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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


It's Been Tough On Our Rivers

Since arriving home from Dubai from my Christmas holiday, I have been on the banks of the River Ribble or River Aire for several short afternoon sessions. Often under some horrendous weather conditions. For my first trip I chose to fish the wind swept bank high River Aire near Skipton. Despite the conditions I though I could catch a chub or two. Tackle was a light 11í Avon rod, centre pin reel, 6lb breaking strain line and a size 6 hook. I chose a swim where a willow tree was bent over at a crazy angle. Any minute you could expect it to crash into the dark swirling water. A few feet downstream was a quiet slack, just the place to expect a chub. I checked the water temperature, it was 39 degrees F. Not the best of conditions. We all know the aquatic life goes semi dormant when the water goes below 39 degrees F until the fish become acclimatized. This can often takes a few days. I have never liked a dropping water temperature in winter, even more so when its caused by melting snow. To make matters worse the night before the countryside had been covered in hail.

When the water temperature is below 40 degrees F, chub donít like to chase a bait, also they hate snow melt. It was going to be a struggle. But as I often say "You cannot catch fish sitting at home, the bait has to be in the water" I lightly pinched on 2 LG. shot about two inches from the hook. Bait was a chunk of crust. The wind was swirling and gusting, and it was forecast to reach 60 mph. I fished the rod tip below the river bank where it had some shelter from main force of the wind. Fifteen minutes later with no sign of a bite I moved off downstream. Ten minutes later it started to rain and combined with the gale force wind it was hard going. After fishing seven different swims without any interest from a fish, and with the light fading I called it a day. Thirty minutes later I was home for a hot shower and a venison roast dinner. My first session of 2005 had been a blank.

Better Fishing On The Ribble

My next three afternoons were spent fishing the River Ribble, the first was on a game fishing syndicate water near Clitheroe. The water temperature was 44 degrees F, with an extra couple of feet of water, conditions certainly looked good, despite the gale force wind. I caught 7 good chub between 3-14-0 and 4-12-0 all on legered crust. I fished the same tackle set up, as I had used on the River Aire. Crust was my first choice bait. All my fish were caught between 3 and 4pm. I fished on until 5-15pm, but I didnít get another touch and called it a day.

The following afternoon I am back on the same stretch of the River Ribble, again the water temperature was 44 degrees F. This time I chose to float fish using an Avon action rod, centre pin reel 6lb breaking strain line and a size 6 barbless hook. My float was a balsa on goose quill taking 3 swan shot bunched on the line fifteen inches from the hook. Six inches from the hook I lightly pinched on an AA shot. My baits were crust and flake. On my first cast I a good chub of 4-8-0 on bread flake. In the next three casts I had three more good chub all 4lb plus, again bread flake was the chosen bait. After several casts without a bite, I changed over to crust. Catching two brown trout which were unhooked in the water. I feel its most important we donít grab hold of the trout to release the hook. Barbless hooks make the job very easy.

I then had a blank spell, as I fished I tried to work out why the fished had stopped feeding. Why was I having a blank spell I thought, as I dropped two orange size balls of mashed bread in at the top of my swim. I sat watching a group of long tailed tits hunting for insects, while on the far bank a grey squirrel hunted for food. The wind howled like a demented demon, the rain started to sheet down. After fifteen minute break it was time to try and catch another fish. Casting out a bread flake baited hook I eased it downstream ensuring the bait moved ahead of the float. As the float neared some roots of an alder tree which plunged deep into the water, the float buried itself. Striking the rod took on a beautiful arc, I was forced to give a few feet of line. A good fished powered out into mid river. Five minutes I was able to draw another 4lb plus chub over the waiting net. The following hour the fishing was good, I missed a few lost a couple and ended up catching another seven good chub. As the light faded, I switched over to legering but still, I couldnít get a bite. With the wind increasing in intensity and the rain still hammering down, I called it a day and headed off home. Walking back to the car I heard the sound of the wild goose, a minute later a skein of about 150 Greylag geese flew over head. No doubt heading for Southport marshes of the Lincolnshire Wash.

