fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


Chub and More Chub

February 2011 wasn't the fill dyke month Iíve experienced so often over the past sixty years, when rivers were often bank high or over the fields for many days on end. A time when we made great catches of roach and bream on the southern rivers, then later on good catches of barbel. This year I was disappointed with the low water levels and water temperatures for much of the time. Though I did have some good days on the River Ribble with trotting gear, feeding with mashed bread, baiting with bread flake or crust, though some good chub did fall to sausage or cheese paste baits. I reckon if youíre trotting a big river like the Ribble you need a float to boss the stream, I often use a cork on goose quill float that would take a minimum of 8 AAA shot, and sometimes a bigger float when the river was carrying more water. I do like the egg shaped shot from Dinsmore, what is nice about these shots, is they can be opened by a finger nail.

On of Those Good Chub Days on the River Ribble

I had an exceptional day in February catching 14 good chub, arriving at my chosen beat, I found the river had an extra two feet of water, in went the thermometer a few minutes later I got a reading of 44 degrees F. I then spent thirty odd minutes feeding my chosen swim with mashed bread, every five minutes I chucked a chicken egg size ball of mashed bread well upstream, so the feed would break up and drift slowly along the gravel bottom. Back in the cabin I had a late breakfast of porridge followed by scrambled eggs on toast with a mug of Yorkshire Gold tea.

Clearing away the dishes, I put together a fifteen foot TFG rod, centre pin reel with 4lb Gamma line I added a cork on goose quill float then attached a size 8 barbless hook. 8 AAA egg shaped shot were lightly pinched on the line fifteen inches from the hook with another AAA shot just six inches from the hook; this last shot was to stop the crust riding high in the water

Back at my prebaited swim I waded a third of the way across the river placing my bucket containing mashed bread, balls of cheese and sausage paste and half a loaf of bread on a large rock, this rock also deflected the full force of the flow away from me, so I was in a comfortable wading position. Making a few trials runs down the swim, I did the odd adjustment to the float, until I had the hook just tripping the bottom making a note of where I needed to hold the float back hard so I could ease the baited hook over the small obstruction. It was time to see if the chub wanted to feed, conditions were ideal, a light upstream wind and heavy cloud base giving low light levels. I baited with a large piece of flake.

With a simple Wallis cast I sent the tackle across the stream, holding back the float I eased it downstream under some far bank trees. The float had gone about ten feet then buried. Striking I felt the heavy weight of a good fish, I was forced to give line as it powered off down stream. I suppose it took some ten minutes to bring the fish upstream to my waiting hand; there was no chance of just lifting this fish out.
I needed the net. Quickly scooping up the fish, I waded ashore to where I had left the tackle bag scales and weigh net. The scale needle registered 5-9-0. I walked upstream some hundred plus yards before releasing the fish.

Back at my swim I added another ball of mashed bread then baited with another piece of flake, within minutes another good chub of 4lbs plus was caught. Again I walked well upstream before releasing the fish. I reckon if you put a chub or perch back into the swim it will often spook the other fish, perhaps not always but itís happened enough to make me want to be careful. In the next coupler of hours I virtually had a fish a cast, I had five over 5lbs the best fish weighed in at 6-1-0 all my other fish were 4lb plus. As my mate David said "Thatís a good catch of chub"

Every cast would be preceded by an egg size ball of mashed bread. I reckon too many anglers miss out on making a good catch of chub through bad feeding either the wrong type of feed or not feeding regularly. I make my bread mash from three or four week old stale bread that has been dried out in the airing cupboard or the oven until its brittle. Having soaked it in water for a few hours I then dump the lot into an old fine meshed landing net. allowing the excess water to drain off. I then twist and turn the net so I get as much water from the mash as possible. The lot is then dumped into a big bucket and pummelled with a potato masher, itís a method shown to me by my grandfather, though he didn't use a masher just a chunk of timber, it done the same job.

I Head South for the Kennet and Loddon

Late in February I travelled south to spend some time with friends fishing the Kennet and Loddon with hopefully a trip or two to the Hampshire Avon River Wye and perhaps the Bristol Avon. Though the weather and water conditions on all my planned venues wasnít good. I was hoping for lots of rain, with bank high rivers, high air and water temperatures with warm nights, it didnít happen. It would certainly been better fishing for my last three weeks of the season on the mentioned rivers. Though I must say I did enjoy my time on different venues with various guests. I also helped some anglers catch their personal best chub, other anglers to catch a few barbel.

