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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Catching Big Bream - Isn't Easy

Since June 16th and not wanting to cause any more distress to the fish in the rivers Kennet, Loddon, Ribble, Aire I have switched to fishing stillwaters. The conditions on my rivers are rather horrid, low water, high water temperatures and low oxygen content. No way did I want to hook fish under these conditions, where they might suffer even more distress. I have instead been putting in a tremendous amount of hours and effort fishing big stillwaters for bream, not those skimmer size fish around 3lbs so loved by the match anglers but for double figure fish. In between I have had a few visits to the coast in search of mullet which has been great fun.

I feel the Wasing fishery syndicate waters of Shalford and Bottle lakes in Berkshire could produce a very big fish perhaps 16lbs plus. but they are not easy waters. Every angler who fishes the lakes for the bream, carp or tench will admit they are hard and difficult waters to get results from. For many years they have had a reputation as very difficult waters.

Since June 19th when I first fished the lakes and caught several double figure bream with the best weighing in at 11-14-0, with five other doubles weighing 11-10-0 11-6-0 11-0-0 10-12-0 and 10-8-0 I have fished a minimum of three nights a week, sometimes, its been seven nights on the water. Its a long journey for me and my friends. From home to the lakes and return its nearly a 500 mile round trip costing just over 60-00 in petrol. For my mate Mike Osborne its another 200 hundred miles. Though I have had many hours fishing without any results, I still get those moments of joy when I have caught a good bream or some nice tench.

Apart from the chance of catching a huge bream, there are double figure tench and some good roach perch and rudd. These lakes are certainly not for the faint-hearted. The first three or four weeks I fished long sessions without a bivvy or brolly, just making sure I had my waterproofs with me and sleeping in my chair. It wasn't very comfortable. Having endured several nights with a cold wind in my face I decided it was time to use a bivvy and bedchair. At 68 I feel the cold, a bit more than I did when I was in my thirties.

I started off the season fishing with 11 foot soft action Avon rods and Mitchell 300 reels, but realised I needed a bit more power for fishing the more distant swims. I am now using a pair of 12 foot rods designed for lines between 6 and 10lbs with baitrunner reels. My end rigs have varied from a short 6 inch hook link and fixed stonze, to a paternoster rig or running leger rig, with hook sizes from 6's to 12's. Baits have been numerous from air injected lobworms, hair rigged Tock boilies, pellets, bread, sweetcorn, imitation blood worm, casters and hemp.

Arriving for my first night session I introduce 10 to 12lb of Phil Chun's method mix to which is added a load of cooked hemp, mini Tock boilies, sweetcorn and pellets with half a bottle of bloodworm and some salmon oil. I also fire out several pouches of mini boilies and pellets. I top up my swim when I feel its needed. On those nights when I get no indication of fish in my swim, I just introduce some corn and pellets. When ever I cast out my baits I always have a two inch piece of stocking filled with corn, broken boilies and pellets on the hook as an added attraction.

On my latest trip I fished from Monday through to Thursday, for just one take. A super bream of 10-8-0 caught at about 1-30in the morning. The bite was a typical bream take, the bobbin slowly moving in a stuttery movement to the butt ring. All through the night I was up and down from my seat like a yo yo. But nothing happened, they were all line bites. It was the same on Tuesday night. Wednesday evening up to about midnight I had a few line bites, but nothing to get excited about.

Paul Smyth the holder of the River Kennet barbel record who has a lot of knowledge of the water said "Martin, Its never been an easy water" About midnight Paul went off home I was left to ponder about the line bites and try to work out how I could get the fish to pick up my bait. Around 2 o'clock in the morning a bank of cloud rolled in covering what was a clear sky. There was an immediate rise in the temperature. It was time for a brew as I sat waiting for the water to boil a big fish rolled in my swim. Immediately my hopes rose. But nothing happened. The bite indicators remained silent and motionless. The half light of dawn soon turned to a dawn of gold's, pinks and blues. A light mist rolled across the lake, coots called to one another, a bunch of geese lifted off the lake heading out to some feeding area. Still no sign of bites or feeding fish. No bubbles appeared in my swim. At 8 o'clock I called it a day. Another session was over until next week when Phil Chun the capture of a 14-8-0 bream and me will put in a combined effort to catch another big one. Back home the River Ribble looked even worse, no way did I want to fish the river until we had a good lift of water. I think my seatrout season has gone. Unless we have a dramatic change in the weather.

Martin James Fishing