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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


26/07/2017 - Balsam Pulling is Hard Work

Balsam Pulling is Hard Work

It’s been a hard week on my river, I didn’t expect to be working 6 or more hours a day as I near my 80th birthday, one of the problems at this time of the year is Himalayan balsa, it doesn’t matter how much I clear from the river banks there is about the same the following year, not only is the plant bad for the banks wildlife etc but especially the bees, instead of these important delightful creatures pollinating flowers fruit and vegetable, they also spend a lot of time on this hideous plants. The only way you can deal with balsam is pull it out of the ground, then leave it on the banks to die. As you can imagine with two miles of river bank to look after there is a lot of back breaking work. I have also had to trim back many willow trees to allow me to walk the river bank on the riverside of the wire fence. Thankfully after five days of hard work most of its done, but however much I pull out, I can always see some I’ve missed the next day.

Sea Trout and Lost Salmon

One of my guest members called me to see if he could have a guest permit so he could fish for sea trout, checking my diary I could see I had a free permit for Friday, at around 1400hrs Mike turned up, after giving him some advice on flies and the pools to fish, I left him to enjoy his day and night. Later in the evening I got a call from one of my bailiff to say he caught some sea trout from a pool I suggested he fish, he had also lost a good salmon. Later I got told one of my members had caught a sea trout of 7lbs, David certainly deserved his prize fish as he is very experienced and spend probably five nights a week on the river if it’s fishable, another member Graham caught his first sea trout of 2.5lbs.

Salmon and Two Good Sea Trout

I had an early morning session arriving on the river around 0600hrs, with the river low I chose to fish the weir pool with its well oxygenated water, also during the previous couple of days I had seen a lot of fish activity, I had planned to fish for chub, but chose to fly fish, using a 7 weight outfit with a snake fly pattern, with the swirling and ever changing direction of the water flow it can often be quite difficult to fish the weir pool, but I persevered. After about fifty minutes I got my first hook up, I estimated the salmon was around 8 to 10lbs which gave a good fight on the 7 weight outfit, but there wasn’t a time when I felt I couldn’t control the fish and eventually beached the fish some yards downstream, though it wasn’t a fresh fish it pulled my string and bent the stick, sliding the barbless fly from the fish it was released as all my salmon are, they are too important to the aquatic environment to be killed. Over the next couple of hours I had two fresh sea trout around 3lbs a piece, I was more than satisfied with my break from balsam pulling.

Chub Didn’t Want to Play

The next day I was on the river at daybreak fishing a swim where I had made a small gap in the heavily wooded and bushed river bank, the river was carrying a few inches of fresh so I thought I would catch a few fish, sadly they had other ideas, in a 4 hour session I didn’t have a bite, even the trout were absent, I fished bread to start with but the minnows quickly had it off the hook, after about thirty minutes I changed over to meat, still no success, then it was cheese. Now when I use this bait the trout seek it out quickly, but not today. The highlight was one keen fisher being successful, with its iridescent aquamarine blue green back and chestnut orange chest The Kingfisher there was quite a procession of these majestic birds coming up and down river, often using a perch I had erected over a small minnow pool. It was great watching these birds dive catch a fish, tap it on the perch then fly off downstream to feed a group of hungry youngsters. I feel we anglers are very privileged to see these and other birds, many people say to me. Why can’t I see a kingfisher?, my answer is, if you sit quietly at the water’s edge you will see these delightful birds moving up and down the river in search of small fish. Eventually I chose to pack up, then walked the river bank to see how the fly fishers were doing, they had a few fish so were happy. Back home I sorted out the fly box then sat down to listen to some delightful jazz on BBC Radio 3 as I tapped out these words.

Second Session Still No FishToday

I was on the river Ribble just after dawn to find over two feet of extra water, “Yes” I thought “Should be a good session”, I chose to fish a swim on the bottom beat where I’d made a gap between willows, nettles, brambles and balsam, the swim was around six feet deep over small pebbles and gravel. I started off fishing with a BB shot stopped about eighteen inches from a size 4 hook, wrapping the shot with just enough plasticine, to hold bottom, my plan was to lift the rod every few minutes allowing the cheese or luncheon meat baits to move down the swim, an hour later with no sign of a bite I chose to fish a bait under an overhanging bush on the far bank, holding the rod high to keep as much line off the water as possible. Thirty minutes later I was thinking of moving to another swim, but couldn’t really feel there was a better area to fish in the current water conditions so continued in my swim. An hour perhaps longer with the river still rising slowly, with no sign of interest I chose to call it a day. Perhaps I will have better luck tomorrow, if extremely lucky I might be able to fish the weir pool.

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Martin James Fishing
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