Many of my fish were caught in the early hours of the morning, often by moving from swim to swim. Once again Woolhampton beat on the Wasing Fishery served me well with chub and barbel. A bait that proved a winner on this 3 week trip was cheese paste; in fact I was surprised how many good chub fell to this bait rather the normal crust bait. Sadly the signal crayfish had a liking for this bait, during two late night sessions these horrid immigrants from the United States drove me crazy. It was crust that helped Stuart Harris from Portsmouth to catch his PB chub at 5-10-0. He deserved his fish as he done everything I suggested. Stuart also had some barbel, he proved a willing and enjoyable companion. Hopefully in the new season I will help him catch his first double figure barbel, this also goes for David another angler who is desperate for a big barbel, he decided love comes before fishing the last couple of weeks of the season on the Kennet and Loddon, by flying off to Spain with the love in his life. David and we all thought it was a fish.

I had a couple of days with Anglers Mail writer Gary Newman an angler who I have tremendous respect for. Gary joined me for a couple of days on the Kennet, where I was able to put him in a swim which I reckon could produce a good chub. It did with a 6lb 6 ounce chub on gentles. It was a privilege to spend some time with young Gary; I feel that some of the things I learnt on that trip will come in most useful during the coming season in my quest for a big barbel.

What did amaze me during those last few weeks was how few anglers were out on the river bank. Another venue I visited was the Lower Itchen Fishery near Southampton where I enjoyed a nice day, though I didn't fish, spending my time interviewing other anglers, also Lindsey Farmilow the owner and river keeper Clayton Moorhouse both interesting people. It was a most enjoyable experience. I hope to visit again when the Mayfly are hatching.

Cheese Was Certainly Top Bait

I was truly amazed how very soft cheese paste accounted for so many quality chub, than my normal legered crust bait did during these last three weeks. I had a total of 23 chub over 5lbs the best two weighed in at 5-10-0 of which 16 fish were on cheese paste. In the past I have always made my own cheese paste, but not having the time due to recording and editing radio shows and writing, I ordered some from Pallatrax. Having got the stuff I then tipped two pots at a time in my food processor then added some cooking oil with some Pallatrax cheese spray before whisking it all up into a very soft paste. This also changed the colour from a bright yellow into a duller creamy colour. It out fished my left over cheese paste by probabably five fish to one.

Why I don't know except it worked for me. As in all pastes I like them very soft so they just cling to the hook. Yes, occasionally it will come off in a long cast but I am prepared for that.
On the last weekend of the season I attended the Big One Show with Will Carter and I must say I was impressed by the attendance. I thought it was the best show so far and augers well for next year 2012

Trout Season Started March 15th in Lancashire

I returned home the day before the brown trout fishing season on rivers and stream in Lancashire commenced. where I expected a real tough start to the season after the arctic winter, sadly it seems that the ice flows done a lot of damage to the banks and river bed, At the time of writing in early April I haven't seen any signs of that delightful water plant ranunculus which in early summer is a mass of white flowers.

I did manage to catch a few trout in the hours between 12-30pm and 2-0 pm fishing size 20 black buzzers which was pleasing as I don't enjoy fishing weighted nymphs upstream. Though I do so when itís the only choice.

Trials and Tribulation of Buying a Second-hand Car

After many years leasing the vehicle of my choice, I had to make a life style choice and save money. I could no longer afford to waste my pension on leasing another car. I couldnít really afford to purchase a new car; I needed to get a good second hand one. Itís been perhaps forty years, since I purchased a second-hand car.

Back in the past for the purchaser of a second hand car it was a minefield. We had to be aware of various fiddles that were practised by many sellers of cars back in the 1950's and 60's. You the purchaser had to be aware of mileage being put back, sawdust in the sump, written off cars sold as good etc etc. It was with some trepidation that I chose to purchase a used vehicle.

Good Fuel Consumption

Another reason for my choice was the high cost of fuel, it was becoming prohibitive I wanted a small vehicle with good fuel consumption, low road tax and a car with a reputation for quality. Most important of all I wanted to feel I was dealing with an honest and reputable dealer. After talking with many people and visiting various dealers, only two bothered to contact me after I e-mailed or called them requesting information about a certain vehicle.

One company who did make me feel welcome were Perrys of Clitheroe, Waterloo Road, Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 1NS Main 01200 538415 Service 01200 538032 Perrys have been in business for over a hundred years, the company nationally started trading in 1908, selling motor accessories, and in 1912 they were appointed as a Ford dealer in London. Perrys represented many leading motor brands including Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Alf Romeo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Seat, Hyundai, Mazda, Kia, Chevrolet, Ford and Honda Bikes. The group employs 1,400 people across thirty nine locations with an annual turnover of £400 million. Perrys are the largest independent Peugeot dealer in the country and have one of the largest network of Vauxhall dealers.

