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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


30/10/2021 - A Few Days Angling With Friends On The Soar

Anthony's 19lb 14 ounce pike

The River Soar, is one of those attractive delights of Leicestershire, a place that takes me back to the 50’s 60’s when I fished similar venues, it’s a river with hundreds of different swims, often flowing over gravel between beds of bulrushes often stretching twenty thirty yards, it’s not like the Fenland rivers, but one that twists and turns with lots of cover from willow, alder, hawthorn, maple, oak and much more, often you have to push your way through head high brambles and nettles, that overhanging deep glide close to the bank, an area so loved by chub. You will often find a twenty thirty forty yard lengths of large willows growing close to the water’s edge with the roots going deep into the river, the branches leaning out, often dipping deep into the water, creating deep dark mysterious looking swims, that scream chub, perch, pike perhaps a barbel. The one fish I seek are roach of a pound and over, as yet I haven’t found them, though I have had lots of fish to around nine inches, but a pound fish has eluded me. My friend Brendan had one around a pound and a half on a large lobworm when fishing for perch. Brendan Mark and myself have fished the river when it’s been over the riverside fields, virtually flooding over the flood bank, catching when others have looked then gone off home.

Perch and Chub

Having fished the river all four seasons for some years, I’ve been lucky to catch my share of good fish, even in the summer I’ve caught more than my share of 5lb plus chub, the best weighed in at 6 lb 2 ounces caught in June, I’d spotted the fish in a shall gravel run between bullrushes, laying on my stomach with just my face over the edge of an eight foot high bank I dropped in a thumb size piece of flake, it floated down stream passed by the chub, the next piece floated downstream as it come within six inches of the fish the chub moved towards the surface then it swirled taking down the bread, then returned to station, I slithered away from the water’s edge to work out a plan of attack. My big problem was netting the fish, if it was hooked. My landing net handle wouldn’t be long enough. I then had a mad plan, “If I hook the fish I would jump off the top of the bank into about two foot of water flowing over gravel”. Once more I was slithering forward on my stomach pushing my rod ahead of me, until I could just peer over the edge of the bank, my prize fish was still on station, baiting the size 4 hook with a thumb size chunk of flake, I lifted the rod slowly then flicked the bait out over the water, it landed twenty feet upstream then floated down stream towards the fish, suddenly the chub, moved towards the bread sucked it in, then turned across the flow, I set the hook, the fight was on. Jumping to my feet I fought the fish for some ten minutes slowly getting it upstream, now was the time to get in the water, grabbing the net I edged forward, then jumped hitting the water and gravel with a thump, my body for some seconds felt like jelly. The fish thankfully was still on, after a couple of minutes it was mine. Now I had to get back up the bank, biting through the line I thrust my rod javelin like up the bank, then slowly pushed my way upstream against the fast flow dragging net and fish. For some twenty yards I struggled against the fast flow, also having to push my way through the thick crowfoot towards a weir pool. I then spotted a place where the bank sloped upward covered in nettles. I had no choice, except to grab hold of them, slowly pulling myself net and chub up the bank, eventually getting to the top. Running down to my tackle bag I grabbed the scales and weigh bag, zeroing the scales I got a reading of 6 lb 2 ounces my best Soar chub to date, punching the air saying “Yes Yes I’ve done it” I also had a 5 lb 4 ounce fish that day. It’s a river where I have also caught a lot of decent perch, my best at 3 lbs 3 ounces from a bank high river.

It Was Off Fishing

This trip I was very fortunate to spend a few days on the River Soar starting with my friends, sadly Tam Miller a serving British Army officer couldn’t attend as he had been struck down by Covid 19. Mark Sarul and Brendan Ince were with me for day one, we were then joined by my friend Matt Minter from Suffolk for a day’s fishing on the Sunday, with Anthony Morris arriving on Monday. On the first day Mark, Brendan and myself had a few hours on the river, I went off roving, putting in a handful of mash to break up alongside a long length of bulrushes, I moved a few yards upstream sat down well back from the water to put my tackle together, an 11 foot 6 inch soft Avon action rod, small fixed spool reel with 10lb braid, putting a float stop on the line, with a Palomar knot I attached a size 4 Gripz hook moulded some plasticine around the float stop, I sat and waited for things to quieten down. Fifteen minutes later I cast out a chunk of crust allowing it to slowly move downstream alongside the bulrushes, within two minutes I felt a determined pull then set the hook into a good fish. A minute or so after netting and weighing the fish at 3 lb 15 ounces Mark appeared, he must have the eyes of a hawk, he was fishing a hundred yards upstream. After a picture the fish was returned. I then went off roving, trying various spots over a mile of river, ending my session with a total of six chub between 3 lb 8 ounces and 3 lb 15 ounces so ending a good first day. The next day Brendan, Mark and myself caught perch chub, it was a shorter session. Tonight Mark’s wife Andrea had arranged for several of us to have dinner at a very nice restaurant, were we were also joined by Matt and Rosie, sadly Tam Miller as mentioned couldn’t attend. The food was good, the company most excellent, I’d probably hadn’t laughed as much for years during that eventful evening. Thank you Andrea for a great evening.

