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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


12/10/2020 - A Tough Week For Angling



Monday 5th October the river had dropped from 1,257m on Sunday at 1600hrs, Monday morning at 0600hrs it was 0.878m I arrived on the river bank 0830hrs to find a very dirty river with a lot of rubbish going through, after walking about a mile I found a fairly slow area of water extending out from the bank about four feet and some five yards in length, sitting well back from the waterside with about the top foot of the river overhanging the bank, tackle consisted of an Avon action rod with a copy 1939 Aerial reel made for my by Watermole, without the line guard, I had about forty yards of 6lb line to which I attached two float stops which I use for moulding plasticine round, then tied on a size 4 barbless hook with a Palomar knot.

Two Bite less Hours

Having sorted out the weight I needed to allow me to work the bait down the swim, I put in two free offerings of sausage meat paste, then baited with a lump of the smelly paste, I dropped the bait in the swim about two feet from the bank in what I reckon was five feet of water, the beauty of using a centre pin reel is you have total control of the line coming off the reel. I was able to slowly work the bait down the swim, every five minutes or so I would lift to bait off the bottom allowing it to go about two feet, it took around thirty minutes to search the length of the swim, I repeated the process all over again and again, after searching the swim thoroughly, I decided to bring in the tackle, then went off for a walk further downstream looking for a suitable piece of water. After some fifteen minutes I gave up the search and moved off to another beat, Twenty minutes later I’m once again walking the river bank, having walked the whole length and not finding any suitable water, I gave up and went home quite disappointed.

Tuesday 6th Early this morning I had a call from a client who wanted to try and catch a salmon, sadly the river wasn’t suitable for fly fishing so I suggested he try spinning, he agreed so we arranged to meet at 1039hrs, after rummaging through my garage I found a box of Toby lures used years previously when I fished for bass, along the Sussex coast, especially around Beachy Head, also other areas of Sussex and Kent coast. I then packed lunch for bott of us then set off for the river, as the rain continued to fall from as leaden grey sky. After a brew we got dressed in our water proofs then made up the tackle needed, before loading it all in the back of the vehicle with the rod sticking out the back and headed off to the beat where we would try for a salmon. As we walked up river through numerous large area of flooded fields with the rain still falling we discussed the prospects, though they didn’t look good, we looked on the bright side. I said “If you don’t have a fly or lure in the water there is no chance of catching”

A Hook Up

We started at the top of the beat, slowly walking downstream covering all areas of the water, slow and fast stretches along the far bank midstream close in still no takes, but we carried on despite the conditions, the water was very slowly creeping up, eventually we come to quite a big bend on the outside on the far side of the river the water was flowing a lot slower with lots of over hanging trees with some branches trailing in the water, I said “Make a long parallel cast over to the other side into that quiet area of water, by using a parallel you will have less chance of ending up in the branches’ On the third cast just as the lure was coming out of the slow water into the faster water, Andrew got a hit, the rod tip was pulled downwards as line was taken off the reel. Ten minutes later a fish swirled on the surface in midstream, he was hooked up to a nice grilse. Slowly line was being won back, then the fish moved towards to slower water on our bank, good I thought I reckon he will win this fight. Sadly several minutes later the line went slack as the rod tip spang back. I was quite shocked as I thought the fish would be landed. We fished on covering lots of suitable water with no more takes so called it a day.

Wednesday 7th Bill was my pupil, he arrived with a couple of rods one a greenheart, the other split bamboo, the latter, after some work would make a good tench rod, my plan was to take off all but the butt and tip guides which were agate lined, replace the intermediate guides with high bells. Today’s lesson was hoping to get Bill making a single haul cast upstream, then retrieve the line as the fly drifted downstream, conditions were not good with the wind often gusting to 20mph, Despite the conditions he was making some fish catching casts, then retrieving the line to keep in contact with the fly without causing the fly to drag. After a couple of hours I sorted lunch of toasted cheese and pickle sandwiches with mugs of tea. We had an hours lunch break where I told him more about the art of fly fishing, he was a keen pupil, I reckon when the season starts next year he will be better than the average fly angler. After a tough afternoon session with even more windy condition we packed up at 1600 hrs and headed off home.

Thursday 8th Another day of rain showers some very heavy a fast rising river, I didn’t fancy my chances but I was determined to give it a try. My problem was finding a suitable that looked as if it might hold a fish or two, as I walked the river bank I spotted a couple of small areas of water that would probably produce a fish, but it entailed a three mile walk six miles in total, I would certainly struggle to get back to my starting spot. Eventually I found an areas of slower water which I chose to fish, only one bait today that's my smelly sausage meat with a new flavour Ocean Pride, I’d often thought of trying this flavour but never got round to using it.

Tackle Choice

As I was going to fish no more than a rod length out, my choice was an Avon action rod, a copy 1939 Aerial reel without the line guard, I’d about forty yards of 6lb line, after attaching two float stops I tried on a size 4 barbless hook with a Palomar knot. Moulding a piece of plasticine around the float stop I made a cast to see if I had the weight correct, adjusting the amount several time I eventually felt it would be ideal for rolling the bait downstream. Having fished a three hour session with no interest, I chose to move to another beat. Having walked the beat and not finding a spot I thought might produce a chub I chose to call it a day.

Friday 9th I’m back on the river again this time it was more coloured and rising fast with very heavy rain showers, yes I’m a glutton for punishment, but if I wasn’t on the river what else could I do, at least I get lots of exercise, see the wildlife and get out in the fresh air, I’m not one for sitting in an armchair watching a TV screen. I chose a spot that I thought might just produce a fish, tackle and bait were as the day before, having put in a couple of free offering of sausage meat paste, I dropped the bait out a few feet downstream then sat holding the rod, slowly working the bait through the swim. At the end of the swim I would strike off the bait rebait and commence the process all over again.

Was A Kingfisher My Lucky Omen?

About half an hour later as I was talking to Dave Hurst, a kingfisher settled on a willow branch no more that six feet away, a minute later it dived returning with a bullhead, which was wacked on the branch then devoured, a few seconds later it fluffed up its feathers as if to say “That was good” a minute later it flew away, as it did so I got a pull striking I felt a fish saying to Dave “I’ve got to go I’m into a fish” as I dropped the phone in my bag. A few minutes later I netted a chub about 3lbs still the rain was beating down as the wind speed increased. Unhooking my prize I lowered the net into the water and watched it swim away. Twenty minutes later I got a second chub about the size of the first which again was quickly returned, no way was I going to get my camera out in these rough windy wet conditions. On my next cast after striking off the bait, I wound in the tackle to rebait to find something attached to the hook I was puzzled a to what it was it looked like bright gold leaf, I then recognised it as a rare golden minnow, the first I have ever seen. Thankfully the barbless hook didn’t cause it any harm as it was hooked in the tail. An hour later I packed up as the weather didn’t look like improving, so ended my week on the river.


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Martin James Fishing
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