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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


30/12/2019 - My Christmas Treat Four Days on the River Soar


My Christmas Treat Four Days on the River Soar

I can’t remember when I didn’t fish on Christmas day going back to when I was an eight year old in 1945, as a youngster I wasn’t and still am not Christmas person, In in those far off days I would fish on the 25th, shoot on Boxing day, with one of my grandfathers, sometimes both, what great icons and role models they were for me to learn from, up to around twelve or thirteen years of age, we would fish on Christmas morning returning home about 1400 hrs for dinner, we didn’t call it lunch, that as for posh people. Once I got a decent cycle I went off on my own, fishing just after dawn until dark, sometimes fishing in the dark, before the long cycle ride home which could mean travelling fifteen to twenty miles, especially when sea fishing. All my free time was spent fishing or shooting, I can still remember those boyhood fishing and shooting experiences as if it was yesterday, at 82 I can’t get enough of this wonderful pastime, if I’m not fishing, I’m clearing rubbish from waterside, often in chest high waders trying to clear plastic bags from the riverside trees, other times I’m coaching those who want to learn about this great pastime in return for a donation to one of my charities.

A Hard Day on the 25th

The day started on a bad note when my mate Brendan Ince called around 0700 hrs to say the car wouldn’t start, after a mechanic turned up he said “Just try to start the car” it started straight away, it turned out the battery was very low, the mechanic then said “It needs a good run”. Brendan said “I’m travelling down to the River Soar in Leicestershire and with that the mechanic left, Brendan called me to say ”I’m on my way” it was 1230 hrs when we checked into the Cedars hotel, by 1300 hrs we pulled into the riverside car park with no one in sight. We had the choice of swims, after a long walk downstream we come to an area of hawthorn bushes and alder trees a place we had fished before, the conditions looked ideal, the river had a couple of feet on with a good flow and colour, I got a water temperature reading of 42 degrees F, with low light level with a light mist shrouding trees and bushes along the far bank, As I said to Brendan “It’s the roach or perch fishers day”

Just Two Bites

We both fished similar tactics legering with 3 LG shot about 15 inches from a size 4 barbless hook lines were 6lb with Avon action rods with small fixed spool reels, in a 3 hour session Brendan used lobworms, and luncheon meat, I tried both those baits, also cheese paste, as dusk turned to darkness we were entertained by several wrens along the far bank that generated a wonderful sound far louder than this tiny birds size, it continued well into the darkness as they competed with each other from their own territory, an occasional blackbird would join the chorus. With dusk enveloping us I felt a light luck, something was interested in my luncheon meat, I then got a good pull missing it completely, I’d panicked missing the bite cleanly, this shouldn’t happen to an experienced angler, I was angry at my stupid behaviour. Rebaiting I cast into the same area, within minutes another light pluck then a good pull the answering strike had the rod hooped over as a few feet on line was taken, with a very dangerous bank we had agreed we would land each other’s fish, soon Brendan was waiting with net in the water, suddenly the fish was off, checking the hook the point for sharpness it was still needle sharp, I couldn’t give any reason why I had lost that fish. We fished on for another hour but with no more bites we packed up and headed off to the hotel. Brendan dined on beef and mustard sandwiches followed by sausage rolls with a mug of coffee, I had a boil in the bag meat of vegetables in a coconut sauce followed by a mug of tea, the end of day one.

Boxing Day

We were on the river early, again no one in the car park, despite not catching yesterday we chose the same area to fish, as in the past it had produced many good fish, everything about our chosen area gave us a lot of confidence, not just its past record, the depth of water, bulrushes and cabbages, the way the river flowed from left to right, the over hanging trees on the far bank, with a lovely crease. Tackle set up was as used the previous day, we could see no reason to change, also I got a water temperature of 43 to 44 degrees F. After a three hour session with no signs of fish, we went off to look at various swims but we didn’t anything to make us want to change locations, we fished on until darkness changing baits searching swim both on the nearside and gar bank rolling baits down the centre of the river but nothing, it was a strange session. I can’t remember a day with near perfect conditions on a winter day when I’ve not at least had a bite or two. At the end of the day it was two puzzled and fishless anglers that made the long trek back to the car.

Day Three With Near Perfect Conditions

After breakfast in the Butter Milk café in Mountsorrel we headed off to the Soar, today I was going to fish a different stretch of water but Brendan was confident in returning to his swim of the previous two days, I chose to fish a mile or so downstream which could be best described as an assault course, but eventually I manged it including go through a thick hedge and over three layers of barbed wire, but I was determined to fish a swim in some trees where I thought I might get a few chub. There were several large alder trees, two were in three foot of water creating a nice slack just downstream. A few yards upstream I had a small pool of quiet water where there used to be a large bed of bulrushes, on the down stream side of the rushes I expected to find a chub, perhaps even perch. Checking the water temperature I got a reading of 43-44 degrees F, conditions of an over cast sky with light wind were probably as good as one could expect in late December, My plan of attack was fish bread crust, I then went off to put a handful of bread mash in five chosen spots. I then put together an 11foot soft Avon action rod, fixed spool reel with 8lb BS line to which I attached a size 4 barbless hook. The weight required would be just enough LG shot to get the bait on the bottom, then by lifting the rod I could work the crust slowly downstream through the swim in a natural way as possible.

Having got every thing sorted out, I sat quietly watching a large group of long tailed tits working along the tree branches, close by a wren was searching among the brown dead sedges looking for spiders. It was so peaceful being away from the sound of traffic or people rushing about in the shopping centres, no doubt that’s one of the reasons I’m an angler. After allowing for any disturbance I had made it was time to make my first cast, baiting with a thumb size chunk of crust, I dropped it into the first swim, within a minute I felt a pluck on the line across my forefinger, striking I was hooked up to my first fish, a nice chub probably around three and a half pounds. I walked upstream some fifty yards through the thick undergrowth to release the fish. I moved onto my next spot quickly getting another chub similar to the first fish. I then got a call from Brendan to say he gad got broken after some time hooked up to a good barbel, yes though he had lost it both of us were happy that he had got a good fish, even though it was lost it showed his faith in the swim was right. A short time later he called again to say “Just got a 4lb chub” which was certainly well deserved. In my next spot I had another chub similar n size to the previous two fish, I was more than happy as I cast out another crust, again it was just a short time before I hooked another fish after a minute or so it was gone. It didn’t matter what I tried I had a blank session for around 4 hrs, in the meantime Brendan had another good chub similar in size to his first one, he also had a couple of missed bites. When I was thinking it was time to call it a day I got another chub similar in size to my other fish, all caught on crust, even though I tried other baits, as I sat there thinking over the events the past three days I cursed myself for not trying bread on day one, as it’s my first choice bait, I must have had a mental blockage or is it old age? Though on second thoughts I didn’t have my river Soar master Mark Sarul to guide me and tell me to use bread as he was stuck at home with a very bad cold.

Day Four

The next day it was again hard neither Brendan or myself could get a bite, it was just before dusk when I said to Brendan “Let’s go and fish the big bend as it’s on the way back to the car”? We both thought it was a good idea, arriving at the chosen spot we baited with crust, I dropped my bait in about four yards upstream of Brendan, within a minute perhaps less I hooked a chub calling Brendan to bring the net, a chub that could be best described as an old warrior that I had caught in the summer, Brendan said “That one of the fish I caught yesterday”, it had travelled a fair distance downstream overnight. We fished on until dark, with no more bites we packed up, back at the hotel we got our gear together and checked out, it was certainly a good drive home no hold ups averaging fifty to sixty miles an hour.

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Martin James Fishing
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