Matt Gets Into Action

On Sunday I had great pleasure to host Matt on the river, he is an exceptionally good angler, I well remember Matt catching a big double figure barbel from the Thames at Tadpole Bridge, in conditions that put most anglers off, Matt had travelled from Ramsgate in Kent to this upper Thames venue, venue that he often fishes, the first time I met Matt was on the Thames 4 years ago on my 80th birthday when many good anglers gathered to share my birthday, Colin Culley presented me with an Abbey Avon I had wanted for some time. That day Tam Miller caught a very big 6 lb plus chub, as Richard Carter of centre pin fame. remarked “It was the biggest chub I’ve ever seen it was huge” That evening 12 of us sat down to a birthday treat dinner in a 15th Century Inn, where all my birthday guests received from me, a presentation case of three beautiful made swan quill suitably inscribed by Mark Sarul, that was the night Colin Culley couldn’t find his bedroom having had to many whiskeys as did several others, for me as usual it was iced water and lemon slices.


As Matt and I walked downstream showing him various swims he was drooling and getting desperate to get started. I said “Hold your patience until you have seen some more swims” Eventually we walked back upstream to the first swim, his tackle was a 15 foot Drennan Acolyte matched with a hand built centre pin with 4lb line to which was attached a wire stemmed stick float also a size 10 hook to complete the set up. I have seen and fished with some amazing anglers, Matt is up there with some of them, in his first six casts he caught six chub about 12 to 14 ounces, continuing like that for around two hours. He then chose to fish a quiver tip outfit with a small cage feeder filled with crumbed bread, baiting with bread, it was the same story numerous fish, mainly chub with a few around the 2 lbs mark. I then decided I would go off and fish, as I got up off the ground I said to myself “He is a very good angler” I fished a spot tight to some bulrushes with a 1BB shot float size 8 Gripz hook with lobworm as bait, ending up with a few perch best at 2 lb 9 ounces also some nice chub, nothing big but most enjoyable.

Anthony Morris from Manchester who shares the same birthday as I do, travelled down early on Monday morning arriving around 0830 hrs, after visiting the local Bennetts shop to collect some bait, ground bait and hemp, we headed off to the river. After parking up Brendan said “I’m heading off home” as he drove off, we loaded ourselves with tackle and bait then headed off to the river, after a long trek across the fields we arrived at our destination, Mark went well off downstream, Anthony and myself fished upstream, we both caught chub and perch from the off, today I caught my best chub of 4lb 9 ounces of the trip caught on two lobworms, when targeting a big perch that had swirled close to the bulrushes, no doubt chasing a bait fish, within minutes of casting out, I hooked a good fish, sadly it wasn’t the big perch, but a good chub, I was more that happy. As Mark has a long trip home he leaves early to miss the build-up of traffic on the M1 and M69, I can well understand Mark leaving early having experienced the traffic. Later I learnt that Mark had caught some nice perch, all to soon it was dusk time to pack up and head off for our hotel and a hot shower.

Lots Of Fish With A Big Surprise

Today we started off with an excellent breakfast far better than I have experienced on my many trips south, over breakfast Anthony said “I would like to try and catch some bream” After parking up, I sorted Anthony out with plenty of mash bread, also some sardines so he could fish for a pike if he wanted. After he got all he needed, I walked him well upstream to an area I had caught bream myself in the past, he was lucky the swim he wanted to fish was free of Pennywort, an obnoxious immigrant plant that has no place in the British countryside. I suggested he fish a pike bait some twenty feet downstream no more than ten feet out from the bulrushes, then fish towards the rushes on the opposite bank for the bream, having made sure he had all he needed I headed off for a long trek downstream. I’d planned a day’s trotting today for chub feeding heavily with mashed bead with lots of chopped worms even if they cost 20P each as Mark informed me of the price, I was quite shocked at the price, but they are well worth it. After a long trek I arrived at my chosen swim, the water was pushing hard downstream, then swept across towards my inside high bank sheltered by lots of willows and snags.


