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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


06/09/2016 - A Return To The Past Of My Youth

Author on River Beult


I first visited the River Beult at Hunton in Kent in 1947 as a ten year old, it was the start of a long love affair with the river, the sport it offered, also the friendship of the people of the village and other anglers. It was the time of cane rods, my first decent rod was an Allcock and company match rod of Spanish reed with a built cane tip, my next rod was a fifteen foot rod, Tonkin cane butt , built cane middle and top joints made for me by F Clarkson, I’ve always reckoned it was one of the best rods I ever had, perfect for fishing the Beult in winter when it was bank high, We fished laying on style with lobworms as bait for bream with lots of bread and bran, we also caught quite a few pike some in double figures, most time the fish were hooked in the scissors so the fish couldn’t bite through the line, our rods were matched with centre pin reels most of the time though in 1952 I was given a pair of Mitchell 300’s for Christmas but rarely used them on the Beult as I’d been taught to Wallis cast so I had no problem fishing the far bank, willow baskets were the norm, 4 and six legs depending on the size, I started off with a 4 leg basket, then around 18 years of age I ordered a bigger basket to be made with 6 legs. Float winders were popular made of wood often designed to hold 4 or more made up float rigs, not like todays plastic item probably made in China.

I recently visited Hunton with my friend David Hurst for a few days fishing the River Beult, after a long break, my first visit was as a junior member with Winget AC, Baz Hambler was secretary, who was most helpful to all members especially newcomers to the sport. On my return I was extremely pleased to see the village was no different from when I first visited all those years ago, except the Bull Inn is now a house the red phone box along with the village shop have gone, nice to see the parkland looking resplendent, also the village hall being used. The villagers must be congratulated on keeping the village litter free and the houses in good repair, it’s a credit to everyone. I spent much of my leisure time summer and winter on the banks of the river often camping for two or more weeks at a time with the landowners permission who also allowed me to shoot rabbits and pigeons to supplement my rations. As often happens work takes us away from our birth place, for me as a broadcaster with the BBC and a photographer travelling the world. There were many occasions when my thoughts were of Hunton wishing I was in the area.

We left home around 1030 hrs arriving in Yalding about 1630hrs we’d booked rooms in the Hope & Anchor in Yalding on the banks of the river Medway, an ideal venue for David to get a cooling glass of ale at this waterside tavern after a day on the river, after booking in we went off the river Beult a short drive to our fishing venue, I doubt the river has changed much it looked very appealing much as it was in 1947, the .venue we fished was the London Anglers Association water, what was most refreshing and noticeable there was no litter, even the country lanes were litter free, as David said “There are no fast food outlets” After parking in the designated area we walked to the river with its water lilies, sedges, bulrush, oaks, willows and alders along with a profusion of wild flowers with plenty of fish activity. Certainly a piscatorial paradise, kingfishers and green woodpeckers were in profusion as were buzzards which were working the thermals emitting a high pitched ‘kiew’, we even had the privilege of seeing a hobby attacking some pigeons, one day I heard what I thought were short burst of a centre pin ratchet from various direction, several time I got up to see where the angler was. This was no angler but a grasshopper warbler.

Ground Bait Mix

After raking a swim I made up some ground bait with a mixture of Lone Angler brown crumb, a small amount of white crumb with some bran, adding frozen gentles, hemp, a few grains of corn, some chopped worms with a large dollop of Lone Angler cheese mania glupe, I then added water as required kneading the mix then adding extra water as required, I continued to knead the mix every few minutes until I felt I’d got a light fluffy mixture that would hopefully break up near the bottom, then hopefully draw the fish into my swim, hold them there where hopefully they will settle.

