Saturday 16 June 2018
It's the 16th June and that means one thing: the rivers are open for fishing again! With the season closing in March with an amazing monster pike, I've been itching to get back on the Bristol River Avon to chase down some of it's excellent chub. The question is, would it be a repeat of last years heat-wave, snapped-rod, boats-playing-reggae, virtual-blank disaster?!
Well for one thing, the weather wasn't going to be nearly as hot as last year. In fact, the BBC weather app was predicting rain from 8am until lunch time... Not my favourite but maybe better for the fishing as chub don't tend to feed in bright conditions! I know a lot of anglers camp and cast out at midnight but as the rules don't allow for night fishing on the Bristol River Avon I decided to get up at stupid o'clock instead - 4.30am to be precise... Madness I know but I had a feeling the banks might be busy and with such limited swims due to undergrowth at the Swinford end of the river I wanted to make sure I was in the running for a decent swim.
Leaving that early meant there was no traffic on the road so I pulled into the busy looking layby outside the Swan Inn at around 5.15am - not bad going! As predicted, all the fishable swims in the first field were occupied - seems Bristol does have some keen anglers after all! Not to worry, due to the banks at Swinford I had it in my head I'd try and fish the 'fallen tree swim' in the second field (otherwise known as 'Chub Alley') and was relieved to find it empty of anglers. The plan for the day was to target chub with one rod fishing a cage feeder and the second rod fishing a float. I've had such success with good old Spam in the past, so hook bait was an easy choice although I did have sweetcorn as a back up. Before setting up the rods I primed the swim with a couple of balls of groundbait mix consisting of tinned tuna, hemp, liquidized bread and method mix groundbait.
So the rods went out, the feeder in the deep margin in front of the streamer weed to my right and the float a couple of rod lengths out into the flow. And believe it or not, the float dipped on the first run through - chub on! And while I was sorting out that chub, the feeder rod rattled off with another chub - amazing!
The have two fish on the first casts of each rod was pretty amazing. I was made up, it was definitely worth getting up so early! The next couple of hours disappeared with chub after chub falling to the float. The feeder rod was silent, although I was getting the odd pluck on the rod tip... But with the float rod producing so many fish, I wasn't worried - I was having too much fun!
There weren't too many other species showing themselves, although I did have a dace on one retrieve. But then from nowhere, I had a completely different bite where the float slid rather than dipping under the surface... the result was a perfect condition bronze bream of around 3lb. This was just getting better and better!
The bites began to dry up a bit as the rain eased off and the sky became brighter. I switched the feeder rod over to sweetcorn to see if a bait change would spark some interest and cast it out further into the flow. However the potential culprit for the sudden slow up of fish activity showed it's head on the next retrieve of the float rod: I'd had a bite higher up in the swim from what turned out to be a small chub and as it came into the bankside, a massive head erupted from the deep and a huge pike attempted to strike the fish!
Now I've never fished for pike in the summer months as they're far more active in the warmer months and tend to gobble down baits which potentially means deep hooking. However on the advice of some other anglers, I'd been told that lures were the way to go. I didn't have any lures but I did have some sprats so the plan was to fish them pure style on a small trace and see what happened...
So both rods came in, I rigged up the feeder rod with a sprat on a short wire trace and I got casting around the swim. Five or so casts later, the line pulled and the rod tip jerked and I struck into a solid resistance - summer pike on! And it absolutely tore off, they go in winter but they really, really go in summer I didn't have any scales on me but I guestimate it was around 16lb to 18lb - what an amazing result?!
Not surprisingly, the swim was wrecked after that and although I did have another couple of small chub, it really felt like the best of the days fishing had passed and I decided to call it a day. But what a start to the season?! A net full of chub, a cracking bream and a monster pike - and it wasn't even 11.30am, just amazing.
Thursday 19 April 2018
This post isn't fishing related but what the hell... I've been relistening to the excellent Smodcast by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier over the last 3 months and then revisiting my favourite ones. So I decided to put a list together, geeky I know but it gives me somewhere to go back to for inspiration.
263: Choe 'Nuff - In which we hear tales of art and comics and sex and Facebook. With Special Guest David Choe.
264: Yo, Choe! - In which all vices are explored to excess and we learn how boring our lives really are. With Special Guest artist and podcaster David Choe!
288: Yoga Hoser - In which our heroes give a football hooligan a two-legged judo kick in the chest.
303: Game of Mos - In which our heroes learn that Pooey likes things that are nice (and talk about Game of Thrones)
It doesn't really feel like spring has sprung yet and although we had a freak sunny day on the Saturday I awoke to a steady drizzle on the Sunday of my session. Damn. With Follyfoot being such a zig and floater venue I was really hoping for some bright conditions! But hey, you gotta go when you can and conditions aside, I was really excited about the prospect of 24 hours fishing.
