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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


More Days On The River Kennet 8th February

As I was putting together the tackle and bait requirements for a week long fishing session on the rivers Bain, Upper Ouse and Kennet, the telephone sounded its strident note. Picking up the telephone I said "Hello there" I heard Kevin say "Martin the Kennet is up a foot with a rising water temperature it should be good fishing. Thanks mate I will be down early tomorrow morning" and replaced the telephone. Change of plans. It was to be the Kennet for Sunday, Monday and back home late on Tuesday evening. Wednesday I had to work on a travel programme then I would go back to the Kennet on Thursday morning if the fishing was good. It might be a 550 miles round trip to the Kennet, but its certainly worth all the effort to be fishing one of England’s nicest rivers with a great group of anglers. My travelling companion for the first three day was a young Martin James who works for the EA. Martin deserves the praise of every angler for spending so much time helping the beginners to this fine sport.

Arriving on the banks of the Kennet at Brimpton a Wasing fisheries syndicate water we were surprised to find just one vehicle in the car park. Checking the water temperature we got a reading of 47 degrees F which eventually reached 53 degrees F by the Tuesday morning. I gave Martin the choice of swims, he immediately said "I will fish the weir pool". I decided to fish the Warren beat using a roving approach, if I thought a swim needed to be fished for an hour or two I would do so. Martin was equipped for anything, with a selection of good quality tackle and a wide variety of baits pellets, boilies, bread and meat. On the previous evening Martin instead of going off to the pub, had stayed indoors making up small pva bags of small pellets for attaching to his line, which would ensure the free offering would be around the hook bait.

I made up two Avon action rods with centre pin reels and 6lb bs line, I had a sliding link on one outfit with some fifteen inches between the leger stop and hook for fishing meat and lobworms. My crust fishing outfit had two LG shot pinched lightly on the line about 4 inches from a size 6 hook. Having made up our tackle then sorted out some baits, we sat enjoying some freshly made tea and sandwiches before going our separate ways.

A Quick Chub

My first swim I chose to fish was ‘Bramble Bend’ so named because of the huge spread of brambles. Within a couple of minutes I had a chub in the net about three pounds which had grabbed a chunk of bread fished tight to the bank. I fished on for another fifteen minutes and with no further interest I moved on downstream towards the ‘Salmon Hut’ As I moved downstream I dropped chunks of crust into every likely looking spot. In the two hours I spent working my way downstream, I had five good bites catching two chub about three pounds apiece and a barbel about 6lbs. On my way back upstream to the car park I fished sausage meat or lobworms taking just one barbel about 6lbs. In the car park I met Phil who was sorting out his tackle in the ‘Bridge Swim’. "How are you doing Phil" I asked. "Iv lost two barbel in a snag they felt like good fish". We chatted for a while, as I was leaving I said "Would you like a fresh brew"?. "Yes please" While waiting for the kettle to boil, I sorted out dinner, putting a big saucepan of beef stew on the other stove to heat through slowly. Two swims upstream another angler had caught three barbel on pellet bait. Young Martin arrived saying "I haven't had a bite in the weir pool" As we sat enjoying our tea we discussed the prospects for the evening Martin was going back to the weir pool for an hour then move downstream to one of the board swims. I was going downstream and fish a swim near the ‘Salmon Hut’.

Golden Barbel

Dinner finished we moved off to our separate swims, Arriving at my chosen fishing spot I introduced two large balls of mashed bread and a dozen pieces of sausage meat, baiting with meat I cast downstream some ten yards, then sat holding the rod. Ten minutes later I had a savage take, connecting with a powerful fish which tried to reach some sunken branches but my control of the well balanced tackle stopped any chance of that happening. I quickly had barbel number two in the net. A lovely golden coloured fish of about 7lbs, in fact one of the nicest barbel I have ever seen. In the next hour I had two more fish a chub about 4lbs and a barbel about 5lbs. Having fished on for another hour without a bite I called it a day. Back at the car park I met up with Martin who had one chub from one of the board swims. Stowing our tackle in the car we made our way to the B&B where delightful Jan made us some tea and toast. I rolled into bed completely shattered and slept through until 7-30 next morning.

