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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


25/08/2019 - Summer Flood Water Fishing

The Butter Market Cafe


Summer Flood Water Fishing

I was really looking forward to my latest fishing trip to the River Soar, the river has everything I like about a lowland river, lots of bulrushes, lilies, sedges, fast and shallow gravel runs, deep pools with over hanging willows and alder trees, unlike the River Ribble which is a spate river with a rocky bottom it’s up and down like a yoyo, on the Soar the river rises and falls over several days, To me it’s like reading a book, as you can read these lowland rivers by using experience gathered over many years, which should ensure at least a few bites whatever the conditions if your prepared to work, so forget the luck element. My two guests were Brendan Ince and Mark Sarul, this trip had been organised for a few weeks, the days before we travelled, I’d checked the river levels twice a day to find it either over the bank or just top of the bank, with flood warnings in place for some areas, I was more than happy, in fact to me it was as good as winning the lottery which I never taken part in, in fact I don’t just gamble it for fools.. Did I think of cancelling? no way, after near 80 years of fishing I’ve had plenty of experience of flood water fishing both in summer, autumn and winter.

Leaving home at 0600 hrs Brendan and myself arrived at the Butter Market Cafe Mountsorrel around 0905 hrs to be greeted by Mark who was already into his full English breakfast, all the girls were busy sorting out customers food request, but we still got a very warm welcome. Brendan had a full English, while I had toast and marmalade with a large mug of tea, being rather fussy I had taken my own mug with tea bag, the café took me back to my youth with its friendly and excellent service, the only thing missing was the dripping toast. These type of cafés with friendly helpful service are somewhat lacking in most places today. Breakfast over we went across the road to see Stuart at Bennetts Bait &Tackle, to collect out bait order, also Brendan wanted a new landing net. As we stood around chatting one of the customers said “Its a waste of time fishing the rivers with all the water” I looked at Brendan we both smiled and kept our silence.

Half an hour later we are on the river, I had a big smile on my face I couldn’t have wished for better conditions, it was perfect for angling in my book. The first thing I noticed were the large amount of swallows over the river, it was wonderful to see so many, the acrobatic flying displays were stunning, these birds were joined by kingfishers zipping up and down the river, in my swim I had a little grebe or dabchick, another amazing bird, along the bankside vegetation were lots of damsel flies, the odd hawker and several butterflies, until the rain arrived, I spotted a Red Admiral, Peacock, there were several Painted ladies around the purple thistle heads, the river was alive with literally thousands and thousands of fry mainly small roach, to be honest it was a lovely sight to this old angler, there is hope for the future. As Brendan didn’t know the river also he was my guest I put him in the swim, I would have fished if I was alone. Having sorted out Brendan with tactics, bait to use and where to cast, I watched him put together his Abbey Avon rod, matched with a nice Speedia centre reel that had 6lb breaking strain line a size 6 hook was attached, the weight varied between one and three LG shot.

Leaving Brendan I went off upstream, while Mark went downstream to a cattle drink with around ten feet of water where there is usually two or three feet. I found what I thought was a steady pace of water then set about plumbing the depth, also to find out the contours of the bottom and the location of any weed beds, thirty minutes later I felt I’d a very good idea of drop off etc. Next job was to cut up some thirty lobs then using a bait dropper put them into the area I was going to fish. Float Fishing Outfit Rather than leger a bait, I chose to float fish using a 13 foot rod, matched with a centre pin reel my children and grandchildren had made and engraved for my 80th birthday. I had some 50 yards of 4lb line to which I attached a 5 AAA shot float made for me by Russ Shaw with a bright orange tip which I can clearly see, then with a loop to loop connection a size 10 barbless hook to nylon it was attached to the main line. Having put my chair in place, I put tackle bag, camera case and other items in a heavy duty plastic bag to help keep everything dry if the rain we had been promised happened. Having got everything sorted , I added some more chopped worms with red gentles then left the swim so everything would quiet down. I then went off to walk the bank looking for other likely swims should my chosen spot not work out, arriving back some thirty minutes later, I watched Brendan fish, soon he was in action catching a personal best perch of 2 lb 4 ounces, “I’d certainly put him in a winning swim” I thought.

