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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


14/12/2018 - Catching on the River Soar

Stuart Mark and the author in Bennetts tackle shop


Catching on the River Soar


Recently Anthony Morris and myself joined up with Mark Sarul on the River Soar near Loughborough for three days of fishing and fun, despite the horrid downstream south easterly wind, the water temperature was in our favour at 48 degrees F, dropping to 46 degrees on the final day.

Visiting A Friendly Welcoming Tackle Shop

Over the past few years I have seen some very good tackle shops disappear, no doubt due to people ordering on the internet, something I hate, I have always said “Use your shop or lose it” Yes, you can visit some tackle shops that resemble a supermarket, when I have visited such places I’ve walked in then quickly departed without spending my hard earnt money as the personal servicer was absent. But not at Bennetts Angling 9 Market place Mountsorrel LE12 7BA it’s a shop with a difference, Stuart the owner goes that extra mile to see his customers get what they want, be it good information, the latest area for sport, offering club books and day permits for the locals and visitors alike. His bait of gentles, casters, worms etc are first class, and competitively priced. There is always a warm friendly welcome with a smile, Stuart will even put you on the swims that are producing at the time, but remember fish are not always biting. It’s like going back forty fifty years when you visit Bennetts such is the friendly service offered. On the three mornings I visited the shop there were always a few customers, Stuart even riddled all my bait off that I had with me, adding fresh maize meal now that’s what I call service. Having collected our day permits, the bait we needed and of course a few items of tackle which we suddenly think we needed, we were off to the River Soar.

The River that greeted my eyes was perfect

After parking the vehicles then loaded up our tackle we headed across the meadows to a river that could only be described as an anglers paradise, there were no horrid wooden platforms that seem to be appearing on many venues these days, I don’t want to look like a garden gnome, sitting on such as contraption in view of my quarry, in fact I’ve decided not to renew my card for two clubs next season. With an extra foot of water there was a good flow with some colour, bulrushes and sedges were in profusion, trees and bushes along the banks, within an hour I spotted kingfishers, wrens, fieldfare many feeding on hawthorn berries what we called bread and cheese as boys, there were robins especially when I had a box of gentles on view, a dabchick often put in an appearance, moorhens and many geese, all these things are important in my angling.

Chub Roach and Perch

Anthony chose what I would say was a good area where there was a chance of catching a chub or barbel, but also a pike as they were his quarry species, I decided to roving with two outfits a float rod with centre pin, a legering outfit with a fixed spool, my baits would be bread, lobworms, and soft smelly cheese paste. Mark started off legering with lobworms and prawns, ending the day with some nice perch. I chose a swim where I had a steep tree lined bank on the opposite side of the river, where there used to be a Monastery that Henry V111 destroyed, just leaving the outside wall which is now ivy covered offering a warm spot for birds to roost on a cold winter night also a nesting site in the spring. I started off legering with a single LG shot with a size 4 hook holding two lobworms, I caught a couple of perch but after an hour with no signs of fish, I chose to move off downstream around mile away where I found a delightful swim flanked by sedges with a nice flow and colour with a depth averaging six feet. My tackle consisted of a 13 foot rod matched with a 4 inch 12 spoke centre pin reel with 4lb line, I fished a balsa and cane stemmed float taking 6 BB shot, bunched 15 inches from a size 10 hook, After feeding the swim with mashed bread and chopped worms for some fifteen minutes, I rested it for some time. It was a perfect day, the wind had dropped away, the sky had a covering of light cloud the light levels had dropped quite a bit, perfect roach conditions I would have said. Baiting with half a lob worm I dropped the baited hook some ten feet from the bank then set the reel drag enough so the line could be pulled smoothly from the drum, the float went about twenty feet then buried, striking I felt the kick of a small fishing, a chub around the pound mark, in probably a dozen casts I had eight similar size chub, adding some more mashed bread I pinched on a piece of flake the size of a ten pence piece, In the next two casts I had two goer roach, that’s a fish of 8 inches or more. I then had a fishless twenty or so minutes, then decided to try punched bread, it was a good move as I immediately caught a roach followed by several more with the best perhaps going twelve ounces, I was feeding a walnut size lump of mash every second or third cast, the chub decided they wanted some more of the action. In the next hour I had a mixture of roach and chub the best chub might have weighed just over a pound but I was enjoying the experience watching the float going down the swim, then disappearing, it was like fishing in the old days. As the light started to fade I made my way back upstream to find Mark had left for home, Anthony had just one bite a pike around 5-6lbs caught on lobworm which was taken on the drop and gave a good display on the light tackle.

