An enjoyable start to the season – recalled by Martin James MBE

It was around 2100 hrs on June 15th when I arrived at my riverside cabin where I would have supper, at the same time putting together two set ups, one for sea trout, the other for chub. If the latter didn’t want my bait I would switch and cast for Sea Trout.

I am walking upstream to my chosen swim, where for a few days I have been placing small amounts of offerings, at the same time feeding another two or three swims as contingency. 

Back in the cabin I enjoyed fried potatoes, eggs, bacon and beans with two mugs of tea. Just after 23:00 hrs I made my way to the first swim on the edge of a wood, having got everything in place for my first cast, I walked upstream before sitting down in a spot overlooking the weir, in the half-light several good fish could be seen swirling and splashing on the surface, apart from that all was quiet.

The First Swim In Daylight

My First Bite Within A Minute

I was back at my chosen swim around 23:40 hrs, and apart from hearing the call of an owl in the opposite wood and the occasional roll or splash of a fish all was peaceful. I sat waiting for the church clock to chime midnight – it was not a long wait – I heard the first of 12 faint chimes in the distance; it was time to start my 80th year of angling.

My tackles are an Allcock’s Record Breaker, matched with a Richard Carter Classic Avon centre pin with 6lb line to which is tied a size 4 barbless hook, baited with a piece of flake. With an underhand cast I flicked the flake some five yards to land in a small gully, I then sat holding the rod with the line between my thumb and forefinger. 

I doubt I’d been fishing more than a minute or so when I felt a determined pull. The answering strike connected with an angry fish, I was forced to give line as the reel screeched in protest. Two or three minutes later I netted a splendid Chub which I estimated at around the 3lb mark. Naturally I was elated to catch my first fish so quickly into the new season and in the next hour or so I had 4 more Chub of a similar stamp. Time passed and with no signs of a bite or rising fish I decided to have a cast for a Sea Trout and made my way upstream towards the cabin.

Back At The Tail Of The Pool

After a brew I picked up the Sea Trout tackle I’d left assembled ready for the off, my destination being the pool. It was a still quiet night, even the owl had stopped hooting, as I walked out on a gravel bar I heard the Church clock announce 03:00 hrs. I started off fishing with a 3 inch snake fly, I reckon I’d been fishing some twenty minutes when I felt a solid hit, setting the hook the fish went berserk as it crashed out of the water. A typical Sea Trout – they often jump and with frequency when hooked and provide an entirely different fight to a Salmon that surge on powerful runs with far less of the acrobatics. 

Fifteen minutes later I netted a fish which I estimated at 4lbs. After no interest in the next fifteen minutes I switched to a waking lure by Hugh Falkus, it’s just a piece of balsa wood painted silver with a small treble hanging from the end. Fishing a waking lure is very simple, one makes a cast well down and across the fast moving water and every so often you twitch the line. The idea of a waking lure is it creates a wake in the river that attracts the fish to attack. The takes are usually very savage but often missed. In some half an hour I had three takes all missed but was lucky to have one stay attached – after an exciting ten minutes or so I netted a fish of around 3lbs. That was the last action of the night.

Early Morning Session June 17th  

I was on the river just after 0600hrs on my way I spotted a hedgehog walking down the centre of the road, I quickly realised it was in danger of falling victim to unobservant motorists; stopping my car I walked up the road and picked up the hog which was in excellent condition and rather weighty. I jumped the fence walked several yards out into a field and let him go in safety. 

My first good deed of the day. 

I arrived on the river some fifteen minutes later, with my tackles already set up all I had to do was put the joints of the rod together – after doing so I grabbed my small bag containing a loaf of bread, a ball of sausage meat, and a box of hooks. Lastly I picked up the landing net and walked slowly upstream looking for Chub. 

After half a mile I spotted my first fish which was slowly moving upstream, baiting with a large piece of flake I dunked it in the water and with a Wallis cast dropped it three feet beyond the fish. The chub was interested and slowly moved across the stream towards the flake until it was a foot or so from the bait, the flake by now was sinking slowly and as it did so the fish moved deeper into the water. It was not long before the chub moved forward and engulfed the offering, with a simple lift of the rod I set the hook. 

The fish was off the starting blocks very quickly indeed, after a spirited fight it finally allowed me to net it safely. A solid fish of around 3lbs. After a quick picture it was released. I continued my walk for around two miles managing to catch five more fish of a similar stamp. 

At 10:30hrs I met another member who was fly fishing for trout, after a chat we went off to the cabin for tea and hot buttered toast. The end of another successful session. I will be back tomorrow.

