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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


I Made the Mistake of Not Trying Hard Enough

I’ve just returned from 6 days on the River Kennet, well not quite 6 days the first day was an evening session of about three hours. One bite, one fish a nice barbel of 9-7-0 on two lobworms. The next day Friday I arrived on the river about 10 o’clock in the morning to find a group of anglers Jeff Tucker, Andy Bachelor, William Preston and Andrew J Davis. (see pic)Who like to fish with cane rods and centre pin reels more power to them, I’m told Andrew makes a good cane rod with a waiting time of about 18 months. After checking their permits I wished them well. As they moved off downstream I went off and bailiffed the rest of the Wasing waters. Then it was time for lunch. After a short break for a fresh brew and a sandwich. As I sorted out the gear, I realised I didn’t have a spreader block for the landing net. I was gutted. It would mean I had to fish a swim with my friend David; this doesn’t work when you’re hunting chub.

I made a phone call to my friend Will who said “I will be with you in about an hour with a spreader block” Problem solved. While waiting for Will I chose what I thought would be good swim, one where I have had three different six pound plus chub this season and sat for about thirty minutes baiting with mashed bread. Back in the car park I had a chat with Will who was going off to fish the River Lodden. After seeing him safely out of the car park I headed off to my chosen swim just as the rain started to sheet down.
I chose to fish a soft through action rod finding a soft rod ideal for chub fishing; it was matched with a small fixed spool reel loaded 15lb Spider thread line to which I attached three feet of 8lb fluorocarbon line, using a small swivel to connect braid to fluorocarbon. I then tied on a size 4 Pallatrax hook; 4 LG shot were pinched lightly on the line about 6 inches from the hook.
Baiting with a chunk of crust I cast out so I could bump the crust down gravel run between two beds of water crowfoot. Spending about 15 perhaps 20 minutes on each cast. I fished hard but couldn’t get a single fish to show interest. After some 3 hours using crust or flake I tried cheese paste then a lobworm, still nothing. With the rain sheeting down, I chose to pack up early. It was a mistake. I should have changed swims perhaps fished 2 or 3 other spots. I got lazy and deserved not to catch, it served me right. I want make the same mistake twice.

. Water Height and Temperature Were On The Up
Saturday when we arrived at the river we jumped for joy we were like a couple of kids, the Kennet was up about 15 inches with lots of colour the water temperature was 54 degrees F conditions looked perfect. I said to David “I reckon it’s a dozen or more barbel catch today” After chucking a large bag of smelly cheese paste, along with some sausage meat and a box of lobworms I was ready to hunt down the barbel, perhaps a chub. After walking about a mile down river we arrived at a spot that literally screamed barbel, on the downstream side of a bend we had a perfect crease with enough room for both of us to fish. After putting in some hook size bait samples were put the kettle on for a brew. An hour later we were ready to fish. Apart from switching to a more powerful rod, the tackle was the same as used the day before. Baiting with a pigeon egg size chunk of sausage meat I spent a couple of hours rolling the bait down the swim, nothing. I then changed over to static bait. Still nothing. Should we move I thought no it’s a great looking swim over clean gravel with water crowfoot either side of the gravel. In fact I thought the gravel run was like a motorway telling David that any fish moving upstream would move through our swim.
Apart from breaking off for an hour for something to eat around 5 o’clock in the afternoon we fished hard. Not a tremble even the crayfish were absent. Just on dusk David had a good take, the answering strike pricked a fish and that was the sum total for the day.

