fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


08/09/2020 - A Very Happy Two Days

My best tench

It was back in March when I last had the opportunity to travel to another angling venue other the Ribbble, for twelve weeks I was isolated in the house and garden, I sorted out an exercise regime of 30 to 40 minutes three times a day with my doctor, I also done some gardening planting potatoes carrots onions and beetroot, sadly I was only able to harvest a total of nine small potatoes and three spring onions, it was a total disaster, but it did help me to get through this lockdown period. Then my doctor made a surprise call and told me I could go to my stretch of the river Ribble provided I was on my own. That wasn’t a problem I shut off oner beat for myself. Yes I caught some nice trout, but I did feel lonely and wanted to travel. My cottage booking was cancelled, so no River Beult for the start of the season, though if the cottage had been available I was refused permission to travel.

Off To Dreamland

Some five weeks ago my doctor suggested it would do me good to get away for a few days angling with some friends, at last a chance to meet some very good friends, the rules were the driver would have to wear a face mask, also he wanted to know where I was going to stay. I immediately spoke to Colin (Bumble) Culley and Dave Hurst, who both immediately agreed it would be a good idea, on this instance I didn’t want to fish a river, but a still water where I had the chance of Roach or tench, Colin said “I have just the water” I then spoke with David who agreed with me on some dates, we chose to fish September 4th 5th and 6th September, if we could find a suitable B&B but not a Travel Lodge or similar, Colin got to work and a few hours later called to say he had found a suitable B&B, David called to find they had a double room with lots of rules and regulations which pleased me, my doctor checked also it out, giving me the ok. The the Pilgrims guest house in Newbury was booked, certainly a good name for we travellers. I then ordered 6 pints of caster 4 pints of red gentles and a 50 redworms with 4 pints of hemp. The day before I left home, I made up three lunch boxes sandwiches, three boil in the bag meals for everyone, as a treat some special sausage rolls for David and Colin. Friday 4th David collected me at 0630 hrs, after a hassle free drive we arrived in Newbury at 11-30 hrs, ready to visit paradise.

The Pool Had Everything I Wanted

Colin was waiting for us at the gate to the pool, a circular water of two acres, tree surrounded, with several large areas of Lillie pads with white flowers, the water surface was unruffled, that’s how it stayed during our stay. Conditions were perfect light south-westerly wind over cast sky for much of the day. Walking around the pool, an odd tree could be seen in the water, there was lots of overhanging foliage, brambles and nettles, several small patches of pin head bubbles could be seen, the odd fish swirled on the surface, three coots were quietly moving around the pool, occasionally one would dive, but today they were not quarrelsome as usual. We had the water to ourselves, certainly best described as paradise. I said to David “If I could find a water to lease like this back home, I would pay a £1000-00 a year” David immediately agreed. Getting on this water would like being breaking into a prison, with its high wire mesh fence topped off by barbed wire. Having checked out the pool, we collected our tackle, bait, food and drink from the car, I wouldn't need to catch to enjoy this delightful pool, but hopefully I would. BB would certainly wax lyrical about the venue.

The three of us were well spread out around the water, having our own little paradise where we could dream and imagine a big fish cruising in our swim, my swim was in a corner two yards to my left the bank was over hung with brambles, nettles, and willows many with branches leaning well out over the water, just six feet to my right a tree was in the water reaching well out into the pool, I was seclude from the world, sitting on my basket I took in the sight smells and sounds including several wood pigeon cooing in the trees, my mind went back to when I was about 11 years of age, granddad Turner had booked a cottage in Hawkhurst in the Weald of Kent for five weeks of the summer holiday for all the family, he also arranged for me to roam on some nearby farmland with my air rifle, also to fish some hammer ponds as I think they were called which were full of roach with some rudd and perch.

After about ten minutes in dreamland, I got back to the present, then catapulted in a pint of casters, along with pint of hemp. Moving back from the water’s edge I tackled up with an Andrew Davies Roach Perfection matched with my “Beult” centre made by Watermole with 3lb line, then attached a reed float made by Mark Sarul bottom end only, then attached a size 16 barbless hook, an LG shot pinched on the hook as a plummet I found around four feet three rod length out, 2 AAA were lightly pinched on the line two feet below the float, 2 number 1 shot were spread ten inches apart further down the line with a number 1 shot six inches from the hook, leaving the float showing a quarter of an inch above the surface. Having arranged everything where I need it, I made a brew, sitting on my basket I took in the sights, smells and sounds for the next half an hour, hopefully for the roach to move in to feed in peace.

Roach and Perch

On my first cast, the bait of caster had been in the water just a few seconds, the float slowly moved across the surface, striking I found I’d caught a roach about six inches taken on the drop, in the next couple of hours I had a succession of similar size roach, some perch, probably the best around goer size of nine inches, included in this hectic period were three small crucians no more than a few ounces. I tried two or three caster on the hook, a combination of red worm and caster, two red worms with corn, corn and sausage meat paste, I fished from the bottom to a foot below the surface all depths in between, same old result.