A short time later the rain started to hammer down, it was torrential with a gale force wind from a southerly direction, conditions were now quite grim, but this is fishing where we know anything can happen, we wouldn’t be deterred, it was time I started to fished. Sitting down to fish I quickly realised I was sitting in a pool of water so heavy was the rain, Brendan was having the same problem, but Mark had solved the problem with a British Army poncho, I dread to think about the outcome for Mark if a sudden hurricane blew upriver, but he didn’t suffer the fate of Brendan and myself with getting wet through. Several Perch Despite the rain and strong wind I was able to present the float along the bulrushes, in fact at times I trotted the bait close to the rushes usually no more than two inches away from them which ensured the bait would be smelt and seen by any perch. It worked, soon I was getting some nice fish around the pound mark, with an occasional bigger fish, I even had a pike of 5lbs plus on float fished lob worm which certainly gave me some fun before it was landed, I also lost several fish in the riverside reeds it was hard trying to hold the fish out even with a 13 foot rod, I didn’t have the reach and leverage, meanwhile Brendan caught another good perch of 1 lb 14 ounces, this was soon followed by another 2 lb 4 ounce perch, despite the wind and rain we caught fish regularly. We ended the day with a good catch of perch, a few roach and the odd chub, Mark had left mid-afternoon, around 1800hrs we decided to leave as we were wet through from the waist down downwards. Back at the Cedars hotel we had a quick bite to eat then disappeared to our room to try and dry out, sadly there wasn’t any heating it being summer time. After hanging our wet cloths up on hangers, I had a shower then went to bed sleeping through until 0630 hrs.

Day two on the Soar

Thankfully Brendan noticed the heating had come on during the night so he hung my trousers close to the radiator, I was lucky to have dry trousers for fishing, we arrived at the Butter Milk café at 0800 hrs ready for breakfast where we were soon joined by Mark, then it was into the tackle shop where I collected 200 lob worms along with a pint of red gentles. On the river bank the weather was greatly improved with periods of sunshine and a southerly wind, we were not surprised to find another foot of extra water after all the rain, in fact the river continued to rise all day but it didn’t stop the fish from feeding. Brendan chose to leger, while Mark and myself fished float tackle. As in the previous day I caught perch and roach losing a big perch in a sunken tree snag, Brendan caught roach, chub and perch, he also got bitten off twice by a pike. Around 1800 hrs I made a brew for all of use, then I had a boil in the bag meal of beans potatoes and tomato sauce which was most welcome. We fished on until about half an hour before dark, we had planned to target the roach in the darkness but the swims just died, even the small fry had dispersed, I did notice the air temperature had dropped, the wind had gone to a south easterly direction. Two disappointed anglers walked across the meadow to the car park, we felt the bigger roach would feed in the darkness. I planned to fish bread flake and crust as my two baits, using a torch to illuminate the float, I find this type of fishing extremely exciting and going on past experience knowing the chances of big roach feeding can be very good but sadly it didn’t happen.

