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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


25/08/2019 - A Surprise Catch

2 lb 2 ounce perch on luncheon meat



This week I returned to the River Soar for two days of fishing, with Dave Hurst and Mark Sarul, my target was to help Dave catch some River Bream, I hoped for a good chub also some nice roach, though what ever I caught or if I didn’t catch I would enjoy the environment and my friends company. Leaving Lancashire at 0530 hrs we arrived at the Butter Market Café Mountsorrel near Loughborough at 0800 hrs, after breakfast it was across the road to Bennett's fishing tackle shop to collect our bait, all Mark and I wanted was a pint of red gentles. David wanted red gentles worms, hemp, dead gentles, casters with several bags of ground bait, he was targeting the bream. As we all know if you want to get a good weight of River Bream you need a lot of feed to keep them in the area.


Making Bread and Bran Ground Bait


After parking up we sorted out the tackle we need then made the long haul upriver, I then showed David where I had caught bream last winter, while Mark explained to David where the barbel were being caught, the weather was for sunshine with some cloud cover, sadly we had a horrid downstream wind which wouldn’t favour trotting the stream but it did keep the temperature down, as the river had lots of sheltered areas I might be able to find a suitable area to fish. Leaving David to sort himself out I proceeded to show Mark how I made up my ground bait, after putting some chunks of rock hard bread into a bucket, I made sure it was well covered with water Normally at homer I leave the bread in the water for a few hours. Today I had to quicken up the process, with my steel masher I kept pushing the bread until eventually it was soft and sloppy. I then poured the bread into my net bag so I could strain off as much water as possible, after a few minutes I dumped all the mashed bread back into the bucket, then spent fifteen twenty minutes pummeling the mash, until all any small pieces of bread had virtually disappeared it was more like a thick milk soup, I then added some bran until the bread and bran mash would just hold together long enough to be thrown in the swim, more bran would be added until I the consistency I required for the swim I was fishing at the time.


Off In Search of Chub Roach and Perch


Leaving Mark and David I went off to another stretch of river, I had two rods made up a 13 foot float rod with centre pin reel today I was using “The Beult” centre pin made for me by Watermole, I just love this reel for roach fishing using 3lb BS line, I associate this reel like a fine piece of jewellery it wouldn’t be out of place in a Bond Street Jeweller’s, my other rod was an Avon match with a fixed spool with 10lb braid, I really do like braid when legering as you can feel the slightest pull and strike immediately. I have lost count of the number of 5lb plus chub caught when I have felt a slight pull then tightened finding myself hooked up to a fish, which I doubt I would have noticed with nylon.


A Mixed Bag


Having crossed the meadow, I walked downstream then over the stile as the river made a turn to the right I could see the river narrowing up as the water becoming more streamy flowing between two large beds of bulrushes, where I had a gap of some twenty feet or more between the rush beds, I chose to stop and fish this area in the hope of finding some perch or chub, perhaps even roach. With the more powerful flow of water I chose to use a balsa and cane Avon float taking 7 AAA shot I then attached a size 10 hook. Setting the float around five feet I made a couple of casts then watched the passage of the float through the swim, I them moved he float up a foot and repeated the process, again I didn’t get caught so made an another adjustment of the float, this time I did found an area where the hook go caught up, Adjusting the float slightly I made another couple this time I felt it was about right, I then made two more runs through the swim everything seemed ok, it was time to get some bait working through the swim, Using a small bait dropper I put in three droppers of gentles every few minutes or so. If I tried to loose feed in the strong flow the gentles would be swept well downstream. I then dropped in two tangerine size ball of bread and bran containing hemp and gentles, then added two more of droppers of gentles.Baiting the size 10 hook with four red gentles, dropping the float in a rod length out I guided the float down the swim a few yards later it dipped, bite missed, this happened on several casts.


I changed the hook to a size 14 hook, then baited with the three gentles, still I was missing bites, every time I checked the bait all I had were skins. I moved the BB shot down to six inches from the hook, but still I was missing bites. I then moved two of the AAA shot down the line to within a foot of the hook. As the float was eased down the swim, it dipped this time I connected a dace of some eight inches a fish I wasn’t expecting, I’m more than happy catching dace. For the next half an hour I was connecting with most of the bites all dace including some pushing 10 ounces. An hour or more later I hooked a fish that put a good bend in the rod, the float had travelled virtually to the end of the swim fifteen yards or more away, after an interesting struggle as I tried to work out what I’d hooked eventually I got a look at the fish a perch about a pound and a half. I reckon it coughed up a dropper or more of gentles.


The next cast I had a chub around 2lbs quickly followed by another fish of similar size all the time I was putting in a golf ball size lump of bread and bran with gentles also droppers of gentles. Another fifteen minutes or so I started to catch the fish just a few yards down the swim, so successful was my ground bait in drawing the fish upstream. Then at last I got my first roach around 10 ounces, then it was a succession of roach and dace all fish in pristine condition, I’ve never seen better looking fish which were a pleasure to see. Half an hour later with no more bites, it was time to move on.


