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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


23/04/2017 - Some Day’s on the River

Tree trunks like this offer cover for fish

It’s not just the fishing that keeps me visiting the river bank or lakeside, it’s also the wildlife, today despite the horrid weather cold northerly wind with heavy rain showers, I was fortunate to see a kingfisher, two yellow wagtails along with a pied wagtail, then further downstream I watched a dipper trying to catch invertebrates where it was successful. Later on I watched half a dozen swallows, the first this year, they along with the sand martins we’re struggling to find flies, further along the bank I found a large toad, no doubt hunting food in the long grass. A while later I heard, then spotted several curlew, now becoming a rare bird due to modern farming practise of cutting silage with no respect to ground nesting birds such as curlews and green plover. As I entered a small copse I caught sight of a roe deer which didn’t dash off but stood watching me as I watched him for about 3 or 4 minutes then it just continued on its way. Back in the cabin I had a meal of beef stew and dumplings, before I headed off further down river to repair some broken fencing and erect a new stile. Then it was off home for some tea, after which I settled in my favourite armchair then listened to some fine jazz,

A Brace of Brown Trout

On my next visit to the river I arrived around 1130 hrs to find conditions had improved from my last visit, a light upstream breeze disturbed the water surface creating a slight ripple, it was warm with an over cast sky encouraging a few grannom to hatch, occasionally a trout could be seen taking the emerges in a typical head and tail rise or a splashy take. Across the far side of the river a duck with 14 ducklings were dashing here and there chasing flies, the more adventurous would go in to the reeds looking for a better source of insects. .The grannom is the first of the sedge flies to appear usually in April, grannom hatch will last between 2 and 3 weeks, offering some exciting fishing, The larva will build a house around itself from bits of weed twigs tiny pieces of gravel then stays put until the following spring. It always amazes me how all these aquatic insects survive the big spate rivers that we get in the North of England, also let’s not forget the powerful river Wye. I’d seen enough to get me excited, last year I couldn’t fly fish with my shingles causing severe pain making me dizzy which isn’t good when your wading or at the water’s edge, having broken 2 fly rods I just stopped attempting to fish. Discussing problem with my doctor a few weeks ago he suggested I take Gabapentin Teva capsule at breakfast then another about 3 hours later, it worked, it didn’t cure the problem but the pain wasn’t so sever I found I could once again cast a fly. Back in the car park I put together a 9 foot 4 weight rod with a 4 weight floating line, to which I attached a fifteen foot leader with a 3lb BS tippet, I would choose my fly pattern at the water’s edge after I had spent some time watching the rise forms which would dictate my choice of fly pattern. It was about 1230hrs when I was back on the river, choosing a stretch of water on the left hand bank looking downstream it was heavily wooded, many trees over hanging the water which offered a good supply of food dropping off trees such as caterpillars, beetles ants in fact a multitude of insects, even the occasional freshly hatched youngster, it’s not generally realised that much of the trout’s food isn’t just aquatic, trout eat lots of land based food items dropping from trees or being blown in the water, I well remember catching a good brown trout to find inside its mouth 2 freshly eaten wasps. My chosen stretch of water was the run off from a deep pool flowing over gravel, silt and small rocks. I had some fifty yards of water at my disposal averaging around 4 to 5 feet, the water was gin clear, one of the reasons I chose to use a fifteen foot leader, I sat on the bank watching the water for a sign of a fish, twenty minutes later I heard a splash then watched the ever increasing circles spreading over the water from the tree lined bank where a fish had shown itself, suddenly there was a flurry of grannom hatching, occasionally one dropped on the water to be quickly taken by a trout, chub or grayling, I could tell fish were taking emerges by the way they were head and tailing or making a slashing rise. It was time to make my choice of fly, I chose a size 18 Parachute Adams, then targeted a rising fish, as the fly drifted over the area a fish could be seen rising towards the fly then stopped abruptly an inch or so away then ignored my offering, this happened three times, it was time for a change. Looking through my fly box I chose a size 18 Klinkhamer with a green spot on the body similar to a grannom., an ideal pattern when fish are taking emerges, I rubbed some float ant in the Parachute hackle of the fly then sat waiting for a fish to show. Ten minutes later a good fish showed alongside a fallen tree, I watched the area then a few minutes later there was a head and tail rise. I slowly moved into position where I could make a cast so the fly would land a few feet above the feeding fish, All I needed was a roll cast, followed by a back cast then a forward cast, the fly landed perfectly. I watched it drift two or three feet downstream then spotted the fish arrowing upwards intercepting the fly, with a gentle lift of the rod a few inches, the fish was on immediately I was forced to give several yards of line as the trout powered downstream. Thankfully it didn’t dive into the fallen tree, it was give and take for some minutes but I slowly retrieved line back on the reel, Soon I had the fish within a few feet its head out of the water ready for netting, unhooking my net I pushed it into the water as I did so I pulled the fish over the net then lifted, it’s always it was a joy seeing the fish engulfed in the wet mesh, knowing I’d deceived the fish in taking my imitation as the real insect. Half an hour later I’d hook another trout again on the Klinkhamer, after landing my second fish I was more than happy to leave the fish feeding without being disturbed. Back in the car park I made a fresh coffee then packed away the tackle and headed off home.