The company pride themselves in providing a high quality customer service and an ethical approach to business. Which I can vouch for. After explaining to the salesman Jon Spence I was looking for a Peugeot automatic 107. He said ďWe have a 2006 model in Nelson Lancashire, we can have it for you to test drive tomorrowĒ I told him I would call in around noon. I based my choice on the Peugeot 107 for several reasons, the good fuel consumption, cheap road tax just £20-00 a year. The insurance was cheaper and Peugeot had a good reputation. Many of my friends having only driven a Peugeot model

After my mate David and me road tested the car which only had 21,000 miles on the clock, we then inspected body work which was in excellent condition, checking the service record we could see it had been regularly serviced with one lady owner. I agreed to purchase the vehicle, giving instructions that when they service the vehicle, to take out the back seats to give me extra space for tackle etc. All in all I reckon I got a good deal from Perryís. If youíre in the market for a vehicle with better fuel consumption, I would recommend Perrys and Peugeot as your first stop.

The car having not been used for several months was even fitted with a new battery, a full service, which is good for 12,000 miles or 2 years with an MOT. Giving me peace of mind, I can economise on most things but not my angling trips. Perhaps its time we returned to the coach trips of the 50's and 60's where a group of anglers would visit a different venue every fortnight.

Fishing in the United Arab Emirates

In March I flew out to Dubai on an Emirate flight from Manchester arriving in Dubai just after midnight, I was most impressed with the Airport service, within forty five minutes Iím in a clean modern taxi driven by a lady, who did know how to drive. Then I have always been a fan of woman drivers since my days in Ireland where I had a driver that was one of the best. Her driving skills were excellent as were her skills in navigating the back streets of Belfast at night. Thirty minutes later Iím at the Arabian Ranches. After a quick shower and brushing my teeth, I was soon fast asleep.

Next morning I got my second view of my grandson, the first time was in an incubator on the 29th of November 2010 as a day old child looking so fragile. Young Samuel James had arrived home for the first time the day before my arrival. Though still tiny only weighing 8lbs after 17 weeks he looked great, I reckon in three or four years time he will be at the water's edge with me.

Hopefully in his teens he and I will be crossing a salt march in search of wildfowl or stalking rabbits.

Saltwater Fly Fishing Academy

I had come to the UAE for several reasons, to spend time with my family, appear on Dubai TV. I also had some pupils at my saltwater fly fishing academy at the Le Meridien Al Aqua hotel in Fujairah on the east coast washed by the Indian Ocean, with the Harjar Mountains an impressive backdrop. Having spent a few days with my family, I travelled to the Le Meridien Al Aqua hotel.

After checking in I quickly changed into wading boots and shorts then grabbing some tackle, I headed off to a nearby bay close to the small fishing village of Sharma where I caught strawberry fish a member of the grouper family, queenfish, snapperís and hamour. Fishing over some rocky ground, I lost two fast sinking fly lines in a single day on some big submerged boulders. Most of the fish were caught just over the drop off, an area where the barracuda hung out; I got bitten off on three occasions, changing over to a fine 17lb breaking stain wire I couldn't get a hit. In the fading light I made my way back to the Al Aqua hotel for a well deserved dinner.

On the Ocean Chasing Queenfish and Dorado

I defy any angler not to get an adrenaline buzz when they are offshore seeing diving squealing sea birds as they feast on the bait fish, from below these bait fish are attacked by predatory fish which could be queenfish, dorado, tuna, kingfish etc. Often the surface of the water will be boiling as the bait fish try to escape from the killing zone, often bits of fish can be seen on the surface.

Itís now time to cast a fly that will resemble the bait fish in size and colour, often the fish will be programmed into eating only a good representation of the victims. But there are occasions when predatory fish will attack anything that is cast into the water. On this occasion Iím in the bow of the boat armed with a 9 foot 10 weight rod an intermediate line with a 20lb tapered leader to which I had attached a silver and brown coloured deceiver pattern on a size 3/0 barbless hook with a needle sharp point.

Pulling off fifty feet of line I made a false cast then shot the line over the water away from the feeding fish, then retrieve all the line. I was now ready to try for a hook up.

