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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


28/02/2016 - Return to the Kennet

One of several 3lb plus chub


Sadly this season I’ve not been able to fish the chalk streams of the south as I have done in the past, old age is catching up with me making it difficult to drive, thankfully as I have access to some good venues quite a few anglers want to join me, I have a deal where they do the driving, I supply the fishing we split the cost of petrol which works fine. It was around 1600hrs on Tuesday when I arrived on a stretch of Kennet in Wiltshire, the water temperature was 40 degrees F with a cloudless sky, heavy frost was forecast for the night. After introducing David to Colin we moved off upstream where Colin put David in what he thought was a good choice swim, I had to agree, leaving David I went off for about a mile baiting 4 swims bearing in mind how low the water temperature was I introduced just a light helping of mashed bread. Around 1930 hrs I called David to see what he’d caught, the answer “One small chub, but I’m getting very cold” I suggested we should pack up and get some hot food which he agreed on. I hadn’t had any interest in my bread crust. Flake. cheese paste or lobworms, so I wasn’t too disappointed to pack up though if I’d been on my own it would have been around 2200 hrs before I called it a day as often fish will feed for a short spell several hours after dark. Back in the B&B car park I fired up the Jetboiler then added two boil in the bag meals to heat up, David chose a full breakfast, I had a curry Nepalese style. An hour later we were in our room which was clean and comfortable which is all I ask for.

Day Two

I was up and about at 0700hrs after a shower I went off to the car park where every vehicle was white with frost, I set about clearing frost from David’s car, fifteen minutes later I felt I’d made a success of the job. At 0830hrs we went in for breakfast David chose a full breakfast, I had scrambled egg on wholemeal toast, it was horrid. David said his breakfast was tasteless, I suppose we can’t have everything for £33-00 a night each for a twin room. After calling in Waitrose for some shopping we were on the river about 1000hrs, weather conditions couldn’t have been worse with a bright blue cloudless sky and sunshine, I started off helping David move down river to a swim Colin had suggested, after making sure he was all settled in, I then went off roaming around checking out dozens of spots, those that looked interesting I introduced just a sprinkling of mashed bread then moved on. I had the pleasure of seeing a large flock of goldfinches feeding on thistle heads, a short time later some twenty long tailed tits were moving through the riverside alder trees, it always amazes me how they spot the tiny insects and flies. Around 1400hrs I heated up three boil in the bag meals for David, Colin and myself, we all agreed they were ideal on the river bank on a cold day, I then made brews for all three of us. I suppose it was around 1530hrs when I arrived at my first swim, I introduced two pigeon egg size lumps of mashed bread, the lightly pinched on three LG shot some three inches from a size 4 barbless hook, then baited with a thumb nail size cube of crust, with a light underhand cast I dropped the bait under a hawthorn bush then sat on the ground hold the rod, within five minutes the tip pulled round savagely, I soon had a chub about 2lbs in the net. After introducing a small amount of mash I moved upstream to an alder tree that overhung the river many of its branches in the water. The water flowing from right to left then swept under the alder tree pushing any food tight to the bank under my feet before being swept away downstream. I made a cast with three shot, it didn’t have the effect I desired, I added another shot, still not right so I added a fifth shot, this caused the tackle to swing in close to my bank. Baiting with another cube of crust, I made a cast to midstream then stuck he rod tip under the water to allow the line to swing inwards without catching on the sunken branches, it worked I could see the line pointing towards the bank , within a mine the rod tip pulled round, striking I found myself hooked into another chub, soon I netted a fish around 3lbs, which was quickly unhooked then released, I then moved off downstream to my first swim.

Lost Landing Net

Back in the first swim I took off two LG’S then baited with a cube of crust, casting out far enough so the baited hook would come to rest under the hawthorn bush, I sat on the ground then positioned my net so part of the mesh was in the water. Not long after this I hooked a chub, as I trying to free the line from a branch of the hawthorn bush, I spotted the end of the handle slide over the bank into the water, dropping the rod I dived for the handle which I missed then watched it drift downstream. After clearing the line from the branch I eventually had the chub around 2lbs close to the bank where I was able to land it. Releasing the fish I took off across the meadow then down a track to the river then running down some fifty yards I found the net snagged in the middle of the river with some three feet of handle protruding from the water. Checking the depth of the swirling water and noting the amount of rubbish and branches in the water I didn’t think it was a safe bet to strip off then swim out to reach my net. I went off downstream eventually finding Colin I told him of my loss, he immediately said “Take my net as I’m leaving now, I will bring another net for tomorrow” I moved back to the Oaks where I’d been adding some mashed bread throughout the day, then settled in for a session, it was a good choice within a minute of bouncing a piece of flake downstream I had a nice chub about 3lbs, quickly followed by another similar size fish, I added a small amount of mash then re baited with a walnut size piece of very soft two year old smelly cheese paste, this was quietly dropped in the water three feet from the bank some ten yards downstream in about eight feet of slow moving water, then walked back to my seat slowly feeding out line. As I sat holding the rod I watched of odd small fish jumping out in a small pocket of quiet water on the far bank, no doubt perch on the hunt in the fading light. Suddenly without warning the rod tip savagely pulled round, I doubt I needed to strike but I did so, as an angry fish powered away towards mid river no doubt annoyed it had been fooled. After a few minutes of fun I then had to lean over a large bed of reeds with a short handle landing net, I kept missing the fish then laid flat on the ground where I managed to get the fish in the small net, then heaved a sigh of relief as net and fish were safely on the bankside reeds. Having taken a quick pic of the fish I released some yards upstream then repeated the process with cheese paste, soon another fish graced the net about 3lbs, I then continued into the dark catching three more chub then a horrid looking rainbow trout. As I was unhooking the fish David called to see if we were packing up, I asked if he had caught getting the answer two trout, I must admit it was freezing but it didn’t bother me as much as David, I’ve got the best gear money can buy, also I was wearing chest high waders with quality wading boots also layered clothing, I did feel it would be rough for David if I carried on so we agreed to pack up. We got back to the B&B then realised I’d left a gallon of gentles under the car so another drive about 8 miles to collect them. Back in our room David put the kettle on for a welcome brew, we then listened to the football for a while then I crawled into bed where I spent some time looking at options for retrieving net before falling asleep