I Got My Target Fish

Sunday morning we were up and ready to leave the Cedars hotel by 0800 hrs arriving at the café in plenty of time, Brendan had a full English with a mug of coffee, while I chose two eggs on whole meal toast with tomatoes and my usual mug of Yorkshire Gold tea, Mark didn’t joining us today. An hour later we were pulling into the car park to find it empty we had the whole beat to ourselves. Brendan chose to fish the same area he had over the past couple of days, I went off in the opposite direction well downstream where I found a typical flood water swim that really did tell me to stop and fish the area, it was sheltered by bulrushes with some water lilies, I chose to fish free line lobs, though if the flow was a bit to strong, I would use one or at the most two LG shot. As it was a high bank I just sat on the ground, no rod rest needed it would be a case of holding the rod, striking immediately I felt a bite than holding hard to stop the fish getting in the rushes. After about ten minutes Brendan told me he had caught two perch so his swim was fishing as it did over the previous two days he would be happy. Putting in some twenty chopped lobs, I baited with two lobs, with an underhand swing I dropped the bait tight to the rushes on my right, within minute the bow in the line tightened, soon I was netting a perch about a pound which I released in the lilies to my right, in the next five casts I caught five more fish of similar size all released in the same area. I then had fifteen minutes without any action. When I arrived I’d noticed a flow of water from right to left ending in a large area of lilies it was time to fish this streamy water, throwing some chopped worms in at the head of the flow I Pinched on an LG shot six inches from the hook, baiting with two lobs I dropped the baited hook into the head of flow of water. My idea was to ease the baited hook down the run towards me, then let it travel past where I was sitting, within half a minute I noticed the line pull across the flow, striking I connected with a fish after a brief struggle where I had to haul the fish from the reeds I netted a good perch around 1.5 lbs, then released the fish in the lilies away from my swim in the next half an hour I had three more fish of similar size. After a twenty minute break with nothing to show for my effort, I got a slow pull, striking I set the hook into an angry fish which immediately dived for the rushes, “Pike” I thought as it went through the rushes into the main stream, I was forced to give line then I felt the head shaking of a perch, I then said to no one except myself “I’ve got something special, but could I bully the fish back though the rushes”? otherwise all was lost. Sadly the fish got half way through the rushes then everything went solid. I then sadly had to pull for a break. To be honest I was gutted. I then scattered in more chopped lobs before tying on another hook then pinching on a single LG shot before baiting with two lobs.

After a bite less half an hour, I replaced the two lobs with fresh ones, then sat holding the rod willing the line to tighten, ten minutes later there was a powerful pull on the rod tip at the same time I set the hook into what felt like another good fish, I immediately knew it was a perch by the head shaking. For a minute it seemed to hang around in the pool then without warning the rod really hooped over as the clutch was forced to give line as the fish made a bow wave across the pool towards the rushes in doing so it’s dorsal fin appeared confirming I’d got another good perch, I took a deep breath saying to myself Dick Walker said “The perch is the biggest fish of all” I had to agree thinking had I got a 4lb perch. It just barged through the rushes as if they were not there. Once out in the stream it really did give a good display of its fighting prowess and head shaking. Now I had to get it back through the rushes, for a few seconds I thought of walking into the river but I wasn’t sure of what snags there would be and thought better of it, I just had to hope I could drag it through the barrier of rushes. I let the fish use up a it’s of its energy, then I would try and lug it out as Dick Walker did on the Ouse on many occasions when chub fishing.

After another five minutes I stood up, then tightened the clutch lowering the rod top down towards the water, I then heaved. I could see I’d got the fish off balance, as it come towards the surface I furiously pumped the fish towards me as fast as possible, then it was through the rushes into the open water of the pool. A few minutes later it was in the net. “That’s a bloody big perch” I thought. Out with scales and weigh net I zeroed the scales all the time the fish seemed to get smaller, it now looked as it might not weight 3lbs. On the scales I got a reading of 3lb 2 ounces, yes, I was disappointed as I thought I’d hook a bigger fish, but at the same time I was more than happy with my result from the river I’d been told wasn’t fishable. After a picture I watched the fish swim off strongly after being rested in the net for a minute or two. I then decided to go and look at two other swims I had spotted at the same time resting the swim for fifteen twenty minutes. Back in my swim I had a few more bites taking perch 2lb 12 ounces and 2lb 10 ounces, also three chub around 3lbs, then four more perch around the pound mark. Suddenly the swim died, I didn’t get another touch in the next hour or more. I called Brendan he was now having a quiet time so we decided to travel north early, leaving the car park around 1500 hrs. We both agreed it had been a great three days.


Brendan with a 2 lb 4 ounce perch

My best perch of the trip

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Martin James Fishing
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