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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


A Great Start To The New Season

June 16th 2005 was the start of my 64 year of taking part in this great pastime, having caught my first fish back in 1941 from an old clay pit. I started my season this year at Pallington lakes in deepest Dorset at the invitation of Simon Pomeroy of Pallatrax Stonze system. John Bodsworth from Sussex picked me up in Berkshire where I had been fishing the Wasing trout fishery on the river Enborne. I suppose it was a two hour drive to the Dorset lakes which are situated alongside the beautiful river Frome.
After parking up John's converted van which would be home for a few days, we met up with Simon and his wife Tini, then it was off to the lakes which looked lovely in the late afternoon sunshine. When I left Pallington at the back end of last season the river Frome was virtually weed less, the lakeside reeds were the colour of straw. A few geese could be seen, along with the odd grey wagtail. In the bare cracked willows I could see and hear a family of long tailed tits. Otherwise the lakes, river and the surrounding countryside were caught up in the grip of winter.
Today June 15th the Dorset countryside looked magnificent, the River Frome had plenty of water crowfoot, where trout and grayling could wax fat on a million of aquatic insects. A few late season Mayflies were on the underside leaves of some riverside bushes. Others hovered over the river surface. The reed fringed lakes with small clumps of creamy white water lilies certainly made me think of tench, that magnificent fish of summer and still water. In the north west corner of Rainbow lake I could see plenty of action from tench. I must have counted a dozen patches of pin head bubbles. Damsel flies were about in profusion,There are some fifteen species of damsel flies, many with blue black bodies with various markings. They are not that easy to recognise, the names often hard to pronounce and remember. The air was thick with the scent of wild flowers. Competing with a dozen different song birds, I could hear the hum of a million insects. The sun shone down from an azure blue sky on the dark green coloured water. A cuckoo called in the distant. To my left a water vole swam out from the reed fringed bay, suddenly it dived with a loud plop. People of my generation would often hear the plop of water voles. It was a familiar sound. It wasn't a rarity, as it is today.
Mink the biggest killer in the countryside have been released in great numbers by that idiotic fringe in our society known as 'antis'. I just recognise them as the great unwashed who wish to destroy everything they don't agree with. In my book they are terrorist, using violence and intimidation to frighten people. This guy isn't going to be intimidated. The mink has decimated the water vole, this delightful of English mammals. Close to an over hanging willow I watched three good size common carp cruising around, occasionally disappearing from view to root about in the silt bottom sending up sheets of bubbles. After looking around the three still waters we made our way to the river. It looked magnificent, in between the swaying water crowfoot I spotted the odd brown trout and grayling. Ten yards upstream a water vole swim across the river. A very rare sight these days. For me the great thing about my time spent at Pallington Lakes was the wildlife, and the many bird species including a barn owl. For me the icing on the cake was without doubt. The water voles.
It Was A Cold Grey Start
June 16th dawned cold, wet and windy, not the type of weather one expected in the middle of June. After breakfast John and me sorted out our tackle. Both of us choosing to float fish, 13 foot rod, centre pin reel and 4lb line with size 12 hook tied direct to the line with a waggler float taking 5 BB shot. For the first time in many years I was going to float fish using gentles as bait. Within ten minutes of fishing I had my first fish a small rudd, this was quickly followed by a similar size fish. 64 years ago I had caught seven rudd on my first days fishing, so I decided to repeat that catch today recreating those happy memories of long ago. It was quickly achieved. Sadly my favourite uncle Len couldn't be with me on this trip having perished in the sands of North Africa a few weeks after I had caught my first fish.
Carp Liked The Corn
Having got tired of catching rudd, we moved to another area of the lake, where we baited heavily with Pallatrax method mix corn and gentles in the hope of attracting some tench into the area. Then it was off for lunch and a welcome brew. An hour later it was back to our swims. A patch of bubbles appeared close to the reeds, I cast two grains of corn into the area. Within minutes the float lifted, leaned over at a drunken angle before slowing moving across the surface then it was gone. A powerful fish pulled line off the reel. This was no tench, probably a carp. For a few minutes it was give and take but slowly I was getting the upper hand. Soon a common carp was in the net. It weighed 10-2-0 I was more than happy.
Twenty minutes later I called to John "I've got another common carp", several minutes later I netted my second carp. This weighed 14lbs. Thirty minutes later I had a carp of 14-3-0. It was time for a move. I hadn't come to fish for carp, I wanted some tench. Having seen tench blowing in the Northwest corner of Rainbow lake yesterday I decided to fish that swim
At The End Of The Rainbow
Rainbow lake got its name from the days many years ago when it was a trout fishery. The corner of the lake I chose to fish was reed fringed with dark green water, an over hanging crack willow offered some shade. In the reeds to my left a reed warbler had its nest with three youngsters. I plumbed the depth at 9 feet, then set the float at eleven. To aid my casting I chose to fish a sliding float. I also pinched a BB shot six inches from the hook for better bite indication.
Sprinkling a handful of gentles and corn into my swim, I made a gentle underhand cast dropping the corn baited hook thirty feet out from the bank. Feeding a dozen grains of corn and gentles every three or four minutes, it wasn't long before I had the tench bubbling furiously. Ten minutes later the red tipped float lifted then moved across the surface, slowly disappearing. I tightened into a hard fighting fish which really did fight like the proverbial demon. It was some ten minutes before I had my first glimpse of the fish. I called to John in the next swim "I've got a tench" As the fish went into the net I could see why it had put up such a good fight it was a male. It weighed 5-14-0 releasing the fish, I punched the air with delight my first tench of summer.
