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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Chub and Barbel on the River Wye

Sunday morning I was up and dressed when the alarm call on my mobile sounded its strident note. Downstairs I met Will Carter, Martin Mumby and Martin Salisbury for breakfast, and then it would off to the River Wye at Holm Lacy to seek the chub and barbel. Breakfast finished bill paid we said our goodbyes then in a convoy of three cars we made our way through the Herefordshire countryside down lanes that we could just squeeze through. It was great being back in this county on the Welsh border where I have had some very enjoyable times and some tough ones but it was all good fun. The weather couldn’t have been better for angling, over cast light wind and mild. After Saturdays fishing on the River Wye at Ross I was full of confidence. Hopefully my two mates would also catch today.

After several miles we stopped on a grass verge in a deserted lane which seemed miles from any habitation, though I expect there would have been a farmhouse nearby. As I got out of the car I heard the croaking of a raven, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear this bird of ill-omen and the harbinger of death. Still as I don’t believe in any of the old wives tales. It wasn’t a problem. My problem was the long walk with a big rucksack rods and other gear we anglers reckon we need at the waterside. Though I did need the stove, water and food. Once over the first stile it was fairly good walking, as we moved downstream I met a local guy with a black Labrador who said “Are you after barbel” when I said “Yes” he pointed out a good area half a mile downstream. We thanked him profusely then carried on our way. The area he had pointed us too was on a wide sweeping bend with the main flow on the far side of the river. I decided I would let the two Martin’s and Will choose their swims. I settled down in an area that looked quite good with a crease about a third of the way across the river.

Having sorted out my gear I put the kettle on for a brew, while I was waiting I fed in several cricket size ball of mashed bread, including some bait size pieces of bread flake and sausage meat. Tea made I sat back watching the buzzards working the thermals I also had the pleasure of hearing several more Ravens, often one would appear on the far bank. Occasionally a pheasant would glide over the river or a bunch of ravel would give me a fly pass. Several kingfishers put in an appearance in the first hour. It might have been the same couple of birds. Looking downriver I could see Martin Salisbury playing a fish then he picked up the landing net a minute or so later he netted a fish. Meanwhile Will fishing upstream of me was catching chub on bread. Martin Mumby had to go off to Redmire Pool for a couple of hours.

It was time for me to start fishing; the fish had been given about forty minutes to sample the free offerings, so they should be primed. I chose my favourite Avon action rod with a Mitchell 300 reel and 6lb Gamma line to which I tied a size 4 barbless hook then pinched on two LG shot six inches from the hook and baited with crust. I made a long cast dropping the bait a foot from the tree lined far bank then worked the bait downstream, three, four, five, six yards it had gone when I felt a light pluck, I immediately leaned forward to give some slack line. I felt a good pull; striking the size 4 hook was pulled into the mouth of a hard fighting fish. A chub of 4lbs plus which was unhooked in the water and released untouched by hand. Everyone tells me you need to use heavy weights when fishing the Wye and you need to fish with pellets. Even when there are a couple of feet of extra water on the river I can usually get away with using LG shots. Pellets I don’t use, but I catch enough fish to keep me happy. The magazines might tells us we need to do so and so but the fish don’t read the mags and the fish seem happy to keep eating my bread and sausage meat. You could call me a poor customer in the tackle shops when it comes to bait; I occasionally buy a pint of gentles, though I do often purchase fifty or a hundred lobworms for bait and feeding with chopped worms.

In the session before lunch I had 7 chub and one barbel about 7lbs All fish taken on flake or crust. The barbel was taken on the chub outfit, but I quickly had it in the net. Over lunch with Will we discussed the prospects of fishing the River Wye on future occasion and we both agreed we would join the Ross on Wye angling club which would put us on some very interesting looking water. I reckon it’s a good bet for some exciting pike fishing. As it’s only a three hour drive it’s possible to have a good weekend with just one night B&B. The Wye has been a lucky river for me over the years, chub to 6-7-0 common carp 18lbs pike 26-8-0 salmon 13lbs several 2lb plus roach and some excellent brown trout on a dry fly. As we sat having lunch I kept feeding in crumbed bread and pieces of thumb size flake. I suppose the salmon just upstream of Will swirled on the surface three or four times as we sat with our mugs of tea. I don’t like to see a salmon in or close to the swim I am fishing as I reckon they will put the fish off. Just as we were finishing lunch Martin fishing well downstream called me on my mobile to say he had a big chub. Grabbing scales weigh bag and camera we went off downstream. Martin certainly had a super chub, I said “hat’s a big five pounder” It was weighing in at 5-10-0 a personal best for Martin. We were all pleased for him, also he was fishing just as I recommended and the fish was caught on sausage meat paste.

The afternoon session was like the morning one with several chub on flake or crust, late in the afternoon I lost a barbel then just as I was packing my gear away I pricked what felt like a heavy fish, but within seconds it was gone. Martin Mumby returned late in the afternoon and choosing to fish with meat he quickly caught some nice chub. Martin of big chub fame further downstream caught a couple more nice chub and as the light was fading he had a big whack on the rod top when he was fishing with sausage meat paste. Packing up we made our way back to the cars in the darkness all of us feeling relaxed having spent some valuable time in the peaceful Herefordshire countryside. We arrived back at my home about 10-45pm after a good drive home with no hold-ups.

I spent most of the day on Monday in the BBC Radio Lancashire studio editing some recorded material. Back home I spent some three hours answering letters and e-mails. Then it was off to bed quite early.

