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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Two Bite Less Days - Then A Good Session

It had been a tough few days fishing on a clear flowing River Kennet for Chris and Phil Leibbrandt, Graeme Cook and me. We caught a handful of barbel to 8lbs, some small chub around the 2lb mark, though I did manage a chub of 5-12-0. On the plus side I did get an interview with Paul Smyth who had just caught a new river Kennet record barbel of 17-2-0. I also spent some time chatting with fishery manager Kevin Rolls.

Its a 450 mile round trip from home to the River Kennet Wasing syndicate, but despite the long journey I feel its well worth the effort. Kevin Rolls and his team of bailiffs certainly run a good fishery. When you enter the Wasing Fishery its like stepping back in time, The river twists and turns, there are shallow fast flowing runs, deep undercut banks, and downed trees laying at a crazy angle, where often the flowing water has carved out a deep dark looking hole. Ideal habitat for chub, barbel, perch and pike. As you sit quietly fishing you will no doubt get the chance to see various lots of birds and wildlife. It can best be described as a Crabtree river.

Back home I fished the rivers Ribble and Aire, both had plenty of water and colour. On the River Ribble I caught barbel and chub, but my two sessions on the Aire were blanks. I still don't understand how I didn't catch. Conditions were near perfect, warm, mild and overcast with a water temperature of 50 degrees F. Conditions when you though you couldn't fail.

After a long session in the studio editing lots of recorded interviews, which had started around five in the morning, I left for home at noon. Finishing lunch I decided to have a session fishing the River Ribble. Passing over the river I could see it was just a few inches above summer level and flowing gin clear. To make matters worse, there were several cormorants on the river, along with quite a few anglers. Looking down river I could see pairs of rods pointed skywards.

With a lot of angler activity in the wood and around the car park and on the opposite bank I decided to fish the bottom end of the beat. Forty feet out from the bank in my chosen spot, I had a gully some twelve feet wide with seven foot of water. My target fish were chub and barbel, before making up my tackle I baited with six orange size balls of ground pellets, broken boilies and mashed bread. Hopefully this would draw any fish at the bottom end of the gully upstream where the water started to shallow up to about five feet.

I made up two rods, an 11 foot Avon matched with a Mitchell 300 reel 6lb line and a size 6 hook. My other outfit was a Kiddy mullet/barbel rod which I was reviewing. Mitchell 300 reel 8lb line and a size 4 hook completed the tackle set-up. My baits were cheese paste, bread and meat paste, the latter has certainly proved successful this year. No doubt with so many anglers using pellets and boilies along with heavy feeders, a change of bait and style was proving attractive. Not only on the river Ribble but other rivers I fish countrywide.

I started off rolling balanced paste baits taking three chub and a barbel just over 8lbs in the first hour. Then as is usual after catching a few fish, I had a quiet period for about half an hour. I introducing more feed, picking up the barbel rod, pinching on an LG. shot some fifteen inches from the hook, baiting with a piece of bread then dunking it to add extra casting weight, I cast out into the gully. Feeding line I soon had the bait trundling nicely down the gully. I repeated this process for over an hour catching three chub to 4-6-0. After a bite less spell It was time for a break.

With a ban on gas stoves I had to make do with coffee using hot water from a thermos flask. Sitting there eating and drinking I could hear the thump of fireworks, occasionally seeing a shower of coloured lights in the sky. A group of mallard flew upstream in the darkness. While the occasional car headlight would half blind me from the village opposite. Having finished my break I introduced more feed. Baiting with another bit of bread, I dunked it for some casting weight, then dropped it into the gully, where I allowed the bait to trundle down stream. I repeated the process a dozen or more times. Then halfway down the swim I felt a light pluck then a powerful pull tightening into a heavy fish.

The fish stayed deep hugging the bottom while moving slowly downstream. The clutch occasionally giving line. I quickly realised it was a good barbel. I moved downstream taking in line as I did so. Suddenly the fish changed direction, moving slowly but powerfully upstream and across the river. I kept up the pressure, slowly gaining some line. I was winning this tournament and a few minutes later was able to draw a good barbel over the net. Trying to lift the net I immediately realised I had a very good fish. Perhaps my first River Ribble double I thought. Laying down the rod I used both hands on the net then lifted the fish ashore on to a bit of sponge. Sliding out the size 4 barbless hook I lowered the net in the water, while I set up my scales and weight sling. Having got everything ready, I lifted out the net then gently eased the fish into the large plastic bag. Hooking the handles on the scales, I slowly lifted the scales high. I watched the needle go round to 10-8-0 then settling at 10-6-0. I punched the air saying to no one in particular "Yes" Having put the fish back in the net, it was lowered back in the water, while I set up my camera. After a couple of pictures I gently placed the fish back in the river, where with a thrust of its tail it disappeared. I fished on for another half an hour catching a couple of small chub then headed off home.

Martin James Fishing