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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Its Been A Tough Week On My River 15th February

Lots of Trout

Its certainly been a strange few days on my home water, Last week on the Kennet I had some wonderful fishing but this week on my home water its been tough going. Monday 9th February the morning was spent on a training session with some new recording equipment. With weather conditions Spring like I fished a afternoon session on the river Ribble near Clitheroe with Graeme Cook of Lancaster. The river was at a good height with a water temperature of 38 degrees F . After baiting several swims with sausage meat and mashed bread. I started off fishing my first chosen swim near the bottom of the beat opposite a small copse. Tackle was an Avon action rod, centre pin reel, 6lb line and a size 6 hook. I chose to roll sausage meat paste on a size 6 hook down my chosen fishing spot. In three casts I had three good pulls all brown trout. Out of season trout can be troublesome, it was time to move on.

My next spot was on a bend where the water pushed across to the far bank. In half an hour I had two good pulls which turned out to be brown trout. Roll on the 15th March when I can target these brown trout, but from previous experience the trout that I and other members of the syndicate catch on flies and nymphs are not like some of these brutes which often measure some twenty odd inches. These are big trout. At the start of the new season I will be fishing a fast sinking line and Clouser minnows in the hope of hooking up to a few of these brown trout.

Walking upstream about a hundred yards I came to a swim where some hawthorn bushes over hung the river, with a good steady flow of water averaging about three feet in depth I though this swim would be good for float fishing. Taking off my shot and size 6 hook I attached a big balsa float, tied on a size 6 hook then pinched on three swan shot about ten inches from the hook. After adjusting the depth I baited with a bit of bread flake. Swinging the tackle out about ten feet I trotted the bait downstream after about twenty feet the float dipped. Striking I connected with a fish which jumped clear of the water. Another trout I cursed under my breath. Unhooking the fish I watched it swim off strongly. Rebating with another piece of bread flake I made a cast dropping the tackle some fifteen feet out from the bank. The float travelled about ten feet then disappeared, another trout was hooked and played to the bank then unhooked in the water. When ever possible I try not to handle any trout as they are a very delicate fish.

Time for a move I walked upstream asking myself the question "Why so many trout"?, From past experience when the river is carrying extra water with a low water temperature I have found the trout very aggressive grabbing any food item that comes their way. Some two hundred yards upstream was a quieter stretch of water where I thought I might catch chub. and not trout, In this new swim there is a distinct seam or crease It was off with the float which was replaced with two LG shot stopped about six inches from a size 4 hook. I baited with a big chunk of crust. Making an underhand swing I dropped the bait on the crease swim and slowly allowed the bait to trundle downstream. It had gone some twenty feet, when the rod tip slammed over. I set the hook in my first chub. After a brief struggle I had a nice fish about three and a half pounds at the waters edge. Bending down I unhooked and released my first chub.

Rebaiting with another chunk of crust I made a gentle underhand swing dropping the bait once more into the crease. By using a sink and draw style of fishing I was able to work the bait slowly down river. A couple of minutes or so after casting out, I had a good pull. Striking I connected with another chub. These fish are easy to recognise from trout by the way they pull. Trout usually twist and make short runs. The chub just pull, sometimes taking a few yards of line. They feel more solid in the water and often do some head shaking. Fish number two was landed and released. I introduced more mashed bread, five minutes later I realised I had done the wrong thing as another trout grabbed the bait. I had two more trout in the next two casts. It was time to move.

My next swim was where a large Alder tree over hung the water, baiting with bread flake I cast out and allowed the bait to swing in tight to the bank. Tree roots plunged into the water some branches trailed in the water surface. Within minutes I had a sharp tap on the rod tip, connecting with a nice chub about three pounds. In the next half an hour I had three more chub all on crust. Then as the light faded I had another trout and called it a day.

Tuesday was spent doing various jobs, the first couple of hours after breakfast was spent sorting out all the equipment for a forthcoming bonefish, barracuda and shark fishing trip to Moxey Town on Andros Island followed by answering letters and E-mail's from my listeners. After lunch I spent the afternoon working in the garden, sorting out my compost boxes, scrubbing off the bird table and feed boxes checking my nesting boxes and tidying up my shed. Late in the afternoon I visited the Ribble to bait a couple of swims. Arriving on the river I spotted three cormorants certainly bad news for our trout stocks. I done my best to frighten them off but they just moved further downstream.

Trout and Cormorants

Wednesday I was back on the river for a full day, In the car park about two dozen long tailed tits were working along the hedgerow. Across the river I spotted a pair of oyster catchers on the shingle, overhead a dozen or more curlew were calling to each other. Looking downstream I could see a pair of cormorants. Immediately I had that feeling of despair. There wasnít much I could do except try and move them on. It didnít work. I checked the water temperature it was 43 degrees F. My morning session accounted for just one trout about twelve inches.

