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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


09/01/2017 - Some Ideas to Help You in the Last Few Weeks of the Season

7lb 10 ounce chub


The current season ends on March 14th, so I thought I would offer some advice to those new to winter fishing, an important item that will help your fishing is a thermometer, it’s not a gimmick, but an important item of tackle that can give you a good indication of where to fish, it will give you an idea if the fish might switch on and feed. The late Dick Walker covered the use of a thermometer and its advantages in Dick Walker’s Angling a must read book, before Walker Captain LA Parker had made an in depth study on water temperatures and feeding fish, I recommend his book This Fishing or Angling Arts & Artifices, it’s been such an important book to me that when a second edition was published in 1947 I purchased a copy, I then didn’t have to continue flicking through my first edition. When water temperature reaches 39.5 degrees F everything changes in the water, the digestive rate of fish slows down, viscosity of the water changes like the oil in your car on a cold morning, fish will move into the quiet stretches of water until they adjust to the low temperatures, and then they will often increase their feeding rate, also often moving into the more streamy water. You can have a water temperature of 44 degrees F, the next day it could be 42 degrees the fish switch off, by use of the thermometer you get a water temperature of 36 degrees F then the next day it rises 2 degrees F the fish switch on, often during the day of warm sunshine the water temperature can rise a degree or two often around 1400-1500 hrs. I well remember visiting the River Ribble with Mick Holgate, I didn’t want to go, but Mick twisted my arm, arriving at the waterside I could see cat ice in the quiet margins, hoarfrost covered the bushes and trees, the water was gin clear with a temperature of 36 degrees F, I had 4 bites on cheese flavoured crust, missing the first bite then catching a chub of 5lb 3 ounces followed by a barbel of 10lb 10 ounces then later a chub of 7lb 10 ounces. It just shows hat however hard conditions look it’s still possible to catch.  . Recently I was on the River Wye conditions were hard heavy overnight frost low water conditions, but Anthony Morris and I caught chub in the fading light of dusk then into the darkness, one evening I packed up after 2 hours the rod and kit were frost covered as was my coat, bread and caramel feed were frost in the bucket landing net to the bank, I was more than happy I’d caught some fish on Lone Anglers sausage sizzle paste and cheese flavoured crust. So never think it’s a waste of time to go fishing, wrap up warm and get out on the river bank. When buying warm waterproof clothing visit a good outdoor shop that caters for the people who go out on the hills and moors, I recently got some good clothing from a Trespass store having used their products with confidence for a long time, a DLX jacket with DLX skiing pants which has an outer shell with cold heat insulation also a lining, in my old age I need all the help I can get to stay safe warm and healthy as possible at the waterside. Another source of some good clothing is one of the shops selling off British army clothing, I was in one at Ross last week, where you could get a good pair of boots for £15-00

Dead Baits Do Work

I often get told by some anglers that dead baits don’t work in cold or coloured water, ‘utter rubbish’ last week on the Wye I had a short afternoon session fishing a float paternostered sardine baits catching 2 fish around 8-9lbs a third fish between 14-15lbs, the latter pike hitting the sardine on the drop which took me by surprise. Also take a few extra baits, then ground bait with chopped fish sections, chub will also pick up sardine sections, on the River Ure some years ago we caught quite a lot of chub on sardine sections as I’ve done on the river Aire. But for some unknown reason I’ve only ever had one chub from the Ribble on this bait, even though I’ve ground baited with fish chunks for a week or more, of course the trout could have been taking the bait before the chub had a chance. I’ve found Morrison’s fish section usually have good fresh sardines, also it’s a very cheap bait so you can afford to buy a few and ground bait with them. Also keep your baits in a cold chest when fishing, this way they will keep looking bright and fresh.

Lone Angler paste baits are not a Gimmick

Over the years anglers have told me frozen baits are better than shelf life baits, perhaps the fish I catch haven’t been told this fact as I don’t notice any difference when I tested fresh and frozen baits side by side on identical tackle set up other than the bait, the first point to make is Lone Angler paste baits are not a gimmick they do work, I no longer get my butcher to make sausage meat paste, neither do I need to make cheese paste, both are available in shelf life bags which work, as the anglers who use these baits regularly, if they didn’t work I wouldn’t use them neither would many of my friends. I keep 2 x 1 KG bags of each in the car for instant use.

Why I Use LG Shot

Many anglers ask me why I use LG shot and not a normal weight, by using LG shot I can have a very sensitive set up especially when chub fishing, by careful use of shot I can work a bait slowly downstream, I’ve seen many anglers getting very exasperated at striking at small taps on the rod tip and never getting a hook up, I’ve found by spacing my LG‘s 2, 3 or 4 inches apart, those taps are then turned into a positive pull. I have spent hundreds of hours watching fish in their natural environment, watching the fish’s reaction when picking up the bait then feeling the resistance of the weight. With the use of spaced LG shot you can overcome that resistance, an LG offers a slight resistance, as it moves away it feel another slight change in the resistance from the next LG, but not enough to cause concern so you will often end up with a positive pull, another fish is hooked, it could be that fish you have waited years to catch. Don’t take my word for it give it a try, but not just for a single session but over a period of time.

I’m Not a Fan of Quiver Tips

Many of the rods today come with a set of quiver tips, I’ve never been a fan of these tips when river fishing, I feel the rod should be built with a top joint having an action you require for the line strength and weight likely to be used, we all know chub are probably the most street wise fish of all, they hate resistance in any form, my chub rods are built with an Avon action, as the fish picks up the bait the rod tip pulls round causing very little resistance, I associated my rod tip with a piece of elastic, as you stretch the elastic the resistance increases slightly, it’s the same with my chub rod, though it has a soft tip, its accounted for many double figure barbel also 20lb plus carp these fish haven’t caused me any problems with the soft all through action I’ve found the fish often don’t realise they are hooked. When using a quiver tip the fish can take the tip round quickly then feel the resistance as the tip stops bending as it comes up against the rod, we have all seen the quiver tip bent round at right angles in streamy water, the angler wanders why he doesn’t get a decent bite, why should a fish hang onto a bait if it feels resistance?

Don’t Just Sit and Wait for a Bite

How many times have you been told the fish are not biting today, this might be true if you arrive at the waterside on a bright sunny day after overnight frost with gin clear water, but not if you arrive at dusk then fish for a couple of hours into the dark, these are the times I expect to catch chub and roach, don’t think you have to fish with leger set up, some of the best and most enjoyable fishing can be with float tackle lay-on using a torch beam to illuminate the float, it’s a myth that fish are frightened by a bright light, Dick Walker recommended the use of a cycle lamp beamed on a float for fishing in the dark, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve shone a bright torch in the water at fish which haven’t been spooked. If you’re not catching with a short link, extend the distance between bait and weight. If you’re not catching on crust try flake, if that doesn’t work try cheese or sausage sizzle paste, if your using gentles give them a light spray of sausage sizzle or cheese flavour, even cream caramel it will disperse any slight smell of ammonia. When buying gentles refuse sawdust or maize meal, keep a supply of fresh bran handy for the gentles, it does make a difference.


Ice fishing in North of Sweden to catch food when dog sledding, even in these conditions fish could be caught

LG shot arrangement.

Lone Angler sausage sizzle and cheese paste baits and glupes.

One of many doubles caught on my soft action rod.

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Martin James Fishing
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