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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


28/11/2019 - Two Fishing Sessions

Cattle drive


Two Fishing Sessions

Recently I’ve not been able to spend much time at the waterside, first off I was called to have the cataract on my right eye done, arriving at the hospital in a good frame of mind, I went through the pre op checks before the nurse said “I am going to get the doctor to look as your eyes before we operate, it looks as if you might have a problem” the doctor discovered I had Blepharitis, he explained “It’s an inflammation of the eyelid margins making it too dangerous to operate until the problem has been dealt with” After being given instructions on what to do over the next four weeks along with a supply of Chloramphenicol antibiotic eye ointment I was then sent home. It was certainly down to the nurse being very professional.

I now have to bathe and massage my eyes three times a day so I’m unable to spend more than a few hours at the waterside, also some days I’m not able to drive as the ointment sometime gets on the eyeball so it’s a case of relying on other people to accompany me to the river. Early this week Robert from Sheffield wanted me to teach him how to fish for grayling both trotting and fishing the upstream nymph, usually I take guests on my water, but this time chose to fish several miles downstream where a friend has about a mile of water he allows me to fish. Arriving on the beat I was surprised to find the river had come up overnight by about fifteen inches with a lot of colour, nymph fishing was out, but I thought Rob might catch a grayling or two if we could find them, this is where trotting pays dividends as you can efficiently cover a lot of water baiting with corn and feeding a few grains every fourth of fifth cast, I often us the method when I teaching anglers to fish the nymph, soon as I catch on grayling, I switch the client to the nymph, being a shoal fish if you catch one you can usually get a few from the same swim often only ten feet in length.

Chub And Dace

After an hours fishing with just two grayling around the pound mark to show, it was time to move, I chose an area where a small stream flowed into the river, it was around four feet deep over a clean gravel bottom, after his third trot down the swim he had a chub about a pound mark, quickly followed by three more fish of similar size with a many good size dace I reckon a couple were around the twelve ounce mark the fishing was really good there was hardly a trot when Rob didn’t get a bite, once or twice I thought “Why didn’t I bring a rod” but it’s not the done thing when you are helping someone else. An hour and a half later we stopped for a fresh brew, it takes just minutes with a Jetboiler which I’ve had for many years in fact I was probably one of the first in the UK to have one having purchased mine in Oregon when I was making some programmes in the State including taking part in a five day cattle drive moving cattle from the foothills of Mount Hood to the Columbia river basin. After a brew and sandwich it was back to fishing.

Hooked Up To Something Big

For about thirty minutes Rob caught dace and the occasional chub around the pound mark, when suddenly the swim went dead, we couldn’t get a touch. I then suggested he bait with two grains of corn and lay-on, twenty minutes later the float slowly moved across the flow then disappeared quickly, on striking the rod curved over the reel screamed as line was wrenched from the reel. I though he’d got hooked up to a salmon, for several minutes it slowly moved upstream, then shot down and across the river, more tense minutes, neither of us had a clue what was on the end of the line, our best bet being a salmon . Twenty or more minutes later, Rob started to gain some control getting line back on the reel , in what seemed a very long time but was probably ten minutes we got our first glimpse of the float, I suggested Rob walk upstream gently leading the fish like a dog on the lead, a few minutes later we got a good look at what Rob was hooked up to it was a big barbel, well into double figures, I reckon perhaps 14 lbs, I crouched down low staying stock still, net well into the water as Rob slowly guided the fish within fifteen feet the net, Suddenly it shot off to the right into a submerged bush, the line went slack broken above the hook. We were both gutted, but as Rob said "You can’t do much on 4lb line with a 3lb hook link". But it was good while it lasted. Sadly it was time I got home as I needed to treat my eyes.

