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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


15/12/2023 - Another Cold Session




Ian called me Saturday morning to ask “ Do you fancy a trip to the river later this afternoon, my immediate answer was “Yes” even though temperatures were below zero, also knowing there were several areas of the river with a covering of ice. I always reckon you have a chance of catching a chub. Today it would be bread crust on a short link, searching the quiet areas of water. It was around 1500 hrs when we pulled into the farm house car park. The landscape looked bleak, the ground frozen solid, close to the river was a scattering of snow. As we walked along the river bank we passed an area of creamy white scum (see pic P1000280 JPG), left be the pollution early in the week, also now the water was clear, we could see a lot of the rocks were covered in black slime.

Ian said “I reckon we should fish in front of the farm” I had other ideas, but went along with Ian’s idea as it has produced in the past. It was a long slog across the meadow, not made easy by the frozen pot holes, eventually we arrived, there was a good push of water along the fast bank, then fifteen feet out from that far bank and towards our bank, the water was very slow flowing, the target area would be the crease between fast and slow water. Today knowing any bites would be just a slight tap, unless we were lucky, I chose to use a light rod with a soft tip this would hopefully show a better tip movement, I also used a Mitchell 300 with 4lb bs line, with a size 6 hook rather than my normal size 4. Next job was check the water temperature, I got a reading of 34-36 degrees F, not sure if I had read it right, so five minutes later I got another reading it was as the previous one, below what I thought. I was looking for a reading about 38 degrees F. With the very slow flow, I used a piece of plasticine the size of black bird egg stopped four inches from the hook.

My plan of action was small bit of crust, then making a cast every ten minutes or so, searching every inch of the swim as possible, in the hope the crust would land close to a fish. After fishing for about twenty minutes I said to Ian, “I’m not happy with this spot, I’m going down into the wood” After a long trek I was in the spot where my confidence was increased, when I spotted a fish swirl close to the ice covering on the opposite side of the river. Knowing the area well it was about three feet deep in that area, over fine gravel with some over head cover of reeds and two hawthorn bushes. It would now be a long overhead cast, rather than my normal under hand swing.Having sorted out my gear, with confidence, my set my scales and weight bag ready, if I did catch I wouldn’t want to keep the fish out of the water long in these very cold conditions. I shudder when I see pics of fish laying in the snow. Baiting with a thumb nail size piece of crust, my first cast was spot on, how lucky can one get? the bait dropped a foot in front of the ice covering, some two feet from where I’d seen the fish swirl.

Within minutes I had a slight pull on the rod tip, saying to myself, ”Next movement I will hit it” five minutes later, I checked to see if I had any bait, it was gone. Rebaiting I cast to the same area, minutes later I checked to see if the bread had gone, it was still in place, that told me it had been a bite previously, and not minnows, otherwise my the bread would have been gone this time. In the next half an hour I had some slow pulls, nothing, I thought “I would strike at these tine movement’s” a while later I had two slight pulls, striking at the second one then feeling resistance, I shouted to know one “Yes” with a smile on my face the move had paid off. Eventually I had a chub around 2lbs which was quickly unhooked and released without being touched by warm hands, another advantage of barbless hooks along with a small pair of forceps.

I called Ian with the good news, he was getting similar movements on the rod tip, he also had just caught a trout. As I sat quietly in the dusk I looked to my right to see four Roe deer watching me from about ten feet, they didn’t seem bothered, after some minutes they moved on through the trees, I was quite excited seeing them so close up, though if I’d picked up my camera they would know doubt have moved off quickly. Time for a cup of OXO with a dash of pepper, which was most warming and enjoyable. As the darkness enveloped me I switched on my torch beam to illuminate the rod tip, as no way would I feel these light pulls on the tip. Half an hour into darkness I had a quick tap then an inch pull on the tip striking I felt the resistance of a fish, It felt as good one, Having hooked it close to the far bank I had to work the fish back towards me, also a few feet upstream I had the remains of a Hawthorne bush in the water, slowly I am getting line on the reel also pulling the fish to my right, away from the bush on my left, soon a spotted in the torch beam a swirl on the surface then the silver body of a chub, I heaved a sigh of relief to know it wasn’t a trout. Soon it was in the net, quickly weighed at 3lb 7 ounces, a quick picture, followed by its release, by lowering the net in the water so it could swim off.

Rebaiting I cast further downstream, then sat back waiting for another pull on the rod tip, within minutes I got a slow pull, the strike connected with another fish, several minutes later I got my first look another nice chub, perhaps 4lbs as I slowly gained some line, suddenly the fish dived to my left, somehow finding a snag all went solid, after a couple of minutes I tried pulling the line in a sawing movement, nothing moved, I had no choice than to pull for a break. After tying on a fresh hook, I baited with a small piece of crust, then cast to my right some fifteen yards. With the temperature dropping, frost appearing on my tackle bag, landing net etc, it was time for a mug of OXO.As I sat feeling contented with a warming drink, then I  heard the call of the “Wild Geese” as Skeins of Pink -footed geese flew overhead, the musical sound of ‘wink wink’ or sometimes the sound will be ‘ang ang’ gets me excited every time I hear this sound, I also I think of the late Dennis-Watkins Pitchford MBE known more familiar as BB. For about fifteen minutes, I listened in awe at this musical sound, as Skein after Skein passed over head, no doubt moving down from the bad weather in the north, perhaps going to the Southport marshes or the Wash on the East coast. As the temperature dropped I shivered a few times, suddenly the rod tip pulled round quite firmly, striking I felt solid resistance as fish gained some line until I put more pressure with my finger on the spool, I am not a fan of back winding the clutch is designed to give line when set correctly. After some give and take I had the fish coming towards the net was soon it was in the net. A nice silver bodied chub, on the scales it weighed 3lb 4 ounces which was quickly released. I then got a call from Ian “Are you ready to pack up” I replied “Yes I will meet you at the car” I must say it was a long slow walk, but soon I’m inside a warm car heading for home and a waiting beef stew. Another good session.

My best chub 3 lb 7 ounces

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Martin James Fishing
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