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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


20/11/2017 - Back on my river

After my trips to the River Thames at Tadpole Bridge, then to the River Wye above Hereford, followed by a 4 day visit to a midlands still water it was back home. The next day the River Ribble beckoned, now the game fishing season and my syndicate members disappearing, after a meeting with my bailiffs and a brew, we walked the beats looking at work we needed to get done while the weather was kind. Three stiles needed to be rebuilt or repaired, all needing fresh chicken wire, ropes and steps needed some maintenance, fencing damaged by cattle also needed ropes to be replaced. I designated two bailiffs for stile repair’s or rebuilding, while I took on the job of replacing the chicken wire, along with my other bailiff I would help him repair the steps, replace posts, also where possible the damaged fencing, though I reckon it might need outside contractors for the latter job. During Monday and Tuesday I replaced chicken wire on stiles that were in good condition, at the same time introducing some baits into various swims, as I have a licence I was able instruct my senior bailiff to shoot a cormorant that didn’t get frightened away by firing blanks from my handgun. By the end of Tuesday we had got a lot of work done, working together it’s surprising what can be achieved in those two days.

Time to FishWednesday was a great day for angling with low light levels, also a rise in air and water temperature, but sadly a rise in water levels had put 3 feet of extra water in the river, with masses of floating leaves no doubt there would also be lots of submerged leaves, before going off down river to try and find a suitable swim, I fixed a strong wire bird feeder filled with fat balls in a safe place where various birds could feed in comfort, hoping the horrid grey squirrels wouldn’t destroy the feeder as they had done to the previous one. My plan had been to fish a weir pool for chub, also hopefully perch, with the river high I had no chance of fishing the weir pool, where millions of gallons of swirling dirty coloured water could be seen crashing down into the pool, creating a swirling mass of foam covered water going in various directions. It’s amazing how salmon and sea trout live and progress upstream in such conditions, in some fifteen minutes I counted 4 salmon leap the fall of water into the smooth water upstream of the pool, leaving the pool I walked about three quarters of a mile downstream, but didn’t find a suitable swim, I retraced my steps back to the car park, then picked up bag of cheese paste before heading upstream for approximately a mile further until I found an area of water which I thought might just produce a chub. Putting in half a dozen pieces of walnut size lumps of cheese paste, I made the long walk back downstream to the car park.I’d come prepared with two outfits an Abbey Avon matched with a Purist 11 centre pin with 6lb line for legering, my other rod and reel were a Milwards Swim Master with a Carter Avon classic with 3lb line for float fishing, including a selection of baits bread, lobworms, sultanas, sausage meat and cheese paste.

I left the Milwards outfit in the car, along with most of the bait, it was a day for the Abbey Avon a rod that performed so well on River Wye. In my bag went scales, weigh bag, thermometer, hooks, shot, plasticine and cheese paste. An hour or more after arriving in the car park, I eventually made my way upstream as the church clock sounded 1000 hrs, arriving at my chosen swim, I got a water temperature reading of 46 degrees F, ten minutes later I got a balmy air temperature of 50 degrees F conditions were looking good but would the chub feed?My swim was a gap of about three feet between two willow bushes, the water flowed from left to right with the main force of water from the centre of the river towards the far bank, the flow being deflected by a small submerged island some twenty yards upstream. After quietly settling into my swim I added an AAA shot on the line two feet from a size 4 barbless hook, then moulded some plasticine around the shot as added weight.After making a few casts I added a bit more plasticine, until I could just hold bottom, it was then quite easy to lift the rod tip to get the bait to move a bit further downstream, similar to stret pegging without a float. Baiting with a walnut size piece of paste I cast out then rested the rod on a rest with the butt on my knee, sitting back I waited for something to happen.

There was a lot of lots of activity on the rod tip, but not by fish just leaves, every fifteen minute I rebaited but noticing the bait was clean all the rubbish was against the weight.Lots of bird life Though I didn’t have any bites in the first hour, I had the pleasure of seeing lots of field fare, in the willow bushes there were lots of long tailed tits, it’s amazing the eyesight of these amazing birds, I was watching some pick off tiny insects from about two feet away, after going through the upstream willow bush they cleared the insects from the downstream bush, as I sat there thinking how I could tempt a fish I heard a plop from slightly upstream then to my amazement a kingfisher landed on my rod, for many seconds I held my breath hoping I wouldn’t get a bite, eventually the kingfisher departed across the river. My next surprise was a blue tit that after going through the upstream willow bush then landed on my bait bag no more than six inches away, after a minute or so it hopped down to the ground to peck at my ball of cheese paste, eventually it had enough then flew off downstream, this was followed by a robin with a liking for cheese paste. It’s things like this that make the sport of angling, so much more than just a pastime, it’s a day with nature.Missed Bite An hour or so later the rod shuddered then pulled round, bite missed. After another hour with the river still rising I decided to call it a day and made my way back to the car park fully satisfied with my experience.

Thursday Around 0700 hrs I looked out of the window to see the rain sheeting down, the sky was leaden grey not the conditions I wanted, after breakfast I got togged out in waterproofs then as I opened the garage door, I was hit by a strong gust of icy cold wind from the north west probably around 20 mph. Ten minutes later I pulled into the riverside car park, then walked downstream to check my gauge the river had dropped about 12 inches, but with heavy rain falling I was certain it would rise, I headed off to look at the weir pool to see it was fishable. Back at the car I made up a Hardy Wallis Avon with a Mitchell 300 reel with 4lb bs line. In the bait bag I had some crust, cheese paste and luncheon meat. As I sat rolling a bit of meat downstream I thought to myself What am I doing sitting beside a river in these horrid conditions? An hour with no sign of a bite, the rain still coming down, I decided to change swims if only for the long walk to get a bit of warmth in my body. Thirty minutes later I’m in my new swim, the same swim I fished yesterday, putting in 4 pieces of cheese paste I baited with a walnut size piece of paste then cast out, as I sat holding the rod hoping for a bite, a moorhen come down the opposite bank then entered the water, followed by another one, the sight of this lovely bird always feels me with joy, unlike the noisy quarrelsome coot the moorhen is a peaceful bird as it goes about its business, it’s head nodding, white tail feathers flicking, graceful is the word I would use for this waterside bird. I feel quite privileged to have several moorhens both adults and juveniles on my water, probably due to the war I have waged on that ferocious mink.About 1030 hours the rain cleared as the sun come out the temperature dropped quite considerably. An hour later with no bites the river rising and my shingles causing me pain I packed up and went home. Though I hadn’t caught any fish this week I’d enjoyed the whole experience.

FridayI was back on the river today around 0800 hrs, overnight frost with a clear sky also sunshine didn’t really encourage me, checking the water temperature I got a reading of 42 degrees F , I used the tackle of the previous day but crust was the bait today on a short line, I introduced just 3 pieces of flake. The river level was good but I still had the problem of leaves both floating and submerged. An hour after starting to fish the sky clouded over and within minutes it started to rain, but nothing to worry about. The bright spot was seeing a pair of kingfishers fishing on the opposite bank and the appearance of my moorhens, occasionally a jay appeared in the oak tree I was sat under, also blackbirds and wrens could be heard, a robin appeared so I put some pieces of cheese paste down which he soon started to feed on. I fished the crust close to a tree in the water on the opposite bank, nothing. I rolled the crust down through the middle still nothing, I anchored the bait in several areas still no sign of a bite. Around 1300 hrs it was time to leave for home as the shingles had started causing problems with my right eye. Tomorrow and Sunday I will be going on the river with friends around 1200 hrs fishing well into the dark, hopefully the chub will oblige .

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Martin James Fishing
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