My First Perch On Meat


I then moved off upstream around a thousand yards to a wide area of the river where the river was deep and slow moving, it was an area where Mark and I had caught on several occasions, it was the same area where Brendan caught his perch last week. The swim was a sheltered from the strong wind, I was able to change to lighter float tackle, but my first choice was to fish for the chub under the far bank with chunks of luncheon meat, most times my first choice bait would bread crust, but this bait would be stripped off the hook in seconds so numerous were the number of small roach, dace and chub. Having settled myself down I baited with a chunk of meat, I had one LG on the line twenty inches from the hook, I dropped the bait a few inches from the far bank which had a covering of vegetation and trees. Twenty minutes later I had a good bite the answering strike connected with what felt like a good fish, suddenly all went slack, the fish was off. Re-baiting I dropped the bait again inches from the far bank, then sat with the line hooked over my index finger. Twenty minutes or so later I got a light pull, suddenly a more powerful take this time a second fish was hooked, after a brief struggle I got the fish under control then soon it was ready for netting, I was really surprised to see I’d got a good perch with the hook well inside the mouth.


Two weeks ago Mark called me to say “I’ve caught a perch on meat” which did surprise. My fish weighed 2lb 2 ounces. Ten minutes later I had another fish weighing 2 lb 1 ounce which was quickly followed by a 1 lb 14 ounce fish, the chub didn’t show. I then decided I need something to eat and drink so ended my session more than happy with my result for the day especially my trotting session. Meeting up with David I learnt that he had caught ten good bream averaging 4lbs so he was well pleased, that night we celebrated at the Cedars with a very good curry by the Filipino chef.




After breakfast in the Butter Market Café we then a visit to Stuart at Bennett's tackle shop where David got more bait supplies then it was off to another stretch of river we had never fished before, Mark walked the length pointing out all the various swim telling us about the fish caught from various spots, he also mention the island which looked similar to a jungle fortress with all the vegetation head high nettles and thistles, even higher brambles, masses of strong creeper all over the ground to trip up the unwary traveler. Back at the car Mark and David chose to go well up the river, I decided to take on the island jungle like vegetation, certain I could find a few unwary chub as no doubt they wouldn’t have been fished for.


I made up an Avon rod fixed spool reel with braided line to which I attached a size 4 hook, weight would be LG shot how many would depend on the spot chosen to fish. As I struggled through the nettles and brambles, sometimes having to crawl and push my way to the water’s edge, I eventually found what looked like a chub holding area underneath a large berry laden hawthorn bush alongside an alder tree, I could see the roots going down into the water which was pushing through quite fast even through the rushes. I decided it needed 4 LG shot stopped two feet from the size 4 hook which I baited with 2 lob then cast upstream to allowing the bait chance to get near the bottom in what I thought was around 7 feet of water. Ten minutes later the tip pulled round I set the hook, soon I had a perch about 12 ounces coming towards the net, I fished on for twenty minutes then moved on.


It was hard work moving towards my next spot, some of ground creeper, causing me to take a tumble by now I was covered in stings and scratches, eventually I cleared the rough area for better ground, where I could move more easily. I then fished a spot where the river parted flowing around both sides of the island, I fishing this area with luncheon meat, I struggled for a bite eventually catching a chub about 2lbs. Moving onto my next spot I met a member of the public sitting on the bank who asked if I was catching? I said “Just two fish a small perch and chub” he said the fishing isn’t good around the island, I just nodded in agreement then moved on arriving at the Bridge pool which really did look good for a fish or two. I started off with two lobs but after fifteen minutes or so, changed over to meat getting an instant take as the bait went along the wall on the far bank, soon I had a chub about 2 lbs, this was quickly followed by another chub of similar size. I then caught a pike which grabbed the meat as I was winding in probably weighing 4lbs at the most, this was followed by a bite off. I then spent an hour or more trying to catch from several spots without success without success, all I got for my effort was more stings and frustration. I then decided it was time for a brew.


I called Mark who agreed but Dave was happy staying where he was. Over a brew Mark told me he had been catching small roach and dace, David was also catching roach and dace on the float. After a good break I chose to fish the second half on the main river, choosing a swim where two large trees on the opposite bank with its branches overhanging the water making it look a good spot for a chub.Baiting with a big piece of meat I dropped the bait tight to the far bank then sat back holding the rod, Some two hours later I had a good pull connecting with what felt like a good fish, eventually I netted a chub about three and a half pounds. Half an hour later I hooked another fish which got tangled up in some floating reed and rubbish including a floating willow branch which somehow got tangled up in the line, slowly I wound in the line until the branch was close to the rod tip. I then had to try and free the line, after some minutes it was free, to find the fish had gone. An hour later Mark showed up, he had ended his session, with no more bites I decided enough was enough and chose to pack up. We walked back to the car where as anglers do, we stood chatting for some time until David turned up then we all departed Mark to home where he was dining on pork chops and all the trimmings, I really do like my days sharing the waterside with Mark, he is one of the most helpful people I could wish to meet. Back at the Cedars hotel I had a bowl of soup and thought of Mark with his pork chops, David had something Italian. So ended our two days on the River Soar, I will be back again in mid-September when I hope to concentrate on the roach with stewed wheat as one of my baits, in the meantime I’m off to have a cataract operation on my left eye so hopefully I will see the float a lot better.

The Bridge pool

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Martin James Fishing
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