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


09/07/2022 - Three days On The Soar

Mark's best chub at 4 lb 9 ounces


Tony Koziol and Mark Sarul were my two companions on my second trip to the lovely River Soar, we arrived at the Cedars for breakfast at 0800hrs after leaving Lancashire at 0530hrs, though its only around 130 miles, we had a long length of the M6 where there was a 50 mph, but it’s certainly worth the long drive to fish such a beautiful river, that really does make me feel a lot better when I return home after a few days. The Cedars hotel in Loughborough, is the perfect for anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the great outdoors. After breakfast we followed Mark to the river, without Mark’s help some years ago I would never have been able to unlock the secrets of this river, a water he has fished all his angling life. Tony commented to me after his first trip to the river, “As you walk along a length of the river you find attractive swims at every turn, I have never seen a river with so much aquatic life, in one day I counted 22 bird species” Tony from Stockport has been fishing for 48 years, having caught most UK freshwater species in his angling life, he works as a self-employed gardener, so can often snatch a few hours fishing when conditions are perfect on his local water. This past winter he caught his first double figure barbel from probably the hardest river for catching big barbel in the North West. Currently he is enjoying tench fishing, having caught his long time target of 7 lbs in April this year. Another target is a 5lb+ Chub which hopefully he will achieve this on my water during the autumn or winter.

Good Chub For Mark and Tony

Within two hours of fishing both Mark and Tony had a good chub both fish weighing 4 lb 9 ounces Tony’s and Mark’s chub were some five hundred yards apart, it was certainly a coincidence they both caught chub of exactly the same weight at the start of their first session. My idea was to float fish a swim well downstream, but before doing so, I had to do some hard work in making the swim fishable, thankfully I had a rope and dog spike to help me get down the steep bank, cutting my way through bramble, nettles, bullrushes and reedmace. I reckon it was well worth the two hours of hard graft, to clear an area, to fish the swim of my choice, where I could lay a bait tight to some lilies and cabbages, with masses of bullrushes to my left and right. In the right conditions you can expect some good perch, chub and bream, today I was going to use the lift method. In fact I was extremely lucky to capture the float lifting out of the water when a bream picked up the bait. My bait selection was hemp, sweetcorn, lobworms and red gentles in my tackle bag I also had some bread.

Tackle used was a 12 foot rod, centre pin reel 3lb bs line with a quill float taking 2 AA and 1 BB, hook was a spade end size 12 with 18 inches of line kindly tied for me by Mark, as I have no feeling in my fingertips, I joined the hook link to line with the loop to loop system as described in Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing a wonderful book that sold 2 million copies, I was lucky being awarded the school book prize in my last year, How? “I will never know” my grandson now reads the book. Within minutes I was catching small perch, roach and chub, with an occasional 12 ounce perch, I wasn’t bothered by size, I just wanted to see the float keep moving with another fish being the result. If you don’t have bigger fish in the swim, you have to contend with what is available, but hopefully some better quality fish would move in. Around 1500 hrs I had the perfect lift bite the float rising well out of the water, the answering strike connected with what felt like a heavy fish, that slowly moved to my right heading out into the deeper water, for several minutes the fish moved outwards, it was a fight of give and take, as I was forced to yield line, a short time later I was able to win the line back, convinced it was a good bream. Suddenly it was gone, retrieving the tackle I could see some mucus on the line, yes certainly a bream, I was quite gutted to say the least. After a brew, it was back to fishing once more catching chub and perch, with an occasional pound fish, I was more than happy with my result for the day. I also had the privilege of meeting a fellow TFF member Jim (Homer Simpson)

Footnote I’d fished a similar swim close bye in the summer some four years ago, when the river was flooded, catching a perch weighing 3 lb 3 ounces, currently my best river Soar perch.

Day Two A Lost Landing Net

It was around 0930 hrs when we got to the river, after showing Tony where to go downstream and pointing out some swims, he went off to search a new stretch of water, while Mark and myself went up river, as we did so, we passed a lot of water covered in bullrushes stretching across must of the river, “Typical chub country”. I said to Mark “I’m going to fish one of those runs some time, I reckon the area would hold fish, just as similar areas did on Dick Walkers stretch of the Upper Ouse”, in fact there are many waters up and down the country, sadly nothing like this in Lancashire.

I chose a spot close to an overhanging willow, just downstream of me were the branches of a dead tree, Mark headed further upstream, to fish a narrow channel with lots of bullrushes, where he would leger a bait under a willow tree on the far bank, it was an area with a proven record as we both have had 5 lb plus chub. Some two hours later Mark called to say “My landing net has slipped off the eight foot high bank into the river, it’s got swept downstream ending up under a willow tree on the opposite bank which resembles a jungle. Sadly it wasn’t reachable, the water being far too deep and fast no chance of wading. Mark then called all the local tackle shops, but none had any in stock. Eventually Mark found that Banks & Burr tackle shop in Rugby Warks had what he wanted in stock. He then headed off for the long drive, while I went back to my swim.

I float fished worm catching a mixed bag of small perch, roach and chub. After some time I chose to change the hook size to an eight, then baited with a big lob, for an hour nothing happened, suddenly the float dipped then moved out into the flow, increasing in speed, I set the hook into when felt like a very good perch, saying to myself “This has to be a good perch with its head shaking and savage jags on the line, I don’t know of another fish that fights like a big perch”. I was often forced to give line, then win it back, I reckon the fish was on for seven eight minutes or more, suddenly it was gone, the hook had pulled out. I fished on for another hour without another bite or indication there were fish in the swim, even the small ones had gone.

