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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Five Casts in Paradise

I've just had a couple of days on the Kennet, the first day I had two guests Mark Sural from Leicester and Mark Hyde from Barnoldswick, after putting Mark Hyde in a swim that has recently produced some nice chub including 6-5-0 chub for Gary Newman of Angler's Mail. I then took Mark Sural further upstream, after showing him various spots and explaining how and where I would fish the various spots, I left Mark fishing the inside of a bend, Will Carter appeared saying "I've got an hour so I thought I would sit and watch you" I supposed we walked upstream about a hundred yards, then I said to Will "This looks an interesting spot to try"

Tackle choice was quite simple, a 12" foot Avon action rod, Mitchell 300 reel purchased for me as one of my Christmas presents in 1953. The spool was filled with 12lb sinking braid. After putting a stop knot on the line I added a small swivel followed by another stop knot. On one end of the swivel I tied on six inches of line then tied on a size 4 Pallatrax barbless hook using a Palomar knot. This simple rig of stop knots and swivel works very well for me, itís also very easy to move the weights up and down the line depending on the bait in use. Looking at the flow of water I reckon I would need three LG shot which were lightly pinched on the small length of line tied from the swivel.

My baits were bread and cheese feast paste from Pallatrax which I use as a base mix, I start off by breaking it up in lots chestnut size pieces into the food mixer, before adding three desert spoons of cooking oil, I then add four ounces of Danish blue which is also broken up then added to the mix. Finally I added a good helping of cheese feast glug. This glug when first purchased is virtually a solidified liquid. To get it into a more manageable form I put the pot of glug into hot water for about twenty minutes which ensures it pours like fresh honey. Having got all the ingredients into the food mixer, I give it a good whisk until itís a soft paste, sometimes I might have to add more glug and oil. I want bait that can be moulded around the hook or a chunk of crust. Fishing a combination of crust and cheese paste known as balanced paste. In fact its not new Richard Walker taught us the value of balanced baits in the 1950's. Itís still important in the 21st century. The cheese feast in the pot is far too stiff to use on the hook. You would need to fish it on a hair using a bead or leger stop. This is ok for barbell, but not for chub, when a chub picks up the bait it does so with its lips and you will miss too many bites. At 75 with time running out I have to try and hook every fish that picks up my bait.

My first choice swim was on the far bank bend underneath a large silver birch, upstream about five yard were lots of brambles over hanging the water, downstream about eight yards another large clump of brambles. It was a text book chub swim. Baiting with cheese and crust I dropped the bait at the head of the swim allowing it to slowly move downstream working into the undercut bank, it had gone three feet when the rod tip pulled round. A good chub was hooked and fighting for its freedom, the balanced tackle soon beat the fish and Will quickly had a good chub in the net. Saying "That's a good fish" on the scales it went 5-7-0. A quick picture by Will then we moved on.

The next swim was where the water flowed fast across the river to the far bank sweeping under a lot of willows where many of the branches overhung the water creating lots of overhead cover. I added another two LG shot then baited with crust and cheese paste. Casting out I worked the bait across the rive until it was tight to the far bank as it started moving downstream I felt a savage pull more reminiscent of a barbel. The strike connected with a heavy powerful fish, for several minutes it was give and take but as usual with well balanced tackle I started to win, a couple of minutes later Will netted a big chub. As Will said when it went into the net ďThat looks like a carpĒ. But we both realised it was a good chub. On the scales it went 6-2-0, a hollow fish. A few good days feeding it would have been 6-8-0 perhaps 6-12-0. Two casts two bites and two good fish. It was turning into a good day.

Another Big Chub

The next spot I chose to fish was a small area of still water below a big tree that had crashed into the river in 2009. Again I chose to fish a cheese feast balanced bait, quietly lowering the bait into the water I waited about five minutes then felt two very light taps, "That's not a crayfish I thought" Five minutes later with no more signs I wound in the bait. There was the perfect imprint of the chubís lips where it had taken out a piece of bait. Rebaiting I dropped the bait into the same spot, within a minute I got a solid pull, the rod hooped over as the fish made a desperate bid for its freedom. A few minutes later the fish gave up its struggle. Soon we had another good chub in the net. This time it weighed 6-2-0.After a picture we watched the fish swim strongly away. I then punched the air and said "Yes" a five and two sixes in 4 casts. I then called it a day and returned to looking after my pupils. Not only their fishing but ensuring they had a good hot pot lunch and making numerous mugs of tea. Mark Sural caught a personal best chub of 4-8-0 and Mark Hyde a chub of about 3lbs, but Mark did lose two other fish one I reckon could well have been a big five.

