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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


10/03/2019 - First day of 3 days on the River Soar

David in his sheltered swim at the bottom of the beat


First day of 3 days On The River Soar

Dave Hurst a property services manager from Wigan was interested in fishing the River Soar after reading about my sessions on the river, so we arranged a 3 day visit, David on my suggestion booked us into the Cedars Hotel in Loughborough LE 11 2AB Tel 01509 232303. It’s a delightful family run hotel, along with several other anglers over the past 4 years it’s been our hotel of choice, the rooms are spotless, after a long cold day on the river, there is nothing better than to find a nice warm room, this is what you get at the Cedars hotel. The service from the staff on the front desk of James, Julia and others are most friendly and helpful. On every occasions that I have stopped there, I’ve often had various angling friends come and join me for breakfast, they are also treated as a guest, nothing is too much trouble. The father and son chef’s from the Philippians are excellent, the English breakfast has been rated highly by friends, for me its porridge with toast and marmalade which is also good. They have a good dinner menu, David and myself can certainly recommend the Curry which is the best I have enjoyed outside the Middle East.

We left my house at 0515 hours as the rain was sheeted down, I had a smile on my face thinking of all the rain that would be hitting the area, hopefully with a river carrying a lot of extras water, our first stop would be Bennetts tackle shop 9B Market Place, Mountsorrel, Loughborough LE12 7B to meet Stuart the owner, to collect our pre ordered bait of 200 lobworms 6 pints of gentles, by ordering in advance my bait is ready for collection, I have never been disappointed in the quality. We also collected our day permits to cover out stay along with some items of tackle, it was nice to visit a traditional tackle shop and find it busy, but Stuart still had time to give us all the latest information, it was nice meeting some of the local anglers who also passed on some tips, then I was off to Waitrose for breakfast before hitting our chosen venue on the delightful river.

It Was A Rough Day Weather Wise

In the car park we were hit by a gale force wind with more heavy rain, we quickly got kitted out in our waterproof gear, then sorted the tackle before heading across the meadow, having put all our gear in a safe spot I walked the beat showing David the various fishing spots, some 15 minutes later David said “Now I know what you mean about reading a river, so much different from the Ribble” I pointed out the dead bulrush beds, saying “They grow over gravel, there were also several beds of brown coloured sedges. I pointed out the various swims, both close to our bank and along the far bank, where there were several swims, also areas of smooth water, where by the use of a plummet you can find the depressions in the river bed which are known as a food source where fish will know all about these food collection areas. I explained then showed by using pieces of bread or small twigs you can watch those item floating down river, where you are able to judge the speed and direction of the flow, I explained how the water on the bed of the river will be a slower than at the surface, also the closer to the bank the slower the flow will be, bulrush beds in areas of the river will deflect the flow and create resting spots for the fish, also in those quiet areas fish will gather and feed sometime during the day, it might be for a few minutes or on and off for an hour or more. Having walked the beat, David chose to fish the bottom which I agreed was a good choice. While I chose an area half way along the beat.

Use a Thermometer

When I got back to my swim I checked the water temperature getting a reading of 48 degrees F, I then walked downstream to give David the good news, with 4 feet of extra water it was quite easy to see the holding areas where fish would be away from the fast water, there were attractive spots on both sides of the river, though I chose to fish the inside swims close to sedges and bulrushes. I tackle up with a 13 foot float rod, matched with ‘The Beult’ centre pin reel made by craftsman Watermole which I thoroughly enjoy using it was loaded with new 4lb bs line, I then added a porcupine quill float made by Russ Shaw painted a very bright orange which my eyes are able to see under all conditions, my hook choice was a spade end barbless size 10 wide gape to 5lb bs line. I then I roamed up and down stream plumbing the depth, I found 4 feet of water some 3 feet out from the sedges, then it dropped off down to just over 8 feet of water flowing over what felt like small gravel, I then marked down 5 swims that I would bait, but would start off at the bottom of my chosen swims, fishing the bait close in to the drop off.

Ground bait mix

I had a 100 lobs, 4 pints of red gentles, 2 pints of hempseed, a large ball of well matured cheese paste, also a loaf of bread. I made up a large bowl of ground bait consisting finely mashed bread with plenty of hemp chopped worms and gentles,, my initial baiting was 2 cricket size ball of ground bait a few feet upstream of where I would fish the baited hook close to the drop off, I would then feed loose gentles and chopped worms every few minutes for the first half an hour, then see what happened. I also baited my other swims upstream with 2 large balls of ground bait which I would fish if needed, except my last swim upstream which I would feed with loose hemp and gentles around every thirty minutes in the hope of catching some roach in the last hour. Having got everything sorted I went off for a walk to give the swim a rest from any disturbance I might have made.

