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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


More Listeners join me at the Waters Edge

On Monday listener Brian Watkins of Preston joined me on the river Aire where I was able to help him catch his first pike on a fly, his biggest fish estimated at about 8lbs. After lunch we then went off downstream to fish for chub where Brian had three nice fish averaging about 3lbs all caught on free lined black slugs. With low water conditions early in the week, it’s been a quiet week on our rivers for game fishing. Apart from an early morning session fly fishing for trout I spent most of the time doing those fishery jobs I had put off for another day. On Wednesday I visited Lancaster to take part in a BBC Radio Lancashire meet the listeners, despite the wet weather many listeners called in at shop front studio for a chat.

On the way back to the studio in Blackburn I visited Something Fishy Angling Centre School Lane Forton to interview Phil Evans. I was most impressed with the tackle display and cleanliness of the shop. I reckon there were baits to suit everyone. Then their back ground is in the production of commercial fish feeds which enables them to produce baits which are special and unique. All Something Fishy baits have been used successfully by the local anglers, all are tried tested and catch fish. Apart from baits they have also created a successful Tackle Retailing business making them a top Bait Specialist and Fishing Tackle Emporium Telephone 01524-792696

Thursday morning I helped a new member of the Edisford Hall fishing syndicate with his casting, after an hours tuition Richard had overcome his fly casting problems, we then had a brew before I walked the beat pointing out some of the areas where Richard could expect to find salmon and sea trout. After lunch I packed all my gear for a two day session on the River Kennet with Alan Roe of Blackpool one of the regular contributors on At the Waters Edge programme on BBC Radio Lancashire the best fishing show on the wireless. We certainly had a good trip south doing the 140 odd mile journey in just over three hours. I suppose it was gone midnight when we crawled into our sleeping bags.

It was well past 8 o’clock on Friday morning when I woke up from a good nights sleep, though Alan was still sending home the zzzzzzzz’s, first things first on with the kettle, then after wash in cold water I made a big bowl of porridge, by now Alan was starting to move. Breakfast over we went off to Tadley Angling centre as we walked through the door the first question from Kevin was ”tea or coffee gentlemen” immediately Alan said “Tea for me mate” Now that’s what one has to call a real welcome. A few minutes later Kennet barbel specialist Will Carter walked into the shop. After Kevin had put two mugs of tea on the counter I ordered a pint of red gentles and fifty lobworms. Alan used the plastic card to buy some items of tackle and bait.

On the advice of Paul Smythe we chose to fish the Woolhampton beat where Alan’s target fish would be roach and for me the perch and roach, while Alan would be long trotting, I would either use a light Léger outfit for the perch and strett peg for the roach. I have read in some books that stret-pegging is the same as laying- on. Not correct. When stret-pegging one fishes well over depth with all the bulk shot on the line usually between twelve and eighteen inches. After casting out the tackle it is allowed to travel a few feet downstream then the float is held stationary with the rod pointed slightly skywards, after a few minutes the rod is lifted and the float is allowed to travel a few more feet down the swim. It’s a searching method and one that is a deadly way to catch not only roach but also bream. When laying-on the depth is plumbed then the float set about a foot over depth. You then make your cast and allow the tackle to stay in the same spot until you get a bite or you re-cast.

Alan moved off downstream some three hundred yards past the foot bridge, a hundred yards upstream of the bridge I found a gap in the reeds where in the gin clear water I could see lots of water lilies known as cabbages, Those crinkled water lily leaves we see under the water resemble cabbage leaves hence the name. Where you find cabbages you often find roach. I chose to use a thirteen foot float rod of my own design; a centre pin reel with 4lb Gamma line, a cork on crow quill float with a size 12 barbless hook completed the tackle. Plumbing the depth and finding seven feet of water.

I set the float at nine, and then lightly pinched on 3 AA shot twelve inches from the hook. Having sorted out my gear I put in three droppers of hemp and two of red gentles with a dropper of chopped worms. Having set the table I left the swim for fifteen minutes and went for a walk to see how other anglers were doing. Surprise of surprise all those I met were fishing for barbel. As Brian said “Why fish for roach and perch Martin when you can catch barbel?” I explained I enjoy catching these species and with the current conditions I had more chance of some sport, than did the barbel anglers. I was proved right, at the end of the day none of the barbel anglers had a touch. Enough said. Back in my swim I baited with four red gentles, on my first cast I had a gudgeon then another gudgeon which was followed by three small roach and a perch. I put in a dropper of hemp and gentles to keep the fish tightly shoaled, I continued catching roach several of them ‘goer’s That’s a roach over eight inches, which the species had to be before it could be weighed in during competitions. Today there is no size limit.

