. Resting the swim for five minutes I fed in some more broken cheese dumbells. This didn’t work as I had a twenty minute spell without a bite, moving the float up the line about three feet I bunched the shot two feet from the hook I was going stret-pegging, it’s a great searching method where the bait is fished directly downstream of the rod tip, after the bait has been in the chosen spot for anything between five and fifteen minutes, I lift the rod tip allowing the float to move a few feet downstream then hold it in place. Bites can vary from a sharp dip of the float to the float slowly submerging, or the float can veer to the right or lift, perhaps the float will drop flat, then you might get a savage take the rod tip being pulled down which are often missed. The first indication was the float slowly submerging, striking I connected with a powerful fish that stripped line off the reel, a few minutes later I get a glimpse of a trout about two pounds. Eventually I was able to slip the hook from the fish then watched it swim off strongly. On my next cast I got a bite within a minute a chub about three pounds, in the next four casts I had two more chub of similar size. I fished on for over an hour without a bite. Switching from stret-pegging to trotting, then laying-on still couldn’t get a bite. At 1800 hrs with the wind increasing the sky clouding over starting to feel cold as the temperature dropped I ended my day on the river. It was 1920 hrs when I got back home ready for some dinner.

Wednesday 26th August it was a bright windy day when I got to the river 1030 hrs the car park was empty which surprised me knowing there were salmon in several pools. In the bottom pool I counted three fish averaging 8-10lbs, I reckon an angler fishing that pool this morning would have had a good chance of catching. After walking both beats checking my traps, with the wind blowing half a gale I made my way to the cabin for a brew and read the paper. As I sat looking cross the meadow I realised how much I was missing my fishing on the lower reaches of the river for the roach, also fishing the midland and southern rivers, not forgetting the Fenland drains for magnificent rudd in the wilder parts of the Fens. This is the third year when I haven’t regularly fished the Kennet, Wye, Lodden, Avon and Stour though I still keep my membership for these waters. It’s quite horrid getting old when one’s health deteriorates when hearing, fatigue and driving become difficult. Shaking off my morbid thoughts, I went off down to the bottom beat to find a new member had arrived, who immediately asked “if I could help him with his casting” no problem I said, twenty minutes later I’m putting Brian through his paces, two hours later he was casting a good line, after a few suggestions I put him in a pool where he should catch a few trout. As I walked away he called out “I’ve got one” Brian had a grin a mile wide as I netted a trout about 14 inches. I always get a good feeling when I can help a newcomer to our great sport. Back in the cabin another member was waiting for me, could I help him put a new fly line on his reel, also attached a new leader, in the past Graham has used a leader loops, I am not a fan of these they can cause a hinging effect making a poor presentation. I recommend 15 inches of 30lb bs line attached to the fly line by a nail knot, then a tapered leader which will certainly give a better presentation. I soon got Graham sorted out who then off fishing another happy member. After lunch I went and spent some time with Brian, including showing him how to fish a pool, I also took him up to the top beat so he could perhaps catch a sea trout, but sadly after a couple of hours it didn’t happen though he did catch three trout best at 17 inches. At around 1600 hrs I decided I would go off home, stopping off at the library to collect a novel I had ordered.

Thursday 27th August having had a rough night through pain caused by my MS and unable to sleep I got up early, arriving on my river just after 0600hrs, I sat enjoying a brew with some toast looking across the meadow towards the river I thought how peaceful it was, in the distance I made out two cormorants heading towards one of my pools, standing in the doorway of the cabin I fired several shots that sent these predators off in another direction. Around 0650hrs the sky got very dark the wind increased to gale force, that’s a squall heading my way I though. The next minute rain was hammering on the roof, so heavy was the rain I couldn’t see the trees on the opposite side of the river, half an hour later it had blown through. It was time head off down the bottom beat to meet my guests and show them around where I would point out the various pools suggesting how to fish and fly patterns to use. Just as the guests arrived the heavens opened up as the rain sheeted down, it’s at times like this I’m thankful for the shelter of the cabin. Around 1000hrs the guests having been sorted out with permits went off to try and catch some trout. Having been told about a mink close to the bridge I went off with a trap and some bait, this time an eight inch trout, setting the trap close to the bridge I then camouflaged it with reeds and other rubbish. I then went off up to the top beat to meet two pupils who were having a casting lesson, the lady quickly mastered the simple are of putting out a fly around thirty feet, but the husband was really struggling but as usual instead of listening to what I said then putting it into practise he just thought like many it was a muscle game. After an exasperating two hours he managed to put some line on the water. He admitted that he didn’t feel fly fishing was for him but would I give his wife some more lessons who was certainly enthusiastic. After making them some coffee also booking the lady in for another lesson on September 8th we went our different ways. Back on the bottom beat I spent some time helping the newcomers, including seeing two of them catch a trout. Around 1400hrs I decided I’d had enough for the day and went off home.

Friday 28th August I spent just an hour on the river, then went off to the seed merchants for sunflower hearts and peanuts before visiting my doctor’s then the library. Back home I tidied up the garage and shed before lunchtime. The afternoon was spent reading and writing so ended my day.




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Martin James Fishing
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