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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


30/10/2023 - Some Days On the Sussex Ouse

I caught this fish, float fishing with bread flake in an Ouse weir pool


I first fished the Sussex Ouse back in the 1950’s, one occasion I’d been fishing at Seaford for bass, in those days it was peeler crab or King rag as bait, the latter had a fearsome nip, should you pick them up the wrong way. During a break in the slack tide, I got talking with Andrew a local angler, as we discussed all things piscatorial, he mentioned sea trout on the Ouse, at that mention Andrew quickly got me interested, two weeks later I swapped my Welsh rivers for the Ouse. It wasn’t easy, not only were there sea trout to be caught, but good roach perch pike and chub, with the occasional carp. The Ouse Preservation Society I believe was the controlling club. Along with the Hampshire Avon Dorset Stour Kennet Upper Ouse in Buckinghamshire along with many other waters, I had a great choice. Also I had some of the best sea fishing available in those days, from boats and beaches along the Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent and Sussex coastlines. What more could an angler wish for.

Fast forward to the current time, I am back fishing the Ouse, from its upper reaches where you can virtually touch the far bank with a 12 foot rod in places, the banks are often over grown with trees and bushes, in several areas trees have fallen in the river, making a classic perch or chub spot, there are plenty of bushes offering cover along the river bank, you will find small gaps between the bushes and brambles where you can creep in quietly, then surprise a decent chub or perch, in fact don’t be shocked if you hook a barbel, trout or carp. reeds brambles and rushes are in profusion. The water often flows quite shallow, then ends in a dark secretive pool, before continuing on its way seawards.

There are numerous pools, gravel runs, slow deep stretches. There are kingfishers along with numerous song birds, the yellow wagtail can often be seen. Its so quiet and peaceful as much of the journey to the sea is in the countryside. The big blot along the Ouse as on many water courses, is the amount of litter often left by poachers, fly tipping by builders etc, it’s up to all of us to report any of this to the local council. Also there are people with a fishing rod, who also leave litter, and let us not forget some dog walkers pick up the waste, then dump it in the water course, or hang it on a branch, there are many who don’t bother to clean up. When I say to these culprits “Why do you profess to love the countryside, then destroy it by leaving dog dirt and litter” they just give me some abuse as they are walking away.

Catching Chub, Bream, Perch, Trout Also A Carp

On my recent visits to the Ouse, I have enjoyed some interesting session, in fact all my time on the Ouse are enjoyable. My usual approach is travelling light, no chair, just a weigh mat to sit on unless I’m lucky to get a pic of a fish, the weigh mat doubles up for the fish to lay on. The rod is usually eleven foot with a soft action, matched with a small fixed spool reel with 10lb bs braid, occasionally I do use a centre pin if I’m float fishing. My baits are bread crust, flake, prawns, garlic sausage sweetcorn, and lobworms. Apart from when I decide to fish one of the several weir pool, it’s a roving approach. I fish spots others would not dare fish in case they got stung or scratched, even worse, got themselves in a tangle, or loose a hook or two. I will fish spots that are often described as “Where angels fear to tread” I don’t fear brambles or nettles, its part of the course.

Day 1 I spent four hours roving, freelining prawns and worms, catch eight chub all estimated around 2lbs also a bream of probably 4lbs on worm. I then spent the last hour fishing bread crust or flake, catch one nice chub 3lbs 14 ounces. It had been a good session in my book.

Day 2 I’m on another club water, again a roving approach, while Martyn fished a weir pool, where he caught a barbel about 6 pounds on meat. I went off roving fishing all my usual spots, though I did find a swim a mile or so downstream where I could stand in the shallow water then roll a chunk of garlic sausage downstream working it under a big alder tree, where some of the branch had fallen in the water. I got two pick-ups, accounting for a brace of 3lb chub. I then rested the swim for half an hour while I searched other spots, though I didn’t catch they looked good for further investigation when there is another foot or two of water on. Back in the previous swim I baited with a big bit of crust, added three LG shot six inches from the bait, then made a cast down and towards the far bank as the bait settled under the over hanging branches of an ivy clad tree, I held the rod high, ten minutes or more later I had a savage pull on the rod tip, the answering strike connected with what felt like a good fish as it powered off downstream taking line off the reel, then it kited into my bank and found a snag. I tried always to get the fish free, not it was immoveable, it had either deposited the hook in a submerged branch or it had taken line around a branch. After perhaps fifteen minutes, I pulled for a break. I would certainly return sometime for another cast in the area.

