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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


It's Been Tough on the Kennet

I've just got back from a few days on the Kennet. Mark Hyde and I started fishing about 5 o'clock in the afternoon on Thursday 10th November in weather condition I considered excellent, though I was worried about the low water level. Itís the worse I have ever seen the River Kennet. Having put Mark in a swim which I though would produce and suggesting the spot where he should fish a piece of sausage meat, I moved off downstream. Fifteen minutes later Mark called to say he had a barbel about 5lbs. We fished until midnight with no more interest in our baits.

Next day it was about 2 o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived on the river, having attended a Remembrance Day service in the village of Mortimer. I felt privileged to shake the hand of a 90 year old pilot who had flown Stirling bombers during the war also gliders the night before D-Day. I was most disappointed at the ignorance of the motorist who refused to stop for the 2 minute silence; I could willingly have throttled them. After the service I planted a cross for my parents lost in the Far East also other relatives lost in various theatres of war.

Back on the river I chose to fish Bodsworth with Mark, suggesting he put a piece of sausage meat close to an over hanging bush. First cast he had a chub about 3lbs. From then on we didn't get another touch and packed up around 11 o'clock. Saturday we attended the book launch of the Biggest Fish of All where I had a busy few hours recording material for my At The Water's Edge programmes. The Sweet corn Kid turned up so I was able to give him a copy of Drop Me A Line which hopefully he will learn from and a centre pin reel for his trotting on the Itchen. In return he presented me with 3 of his quill floats which I thought I would use for stret-pegging but have decided to keep for my grandson Samuel James.

That evening we chose to fish thee bottom swim at Dalston, surely it couldnít be bad second session on the trot. Once again Mark had a chub within 15 minutes, and that was our lot so we packed up at midnight. Sunday we got on the River about 10 o'clock in the morning, the weather was horrid for fishing, but ideal for showing a new member the water. I left Mark to fish the Rockery while I went off on a three mile hike to show Mike Petch a new member the various swims and explain how I fished them under different weather and water conditions. I suppose it was around 2 o'clock when we got back. Mike then went of to fish the bottom of the beat in an area I had shown him which he liked the look of, while I set about cooking lunch and making tea.

Lunch finished we moved off down river, I suggested Mark fish 2 swims while I baited 2 swims then we sat around talking and drinking tea until just before dusk when we moved into our chosen swims. By 7 o'clock I had caught 2 barbel about 6lbs and 2 chub the beast about 4lbs. After a brew I moved off upstream to fish a far bank swim by rolling a piece of sausage meat down close to the far bank so I could get the bait to roll under the far bank bush. First cast I felt a light pluck then a determined pull. Striking I connected with what felt like a good fish. Ten minutes later I had the fish under my bank and a few feet downstream. Sinking the net in the water I pulled the fish upstream of the net. Lowering the rod tip I allowed the fish to drop into the waiting net.
I thought it might be a scraper double so I weighed the fish. 9lb 6 ounces I was more than happy. About 9 o'clock I went down to Mark and suggested he come upstream and fish a swim where I thought he might catch. He had 2 barbel best at 6-11-0. At first we thought it might be a PB as his best so far is 7lb 2 ounces. Again sausage paste was the bait. I had one more chub about 4lbs and that was it for the session.

Monday morning started off badly when I got a call from my brother Tom, to say Brother Christopher had passed away the night before with a Brain haemorrhage. I wasn't interested in fishing. I often wander where the justice is, at 75 I'm still kicking yet young Christopher the youngest brother who my mum adopted as a 4 year old has gone, leaving three teenagers. I've been in some tough parts of the world and some tough scraps. With all my health problems I'm still around and kicking. Any rate life had to go on as I was meeting Tony Booker and Jeff Tucker, I then took them off downstream, Tony was going to fish the drop shot method for perch, I was going to try and get Jeff hooked up to a chub and barbel as he hadn't caught either. I suppose it was fifteen minutes later when I got Jeff hooked up to his first fish. A nice chub of 4lb 12 ounces. As the fish went into my landing net I looked up and said "This one is for you Christopher".

We tried a couple of other swim, and then it was lunch. Tea and sandwiches of bacon and egg were cooked and distributed all round. Lunch over Tony told Mark where he had seen some chub, so we all went off to see if Mark could get one. Fifteen minutes later we left Mark then moved off upstream where I had Jeff try a couple of other swims. With nothing happening we went back downstream over the bridge then upstream to the swim where he had the chub. Baiting with crust he cast to the spot I suggested then sat holding the rod. Within three minutes no more he was hooked up to a barbel. I thought to myself "Good Jeff has now got a chub and a barbel" Sadly the fish got off after another minute. Still that's fishing. I then took him off downstream and put him in a long glide where I though he might catch a barbel or chub, perhaps both. He ended the ay with another chub on sausage meat paste. As dusk descended we packed up then Mark and I had a 230 mile drive back to Lancashire. Another fishing trip over. On Saturday I'm off top Dubai and Fujairah in the UAE.

Martin James Fishing