Another Big Chub

My next day session was on the River Ribble with Mike Osborne of Carlisle, It was nearly 2pm when we pulled into the car park near Ribchester, the wind again was a hooligan, the leaden grey sky looked full of rain. Just after we had got into our waterproof gear it did start to rain. We both wore Simms chest waders and Patagonia SST jackets, so it wasnít a problem. With tackle bags on our backs rods and net in hand, we made the long walk upriver. Mikeís chosen swim was where a big tree trunk had become stuck in the river. Which had created a foot deep channel, making it an ideal chub or barbel swim. I fished a spot some twenty yards downstream. By the time we had reached our chosen swims the rain was sheeting down, I checked the water temperature, it was 42 degrees F, down 2 from the previous day. We both chose to fish with two rods. I decided to leger a big chunk of crust on one rod as a static bait, while I rolled a big chunk of bread flake down the stream with the other rod. Both rods were light Avon's, with Mitchell 300 reels 1953 vintage, and 6lb breaking strain line. On the bread flake baited rod, I tied on a size 2 hook, choosing a size 4 hook on the other line.

Baiting with crust I dropped the bait ten yards downstream, close to the bank where a willow tree over hung the water. After peeling off the crust from a slice of bread, I folded the big chunk of flake over the size 2 hook pinching it lightly on the shank. Casting this baited hook upstream I lifted the rod high as the bait trundled down stream. As the baited hooked passed below me, I lowered the rod tip giving line so the bait would continue to trundle its way downstream. Five yards below me I felt a solid pluck. Striking, I connected with a good fish. Calling to Mike "Fish on" After a dogged scrap, no screaming reel, just a heavy weight on the line with some head shaking. I finally pulled a good chub over the net. Swinging the fish up the bank I laid it on a patch of grass. Parting the wet mesh. I could see I had a good fish, thinking "Could it be a six pounder" Laying the net in the water, I went and collected my scales and weigh bag, zeroing the scales with the weigh bag, It was time to check the weight of my fish, the scale needle went immediately round to 6lb 6 ounces. Then settled back to 6lb 3 ounces. What a great way to start 2005. After shooting a few pictures we watched the fish swim off strongly. By now the rain had increased to monsoon like proportions. Mike and I fished on, at one time the rain was so heavy it wasnít possible to clearly see the opposite bank. After fishing about two hours, Mike hooked what he thought was a good barbel, which he played for sometime before the line broke. It had broken on the hook eye. How unlucky can you get. I would have willingly lost my chub for Mike to have landed his fish. I suppose we fished on for another fifteen minutes before we decided to call it a day. I had just the one bite. Mike had two. After collecting our rain sodden gear, we squelched our way back to the car park. We looked like a pair of drowned rats but underneath our waterproofs we were warm and dry. It certainly pays to purchase top quality equipment. See picture My 6-3-0 chub

A Brace Of Chub For My Guest

The next day I was joined at the waterside by DR Stuart Clough from Hampshire, who was staying in the Kendal Cumbria area with his parents. During his Christmas holiday Stuart had been fishing Windermere catching some quality roach to pound and a half using swim feeder rig and gentles as bait. It wasnít roach we were after today, but a five pound plus chub for Stuart, who has caught chub to within half an ounce of seven pounds. We chose to fish the River Ribble near Mitton. The water temperature was 42 degrees F with two feet of extra water. After tackling up with leger gear, we walked upstream to one of my banker swims. In an hour, Stuart had one trout. I fished a few yards downstream. I didnít get a bite. No chub, I was puzzled. I couldnít understand why we hadnít caught any chub.

We then walked upstream to a swim over hung by a large alder tree, where I introduced some crumbed bread, suggesting the line Stuart should fish. He baited with crust and within a minute he had a good pull and missed. He didnít miss the next two fish netting two nice chub. Half an hour later we sat in the fishing hut having lunch and a fresh mug of tea. As we sat having lunch we watched a stoat out on a hunting trip.

Lunch over we decide to move off downstream, fighting the gale force wind as we did so. We decided to fish a small copse, where hopefully we would have some shelter from the gale force wind. Arriving at the copse, we found the water was flat calm. Stuart said "Its a couple of overcoats warmer" It didnít last long. Within ten minutes the wind changed direction then increased in intensity. Immediately Stuart had a good pull, but no fish. I moved a few yards upstream, where I had four bites, connecting with three fish, the best which Stuart weighed went 4-6-0. Stuart fishing close in to the bank, had several good pulls, all missed. With the wind, getting stronger, or it seemed like that. we called it a day. Back at the car park we said our good byes, Stuart had an hours drive, for me it was about ten minutes. It had been a great day on the waterside with Stuart an angler who does fish and he understands the aquatic environment. As I write this on Friday afternoon 7th January the River Ribble is bank high, with the rain still falling I reckon it will be over the banks in some areas tomorrow. Picture DR Stuart Clough with a brace of Ribble Chub

Martin James Fishing