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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


01/11/2023 - A Day ON The Flooded Sussex Ouse

River Ouse weir pool


Today started with an hour of be very mild weather, with a light wind, making it ideal for Autumn angling. Suddenly there was a squall, with torrential rain lasting for around forty minutes, then it would ease for a short while, before there another wild squall for perhaps ten fifteen minutes, not only torrential rain, but strong gusting wind, trees were swaying loosing masses of leaves. Today we were on the Sussex Ouse, the gauge gave a reading of 1.020m and rising, in places the river was over the bank. The first venue we stopped at was unfishable, I walked around 1000yards I didn’t see a single slack on my side of the river, the couple of spots on the far bank, needed to be fished from that side. Back in the car we travelled a few miles to anther stretch of river, while Martin sat in the car I done a Reccy, first I checked out the weir pool, then a long length of the river, both venues were fishable, with the fast flowing water the colour of a dark Khaki-Blanco used on army gaiters and belts, today I suppose its only the old sweats who will know about Blanco. Over some 80 years of angling, I still get excited with the water this colour with good water temperature, it usually means there is a good chance of catching, in fact many barbel anglers rub their hands with glee.

Back in the car park, I decided I would be travelling light, my usual soft Avon action rod, matched with a small fixed spool reel with 12lb braid, to which I attached a size 4 barbless hook. My bait selection would be prawns, lobworms, Garlic sausage and four year old cheese paste. Our only problem I thought would be leaves and other rubbish. I would spend half an hour in the weir pool, fishing two lobworms, if no action I would go off roving spending between ten and fifteen minutes in all the likely looking spots. In my shoulder bag, I had a cheese sandwich, a bottle of water, small hook box, another box with LG shots forceps and some rubber gentles to help keep the lively lobs on the hook.

In the pool I had just one quick pull, which I felt through the line over my forefinger, I missed it, winding in I found most of the worm shredded, rebaiting I cast out, ten minutes later with no more sign of interest from a fish but still getting lots of leaves and other bits of rubbish including, including some sizeable bits of dead branch, it was time to move.

After a walk of about six hundred yards I was on the river bank upstream of the weir pool. I then walked some 1000 plus yards upstream often through water a foot deep, I dropped bait samples in all the quiet spots that looked interesting. At the top of the beat I sat down for a brief break, choosing to have my cheese sandwich, along with a drink. Still the torrential rain sheeted down, when it did ease off for a while, the heavy rain drops falling from the trees were as bad. Baiting with two lobworms on the size 4 hook, I dropped the bait close into my nearside bank where the flow was much slower, also the fast flow was diverted to some extent by a big Alder tree branch, leaning down into the water, Fifteen minutes later I’m on the move, at the next spot a repeated the process of dropping two worms in the water a foot out from the bank, in what I thought was six feet of water. Soon I was getting knocks on the rod tip, but by holding the rod, with the line over my forfinger, I could feel it was rubbish and not a fish, suddenly I got a sharp knock, lifting the rod I felt the resistance of a fish, a couple of minutes later I’d got a “goer perch” probably 11 inches, It was a good job I had the forceps, as the hook was well inside the mouth, but it was quickly removed and the fish released.

I chose to spend another ten minutes in the swim, before moving on knowing perch are a shoal fish, sadly all I had was an out of season trout about 10 inches. At the next spot I decided to change from a size 4 hook to a six, then fish a single lob, I cast out so the end tackle would swing inwards coming to rest behind a branch of a beech tree. Five minutes later I’d got a hook up, it felt better than the two previous fish, soon I netted a chub about two pounds all washed out, there was no colour at all, which is often the case of fish in high water, I find this more so with roach. As I am preparing to make another cast, I noticed water was flowing under by chair, also a pot of worms disappeared into the river, looking behind me I could see the field was getting flooded. “Time to move quickly” I thought. Putting my chair over my should, then my small shoulder bag, I picked up landing net rod and rest, before making a quick retreat, back from the waters edge, then off downstream, soon I started to walk through water, that was getting near the top of my wellingtons. Eventually the bank on the field side was now getting quite steep, so no more problems for a while from flood water.

I fished several more spots catching another perch similar in size to the first one, also two chub similar to the first one, both these two fish I got on a prawn bait. As I was coming towards the end of the beat, the sky turned an even darker colour, suddenly the wind increased in strength as more rain sheeted down, Martin can't drive in the dark so it was planned we leave at 1500 hrs, I’d got perhaps fifteen minutes left, dropped a prawn a short distance downstream from a pile of tree branches that stretched from bank to bank, with masses of rubbish piling up behind. “Could this be a place where a big fish lived”? was the question. I sat holding the rod at the same time I could feel the rain was making itself up my sleeves, also my backside started to feel damp where I’d been sitting in a puddle, though the seat is a mesh type, it still holds water. Suddenly I got a good pull the strike connected with a fish that did try its best to escape, but after some minutes I netted another washed out chub about 2lbs. It was time to call it a day, which despite the atrocious weather, I’d enjoyed my first session on a flooded river, hopefully there will be more, also after another four weeks there shouldn’t be as many leaves and other rubbish. Back at the car I learnt that Martin had sought shelter for quite some time. The following pictures give you an idea of the type of swims I encountered.


Barbel and chub venue on the Ouse

Another good chub and perch swim

The over grown foot path

The Upper river Ouse with over three feet of extra water

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Martin James Fishing
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