The change over time at Follyfoot is 12pm so I try and arrive at 1pm on Sundays to give the swim a bit of a rest. But today really heavy rain and bad driving conditions meant I didn't pull into the car park until gone 2pm. I'd originally booked into hut 19 in the far back corner of the lake but after meeting with the fishery owner it appeared that they'd double booked the hut! Double damn. Hut 10 was free though (which is my 2nd favourite on the lake) and after finding out from another couple of anglers that the father and son duo who'd fished in for the previous 24 hours had caught over 50 fish between them I decided to jump in there.
Despite the bleak conditions I decided to fish one rod on the bottom and two on zigs, the first being a couple of foot under the surface and the second at about 1/2 depth at around 6ft. I had plenty of different bits of zig foam soaking in pineapple liquid so I could try lots of different depths and colour combinations until I found one the carp liked.
The bottom bait rod went out to the left in open water below the power lines and the zigs at 6 wraps directly in front of the platform. Luckily for me, the zigs were cast at showing fish as three crashed in front of me while I was lining up the cast!
I didn't have to wait long for my first bite... I'd retreated to the hut to shelter from a shower of rain and was crouched on the floor tying up another zig when I noticed the tip on the right hand rod knock. Sometimes zig bites can be pretty finicky so I decided to pick up the rod and reel down... into a fish!
It quickly became apparent this was a decent carp as it absolutely steamed off, the fish clearly hadn't realised it'd been hooked. As I was only using 8lb zig line and a tiny size 10 hook I played the fish lightly and although it managed to tangle my other two rods I finally managed to slip what looked like a 20lb common into the net.
As it turned out, I was pretty lucky to get it in - the hook was virtually straightened out!
Amazing! What a start to the session! I didn't weigh the fish but it felt like a solid 20lb which is a good size for the venue. There was a big ol smile on my face as I slipped the fish back and I eagerly set about sorting out my tangled rods to get them back out asap.
Which is when the owner arrived at the hut and explained that it was actually hut 10 that was booked out and the angler was arriving at 8am the following morning! Triple damn. How's your luck eh?! They'd phoned the chap booked into 19 and he'd agreed to not arrive till 2pm on the Monday so that left me with a choice: stay in hut 10 and then upsticks early the following morning or move to hut 19 and leave an hour or so early....
Bugger. With such a good start to the session I wasn't overkeen to move but similarly I didn't want to move first thing in the morning and watch another angler bag up in my prebaited spots from the other side of the lake!
So I moved. Hut 19 has been really good to me in the past and as time was steadily marching on I really wanted to get myself settled and sorted on some spots before it got too late in the day. The good news was that the fish were out in front of me in numbers and judging by the reaction to a couple of spombs of sloppy spod mix, they appeared to be hungry!
I've done a lot of research about spod mixes for zigging and although you can buy off-the-shelf mixes from the big bait companies, they aint cheap... So after much experimenting, I've come up with a mix that creates a nice cloud and has a good selection of floating, buoyant, semi buoyant and slow sinking food items, all of which keep the fish feeding at different levels throughout the day.
Here's the shopping the list:
It's a pretty gloopy, sticky concoction but it appears to work everywhere I've taken it! And it's cheap too as nearly all the ingredients are in the saver ranges from either Tesco or Sainsburys, which is a good thing as the key to zigging and spodding is to keep the bait going in regularly - which means you get through a lot of it in an average day session.
After getting really pissed off with the zig float, I decided to plumb the depth and tied up some zigs at 8ft and 6ft for the right and middle rod while the left hand rod went out with a solid PVA bag of pellets. Due to the surface activity, I wasn't expecting much to happen on the deck until the evening so there was no harm having a sleeper rod baiting up a spot for later.
And it worked! The zigs really came into their own over the next 5 or so hours with multiple fish on both rods.
Although the first fish in the previous swim fell to a black and yellow zig, it wasn't until I switched to red in this swim that things really took off. The zigs kept producing well into darkness and it was excellent fun! I found that if the bites dried up, changing the depth of the zig by a foot in either direction and getting some more spod mix out would kick start the action again.
The bites finally dried up when it got properly dark at which point I switched all three rods to bottom baits, namely pink Scent From Hell wafter dumbells, a hookbait I've done incredibly well with in the past at Follyfoot. The left hand rod that had been cast regularly throughout the afternoon soon started producing bites and I had a good couple of fish before finally deciding to reel in and get my head down at 2am.
The weather conditions changed again in the morning to bright sunshine and strong winds which unfortunately completely killed the fishing. I had one fish off the bottom but apart from that, the bites dried up and try as I might, I just couldn't get them going on the surface. The last fish came out of the blue on the deck and was a bit of a surprise after such a quiet morning.
Annoyingly, the anglers who'd booked themself into hut 10 never materialised meaning I could've stayed put! Would it've been a better session? Who knows... After that initial fish and the fact that the previous occupants had over 50 fish in the course of the weekend, I guess it could've gone either way? As it turned out I spent the last couple of hours of the session back in hut 10 and although I did have one pick up, the fish just weren't in the mood at all. And not surprising as the cold wind whipping down the lake was sending white tipped waves into the far corner.