Pike give me some fun

Sadly there are many anglers who despise catching pike when fishing for other species but not me, I just love catching these fish on float fished worms, it all started back in 1950 when fished the flooded River Beult for bream in the winter months using a 15 foot rod which I built with the aid of Mr Clarkson who was a professional rod builder, matched with a centre pin reel, 6lb line to a size 6 hook, we used a big swan quill with a bored bullet stopped around 18 inches from the hook by a split shot. There were three of us Tony Howe, Brian Holloway and myself who perfected this way for winter bream fishing, we also used a tremendous amount of chopped worms in our ground bait of mashed bread and bran. Today I started off fishing 2 feet over depth using the very efficient style of laying on, around half an hour the float slowly submerged, gently lifting the rod I felt the weight of a fish as I set the hook, for some seconds nothing happened, then the fish woke up stripping a few yards of line from the reel, “Chub” I thought then changed my mind saying to myself “This is a pike” for several minutes I enjoyed the string being pulled, my stick well bent and hearing the purr of the reel as line was taken, despite the heavy rain with the cold gale force wind I was an happy angler, soon I had the fish in the net probably five pounds, equal to a good chub so why be miserable when you hook a pike, enjoy the experience. I had three more pike of similar size and 4 perch around the pound mark. It was time for a brew so I went down to David who said “I’ve been catching roach and dace using a light quiver tip rod with a black cap feeder and gentles” so we then went back to the car for lunch. Before going back to my swim I walked down river to find 2 anglers sitting side by side under their brollies fishing for chub, they hadn’t had any action after as few minutes talking I wished them all the best then headed back up river, thankfully I had the wind behind me.

A Good Pike

Back in my swim I was soon in action as a pike which I though a far bigger fish than caught during the morning session took off on a powerful run this fight between angler and fish I reckon was around some fifteen plus minutes, it wasn’t until near the end of the fight that I started to gain full control, as I got the fish close to the bank and the surface when I got my first look at the fish I reckon it was around 10lbs, As I got it in the net, it jumped then twisted out, no picture but I wasn’t bothered I’d had a fight with a fish which was as good as I could have wished for, the adrenaline was certainly coursing through my body.

Perch show up

I fed in more chopped worms and gentles along with as ball of ground bait, then bait the hook with a large lobworm tipped off with 2 red gentles, a good tip for you is add a plastic imitation gentle to make sure the worm doesn’t wriggle off. Otherwise you could be fishing with no bait on the hook, after just a few minutes I had a perch around the pound mark which was released well downstream, this was followed by 4 more of similar size, again released downstream. Probably half an hour later the float moved across the surface then submerged, I gentle lifted into a good perch. “No pike” this I thought “This is as good perch by the head shaking and the power of the fish as it got into the faster water” I said to myself, eventually I got my first glimpse before it dived once more, but the end was in sight, soon I had the fish on the surface, pulling the fish slowly across the surface towards the submerged net, I felt a strong gust of wind hit the rod which did concern me, but eventually the fish was mine. That’s a good 2lb fish I thought, then set up the scales and weight bag. Pulling the net from the water’s edge, I eased the fish out into the weigh bag, then onto the scales, I got a reading of 2 lb 7 ounces, I waited a while for the rain to ease, then called David to see if he could come a take a picture, he immediately said “Yes” I am not prepared to risk my camera in the rain. Picture taken the fish was quickly released well upstream, more chopped worm was added to the swim, ten minutes later I had another good perch this weighed in at 2 lb 2 ounces, followed half an hour later with another fish of 2 lb 2 ounces like peas in a pod, ten minutes later I had a perch of 1 lb 12 ounces. In the next hour I had a couple of perch around a pound, then 2 pike both around the 5 lb mark.

Brace of ‘Goer’ Roach

Around 1630 hrs as the light started to fade I moved well upstream to a swim where in the past I have caught roach and gudgeon, during the course of the day I had been feeding the swim with hemp and gentles, in this new swim I didn’t fish the over the drop off but on the close in swim tight to the sedges where I had around five feet of water, I again used laying on style, if I did fish into the darkness I had a torch with me where I could beam it on the float. As I sat there I listening to the blackbirds, cooing pigeons, a wren and robin it seems were competing with each other for my attention. I was lost in my pleasant surroundings despite the rain coming off my hat onto my face, my hands were very cold feeling like ice cubes, but I wasn’t giving in yet. In the first half an hour I had 3 ‘Goer’ roach all around the 12 ounce mark in pristine condition, these fish have and always will be my favourite fish, I just wished we had the roach fishing of the 50’s and 60’s we experienced in still waters and rivers, sadly the stocking of so many carp in our still waters has ruined the roach fishing, the cormorant predation destroying much of our river fishing. English Nature have sanctioned the shooting of owls, yet I’m only allowed to shoot 3 cormorants on my licence, it a crazy system that we allow heavy predation on our fish stocks, which remember also keep the great crested grebes, kingfisher and herons with a food source. There was no let-up in the rain sheeting down, the wind was still as strong I called David to suggest “We pack in early” he agreed. David had caught plenty of small roach, perch and dace, but he also had good chub of 3lbs and 4lb 3ounces. Soon we were back in our warm hotel room with a mug of tea I felt a lot better, in the warm surroundings we immediately felt human once more. Later I spoilt myself, by having a bowl of soup, with a bowl of proper chips, not those silly match stick creations. So ended day 1 on the river Soar more to follow.


2 lb 7 ounce perch

1 of the 2 lb 2 ounce perch caught that day

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Martin James Fishing
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