Meanwhile the fish and birds have moved away, some two hundred yards off the starboard bow at two o'clock, the skipper turned the boat in the direction of those diving birds, in the bows I peered intently ahead working out the best way to present the fly. What I didn't want to be doing, is casting over the fish or behind them. I wanted if possible to get the fly once it hits the water moving fast away from the fish but close enough for the quarry to see and intercept my imitation.

The motor is cut back quickly losing speed slowly we drift towards the fish. I make a long cast the line shoots through the guides, as the fly hits the water I immediately start the retrieve, I spot of fish streaking towards the fly from the left, suddenly Iíve a hook up. The reel grudgingly gives line as the fish powers away.

Suddenly all is quiet the birds, bait and queenfish are gone. Itís one lone angler with a bent stick and pulled string. Ten minutes later the fish is alongside the boat ready for unhooking a queenfish about 14lbs. Once netted its lifted clear of the water. Extracting the hook with forceps I turn the fish loose to grow bigger and fight another day.

We then cruised around looking for more diving birds, in the next couple of hours I caught three other good queenfish. As quick as the birds and fish appeared, suddenly they were gone for good. It was time to move further offshore to try and find the dorado. A fish I rate as one of the great sporting fish of the tropical waters.

I first encountered these fish in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
During the next five hours we spotted several turtles, a school of dolphins and the dorado. By sight fishing I had seven nice fish best at around 25lbs and all released. Back at the Al Aqua hotel after a shower it was into the Thai restaurant to celebrate a good day on the ocean.

During my stay I had several interesting fishing sessions both from the shore line with a six weight rod and offshore with 10 and 11 weight rods. When I wasn't fishing I was in the classroom or on the casting court teaching newcomers the art of fly fishing at my academy in the Le Meridien Al Aqua hotel. My next academy will be in November December.

News from Angling Trust

Hope for Our Rivers?

The Angling Trust has agreed to bring to an end our joint judicial review (with WWF UK) of the Government's River Basin Management Plans. The first round of plans prepared by the Environment Agency were lacking in ambition to deliver any meaningful improvements to rivers, large lakes and coastal waters, and they were full of uncertainties about what the problems are and what would be done to address them. Defra has released a statement setting out several new activities to increase the rate of improvements and to improve certainty. This is a major victory for the future of fish and fishing in this country. Naturally, we will be watching to see that the actions are delivered and reserve the right to take legal action in future if they are not.

Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs)

April 1st saw the new Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) take over responsibility for managing and conserving inshore fish stocks. We are looking for members to volunteer and set up Angling Trust conservation and access groups within our new regions who can contribute to the work of the IFCAs and the Marine Management Organisation. If you are interested in getting involved in working on local fishery and marine conservation issues that will affect sea angling we would love to hear from you. Get in touch with our Marine Environmental Campaigns Manager at

Angling Bans from Draycote to Bexhill

The Angling Trust has been alerted to nine cases of local angling bans over the past year and we are concerned that local councils, water companies and others are increasingly seeing angling as no more than a health and safety hazard and a source of litter! Severn Trent Water have still not announced arrangements for re-opening Draycote Reservoir after it was closed for fishing last year due to planned construction work on a nearby building, which never actually went ahead. Then they were worried that anglers might crash their cars into water company lorries. Now it seems that the pontoons have been deemed to be dangerous...

Now Rother District Council has proposed using the Public Health Act Amendment Act 1907 to introduce byelaws which would include the banning of angling and bait digging from areas of the shore at Bexhill-on-Sea. The Trust's legal arm Fish Legal has written to the Council to explain that such byelaws might be unlawful, and a local coalition of angling clubs and activists is highlighting the impact these byelaws - and any extension of them - would have on their fishing and the local economy.

If you hear of angling being banned or restricted, we would like to hear about it. Please e-mail with as many details as possible.

First Sea Trout in 2011

Conditions were looking good for trout fishing so I had a couple of hours fishing buzzers catching three nice brown trout. Early in the day I got a tip off that a couple of local slobs were going to spin fish my water, After a mug of tea and a sandwich. I made my way downstream to a well known pool, close by was a thick hawthorne bush which I burrowed into, it gave me good cover for my surveillance operation on these slobs who were going to try and steal my fish. They would be in for a big shock when I suddenly appeared having taken their photographs and called the police. After three hours with no sign of the thieves, I called it a day. I then had an hour fly fishing taking a nice 17"-18" inch sea trout and a couple of brown trout. Hopefully we will get lots of rain during the rest of April and into May though I want hold my breath. Two good Springers have beeen caught this month which is surprising.

Martin James Fishing