After about three hours Alan moved upstream above me and fished a far bank swim with a feeder, casting with a centre pin dropped the bait and feeder within inches of the far bank under an elderberry bush full of ripe berries. When I met up with Alan he was catching a ‘goer’ roach with every chuck. About half past four I said “Its time to end the session and go off for an early dinner so we can get on the other beat of the Kennet if you want to fish for barbel.

After packing away all our gear we met up with Colin Colley another member of the Wasing Syndicate in the car park who had come to collect some sausage meat and LG shots. Colin couldn’t get the stuff in Berkshire, and it wasn’t a problem for me to take it down for him. Back at base Alan and I had a 'cottage pie’ I cook the mince beef by frying in olive oil with finely chopped onions, some garlic, carrots and peas which was then simmered. Once done, the mashed potatoe can be added, and the entire pie is baked in the oven until golden brown and crisp. We both agreed it was most delightful; this was followed by fresh fruit. After dinner it was off to the Warren Beat.

As Alan was my guest he was put in one of my top spots between to big alder trees with a row of willows on the opposite bank, as expected Alan chose to fish pellets and during the three hour session he had two barbel one just over 7lbs the other at six. I chose a swim further upstream where a tree had crashed across the river last winter; it looked good for a barbel. The Signal Crayfish another nuisance American import had other ideas ripping my baits to shreds. It didn’t make any difference if I used meat, bread, lobworms and Pallatrax jungle paste. After an hour I moved to another swim. Still more Signal Crayfish. Winding in my rods I went back to the car and got me head down for an hour. It was just after midnight when we got back to base after some tea and toast it was off to bed.

I suppose it was just after nine in the morning when Alan woke up, by which time I had finished my breakfast of porridge toast and tea. After making sure Alan had his breakfast I sorted out the tackle for our days fishing. I planned to put Alan in a swim opposite the cottage which from past experience was a good area for dace, chub and the occasional barbel. First stop was Tadley Angling where Alan purchased another reel, some red gentles and other bits and pieces. Alan’s excuse for buying another reel was “I only have my centre pin reels and I need a small fixed spool today” Back in the car park on the Wasing Fishery I met up with John, Peter and Brian where we discussed the current fishing and as one we all said ”We need a week of heavy rain”.

After putting Alan into a winning swim I went off downstream about six hundred yards on arriving in my chosen area I was surprised to see another member fishing who had already caught two barbel. I then went upstream to the ‘Pipe Swim’ where I quickly caught a small chub on crust, thirty minutes later I moved into the ‘Watering Can Swim’ where I quickly caught a small barbel about four pounds on crust. I fished the spot for another twenty minutes then moved to a spot just above the green footbridge. Dropping a bit of crust in tight to the bank I quickly had a small chub. Then it was lunchtime.

Lunch was a corn beef and pickle sandwich, with a banana and an orange followed by a mug of tea with a slice of cake. I then went off down river and fished a swim for about three hours, apart from some crayfish I didn’t get a fish. I decided to call it a day, after packing my gear away I made my way upriver to where Alan was fishing to learn he had been catching dace, roach, gudgeon and the odd chub steadily through the session. After a chat about the fishing I suggested we head off for dinner before heading off home after a couple of very pleasant days. Our trip home via the M5 and M6 went without a hitch.

Today I had to watch a female bullfinch in distress, in the end I had to put it out of its suffering. This is caused by the Trichomonad parasite. Most anglers are keen on wildlife and at the present time many finches are dying in our gardens from this horrid disease. It seems to affect the greenfinch, bullfinch and chaffinch though sparrows are susceptible to the disease. The disease has been around for a long time affecting pigeons and doves. Trichomonad parasite lives in the upper digestive tract of the birds where it progressively blocks the bird’s throat making it unable to swallow. If you have a problem in your garden stop putting out food except in tit feeders and leave the bird baths dry for at least two weeks. Sadly we cannot do anything to help our sick birds except to make sure all bird feeders are scrubbed clean each day.

Martin James Fishing