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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


21/11/2018 - Tough Days on the River


Since arriving home from the River Thames on Thursday the weather has become rather Arctic like, with very low temperatures a North Easterly wind often blowing at 30 plus mph. On Saturday I took Kevin onto my beat where he could practice trotting the swim with a centre pin reeI, conditions were extremely poor the strong downstream wind didn’t help, we fished several spots, where Kevin was rewarded for his persistence with two out of season trout, after a session float fishing we moved upstream in search of a chub. I suggested Kevin switch to legering, Kevin chose cheese paste I used meat, within a few minutes he had a two inch pull, then nothing, later I had single a gentle pull, but nothing, I assumed the fish had picked up the bait then dropped it, a common practice by chub. I sat holding the rod hoping for a definite pull on my finger ten minutes later a firm pull I pushed the rod forward then waited for the bow in the line to slowly tighten as it did so my strike connected with a nice fish, on the scales it went 4lb 5 ounces. After another thirty minutes braving the cold we chose to pack up.

Fly Casting Lesson

The next day I had a pupil who wanted a lesson in upstream nymphing, I suggested it would be hard but he chose to have a go, we spent two hours in an area sheltered by a small copse, where he soon mastered upstream nymphing, catching two grayling around the pound mark.

Another Day on the River

My next trip was on Monday I was up and about by 0600 hrs, after a shower and breakfast, I sorted out some tackle. today I was going to teach a friend Paul how to use a centre pin reel which I would match with a 12 foot Milwards Swim Master for trotting a swim for roach and grayling, later in the day for chub, I had a small selection of ducker floats, knowing the wind would be downstream, an Avon is used if the wind is upstream, my plan was to show Paul how to shot the float correctly for the chosen swim to be fished, how to feed a swim using loose feed with gentles, later in the day we would fish swim where he could expect chub, then it would be bread flake as bait or lob tails, where we would be using a mix of bread and bran as ground bait, that would hopefully encourage the fish into the swim and hold them there despite the conditions.Arriving at our chosen area we couldn’t have chosen a worse day for float fishing, the wind was blowing directly downstream at around 30 mph, to make matters worse it was a clear sky with bright sunshine a low gin clear river with little flow.

Having walked downstream about a mile without finding what I thought might be a suitable swim, we retraced our steps upstream, after some sometime walking upstream I found a spot that was slightly sheltered from the wind by a thick belt of hawthorn bushes heavily laden with berries, as youngster we called them bread and cheese, thinking nothing of eating these attractive red berries, we were always hungry in those days of the late 1940’s. Soon the fieldfare, waxwings, blackbirds and thrushes will be feeding on these berries.Slithering down the steep bank to the water’s edge, I had Paul put together rod and reel, making sure the check was on the reel so it wouldn’t over run, picking a 5 BB shot ducker from the box I handed it to Paul, explaining the idea of using such a float and why the body is submerged with just a small amount of the tip shows, the float wouldn’t be pushed fast downstream by the wind, as it would if I had chosen an Avon float. As we were going to use gentles as bait I chose a size 14 hook to 3lb nylon which he attached to the line by loop to loop, I then bunched 5 BB together some two feet from the hook, a BB was pinched next to the hook, I then run the float through the swim several times until I was satisfied the bait would fish a few inches off the bottom, then moved the bunched shot down to within 15 inches of the hook, taking off one BB near the hook I attached it a few inches from the hook, this would help detect a bite, otherwise there is a chance of a deep hooked fish which we don’t want.Feeding Gentles I then had Paul put two small droppers of gentles in the swim, then feed a few gentles every two or three minutes over a fifteen minute period, it was now time to fish, having shown Paul how to Nottingham cast by pulling off two loops of line, I watched him practise, dozen or so casts later with no bird nests, he baited the hook with three gentles then cast and run the float through the swim, I encouraged him to hold the float back making sure the bait was ahead of the float, as the float occasionally hit a spot where it touched some weed or other obstruction, I urged him to hold the float back more firmly.Dace and Grayling Some fifteen minutes of casting and trotting the swim feeding in half a dozen gentles every cast, the float dipped his strike connected with a grayling around 12 ounces, in the two hours Paul had 5 grayling and 3 trout, yes a few birds nests but as he was now trying to Wallis cast it had to be expected, but he did quite well, with practice he will be another angler joining the ranks of one who can fish successfully with a centre pin.

Catching Trout not Chub

After a brew with sandwich, we went off to fish a weir pool for chub, the rod and reel were the same All that was changed was a ducker float taking 6 AAA's also the hook to a size 8 as the bait would be bread flake or lobworm tails. After a few trial trots down the stream I set the float six inches over depth, then told Paul, “When he starts to fish he should hold the float back hard, the flake being buoyant it should keep ahead of the float just tripping the bottom in the much faster water”. I put in a ball of bread and bran mash, followed five minutes later with another similar size ball, this time with some chopped worms in the mix. We left it to settle for fifteen minutes. It was some time before Paul had a typical chub bite, as the float was pulled down savagely along with the rod tip, sadly it was missed, as were the next three bites. I then realised why, Paul was missing the bites, he was being too gentle on the strike, when he needed to give a more powerful pull especially as he was getting the bites fifteen yards down the pool. In the next three swims he hooked three very good trout in the 2-3lb class, losing one landing two which were quickly unhooked and released, the grin on his face told me he was enjoying this even if they were out of season fish. More ground bait chopped worms was introduced, this was followed by a quiet fifteen minutes, again the trout got in on the act. As two more were hooked played upstream to the net and released. After thirty minutes with no more bites we packed up in the failing light and headed off home. It might be cold on the river bank but we don’t catch sitting indoors on our backside, there is no excuse for not going angling in the winter with modern clothing, so go and give it a try? At 81 you want see me sitting indoors.

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Martin James Fishing
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