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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


08/02/2020 - Two Sessions of the Float

Richard Carter centre pin


After my exciting experience on the River Soar, I am now back on my home river the Ribble, it was around 1000 hrs on Thursday 6th February when I arrived on the river finding it low and clear, chance of some dace I thought with perhaps some chub, even a big grayling might put in an appearance, the sky was wall to wall blue not a cloud anywhere which was certainly going to cause me a problem with my right eye, as any bright light causes me a problem, hopefully when I have had the cataract done in early March that problem will disappear.

Tackle and Bait

I chose to use my 14 foot Acolyte matched with a Richard Carter centre pin reel with 3 lb breaking strain line with a 3AAA cork on quill Avon float, with a size 16 barbless hook to 2lb breaking strain line, I lightly pinched on a BB shot some six inches up the line from the hook, then placed the 3AAA shot two feet further up the line, after running the float through the swim several time to get the depth I found I had four feet of water, choosing to start off with the bait a few inches off the bottom. My bait was 2 pints of red gentles, I cleaned the gentles off by putting through the riddle, then adding some fresh bran before leaving home, I also had a pint of hemp with some brown crumb ground bait. Having mixed the ground bait to break up near the bottom, I added two handfuls of hemp along with a similar amount of gentles, Two chicken eggs size lumps were dropped in at the head of the swim followed by two small droppers of gentles.

Dace From The Off

I left the swim for some fifteen minutes to allow any fish to move into the area, occasionally catapulting half a dozen gentles well upstream, my plan was once I started fishing I would add a few gentles every cast. On my first cast the float travelled about five yards then slipped below the surface, striking I found myself hook up to the first fish of the session, by the way the fish turned and twisted I though “Grayling” so it turned out to be a fish around the pound mark. In the next five casts I had three more grayling of similar size, then a trout grabbed the bait and ruined the swim as it dashed up and down stream in its quest to escape, eventually I netted the fish around 3lbs, I will be honest, I hate catching out of season trout even if they are triploids.

A Bite Less Half An Hour

I don’t know how many cast I made, trotting the float some twenty yards, with not a sign of a bite, every cast I would put in around a dozen red gentles, apart from fishing close to the bottom I slowly, eased the float down towards the hook every couple of minutes trying all depths in case the fish had come up off the bottom, but sadly nothing. I then went to see what Roger fellow angler was catching, but sadly he hadn’t a single bite even though his swim was one of the best on the beat, in fact it was the one I had hoped to get in, fish can certainly be strange creatures at times. Back in my swim I started off the process, in with a few gentles then cast easing the float through the swim until I could just make out the orange tip, then repeat the process, after about fifteen minutes I got a bites which turned out to be a dace, this was followed by several more fish going 8 to 10 inches. I then hooked a better fish, after a minute or so it was off, certainly a chub by the feel of the fish on the end of the line, I cursed my bad luck. Thankfully the next cast I hooked another chub which when netted would be around 3lbs, I increased the rate of gentles in the swim, to a handful for the next four casts, including putting in three droppers of bait including some ground bait.

Dace and Chub

Over the next hour I caught a succession of dace and chub, the latter no bigger than twelve inches, but fun on light float tackle. I was really enjoying myself taking full advantage of the fish which seemed shoaled some ten yards downstream, I had probably an hours fishing with a fish every second or third trot through the swim. Sadly my right eye was closing and getting painful from the bright sun even though I had polaroid’s. I had to pack up and get home before it was to late, I walked downstream and offer my swim to Roger who gratefully accepted my offer, as he was fishing with corn I gave him my gentles. Within thirty minutes I was pulling into my garage thankful to be safely home.

Saturday 8th February

The weather forecast was bright sunshine until 1100 hrs then cloudy conditions, the river gauge gave a reading of 0.587m, I had a late breakfast then riddled off two pints of red gentles, before making up some brown crumb ground bait with a mixture of hemp and dead gentles which had been scolded. I like to use dead gentles when I can for use in a bait dropper as they can’t crawl away. As the cloud started to build I left home arriving on the river around 1200 hrs, withing half an hour I was I n my chosen swim opposite a small copse sheltered from the wind, the water surface was as smooth as glass with that oily looking surface we usually see around dusk, a few midges were hatching off, there was the odd gentle rise which I put down to grayling taking the emerging midge nymphs, in the trees I could see a buzzard, then a kingfisher zoomed up river to settle on my opposite bank.

My tackle set up was as I used on Thursday, all I needed to do was run the float through a few times to get a starting depth of fishing the bait a couple of inches off the bottom. I then put in two droppers of gentles a few feet downstream then added two chicken egg size balls of ground bait at the head of the swim then started to feed a few gentles every couple of minutes for some fifteen minutes. Through my binoculars I sat and watched the kingfisher on three occasions this fisher returned with what looked like a bull head what amazing birds they are.

Good Grayling

Time to run a baited hook through my swim, the size 16 red coloured hook was baited with a single gentle as often fish will switch on that much they will only taker a single gentle, on my first cast the float had gone no more than ten feet, when it dipped the answering strike connected with what felt like a grayling, soon I had a fish in the net estimated as a pound plus, I heard David say “That a nice fish” it was quickly released, grayling are a very fragile fish and in my opinion shouldn’t be confined to a keepnet, Occasionally if I’m catching good fish, I might leave one in the landing net until I catch another fish for a picture of a brace, but then only if someone if taking pictures, it’s the same with grayling, I never have a picture of a grayling unless someone is with me who can take a quick pic as I’m unhooking the fish. I caught two more grayling of similar size, then hook a trout which dashed all over the swim before I could eventually net the fish about 2lbs. I then had a blank half an hour before I had three more grayling one I thought would go 2lbs but was 1 lb 12 ounces. After another long bit less spell I hooked a good fish well down the swim, the twisting and turning gave me the impression it was a good grayling, slowly but carefully I was getting the fish upstream soon it was just a few feet downstream when I got my first good look at the fish, it made me gasp saying “Bloody hell that a big one” I reckon it was around two and a half pounds plus, a very big grayling. Inch by inch I got the fish closer to the net, then some five feet from the net, the fish twisted then suddenly it was gone. I’ve had many big grayling over the years and I don’t think I was far off over the weight of that fish. I fished on until 1430 hrs then went off home, another good days trotting. With a bad forecast for Sunday with a lot of rain I doubt if I will be able to fish until perhaps Wednesday when it will be sausage meat paste and hunting the chub.

Kingfisher with lunch

Grayling fishing pic by Andy Bleasdale

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Martin James Fishing
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