Full of Promise on A Day of Perfect Fishing Conditions

After a good breakfast we drove back to the car park to find two other vehicles, collecting our tackle Martin decided to fish the weir pool again, while I went off downstream. The water was well coloured and the water temperature had gone up to 50 degrees F. It was a warm muggy day, in fact prospects couldn't have been better. I roved up and downstream fishing various swims with bread, lobworms and sausage meat catching three chub and seven barbel which included a couple of 8lb plus fish. Making my way upstream for dinner, I decided to drop a bit of crust into a spot where two opposing flows of water created a quiet spot tight to the bank. It was about the size of a dinner tray. Known in my book as the ‘Point Swim’ Its often produced a fish on those days when its been a struggle to catch. Within seconds of casting out the rod tip pulled round in a slow determined manner. Striking I hooked a barbel, after a good give and take tussle for about three or four minutes, I was able to net barbel number eight weighing about 6lbs. From experience I know its a waste of time continuing to fish on in this swim. On my way to the car park I caught a chub from Bramble Bend about 4lbs. During the session I had seen a kingfisher, tree creeper, jay, several robins, wrens and blackbirds. Pheasants were about in profusion now the shooting season had ended.

Over dinner Martin and I discussed our fishing, Martin had lost a good barbel, caught a small barbel and a chub. One member fishing pellets had six good barbel, while another member fishing caster and feeding hemp had caught four barbel and six chub. We decided to fish until about 9pm Martin choosing to fish a swim just downstream of the weir pool, while I was going downstream to fish a swim which had I been baiting with mashed bread, chopped lobworms and sausage meat. Back in my baited swim I checked the water temperature, it was now fifty one degrees F with an air temperature of 54 degrees F. I chose to fish two rods, one with crust the other with meat. Within thirty minutes and four fish later. I used only one rod so good was the fishing. I couldn’t get a chub, but the barbel were in a feeding frenzy. I lost count after barbel number thirteen or fourteen perhaps it was number fifteen I don’t know.. I do know I had three eight pound and two nine pound plus fish. Bread, meat and lobworms were all successful baits. The weather was that warm I didn’t even put on my top coat. I was quite disappointed at having to leave feeding fish and head off to the B&B at about 9-30pm.

Tuesday morning while watching the weather forecast on breakfast television, the announcer said. "A sever weather warning was in operation for Cumbria and Lancashire". We decided we would leave for home by lunchtime and not stay until after teatime. Back on the river the water level had dropped a few inches, some of the colour had gone out of the water. But the W/T had gone up to 53 degrees F. Martin followed my example of roving from swim to swim, trying all the likely looking spots. As I arrived at the ‘Point Swim’ I could see Martin crouched low fishing a classic glide on the opposite bank, moving into position I dropped a chunk of crust into the hot spot, within thirty seconds I had a barbel about five pounds. Martin couldn’t believe his eyes. He had just fished the swim without success. In this swim the bait has to be dropped with pin point accuracy, or you don’t get a take. During the short morning session I had two barbel and three chub. At 12 noon we are back in the car park, after a fresh brew, the gear was packed away and soon we were on the A4 heading for the M4 then the A419, A417, M5 M6 and home. It had been a great fishing session in perfect conditions.

Back To The Lovely River Kennet

After spending Wednesday working on a travel programme, I got a telephone call during the evening from my friend David saying a 12lb plus barbel had been caught from a stretch of the Kennet just upstream of Brimpton. Early Thursday morning Graeme Cook a Lancaster civil servant who has just joined the Wasing syndicate picked me up for two more days on the delightful Kennet. The journey was done without any hold ups, the toll road on the M6 has certainly made a great difference to journey times when travelling south. About four hours after leaving home we are pulling into the Brimpton car park where Graham chose to fish the weir pool. I was going roving for the first two or three hours, then after dinner I would fish a baited swim near the ‘Salmon Hut’ Tackle was my usual Avon action rods, with centre pin reels and 6lb bs line. On one set up I would fish crust, while the other outfit would be a running leger rig where I would use either lobworms or sausage meat paste.

