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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Otters, Mink and Other Things

With the River Ribble bank high with a dropping water temperature, in my opinion the only fish worth targeting is the chub, The Ribble isn't like the Kennet, Avon, Stour or Loddon, its a big brawling river with few quiete bits of water where one can expect to find the chub in high water. Not many swims on inside of bends or behind crashed down tree that create nice creases. The past week I have spent many hours walking the banks feeding in a few hook bait samples in the few likely looking spots. Yes, I've had a few chub but nothing like I've had in the past.

I have seen the otter on several occasions and witnessed some dead big trout on the river bank, certainly otter predation. As I have run 10 mink traps for several years I know the difference between otter and mink also the way both species leave dead fish after feeding. Also there has been a big drop in moorhens which I know from many years of being a countryman that otters and mink will attack and kill. In the past 3 year I have trapped and killed over 80 mink, during 2012 I have had only 3 mink in my traps. I have certainly eradicated many of these evil pests. On Wednesday evening last week at about 8 o'clock in the evening I watched an otter swim across from the far bank then disappear close to my bank. Probably spooked by my lamp. The next morning I found a big brown trout partially eaten on the bank fifty yards upstream of where I had been fishing. I reckon the chub realised a predator was about as I had just one bite at dusk then nothing. To all those who fish the River Ribble who pooh-pooh the news that someone has seen an otter I say think again, get out on the bank with a good pair of binoculars both at dawn and dusk, in fact why not get a night site and spend some time on reconnaissance over several evening. You might be surprised how many poachers you will see.

Soft Paste Baits

Even before I was a teenager I realised how important fishing soft paste baits were in catching fish especially roach. Granddad Turner had spent a lifetime at country pursuits, from wildfowling on the foreshore; he had no time for those who shot ducks over a pond fed with barley. To babbing for eels, treading for flounders, hunting rabbits with gun, snares and ferrets, in fact he used everything legal to put meat on the table to go with his home grown vegetables. He was another Fred J. Not only did Granddad help make me a countryman he taught me so much about angling. Through him I got to know how to make a soft bread paste, as follows. Take a week old loaf then cut off all the crust so youíre left with just the white crumb. He would then get part of an old cotton sheet; the bread was then crumbled up as fine as possible. Then wrapped in the piece of cotton sheet. This was then immersed in cold water for a minute or so. No clock was used he went by experience as to when he should start kneading the entire crumb inside the piece of cotton. Until it was a soft like paste, not even a piece of bread the size of 10 shot. The past was often so soft we would take some sheep's wool off the barbered wire to give the paste a texture so it stayed on the hook. When Granddad heard what we were doing he told us it wasn't necessary. Just use a slightly bigger hook. As always he was proved right.

Another very popular bait was cheese paste, after making up some soft white paste as described he would get some cheese that had been stored in the shed for several weeks to improve its smell I was told. With a fine cheese grater, he tuned that chunk of cheese into a pile of finely grated cheese. This was then worked into the bread paste, often he would spend what seemed like an hour kneading and kneading the cheese and paste together. I was then put into a tin and stored in the shed for several weeks before use, every few days it was taken out and given a good kneading. Come winter we had the perfect paste bait. It wasn't just the chub that liked this bait; it was a great roach bait. In fact today I sat in my riverside cabin kneading several balls of cheese paste, another tip you might like to try is to add some French's Blue Cheese Dressing, if yiu cannot find this brand in your supermarket then try Heinz blue cheese dressing.

Excellent Bread Crust

Many anglers question me about keeping crust on the hook, my usual answer is use a bigger hook if youíre having problems, Many times I will put on a chunk of crust then cast out, in the next ten minutes or so I will retrieve and cast several times. Proving to those that are doubtful that bread crust will stay on the hook. When I'm seeking roach I prepare my crust in a different way, some tell me that they can't be bothered mucking about that as they say. If you want to catch good roach, the following might just help you catch that dream fish. Take a two or three day old loaf, then cut off the crust leaving about half an inch of white crumb attached. I then cut this into half inch wide strips. These are placed on a carving board then a white damp cotton cloth is placed over the crust. This is followed by a wooden board then a heavy weight. In my younger days I used to use a couple of my mothers irons. I would leave the bread over night. Next morning the strips would be wrapped in the cloth. At the waterside I would cut off cubes the size I wanted for the hook, often it was a size 10 or 12. In my book soft bread paste, bread flake and crust are my first choice baits when seeking old Rutilus rutilus


Some book titles you might like to try and get are the series of books by Arthur Sharp, Fisherman's Creel, Lure of the Float, Angler's Corner, Rod and Stream and Along Natures Byways all are worth reading, many of the ways of fishing in those books are still suitable for today's anglers. You don't have to use pellets or boilies. Another couple of books I'm sure you will enjoy are by Wilfred Gavin Brown, Angler's Almanac and My River. Another author is Maurice Wiggin who penned several titles. Books by Faddist are certainly worth reading, Roach Fishing is probably my favourite book from the pen of Faddist. Finally my favourite author is Hugh Tempest Sherringham who has several books, including An Angler's Hours; I just love the first chapter At Dawn of Day when I read this chapter Iím transported to the River Beult at Hunton. As you read this chapter you to will get the feeling he is writing about one of your favourite swims. Another set of books are The Angling Times book, followed by second, third and fourth editions. These books contain some of the best writing from the authors of the day. Finally one book that will help you when fishing rivers and understanding the use of a thermometer is This Fishing by Captain L A Parker. Itís a great read and one I have had the pleasure of reading sine it was first published in 1940ís thanks to Granddad Turner

Martin James Fishing