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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


04/02/2019 - A Cold But Enjoyable Day on the River

My great friend Mick Holgate


A Cold But Enjoyable Day on the River

Recently I arrived on the bank of the river Ribble to find cat ice along the edges of a low gin clear river, with a water temperature of 34 degrees F but I still decided to fish. Yes, it was cold but that’s what we expect in winter, it’s no different today than back in the days when I had just two days a week to fish. Which is what I did whatever the conditions were in those far days, however tough it looks you always have a chance of catching if you have a bait in the water. Unlike in the past, today we have superb all weather gear so there is no reason not to go out and beat the conditions. Yes, we had blank days but it’s surprising what one can learn even on a blank session.

My baits were red worms often called gilt tails in the past, I have a pile of rotten grass cutting in the corner of the garden which is well shaded, it must be some 5 years old with some fresh topping added each spring, sometimes it takes a while to find them where they are all balled up together. I also had a small can of corn which I’d emptied into a plastic bag, a pint of red gentles, these had been in the fridge set at 40 degrees F for about 4 weeks, perhaps a bit longer they were left over from Bennet’s tackle shop when I fished the River Soar, I also keep lobworms for many weeks in the same fridge without losing any. Finally I had placed a slice of bread in my Guru bread punch box, it’s a very good piece of equipment if like me you a bread punch, in winter I find a slice of bread will keep for about 3 weeks in the box.

The Tackle

Today I chose an Aspindale Avon rod, matched with my ‘Beult’ centre pin reel, made by Watermole with 40 yards of 3lb line, then added a balsa float taking one small Olivetti weight with two BB shot, one acted as a stop on the line for the Olivetti the other was placed some six inches from a size 16 hook to 2.5 lb breaking strain line which I had attached to the main line with a loop to loop method. These days I have dispensed with my wicker basket if there is likely to be rain, preferring to use a Rodd Archer dark green tough plastic box with a harness fitted with three zipped pockets, it fits like a Bergan sitting high on the shoulders, leaving both hands free. most of all it protects my camera gear from dust and moisture, its also a comfortable seat. When trotting or using my pole I like to sit upright, this box fits all my requirements. Tony Booker presented me mine a couple of years ago but without the harness, it sat in my garage until a few months ago. I was fishing in Sussex with Matt Minter, I noticed he had the same box but with the harness, directly I spotted his box with the harness. I said to Matt “Where did you get that harness on your box”? “Online mate” he answered, within a week Tony Booker had got me one, I haven’t looked back since.

Grayling Were My Target

I made the long walk downstream to fish the tail of a slow deep pool where it shallowed up from around 8 feet to 4 feet flowing over gravel, where I could wade enabling me to fish the far bank swim with ease, a swim I ‘d had success in before, after running the float down the swim a few times, I set the float to fish the bait a few inches off the bottom I was more than happy with my set up, attaching two red worms I made a cast towards the far bank swim running the float down the edge of the crease, several casts later the float dipped, striking I found myself attached to a fish which put up a good scrap, not a grayling but a surprise perch about a pound. In the next hour I had several bites but only connecting with three of them all grayling of around a pound and a half, I was more than pleased. Half an hour later with no more bites I moved upstream to fish a fast bit of water with a depth of around three feet again over gravel, another place where I have had grayling before. This time I chose to fish double red gentles feeding a few gentles every cast, later I realised my mistake in using gentles as the trout it was trout got in on the act including four fish around the 2lb plus mark, which really did put up a good scrap in the fast shallow water, often going skywards in their bid to get rid of the hook. After about an hour later I switched to a single redworm eventually getting a brace of grayling around the pound mark. They were the last fish I got during the rest of the session but it had been a good one. Roger a fellow member fishing well upstream with a swim feeder rig, had a good catch of grayling, also three chub averaging 3lbs, the grayling were caught on redworms the chub on bread flake. With the forecast for mild weather with some rain I might get the chance of fishing for the roach further down river. My day was complete when three roe deer passed me no more than teen feet away as they went across the river, also my pair of ravens put in an appearance.

Loss of a Great Friend

As I was finishing this short feature, I got a message to say Mick Holgate my great friend of many years had passed away due to cancer. Mick was one of those special people, in fact he was more than a friend, he was more like a son to me and will be sorely missed. This week I am going to have a large plaque made with the words ‘Mick Holgate’s Swim’ then screw it on a tree that overlooks one of his favourite fishing spots. I got to know Mick when he said he would like to catch a 4lb chub, a few days later he achieved his aim with several 4lb plus chub, I then said “Let’s see if we can get you a 5lb fish” half an hour later he had a 5lb 2 ounce fish, then some twenty plus year later I helped him catch a 6lb 7 ounce chub, a few weeks before he netted my 7lb 10 ounce fish, Sadly the 4 friends who knew of the location of the capture, have now sadly passed on. Rest in Peace Mick you were certainly a very special friend.

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