Tackle Set Up

Having fished the river for many years I had a good picture of the underwater topography which included an idea on depth which I reckoned would be around 12 feet in depth over the edge of the lilies, confirmed by Rob Burt one of the LAA bailiffs who also gave me two red tipped sliding porcupine quills, certainly a kind gesture, in return I gave him some Lone Angler cheese paste. The two tench picture are fish caught by Rob. I put together a Milwards Swimmaster 12ft hollow built in the butt section and weighs assembled just 10.5ozs which is very light, but with power in the mid-section and butt, matched with a Richard Carter centre pin reel, line was Fireline Crystal of 6lbs bs with the diameter of 2lb diameter of nylon, it was a new line I was trying, at the present time I can’t honestly say if its good or bad but I didn’t have any problems during this trip. Rob then kindly tied a stop knot as I have problems with my arthritic hands also my MS doesn’t help when dealing with fiddly things including tying hooks at times. I used one of Rob’s sliding floats then placed 3 AA shot midway between float stop and hook, with a BB about 10 inches from the size 12 barbless hook. Having sorted out the tackle I spent several minutes plumbing the depth, noting the drop off then finding around 13 feet of water over a fairly clean and hard bottom. I then assembles my 8 foot 2 piece cane handle then attached my landing net with its cane arms. Time to introduce some ground bait then leave the swim to settle down while I made some tea for Rob David and myself, as I sat enjoying a chicken sandwich with my tea I though back to various days I’ve enjoyed on this lovely river.

The London Anglers Association

Have 3 fisheries Longfield Meadow a fairly narrow but deep section of the Beult with mainly open banks, slow flow in summer when floating duckweed can be a problem, but liable to flash flooding in thewinter when it becomes very coloured. Average depth eight to ten feet. This is a good roach water and good weights of fish are often returned in club matches however bonus fish are quite common usually consisting of tench (good specimens) or carp that seem to be increasing on this water. For the pike angler there are plenty of fish but they are mostly small fish, though the occasional larger fish will be around for some lucky angler, the water also contains dace, bream and chub. The duckweed often makes fishing difficult on this water, but if you can make a hole and drop a float through, the fish will often feed right through the day on this river, even in bright sun shine.

Reed Court Farm No 1 This is a fairly narrow but deep section of the Beult with mainly open banks, flow is slow in summer when floating duckweed can be a problem, but liable to flash flooding in thewinter when it becomes very coloured. Average depth eight to ten feet.This is a good roach water and good weights of fish are often returned in club matches however bonus fish are quite common and usually consist of the many tench or carp that seem to be increasing on this water. For the pike angler there are plenty of fish but they are mostly small fish, though I reckon there are better fish even if they are hard to find, the water also contains dace, bream and chub.

Reed Court Farm No 2 This is a fairly narrow but deep section of the Beult with mainly open banks, flow is slow in summer when floating duckweed is a problem, but liable to flash flooding in thewinter Average depth eight to ten feet. This is a good roach water and good weights of fish are often returned in club matches however bonus fish are quite common and usually consist of the many tench or carp that seem to be increasing on this water. For the pike angler there are plenty of fish but they are mostly small fish, though I reckon there are better fish even if they are hard to find, the water also contains dace, bream and chub. Membership details The London Anglers Association Izaak Walton House, 2a Hervey Park Road London E17 6LJ E-mail [email protected] Tel/Fax 020 85207477 ( Mon - Fri11.00am till 4.00pm)

Roach on Corn

It was around 1830 hours when I made my first cast baiting with a grain of corn, I find the Green Giant nibblets to be the best’ I pulled off some line then made an underhand cast dropping the baited hook into the baited area about two rod lengths out, within minutes the float bobbed, dipped, leaned over at an angle before slowly moving across the surface, striking I missed the fish, Rob said “You got the fish are in the swim” Some ten minutes later I had my first roach known as a “Goer” meaning its over eight inches in the next 90 minutes of daylight I had around twenty roach, what I did notice where as in the past the roach had black spot, all these roach were beautiful silver bodied fish with no sign of black spot. With the light failing and no night fishing, I put in some more ground bait with about two pints of hemp also a handful of corn, we then packed up and headed back to the Hope and Anchor where David enjoyed a cooling pin of ale after a long hot day in the sunshine catching roach, I even had half a shandy with ninety percent of lemonade not liking beer which was refreshing.