Dinner Guests

Back at the hotel after a shower I changed into some fresh cloths, while waiting for Anthony I made a fresh brew, this evening I had invited Mark and his lovely friendly cheerful wife Andrea for dinner in the Cedars hotel restaurant where Anthony and myself were staying. Downstairs in the restaurant we picked a table in a quiet area, Mark and Andrea arrived a few minutes later, while I took the drinks order, Anthony looked after Andrea and Mark. Ten minutes later we were all seated and chatting away, thirty minutes later the first course arrived, Anthony and Andrea choosing spicy mushrooms, Mark and myself the tomato and basil soup. Our main course arrived which we all enjoyed, but none of us chose a dessert, we then spent the next few hours talking and laughing, Andrea was certainly a lady who didn’t suffer fools gladly so we were of like minds. It was well past 2100 hrs when the party broke up, so Andrea could drive Mark home. What made it such a good evening was there were no mobile phones or horrid music, it’s rare these days when you can visit a restaurant to find it peaceful.

Day Two The Perch Were Feeding

Mark arrive at the hotel around 0900 hrs, then we were on the way to Bennetts tackle shop, again we all spent some money on tackle and bait, after some good advice from Stuart, it was off to the river the same beat as we fished the day before, today the weather was bright with a very cold south easterly wind, the river had dropped around ten inches overnight, the water temperature had dropped 1 degree F, the bright sunshine created giant shadows of ourselves, so we had to crouch low as we got near the river so as not to cast a shadow on the water. It wasn’t possible to fish the swim for the roach that Stuart advised as the bank were very steep, also I didn’t have my dog spike and rope. I moved back down river where I liked the look of a swim, a few yards downstream of some fast swirling water, the swim I had chosen was lined by bulrushes and sedges with a slow flow, checking the depth I had 4 feet under the rod tip another ten feet out the water depth was around 8 feet. I reckon there could be a chance of either chub perch and roach, perhaps all three. Meanwhile Mark was waggler fishing catching roach, then his float dipped, it wasn’t a roach but a nice perch that took a fancy to red gentles. Mark immediately changed over to quiver tipping, soon he was catching some nice perch during the day, lobworm and prawn were equally successful his best perch was 2lb 4 ounces. Back in my swim I fed lots of chopped worm and red gentles, I chose to leger using a soft Avon rod with fixed spool reel and 8 lb braid to which I attached a size 4 hook with a Palomar knot, then lightly pinched on an LG shot, baiting with two lobworms I fixed a tiny square of rubber band to hold the lobs in place, then cast well out hoping the bait would end up in the deeper water on the fine gravel bottom. Ten minutes later the rod tip pulled round I watched it spring back, the perfect bite, I didn’t strike, I can’t say why I didn’t. Winding in the tackle the two lobs were missing, at least it wasn’t rubbish that caused the tip to pull round, I catapulted several pouches of chopped worms and gentles in my swim, followed by two lobs on the size 4 hook within minutes I had two small taps then a good slow pull, bite missed. Rebaiting for the third time I sat waiting for an indication, I didn’t have to wait long, this time I had a perch that weighed 1lb 14 ounces, three more fish of similar size followed, Then I had a very tentative bite striking I connected with what I thought was a good fish but after a couple of minutes it was off.

Hooked Into A Heavyweight

I catapulted four pouches of chopped worms and gentles, then two lobs were cast to the same area, about twenty minutes later I got a slow steady pull striking I felt a very heavy weight on the line, nothing moved for some seconds so I thought it was rubbish, then a foot of line was slowly taken, “That’s a big fish I thought” apart from a few heavy knocks on the rod nothing happened then two feet of line was taken, I cramped on some pressure to try and get what was on the end of the line moving, suddenly all went slack, winding in my tackle I found the bait was all chewed up. I reckon it could well have been a big old carp as some are present in the river. More bait was put in but I had an hour or so without a bite, while Mark downstream of me was catching. It was time for a brew for Mark and myself, Anthony was well downstream he also had his brewing kit. Around 1500 hrs Mark left for home, I put in more bait, the walked down to find Anthony who was struggling. I suggested he come and fish a swim I had marked out for him. We agreed to have an hour or two in the dark, which proved a good choice despite the cold, in fact I kept getting the shivers but no way was I going to give in as I felt we had the chance of some good fish. Within minutes of Anthony casting out a lob worm he had a 2lb 7 ounce perch which was a personal best, followed by several more nice perch. I had several 2lb perch the best at 2lb 10 ounces along with some nice roach two of which I felt were pound plus fish. Around 1700 hrs Anthony called to see how I was doing, then suggested we pack up I wasn’t going to argue thinking of a warming bowl of soup, with a plate of chips, which I rarely eat, but I fancied them today.

