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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


18/01/2024 - Thirty Plus Minutes Of Action

Chub of 5lb 8 ounces


While out shopping today, I thought it seems ideal for fishing, no wind, the sky over cast, it was certainly quite mild despite the current forecast, I decided to purchase a thick sliced loaf, then go fishing for a few hours. On the buss home I could see the river was very low and clear, but I wasn’t going to be put off. Back home I made a flask of OXO with a dash of pepper, a cheese and pickle sandwich to keep the inner man comfortable, in my bag I added a head torch, as I planned on fishing into the darkness for an hour, if bites were forthcoming I might be there until very late.



It was around 1500 hrs when I arrived on the river, my tackle consisted of an 11 foot Avon action rod, small fixed spool reel with 12lb BS line to which I attached two float stops, then a size 4 barbless hook. Depending on the rate of the water flow, I might even free line a big chunk of meat, if using crust it would be on a short link, with plasticine as a weight. I chose a swim where there was a willow bush in the water with a big raft of rubbish on the upstream side of the bush. Along the opposite bank with some tall trees, was a channel where the depth was probably around four feet. Using A Thermometer I reckon the most important job was to take the water temperature, which would give me a lot of information that can be very valuable in catching fish. If it’s a sudden drop below 39.2 degrees F then it would often be hard fishing, the fish wouldn’t chase a bait, but sit in the quiet water, so it’s a case of using small baits like crust on a short link, often about two inches, then casting around the area in the hope the bait will drop close to a chub, that might just open its mouth and take the food item. We must remember none of this is set in stone, if you lay down hard and fast rules when angling, you can expect the fish to prove you wrong.



There is nothing new in using a thermometer anglers have used one for over a hundred years, two notable ones were Captain LA Parker who in his excellent book “This Fishing Or Angling Arts & Artifices” published in 1948. A book about the habits of fish under different conditions, gathered over many years. The other book is by Richard Walker “Still Water Angling published 1953”, once again the master writes so much common-sense gathered over many years. Another great thinking angler was Lt Colonel Crow on the Hampshire Avon, who often put me on a good roach shoal. I got a water temperature reading of 42 degrees F, two degrees up on the previous day, a good sign, even a degree of plus can often be a good sign after a cold spell. It certainly gave me hope, I would start using a short link with crust, with a searching method.



Not only did it feel warmer, there were lots of midges, long tailed tits were very active, as were the wrens, blackbirds were in profusion, also the field fare were active, clearing the berries off the hawthorn tree, several trout were active, caused no doubt by the midges, certainly a lot of good signs. In the margins the minnow were in a feeding mood as they attacked the bread I dropped in the margins, In fact the bread was soon covered with minnow, I timed one slice of bread, they cleared it up, in eighteen minutes, as Ian said “It’s amazing how they have survived all the big floods” every now and again a predator would scatter the shoal of minnows as it attacked them, I couldn’t see what it was , I reckoned it was a trout or perch. Crust Didn’t Last Long Within minutes of casting out a crust bait, the hook was quickly cleaned by the minnows. After half an hour, I changed to a small bit of meat, in the next hour or so, there wasn’t even a tiny pluck, though Ian did have a small wild trout. Edven casting all over the area, it didn’t produce any action, I though about changing swims, but after a lot of thought, decided to stay put, though I did take a walk to look at other spots, but I didn’t see any that looked better than where I was.



                                                                          Darkness Does The Trick



I would sit it out in the hope that as the light started to fade a fish might go looking for food. As the darkness enveloped me, I chose to fish a big chunk of meat also extend the distance between weight and hook to eighteen inches, also using just enough plasticine equalling to an LG shot, I cast across towards the opposite bank, then watched the rod tip for any sign of a bite, about half an hour I had a good pull, I made a strike like a beginner, winding in the tackle, the meat had gone, the good thing was "I didn’t prick the fish". Rebaiting with another big bit of meat, I cast out to the same area, soon I had a small knock, then nothing after about fifteen minutes I decided to cast to another area, as I was having a cup of OXO the rod tip pulled round quite savagely, I had no chance to strike, finishing my drink, I checked the bait, lifting the rod I new immediately the bait had gone, two good bites missed. I gave myself a good talking to, then cast out again, this time I sat holding the rod, ten or more minutes later, I felt a slight pull, a minute later another similar pull, then seconds later the tip pulled round about three inches, by then I was going through the strike motion.


Immediately line was taken off the reel, a heavy weight fish, fought hard for its freedom. Ian said “That’s looks like a good fish” I agreed with him, thinking it might be “A big four -pounder”. Eventually I started to win some line back on the reel, but still there was a lot of head shaking, as it fought hard all the way, eventually I got it close in, when I spotted a pipe under the water, this fish was doing its best to seek sanctuary under the pipe, I cramped on the pressure I could, lifting the rod at the same time, so I could hopefully draw the fish over the pipe and back downstream away from the danger. It worked soon I had the fish close to the surface coming towards the net. Then it was mine, as the hook fell out of its mouth, which wasn’t a problem, it saved me from taking out the hook. Lifting the net up the bank I said to Ian ”This might be another five pounder this season” on the scales it weighed 5 lb 8 ounces, I was delighted, after a couple of pics It was returned to grow into a six pounder. Suddenly the weather turned very cold, I said “Bloody hell, the temperatures suddenly dropped” Even with a good base layer, a pair of thick trousers, plus my salopettes, with two fleecy jackets also a top coat I shivered Rebaiting I cast out, within minutes a big wrap round, it was missed, then over the next ten minutes I had two more good pulls, but both missed. For the next hour we had nothing, not even a tiny movement, the only sound to disturb the peaceful scene, was an owl hooting a few yards downstream. We ended the session, when I noticed my net was getting frozen, walking across the field I could feel the crunch of frost underfoot, we were lucky to choose that window of opportunity.


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Martin James Fishing
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