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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


06/03/2020 - Another Day On The Pool

Snow covered roach swim just after dawn


Sunday 23rd February, for the past two days I’ve not been able to do very much, on Friday I found I didn't have a lot of coordination I was stumbling and falling over quite frequently, my vision wasn't good, at 1400 hrs I went back to bed as I thought this was the safest option, sadly it wasn't such a good idea as the bed was going round and round, at times I felt I was in a small boat in a rough sea. Thankfully after an hour or so I fell asleep where I stopped until late on Saturday afternoon.

It was around 1700 hours when I got up, had a shower but thankfully feeling a bit better, but still unsteady on my feet but greatly improved from Friday. I sat in the armchair reading and drinking tea, then went off to bed at around 1930 hrs. Around 0700 hrs on Sunday morning I went down stairs for breakfast feeling a lot better, in fact back to my normal self. There had been snow over night, I grabbed the camera then went outside to shoot some pictures, it didn’t look very good for fishing. Breakfast over and despite the rough weather of snow and hail showers I had a slow walk around the lake finding it quite chilly with cat ice in an area sheltered from the wind, especially where I planned to fish for roach, an hour later I went off with the dog to give her some exercise including retrieving dummies, after a good work out for both of us, we returned to the house. Around 1130 hrs for some tea and cheese on toast.

Suddenly Its Bright Sunshine

Surprisingly an hour later the weather quite dramatically turned brighter with sunshine and blue sky, the lake surface was smooth as glass. It was time to go fishing, I started off by slowly walking around the lake looking for carp, I found one at the top end of the lake where a stream flowed in, though the stream was now a quite a torrent. I went back and collected, my carp fishing gear also some bread, back at the top end of the lake the fish a common estimated around 15lbs was still motionless in the water. I changed to a size 6 hook then baited with bread flake, having dunked it a few times until it started to sink I moved back to where the fish was, gently dropping the bait two feet in front of the carp, with just a tiny plop, as it slowly went beneath the surface the fish moved forward very slowly inch by inch but also slowly submerging, I thought to myself “It’s going to take the bait”, it veered slightly to the right and eventually disappeared in the coloured water, I sat with bated breath, I could sense the excitement, expecting the line to twitch at any moment. Thirty or so minutes later, I gave up all hope of that fish taking the flake, slowly taking in the line, the bait was just about intact looking like a blob of cotton wool. It was a disappointed angler who walked back to the house as I really did think that fish was mine.

A Roach Fishing Session

Back at the house I exchanged the carp fishing tackle, for roach fishing gear which was already set up for float fishing, from the fridge I collected a box of red gentles along with a small bag of bread punch also a bag of brown crumb from the fridge. At the lake I chose a swim where there were some brown sedges and dead lilies leaves all black and slimy, unlike the crinkled like a cabbage leaves, I learnt about in Angling Times through Dick Walker’s quote “Fishing among the cabbages” My still water cabbage leaves are still an attraction for roach as they hold a lot of tiny aquatic food items, the lily leaf pictured is from a river. I chose to fish about two rod lengths out, throwing in half a dozen gentles every cast, with an occasional pigeon egg size ball of brown crumb which hopefully would explode in midwater. On my third cast I had a lift bite connecting with a roach about 6 ounces, in the next dozen or so casts I had ten more roach of similar size, with one fish I put at around 10 ounces, I was at times catching a fish on every cast with several ”Goers” I was more than happy, I'd planned to fish the last hour of day light with bread in the hope of finding a better fish. If I didn’t find any bigger fish, I wouldn't shed any tears, I was enjoying the sport. If there is a better fish to catch on a cold winters day I don't know what it is, for me roach have always been my number one winter fish, but sadly the numbers are nothing like in my first 40 years of life.

Bread On The Hook

The time was 1625 when I changed over to fishing bread, I started by switching from the size 16 hook to a size 14 hook, then threw in a pigeon egg size ball of brown crumb, followed up with a small piece of flake, after about ten minutes the float slowly moved across the surface, lifting the rod I found myself hooked up to a roach which was soon landed a fish about 8 ounces, I then had three more fish of about 6 ounces, followed by a ten minute spell with no bites, I put in another small ball of brown crumb, soon I was catching again including two fish I reckon would have weighed 10 ounces, fin and scale perfect with that lovely electric blue sheen across the back. I didn't want the day to end. As dusk settled over the water some good roach rolled on the surface. Often a rare sight these days with the shortage of this species. It was a fish a cast for the last thirty minutes of daylight, until it wasn’t possible to see the float, I pinched a small bit of flake on the line as a bite indicator, for an hour in the dark I missed more bites that I hooked , suddenly everything went quiet, not a fish rolled not a bite so ended the session.

Looking to the Future

I reckon what we need are a lot more Trev and Budgie Avon roach project schemes which have been a great success, along with a far bigger cull of Cormorants and Goosanders than we have today which is wilfully low, if these predators were taking song birds there would certainly be a major cull.

Some Notes From The Past

Looking back over my years of roach fishing, I well remember a day on the Medway at Nettlestead, the ground was frozen solid and snow covered with a bitterly cold east wind, I’d walked over a mile downstream from Yalding looking for a swim where I thought I might get some roach, I found the swim a small bay with lilies and cabbages, cat ice in the margins, the depth was around eight feet, having tackle up I fished laying on with goose quill float, size 10 hook with bread cube as bait, in the fading light I had my first bite catching a pound plus roach, I caught several more good roach including three over the two pound mark. I fished many good roach waters all over the South and the East of England. I often fished the Rive Stour at Wimborne from a punt hired at Newman’s boatyard, after several years I met Owen Wentworth a local postman but above all a very good angler, who had caught many 2lb roach through meeting Owen I got to know more about river roach fishing, I was also shown the smaller River Allen, again a good roach water. In fact I got to fish a lot of the Stour upstream of Wimborne especially the Southampton Piscatorial water, my first quarry every time were roach with bread always the number one bait. I let other anglers concentrate on the barbel. Phil please note, for my next piece from house sitting, I will write about my search for a big perch, as I have been able to get hold of a hundred lobworms.




My roach swim in bright sunshine

i never get tired of catching roach like this one

Cabbage leaf from a river

Normally a trickle, not today.

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Martin James Fishing
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