Day 3 I’m fishing a weir pool, there was probably two feet of water on, but dropping, it was a mild day, no wind, plenty of sunshine. The colour looked good, I chose to fish with a lobworm, plasticine was moulded around a float stop, some fifteen inches from the hook. I baited with a lob, putting on a soft plastic gentle to keep the worm from wriggling off the hook, then cast towards the opposite bank where the water flowed quite slowly. Fifteen minutes later I felt the line tighten slightly, then set the hook. It was just a small fish, a trout about ten inches. An hour later after a brew and sandwich, I got the feeling I was in the wrong area.

On The Move

I chose to go roving, from swim to swim, searching all the areas that looked fishable, there were many, the second swim really did look good, trees and bushes from both banks reached out over the water creating a dark tunnel. I named it “The tunnel swim” So strong was the feeling for the Tunnel swim, when I moved on I put in a handful of mashed bread. Saying to myself “I will spend a lot of time in the tunnel swim spot on my way back” Moving on upstream fishing several likely looking spots, some for ten minutes others a lot longer. I used lobs, prawns, bread flake and crust, covering perhaps a mile and a half, it was a delightful bit of water, it didn’t look as if it was fished much, there were so many fishing spots, all accessible, no nettles or brambles to push through.

With just a light tackle bag, rod and reel, with a weight matt to sit upon, it was relaxing walking and fishing. I’d caught six perch on lobs, all pound plus fish, nine chub averaging around 2lbs all on bread cube. It had been well worth the effort, also an enjoyable walk. On the way back I stopped at the tunnel swim, where I spent around an hour fishing it. I was on the point of calling it a day, when I felt a light pluck on the line over my index finger, then a tiny bow appeared in the line, I was in two minds, whether to strike, suddenly the line tightened on my finger, the tip slowly bending, I said “That not rubbish it’s a fish” I set the hook, there was a big boil on the water surface, an angry powerful fish shot off downstream, I’d no idea what it was, it was quickly downstream through the trees and bushes, over hanging from both sides of the river, creating a dark tunnel. Eventually the fish slowed up a bit, I pulled the rod to my left putting as much pressure as I dare, to get the fish moving upstream. If I could get it out of the tunnel, into the more open water, I could perhaps control the fight a lot better. I didn’t have a clue what I’d hooked, I thought “Barbel Pike, a big cannibal trout”, I did say “If this is a chub it will beat my 7lb 10 ounce fish” For a good ten minutes or more, the fish powered up and down river, I didn’t really have control, the rod seemed as bent as it had ever been, thankfully I’d got the clutch set perfectly. Eventually the fish was slowing down, no longer was it making the long powerful runs, but still I had no idea what I’d hooked. I did think “Is it foul hooked fish”? Eventually I got a glimpse of the fish, my immediate thought “ That’s a Mirror Carp” It could still exert some power, eventually I got it within ten feet of the net, where it started wallowing on the surface eventual going on its side, It was now a case of slowly drawing it towards the net, suddenly it was mine. I heaved a sigh of relief, what a scrap the fish had put up. I then pulled the camera from my jacket so its hanging around my neck, I touched the on button, then lifted the fish from the water laying it on a bit of sponge and grass, quickly I shot a picture, then lowered the fish back in the water. I punched the air saying “Yes that was good” Picking up my gear I made the long walk back to the road and the car. Another good session on the Sussex Ouse.









Ouse 4 lb 7 ounce chub on float fished bread flake

A surprise carp caught when chub fishing with a cube of crust on a short link

This is a Cayuga duck that resides on the Ouse, very friendly no doubt as anglers feed it.

An Ouse chub swim

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Martin James Fishing
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