A Wild Windy Day

Today the weather was horrid strong cold wind, that made one realise it might be termed Springtime, but it was more like winter, my first job of the day was to walk the beat checking for night lines, we’d recently had gypsies in the area, I didn’t find any night lines but I did find a pile of rubbish, Back at my car I grabbed a pair of gloves and two plastic bin liners then went and collected up all the rubbish, as I was doing so I noticed there wasn’t a single bird to be seen, I expected some sand martins and swallows, there wasn’t even a goosander which was strange, I can understand not seeing sand martin and swallows on such a horrid day but goosanders are usually somewhere on my fishery, after a coffee I went off to the local council tip to get rid of the rubbish.

Two Mink in the Traps

After another coffee with a toasted cheese sandwich, I went off to check my mink traps, in the copse I found a mink which was quickly dispatched, after rebaiting the trap then camouflaging it, I moved on to a sandbank where the sand martins were nesting, I found another mink in a trap, again dispatched, at least the sand martins should have better chance of survival. after rebaiting the trap and camouflaging it, I spread some salmon oil around the cage. After walking the two beats and talking with several member who told me they hadn’t caught, I wasn’t surprised under the current cold windy conditions. With low water I made my way to the middle of the bottom beat to remove rubbish from the trees that had collected during the floods of winter. There was so much black plastic sheeting and carrier bags I had a long walk back to the car for more bin liners. We keep getting told farmers care about the environment, not true like in every walk of life you have people who don’t care, a classic example is those dog walkers who pick up the dog dirt then hook the bag in the trees and throw it in the river, or anglers who leave their bait bags and beer cans. After an hour I packed up feeling shattered, it was time for a tea break. I then went off to the council tip then home. Tomorrow hopefully I will have a few hours fly fishing if the weather is kind.

A Few Trout

I arrived on the river around 1100hrs despite the wind I did find a few grannom coming off in a sheltered area of water, tight under the far bank the occasional trout took something off the surface less than a foot from the bank, I sat and studied the water and the rising trout for around an hour, my casting would have to be spot on, one mistake and it’s a lost fly and a spooked fish. I chose to use a nine foot 4 weight with a floating line, knowing I really should use a longer leader, I chose to use one of 12 feet with a 3lb tippet, with very little fly life coming off I didn’t think the fish would be fixated on a single species of fly, I went for a Klinkhammer with a green body, it’s a big enough fly to encourage a fish to rise. Having greased the Parachute hackle, making sure none of the grease got on the leader. I slowly moved along the bank watching for a fish to show, then tight against some rocks a trout showed, I pulled off enough line to reach the spot made a roll cast then shot the line, as the fly hit the water it was immediately taken in a shower of water, I missed the fish by being too excited, I then told myself to calm down. After greasing the hackle I sat watching the area for about fifteen minutes, time I thought to look for another fish a few yards further along the bank a fish showed under a far bank bush that protruded out over the water some three feet above the water surface, a difficult cast but one I thought was possible, not with an overhead cast, but a side cast parallel to the water, what made matters more difficult was the high bank behind me. Pulling off enough line to get the fly across the river I made two false casts then shot the line, the fly landed perfectly, as it landed a fish hit the fly savagely, this time it was hooked, half a minute later it threw the hook I was gutted another mistake on my part. Checking the hook I found the point sharp then ten minutes later another fish showed, With no hesitation I made a cast dropping the fly a couple of feet upstream of where I had seen the fish, as the fly drifted downstream about a foot I had the perfect take connecting with a nice fish, after some heart stopping moments I felt I was in command a few minutes later netted a nice looking brown trout. In the next hour I had another fish slightly bigger than the previous fish. I then had a bunch of canoeists come through who have no rights, as usual they only respect the laws that suit them, This put the fish down after half an hour with no more fish showing I moved off well upstream, as I come out of a riverside copse I spotted a fish, a quick cast the fly landed perfectly, the fish was mine, it was as easy as that. I made my way back to the cabin where I enjoyed a boil in the bag meal of Mexican tuna beans and pasta followed by a coffee. After putting my gear in the car I drove off home feeling quite satisfied with my few hours on the river. 


Part of my river

A brace of trout for Brendan's mum

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Martin James Fishing
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