fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


16/06/2014 - Think How You Plan Your Fishing

Charlie Kemmett, I doubt if you will find a better roach angler who follows the rules with a catch of 5 x 2lb roach

 Today I thought I would try and put a few ideas on paper to help some of the new and less expe...rienced anglers who read Lone Angler Facebook. At a recent club meeting the only topic of conversation by many members was “What bait they were using this season”.

We all know a good bait can certainly help us catch fish, we also know that a well-made and thought out bait made with quality products will out fish a poor quality bait. But bait isn’t the be all and end all of catching fish. I will say it again as I have for fifty sixty odd years, the bait on the hook is only part of the knowledge needed to catch fish.

Dick Walker in Still-Water Angling published by MacGibbon & Kee in 1953 in the first chapter On Catching Big Fish gave us the 5 rules we should follow, as they were applicable then so they are today. Get one of the rules wrong and the best bait in the world will not help you catch fish. Walker wrote “Big fish are not caught by luck. They are caught by deliberately setting out to catch big fish”. There were 5 rules to follow.

Rule 1 Locating your quarry, sounds simple but so many anglers expect the first swim they choose will contain a big fish. When they have spent a few hours without a bite the excuse is usually “The fish aren’t biting today” Why did they choose that swim often it’s because a few years ago old Charley Brown caught a good fish or big catch, it could be it’s a nice place to park their backside with no brambles thistles or nettles. The fish are not interested in your comfort.
Only from experience can you learn where you might find your fish, this experience is gained by spending many hours at the water side, looking for holding areas where the fish might be comfortable. They need security from predators; they need a spot where food can be swept into the area by the water flow. The effect of weather light and water temperature will also need to be taken into account. One way of locating fish is by sight, but so many anglers spook the fish before they have seen the quarry. Chub for instance don’t often give themselves away by swirling or creating ripples on the surface as some other fish do when spooked. Chub fade away ghost like. On rivers and streams never go looking for fish in a downstream direction, always move upstream wearing a good pair of Polaroid glasses with a wide brimmed hat to help cut out sunlight from above your glasses. Every time you visit the river take time out to learn about the aquatic surroundings, don’t just start fishing any spot, walk the banks talk with other anglers listen to what they have to say, learn where the deeper gravel runs are, find out what the bottom of the deep of a pool you have noticed under an alder or willow tree, if it’s soft black mud it’s unlikely to hold fish, its sandy silt or gravel it could well be a good spot to fish. That would be a spot where I would introduce half a dozen hook baits over a period of days.

Rule 2 don’t frighten your fish, it’s a simple rule but one that many anglers do directly they arrive at their chosen spot, first they dump their tackle box, chair or bag on the ground with a thump. Then stand often with two or three other angler looking into the water often waving their arms about. Any self-respecting fish will have dispersed. Remember fish are a wild animal.

Rule 3 choose the correct tackle for the fish and the water your fishing, sounds simple but I have seen so many people using tackle that is totally unsuitable. Why do you want to use a 4 ounce weight with 20lb line and a broom handle type rod on the Kennet, Loddon, Avon or similar rivers in the summer time as I have seen being used, I wouldn’t be using tackle like that in the winter floods.
There are many good books on angling that describe using balanced tackle for various fish and conditions, why not visit your local library and borrow some books and CD’s, don’t just read the book once, read it two or three times and take notice of what the author is writing about. I still read Walkers books several times a year, often picking up some nugget of information every time that might help me catch a fish.
When I suggest you use an item of tackle I do so from experience, I don’t get paid to tell you what tackle to use. The rods in the Lone Angler range I use were purchased just as you do with cash. The reason I use the Trefor West barbel and flood water rods is they are the best on the market today for my type of fishing. The flood water 2.25 model is perfect for river pike fishing; it also makes a great bass fishing rod.  The 1.75 barbel rod makes a great carp rod, even more so when fishing close in and with baits on the surface. It’s not just a rod for barbel as some anglers seem to think.
Using a 4lb line with a standard barbel rod is daft just as using 12lb line on a rod made for roach. You must choose a balanced outfit that is best suited for the type of fishing you plan to do.  You might think these are extreme examples but you often see people doing this all the time. Many big fish are lost through inadequate tackle either to light or to strong. Ask yourself before you start fishing, is my gear suitable for the fish, water and style of fishing I plan to do.

Rule 4 Choose the correct time to fish, let me say now fish don’t feed 24 hours a day, often it might just be a fifteen minute feeding session, perhaps you only have one fish in the swim, this is especially true when targeting a big chub. We all spend many hours fishing the wrong spot at the wrong time. On some waters fish will often feed during the darkness especially if they are predated on by many cormorants as we have seen on many waters. Fish grow big by eating food, so they have to feed at some time, but not all the time.
If we have a high pressure zone across the country with below zero temperatures pushing the water temperature below 39.5 F with bright sunshine blue sky and heavy overnight frost, then fish catching can often be difficult.  Under the conditions mentioned I often arrive on the river bank an hour before dark, often being told “It’s a waste of time today Martin” I ignore these remarks and make my way along the bank putting a couple of hook baits in several likely looking spots. I then put my gear together and make a brew. After about thirty forty minutes I will cast a bait into my first chosen spot, often within minutes I will get a bite hooking my target fish which are usually chub. Mick Holgate, Dave Whyte, Will Carter and several others will often say “Martin’s has his pet chub with him” Catching fish is choosing the right time, with balanced tackle its also a lifelong learning experience, the more you go fishing the more you will learn.

Rule 5 Choose the correct bait, this again is where experience plays a big part, and I suggest you start off with proven bait that has worked under similar conditions. Many of us realise that sausage sizzle flavour bait proves attractive to fish both in clear and coloured water; we also know bread crust is an attractive bait, put sausage sizzle flavour on bread crust and you will find that your bread crust is even more attractive than usual. Last season on the Rivers Wye and Ribble I tried an experiment, though I was catching my share of chub on bread crust, I decided to spray my crust with sausage sizzle, my catch rate improved quite considerably. The next day I chose to fish two rods one baited with flavoured crust the other with plain bread crust. In ten casts I had two chub on plain crust five on flavoured bait. The next day I had a guest game fisher Sgt Major Tam Miller we started off on plain bread crust, lots of taps and plucks but nothing he could hit. I then changed Tam’s bait over to flavoured crust. Immediately those plucks were turned into good pulls, Tam ended up with his best chub at over 4lbs.
As many know I have used sausage paste since the late 1940’s  it was a bait that my granddad used, I have caught lots of fish from roach to carp, it’s certainly been a winning bait for me. I often ask myself what makes it such a good bait, well that’s one question I will never know only the fish can answer that question.

I use all type of baits both natural and manufactured, one of my top natural baits without a shadow of a doubt are caddis which I’ve used since I was a kid, today when I want to fish caddis I put a hessian sack in the river for a couple of days then pick off the caddis which I keep in wet moss until needed. If you’re a roach fisher and you’re prepared to spend some time getting your caddis then you couldn’t have a better roach bait.  If I had to choose five baits but hopefully that will never happen, I would choose flavoured bread, sausage sizzle squabs, lobworms, cheese and sausage sizzle paste. If I can be of any help please e-mail me [email protected] Have a good season

Picture caption Charlie Kemmett I doubt if you will find a better roach angler who follows the rules with a catch of 5 x 2lb roach

Back to the News List

Martin James Fishing
Email: [email protected]