It Was Tough Going on The Warren Beat

The water temperature was fifty one degrees F, and the river flow rate had decreased quite a bit over the previous thirty six hours. On Monday the fish were fairly close to the bank, it would be a different story today. The fish would probably be further out towards mid stream in the faster water. My first choice swim was ‘Bramble Point’ where I hoped I might catch a perch or two in a back eddy on the far bank, No perch, but I did catch two nice chub about three and half pounds on double lobworm bait. Moving on downstream I managed a couple of small barbel on sausage meat. Moving onto the ‘Point Swim’ I had a nice barbel about six pounds. About 4 o’clock I decided it was time for dinner, calling Graeme on his mobile I said I was coming back to the car park for dinner. He said "I will meet you there I’ve lost a good barbel about 8 or 9lbs and caught a smaller fish" Over dinner we discussed our options. I suggested Graham might like to come downstream and fish a glide where earlier another member fishing pellet bait had taken six barbel.

Graeme agreed, I fished a swim where the river flowed from left to right towards a raft of rubbish and tree roots. It was a tale of woe for me, I missed five good takes. I had two more good takes and lost both fish, one in a snag. The other shed the hook. Meanwhile Graeme had caught a barbel about 4lbs. After a thirty minute spell without any sign of action I felt a small pluck on the line which turned into a good pull. I connected with a good barbel which weighed 8-2-0. Walking down to Graeme to tell him about my latest fish I could see him playing a barbel, picking up his landing net I crouched low watching him play what looked like a good fish. After a few minutes I was able to net a barbel of six or seven pounds. We both fished on for another couple of hours without any sign of action then decided to call it a day. During the evening we noticed the air and water temperature had dropped, the latter to fifty degrees F. While a cold wind blew across the river.

A Wet and Windy Session

Next day Friday in the heavy rain we slowly fished our way downstream without success, I had two bite off’s but I couldn’t work out how the chub were able to do this when I was fishing a one inch link. As the river was rising it was turning a dirty muddy colour with some floating rubbish, the W/T had dropped down to 48 degrees. After an hours fishing I had a good pull on a chunk of crust, connecting with a heavy fish. It didn’t feel like a chub, it certainly wasn’t a barbel . I was rather surprised to see I had got a pike about six or seven pounds. About 11-30 am I moved further downstream into the wood where I dropped a bit of crust in a small area of quieter water just inches from the bank. A few feet downstream was a raft of rubbish. Within seconds I had small pull on the rod tip followed by a good pull. I connected with a good chub which felt very heavy. I cramped on as much pressure as I dare but slowly the fish was gaining the sanctuary of that raft of rubbish. Suddenly I felt the line rubbing on some thing solid. My fish had found a snag, I slackened off hoping the fish would swim out. No such luck after another minute or so the line parted. I was gutted. I had the impression it was a very big chub. Perhaps another six pounder.

Graham on the opposite bank felt it was a good fish saying "I could see the rod hooped right over" We decided it was time for have a mug of tea. Making our way back to the car park I got a call on my mobile from Chris Leibbrandt to say he was on his way and would be with us in about ten minutes. Just as the kettle boiled Chris turned up, while I made three mugs of tea, Graeme sorted out some fruit cake for Chris. I made do with a two slices of cold toast. Graeme made a huge three inch thick mackerel sandwich. As we sat chatting about all things fishy, the rain ceased the sun came out and everything was pleasant. Having eaten and drunk two mugs of tea apiece I recorded some stuff with Chris and Graeme for my ‘At The Waters Edge’ programme on BBC Radio Lancashire. We then went off fishing Chris trying for a pike while Graeme and myself would continue to try and catch chub and barbel.

About 3 o’clock I met up with Graeme who said "I think I have been missing some roach bites". He then showed me the spot. "Do you mind if I have ago" I said. No go ahead. I moved into the swim where within ten minutes I had a small tap on the rod tip then a good pull connecting with a nice chub which I lost. Checking the hook point I could see it was turned over. I replaced the hook, then re-baited with a bit of crust Twenty minutes later I caught a nice chub probably going 4lbs. I fished on without any more success. In the fading light we called it a day and headed off for the car park. After sorting out the tackle it was loaded in the car then we headed for home arriving back in Lancashire about 10-30pm. Today Saturday I was in the studio for 4-am then home about 12 noon. The weather has turned quite wintery with a very cold gale force wind and tonight its snow, hail, rain and a gale force north westerly wind. I want be fishing tomorrow.

Martin James Fishing