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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


13/12/2016 - Donít be put off fishing in sub-zero temperatures

hoarfrost covered the bushes

As winter conditions arrive I notice many anglers stop visiting the river bank, but your missing out on some great views of the countryside and wildlife, also the chance of catching some good fish, there are two simple requirements to make it a pleasant experience, wrap up warm using layered clothing, also take a flask of hot spicy soup, or as I do when stoves are allowed I recommend boil in the bag meal of Tex Mex soup. When the country is covered with a high pressure zone, where you have bright sunshine during day light hours, with heavy frost at night which can often stay all through the day light hours causing plunging water temperatures, there is one fish that will be catchable at some time in a 24 hour period usually at dusk and into the dark hours, it’s the chub, yes dace, grayling and perch will often be active but the chub are my first choice fish.

The first requirement is a good thermometer, also note when the water temperature goes below 39.5 degrees everything changes in the aquatic environment, the digestive rate of the fish slows down as fish become lethargic, the water becomes thicker similar to the oil in your car on a cold day, when the temps first drop fish tend to seek the slow flowing and quieter water not the boisterous strong flowing water, after a few days of low temps fish will start to move around, the water temperature might rise a degree or two around 1400hrs if the sun shines with no wind to cool the water surface. What I look for when river fishing for chub are lots of cover from over hanging willows, alders, oaks, ash and beech trees, I find the two former trees offer the best cover, also look for trees that have crashed down into the water’s edge or have been swept into the bank from floods where chub can seek shelter. Tackle for chub fishing is simple an 11-12 foot rod with a soft tip for use with 6lbs line, chub are often very shy biters and hate resistance, more so in cold water conditions, having said that they can also be quite suicidal and wrench the rod tip round savagely but it’s not often. There is one bait supreme in my book Lone Anger cheese or sausage sizzle flavoured bread, crust is my first choice, flake the second choice fished on a size 4 or 6 barbless hook, weight is 1, 2, 3 or more LG shot and when fishing crust they are often just 2 inches away from the hook, with flake its about 8 inches, the chub are not likely to chase a bait in cold water conditions, you have to try and put it under their nose. Recently I and my friend Tony Booker had a week on the River Wye, though it was tough going we enjoyed the experience and look forward to the next time.

We arrived to find the water temperature was 40 degrees F, bright sunshine with wall to wall blue sky with a cold easterly wind which didn’t help fishing, Tony spent the day float fishing catching a few 8 ounce chub including a small grayling, I had one quick pull on cheese flavoured crust, though I did get a pike 10-11lbs on a float fished sardine, as the sun went down a heavy frost descended, we fished on for an hour in the dark with no sign of a bite, we headed off for the warmth of the B&B.

Monday we arrived on the river around 0930hrs to be greeted by a white landscape, water temperature down to 38 degrees F, Tony fished the same swim as the previous day, catching a few small fish. I roamed about catching 4 chub around the 3lb mark, cheese flavoured crust on a 2 inch link was the successfully method, 3 of the fish were caught in the dark, typical winter chub fishing when there is a high pressure sitting over the country with blue sky and bright sunshine, after an hour in the dark, we packed up then headed off to the fish and chip shop in Ross a few minutes away, Tony had fish and chips, for me it was a small portion of chip then back to the warmth of the B&B

Tuesday we had similar conditions as the previous day with a water temperature of 38 degrees F, Tony continued in his swim while I roamed around, but didn’t get a single bite. Though I did have the pleasure of watching a kingfisher no more than six feet away catch a small fish return to its perch to enjoy its meal, then an hour later a barn owl flew across the river then settled some fifteen feet from me. Half an hour before darkness I settled in a swim I thought might produce, ending the day with 4 chub around 3lbs again legered crust accounted for my fish. About 1900hrs we packed up then headed off to the B&B stopping for fish and chips for Tony, a small portion of chips for me, as we sat in the van I couldn’t believe my eyes at the amount of rubbish on the pavement, before we left I collected up as much rubbish as I could then dumped it into the local litter bin. I must say it was nice getting back to the warmth of our B&B with a fresh mug of coffee with a slice of fruit cake.

Wednesday was a winter wonderland when we arrived in the car park, really stunning with trees and bushes covered in frost, today was Sir Winston Churchill’s also my daughter Sharon’s birthday who is based in Dubai so I called her to wish her a Happy Birthday, it was then down to business checking the water temperature getting a reading 37-38 degrees F as I did so I was joined by 2 robins seeking some gentles for breakfast. It was also pleasure meeting up with Trefor West and Ed Green, it was several years since I’d seen Ed on them occasions it was on the Kennet, Trefor had some M&S mince pies which he shared around with our coffee. “Thank You Trefor and Ed for your company and finding my rod rest”. Around 1600hrs the water temperature dropped to 36 degrees F Tony continued in his swim, while I fished a swim downstream from around 1630hrs legering with Lone Angler cheese flavoured crust until 2000hrs catching 4 chub best at 4lb 2 ounces, with all my gear frost covered, landing net frozen to the bank frost on my eyebrows we packed up, sitting outside Tony’s van I had a boil in the bag meal of Tex-Mex soup, while Tony cooked sweet and sour chicken with rice in the back of his van. We then went back to our B&B for fresh coffee and a slice of fruit cake

Thursday arrived on the river around 1000hrs, another cold and frosty day water temperature 36 degrees F, Tony again in the same swim until 1600hrs when he moved on my advice to the first swim below the bridge missing 2 good bites in the dark, I fished a swim further downstream catching 3 chub around 3lbs mark then pricked and lost a fish, no more bites in the next hour. Tony turned up to say he had packed up, so I called it a day, back in Ross it was fish and chips for Tony, I had a small portion of chips then back to our B&B

Friday cloudy sky no frost, but a water temperature of 34 degrees, Tony fished the first swim well downstream today, taking a pike around 10lbs on a float fished smelt bait, also a perch about 12 ounces along with a small chub on float fished gentles, I spent most of the morning walking the length of the fishery with rod plumbing lots of spots, noting some new spots to try. Lunchtime I had a boil in the bag meal of pasta in tomato sauce which was filling and warming, followed by rice pudding, these boil in the bag meals are a vast improvement on what we had many years ago. Eventually I settled into my swim around 1500 hours, with no bites until just before dark then in the next hour and a half I had 9 bites catching 9 chub best at 4lb 3ounces, an excellent session. Again is was fish and chips for Tony, I had a small portion of chips then back to our B&B. The end of a tough but excellent weeks fish which I really enjoyed. Pics 1447 1449 and 1445 are scenes that greeted me on Wednesday morning. 0900 show the shot arrangement I use. pic of Wye pike caught by Tony as you can see from its thin body profile, the fish hadn’t been feeding all week.







Winter Wonderland

Frosten field and hoarfrost cover trees

My shotting pattern

Wye Pike caught by Tony

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Martin James Fishing
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