Over a long lunch I chatted with the river keeper about the coming game fishing season the various birds now making an appearance and of course the cormorants. Lunch over I moved off downstream choosing a chub swim that had given me a lot of success over the years. I started off fishing with legered crust, still no bites half an hour I decided to take off the LG shots and free line a lump of sausage meat paste. I spent some time rolling the paste down the swim without success. I then changed back to legered crust. As I sat there watching a robin a cormorant surfaced in my swim. It was time to move. I walked upstream about eight hundred yards to a bend in the river where a pool had been created. I had a chub about two pounds and with the mist appearing over the riverside fields and a drop in the temperature I decided to call it a day.

An Odd Trout But No Chub

Thursday I am back on the river, this time with Mick Holgate conditions were near perfect water temperature 44 degrees F warm overcast and no wind. Mick went upriver I went downstream I tried several swim without a chub just the odd trout. We met up for lunch the tally between us was three trout. Over lunch we discussed the fishing, neither of us could work out why we couldnít catch any chub. Today we hadnít seen any cormorants, though having said that the fish eating birds could have been on the river early in the day. After lunch we both fish several swims with just one trout, which I caught on a meat ball. At 4-30pm we decided to call it a day.

A Good River Pike On A fly

Today Friday with my wife Kate I visited the river Aire to clear away some of the rubbish which had been deposited in the riverside trees and bushes. As I walked up river from Kildwick Bridge a Keighley AC water I could see plastic carrier bags, fertiliser bags, sheets of black plastic, bits of blue, white, green and orange plastic festooned the river bank. I would say most of this rubbish was farm related. Caught up in the fork of a fallen riverside tree was a dead sheep. It wasnít a pretty sight. If we anglers donít clear away the mess it will continue to build up whenever we get floods. It was nice to see the gravel bottom sparkling like diamonds. I spooked the odd good chub as I moved along the river bank filling a sack with rubbish. After a couple of hours work I then moved further upstream. To the Bradford City AA water.

Apart from rubber gloves and plastic bin liners I also had a Thomas and Thomas nine weight Horizon fly rod, a Cortland Ghost tip line with some six feet of twenty pound line with a foot of twenty pound wire. I chose a fly pattern that imitated an eel, it was black in colour tied up on a size 3/0 hook and six inches in length. Trevor Bross a friend from Massachusetts had tied me half a dozen patterns. Its a fly which has proved good for striped bass. When I was shown this fly a couple of years ago I realised it would be a good pike pattern.

As we moved upstream picking up rubbish I looked for signs of Water Crowfoot. Last year I had spent several weeks planting this delightful aquatic plant in several areas of the river Aire and I wanted to see if it had survived the big floods. Sadly a lot of the weed had been ripped out but thankfully some had survived. Having filled two sacks with rubbish, I decided to spend half an hour chucking an eel pattern and see if I could catch a pike. On my second cast a chub dashed from under some branches laying in the water and nipped the tail end of the fly.

Moving upstream to a bend, I could see some deep water which looked as if it could hold a pike or big chub. Stripping off enough line so I could cover the far bank I made several casts, after fishing out each cast I would take a step downstream, I covered the water in a fan like fashion. On my fifth cast I had retrieved about fifteen feet of line when everything stopped. I gave a firm strip strike, I then felt a good fish moving slowly off downstream staying close to the bottom.

Exerting a lot of pressure I tried to turn the fish upstream but the slow, relentless pull by the fish going downstream continued for another half a minute. The pressure told, I managed to turn the fish and got it moving upstream. The fish realising it was tethered, switched into top gear moving fast upstream then throwing itself out of the water, crashing back in a shower of spray. I had to give some line but kept on the pressure. I could see I had a good fish probably fourteen or fifteen pounds.

The fish would take some line, I would get it back, as I played the fish I moved downstream to a shallow area where I was able to wade out into the water. >From this position with the fish upstream of me, I could really exert some pressure. After another minute or so I had the fish within ten feet of me then it went tail walking for a few seconds before going off on a short run. I was now in full control, I soon the fish was within a couple of feet of where I stood, bending down I slipped out the barbless hook from the scissors of the pikes jaw.

The fish was at least fifteen pounds perhaps a couple of pounds more. It lay motionless for a few seconds before moving off upstream to the deeper water. The pike was just like those that Crabtree painted. The pike was the perfect shape, deep belly, scale and fin perfect. Hopefully one day I will hook that fish when its a twenty pounder. Back at the car we loaded all the rubbish then set off for home. Driving along the A59 a flock of sheep were all over the road. I and another guy stopped to try and get the sheep into a nearby field but they eventually run off down a bit of the old A59. Arriving home I had an E-mail to say I was wanted at work the following Tuesday so another day when I canít fish. This weekend I had a lot of work to get through but hopefully I would get the chance of a late afternoon evening session. If I get a good fish I will let you know.

Martin James Fishing