I Reckon The Fish Were Feeding On Bloodworm

As I wasn’t seeing any patches of pin head bubbles but strings of larger bubbles, the size of a five pence piece, I felt there were tench in the area feeding on bloodworm, I’d seen this before in clear water, it’s fascinating to watch them, they move quickly downwards rubbing their body into the soft bottom dislodging all manner of fine rubbish, taking in a mouthful of blood worm nymphs etc excluding the rubbish through their gills. If more angler spent more time watching how fish react to baits etc, their catches I am sure would improve especially on those tough days at the waterside. I chopped up some redworms into tiny quarter inch pieces, which I added to some fine crumb ground bait which would quickly break up on the bottom, as I’d tested it close in where I could observe the reaction. I moved the float up a foot on the line so I was well over depth. It was time for a brew and toasted cheese sandwich also a walk to see David and Colin, David had three tench around 2lbs some roach and perch similar in size to mine. Colin had a similar result but with a better tench around 3lbs.

A Good Reward

I got back to my swim at 1600 hrs, after resting it for some 45 minutes, it was time to start fishing, baiting with two tiny pieces of red worm on a size 18 hook, pushed up above the spade end hook so they were in fact on the line, I then added two floating casters to overcome the weight of the hook and cast out. I sat holding the rod, willing for the float to move, I reckon it was thirty minutes later when the float started to move across the surface towards a patch of lilies, I set the hook into as fish which I immediately realised I’d hooked a tench. For some minutes It was a case of me pulling the fish away from the lilies then the fish going back, I called to David “Got a good tench” Slowly I started to win this contest, the beauty of a soft rod is you can feel every movement, even more so with a centre pin, far better than any fixed spool reel. Suddenly the fish dashed towards the tree in the water to my right, I quickly buried the rod tip well under the water, hoping ther fish would stay deep and away from the branches, then I suddenly felt the line grating, taking as good look in the area I could see the tree was on a patch of lilies, a bad mistake on my part in not noticing this danger zone. I then noticed the float tangles in some branches, by this time David arrived, for several minutes I tried every trick in the book, saying to David, “If I had my chest high waders in I’d go in the water” the fish would take a few feet of line, then I would get it back, this went on for some time. I then thought of Dick Walker who had once told me to grab the line and move it in a sawing motion, it had worked often in the past for me, but then it was usually weed. Today I had Lillie roots and branches to contend with, I gave it a try, handing the rod to David, I grabbed the line commencing the sawing motion, for some time I could feel the fish but slowly I was gaining some line, David said “The float is free from the branches” this was my main worry, I gave a sigh of relief I was winning. A couple of minutes later with a large dose of luck I had the fish free, grabbing the rod from David I started the operation of getting the fish into the net. Soon we got as good look at my adversary a love coloured autumn tench soon it was in the net. David’s word were “That’s the best bit of angling I have ever seen” on the scales it weighed 4 lb 11 ounces. I thought that will do me lets go off to the B&B so we could change then head off to Colins house for a suet steak pudding with all the trimmings. The end of a lovely day on a peaceful pool with two very good friends.

The Pudding

We arrived at Colin’s house to once again meet Sarah his wife and their daughter Zara, what a lovely family they are, I was immediately given a mug of tea, while David had a pint. Soon the moment I'd waited for happened as Colin presented the pudding on a plate, even better was he had made it from whole meal flour, he realised I shouldn’t have products with white flower, that’s what a caring man he is. We left around 2200 hrs for our B&B saying “what a great evening it had been” Thank you Colin, Sarah and Zara.

Day Two

We were joined at the B&B for breakfast by Collin, they chose the American breakfast of waffles bacon eggs with whole meal toast, I had bacon, poached eggs, grilled tomatoes with toast. Today I was feeling a unsteady on my feet also slightly light headed, half an hour we were on our way to the pool in bright sunshine, I elected to fish the same swim as the previous day with the sun in my eyes, but I could cope with polarised glasses, today I changed from my trilby to a bowler hat, rod was a Fred J Taylor I’d not used since the late 1960’s on the River Beult, the reel was the same as yesterday as was the float. I catapulted in a pint of casters, along with pint of hemp then left the swim to quieten down. It was a hard day just a few roach and perch similar in size to the previous day, after some about 4 hrs I had a walk around the pool, in fact more like stumbled my way, David had lots of bubbling in his swim, but no way could he get a bite except small perch and roach, today he was using his cane rod for the first time, so was desperate to get a tench. The high spot for me was watching a grandfather with his two grandsons fishing opposite, it was lovely hearing them say “Got another fish” with lots of laughing as grandad sat watching the fun, they also had a lot of crawfish, on two occasions they had a small roach with a crayfish attached. I walked round to have a chat with the family saying “Its so nice to see the family out fishing” after a few minutes I left them to their fun, long may they continue with the sport. When I got back to my swim I noticed the casters smelt a bit, immediately put two and two together and realised they were off, so decided to move swims. I put in some cloud ground bait mix with lots of finely chopped red worms, putting the bait into a spot about a foot from the edge of the lilies, within ten minutes there were bubbles the size of a five pence piece, soon I was catching small roach, after a while I spotted a tench roll tight to the pads. Rebaiting I dropped the bait virtually within inches of the rolling fish, I sat concentrating on the float. Fifteen minutes later the float lifted I set the hook into what I immediately knew it was a tench a few minutes later it weas in the net, on the scales it weighed 3 lb 15 ounces, it was my last cast of the trip as I wasn’t feeling well David said “We should return home” In bed that night I felt it was going round and round, speaking with my doctor next day he felt it was vertigo. Just part of life but I will be on the river later this week.



The pudding

MJ fishing

David fishing with cane rod

Granddad and grandsons

Back to the News List

Martin James Fishing
Email: [email protected]