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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


31/12/2023 - A Handful Of Chub On Christmas Day

   John picked me up early on Christmas morning, as we were driving he said “I have to be home for 1300 hrs” “No problem” I said “I was just pleased that I could get out”. Ten minutes or so later he said “I can come and collect you later if you want to stop” I just thought he was joking. As we passed over the river I could see it was well up around 5 feet above normal level. I wasn’t bothered I was going our fishing as I’d done since I was eight years old, except a period when I was in a wheel chair for the first four years. I reckon we could find some steady water, with a good chance of a fish.

I then got a call from, my friend Tam who has just retired from the Army after 37 years, he is now employed by the Army Cadets, where he will certainly be an excellent role model. having wished me a Merry Christmas, he said “We will get out fishing in the New Year on the river Soar, now that’s a good Christmas present Tam Thank you. It was around 0800 hrs when we go to the river, as John tackled up, I set the Jetboiler going to make an OXO drink for John, I wasn’t bothered I just wanted to get fishing. Fifteen minutes later we were walking across a semi flooded field, it felt more like walking across a salt marsh, eventually we arrived to find an area of slightly slower moving water in front of a long stretch of reeds.

First things first, was to take the water temperature, I got a reading of 50 degrees F, “That will do” I thought, Tackle consisted of my usual 11 foot soft Avon action rod, today a Mitchell 300 reel, from the 1950’s, the weather was very mild over cast with rain showers, My mind as it often does these days, went back to Christmas Day 1954 when I had similar conditions on the River Beult, catching bream, roach and perch, I also had 4 good tench. The best at 4lbs which won me the Specimen fish cup that year. As I get older I often look back to the days of my past. But back to the present, having passed the line through the guides, I added three float stops then a size 4 barbless hook. After moulding some plasticine around the float stops I made a few casts each time adding a bit more plasticine until I’d got the weight just right. Having found an eighteen inch gap in the straw coloured reeds, got myself settled in, then baited with a big chunk of meat, casting out I allowed the bait to roll downstream until it settled in a quiet spot, I now had to wait for some action.

John chose a spot upstream of me, choosing as I had, a big chunk of luncheon meat, I sat holding the rod with the line over my forefinger, fifteen minutes later I felt a slight tension on the line thinking “That's not rubbish” A minute or so later, there was a sharp tap on the rod, I made the mistake of striking, I missed the fish, I should have waited a bit longer to see if it turned into a better movement. Rebaiting I made another cast, this time I chose to put the rod in the rest then waited for a better pull. After about half an hour, I got a sharp knock, followed by two more taps, picking up the rod I pushed it forward, giving a bit of slack line, hoping the fish would feel a bit more confident. After about twenty minutes I decided to change the bait to cheese paste, I was surprised to find the meat had gone. I cursed saying to myself “Why didn’t I strike”?Switching to cheese paste I cast out to the same area, an hour later nothing, I switched back to meat, As I waited, John called to say “A hook up” picking up the net I moved upstream I could see he had a good bend in the rod, after ten minutes he got the fish into some quieter water, then it swirled on the surface, a good chub, suddenly it dived the line went slack. John told me “That fish on sausage meat” I said “Was you serious about picking me up later” the answer was a big “Yes” Thank you John I will accept your kind offer.

After John loaded his gear in the car, he went off home, I chose to have a cup of tea with a slice of fruit cake. After my break, I moved to another spot about three hundred yards downstream, when I arrived at the spot, I could see it wasn’t fishable it was churning round like a giant washing machine, with several large branches and other rubbish adding to the problem. Change of plan, I moved upstream to a hawthorn bush in the water, I sat there for fifteen twenty minutes, just watching the flow of water occasionally throwing in an odd small branch to try and understand the flow, also where the twigs would end up. There were some straw coloured reeds stretching about five yards upstream of the bush, it was alongside these reeds that the twigs drifted more slowly. That was going to be where I would fish a bait, though I didn’t have any idea of what the bottom was like.

Fish On

After checking if the amount of plasticine was correct, I made a cast noting how it moved down the stream after just a few feet it stopped, lifting the rod I realised the weight was to heavy so pulled off a bit of plasticine, then made another cast, this time if moved a bit further but not as I would have liked, on the third try it moved slowly along before ending up a foot or so out from the bottom end of the reeds. As I was getting ready to bait to hook, without warning heavy rain, was sheeting down, the wind increased to gale force, hearing a loud noise, I looked down stream to see an old ivy covered tree crash into the fast flowing river. The strength of the wind continued. It was certainly a rough session. Baiting with cheese paste I cast out, allowing the bait to move downstream, occasionally lifting the rod so the bait would move a bit further, lifting the rod for the third time, the rod tip was pulled down savagely, striking I set the hook, at the same time the fish tried to reach the hawthorn bush,  side strain moved the fish out into the stream, after a spirited scrap, I had the fishing coming towards the net, not a big fish probably about two pounds plus, but more than welcome, slipping out the hook, I found it difficult walking downstream, against the wind and rain to release the fish. I was thankful that I’d chosen to wear my Salopettes, also on top I had another pair of waterproof trouser also my big military top coat.

Twenty minutes later, I got another fish of similar size, two fish in two casts I was more than happy, hopefully when it gets dark I might get a better fish. An hour later I moved upstream to where I’d started in the hope that when darkness arrived, a good fish might want a big bait. In fifteen minutes I’d got a third fish of the day on cheese, slightly bigger, it might have gone 3lbs with luck, but I didn’t bother to weigh it, just walked downstream to release it, by walking downstream I hoped the fish wouldn’t struggle against the fast water by moving upstream. It was now dark enough to switch on my torch to illuminate the rod tip. Within minutes of casting out a chunk of meat, I caught another chub around two and a half pounds, again released downstream. This time I baited with a ball of cheese about golf ball size, thinking it would perhaps ensure a better chub than I’d caught. Half an hour later I had several small knocks none of which I thought were hittable, after perhaps ten minutes I had a good take, setting the hook into another fish, at the same time the phone started ringing, I ignored it eventually netting another fish, that was about two and a half pounds, which was quickly released . Before casting out again I answered the call it was from John saying "I will be with you in twenty minutes. Time to pack up as I had a long walk. It was the end of a good day, though I was disappointed with only small fish. But hopefully it might happen on Friday as Wednesday and Thursday I am out of action, one day at the doctors the second day at the hospital. I tried to get bookings for early in the morning ending up with bookings for mid-afternoon. Such is life.

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Martin James Fishing
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