A Big Fish Lost
Most of my Sunday was spent guiding Jayson Preece; it earned 2 cheques of £75-00 one payable to Crossroad Care the other to the Army Benevolent Fund. His day with me was a 40th birthday present from his Mum. (see pic)
At 5 ‘clock Jay went off home, while David and I went off for dinner. 7’clock we were ready to go off and fish another beat, choosing to fish a swim on the edge of a wood. Baiting with some pigeon eggs size ball of sausage meat paste, we left the swim alone for half an hour to give the fish if they were present the chance to find our free offerings. Both of us then baited our size 4 hooks then cast out, the bait settling in a nice crease or seam. Suddenly I had 2 small taps on the rod tip, picking up the rod I waited about half a minute before the tip was slowly pulled down, striking I set the hook in what I quickly realised was a powerful fish as it slowly moved upstream. I had hooked up to a good fish. For several minutes the fish slowly but powerfully moved upstream. Suddenly it turned down stream very fast; I was forced to give line. A couple of minutes later the fish crashed into a load of sunken branches and other rubbish. I was gutted. In the next 2 hours the only action was clearing weed off our lines.

Roaming from Swim too Swim
I suppose it was around 9 o’clock in the morning when David and I arrived at a café in Thatcham for breakfast, while David enjoyed his bacon and eggs I went off shopping for milk, bread, porridge etc. I chose not to have breakfast, but wait until later when I could have a bowl of porridge which would be far healthier. We then visited Tadley Angling where we both purchased a pair of laced up waterproof boots and a few items of tackle.
Back on the river it was a tale of missed bites, David quickly hooked and landed 2 barbels, he then moved into another swim where he caught two chub. I moved off downstream, missing 2 good pulls in the first spot, and then missed another good pull in my next swim. Half a mile further on I fished a well known chub spot missing 6 good pulls. I gave up and headed off upstream for a brew and sandwich. At the top end of the beat I met David who said “I reckon I’ve missed perhaps 20 good pulls and missed them all, all they have done is take a piece of the meat”
After lunch David moved off upstream, I went downstream arriving at an interesting looking swim, though I had to push my way through bushes, brambles and nettles to reach the water. After putting in a dozen marble size ball of cheese paste I sat back to give any fish the chance of finding the free samples and feel confidence in feeding.
Half an hour later I had my first fish a good barbel around nine pounds quickly followed by 3 more fish averaging 6lbs then I had a nice chub I reckon would be 4lb plus. I then lost a barbel when the hook pulled. After a quite spell I quickly had another barbel and chub. It was time for food so after putting in some free offerings I walked back to the car where David was already waiting with the kettle on. After some food and a mug of tea David joined me in the swim. Within five minutes he quickly caught a barbel on sausage meat. I was fishing with cheese paste further downstream, in the evening session lasting some three hours I had perhaps a dozen good bites, holding the rod I could feel all the knocks and pulls but every bite was missed. About 10 o’clock that evening we decided to pack up. David had just the 1 fish. The question was, “Why did I miss so many bites” also why David didn’t get any more bites. A question I couldn’t answer.
Another Day of Missed Bite
Tuesday was a day of low light levels and very mild, the colour had gone out of the river, it looked better for chub than barbel, but I reckon we could catch both species of fish. I chucked two loaves of bread in the bag along with sausage and cheese paste. Having sorted out tackle and bait we moved off to our chosen bits of water, David went upstream, while I moved off downstream. We met up at lunchtime, David hadn’t had a bite, and I had 2 which were both missed.
The afternoon was spent roaming from swim to swim 5 bites 4 missed; the only fish was an out of season brown trout. At 5 o’clock I called David to say “I was cooking dinner” 15 minutes later he arrived to say “I’ve not had a bite” Dinner finished I went off down stream, while David went off upstream where he had been fishing during the afternoon session. I chose to fish ‘Bearings’ where a willow tree was half in and half out of the water; I had 2 bites on cheese paste, which resulted in 2 barbels both around the 6lb mark. As the first fish went in the net, I shouted to myself “Yes” in relief. I fished on further downstream of ‘Bearings’ getting a chub on crust. I then moved off upstream stopping at ‘Bodsworth’s’ where I got a barbel about 8lbs and missed 2 chub, both fish had taken a chunk of the bait.
Back in the car park I met up with David where we both fished together I had 2 barbels the best a nine pounder. At 10 o’clock we ended the session. Wednesday we made the long drive home. Today Thursday I fished the Ribble getting 2 salmon estimated at 6lbs and 9lbs.

Martin James Fishing