Ribble Chub and Barbel

Tuesday I was on the river bank quite early, the water had come up a foot over night making it excellent for salmon fly fishing, though the leaves were a problem. I spent a couple of hours helping one of the syndicate members with his casting then went off home for lunch. I was back on another stretch of water later in the afternoon to fish for chub and barbel catching three small barbel around the 4lb mark and a dozen or more chub. I had one fish of twenty three inches which I weighed at 5-9-0. All my fish were caught on bread flake from a swim I have been pre-baiting for some time I have fed the swim with old bread, chopped potatoes left over from dinner, some pellets and boilies which have been in my shed for about two years. I shall continue to feed this swim and who knows what I might eventually catch. As it’s a club water someone will eventually see me catching from the swim and move in. Still none of us have the right to reserve a swim. It’s the first come who takes his or her choice of where to fish.

Shy Biting Chub on the Ribble

Wednesday I was on the river for about seven o’clock walking the beat checking for set lines and any nets that might have been use and of course sorting out the cormorants. Only had one of these birds put in an appearance which quickly departed. After repairing a stile I had a mug of tea and some toast in the cabin. As the river looked quite good I decided to go downstream to fish for chub using the Grauvelle Specialist light model matched with a Mitchell 300 reel and 6lb line and a size 4 barbless hook. In a two hour session I had three nice chub two in the four pound class the other weighed 5-3-0 All fish were on crust giving very light pulls of about a quarter of an inch. If I hadn’t been holding the rod and watching like a hawk and striking at any tiny movement, I wouldn’t have got those fish. Remember not all chub whack the rod tip round. The weather wasn’t the best for chub fishing; it was a bright and sunny but windy day. At one o’clock I drove back upstream to the cabin where I met mate David who was salmon fishing. Saying “Would you like some lunch” to which David said “That’s a nice idea”. Half an hour later David had lunch of corn beef and pickle sandwiches with tomato soup followed by some fresh fruit. He then went back to his fly fishing in search of a chrome bright salmon while I went off and done several jobs. It was about six o’clock when I got back home for dinner.

Thursday I was back on the river just after dawn, s I walked across the frost covered field two partridges flew off low over the field to the wood, these game birds are quite rare in this area and its nice to see them. As I walked the river bank I hoped to see a salmon, but no luck, The River was clear with little flow, small rafts of floating leaves drifted down stream, in the clear water I could see many submerged leaves. Making it a float fisher’s nightmare, the only life was a moorhen that flew low across the river to seek sanctuary under the far bank trees. After a long walk I stood on Mitton Bridge watching a big shoal of chub, I reckon there must have been over two hundred fish between a pound and three pounds. With breakfast in mind I walked up the hill to the little café where I enjoyed a pot of tea with bacon and eggs.

Salmon and Chub

After breakfast I then went off to another stretch of water to fish for chub and barbel, I was lucky to find a favourite swim vacant. Fishing with Grauvell rod with a 1.2lb test curve, I matched the rod with a Mitchell 300 and 6lb Gamma line with a size 6 hook pinching on an LG shot about two feet from the hook. With a dropping water temperature I didn’t use any free offerings; I would wait and see what happened. I suppose an hour had passed before I noticed the small bow in the line start to tighten, “That’s a bite I said to myself and with a sweeping strike I set the hook. After a brief struggle I netted a nice chub in the 4lb class. Rebaiting I cast to the same spot, a small channel two thirds of the way across the river. Within minutes the line twitched then twitched again and slowly tightened I set the hook into chub number two. In the net is looked like the twin of the first. I then had a fishless two hours and called it a day.

Back on Edisford Hall fishery I found one of my members Peter Westwell had caught his second fly caught salmon, while another member had caught some nice grayling. Back home I made a few notes for the Prince Albert AS AGM that I would be chairing in Macclesfield in the evening. Leaving home with another member about 5-30pm we were most surprised to find we could keep a good average speed down the M6 arriving in Macclesfield with plenty of time to spare. The AGM went smoothly and after coffee and sandwiches in the Liberal club we left for home arriving just before midnight.

First thing Friday morning I went and had my flue jab before doing a few jobs around the fishery, I then went off downstream to bait a couple of swims where Mick Holgate and I planned to have a chub fishing session later in the afternoon. About three o’clock we arrived on the Ribble to try and catch some chub, we had some loaves of bread and luncheon meat for bait. We both chose to use the Grauvelle light specialist rod with Mitchell 300 reels 6lb line and size 6 hooks, Mick chose to fish bread flake I decided on a chunk of crust. For an hour we sat bite less then decided to move swims. In the new swims remained bite less for over an hour then Mick had a good take hooking what looked like a powerful fish. As it hugged the bottom so it slowly moved out towards the far bank the rod was well bent as I sat watching the events I said “That’s a good fish” then the line broke. Mick was gutted. I reckon it was a good barbel. Ten minutes later I had a good pull getting a chub about 4lbs. We then decided to have a brew and a sandwich, after a half hour break we were back in our swims. For an hour we sat bite less, with a cold mist coming down we called it a day.

On Saturday I was in the studio just after four o’clock in the morning working until noon. After a mug of tea and a sandwich I went off down the river getting back home about three o’clock. As I listened to Arsenal beat Bolton I caught up on my e-mails. After dinner I sat down to watch the rugby World Cup final. It was the end of another week.

Martin James Fishing