An Exciting Mornings Session

It was 04:30hrs when I quite literally jumped out of bed, another early session on the river in search of chub awaited. Currently the river is bare bones, full of horrid slimy blanket weed, these conditions certainly make fishing hard both for coarse and game angling. Today was going to be a roving session which will mean getting down on hands and knees, and getting stung and/or scratched at the same time, but I was up for it. After a quick shower, a bowl of porridge and two mugs of tea I checked all the tackles required and headed out to the car. 

After driving for some twenty minutes, I pulled off the road and took the long bumpy pot holed track down to the river. On the way I counted 9 Hares and 3 Roe Deer. I quickly unloaded my gear, as I did so I realised I hadn’t sorted out my landing net handle as the twist and lock wasn’t working. I then proceeded to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to solve the problem, but failed abysmally.

Thankfully I had a short handle in the car which would make do – pairing an Allcocks Record Breaker with a Mitchell 300 I tied the size 4 hook to the 12 lb line – I was ready to go. My baits were luncheon meat and bread, and in the small bag that contained them was a set of scales, one carrier bag to weigh any fish, a box of mixed hooks plus my camera. 

I made my way upstream towards the wood which on its edge had a high bank where I could look down into the water with the hope of spotting a Chub. It was a struggle getting through the wood having to push my way through shoulder high stinging nettles and brambles and when not battling these I had to bend very low so as not to bump into the lowest branches. Eventually I got close enough to see the water, then started my quest – to search for a Chub.

After some 400 yards I spotted a fish close to some reeds in less the two feet of water, baiting with a chunk of meat I got down on hands and knees and slowly crept into a position where I could make a cast. At the same time I was trying to drag a landing net which kept getting caught up. If I and the net didn’t spook the Chub I reckoned I had a good chance of catching it. 

Over head was a large Beech tree, the idea was to flick the bait up in the air so it landed with a splash, then hoping the Chub would mistake it for something falling from the tree. The splash certainly got the interest of the fish which immediately shot forward intercepted the bait, and as it turned I set the hook – immediately the fish boiled on the surface then took a few yards off the reel, finally sulking on the river bed as Chub often do early in the season. I couldn’t reach far enough out into the water with the short handled net, nothing for it but to get in the water by sliding down the bank. A minute or so later I netted a glorious Chub weighing in at 4 lb 2 ounces. I  then waded out into the slightly more streamy water before releasing the fish. Back at the bank I found it hard work climbing back up as it was full of nettles – I was getting stung and rather to regularly for my liking but I finally made it.

My First Big Chub Of The New Season

Having collected my senses I continued to walk slowly up river. I’d gone about 600 yards when I spotted what looked to be a good fish, it was slowly moving in front of a big tree that had fallen into the river some three years ago. My problem was getting into position without spooking the fish, I felt the only option was to quietly slide down the bank then kneel in the water keeping a low profile. kneeling in this position for about fifteen minutes observing the fish which estimated as a very good 4 lb plus.

The Fallen Tree Swim

I was pleased I had chosen the 300 as it would have been difficult to make a Wallis without being seen. Baiting with two big pieces of meat I made the long cast dropping the bait some three feet beyond the slowly moving Chub, it seemed like an hour before the fish moved towards the bait, but was probably half that time. Inch by inch he moved ever closer, aroused by the sight of the sausage meat he moved forward quickly I thought to myself, “That fish is going to take it” within a minute the line flicked then the bow tightened, I was immediately on my feet striking at the same time and in one fluid movement I managed in setting the hook.

The water boiled and line stripped off the reel at a great rate of knots, I leaned the rod over to my left trying to pull the fish away from the sunken tree, if it gets in those branches all would be lost. I waded out further into the water allowing me to apply more pressure and from varying angles in the hope of causing the fish to get disorientated. Following these tactics the chub gave up his struggles which is fairly normal for this the early part of the season. I waded a little further until I could draw the fish over the net, it was a super looking fish. 

Martin’s 5lber

Returning to the bank I grabbed my scales which were quickly zeroed, with the chub in the wet bag I weighed him – the needle was drawn down to 5 lb 2 ounces. I had a grin a mile wide and thought “That will do for me” a quick picture followed – I waded back out to the deep water by the tree and released him. It was pleasing to see him swim off strongly.

On Saturday I am off to  Sussex with perhaps a session on a Sussex river, then of to Kent fishing the river Beult, and there is the possibility to fish one of Kent’s lovely still waters. Needless to say I will have a few jottings regarding my trip to share with you.

Writing & Images Martin James – June 2021