Double Figure Barbel

The next day Iím back n the Kennet with Tony Booker from Buckinghamshire, Mike Petch from London and Mark Hyde from Lancashire, three very good anglers, hopefully I would be able to help them enjoy their day on this drought stricken river, made even worse by abstraction. Its time the EA done the job they are supposed to do, that's it look after the environment. Recently the Chinese purchased an interest in Thames Water, a company that is owned by Australians. Lets be honest these people are not interested in our rivers only in taking the water for a profit. The water abstracted from the Kennet for Swindon isn't returned it back to the Kennet, how crazy is that. Many years ago when discussions were going on to privatise the water companies, I gave a speech at a NASA conference at Reading University. I told the audience about the problems anglers, naturalist and you and I who at that time were the current owners of the water industry would suffer. I stated that if Ayatollah Nickolas Rigby MP the Minister in charge of the privatisation of the water authorities achieved his aim. We would all suffer from higher bills, abstraction from rivers; we can now see the damage created by more abstraction. As you look around you will see the damage being done to our rivers. Does anyone in power really care? I donít think so. How much research are the EA doing into eradicating the signal crayfish, a foreign pest that is destroying our fisheries?

I chose a swim on the bottom of the beat for Tony, then walked to the top of the beat with Mike and Mark, as we walked upstream I showed them several swims, saying how I usually approached and fished the various swims. At the top of the beat I showed Mike a swim I reckon he should fish which usually holds chub and barbel, the top two baits are sausage meat paste and crust. Leaving Mike I then went downstream with Mark, reaching the chosen spot I pointed out areas to fish, one such area was against the far bank where it was possible to run a bait downstream then under some trailing willow branches which often held a barbel or chub. I then went off to the car park for a brew and sandwich.

It was now time to do my bailiff rounds, I hadn't gone far when I was approached by two people with short spinning rods, I asked to see their permits and as usual they wanted a day ticket. I then made it plain there are no day tickets on any of the waters in the area and sent them packing after a verbal lashing. It was nice to Mark Cannon and his Dad was on the water both catching chub and barbel. In fact the water was quite busy, especially at Aldermaston. After a good walk it was time for a late lunch. After I went to the top of the beat to find out how Mike and Mark were getting on, Mark had a chub about three and a half pounds, while Mike at that time hadn't had a bite.

After a good chat I slowly made my way downstream to Tony. He said "Iíve had two good trout and two chub but lost a good fish when it got rid of the hook. After speaking with a few other anglers I made my way upstream to a swim where I had been putting in half a dozen bait size pieces of balanced paste. Putting in a few more bait samples I made a cast downstream and across working the rolling bait under the trailing branches of a large alder tree, then put the rod in the rest. Putting the kettle I arranged the landing net and tackle bag so everything was handy should I get a fish? Having made a brew with no milk, I plugged my headphones then sat back and listened to the rugby.

As dusk was settling over the countryside the last of the long tailed tits were seeking out a few more tiny flies, then I was startled to see a big flock of fieldfare fly across the river and settle in some holly and hawthorn bushes behind me. Occasionally a blackbird would settle in the thick ivy on the opposite bank. I could feel the cold and dampness, the sky was clear being a sign of a frost. Probably the reason why the fish are not in a feeding mood. Iíve always reckoned that fish, birds and wildlife can tell when a cold front is coming. At about 7 o'clock with patches of mist drifting up river the temperature dropping I chose to fish another half an hour then call it a day.

Fifteen minutes later as I sat holding the rod I felt a light pluck then a more determined pull, striking I found myself hooked into a heavy and powerful fish. The reel grudgingly gave a few feet of line, "Thatís a big chub I thought" Slowly I pulled the fish upstream taking in a few inches of line, all the time the fish hugged the bottom which is unusual for a chub. After about six or seven minutes I started to get the fish up off the bottom and coming towards the waiting net. In the light of the torch beam I spotted the outline of a good fish, seconds later I could see it wasn't a chub, but a barbel. Then it was engulfed in the net. Dropping the rod I grabbed the landing net arms then hauled the fish up the bank onto the weigh mat. It weighed 11lbs. Thatís not bad I told myself when I was after chub. After a quick picture I watched the fish swim off strongly. ďIíve had enoughĒ I said to myself, stuffing everything in my bag I picked up rod and landing net then headed off to the car park. Twenty minutes later I was having a fresh brew. The next morning the ground was white with frost. It was time to leave for the River Wye where I was hoping one of my friends Col Sgt Tam Miller might just connect with a barbel.

Martin James Fishing