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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


02/09/2019 - September A Great Month for Angling

‘The Beult’


September A Great Month for Angling

There are many times when I sit at the waterside, or at home when let my mind go back over the years and seasons, I was doing this recently as I sat in the hospital ward, It was late August I was waiting to have the cataract on my left eye operated on. My thoughts turned to September a time of apples, blackberries, especially pies and pudding made from these two great fruits, in the past it was the smell of hops, which are sadly no longer around, we still have misty dawns with late summer sunshine. According to some of the old writers September with riverside wheat fields being harvested, is time for fishing creed or stewed wheat, all I will say it’s utter rubbish. It’s not just a bait for September, it’s a bait for all-seasons, though better in the summer and autumn months, In the early 1940’s I would have been about 5 years old, my grandfather who was a great role model, told me how to prepare creed wheat. Another good roach bait is elderberries, this used in conjunction with hempseed is certainly a winning combination for roach. Faddist in Baits and Grounbaits on page 60 quotes Dick Walker “When using boiled wheat, put the water in which the wheat was boiled in a bottle, or jar, with a metal screw cap, in which some small holes have been pricked. Sink it at the head of the swim. The wheat-flavoured water gradually percolates into the swim. Fish can detect flavours in the water and this dodge has got me some good bags of roach and bream in the Ouse.” This is similar to an idea Dick gave us in his weekly column “Walkers Pitch” in the Angling Times, where he described putting lobworms in a 2 lb jam jar until they turned into a thick liquid, it’s still very successful in drawing fish into your swim today. I cover this subject in the book, Dick Walker-The Legend Martin James MBE & Friends available from Little Egret Press

Sea Fishing

No doubt about it, I reckon this month is probably one of the best times for sea fishing, all the summer species are still around our coastline, the winter species are arriving, we have a multitude of fish to be caught from our beaches, rocks, piers, jetties and boats. Depending on where we fish we can expect to catch bass, cod, whiting, dabs, flounders, mullet, tope, conger in fact all of our species are catchable this month.

Game Fishing

This branch of the sport is probably at its best given decent water levels, brown and sea trout along with salmon though these latter fish are declining in number quite dramatically, there are several reasons for this, the huge growth in salmon farming, predation of the smolt runs by goosanders and cormorants, the RSPB allowed the shooting of Ruddy ducks as they were flying off to Spain to mate with another species of duck, but we are restricted to stupid numbers of goosander and cormorants we are allowed to shoot, I have just got my current licence of 3 cormorants and 2 goosanders. How crazy is that system? Another big problems over the past few winters has been the big floods where the reds have been washed away. Then we have an otter problem, not made by nature, but man made with the release semi tame otters into waters where they are not sustainable, there have been times when an otter has come within feet of us as we fish.

Coarse Fishing

September offers good angling for all species, but my thoughts turn towards the roach, a most delightful fish probably one of my favourite species, if one can have such a choice. Sadly these fish are suffering from cormorant and goosander predation, thankfully we have the ‘Avon Roach Project’ with Trevor Harrop and Budgie Price at the helm which started around 2006, though I could be wrong with his year date. Trevor and Budgie and their team are doing some wonderful work which should be supported by every angler. I feel very strongly that these two gentlemen should receive an award in the honours system.

One of the writers on roach fishing from the past who I rate highly is Faddist (Edward Ensom) who I felt did write a lot of common-sense, his chapter in Fine Angling for Coarse Fish on the roach is very well written, covering tackle, bait, bait preparation, location of fish during the seasons, the methods for catching Rutilus rutilus, it’s all there. Other writers on the species I rate highly are the late John Searl his book Chalk Stream Roach The Ultimate Challenge apart from Johns chapter Avon Roach, there are chapters by Dave Howes, Dave Steuart, Vic Beyer, Pat Macmanus and Mark Wintle. If you’re a roach fisher I can highly recommend Mark Wintles two books Big Roach also Big Roach 2. Doctor Mark Everard books The Complete Book of the Roach along with Redfine Diaries are also a must read. Mark certainly catches his share of big roach from still and flowing waters throughout the season, a very experienced angler.

A Good Roach Fishing Venue

This month is when I get serious in my search for roach, one water I’m looking forward to spending some time on this year is the River Soar, it’s a river that has everything that a roach fisher looks for, large areas of cabbages, with lots of sunken lily leaves with crinkled edges similar to cabbages, hence the name given to them I believe by Fred J Taylor in the early 1950’s, even when the leaves have been swept away by the winter floods, the roach still seem to hang around their old haunts, no doubt there will be food among the lily roots. There are also lots of bulrushes, you will often find two long stretches of bulrushes sometimes creating a tunnel effect, but usually separated by a few feet of flowing water over gravel, again attractive to roach, the gravel runs on this river are quite extensive, often with steady flow of water in many areas, even in flood time, which are so loved by the roach, on my several visits I have found several cattle drinks I reckon will prove productive, which have been marked down for attention when conditions are suitable. A Loughborough Soar Angling Society card is a must have item, available from Stuart at Bennetts fishing tackle in Mountsorrel LE12 7 BA. There is also a very good place to eat, the Butter Market café some twenty yards from the tackle shop. The tackle shop caters for all types of coarse fishing, it’s a clean and pleasant place where Stuart knows his business, he is also a keen match angler who can offer excellent advice, I have found his advice to spot on.