My tackle was a 14 foot Acolyte, matched with a Richard Carter Classic Avon centre pin reel with fifty yards of fresh 5lb line loaded yesterday, I then added a balsa body on a plastic stem float taking 4 AAA 2BB shot, the AAA’s were bunched two feet up from a size 8 hook with BB’s a foot from the hook, these floats were made for me by Russ Shaw, who is not only a very good angler, but a real nice guy. Having got myself sorted out, I sat and fed the swim every few minutes for about half an hour, apart from the bread mash and worms, I also kept putting in a thumb nail size piece of flake. I then left everything to settle down for about fifteen minutes, so many anglers lose their chance of making a good catch, by being to in patience and start fish from the off. In icy cold weather with low water temperatures, the same anglers throw in luncheon meat or pellets, not realising the digestive rate of the fish slows down so they don’t eat so much. Under these conditions I just fish a baited hook until I find out if extra feed is needed. I’d left Anthony about ninety minutes ago, when I got a call to say “I’ve got a big pike my biggest every fresh water fish 19 lbs 14 ounces, I said “ Well done you have made my day. Your what I call an honest angler, most others would probably claim a twenty”

After having a chat with Anthony it was time to start fishing, baiting with a thumb nail size piece of breads flake then made a cast across towards the far bank and the faster water I hen trotted the float downstream watching it drifting across to my bank with the flow, as it dipped, my strike connected with a chub around 1.5 lbs, in the next few casts five more fish similar size of the first, one I estimated at 2 lbs. A bait change to a lobworm and soon I had a perch of about 12 ounces, throughout the day I caught a mixture of chub and perch, bread I got chub, lobs I got chub and perch, though the perch were no bigger than a pound, so I concentrated on the chub with bread catching quite a few two pound fish with an occasional fish pushing 3lbs. I really was enjoying myself, I enjoy float fishing , though on the Ribble I don’t have many areas where I can float fish, except for grayling, ledgering is the best way to get the bigger chub. All to soon it was dusk and time to pack up, I reckon I had some fifty sixty pounds of fish, it had been great, I will enjoy dinner and sleep tonight.

Bream Turn Up In My Swim

Today was Anthony’s and my birthday, I hoped I would at least catch one fish on such an occasion, its not every day one if 84 years old slowly heading for my target of 90 years when I hope to do a tandem parachute jump with the Parachute Regiment Red Devils over Salisbury Plain and raise a lot of money for The Army Benevolent Fund, as I did on my 79th birthday. The wind was forecast to reach 40-50 mph coming from a south westerly direction, I was more than happy, I’ve always found it’s a good wind for coarse angling, but of course not for fly fishing as it can be difficult for casting, it’s under these condition when I often revert to shooting the line on the back cast. Anthony went upstream I went downstream, to fish a swim I’d fished every day, sometimes for just a short session, so a regular supply of bait had been going in, hopefully some chub or perch would be attracted to the area. The wind today would be blowing from behind me, as I was fishing below a high bank I had no problems with fishing a 1BB shot float, an Avon action rod with 6lb line with a size 6 Gripz hook. After getting myself sorted out and in position, I spent some time feeding chopped worms and red gentles, overhead I counted five red kites working the thermals, several Emperor dragonflies, known as hawkers, with the warm south westerly wind, it was very pleasant sitting in my swim the temperature out of the wind was extremely warm, I got a water temperature of 58 degrees F, sadly the water was clear, but we can’t have everything. I started off catching some perch and chub around the pound mark, then I spotted a large patch of bubbles in an area where due to the current formation I had an area of virtually still water in an area of some 4 yards square, I immediately decided to explore the area as I felt the bubbles might have been caused by bream. Checking the depth I moved the float a further two feet up the line, I was now fishing around eight feet of water. Baiting with a lobworm I cast out immediately the float went under, not a bream but a pound perch, I caught two more in the next two casts, but persevered feeling bream were in the area. I then got a call from Anthony that he had caught a pike around 8lbs and several perch. I reckon I waited some thirty minutes before I got my next bite as the float glided across the surface then submerged, soon I had my first bream in the net, I enjoy catching river bream as they are not slimy like their still water relatives. I called Anthony to tell him the news, within minutes he was at the top of the bank, my camera battery had died on me, so Anthony shot a pic for me. On and off over the next three hours I had seven more bream, along with a few more chub and perch, as I sat waiting for the next bite, I thought “How pleased I was that I’d asked Mark to get me a hundred lobworms about 3 years ago”, the worms are purchased from an Essex company which import them from Canada, they are certainly the best I’ve ever used, far better than I’ve had from most tackle shops. During the winter I keep them in my bait fridge set at 40 degrees F for around three months, Mark does the same.


During the last hour I had several bites where the float bobbed, dip, move across the surface an inch or two, then submerge, striking nothing, all I had was a bare hook. This happened several times, I got to the stage of waiting for the rod tip to move, the float now well out of sight striking, still nothing. An hour later I had a similar bite set the hook, the rod hooped over as the reel grudgingly yielded line, at last a good fish, five minutes later it went fast across the river deep into the bulrushes. Pulling from various directions I couldn’t budge it, eventually I got my tackle back minus the hook. I didn’t and still don’t have a clue as to what the fish was, I had a similar incident three years ago as David Hurst and Wayne Cryer sat watching me fish. With the light fading I called it a day. Certainly a memorable birthday trip for both Anthony and myself. Also a big thank you to Mark for making it happen, also for the sandwiches each day for lunch.


We started each day with a good breakfast

Matt in action

MJ's best chub of the week

The swim I fished at least one session a day

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Martin James Fishing
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