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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


14/12/2023 - A Very Short Session In The Cold

Ian's "Pig tailed bayonete"


Today I got the chance to fish from 1500 hrs until 1730hrs, I grabbed the short session with open hand, rather than having to stay at home, I didn’t use the bus today as the track I have to negotiate would have been quite dangerous after the bad weather. Ian collected me from home, both of us well wrapped to combat the ice cold wind from the east. My baits were bread, cheese paste, made extra soft by adding some margarine, also some Garlic sausage. We arrived to find the place where we were going to park was bog like, so we parked at the farm, We both chose similar tackle Avon action rods, fixed spool reels with 6lb BS line, Ian used a quiver tip also he was using a new-fangled idea, known as “The pig tailed bayonet” which allows one to bore it in the bread so Ian told me .(see pics) Having seen Ian use it a few times, it does seem to work every time, but I’m old school using my tried and trusted way.We both started in the same pool, but after half an hour I was beginning to think I might be in the wrong spot, saying to Ian “I’m going off upstream” about eight hundred yards, it was tough walking through the mud, the ground on top was frozen but underneath it was like a bog, which at time threatened to pull my boots off. Eventually I arrived at the pool I wanted to fish, though I was now sitting in the face of the icy east wind, I shivered two or three times, but decide this is where I’m going to try.

Checking the water temperature I got a reading of 40-41 degrees F, that’s a drop of 10 degrees in a period of four days. It didn’t bode well, but I have caught plenty of fish in worse conditions. No way was I going to sneak off to a sheltered spot out of the wind. I had a strip of water along the far bank with a slow flow about ten feet in width, between the quiet water and my bank the water was pushing through, and with the low water temperature fish wouldn’t chase a bait, but seek a quiet sanctuary, that’s my experience over many years when temps are low.Baiting with a big chunk of Garlic sausage I made a cast dropping the bait a foot from the far bank into a channel that is some two feet deeper than the river bed further out from the far bank. It was now a case of waiting and waiting, I’d decided I wouldn’t move the bait for at least an hour, just as the light started to go.

I noticed a slight knock on the rod tip, “That’s not rubbish” I said to myself, at the same time I felt the line gently tighten slightly, over my forefinger, then I had a call on my phone, which I ignored, two three minutes later the rod tip pulled round slowly, I made a powerful strike, then felt the surge of a good fish, suddenly it rolled on the surface, “Trout” I muttered under my breath, the fish then dived, I was forced to yield line, “That’s no trout that’s a chub” I said. There was another call on my phone, still I ignored it. After a few minutes I had the chub coming towards the net, after a couple of savage head shakes, the fish made one last dive, but soon it was on the surface coming towards the net, then it was mine, nicely hooked in the scissors, soon the hook was out, net and fish were placed in the water. Out with scales and weight bag, I got a reading of 4lb 6 ounces, a quick picture then I walked upstream about 60 yards then released the fish. I called Ian who told me he had just had his first chub 3lbs 10 ounces. We must have hooked our fish within minutes of each other. In the next hour or so I had two more chub around 3lbs, at 2000 hrs we called it a day, the net was frozen the handle and tackle bag was covered in frost, but it had been a good session

Today Was A hard Session

The next day Tuesday Tony picked me up at 0800 hrs, then it was off to the river, again another heavy frost, in fact there were spots of cat ice in the shallows. I checked the water temperature getting a reading of 38 39 degrees F. Tony drove off to another a different stretch, while I decided to stay where I was, also the day before I’d noticed lots of litter so my first job was to clear it away. An hour later I walked the whole length collecting a mixture of bottle cans etc, the pic shows some of the rubbish. I then had a drink of OXO with a dash of pepper, also a slice of buttered toast.Today I was going to fish a swim in the wood, which entailed a long hard walk over some rough ground before slithering down a steep bank, , a few months ago I fixed a rope in place to help me up and down the bank, but felt it would be worth the effort. My tackle set up was as I used the day before, though today it would be crust on a short link. Ten yards downstream of my spot was a willow more like a huge bush, than a tree, with many branches trailing in the water where a nice raft had been created. My target area was to drop the bait in about ten feet above the tree then allow it to roll under the cover created by the willow. No free offerings were put in, the only item of food was the crust on a size 4 hook.  My cast was spot on as I gave some slack line the bait rolled right under the bush. I sat back contented the waited for a fish to take my offering.

A Savage Take

In no more than fifteen minutes the rod tip was bent round at right angles, if I hadn’t been holding the rod I reckon it would have ended up in a watery grave. I didn’t need to strike to set the hook, the fish had done the job for me, though I did give it a bit more stick to make sure the fish was well hooked. For several minutes I didn’t see my adversary, as it kept trying to move towards the far bank where several trees were in the water, no doubt many other snags. Slowly the pressure was telling as I got some line back on the reel, I now had the fish mid river, well away from any snags to the best of my knowledge. As I increased the pressure it was telling on the fish, suddenly it was on the surface with a head shake it dived, the line went slack, my fish was gone’

I fished on until 1300 hrs when Tony joined me for lunch, who told me he had one chub 3-14-0 plus a trout both on bread, after lunch we chose another stretch. we then chose to fish another stretch. It was a disaster as within half an hour the water surface was covered in a thick creamy scum, the smell was horrid, a lot of foam coming down the river, within two hours the river was virtually covered with what I can only describe as sewage or something similar. At 1800 hours we called it a day without a sign of a bite, even the minnows didn’t want any mashed bread in the shallows like they normally do. It does make me very angry over the way our rivers are treated as open sewars by farming industry and water authorities The EA are not fit for purpose, it should be disbanded then replaced by river boards with anglers naturalist etc on the board, as they were in ther fifties. I have sent several e-mails plus a hand written letter to the Environment Minister calling for action but we know nothing will happen, because they don’t care.I have been fighting storm over flow pipes since the 1950’s when it wasn’t fashionable. In the 1960’s I joined a march to Downing Street where we carried a makeshift coffin holding over a million signatures, also many of the thousands taking part carried a black cross with the name of a dead river, still nothing was done. Before privatisation I travelled all over the country talking at Universities, colleges, union meetings, angling clubs etc saying the privatisation will only benefit the shareholders, “How true that is”. We now have an Environment Minister married to an executive of Anglia Water. Because of the state of the river, I have cancelled my next three days fishing, though later today with the help of a friend we will down, an hour before dark, to frighten off the roosting cormorants, sadly these days I can no longer drive at 87 its getting even more difficult and quite painful even to walk at times, because of a spinal problem, but I carry on, thankfully I have a good bus service, it’s like going back to the 1940’s and early fifties going angling via the bus or train.

The company who do the "Pig tailed bayonete"

My best chub

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Martin James Fishing
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