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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


02/12/2019 - A Winter Evening On the River


 Dave Hurst and myself chose to fish the River Ribble, it was a bright sunny day with a cold wind from the north east, I’d taken the water temperature early in the day getting a reading of 40-41 degrees F, a drop from my last session a few days earlier of 8 degrees F, conditions didn’t look good but as I always say “If you don’t have a bait in the water you don’t have a chance” I suggested to David we should arrive on the river bank around 1500 hrs in the hope that as the light started to fade a chub or two might take a fancy to a bit of crust on a short 2 inch link. We both chose to fish the same swim, David with a pellet me with my favourite cold water bait bread. My tackle was a soft action Avon rod matched with a small fixed spool reel with 4lb breaking strain line to which I tied a size 6 barbless hook with a Palomar knot, I then pinched on a size BB shot a couple of inches from the hook then moulded a small piece of plasticine around the shot, David would fish the flowing water in the hope of a barbel. I chose to fish the slack water just down to my right where a bush with some of its branches trailed in the water where a small raft of rubbish had been created. Having got everything sorted I put my torch in position with the beam on the rod, I also attached my head torch, so should I get a fish I could see my way to guiding it towards the net.

A Hard Frost

With the light now disappearing it was time to make a cast, baiting with a thumb nail size piece of crust, I dropped the bait downstream so the bait was close to the raft, it was extremely cold, air temperature had now dropped to minus 4 degrees F. I sat holding the rod the line looped over my forefinger, grateful for my Simms mitts which I’ve had for around 10 years and worth every penny. As I sat there waiting for some action, I could see clearly in the torch beam minute items of frost falling, I reckon with fifteen minutes my rod was covered in frost, it looked as if it had snowed, soon the tackle was frost covered, the line was getting frozen to the butt ring. After about fifteen minutes I carefully wound in the bait , rebaited and cast a foot further down the swim, when conditions are as cold as they were, the fish don't normally chase a bait, but don’t take my word for it as fish will quick quickly prove me wrong, though not often I didn’t want to leave any bait in the water, as from many years of winter fishing, when we get a sudden drop in the water temperature the fish don't usually chase a bait, neither will they want much to eat as it take a lot longer to digest the food item. It was a case of casting every ten to fifteen minutes and searching every inch of the swim in the hope I would drop the bait close to a fish.

A Good Take

It was around 1815 hours when I felt a tiny pluck at the same time the rod tip moved a fraction as if a minnow had taken the bait, but you don’t usually get minnows in these conditions, I said to David “Just had a light touch” I was now in the striking zone waiting for a more determined pull, ten minutes later, another a slight pull which I felt on my forefinger also I watched the slight movement on the rod tip, five minutes later I got a savage take, the rod tip pulled around some six inches, striking I expected to feel a solid resistant’s I got nothing, I’d missed a perfect bite. I was gutted but to be honest, that was bad angling on my part thankfully I didn’t prick the culprit.

An hour later we had a brew with a boil in the bag meal of spicy vegetables and pasta in a coconut sauce, it was quite tasty and certainly gave us a feeling of warmth and satisfaction ready second half. Still the air temperature continued to drop it was now around minus 5 degrees F, walking across the river from the car park it was very quiet not even an owl or fox called. Back in my swim I baited with another bit of crust, I had no intention of making a bait change as I reckon crust is the best under the current conditions, casting out I resumed my position holding the rod while resting it on my knee, the line hooped over my finger. Every fifteen minutes I changed the bait, then made another cast a foot away from the previous cast. Hearing the church clock strike 9 o’clock, I was surprised how fast the time had gone. With no more bites between us we had a quick conversation about what we should do, we agreed to pack up, we had given it our best shot walking back to the car park I said “I doubt if there would be many 82 year old on the river bank tonight”?.


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Martin James Fishing
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