With the evenings drawing in, I now get the chance of fishing the dusk into the darkness period, which I find is a great time to fish for roach, often you will see roach priming on the surface as dusk approaches, you can be sure of some good sport if you keep quiet in your approach to the swim, also with baiting up and tackle presentation you should catch a few roach. During the day I often use several styles of angling, trotting the stream, laying on or stret-pegging, often a combination of all three. As dusk approaches, I will switch to laying on, if I’m fishing a virtual still water stretch, I will sometimes use the lift method. My preferred bait choices will be bread flake crust or stewed wheat, if the water is coloured I make sure I have some redworms and lobs, also a ball of soft cheese paste. My use of a torch beam to illuminate my float goes back to 1949, thankfully in the early 1950 I learnt that Dick Walker also used a cycle lamp to illuminate his float, giving me more confidence in the idea if I needed it. I find it restful, at the same time exciting, as the float dips, lifts, leans over at an angle, or starts to glide across the surface submerging as it moves out of the torch beam.

Tackle Choice

We all have our ideas on what tackle to use, my choice is a soft action rod like the Hardy Perfection Roach or something similar from one of the many manufacturers of the 1930’s 40’s and 50’s, the choice rests with the user, there are many times when I switch to a light carbon rod, I find it more efficient these days having painful and weak right arm, it’s a case of using what is best for the individual. My reels are usually centre pins, my current model made by ‘Watermole’ ‘The Beult’ is a work of art, I have some 40 yards of 3lb line on the reel, which is more than adequate. Floats are a personal choice, which I leave to the reader, I use variety of quills from porcupine to goose, a selection of cork and balsa on quill or cane, it all depends on the choice of the swim I’m fishing. Hooks again are a personal choice, for fine line work I prefer to use a light weight wire hook with a spade end, I despair at not being able to purchase hooks to nylon with a suitable fine line, I don’t want size 16 hooks to 5lb BS line but 3lb BS line.


As already mentioned roach love to be down among the cabbage patches, which usually has a gravel or gravel/ silt bottom, though in some part of the country it will often be a clay bottom, yes, you do catch fish over a soft muddy bottom, but it’s usually rare and often at times of high water. Over some 70 years of roach fishing I have caught roach and some very good roach many over 2lbs from all areas mentioned except the soft muddy areas. I have caught roach throughout the season under all weather or water conditions, but I also have my share of blanks both in good and bad conditions.

Cream of Roach Fishing

I had gone by train to Yalding then walked down river to the start of the trees on the high bank. It was a frosty November morning, the river had some flow and colour, the puddles on the field were thick with ice. I didn't think much of my chances, but I was determined to do my best, even if my friends decided they didn’t think it worth fishing in the icy cold conditions. The swim I chose, was in front of some withered brown sedges, around eight feet deep. I fished laying-on, with a 16 foot rod whole cane butt with a split bamboo middle and top joint which I built in the early 1950’s with the help of Mr. Clarkson, the Rapidex centre-pin reel and 3 lb line to which I’d attached a small goose quill float. Four BB shot were bunched twelve inches from the hook, my bait was flake on a size 8 hook. It was not until around two o'clock in the afternoon that I had my first bite, a pound plus roach. This was followed by a couple of bream, I then got six bites and six good pound plus roach. The frost was coming down, my fingers were getting numb. Rooks crows and pigeons were going to roost, there was the occasional sound of gun shot. The sky overhead was electric blue, and in the direction of the setting sun it was pink and orange—a sure sign that there would be a heavy frost. A pheasant crowed from the tree behind me as it went to roost. I would stick it out until dark, and maybe do an extra half an hour with my cycle lamp beamed on to the float.

I changed over to crust then moved the shot down to within three inches of the hook; in a magnificent couple of hours fishing into the darkness, I had a succession of pound plus roach and two 4 lb bream. Every cast brought me a fish. I ended the day with 26 big roach, the best weighing 1 lb 14 ozs. I didn't want to pack up but the cold was so intense that I couldn't stand it any longer. I was a happy angler as I trudged up river to Yalding station thinking of the warm train carriage.

Arctic Weather Conditions

I used the same method on another chilly day on the river bank, after a long trek slithering and stumbling on the frozen snow covered river bank, from Yalding station to Nettlestead, we arriving at my chosen swim I found three feet of ice protruding out from the margins with a covering frozen snow, not what I expected. I was fishing with Brian Long and to help Brian contend with the cold I had a bottle of brandy to keep him happy. Our chosen swim was in front of an area of some dead water lilies, Having tackled up, then plumbed the depth finding eight feet of slow moving water, I chose to fish bread cube on a size 8 hook. For a long time we saw no sign of a fish, as we smoked our pipes, while watching our floats, we discussed the chances of catching, despite the conditions I felt we would catch as the light started to go. As it got colder we both shivered our feet felt like blocks of ice in the Arctic weather conditions, the level in the brandy bottle fell steadily. Eventually my float slowly slipped from sight, the answering strike brought me with a good roach. Soon Brian got in on the action, by the time we left for home in the darkness we’d caught several nice roach all over a pound, including three over the two pound mark, every fish feeling warm when we touched them. Another good day because I wasn’t prepared to give in.

Arriving back Brian’s house very late, Brian was more than a little worse for wear having consumed all the brandy, before I left home I realized I had to get something special for Brian, to keep him at the waterside, so I got the bottle of Brandy from my Dad, it was amazing that he could stagger up the snow and ice covered river bank to the station after all the drink. Brian, who was married, had invited me back to his home for a meal, but it was gone 8-30 pm when he staggered up the garden path. Brian knocked the door, it was answered by a woman who screamed, "Here's your bloody dinner” and threw the plate at him. I said “I will see you in the office in the morning” then caught a taxi home, again it was a great session despite the conditions. Today I still fish in rough weather conditions often staying on the river bank late into the evening despite the weather. Remember “you can’t catch unless you have a baited hook in the water”.

Stuarts tackle shop

Stuart riddling gentles

2 lb Roach

Roach fishing

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Martin James Fishing
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