A Far Bank Swim

Today it was perfect day for angling, what I usually call “A roach fishers day” back in the 1950’s I and several friends were keen photographers after reading a feature on roach fishing and light levels by Richard Walker, we started using a light meter to check the light level, if we got a reading from Ilford HP3 film @ F 8 125 ASA we rated it a good roach fishers day, more often than not it turned out to be perfect, today was such a day, thick cloud no wind a foot of water on the river with visibly of around twelve inches a water temperature of 50 degrees, it doesn’t get better. For several weeks I’ve wanted to fish a far bank swim but its not possible with a centre pin reel even F W K Wallis would find it difficult, it was a fixed spool reel job fishing a waggler , I used my Milwards Swim Master matched with a Daiwa Certate 1500 it’s a dream reel to use, with a very smooth slipping clutch, I’ve never used a better reel, I have fully tested the clutch system under various temperatures ranges from the refrigerator to sitting on the radiator, the clutch remains exactly as set. When I look back to my Hardy and Felton Crosswind fixed spool reels in the late 1940’s I shudder, it wasn’t until I got my first Mitchell 300 that I was happy using a fixed spool. This Certate is certainly quality engineering, Colin Culley rates them very highly, which is good enough for me, I’m no engineer so rely on other peoples opinion. I had 5lb breaking strain line with a peacock quill waggler taking five AAA shot, two AAA were used for locking the float, the other were three bunched two feet up the line from a size 10 hook to 4lb nylon where I had pinched on a BB shot a foot from the hook. Having got everything sorted I spent about an hour using a catapult with a large pouch to put a chicken egg size balls of mashed bread across to the far bank swim every five minutes, I also kept putting in bait size pieces of bread flake. Some anglers would no doubt say they couldn’t be bothered, but I have always feel the more you work at the sport the more will be your reward.

Hook Up

I made my first cast around 1100 hrs, I could clearly see the orange neon tip of the float as it moved down the swim, it had travelled some five yards then disappeared, I tightened into my first fish it felt a good fish at it powered off downstream forcing me to give line, it suddenly shot into the far bank where rubbish had collected over the past few months, suddenly all went slack, the fish was gone. I was gutted, thinking it could either put the fish off feeding, or scattering the shoal. Winding in my tackle minus the hook, I quickly had another hook attached using the loop by loop method, I then added another ball of mashed bread along with some pieces of flake, then rested the swim for a while, Fifteen minutes later I made my second cast then my third fourth and fifth, with nothing to show for it. Another ball of mashed bread was put in, I continued to run the float through the swim, but no bites. Another fifteen minutes later I got a bite which was missed but thankfully I didn’t pick the fish. A few more bits of flake were catapulted across the river a few feet out from the bank where I’d found a two foot drop off. A couple of trots later through the swim the float dipped sharply, I immediately pulled the rod over to my right in the hope of drawing the fish away from the far bank snags, it worked soon I had a good fish out in midstream after some give and take I had the fish close to my bank where it tried its best to get rid of the hook, but the pressure of well-balanced tackle proved the winner as I netted a good chub, a kingfisher flew low up river. On the scales the fish weighed 4 lb 6 ounces, I then took a quick picture before walking some fifty yards upstream before releasing the fish, I then quickly had two more chub 4 lb 3 ounces and 4 lb 6 ounces, both fish being released well upstream.

Best Fish Of The Trip

A few casts later I hooked fish number four which powered out into the river from the far bank, I felt a very good fish which certainly put up a good fight, I started having thoughts of a five pounder, For several minutes the fish hugged the bottom moving slowly downstream or out into the main flow, occasionally I was able to get a few feet back on the reel but this was often taken back by the fish, Slowly though I was getting the upper hand and drawing the fish closer to my bank in the slower moving water where it was virtually snag frees except for the odd big boulder, soon it was just a few feet away as I pushed the net further out into the river, soon the fish was wallowing on the surface then into the net. As I hauled it up the bank I though it might be a five pounder but on the scales it weighed 4 lb 10 ounces, I was more than happy, after a quick picture I walked well upstream to release the fish. While I was playing the fish then walking upstream to release it the wind increased from nil to about fifteen mph the air temperature dropped the rain come down, I had no chance of fishing the far bank with float tackle, so I switched over to legering with a big bit of flake. After putting together my other outfit, I pinched on a size number one shot fifteen inches from the hook then added a small amount of plasticine. Baiting with a large piece of flake I cast out towards the far bank, then sat holding the rod with the line over my forefinger, ten minutes later I felt a slight pluck, then nothing for about five minutes then a slightly more determined pull I set the hook into fish number five, a few minutes later I netted another good chub weighing 4 lbs 4 ounces. Half an hour later it was time to leave but it had been a good session.





On horseback to reach a fishing venue

4 lb 10 ounces chub

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Martin James Fishing
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