Day Three

As I was having problems with my mobile I needed to get it sorted, I also went into B&Q for some strong twine, eventually around noon time were had got things sorted arriving on the river about 1230 hrs, I put David in the Beeches swim while I sent off to the Oaks, as I was going downstream I passed Colin and Leigh on the opposite bank, saying “I will see your shortly as I want to try and retrieve my net, dumping my gear in the swim I went off downstream some way until I found a bridge, then crossed to the opposite bank, before moving upstream eventually spotting the handle sticking from the water, the only weight I could find was a large tin of luncheon meat which I attached to the twine, with an underhand throw I chucked the tin over the handle then slowly pulled on the twine, as the tin reached the handle I slowly increased the pressure, to my surprise the handle lifted from the water about three feet then swung towards my bank coming to rest again a branch in the water about a third of the way across the river. I stood looking at the tree that had crashed across the river from the opposite bank, noting a large branch coming off the main trunk ending close to my bank, above this branch was another thicker branch. I thought if I could reach the upper branch, I might be able to take some weight off the lower branch. Reaching up high I grabbed the thicker branch then hand over hand I slowly moved out over the river, eventually I had the handle below me, letting go with one hand I tried to lean down but couldn’t reach the handle, I then twisted my legs around the handle then moved enough to get a firm grip between my knees, my breathing was now laboured, arms and hands, I concentrated on the task, slowly exerting all my strength in my legs so I had a strangle hold on the handle, I moved hand over hand back towards the bank about three feet from the bank I heard a creak then a splitting sound looking upwards I could see the branch was breaking away from the main limb, thankfully all that happened was it lowered me slowly towards the water, two feet from the bank I hear a crack then leapt for the bank, ending up two thirds in the water but did manage to grab the grass and reeds with one hand, while I held on to the handle with the other. Slowly I pulled myself upwards to a better position, with one hand I pulled and pushed the handle a bit more up the bank until it was in a more secure position. Then with two hands I was able to heave myself out of the water and up the bank, grabbing the net I laid on the bank gasping for breath, saying to no one “Bugger me boy you can still do it” then minutes later the handle and net were mine as I skipped off down the bank looking for Colin and Leigh finding them I had a big grin on my face shouting “I’ve got it” as I waved my net . After a fresh brew, Leigh and myself went off fishing, Colin had to leave as he had invited David and myself to dinner, while Leigh had to drive down to Plymouth, I decided I would put Leigh in two of my baited swims saying to him “I can do most things except put the fish on the hook” Within minutes Leigh was in action, but the fish had other ideas and bit through the line typical bite off. Moving to another spot I got Leigh hooked up to another fish, this one shed the hook. Third cast in another spot Leigh quickly had another hook up, but again the fish got off. During the afternoon he had two more takes both missed, with the light fading we packed up but to me it had been a privilege helping and looking after Leigh one of our Heroes who are always putting their lives on the line to save others as he has often done, these men and woman deserve our full credit. Leigh then went off on his long trip to Plymouth, while David and myself went off for dinner with Colin and lovely Sara, enjoying steak and kidney pie, mashed potatoes and fresh vegetable with a lovely tasting thick gravy followed by Colin’s rice pudding, the end of an enjoyable and memorable day.

Day Four

After a breakfast of toast and sugar free marmalade, it was off to Waitrose for some of the steak pies and whole meal bread to take back north, how I wished we had a Waitrose store. Back on the river Colin was waiting he would spend a few hours with me before going off home, We roamed around not catching anything, even the perch didn’t want a big lobworm, around 1300 hrs Colin went off home, while David and myself had a boil in the bag meal followed by a fresh brew, I then went off to the oaks, I had three chub around 3lbs and a trout before I packed up as we were leaving at 1700hrs for the long drive home, Friday evenings are not the best time to be on a motorway, I was surprised to arrive back at home around 2130hrs having had a smooth drive with no hold ups. Hopefully I shall be back on the Kennet for the last few days of the season

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Martin James Fishing
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