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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


14/02/2016 - Trotting for Grayling

My only chub


It wasn’t the nicest of conditions to choose for a day’s angling weather wise, having written those first few words I can say the river conditions were the best for a long time with two feet of extra water flowing clear, probably the best grayling fishing conditions for a long time. After a heavy overnight frost, I had to contend with a cold wind, clear sky with a water temperature of 38 degrees F. In the car park I put together a soft action 15 foot rod, centre pin reel with 3lb BS line with a wire stemmed Avon float designated for 7 BB shot the hook was a fine wire size 14, I had a BB shot on the line six inches from the hook then bunched 3 AA shot another 3 feet up the line, After a few casts to ascertain the depth I found around 5 feet of water over gravel. As I sat on the bank working out my two lines of attack, my attention was drawn to a big skein of Pink-footed geese, what a great sight they make, as my thoughts went back to my wildfowling days on a windswept saltmarsh, a flock of Fieldfare then perched in the trees on the opposite bank. I chose to fish and feed a swim down the centre of the river feeding a few gentles every cast, at the same time I would also feed a swim under the far bank trees where the water flows slow and deep with damp crumb with broken cheese dumbells in the hope of catching some chub at dusk.


Big Trout


Having set the drag on the reel, I lightly nicked 3 gentles on the size 14 hook threw in half a dozen gentles upstream of my swim, then made a Wallis cast allowing the float to quietly enter the water, then slightly holding the float back as the bait proceeded the float as I eased it downstream, ten yards the float moved an inch sideways gently lifting the rod, I felt a heavy powerful fish power downstream causing me to ease off the pressure on the reel as a few yards of line were gone from the reel. “Big trout I thought” soon David was alongside with the net, I moved downstream in the hope of getting below the fish, at this time I hadn’t seen my adversary, then though Could it be a barbel? It was several minutes before I felt I was getting some control, as the fish hugged the bottom as it made its way upstream, whatever I’d hooked I was enjoying the experience. A few minutes later I got my first glimpse of the fish on the end of my line a good brown trout, a fish that was extremely fit having had to fight some strong water flows this winter with record levels. A few minutes later I had the fish weighing around 4lbs coming towards the waiting net, I called to Dave “Stick the net deeper in the water then lift as I draw the fish over” Within inches of the waiting net the fish had other ideas as it shook its head then tried for its freedom. I cramped on the pressure, something had to give, it was the hook link as the fish rolled righted itself and moved off to the faster water. Still it saved me from handling such a fine fish, I doubt if I would have landed that fish on my 3 weight rod when the fly fishing season starts.


Attaching another size 14 hook I lightly nicked on three gentles, then having put a few gentles upstream of my swim I made a cast then watched the float make its way downstream, within five yards it slowly submerged as if caught on some weed, but the answering strike connected with my first grayling around the pound mark, I like to think all the work I do to keep cormorants off my water helps these lovely fish to survive. Having wetted my hand then unhooked my prize I gently held the fish in the water then watched it move off to the faster water. In the next couple of hours I experienced rain, hail and sunshine, also a succession of grayling over the pound mark with the best around a pound and a half. In the next half an hour I had just two grayling and two trout, with the light failing the temperature dropping and feeling cold, I thought it was time for some hot food and drink David agreed.


Back in the cabin I put a saucepan of water on the cooker to boil for two boil in the bag meals, also the kettle for tea, putting out two plates I gave David his food box, containing cheese and pickle sandwiches, with half a dozen mince pies, he would also get a hot meal of bacon, sausage and beans, I would have Sweet and sour chicken with pasta. An hour later tea finished it was off to the river, my target fish were chub with cheese flavoured crust, flake and cheese paste, checking the water temperature I got a reading of 38 degrees F.


Chub First Cast


I chose to fish a very soft Avon action rod, fixed spool reel with 6 lb line to which I tied a size 4 barbless hook, lightly pinching on 3 LG shot spaced 2 inches apart the first some 4 inches from the hook, sitting on a piece of sponge, I threw in a few pigeon egg size lumps of cheese paste, then baited with a thumb nail size piece of crust, within five minutes of casting across to the baited area, the rod tip pulled down striking I connected with what felt like a trout, which turned out to be a chub about three pound, taking a quick pic I returned the fish well upstream. That was quick I though, hopefully I might get a few more chub with the hope of a five pounder. In the next thirty minutes I had two light taps on the rod tip but nothing, taking off 2 LG shot I moved the single LG up the line some two feet, then baited with a pheasant egg size piece of cheese paste. I suppose some 20 minutes had passed when I noticed a slight movement on the rod tip saying to myself that’s a bite. Picking up the rod I allowed a foot or so of slack line, suddenly its gone as the tip pulled down, striking I felt nothing, thinking “How could I miss a bite like that” retrieving the line I found the hook missing, so that’s the reason I didn’t feel anything, it was a bite off.


Tying on a new hook, I adjusted the LG shot then baited with another large piece of cheese paste, within minutes of casting I had two quick knocks on the rod tip, picking up the rod I could feel a fish picking up and dropping the bait, this lasted on and off for some ten minutes, after a few more minutes with nothing I retrieved the tackle as I did so I could see the imprint of the chubs lips. Taking off the LG shot I baited with another piece of cheese paste and cast out. Ten fifteen minutes later more knocks again I could feel a fish picking up and dropping the bait then it went quiet, as I retrieved the tackle I got the same result lip marks on the cheese paste. Over the next hour I got lots of knocks often feeling a more determined pull, however I timed my strike I got nothing. I switched to using a dough bobbin, it didn’t make an difference, often the bobbin was going up and down like a Yo Yo, however I timed the strike I got nothing. To say I was getting exasperated, would be an understatement, I was getting rather frustrated. I changed to crust then flake nothing, back on cheese paste I got a series of knocks but no fish. Everything around me was white including my rods, I even had frost settling on my coat, I couldn’t call my mate to see what he was catching as my phone battery had died. In the beam of my head lamp I could see my landing net frozen I thought it’s probably time to pack up. Winding in I collected up my bits and pieces then headed off upstream to find Dave missing, so headed off to the car park where he was sitting having a smoke. It turned out he hadn’t had a bite so packed up then spent some forty minutes in the car park. Having put everything in the car we headed off home.

Day Two On The Ribble

The next day I was back on the Ribble fishing a new beat, trotting with gentles using the same tackle as the previous day. My new swim had a depth of 7 feet and after five minutes of feeding gentles I started to fish. Soon I had the grayling feeding catching eight fish in eight casts, but today I had a strong downstream wind making it a bit difficult to keep control of the line and float but with a bit of care it was managed. I find when conditions are more difficult I get a lot of satisfaction from winning the contest. Some two hours passed and I was still catching but not as often as in the first few casts. I was now catching a fish every few casts which helped keep the feel of the gusting icy cold from being too uncomfortable, though my hands were certainly suffering. I still persisted until the light started to fade and it was time to leave. I reckon I might have had around 30 odd grayling all around the pound mark. Certainly a good session, while the cold dry conditions last it will be grayling on the float and chub at dusk for the next few days. On the 23rd February David and myself are having three days on the Kennet can't wait.


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Martin James Fishing
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