Meanwhile further downstream Tony had been catching chub and dace with an odd perch as he moved from swim to swim. After a brew, I chose to move downstream to a swim with some fast water, choosing to fish for the dace with light float tackle and gentles as bait on size 16 hook, it was a good choice of tackle and bait, as I was soon catching dace, with a few ‘Goer’ size fish, after sometime I started catching chub around 12 ounces with an odd perch of similar size. I do find it enjoyable at times fishing light tackle and working up a swim, they might be small fish but I was enjoying the sport. All to soon it was time to head back to the Cedars.

At Last I Got Some Good Fish

Today was my last session, I chose to fish an area where I’d never seen an angler, I have walked past the area on many occasions, as I headed well upstream, each time I’d say to myself “It looks like the Upper Ouse, where myself and many other anglers, including the likes of Fred and Ken Taylor along with their cousin Joe, caught good perch and chub, Dick Walker has written thousands of words about the venue. Today in for a penny in for a pound, I chose to fish this similar area on the Soar. The water I would be fishing was a narrow strip of water, on my side of the river, the big area of rushes spreading right across the river, leaving a few small channels of clear water. If you are worried about losing a few hooks this fishing isn’t for you, when you hook a fish, its hold without giving an inch of line, then you cramp on all the pressure and try to haul the fish out before it gets a chance of getting into the bullrushes.

The channel was about eight feet wide, three to four feet in depth with a lot of swaying streamer weed, which isn’t a problem as you can pull the fish through this type of plant life, but rushes are different. I first attached some ten yards of 6lb bs line to the lighter line on my centre pin, with a four turn water knot, then attached a quill float with double rubbers, it’s one of the floats made for me by Mickey Errands of Sussex taking 3AA shot, I tied on a size 8 barbless hook, bait would be worm with a soft plastic imitation gentle to hold the worm in place , sadly I only had a few worms so I had to use them sparingly. The first area I chose to fish was a narrow area of the channel, I fished with the bait on the bottom, for half an hour or more I didn’t have any indication of a bite. As I sat thinking “Why wasn’t I getting any action? I thought “These fish see food items moving up and downstream, not anchored on ther bottom” I moved the float down the line so the bait would be a few inches off the bottom, first trot down the float travelled about eight feet then submerged, the answering strike connected with a good fish, which I quickly dragged into the net. Commenting to myself “That a good perch” after taking a quick picture I walked well upstream to release the fish. Back in the same area I had five good bites catching five more perch around the pound mark, but still welcome. I then had a quiet spell, so headed further upstream, to an area where stretch of water was like a small pool. It was then I spotted a good perch, among a few smaller fish, I trotted half a worm downstream, thankfully the big one grabbed the bait, which I dragged upstream, you cannot be “Fainthearted, it’s a case of hook and haul, as Dick Walker commented “You have hook, hold and lug the fish out” Another good 2 lb fish I estimated, taking a quick pic, I then released it well upstream.

A Good Chub

Having released the perch I walked well out into the field before going off downstream, slowly I walked upstream then spotted a chub, creeping away I went off to find a slug, my luck was in I found two black ones near the water’s edge. Making my way back down the river, I quickly had the float and shot off the line, left with just rod, line hook and landing net, with two slugs in a plastic bag, I slowly made my way back upstream, within ten yards of where the chub was seen I dropped down on my knees, my plan was to now creep and crawl within casting distance so I could spot the chub, then cast the freelined slug upstream of the chub so it drifted down as a free offering. I would only get one chance. Eventually I spotted my quarry just keeping station in the flow, I cast landing the bait with a gentle plop several feet upstream, immediately the chub noticed the plop, I could see the pectoral fins working, then a flick of the tail, the fish moved slowly about a foot, suddenly without warning it was off the starting blocks and straight onto the slug, I watched the line as it moved across the stream, setting the hook, by the time I got off my knees, it was in the rushes. I put as much pressure I could, but it didn’t budge, somehow I needed to get the fish up in the water where I might be able to drag it through the rushes as they would be more moveable. Winding down as much as possible I heaved, nothing, I then tried see sawing the line, no movement. Once more I tried to lift it, eventually getting some head shaking which gave me some hope in knowing it was still hooked. More head shaking, the fish grudgingly gave way, moving up into the water, walked back into the field, I was hoping to drag the fish out, after several minutes I started to gain some line, all of a sudden it was thrashing in the rushes on the surface, my worry now was if the line got broken in the rushes, or the chub got rid of the hook. Thankfully everything stayed together, eventually I got the fish into the small area of open water where I scooped it up in the net. having taken a pic I released the fish I went off for a brew

Back For A Short Session

After my brew, I’d got about an hour and a half left as we were leaving early to try and miss some of the traffic build up. Starting off again I tried several small area catching quite a number of perch around the pound mark, but also two more good perch over two pounds, sadly all I had was some bits of dead worms, but the fishing where quite happy to grab them. All to soon it was time to go, apart from the four big perch and the chub I reckon I must have had at least twenty or more smaller perch. It was one of those red letter days, certainly a big thank you to the late Dick Walker for being a great teacher. Rest in Peace Dick. You are never forgotten.



Tony's best chub at 4 lb 9 ounces

1 of my 4 good perch of the session

Chub caught on a slug

A favourite swim

Back to the News List

Martin James Fishing
Email: [email protected]