Re-baiting with two more grains of corn, I made another cast, within minutes of the float settling in the swim, it disappeared. I tightened into another fish. At the same time I chucked in a handful of corn to keep the other fish grubbing about. A couple of minutes later tench number two was in the net. A female weighing 5-7-0. Having caught a few more fish the swim died. I made a few adjustments to the float, then fished five gentles on a size 12 hook an inch or two off the bottom. First cast I had a nice roach about 12 ounces. This was followed by a dozen or more good fish with several pound plus roach. I then had a take on the drop which turned out to be a super looking rudd which I weighed in at 1lb 9 ounces. During the next couple of hours I had a succession of good roach, rudd and several more tench. All to soon I was having a job to see the float as the light faded. We called it a day.
Roach Rudd Eels And More Tench
Opening my eyes at about eight o'clock in the morning I could see it was a bright sunny day with a blue sky and a few bits of fluffy cloud. I beat John to the shower, after a bowl of porridge I finished off my breakfast with two slices of toast and a mug of tea. It was about 9-30 am when I arrived at my swim on Rainbow lake. I could see the odd patch of pin head bubbles. Things looked promising. I scattered a few grubs and corn into my swim. Today I had some green lipped mussels, Simon told me they were a good bait for tench. Having scattered some corn and hemp into my swim. Casting out my corn baited hook I had a good roach on the drop, it weighed 1-4-0. This was quickly followed by several more roach then I had two good rudd. After about two hours of catching more roach I caught my first tench of the day. A male fish of 5-12-0 this was quickly followed by six more five pound plus tench all males. These fish really did make me think I had hooked a very big tench. A Chaffinch would drop down beside me and fill its beak with red grubs, then fly off. No doubt those gentles would be pushed down the throats of some young hungry chaffinches. It was interesting to watch these birds. The male would pick up seven or eight grubs, while the females would only take three or four.
On my way back to the van for a fresh brew I spotted a mink, as I chased after this killer, it dropped its prey. It was a water vole. It certainly needed someone to start a trapping campaign otherwise the water voles will be gone. Back in my swim I caught some more tench also some good roach and several tench. Simon asked if he could join me in my swim and of course I agreed. It was certainly interesting watching him fishing his short pole rig and catching roach and rudd at every chuck. What surprised me more than anything else was seeing Simon catch a tench with his float set at six feet in eleven feet of water. He baited with a chunk of green lipped mussel, with seconds of casting out this bait he was into a good fish. Some four feet of elastic was pulled from the pole. I was impressed. For the last hour of the day I fished for eels catching several averaging about two and a half pounds. It was a great way to end our visit. After a good nights sleep we would move on.
Six Doubles From Wasing's Shalford Lake
Having had some great fishing we left Pallington lakes about 12 noon heading for Berkshire and the Wasing Estate syndicate fisheries Shalford Lake where we planned to fish for tench and bream. The air temperature was in the high 80 degrees F. Driving into the car park I could see we had the lake to ourselves. Checking the water temperature I found it was a high 76 degrees F. As the wind had been blowing into the roadside bank for several days so I chose to fish this bank, then set about raking and baiting my swim. I suppose I had been throwing out and retrieving the double sided rake for about fifteen minutes. Then disaster happened. The rake broke free from the rope. I have had that rake for many years, it had cost me a couple of pints of Guinness from an Irish blacksmith.
Having raked the swim, I baited with about twenty pounds of brown bread crumb, which included half a gallon of hemp, three tins of sweet corn, a bag of Tock Special mini boilies and chopped lob worms. I then tackled up two 11 foot Avon rods, Mitchell 300 reels filled with 6lb Cortland Cam-o-flage line and size 8 barbless hook. to which I tied in a short hair. It was then time for dinner.
I started my fishing session about 10-0pm, within ten minutes I was playing my first fish a brown trout of about 5lbs which had a liking for boilies. For the next hour nothing. Sitting in the darkness I noticed the bobbin move slowly to the butt ring, striking I missed what I considered was a perfect bite. In the next ten minutes this happened three times. Just before midnight the bobbin on my right hand rod crawled slowly to the butt ring. My strike connected with a heavy fish which stayed put on the bottom for a minute or so. Slowly the pressure of well balanced tackle had the fish off the bottom where it decided to fight it out in mid-water. John was on hand with the landing net. After several more minutes it was mine. I quickly realised I had got something special. It was certainly a personal best bream. Having got the scales and weigh bag sorted out it was the moment we had been waiting for. The bream pulled the scale needle to 11-14-0. It was caught on three grains of corn. We placed it in a big carp sack for safe keeping until the morning for pictures. We agreed should I get a bigger fish the smaller fish would be released.
Rebaiting with three gains of corn I dropped the bait on the edge of the baited area. Ten minutes later the left hand rod is away. Sadly another brown trout which had picked up a Tock special. Half an hour later I had a bream of 9-4-0 on a cocktail bait of lobworm and corn. This was followed by a hectic two and a half hour of great fishing. It started about one o'clock when I caught five more double figure bream weighing in at 11-10-0 11-6-0 11-0-0 10-12-0 and 10-8-0 These fish were caught on Tock Special mini boilies, sweet corn and a worm and corn cocktail bait. Just as the sky in the east started to show the new dawn I had two good tench on mini boilies. A 5-11-0 male and a 6-4-0 female. I fished on until about nine in the morning with no more signs of fish. It was time for breakfast and some sleep, having stayed awake all night. Apart from catching two brown trout and a rainbow I didn't have another fish in the next forty eight hours. Then it was time to head north and the River Ribble for seatrout. See pictures

Martin James Fishing