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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


A Red Letter Day on the River Ribble

After 3 weeks in the UAE where I spent some time with my 2 grandchildren and fishing the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and wading the flats, I was ready to get back on my River Ribble. .After attending a Remembrance Day service on Sunday 11th November, I went off to have a look at the Ribble, it was flowing clear and looked good for a few hours fishing, occasionally a grayling would cause a dimple on the surface as it took a buzzer, half a dozen small flies were coming off causing the dace to join the grayling in the feast. As I walked downstream of the weir pool, to a slow glide over clean gravel I spotted a bunch of chub in mid water. Having watched these fish for about been minutes , I walked back upstream to the cabin for some bait. Back in the area where I had seen the chub I started putting in some free offerings. Immediately the chub started moving around to intercept the bait. In fact they really got into a feeding frenzy.How I wished I had some gear with me. Sadly I had to go of to the studio to edit up some programme material.

Monday the River Ribble had an extra three feet of water with a temperature of 45 degrees, parking in the fishery car park, I walked off downstream to where I had seen the chub the previous day. With the extra water, the slow steady water where the chub had been was now near the far bank. With lots of leaves coming down I realised it was futile to fish my chosen swim, so dumped in a lot of broken boilies and Pallatrax strawberry flavoured squabs, then left the river hoping it might be fishable on Tuesday. Next day before crossing the River Ribble, I stopped to check the gauge, it looked spot on for fishing, twenty minutes after leaving home I'm pulling into the car park, Within minutes I dressed in chest high waders and with a bag of feed I'm off downstream. The river looked ideal except for the leaves, but as I planned to stand in the river upstream of my swim and float fish I didn't feel they would be a problem. The water was now clear again, I could see dark shadows moving around in the swim which was about 4 feet deep. For about 15 minutes I stood and fed in small balls of mashed bread which included bits of broken squabs.

The fish were certainly in a feeding mood, on occasions a chub would take a bit of mashed bread from just under the surface. It was time to go a collect my tackle. I chose to fish with a 15 foot rod, centre pin reel with 4lb line, I used a cork on quill float taking 6 AA shot bunched about 15 inches from the hook with an AA shot about 6 inches from a Pallatrax barbless size 12 hook. I can't recommend these hooks enough, they have never let me down. After a fresh cup of coffee and some toast, I locked the cabin then made my way downstream. As I passed the weir I said to myself "I should fish that area around dusk there could be the chance of a big chub" Stopping I threw in several chunks of cheese paste.

Back in my swim I dropped my tackle bag on the bank, then checked the water temperature, getting a reading of 47 degrees F. After hanging a small bag around my neck containing some mashed bread for feed with a pot of strawberry squabs. Squabs are quite hard so cannot be hooked. What I do is put my squabs in boiling water for about a minute, which makes them soft enough to put on the hook. Some anglers band them on the hook, its not something I like to do. Slowly I waded out to the head of the swim, then set the float at about three feet, first run through the swim it went unchecked, moving the float another six inches up the line. It still sailed through without dragging. At four feet it occasionally dragged the bottom, I moved it six inches back down the line. The swim was about ten yards in length, as the float reached the far end of the swim where it decreased in depth. I would hold the float back back hard causing the bait to lift. Its in this area where you will often catch a good fish, I find the bigger fish will often stay back from from the smaller fish.

Putting in a golf ball size of mashed bread with some bits of squab, I baited my size 12 hook then dropped the end tackle in downstream of where I was standing. Having set the reel drag so the current would pull off the line I watched the float sail down river, in about five yards it buried. Striking I connected with my first fish, a chub about 2lbs. Bringing it too hand I bent down then slipped out the barbless hook. In the next ten trots I had a fish on each occasion probably averaging around 2lbs. As I lowered the tackle in the swim for the next trot I added a chicken egg size lump of mashed bread. If your going to fish with mashed bread you need to make sure the bread is stale. I buy a few loaves, chop them in chunks then store it in the airing cupboard in mesh washing bags available from the supermarket.

In the next couple of hours I must have had twenty odd fish, most around the 2lbs mark, though I did have an odd fish that might have gone 3lbs. I decided it was time for lunch. wading ashore I rested the rod on my tackle bag, then made my way upstream. Switching on the gas oven to heat up some corn beef hash, while waiting for lunch, I made a phone call then made up some more mashed bread ready for the next session. Soon my lunch was ready which certainly tasted good. This was followed by some fresh fruit and a mug of tea. I was now ready for the second half. Back in my swim I fed in some chicken egg size ball of feed for about ten minutes then sat back to allow the fish to settle. Suddenly I heard the call of the wild goose, looking in the direction of the noise I could see high up in the sky a big skein of Pink-footed geese. My mind went back to my wildfowling days and my many friends who are no longer with us.

Hanging a bag of bait around my neck I picked up my rod then slowly waded a third of the way across the river, the beech trees looked resplendent in their autumn colours. Soon they would be stark and bare, but in my mind they would still look beautiful. Baiting my size 12 hook with a soft strawberry squab I dropped the tackle in the swim, it went all of ten feet then moved across the flow, striking I hooked a good fish that fought well, soon the well balanced tackle had the fish beaten a chub about 3lbs, in the next six casts I had six more fish, again nothing of size but I must say it was exciting fishing. I reckon nothing beats watching a float disappear. I then lost two fish in two chucks, checking the hook I found it sharp. To check hooks for sharpness stick the hook into your thumbnail, it it doesn't slide its sharp. Rebaiting I dropped the baited hook into the swim watching it like a hawk as it moved downstream, as it neared the end of the swim I held the float back, I felt a pluck then tightened, I thought I'd caught a small chub, it turned out to be a good dace probably going 12 ounces. I had seven more nice dace before the chub started to show interest again. During this afternoon session I must have had another 20 odd fish. Nothing to write home about reference the size of the fish. But it was great fun. Its a long time since I caught as many fish in a days angling. I decided not to fish the weir pool, I had enjoyed myself so decided to go home and get ready for my trip to the Kennet.

Martin James Fishing