Christening My Milwards Swimversa

Today was our last day, at 0900 hrs Mark arrived then of we went to see Stuart at Bennetts tackle shop, I purchased five pints of red gentles, 150 lobworms along with a pack of dendrobena worms, I also got a new bread punch kit where there is a separate section to hold a slice of bread, no more carting a wooden board with me, everything was in one container and I must say the bread punches worked perfectly. Back on the river Mark fished the same swim as he did the previous day, Anthony went well off downstream on the advice of Stuart to seek a big pike, I moved into the same swim as the day before but fish a bit further downstream.

A few days before I collected a Milwards Swimversa which I matched with my Watemole made reel “The Beult” a delightful piece of engineering that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond Street jewellers, I had 40 yards of 3lb nylon line, it was really cold on the bank today with a big increased in the cold south easterly wind, thankfully my friend Russ Shaw last summer seeing my problems threading the line through the guides made my a small tool which is perfect for the job so I quickly had the line though the guides then attached a float, again made for me by Russ taking 4 BB shot I then attached a size 10 hook, pinching on 2 LG shot next to the hook I plumbed the depth finding around four feet a rod length out then another twelve feet out I had eight feet of water. My other set up was the same as yesterday , bait would be two lobs. I sat feeding chopped dendrobena worms and red gentles for some fifteen minutes. After resting the swim for fifteen minutes I made my first cast working the float downstream at the same time mending the line and holding back the float ensuring the bait proceeded the float, it had travelled about ten yards then dipped again before slowly submerging as if in slow motion, lifting the rod smoothly I set the hook into an angry fish which wanted to reach the tree roots on the far bank, the balanced tackle in experienced hands was master of the situation. I called to Mark “Good Fish On” I didn’t have a clue as to what I’d hooked except it could pull the string and bend my cane stick. By now Mark was close by watching the action, I got a glimpse of the culprit a pike, slowly I got line back on the reel, then some would be taken but it was soon back on the reel, the fishes attempt for freedom was slowly losing out, if I didn’t make a mistake the fish was mine, a minute or two later I had the fish close to the net, the fish made one last desperate attempt for freedom, but it failed as the fish slid into the net. Nothing big just a fish around the 4lb mark but on 3lb line and a light cane rod it gave me some fun.

Perch and Roach

I carried on float fishing feeding chopped worms and gentles every third cast I’d catch a perch or roach, I also missed a few bites. Suddenly the bites dried up, I then decided to switch to a size 16 hook feeling the fish were programmed into taking a small bait with all the gentles going in the swim, baiting with two red gentles, I cast out then started catching from the off, some were goer roach along with smaller fish, occasionally I got a decent perch, as dusk was starting to envelope me the roach started topping in the swim, the size of roach were increasing to around twelve ounces, I then thought a changed to bread flake fished laying on, thinking I might get a better size fish, soon I had a roach around or just over the pound mark, then ten minutes later I had another fish on similar size. Meanwhile downstream of me Anthony was catching some nice perch in the two pound class including a pike around six pounds, early in the day he lost what he felt was a double figure pike on a mackerel tail.

Bread Punch Brings More Bites

As the light failed I switched on my torch to illuminate the float, baiting with punched bread on a size 16 hook, I had a succession of roach to around 12-14 ounces along with more than a dozen gudgeon. For the past two hours the thermometer had dropped a few degrees I was shivering at the same time I was rubbing my hands together for a sign of warmth, but I didn’t want to pack up I had visions of a big roach, but Anthony had other ideas, It’s time to pack up as we have a long drive, so ended my blissful three days on a delightful river Soar, I must thank Stuart at Bennetts for his useful advice and service, Mark and Anthony for the photographs, I didn’t take my camera out of the case. I must say a big thank you to Mark and Anthony for their help and friendship, not forgetting delightful Andrea, her company brightened a cold winter evening.



Author with one of several perch caught float fishing

First fish hooked on Milwards Swimversa

Fish in the net

Not a chub or perch but a pike

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Martin James Fishing
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