Day Two

It was around 0900hrs when we arrived on the banks of the river Beult, after making up some ground bait mix, I assembled the same tackle set up of the previous day, having got everything sorted and put in the swim of the previous day, I went back to the car for breakfast, having put on the Jetboiler for hot water, I put some Granola in a bowl then added some milk. David had a boil in the bag breakfast. Usually I drink tea, but I’ve found a coffee I enjoy Lichfields Individual Rich Roast so coffee for me, tea for David. Half an hour later we went off to our swims, soon I was catching roach many of them 10 to 12 ounces, around lunch time I switched to worm and corn cocktail hoping for a tench, but continued catching roach with the occasionally perch. I was enjoyable fishing in the sunshine . every time the red tipped quill float disappeared I would think “Is this a tench” the answer was “No” Around 1400 hrs I stopped fishing for a coffee also made two cheese rolls, David joined me choosing a bowl of soup again boil in the bag variety, these are ideal for the angler, once eaten the bag is dumped in the rubbish bag.

Hooked and Lost

Back in my swim I could see small patches of pinhead size bubbles, tench I though, deciding to fish a large lobworm with a grain of corn in the hope of tempting a tench, I felt the tackle was suitable though I needed to change the size 12 hook to a size ten. After struggling I managed to tie on the hook, then moved the stop knot up the line about twelve inches, also positioning the BB shot six inches from the hook, casting out I let the tackle settle then tightened down to the float was set at an angle. The perch liked this set up as I quickly caught half a dozen twelve ounce fish. For some thirty minutes nothing happened, the float stood up right then dropped flat on the surface then slowly moving towards to lilies upstream of my peg then slowly disappeared, as it did so I set the hook the reel screeched as I was forced to give line, as the fish moved towards the pads on the opposite bank, “if it gets in those pads all will be lost” I said to myself, slowly the pressure of my well balanced tackle started to tell as I retrieved line, about two rod lengths out a tench about 4lbs swirled on the surface then dived forcing me to give a few feet of line. As I started to get more line the fish surfaced then dived to my left into some duck weed covered lilies and other weeds, suddenly I got that feeling we all dread as the line went slack. I thought I’d been broken but on inspection I could see the lightly coiled line where the knot had slipped. I’d missed tucking the line through the second loop, yes I was annoyed with myself I should have got David to tie on the hook for me.

Time for a brew I thought, so fired up the Jetboiler, then sat back enjoying a cheese roll with my brew thinking how lucky I was to be fishing this beautiful venue on the river Beult with its wildlife, flowers and birds along with some nice roach, even more enjoyable I was fishing the most .satisfying way I know of, that’s watching a float. Half an hour later Rob turned up to fish a swim upstream, after he had settled in, I thought I would take him a fresh brew, after catching up on my fishing so far, I went back to my peg, catching roach with the occasional perch but no more tench were hooked. As the light started to fade the float slowly submerged, striking I felt a heavy weight on the line the rod tip was pulled down towards the water, I thought “This is no tench feels like an eel” after a typical fight it was an eel around two and a half pounds, thankfully I could lean down and take out the hook with forceps then watch it swim off to the sanctuary of the pads. The end of day two which had once again proved most enjoyable. Tomorrow I would fish my second swim which I’d been regularly baiting. As we put away our gear in the car we witnessed a magnificent sunset on the opposite side of the river, silhouetted against this stunning back drop of various shades of reds and pinks were a skein of geese, it was something that BB would have captured in oils. David ended the day with a catch of roach, perch, bream and a couple of small pike,

 Day Three Action With Perch

The day started off like the previous days lots of warm sunshine with a cloudless blue sky, once again I used the same tackle set up checking the depth it was within inches of my previous swim, after putting in a pint of hemp with a few grains of corn and chopped worms, I went back for a brew and some granola as we didn’t get breakfast at the Hope & Anchor which suited us fine. It would also give the fish chance to settle on the feed, I try not to commence fishing straight away giving the fish a chance to settle which I find does work. Back in my swim I was soon catching some nice roach, then the bream showed in three casts I had three fish but nothing of great size the best perhaps 3lbs but they put a bend in the rod. As I fished I did notice a lot of activity along the far bank sedges. On one occasion I spotted the dorsal fish of a perch. I immediately bunched the shot two three from the hook, then adjusted the stop knot fishing a lobworm about four feet deep. With a Wallis cast it wasn’t a problem dropping the tackle a foot from the far bank, within a minute the float glided away perch number one was hooked and landed a fish around the pound mark. In about a two hour period I had probably twenty or more similar size perch. Then the bites stopped as I reckon the fish had moved on either from being hooked or following the bait fish, it was great sport while it lasted. After a brew I went back and started to catch roach, nothing big but enjoyable with fish averaging 10-12 ounces, with the occasional around 14 ounces, later in the day the perch showed up but after catching a few they disappeared, it was back to the roach. Around 1700hrs I stopped for tea, of herring fillets with buttered roll and a coffee. I then changed to my first swim for the last couple of hours catching half a dozen roach also a rudd, the first I’ve ever had from the Beult, though small it looked resplendent with its blood red fins, also another eel similar in size to the previous one. Looking back over the three days, it was as interesting and exciting as I expected, they say we should return to our youth, for me it couldn’t have been better, my lasting impression will be the number of Emperor dragonflies, damselflies and dragonflies I watched at the waterside, both darters and hawkers, I’ve always been fascinated by these species since a young boy. I’ve always thought of angling as sharing the whole environment around me, catching a fish is just part of my environment, There were times I would miss a bite through watching a large Emperor dragonflies but I didn’t care. In the words of the late General Douglas MacArthur “I will return”

