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


Conditions Were Horrid - But I Had To Fish

I've just had a hard weekend in the studio putting together programmes and recording interviews. It was about 3 o'clock in the afternoon when I arrived home after a 5 o'clock in the morning start. Looking at a cold wind swept River Ribble I wasn't encouraged to spend the last hour of day light on its bank, so I continued on my way home. Its not often I’m put off fishing but it just didn't seem right. When I was working full time, I had to fish or shoot on my days off what ever the weather. At 75 being retired I can choose when I want to venture out.

Back home after a hot pot dinner, I sat in my favourite chair reading Dick Walker's book simply titled Angling. It’s a book I recommend to all anglers. There is so much commonsense written between the front and back covers. As I read chapter 16 Where to fish in cold weather page 59 I got the urge to be at the waterside. Despite the forecast for the next few days I made up my mind I would be on the river next day come what may. I suppose I must have read this book hundreds of time from cover to cover since it was published in the 1970’s, I still find it interesting.It certainly encourages me to get out of the house and to the river bank.

Monday morning the weathers not for the fainthearted wind gusting from the North West and heavy rain. After doing various chores in the garden of an elderly lady, it was time for lunch. Just after 1 o’clock I put a13 foot float rod, centre pin reel and a can of corn, along with a soft 11 foot rod, with fixed spool reel, that I would use for legering crust and flake in the car. Collecting my small shoulder bag from the tackle cupboard along with a bag of cheese paste I was ready to go. Fifteen minutes later I’m pulling up beside the riverside cabin. Ten minutes later I’m walking across the flooded meadow towards the river, the cold icy wind in my face causing my eyes to water, my face felt numb from the wind.

Baiting a few fishing spots

At the waterside I wasn’t pleased to see the river up a few inches looking a horrid grey colour. No doubt caused by the salt and crap off the roads, also the slurry that runs off from the fields. I got a water temperature reading of 38 degrees F, certainly not encouraging. I had come to fish, so I would make the best of a bad job. Choosing three likely looking grayling swims, I spent a few minutes in each trickling in some grains of corn. After walking about a mile downstream to a small copse at the bottom of the beat, I realised how much warmer it was in the shelter of the trees and bushes, in fact it was most pleasant. The first spot I chose was where an ancient and big hawthorn tree over hung the water, I introduced two handfuls of bread crumb and three bait size pieces of very soft cheese paste, then moved on to a swim where an ivy clad alder tree had crashed into the water several months ago creating a lovely slack. Ideal for chub to lay up in cold water conditions and cover from the cormorants. Again I introduced two handfuls of crumb and three small pieces of flake.

Trotting With Corn

Back upstream in the first chosen grayling swim, I threaded the line through the guides then attached a balsa float on a wire stem to carry 6 AA shot, then tied on a size 12 hook. Pushing the float 4 feet up the line from the hook I lightly pinched on the LG shot fifteen inches from the hook. Finally a BB shot was pinched on the line six inches from the hook. Should a fish pick up the bait then rise in the water, it would register on the float as some of the weight is taken up by the fish. It’s most important that you use a telltale shot otherwise you will find some of the fish will be hooked well back in the mouth.

Throwing in half a dozen grains of corn, I baited the hook with a grain of corn, with an underhand cast dropped the float in at the head of the swim. Holding back the float I allowed the baited hook to move downstream, occasionally it would start to submerge, gently lifting the rod I eased the baited hook over the obstruction, probably weed. Half a dozen trots and feeding three or four grains of corn on each cast, I got no sign of a fish wanting the bait. I pushed the float down the line six inches and continued casting, feeding and trotting. Still no sign of fish. I moved downstream to my second swim, still no interest.

A Brace of Grayling

At my third choice swim under the far bank swim in some slow steady water I had a bite first cast. ‘Missed’ spinning the reel I quickly baited the hook, fed in four grains of corn then made a long Wallace cast dropping the float in at the head of the swim, half way down it submerged. Striking I found myself connected to a lively fish, at first I thought it was a trout; suddenly it swirled on the surface. “Yes grayling” I said to myself, soon I was unhooking a fish about a pound mark. I fished on for about thirty minutes catching just one more grayling and an out of season trout. It was time to move

Downstream In the Chub Swim

I chose to fish the bottom of the two baited swims where the ivy clad alder tree had crashed in the water. Sitting on the bank I immediately realised how much warmer it was in the shelter from the icy cold north westerly wind. I pinched on an LG shot on the line about 4 inches from a size 6 hook, then baited with a small piece of crust. I cast out across the seam or crease, into the faster water so the bait would be pushed naturally into the quiet water. Rather than do what many anglers do, that’s drop the bait on the head of the fish they want to catch.

It worked with ten seconds I felt a slow pull on the rod then set the hook, chub number one was hooked, after struggling for a couple of minutes I netted a chub perhaps pushing 4lbs. “Yes”, I shouted to no one, I must admit I didn’t expect a chub though I hoped for one. In the next hour I had two trout but no more chub. In the failing light I chose to call it a day. Making my way back upstream through the copse I disturbed several pheasant going to roost, arriving at a small pool a bunch of teal shot skywards. Back in the cabin I put the kettle on for a fresh brew, waiting for the kettle to boil I put the tackle back in the car. With the rain now sheeting down, surrounded by an inky blackness all around I locked the cabin then headed off home. Despite the horrid conditions I had my string pulled; no doubt I would be back on the river tomorrow.

Martin James Fishing