But hut 19 had been kind to me yet again: I'd loved every minute of the zig fishing (once I'd stopped using the zig float that is!) and with a decent haul of sizeable fish to show for my efforts, I was a happy angler. The only thing missing was one of the ornamental koi's that live in the lake - but it's always good to have a reason to return for another go ;)
True to form, the weather was predicted to be grim with a cold start and drizzly rain all day... Far out spring, what happened?!
Amazingly there were two other anglers on the lake so by usual standards, it was rammed! I decided to hedge my bets and set up at the far bowl end and fish the died back lily pads with a feeder rod. My first bite came pretty quickly and turned out to be one of the biggest fish I've caught from the lake - result!
Over the next couple of hours I had another three fish but as the rain settled in the bites completely dried up.
In the end I packed down around 2pm as it was freezing cold, chucking it down with rain and with nothing to show for a swim move I was just plain fed up!
Looking at the weather forecast shows that there's no change on the far side of the Easter break...
Tuesday 27 March 2018
I've been desperate to have another go at Hunters Lake and after a shocking couple of sessions at the beginning of Easter week I decided to head to a day ticket water closer to home rather than heading out for another miserable night on the bank!
The weather continues to be a challenge and today was no different: misty, rainy, windy, cold but then brightening up later in the afternoon. The drive out of Bristol wasn't too bad and after a detour to Premiere Angling to pick up half a pint of maggots I started down the twisty turny roads towards the Hunters Rest Pub and the lake.
The mist had got so bad that upon arriving I couldn't actually see the lake from the car park! It was eerily still and quiet as I borrowed the gear through the fields (two nights in a bedchair and my back was shot, so no rucksacks on shoulders today...). Not surprisingly I found the lake was deserted...
I started about setting up the gear and it was then that disaster stuck: I'd reorganised my bag after the trip away, skimming it down to day session gear and although I'd packed two rods I'd somehow only packed one reel...
Aaaarrrrg. How incredibly annoying! After turning the air blue and working through every possible idea of what to do I decided to make the hour round trip home to get the reel... Just really, really irritating.
So after another long drive I arrived back at the lake at 11:30am slightly stressed out but this time with the right amount of tackle. My idea was to do a lap of the lake but as I arrived in the point swim I'd fished in my my last session a carp jumped close to the tree island... A good a sign as any that there were fish in the area! I wasted no time getting the feeder rod set up and baited with a ball of 12 or so red and white maggots. Luckily my first cast was on the money and I set about sorting out the ledger rod which I'd decided to fish close to the second small island, again with maggots.
I didn't have to wait long for a bite as the feeder rod rattled off ten minutes later. A nice scaley mirror was on the end, nothing massive but it was a start.
And then nothing happened for quite some time... I got badly snagged a couple of times and lost a feeder (work party task, clearing snags?). The weather changed with the mist burning off and the sun coming out occasionally from behind big fluffy clouds. The big problem though was a cold wind started blowing across the lake, strong enough that white capped waves were washing into the far bank... not ideal!
So after a few hours of no action I decided to up sticks and head round to the other end of the island. It would mean fishing head on into the wind but it would be worth it if I could locate some fish.
Twenty freezing minutes later another move was on the cards as although I'd had one aborted pickup on the ledger, there wasn't anything else happening. As the fish didn't appear to be on the end of the wind I decided to try the sheltered bank near my original peg. The water was flat calm and I fancied the idea of a bit of margin stalking.
One thing that I'd started doing since arriving at the lake was to prebait some margin spots. Having had a bit of a lead around on the last session I'd discovered that the margins were straight down from the bank side and pretty deep. As I'd loads of hemp and maise left over from my fishless overnight sessions I decided to bait three spots and headed over to the first of these.
Over the next hour I had loads of liners and one aborted pickup but nothing really happened. It was fun though, sneaking around and dropping a rig into a likely looking spot, I've a feeling that once it warms up (if it ever warms up...) the margins will be very productive...
Although it had been tough going so far the action really picked up for the last couple of hours. Maybe the island spot being rested made a difference but I picked off three fish in quick succession! But the real excitement came from the prebaited near margin spot to my right. As I'd been baiting with hemp and maise I changed my hookbait on the ledger rod to two grains of maize that I'd been soaking in pineapple liquid - super sweet!
The rod was placed by hand and walked back to the rests and it took about five minutes for the first bite to come... The bobbin hit the blank and the rod ripped off with a one toner - very exciting!
I managed two more fish from that margin before packing down, a smaller common and another bigger common that had got snagged on a broken line. Luckily I managed to untether it and get the line out of the lake but I decided not to photograph the fish as it was a bit of a struggle getting it in.
So despite the weather, the reel fiasco and the later than planned start it was another enjoyable session at Hunters Lake. Unfortunately I've only till the end of May to fish the lake as the Crosshands Angling Club have decided to drop their membership of the federation meaning the access to the River Avon is being dropped. As they've also dropped Ham Green lakes but not changed their tab price so club membership isn't really an option for me now.
So I'm on the hunt for another club! It's a shame as the Holiday Inn Lake, Hunters Lake and the River Avon have all been really fun to fish over the last couple of months. I was also very keen to fish Ashlea Farm but maybe I can sneak a session in there before my ticket runs out...