Off To The River Wye

The Next day we were up at 0500hrs leaving Kent the Garden of England for another delightful venue the County of Herefordshire to fish a far different water, David would target the Wye barbel for me it would be the chub, we were both delighted to find no hold ups on the motorways arriving in Ross On Wye around 0930hrs for breakfast, arriving around 1030 hrs. on the banks of the Wye to be greeted by a pair of ravens working there thermals and calling to each other, one could not wish for a better sight, then a few minutes later a pair of buzzards appeared working the thermals emitting that high pitched ‘kiew’. First job was to make up some mashed bread and bran, I had a bag of dried bread with me for the job, which was then put in a mesh bag then submerged in the river until it was well soaked. After squeezing out as much water as possible I dumped it in a bin where it was given a good mashing, I then added hemp corn broken Long Angler cheese dumbells before adding bran, it was then given a good kneading before adding some more bran then kneaded again until I felt the consistency was as I wanted it. I then walked the bank looking for swims I thought might produce, in each spot a put in a couple of cricket size ball of ground bait, then made up a chub rod with fixed spool 6lb line to which I tied on a size 6 barbless hook. It was time for a brew with an Eccles cake given to me by Mike O’Neill, as we chatted we watched a chub about 2lbs chase and grab a fish then slowly move away after its breakfast. Thirty minutes later I made my way downstream to fish my first choice swim, as I slithered down the bank I disturbed dozens and dozens of frogs the size of my small finger nail, I was very surprised to find a small colony of Grasshoppers(Not Crickets), a friend of mine known as Badger has been out at night over the past few weeks counting Gloworms, I’ve not seen one of these delightful creatures in years, perhaps I should spend some time looking for Gloworms. The first thing I had to do was work out how many LG shot I would need, I started off with 2 ending with 4 LG’s, many anglers tell me that cannot find LG shot in their shops, no problem just go on the Lone Angler website and order direct. I purchase a large box containing 25 pots which will last me a season, I do lose a lot on the rocky river Ribble. Having worked out how many LG’s I needed, I positioned the shot two inches apart starting about fifteen inches from the hook. First cast I had chub around 4lbs, during that first session I had 13 chub and one barbell about 6lbs, most of the chub were over 4lbs the best at 4lb 10 ounces, I used crust, also luncheon meat, Lone Angler cheese paste, also the new LA carp paste, but the chub don’t know it’s for carp they just eat it with gusto. David Mike and myself then went off to the Cottage of Content for dinner also to stay the night, the food was excellent as was the wine and company, I forgot to duck so banged my head on one of the beams which really sent my shingles buzzing, I had rough night’s sleep through shingles causing me a lot of pain. Mike was up and away at around 0600hrs while David didn’t get up until 0730hrs, part of the hotel was built in 1647 it certainly has character.

On the second session I had 17 chub from three different swims. Mike O ‘Neill had quite a few chub including a brace of 5lb plus fish, Trevor West had three barbel in a short session and my mate David hooked and lost a barbel. It was a good four days with enjoyable company in two delightful counties of England.








Quill sliding floats

Rob Burt with a nice River Beult tench

Tench and traditional tackle caught by Rob Burt

My best Wye Chub 4lb 10 ounces

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Martin James Fishing
Email: [email protected]